Category Archives: Interview

An interview with Kevin Attics and Nathaniel Cardaci of Literature

Press Photo Literature 1

[Photo Cred: Literature]

Paisley skies, twee as fuck, Indie Pop until the hit parade is over, Shoegazing until the sun hits. I sit down with Kevin Attics and Nathaniel Cardaci, Philadelphia’s Literature. We discuss Chorus, Slumberland Records, Indie Pop, their origins, and a broad range of topics on the decadence of music. 

So, let’s just jump right in. Indie pop. I read somewhere that indie pop isn’t noisy, and is a less angsty version of what was coming out alongside it. I don’t think that’s true at all. You guys have a good grasp of what Indie Pop is. What do you think of that statement?

Kevin: I agree with you. I don’t think Indie Pop is confined to a narrow definition of “less noisy than” or “Collegiate”. When punk came around, there was a lot of aggression and they channeled it into this thing that was ripping on pure pop from the early 60s, late 50s, making it brattier and in your face. Whereas, Indie Pop was an appreciation of pop, all around. These people were in love with hooks and choruses, and they used those to convey just as much angst, just as much caustic wit. It was channeled through a different layer.

Nathaniel: It’s really hard to say. I feel that all the Punk and DIY starting from ‘78, or some point onward, to the Indie Pop of the 80s and 90s is sort of intertwined together. It seems more like, the people who aren’t playing in the bands but going to the shows see them [the two genres] as more separate than they actually are. We go to a hardcore shows, we go to punk shows, we go to hip hop shows, we go to all the shows, and we see tons of different types of people out. It seems like something [genre defining] to pigeonhole a band, any genre that’s defined can do that. People are trying to narrow it down.

* A nice waitress then asked us for our food orders, we did not order.*  

Chorus has an amalgamation of differences in itself, and you’ve changed the sound of Literature. In the perspective of Indie Pop, how did you morph that stylistic sound and how did you approach writing the orchestration?

Kevin: I think that Arab Spring, our first record, was a love letter to power pop. Whereas Chorus became a love letter to jangly Indie Pop ranging from the 60 to the 80s.

Nathaniel: Basically, transitioning. We naturally went forward, and got into jangly indie pop. Back when I was working at a record store I discovered this [indie pop] stuff: The Cleaners From Venus, Robyn Hitchcock. Kevin was discovering this stuff on his own, we would come together and play all these songs, and hangout.

K: It’s almost like our journey of self discovery with music mimed the way music progressed from the 70s to the 80s, like the kids that transitioned over from power pop to jangly 80 guitar music. We were playing this music, and we were much younger, and we found this thing called Power Pop. We got really into it. We kind of hit a wall with it. Which is why it phased out of popularity for a while. But, a lot of those bands went on to make jangly Indie Pop. We were really getting into The Wake and Hit Parade.

N: And Cherry Red Records started re releasing a lot of stuff too. The Monochrome Set,  years ago, Sinceros as well, which is a good bridge between Power Pop and Jangly Pop, and just bridging into mainstream Pop really. When it comes down to it, we are record nerds. We just went into this direction with the band because these are the records we were into at the time. Obviously they hold a very special place for us but, I don’t know, it’s just fun to get in there [putting the records on] and play stuff that’s been lost for a while. Putting it on the turntable again makes it feel brand new for us.

K: When you first get into music, it doesn’t all catch your ear immediately. I think there was one time, a few years ago, where we were on the tail end of listening to all the power pop stuff, and then Nate brought in a Robyn Hitchcock record. I love Robyn Hitchcock. But, all of a sudden, bam, this was the best thing I had heard in such a long time. We became obsessed with Soft Boys and Robyn Hitchcock and The Egyptians.

N: And Fegmania.

While, I was listening to your record I revisited Felt and St. Christopher, and a lot of Sarah Records groups.

N: I have heard Sarah Records bands and want to get into them. Herbie Schellenberger still owes me a Sarah Records Mixtape, waiting for it…

K: We like Sarah Records, we have this friend who could write a book on it. He was in the band Brown Recluse and Pet Milk. He still owes Nate that tape. Herbie needs to send us this tape.

*Note: Herbie, you have to give them the tape.*

N: I only recently got into Felt, in the past two years. It was one of those bands that you [Kevin] were talking about, where I had heard them in them background, but didn’t dislike it.

K: I was telling him that he had to listen to Felt. For us, we find out about music, we get into the same music, it seems like a lot of the time. One of us will get into something earlier sometimes.

One who has a good ear I think can hear and distinguish that the songs are very well thought out, they aren’t spur of the moment and thrown together like some Indie Pop.

K: We definitely are fans of pop music. As such, we definitely want to keep the same approach we had from the last record. But, we didn’t keep that same approach on this record and now we are moving back toward our warts and all approach. However, things like composition are incredibly important to us because for some people you go up and play harder towards the end and that’s how you get off. But, for us, to maximize our enjoyment of a song and feel like we can say everything we need to is if we can create an arch within it, a dynamic shift. Like, I’m not going to feel as good playing this if I don’t put a chorus behind it. We write the songs 50/50.

N: And on that note, I feel like Kevin and I have been playing in the band for a long time but, we’ve been hanging out, playing guitar, and listening to music since I was 20. I’m 28 now.

K: We’ve been friends for a long time.

N: Yeah. We would always talk about the craft of songwriting. It was a sort of headspace. For me, it feels like we’ve found the door, cleared the weeds away, but I don’t feel like we’ve gotten in and perfected it. Personally.

K: We are working towards something quite bigger. We like Chorus a lot but I feel like the stuff we are doing now is a better expression of us, from better learning the craft of songwriting.

And how do you feel with that pinnacle, knowing that is there and that you want to achieve it. Is there some sense of hesitancy achieving it? Or, do you want to go hit the peak and challenge it?

K: Yeah, exactly. It’s more about if you are in love with songwriting you will always to try harder to express yourself in a wholly individual way. There is no peak. We are going to be able to learn more about ourselves and the craft, and enjoy ourselves more and more with every song we write and the shows we play.

So this is the first release you’ve done on Slumberland. From what I read Mike backed you guys heavily.

K: We recorded the record not knowing Mike was going to put it out. But throughout the process we would send him mixes, and he would write back. To preface this, the album was recorded during an extremely brutal winter in New York. We were traveling between Philadelphia and New York to record the Chorus. That can tax you emotionally. Knowing that you might only have two days to record what’s in your head can wear you down. When Mike would write back, “These sound great!”, I was like, okay, man, Mike think these sound great. Somebody outside our group of four people thinks these are really good. Somebody whose opinion we really trust.

N: And on that note too, we recorded everything else with Michael Landon, the first record and the first two 7 inch, even in our other bands. We only had one sort of view, so to have someone else say it was awesome, we went, alright let’s keep working on it. But, it’s definitely hard sometimes, when you are stuck in the middle of a project.

K: I think took me about two months after the record was finished to go back and listen to it and say, alright, I’m happy with this. We were living inside that record for seven months.

How does it feel to play the songs live then?

K: Liberating, now.

How about when the record was first completed?

K: The thing about Chorus, compared to Arab Spring, is that we recorded it after playing those songs for years and years. In this record, we were much more production minded. A lot of it was written in the studio, so it was exciting and scary to have these songs that were supposed to use the studio as a primary instrument. Then asking, how are we going to play this live now? Sometimes there are things [orchestrations] that you can’t do live but, then there are ways to make it sound like it wouldn’t be as cool on record. There are ways to make it take off. It was about finding the balance between the two. I think that it has been a process, and that we have really enjoyed learning how to take things and recontextualize them.

N: We pushed the record a lot harder in the studio. Then we came back to the band, and we weren’t going to add any new members to it so, how are we going to make this work? I thought it was very fun, reworking the songs again.

K: With the next record, we are going to definitely strike a balance. We are going to use a lot of production in the studio because we don’t want to step back in a sense. We know a lot more of what we want to do now.

N: A lot of the stuff worked out well.

K: There was definitely a lot of stuff that didn’t make it on there. There is enough for a whole other record.

How do you feel being, from what I hear, the only Indie Pop band, on a sort of island that is original but, at the same time retrospective?

K: I disagree with that, because I think one of the reason the record was made was due to us falling in love with a community of people up there who are all musicians in fantastic bands. There is almost a salon sort of happening up on the East Coast, where there are bands like Expert Alterations and bands like Wild Honey, Gingerlys, Catnaps, and Sapphire Mansions. We would go to their shows and they would come to ours, and everyone was excited about what was happening with the music. It feels like, without that community, this record wouldn’t have happened in the same way at all.

N: I felt, not to contradict him, as the record came together we sort of started to meet more people in the scene. It wasn’t until the record was mostly completed that we met people.

So this is then just my own ignorance.

N: No, no, it’s just that most these bands, you go back and look them up, most of them are done. They aren’t bands anymore.

K: There was a dry spell of Indie Pop, I feel like. Now it sort of coming back.

N: But half those bands, a good amount of those bands you listen don’t exist anymore.

K: Catnaps doesn’t exist anymore.

N: I think there’s one more in there.

So it is a thriving community.

K: Absolutely. I feel like it is. I feel like there a bands throughout the US, we met the member of a band called Summer Rays in Clevland. They are fantastic. If you are in a good Indie Pop band and you are putting yourself out there, I feel like there is definitely a social network in which you will get passed along. There is an audience for you.

Coming back to Slumberland, how did you guys come in contact with them?

N: I was at a show, maybe around 2006?, when I was living in New York. Mike was also at that show, it was the The Lodger. Their first two records had a huge impact in how I thought about writing songs, before we ever contacted Slumberland. I was definitely influenced by the bands on the label. But, we were found through Skatterbrain!.

K: Our friend Matthew Edwards, who runs the Skatterbrain! blog from Philadelphia, also a great resource for Indie Pop.

N: That is an excellent way to find Indie Pop bands that are still around and that are brand new. Through that and through Herbie, we were found. Our record was passed through the community and Mike emailed us.

K: Because Kip heard it, and Kip tweeted about our 7 inch, which nobody really heard. When we released our first record Kip heard it and Mike bought a copy, and from then we kept in touch with Mike for the next two years, while we were recording. Mike was enthusiastic during the process and in putting out Chorus.

Any pressure with being on such a legendary and iconic label?

N: I felt awesome about it.

K: There was definitely a moment of, you work your whole life up to this idea. It was like, okay man, this is one of my favorite labels and I got signed to it. I work as a teacher when I’m not doing this and I remember, I was on a schoolbus, I felt like, alright my life is alright now, everything is going to be okay. Never going to be hurt again.

N: It was very validating. The first Pains album was super influential, and now we were being recognized by the same person who recognized them. We were super excited.

*We then began to discuss Pitchfork scores in depth. Fun fact: Kevin was once a Pitchfork Writer!*

That Pitchfork article, “Twee as Fuck”… The journalist who wrote that said Indie Pop had a particular aesthetic.

K: That was completely contradictory, because she says it fits a particular aesthetic but, the music she puts on the playlist to go along with the article ranges drastically. The TV Personalities was on the playlist, and she puts them with Tiger Trap. Right there, they are so stylistically different. TV Personalities are so caustic and bohemian-decadent.

Wow, you really did write for P4K.

N: Yeah, you see how many buzz words he threw out there. New ones, bohemian-decadent.

K: Put a hyphen between bohemian-decadent.

This interview is definitely an 8.5.

K: This interview is an 8.5. But, Tiger Trap have a soft power and are heartbreaking. You put those two bands back to back, they are completely different, it would be hard to tell that they came from the same genre.

The beauty of Indie Pop is that it is diverse and versatile, you guys are a testament to that.

K: I think that Indie Pop is Independent Pop Music. What Pop Music is, is variegated.

N: It doesn’t mean that everyone has to sound like Belle and Sebastian and stick to a particular style. We love Belle and Sebastian but Kevin put it perfectly. We love Pop Music from Duran Duran to the Spice Girls.

K: Pop Music One-Hit- Wonders from the 1950s to La Roux. It’s as wildly diverse as what pop music is, it just has independent tacked on to it.

I’m going to ask you a cliche question.

K: Can we guess?

N: Is it where the band name comes from?

No, that’s been answered.

K: We should change that answer every time we are asked.

Okay, let’s do that question then. What’s the answer going to be?

N: I channeled something from the Netherworld.

K: What’s the actual cliche question?

When did you guys start playing music and writing music by yourselves, and how did that cultivate into becoming Literature?

K: We started playing music really young. Before Nate turned 20, he already released a 7 inch.

N: Two tapes and a 7 inch.

K: I grew up in Austin, Texas. I was playing terrible, terrible shows. But, I was playing them around town when I was 16 or 15. We wanted to play music, whether or not that music was good. We wanted to do it. As our tastes refined, we fell deeper and deeper into the art form. We got better at channeling what is effective to us. It was whatever allowed us to express ourselves and was inspiring. We obviously had these wildly diverse interests in music, we all liked stuff outside of poop music. But, we drew a lot of inspiration from there. We were all close friends and we wanted to start a band.

*We discussed the X Files in between this answer and the final question*

What’s next and where is Chorus  for you in your repertoire? How do you feel Indie Pop is shaping now, and how are you revolving and evolving around that?

K: Well, we are writing the songs right now.

N: I feel like with meeting some of the bigger figureheads in the Indie Pop community, playing with some of the smaller bands, it seems as if it is very open to whatever creative whims comes. It’s not constricting.

K: We are definitely going to try to make this next record a lot more of a statement.

Something punctuated?

N: Something punctuated.

There’s a buzz word.

K: For us, it’s going to be refining our abilities to write, more and more and more. With the next record we feel like we are getting to a point where the influences are taking a back seat, and we are now writing songs that fully come from us. It’ll be us flying our own flag a little bit more. Treading on uncharted waters. We’ll see what happens. We could fall on our face, we could drown. That’ll be the sound Literature is known for, four kids in Paisley drowning.

Thanks guys.

 

Literature’s Sophomore album, Chorus, is out now via Slumberland Records.

Profile: Naomi Punk

NaomiPunk

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).

 

A Creator of Sound and a Curator of Aesthetic, Loke Rahbek (Croatian Amor, Lust For Youth, Sexdrome, Vår)

loke I’d like to begin with the versatility in your orchestral range. Whenever I hear your music, I always expect something different. Where does that fascination of creating something new, separate, come from? Do you feel that separating each style of music with a different moniker allows for greater intimacy and individuality with the project? Can you elaborate why you choose a separate moniker for each project. 

LR: I don’t know, that it is so strange to want to do different things. I try and bike a new route to our store everyday and go to a new place to swim, I try and enjoy the view from as many angles as possible. I imagine that it will change with years, that I someday will know my favorite route, and my favorite part of the harbour, but it would be much too early to settle now.

The different projects all serve different purposes, they could not be one, or I don’t think they should rather. I look at them somewhat like different parts of the same body. Hands, ears ,eyes, genitals. They have different assignments, but work for the same machine so-to-speak. Or costumes in a big closet.

There is freedom in new names. That is an important aspect; to be totally free

What’s your writing process when composing new projects? Do you let influences submerge you entirely in what you want to capture or does influence bare a small presence when you decide to venture into new music projects? How does it effect the overall aesthetic of the composition? 

LR: It rarely starts with music, most often there is a picture or a word or a sentence. Something that gets stuck in the system. The writing process is different in every project and for every time really, sometimes I lie on my back for a long time and listen, sometimes I shout till I lose my voice. Somethings are best recorded early in the morning and some late at night, it depends the project and it depends on the day.

Posh Isolation really delves further into the realm of versatility with each of its releases. What do you feel are the important components/aspects when picking up a project and releasing it on Posh Isolation?

LR: It has always felt like Posh Isolation decides for it self what it wants to do. The pallet is broad definitely but, I think all the colours still match.

The visual aesthetic of the label is striking and abrasive. When you began Posh Isolation what was the attraction to the imagery attached to the labels art and music? With the aesthetic you adhere to, what do you want it to do to the listener? 

LR: The visual is the first meeting, the first impression. It depends on the story, it depends on the room, what indicators you want to give. If you are going to church you wont usually wear your bondage gear. If you go on a date you might wear a dress that you wouldn’t wear to a job interview. It is a lot like peacocking. Presentation is everything.

To go further into Posh Isolation, what was the initial idea spurred from and what is the symbolism behind the name? 

LR: The initial idea was to put out the first Damien Dubrovnik album. When that was done it felt like there was more to be done, now 130 releases later it still feels like there is more to be done.

When you create a new music project, do you find yourself thinking about the sonic aesthetic behind the project and then the visual aesthetic, which comes first or do you build an idea that revolves around both imagery and sound at the same time? 

LR: Well it is difficult to give a straight answer to a question like that cause it always changes, and it is never one or the other completely. I am not a musician, I don’t think in music most often, I think in images and translate them. But, I guess they correlate, the images follows the music and the word and vice versa.

What kind of transition is there into making music of a different style and how do you prepare yourself to enter a completely different mindset? 

LR: They [mindset] are different of course but, they are also there, all of them floating next to each other in the same bloodstream. Yesterday I read “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad by a lake in Sweden and it moved me, then I ate lunch. In the evening I saw my good friend play a beautiful piece in an old mine facility, with 20 meters or more to the ceiling. Then I checked my emails and after that we had drinks, I chatted about big and small with a beautiful girl, then I talked with a boy about making music for a long time. All those situations require different mindsets, each action or communication is unique. The day before I performed with Damien Dubrovnik and that, again, required something else. But, all the emotions and the reactions are in there, the hand that beats is the same hand you use to caress someones forehead or turn on a light switch or wash vegetables. Sometimes I shout, sometimes I scream, sometimes I sing or talk, the transitions are natural.

Do you find that the projects, though separate, interconnect with one another and help your composing? 

LR: Yes.

What was it like playing the last Sexdrome show? Do you feel that you will ever come back to Sexdrome or do you feel like the progression you’ve made in your career as musician has made you want to conclude the project permanently? While we are on the subject of projects ending, why did you decide to end Var and do you feel that the style of music Var made will ever resurface in your music again? 

LR: It is important to know when to stop, it is almost as important as knowing when to start. Everything moves and everything has a peak. Sexdrome ended because it had served its purpose. Playing the last show was an incredible experience; and the fact that it could be that proved that it was stopped in time. There is nothing worse than when people dont have a sense of when to stop talking. The same counts for Vår, it said what it wanted to say. In the end, everything must go.

Continuing with Lust For Youth, how do you feel about the groups gained popularity and lighter/brighter sound on International?

LR: I am very happy with the album and about the time we spent making it. I am curious to see what’s next.

What was it like writing a Croatian Amor album whilst writing the LFY album? 

LR: To be working on several different projects at the same time is not new for me. That is the position I have put myself in, they learn from each other of course, but they are also completely different.

The Wild Palms has a very unique method of purchase. Do you think you’ll have more releases which involve a level of highly significant level of intimacy with the album and in purchasing the album?

LR: I hope so, The Wild Palms has been a very rewarding experience.

How do you want/feel this to affect the listener when listening to the album?

LR: I touched upon this in another interview but, my hope is that the release will be a shared piece somehow. Equal in its communication, making the relation less asymmetrical. 

Now that you’ve concluded Sexdrome, finished The Wild Palms and International, what are you venturing in next? 

LR: That is a secret.

What’s next for Posh Isolation? LR: That is also a secret.

Profile: Craft Spells

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The title of Craft Spells‘ new album is quite the anomaly. The second full-length LP from the dream pop group is entitled Nausea but the melodies featured are so serene and lovely, nauseous is the last thing you’ll be feeling upon listening. It has been three years now since the endearing debut, Idle Labor, with an equally accomplished EP shortly following. Fans have been eagerly awaiting the new album as well as a chance to see the Captured Tracks darlings live. Violent Success was lucky enough to catch up with frontman and founder Justin Vallesteros before their stop at Chicago’s Township and chat about shifts between albums, major influences, and his best live show experience.

Violent Success: Between albums, have you noticed any significant changes in your songwriting process?

Justin Vallesteros: Sure, sure thing. On the first record, I really didn’t own any of the recording equipment that I used. So after three and a half years I acquired a lot of recording equipment and the sonics are a bit more broad- more atmosphere to the songs. And three to four years of life in general, I have more to bookmark into songs. So lyrically, there’s a big change as well and just the tone of everything now that I’m 26 years old; in and out of Seattle and San Francisco and just kind of found myself in a place where I’m a bit more confident in what I’m doing and what I want musically.

VS: So what do you think sets Nausea a part from Idle Labor or Gallery?

Vallesteros: Well the whole tone is completely different. It’s a lot of atmosphere. It’s more like my idea of composing an album rather than writing a record- a rock record. So that’s the biggest difference, really.

VS: Who would you say are some of the artists or bands that have influenced you in your own music?

Vallesteros: In the old music?

VS: Yeah

Vallesteros: Oh yeah, a lot of that C86 stuff and you know, the Factory Records stuff. The Durutti Column, New Order, The Cure…stuff like that. Pretty obvious things. Not much of shoegaze. I do like shoegaze but people have called that record “shoegaze” and I don’t remember any of that record sounding like shoegaze.

VS: Do you have any dreams collaborations? Anyone you’d really like to work with?

Vallesteros: Yeah! There are two Japanese composers, I don’t know if it’ll ever happen, but there’s this dude named Cornelius, he used to be a part of this band called Flipper’s Guitar. He makes music by himself now. His Wikipedia says he’s influenced by The Beach Boys and Beck and he’s a part of the shibuya-kei scene which is like jazz and trip hop-sounding music or kind of like city music. And that’s like what I love and I would love to work with him. And in the same case, Ryuichi Sakamoto is this Japanese composer who’s a part of this band, Yellow Magic Orchestra. Greatest contemporary piano player, to me and it would be a dream, for sure, to work with someone brilliant like that.

VS: So when you are writing songs, do you tend to focus more on your own personal experiences or things that you observe happening in the world around you?

Vallesteros: Both. I mean that all exists together. From the beginning, everything that I’ve done recording-wise has been kind of like a bookmark to my life. Each song is something to remember eventually, and a record is a good representation of someone’s time over a certain amount of years.

VS: So what’s your favorite part of getting to perform the material live?

Vallesteros: When we played Brooklyn at the beginning of this tour it was a 1500-person capacity place and it was so nice that everyone didn’t touch their phones. I didn’t see one cellphone and that made me so happy. It was almost like we showed up and then all of a sudden, we took everyone out of that world that they’re in and brought them somewhere else and that was really special to me. So I guess that was something new for me. Really taking people out of the mundane and bringing them to a new, whimsical world.

VS: So you’re on Captured Tracks which has a lot of rising talents like Wild Nothing, DIIV, Beach Fossils. Have you noticed if any of your labelmates have been influencing you at all? Do you guys get ideas from each other or collaborate?

Vallesteros: No. There are definitely some instances where you chat each other on G-chat, or whatever. But we just send songs to each other, we never tell them “you should do this” or “you should do that.” And when we all got signed we were kind of on our own. We were found by Mike Sniper at different times and didn’t know each other really so we have our own sound. It’s cool though, the first releases for all of those bands- we had this aesthetic that was like this huge group of bands that really had this vision and sound that was kind of relative. Over the years- most of these bands have a singer/songwriter that does everything in the band- it’s cool to see everyone branch out by their second record and just push the sound. It’s nice, in that sense, everyone’s branching out to their own thing. So it’s groovy. No one’s ripping off anyone yet. Not yet. I’ll call ‘em out.

VS: When you first started out making songs in your bedroom did you ever expect this project to turn into what it is?

Vallesteros: No, no. I’m originally from a town called Lathrop, which is kind of near Stockton, and the only band that really came out of their was Pavement. So that set a pretty high standard where everyone really didn’t make plans to get signed one day or tour or whatever. Yeah, I never expected it. So I had about five songs on Myspace, when Myspace was still a thing, and Mike Sniper randomly messaged me for mp3’s. All he wrote was: “MP3’s?” After that, I had a record done and that was it. So it was very natural and I’m still weirded out by it today, so it’s pretty cool. It still makes me happy, which is groovy.

VS: Say you had to describe your sound to someone who’s never heard Craft Spells beefore, how would you do that?

Vallesteros: Yeah, I think it’s relative. I’m a normal dud like everyone else. I’m not a personality, like “that crazy songwriter guy.” A real dude with feelings and that’s something people can generally associate with in their mid-20’s or even when they’re younger, however they wanna interpret it. I think I’m just relatable in that sense. It’s hard to describe the whole sound in general, but it just feels like your world.

VS: What do you want fans to walk away with with when they listen to your music or say, come see a live show? What do you want them to get from the experience?

Vallesteros: I want them to feel relieved from the oversaturation of just everything in this world. Relieved that you got to escape for like 45 minutes and relieved that you can actually listen to a whole record and read to it or work on your art to it. Instead of trying to focus on, “is this hip enough?” or “is this cool enough?”

(Bottle breaks nearby)

Vallesteros: That’s so sick! I hope that’s on the recording.

VS: (laughs) Probably

Vallesteros: Groovy

VS: I’ll be sure to include it when I’m typing it all up: sound of glass smashing!

Vallesteros: Yeah, cool. Perfect! But yeah, I hope they’ll take it and feel relaxed, finally. No anxiety.

Profile: The Donkeys

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As San Diegan folk-psychedelios, The Donkeys have become a southern Californian regional favorite for encapsulating everything lovable about their favorite place in the world, and last Saturday I had the pleasure of speaking with them before the second show of their tour, sharing the stage with Extra Classics and The Blank Tapes. Anthony Lukens (singer/keyboardist/guitarist) texted telling me to come early and hang, and met me at the front of the Glass House as soon as I arrived; drummer Sam Sprague was shopping in the Glass House record store with Jessie Gulati (guitarist and occasional sitarist), who was doing some imaginative math to work a Lyres vinyl into his personal budget. Lead guitarist Timothy DeNardo met us there to complete the quartet, sporting a spiffy new blue-and-white Hawaiian shirt, the first he’s ever owned somehow, despite living in sunny San Diego. As charmingly laid-back as their sound is, their personalities and friendship are even more so.

VS: So do you guys do any mental/physical preparation to get ready for touring, to stave off exhaustion and the like?

Jessie: We should! But yeah, I don’t… at all…

Anthony: I’m preparing just by eating every meal at home until we leave, that’s my big thing. Just get as many vitamins and minerals in me before the big fast.

Sam: It’s weird, I feel like I eat better on tour almost, especially on the long ones, since we go grocery shopping mostly. ‘Cause you can’t snack, I mean, not anymore. Well, you probably could… [Gestures to me; I shift uncomfortably in my seat.]

Jessie: We make sandwiches, eat fruit, eat a lot of vegetable snacks, carrots instead of Doritos. I mean you could eat Doritos all day until you feel like crap, it’s super salty, for hours…

Sam: You drink a lot of water though, to be candid.

Timothy: I have a hard time drinking, I usually get really dehydrated a lot on tour, because I just have to pee a lot if I drink a lot of water, so it’s like I’m pulling over every twenty minutes if I do, so I just don’t drink any water.

Anthony: Yeah, he has a notoriously small bladder.

Timothy: Yeah dude, they just get mad at me, I get into trouble…

VS: What albums do you guys bring with you on tour?

Sam: We buy records mainly, so it kind of sucks in terms of bringing music on tour.

Anthony: We do have a little record player, and we’d play it in the back room and motels and stuff.

Jessie: That’d be real fun, because we can just go shopping that day, then at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning listen to everything we bought.

VS: Do you ever listen to your own music? As a joke or otherwise?

Anothy: I have this old iPod and every now and then I’ll forget there’s some of our old music on it, like weird demos and crap we haven’t heard in a while and I’ll put that on as a joke. And we’ll be like, “Wow, this is awesome”, so yeah, sometimes we listen to the older thing?

Jessie: Yeah, it’s like looking at old photographs, where you hear the song and you’re like, “Yeah I remember that time! when we did that thing0…”

VS: I noticed that you’re closing off this tour with Pickathon in Oregon. Do you guys have a preference between playing smaller shows and larger music festivals?

Sam: We mostly play small shows. Festivals get a little weird because it’s such a high pace of turnover, super chaotic getting in there, quick on, quick off, it’s super hard, unorganized.

Jessie: Well, on the tours we play, we usually end up playing earlier, which is super fun because you just get to hang out all day, you don’t have to worry about loading in and out [laughs].

Are you guys festival-goers? Do you have an opinion on the direction large-scale musical festivals are taking?

Sam: I haven’t been to a festival that we haven’t played since I was like… twenty… two… [laughs] It doesn’t appeal to me, no. It’s a little too much, I’m a “less is more” kinda guy. I’d rather see a band at a small club. I love seeing bands at festivals while we’re playing there, though. Maybe it’s out of laziness, but Coachella just doesn’t sound fun, too much of like a shit show.

Timothy: I like Coachella because of where we live; we can pick up the stragglers on the weekends or weekdays because all those bands are coming through during the week and you get to see really cool bands at smaller venues. But festivals, it’s just too much too fast. It’s a lot of people.

VS: What was the general ethos behind Ride the Black Wave? What did you do on this album that you didn’t do on previous albums, would you say?

Anthony: We experimented with new sounds a little more, because we were recording in a place that had more toys so we can try out some new stuff. Maybe that, but I don’t think there was this whole plan of making it too differently. This was the first time we tracked digitally; that was different.

Timothy: I don’t think it was so much we were trying to do things differently, but we were trying to make things a little more cohesive. I know when it came to mixing it we wanted it to be less about the individual songs and make it more about an album experience. We haven’t always thought that way, but this time we were really conscious of time and getting the sequence together and finding ways we can make one song turn into the next.

Sam: We cut out a lot of songs. I think we were definitely dedicated to making a cohesive sound, whereas before we just kind of did whatever. So we cut out a lot of songs and picked the best songs, specifically for this record.

Timothy: We didn’t set out to write the record the way it was, but the demos we started making all had a kind of vibe, so that started steering us in a direction.

VS: I’ve heard you guys don’t have a dedicated lead singer, so how does your songwriting process generally go?

Timothy: Sam writes a lot, he’s quick with the melody and the words, and he writes more often that I do for sure. I think melody comes a little slower to me. Sam’s definitely thrown a few songs my way, and Anthony’s really good at songwriting too.

Anthony: Everybody’s got their strengths and weaknesses, and I’d like to think we can exploit each others’ strengths.

Sam: The best songs we’ve ever written, we wrote together. But yeah sometimes there’s songs where it’ll all be totally done when someone brings it in, sometimes it’ll be like ‘here’s a riff,’ somebody comes up with a melody, it’s gone all ways, which is good for us.

Jessie: We’ve been in a band for ten years, and we’ve pretty much done it every which way.

Timothy: Some of the earliest stuff was definitely just jams that we dissected and re-sculpted into something, but now, as we all get better musically, the ideas come out a little more fleshed out than they used to. As opposed to just getting drunk and high…

Sam: And that’s fun to do too! But before, we used to be like “Okay it’s done!” But now we work on it a lot more.

Jessie: Yeah, there’s a lot more editing, and revising too, rewriting.

Sam: At least it’s happened to me where it’s like, “God, if I had just worked on it a little more it would’ve been better”. It is what it is now, but if I had just wrote this third verse instead of just repeating another one, things like that. I think when you’re younger you’re just happy it’s done. And then when you get older you finish a lot of things, and you just want to pick the good stuff.

VS: Listening to your newest album, Ride the Black Wave, I was sensing an ambivalence towards California, with lyrics like “Trapped in the sunny daze,” and others about moving to France, and we all know France is the opposite of California. What was your specific attitude towards the state for this album exactly?

Sam: [laughs] Most of us have lived in California for the better part of our lives, and you just kind of want change. I mean it’s beautiful and it’s perfect, but you do have this feeling of “change is nice”.

Timothy: You start to question the perfect.

Sam: I mean, Anthony moved to San Francisco for about three months, that’s as much as anything’s changed. Moving to San Francisco would be awesome, it’s such different weather. I love California, it’s just one time I got up, I was hung over, and I saw these guys jogging, you know, in San Diego, and I said to myself, “God I wish I lived in Minnesota where everybody was hung over and its cold out so you wouldn’t see some asshole running”… sometimes you just want to watch a movie but its 75 degrees out and you feel like an asshole just sitting in your house.

Timothy: If you moved to Minnesota it’d be hard to get used to the cold weather, and there’s a weird motivation to that, and a kind of hardship. San Diego has permanent nice weather, and that might create a complacency or lack of motivation where you can say, “Oh, I can just do that tomorrow because it’s going to be just as nice out”. You can’t say, “It’s been shitty for three weeks, so I’m going to make the most of this”.

VS: I notice a lot of interviews refer to your music in relation to California. Does that ever grate on you?

Sam: I’m happy people are just noticing us. I mean usually it’s complimentary; it’s interesting to me, though, to think of what people get from our music. It doesn’t bother me, does it bother you guys?

Anthony: You kind of wonder if people actually hear that [California sound], like a chicken and the egg thing, where you wonder, “Did you hear that first, or did you read that and then think of it when you listen to our music? If you went in blind and heard it, would you still say it’s a CA sound?”

Sam: We’ve just kind of embraced it and so now it makes sense. I think people like hearing words, and then clinging onto them. I don’t really get it at all.

VS: Is it still too early to discuss plans for The Donkeys’ future?

Sam:  We’ve kind of done pre-production on a new record, actually. We have songs, we always have songs, but right now we’re just really focused on touring this record. Though recording is my favorite thing to do.

VS: Last question – what are you guys all listening to right now?

Anthony: Well I just got a hold of the New Extra classics record, we had it on all morning, loved it. [It’s true – they do love Extra Classics. They went nuts for their set, and wanted to purchase their keyboardist.]

Jessie: I just bought some records now, but the last one I got was a live 13th Elevator record.

Timothy: I can’t get enough of that Frank Ocean record. It’s all I’ve been listening to, I wake up in the morning with it stuck in my head and I jut put it on all day long. I think everyone’s sick of it by now.

Sam: Right now I’ve been listening to Merle Haggard a lot, it’s really good for me right now. I don’t know why. It’s good summer music.

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