Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No, The World is Not a Vampire: New Solvents Interview and Video

Solvents hail from Port Townsend, one of the most gorgeous seaside towns in Washington state's Olympic Peninsula. Principal members Jarrod Bramson and his wife, Emily Madden, make haunting pop music that sounds like the Western sky itself. Jarrod took some time to share with us his thoughts on songwriting, landscape, touring with Ben Franklin, and the sonic legacy of the 1990's. Be sure to check out Solvents' video for "We Were Guests" and their full-length record, "The World is Not a Vampire," available for free from MASA Records.

Interview Formula / Key: Solvents = JB + EM
JB = Jarrod Bramson, EM = Emily Madden
FA/FS = For Arbors / For Satellites

FA/FS: Tell me a bit about Solvents. Who are you and where are you from? If you had to choose a figure from US History to drive your tour bus, who would you choose and why?

JB: Solvents is a musical group/duo/recording project from Port Townsend, WA, consisting of myself, Jarrod Bramson, on guitar, vocals, piano, drums, general production, and my wife Emily Madden on violin and vocals.

I'd probably want Ben Franklin driving the bus. I admired him a lot as a kid. He seems like he would be a good mechanic and merch guy, as well.

FA/FS: Port Townsend is a beautiful town right on the water. I hear about so many wonderful things going on there - from shows at The Boiler Room to Copper Canyon Press. How does the landscape of the Olympic Peninsula influence the sounds you make and the songs you write?

JB: I could never totally explain the influence the O.P. has on our music. Or understate it. One of the best things about living up here is the isolation. I get a little bit desperate at times (all winter) and that weird hunger is always good for writing lyrics. Not living in a place that is overloaded with bands trying to be the next so-and-so is good for writing original material. I've never felt the need to change our sound to compete with what's hip this month. I've never thought "maybe if we try and sound like this, we can get signed to Sub Pop" or something.

Living in Port Townsend is a dream. As I get older, I'm starting to understand what a gift it is. We don't really have any expectations from anyone. I can create anything I want and not have to worry what people are going to think about it. Being able to develop my songwriting/our music in this positive, free environment has been an enormous thing for us. I could never truly thank all the fine folks up here that have supported what we do. There are a lot of people in this town that have seen us too many times! And when they die and their life is flashing before their eyes, they're going to be like, "god damn it! Not another Solvents show at Sirens! Fuck!"

At the same time, I get to be a bitter outsider as well! It's a perfect mix for good words and melodies, and Port Townsend is the most beautiful place on the planet!

FA/FS: Could you describe your writing process? How do you decide if a project is worth realizing?

JB: Writing is weird. I usually make up a bunch of rules when I start. Like "this song must have a bridge" or "I can only do one take on the vocal" or "hand claps" and tambourines the whole way through!" Only so I can go against them, for the most part. I like to try and buck my own ideas as they are happening. It's a bit like having multiple personalities. I try to record while I'm writing, so one second I'm finishing up the words to a verse and the next minute I'm cursing at god trying to get a mic cable untangled. I usually play the drums while I'm coming up with parts, which is a great way for me to write music for some reason. I'm way too serious about it. It's dumb. I've been trying to let go of those kinda-weird self-imposed head trips while writing. It's hard. I like getting intense and blowing my mind apart, but sometimes I just pick up a guitar and write a song really easily and nice and good. You never can tell.

At this point, I can tell pretty quickly if something sucks and I should just leave it alone. I don't push. If progress isn't being made in a timely matter, I'll put the song away for a year or five and try again.

FA/FS: Do you think the last decade, the 00's, the aughts, ever existed? What proof can you offer?

JB: I was just thinking about the first time I heard "Heart Shaped Box" on the radio, back in 93' or whatever. It made me burst into tears, and it still does. I feel like the exact same dude as I did then! Really! It's a little bit disturbing. Sometimes I think that I'm going to wake up in the 90's and have to relive it all. It scares me!

But to answer your question, yes they did exist. The reason I know this is because my children were born in 1999 and now they are teenagers.

FA/FS: Tell me about some new bands in Port Townsend and the Olympic Peninsula that the world should be listening to, like, right now.

JB: This amazing legendary guy called The Heavy Metal Warrior has a hardcore rap thing called AK-47. Also, check out Crowquill Night Owls, Life Styles of the Poor and Unknown, The Pitfalls, Damn the Dooms, and Low Ones.

FA/FS: Imagine Solvents fall into a deep sleep and wake 100 years later with only one image in memory to hold on to. What is this image? What does it look like?

JB: A rhododendron blossom.

FA/FS: An image lovely as the band itself. Your plans for the future?

JB: Emily and I have been playing as Solvents for nine years. Its crazy to think about. Earlier today we were like, "we are lifers! We have no choice but to keep going!" It's pretty awesome. There's something very secure about that that I really love.

Follow Solvents on Facebook and Twitter.
Read about Solvents in VICE Magazine.
Check out their band website:
Listen to Jarrod DJ on KPTZ every Tuesday, 10 AM-12 PM.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Trophy Wife Interview, New Record, DC - New England Tour

This week, Philadelphia's Trophy Wife celebrates the release of their new LP, "Sing What Scares You," with a string of shows from DC to New England. Here are some thoughts on their music, their new record, and their creative process, spoken directly from the lovely ladies themselves.

Interview Formula:
Trophy Wife = KO + DF
KO = Katy Otto
DF = Diane Foglizzo
FA/FS = For Arbors / For Satellites

FA/FS: Tell me a bit about Trophy Wife. Who are you and where are you from?

KO: We are a duo - drums and guitar, two vocals. We are also housemates and dear friends. We met several years ago in DC while working on a magazine together, and have been playing music since that time. I play drums. We live in Fishtown, Philadelphia. Our band is influenced by a range of music, from metal to Americana, to political work we both do to art that inspires us outside of punk music.

DF: Yeah, that’s true. I love that we share inspiration from all sorts of things, not just music. Maybe that’s why our band, I think, has many different sonic manifestations. And at times probably sounds pretty crazy.

FA/FS: You're releasing this awesome new record called "Sing What Scares You." What have you done on this record that you've never done before? How have you upped the bar for yourself musically?

KO: We focused a lot on our vocal collaboration on this record, and on singing and using harmony more thoughtfully. We also tried to experiment with controlling our dynamics. There are definitely two distinct sets of songs - some that are an extension of the heavy sound we carved out with Patience Fury, our first record, and some that have more of a poppy kind of feel.

DF: For me, I worked hard not to give up on the process. It was long and hard and there were times when I felt like it would never come together. But it did, and I’m happy with it. Sure there are things that I'd like to change, but actually, our songs, once they're recorded, don’t feel stagnant because sometimes we go back and change parts as we're playing them.

FA/FS: How do you decide if a project is worth realizing? If a song is a keeper? If one take of a track is superior to others?

DF: There are only a few songs, like 3, that we’ve never recorded and only played live several times. Songs 1, 2 and 7. When we first starting playing, our songs were simply named by the order in which they were conceived... So really our records contain them all. All of our songs are incredibly valuable to me, I can’t real
ly imagine writing something and then being like, never mind. Maybe folks don’t need to hear all of those songs, I dont know! There’s always something in a song that we want to share with folks.

KO: I kind of like that we have a few songs that only Diane and I have ever really heard. As far as takes, sometimes recording you can just feel a certain passion that you know won’t be recreated in another take. That is the “je ne sais quoi.” It’s usually best if both band members agree on it, though.

DF: It's funny, I dont think I really know what our band sounds like, so capturing our sound for a recording is difficult because I'm not sure how it should be. I hear one thing in my head and then when we record, I'm like, really? That's what my guitar sounds like?

FA/FS: Why music? Could you describe the reasons why you make music and how those reasons have changed, if they have, over time?

KO: Music transmits across borders. It is primal. It is festive. It mourns. You can carry it with you. It can tell stories, and pass them down, too - like a historian. It transcends language or place. Also for us, since we play together, it is communication and dialogue between the two of us and with audiences. It takes up space and opens up more space.

DF: There is promise in song. A potential that feels sacred. I think I was able to realize this once I started playing music myself and especially creating my own music. But pretty much at the root, I just like sound coming from other people and myself. Also, the experience of experimenting, listening to the folks I'm playing with and taking cues - I love a jam.

FA/FS: So, this is the situation. Trophy Wife takes a time machine on tour and is playing a sweet show in another time (future or past,) in a city far, far away. Someone calls out a big hello from across the street. They've mistaken you for someone else - who have they mistaken you for?

KO: Simon and Garfunkel.

DF: Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn

FA/FS: A classic duo and two awesome, powerful musician ladies. Sounds right! So, tell me about some new bands in Philly and DC that the world should be listening to, like, right now.

KO: There is a new band in Philly called XanaX that im excited about. They are friends of ours from bands like Hirs, des ark, Resister, Off Minor and more. We are playing our Philly CD release with them. I also adore Stinking Lizaveta, who have been a Philly staple for some time - metal jazz fusion-ish stuff.

DF: Bob Seger's "Night Moves." Also, the track "Tibetan Pop Stars" from Hop Along’s new album is awesome. It reminds me of Kristin Hersch and makes me hella happy. Also, Mary Christ and Break It Up.

FA/FS: Your plans for the future?

KO: Being an old granny playing loud music on a porch with Diane. Touring. Learning. Living.

DF: Yes! Sitting on a porch with grandkids - a multigenerational family band. And in the back of the house using an old family recipe to make vin de noix (french walnut wine).

Trophy Wife performing at The Flywheel in Easthampton, MA.


Tour dates:

July 4 - DC potluck @ 1223 Decatur St., w/ Southern Problems, Lozen, Hugh McElroy, 2pm
July 5 - Philadelphia @ Philamoca, w/ Lozen, Erode and Disappear
July 6 - New York City @ Cake Shop, w/ BELLS, Lozen, and Cycles
July 7 - Providence @ Cave 16, w/ Lozen, Whore Paint, Cave of Colors, 9pm
July 8 - Baltimore @ Charm City Art Space, w/ Lozen and more

For more info, check out Trophy Wife on Bandcamp and Facebook.