It’s a calm, if not damp night on the North side of Chicago. On a residential street near the Loyola campus, dim street lights give off an orange glow that is enhanced by the newly formed rain puddles. The last thing you would be expecting to take place on a quiet night like this? An earth-shattering, face-melting punk show. Below ground, in a DIY venue space known as “Albion House” (in reference to the street the space is located on), Chicagoans flocked out to see some raw local talent, leading up to Seattle/Olympia natives, Naomi Punk. Violent Success caught up with Captured Tracks‘ rising stars to discuss their sound, Seattle’s music scene, and their new album, Television Man.
Violent Success: After you guys started playing together, how long would you say did it take for you guys to find your sound?
Travis Coster: I think it was always kind of found
Nicolas Luempert: I think it was really found in Summer of 2011, on the west coast tour.
Travis: Yeah, but we had already had those songs. I feel like we were never trying to make a sound. We were never like: ‘Alright, we gotta have a cool, unique sound if we wanna do what we want with music.’
Neil Gregerson: We didn’t have a focus.
Travis: Yeah. I feel like the focus has just always been trying to make a pop song- trying to arrive at pop melody or structures. I feel like it’s always been driven by an idea of finding a new way toward a pop transcendence. Not like ‘pop culture’ pop; we never went pop or something. We were always trying to move toward repeating parts until we heard beautiful things and liked ‘em.
VS: So What’s your favorite part about performing the material live?
Neil: Oh, I need to think about that.
Travis: I guess I really like playing for the energy that’s there.
Nicolas: Yeah, I mean before this and I feel like all of us, in all the bands we were ever in always focused completely on playing live opposed to recording. Whereas this started as more of a recording project, and then turned into a band.
Travis: Where it was not for the live setting exclusively. So playing these songs live is acrobatic, a little bit.
Nicolas: Yeah, we were kind of translating the songs at one point. Which is cool, it’s cool to translate.
Travis: I feel like they still have to get translated a bit.
Neil: That’s just what happens when you play something over and over again.
Travis: We kind of relearned this old song that we never used to play live, and we play it live now. It’s on The Feeling and it’s totally- I listened to the old version the other day and I was laughing at how different it was. We totally translated it to like this kind of different song but it’s the same song. So I guess there’s a lot of translation that’s involved and there’s a dynamic element to it that’s really interesting.
VS: So would you guys say that Seattle’s music scene has influenced your music at all?
Travis: Well, we grew up around Seattle and and got into a lot of music by going to a lot of punk shows and underground shows. I met Nick when he was like fifteen
Nicolas: Yeah, I was fourteen
Travis: Fourteen? Yeah. And we were at a show that we were playing together, in different bands, and I was like ‘Hey are you gonna go to this show?’ And we would go to these really weird shows and they were really far out and that opened up how we thought about what we were doing. Not necessarily in terms of there being three or four cool Seattle punk bands that we really liked a lot.
Nicolas: And also, there were so many different bands that were kind of like us where it was completely focused on the live setting and not even focused on recording so there were so many places to play. There was a scene without there needing to be some weird material they were supporting.
Travis: There’s literally no documentation of like 50 bands that we would see all the time that would be amazing. Or if there was documentation, it was not representing them at all…but that band was the most meaningful band in that moment or had this visceral energy. And playing live has always been really important, so when I asked to start a band with Neil and Nick I was like: ‘Dude I really wanna do this band but I really want it to be focused on this recording project- or, not recording project but having there be this compositional dimension to it and have it be like a recorded document. Material versus performance, but now it’s performed.
Neil: I would say we probably record a lot less live than a lot of bands do.
Nicolas: It’s kind of like a recording project where we figure out the songs as you’re recording.
Travis: Yeah, we record a bunch of drums and we’re sending the songs to each other and working on them separately. Adding a lot of elements and then figuring out how we’re going to do it.
Neil: It’s only been a recent thing that we’ve all lived in the same place.
Travis: That makes it sound like it’s The Postal Service…(laughter)
Neil: Well ya know, there was an hour…
Travis: Yeah, there was a period of time where I lived in Seattle and they lived in Olympia. So whenever we would play together, we would have to do a five-hour long practice and then we wouldn’t see each other for at least a couple weeks.
VS: So what has been the biggest shift from The Feeling to Television Man?
Travis: There isn’t that much of a shift. I feel like we got better at writing songs and better at recording ourselves and honing the vocabulary of our music.
Nicolas: I feel like it also got more collaborative.
Neil: And just more active, in general.
Travis: When we were making that album, Television Man, I feel like we’re not trying to change what we were doing with The Feeling, we were just refining it.
VS: Who are some of the artists who have influenced you guys musically?
Travis: I love punk music and I grew up listening to a lot of punk music and I feel like there’s this magic, raw power in punk music. Like Iggy Pop, ‘Raw Power’. There’s something that’s bigger than it, an aesthetic even…
Nicolas: I feel like the whole thing with Punk music, like with all the bands we used to like a lot, focusing on the live performance. Focusing on a visceral thing, not a material thing.
Travis: We all have been influenced by different things and different parts of music history and appreciating them without trying to incorporate them into this project.
Neil: I would say, with this band, it’s less like we’re tapping into what we’re into and putting it into the band, it’s more like we’re tapping into what the band is and then building on that,
VS: If you could tour with any band playing today, who would it be?
Travis: I was thinking about Magic Markers earlier. I feel like that band is really cool because they’re so focused on the live experience and they’ve been doing music for a long time. They’re artists doing their thing, which is really cool and I feel like it would be fun to see them live every night because they’d be playing really different sets. Some of their songs last eight minutes some nights and some nights they’ll last like 20 minutes, depending on how they decide how to take it which is really cool, and kind of rare in music.
Neil: They’re a real band.
VS: Say you were forced to describe your sound to someone who has never heard you guys before, doesn’t know anything about you. How would you describe Naomi Punk?
Travis: What would you say, Nick?
Nicolas: It’s pretty loud?
Travis: It’s pretty loud (laughter) (To Neil)What would you say?
Neil: Last night they were joking about how the final judge of the music, it’s not really humans but it’s aliens.
Nicolas: You have to think about the completely neutral point of the alien intelligence.
Travis: And if you’re not thinking about how the aliens would review it-
Nicolas: If you’re focused on humans only then it’s- you’re out of the game. it’s already over.
Neil: But it also means thinking about someone in the future.
Nicolas: It just means neutral. Well not neutral but completely blank. But ya know, that’s kind of funny. It was a really good joke.
Neil: I forget what the question is now (more laughs).