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.