Chattanooga, TN-based power pop/garage band Mythical Motors – comprised of Matt Addison, Mike Brown, Brad Smith, & Johnny Wingo – might be gearing up for the release of their new album, but we were a bit impatient. So we caught up with Matt briefly to chat about what’s to come, the mystery of Bigfoot, and so much more! Check out the fun interview below!
What was your first musical memory, and do you think it has any bearing on who you are as an artist now?
Matt Addison: I’m not sure if has an impact on me now, but I have a memory of being around 4 years old, and running around and trying to make up songs. I think I had been watching The Muppets on TV, and I wanted to make up a song about the characters I had seen. I didn’t attempt to write a proper song, however, until 10 years later or so.
Do you think being from Tennessee has any bearing on your sound?
Matt: Probably not. In high school, I discovered indie bands like Guided By Voices, Sebadoh, Superchunk, Pavement, etc. There wasn’t a lot of awareness in Tennessee of those types of bands, so that just meant I had to dig a little deeper to discover new music.
You have such an interesting blend of influence in your sound. We honestly feel transferred back in time when we listen to your work. What made you choose to go in this direction with your music, as a team?
Matt: I think it occurs somewhat naturally when you’re a fan of a wide range of music. We’ve all been huge fans of rock music for many years, and we celebrate what Robert Pollard (of Guided By Voices) calls the 4 P’s of rock – pop, punk, prog, and psychedelic.
Elevated Levels was released last month. What made you choose to include 22 songs?
Matt: Our last album, The Life Stage, had 26 songs, so I had originally planned for the follow-up to be much shorter. But, I ended up with around 30 songs or so. So, I chose songs from that group that flowed well together, and it seemed to work.
What’s the most integral track on the album for each of you?
Johnny Wingo: “Exalt The Highway” Brad Smith: “Endless Distance of Belief” Mike Brown: “Endless Distance of Belief” Matt: “One Seventh Of A Shadow.”
“Shape Shifting Nightmare Celebration” is one of our favorites. What inspired that track, specifically?
Matt: “Shape Shifting Nightmare Celebration” is one of the most unusually structured songs on the album, and was probably inspired by Robert Pollard’s solo material. He has a penchant for writing songs that are inspired by progressive rock, with very unconventional song structures. So, I was attempting to write something in a similar vein, where the song does not follow a predictable verse/chorus structure. The song’s coda was even taken from a completely separate recording, and added in later.
What’s the recording process like for you guys? Does it start with a hook? Are the lyrics all written out first? Do you just play and sing until something makes sense?
Matt: I have several different methods for writing and recording. I’ll usually start with a riff or a finished guitar instrumental, and try to write a melody over that. Then, I’ll write lyrics that fit the melody. Other times, the lyrics come first, but I usually start the process with a song title in mind. I keep an ongoing list of titles, and I find them to be a constant source of inspiration for songs. Another method that I’ve developed recently is to attempt to write a melody for a complete set of lyrics. I’ll then record the song A Capella as a reference, and then complete the song by assigning a chord progression to it later. I find this method particularly exciting. It’s fun and easy.
Any fun anecdotes about the recording process for Elevated Levels?
Matt: Actually, the first thing that comes to mind was not fun at all. The hard drive on my 16 track recorder crashed during the recording of the most complex song on the album, “Over Caravan Park.” I probably spent more time on that song than anything else I’ve written, and once I purchased a replacement machine, it had to be re-recorded from scratch. Not fun. But, it worked out, and the version that appears on the album is the second attempt.
If you could choose any movie or TV series to have your music placed in, which would you choose and why?
Matt: The Man In The High Castle or The Handmaid’s Tale would be pretty incredible. I’m a big David Lynch fan, so it would be amazing to be included in one of his projects.
If you could have your dream rider list, what would be included on it?
Matt: Beer, maybe some tacos. We’d be happy to just have a rider.
Calzones or pizza? Substantiate your claim.
Matt: Pizza. I mean…it’s pizza!
Do you believe in Sasquatch? Why do you think we should or shouldn’t?
Matt: I don’t know much about Sasquatch, so I have to defer to the wisdom of the late Mitch Hedberg on this one. He said, “I think Bigfoot is blurry, that’s the problem. It’s not the photographer’s fault. Bigfoot is blurry, and that’s extra scary to me. There’s a large, out-of-focus monster roaming the countryside.”
Keep up with Mythical Motors – and maybe Bigfoot – here.
As a music journalist, you’re never quite sure what interviewing a band will get you. Will they be awkward? Will they provide good insight, or just one-word answers? There are questions that plague your mind leading up to it. And it’s those incredible storytellers that spin their lyrics so well that seem to come out of the woodwork and really make you laugh. This proved true with Chicago-based art rock/psych pop collective The Curls. In fact, a full giggle fest ensued, and you’ll see why below. So take some time to enjoy this one. It’s well worth it!
What was your first musical memory, and do you think it has any bearing on who you are as an artist now?
Weird Al, first concert when I was just a little boy. Still one of the greats. I just re-watched his movie UHF for the thousandth time. Or maybe the Paul Simon song You can call me Al. That bass solo is a magical thing. I remember my dad or maybe my mom would play Paul a lot on our car rides. I’m sure the influence is there somewhere.
What’s the conception story of The Curls? Was it a meet-cute?
We met at this old mom and pop starbucks joint. We all ordered the same extra-fat hot chocolate Nutella truffle oil bacon latte at the exact same time! We looked at each other and of course laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. We were in that line just laughing for maybe an hour. They had to call the police and they dragged us out laughing our heads off, just like in the movies.
You have been working together for a while now. How do you keep from ripping each other into pieces sometimes?
We’re just popping muscle relaxers and goofballs constantly so the vibe is very communal.
Do you think being from the midwest has any bearing on your sound?
I have absolutely no idea. I don’t think so? I’d be curious to hear what others think. Most of us come from different midwestern states so I wonder if anyone hears that classic Ohio or Michigan or Illinois or Indiana or Minnesota sound.
Where do you draw the most inspiration from, for both your lyrics and your soundscape?
Who knows?! Sometimes it’s obvious. The song or a number of songs can start from a reference point inspired by another artist’s sound or arrangement style. Or maybe what I’m eating or drinking at the time. Like I had been drinking a lot of lemon lime Gatorade recently, so now I’m writing a song based around that. Eating and drinking are very universal concepts. There is inspiration all around us!
You played HHM Fest recently. How was that? Give us a snapshot!
I will give you a step-by-step account. We come into town late afternoon, check into our 5 star hotel as per usual and head straight for the pool. The chlorine level was a bit much, and don’t think I didn’t complain to anyone who would listen. We took a walk around beautiful Bay City, MI and arrive at the venue quite early. We spend the next few hours enjoying this terrific spread of pizza, chips, locally catered apps while polishing off some of Maps and Atlases personal beers. Sorry buds! And of course we went on to play an unforgettable set. So it was a great experience, a great crowd, the festival did a great job, we did a great job and I can only hope we’ll do it again someday.
Do you prefer playing festivals or more intimate shows? Why or why not?
It’s all good. I love smaller clubs like The Hideout in Chicago but I have to say I also love playing shows with the big, roomy stages that might allow for us to assemble a larger arrangement and to play to a larger crowd, like when we crushed at Pitchfork Fest. It’s a wash!
How did you prep to film the “Bad Boi” video? Looks like it took a little bit of yoga and a lot of drugs?
We were so hopped up on drugs and yoga you wouldn’t believe. I was taking one drug then hopping into a downward dog that would make your head spin, then another drug and even MORE of the drugs before settling into the most beautiful warrior pose anyone has ever seen. Then bada bing bada boom, the light bulbs went off and along with our terrific collaborators and directors at New Trash Productions we managed to create one of the great videos of our time.
If you could have your dream rider list, what would be included on it?
Donuts or waffles? (Your answers to these questions will determine our future together, obviously.)
Of course if it’s a dream list I think we could manage to get both a waffle making station and as many donuts as we like. You didn’t ask but my favorite donut? The chocolate long john. Beautiful donut. However, I was just thinking it would be good to request 100 copies of infinite jest to throw at the crowd if they lose their shit or seem disinterested. Maybe a few drones to fly and keep an eye on things.
Any dirt you want to dish on your band mates?
If my band mates were here they’d probably dish A LOT of dirt about me. Stuff like, “Oh Mick? He’s a garbage person. He cares too much, he works too hard, he’s too nice, he’s too inspiring.” The usual gripes.
Do you believe in aliens? Why do you think we should or shouldn’t?
This has been coming up a lot in my life lately. My friend had an encounter a few weeks back. Took a picture of a strange flying object in the sky, sent me a detailed account. He even claimed at one point that the objects in the sky were moving according to thoughts he was having. Very compelling. We’ve all seen things in the sky we couldn’t explain. I think It’s fun to believe and speculate. There must be something going on out there right?! I mean are ya kidding? Have you seen this documentary Independence Day?
Run Tiny Human is your 8th album with Jeff Stuart Saltzman, what makes the musical relationship between you and Jeff last so long?
Rachel: When you work with someone for that long–especially on something so personal as your own music–you’ve both seen one another at your very best and very worst. It’s intense, recording an album. And we’re both kind of intense, very opinionated people, on top of that.
I learned to trust Jeff. We became very good friends at some point, but even early on, he won my trust because he was clearly not one to b.s. or throw compliments around. I could tell I’d get the truth out of him–he’s brutally honest, though not in a mean way. He can’t help it. I tend to like people like that. Critical, but not cruel. And unstinting with honest praise. And he wanted to help me to get to what I want–not what he wanted, though his contribution to my records is vast and invaluable.
We’ve been working together long enough that we have a kind of shorthand, now. We know each other, and he really knows my music and the way I work–the way my mind works and the way I actually like to work while recording. I become aware, working on Run Tiny Human, that Jeff’s been very observant and made a lot of changes over the years in working with me, on the process, based on his observations–trying to go with my flow and make it easier for me. It’s not always easy with two such strong-willed people in a room, but I rely on him to give it to me straight, and he has never failed.
Many artists have contributed on Run Tiny Human from some amazing bands, who were they and what was it about their style that fit so well with your sound?
Rachel: Ben Landsverk (Wonderly, Hawks & Doves, OK Chorale) is a dear friend and has been playing with me for many years, now. When we met we were singing a concert of Bach and Charpentier for Trinity Consort, which is weird to think about, now! We discovered one another’s other musical lives and we started playing together in a few bands. Ben’s my righthand man–he does everything. He’s a super quick, versatile singer with a freakish range (it’s just him and me, multi-tracked and asthmatic, singing that backup on Wedding Song/Bag of Bones), he can play anything–viola, bass, guitars, keys, percussion–and he’s just beautifully musical. He makes everything seem so easy, but it’s not.
Jeff Langston (Antony and the Johnsons, Mo Phillips) is in my band and has also become a treasured friend. He grew up in Oregon and moved back from NYC with his wife and son a few years ago. We met backing up a mutual friend for a radio show. Jeff’s an incredibly sensitive player–he pays attention more closely than almost anyone I know to what’s happening musically, and he always tries to serve that. He’s been a real stalwart for me–a total pro and supportive in myriad ways.
Leigh Marble (Leigh Marble) has also been in my band for years now and is a well-regarded songwriter/performer and also a great friend of mine. I like the way Leigh thinks, and I like the way he plays guitar. He can get a very raw sound and he’s never noodly–doesn’t overplay. He makes interesting choices and he’s way more fun to watch play than I am!
Justin Harris is a good friend of Jeff’s and a friend of mine, too. He happened to be in town between tours with Bloc Party and kindly came over and played bari sax and bass on Gitcher. He and Danny Seim (Menomena) played on a coupla songs on my album World So Sweet. What I had him doing on Gitcher was incredibly repetitive but Justin’s got a loose, kind of loopy way of playing that I really like, and it gives life to the repeated bits.
Joe Mengis (Eels) and Mark Powers (Robert Wynia) were both suggestions of Jeff’s–he’d worked with both of them right before we started recording. Both are pros and lovely people. Mark is a fiend at anything you set before him–no limits. And Joe took a very weird, counterintuitive request from me and hit it out of the park.
Katie Taylor (Opera Theater Oregon) is my sister, who also does the graphics for my albums, and who is my guinea pig whenever I’m writing songs. I can sing a harmony or melody or whatever to her and she can immediately sing it back. Katie’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever known, and we’ve sung together forever. She sings in the choir on “Heir Apparent” and “Yourself/You Reprise.” That’s her doing the high “C” on Heir (if you can hear it!).
Lisa Stringfield-Prescott (Ages and Ages) is a prized friend who was in the bands Carmina Piranha and Carmina Luna. She’s sung on several of my albums and I love the quality of her voice, and her stage presence. Lisa’s also been a huge support over the years–I don’t know what I’d do without her.
Jim Brunberg (Box Set, Wonderly, Roam Schooled) is a friend and I asked him and his daughters, Dana and Vern, to come sing on a track. Jim’s a truly great musician and one of those people who can sing anything in any range, so I grabbed him. Jim’s also been a good friend to me and my music.
Phil and Gayle Neuman (De Organographia) have played on, I think, four of my albums, now? They’re specialist on Renaissance and Baroque (and some ancient) instruments. They are famous in those circles–hence their playing on the Ben Hur remake soundtrack. 🙂 They’re good friends of mine and can play any instrument, and their collection of instruments–most of them made by Gayle and Phil–is awe-inspiring!
Jeff Stuart Saltzman (Cerebral Corps, Sunset Valley) I talked about already….but not many know he’s a great musician and songwriter. I exploit Jeff’s musical talents for all I’m worth when we’re recording–he’s very handy. That’s him muttering on “Gitcher,” at my request.
How did you interpret what your mind was thinking about the world in to a lyrical and musical form?
Rachel: I don’t know! I don’t really think about it so clearly when it’s happening. Ideas just knock around and then they come out. I’ll get up and go record them, I’ll get up and go to the piano, I’ll write down a lyric. It all kind of comes together when you look at it as a whole, later. Then, I see the pattern and where my brain was dwelling.
I personally love the idea behind Little Gyre, can you tell us more about that specific song?
Rachel: I was lying in bed, half awake, and I don’t know what prompted the thought but I started thinking about the junk in space peering down at the ocean garbage (the Pacific Garbage Gyre). Garbage high, garbage low! I have no idea why I thought I might want to write a song about that. I got down (on digital recorder) what I was thinking and I went to sleep. When I worked on it later in my typical misty fashion, the space garbage began to morph into a kind of stalkerish entity, obsessing over the ocean garbage. In the end, it breaks orbit to fall into the sea. I feel bad for the ocean garbage (forgive me, ocean garbage)…
I think this came from my almost constant stewing over climate change and our fucked over world. I am chock full of Apocalypse.
When do you feel was the era when Americans had sense and at what point do you feel it started to get crazy?
Rachel: I keep coming back to the FDR era (for sense), and that’s a sad thought because it was so long ago. But one of the things I most admire about that era is the community-mindedness, as opposed to the lunatic focus on the individual in the America of now. Americans are so belligerently self-serving now, nothing gets done. It’s literally impossible for so many hellbent “individuals” to pull together. We all want what we want when we want it, and we all deserve it, and damn you to hell if you get in the way of what I want, cuz I got muh rights!
I think the ’60s and ’70s took a kind of latent, inbred American crazy and tipped it into overdrive, what with the whole “reality is subjective” thing, the questioning of fact and truth, etc., coloring it all relative, nothing tethered to anything real anymore, just free-floating bullshit. An early triumph for the wretched Cult of the Individual.
Kurt Andersen wrote a wonderful, horrifying book called Fantasyland; How America Went Haywire: A 500 Year History. He posits that we started out crazy–that the people who settled America set the groundwork for the crazy. And I think he’s right–I think Americans from the get-go regarded themselves as exceptional and that that, unfortunately, has stuck and transmogrified into something truly sick–what we have now. I like how a reviewer of Andersen’s book put it (Hanna Rosin): “Fake news. Post-truth. Alternative facts…. The country’s initial devotion to religious and intellectual freedom, Andersen argues, has over the centuries morphed into a fierce entitlement to custom-made reality. So your right to believe in angels and your neighbour’s right to believe in U.F.O.s and Rachel Dolezal’s right to believe she is black lead naturally to our president’s right to insist that his crowds were bigger.”
The Reagan years were another milestone of crazy, of a different sort. The onset of the GOP’s ever-so-patient-and-deliberate, decades-long Grand Plan of Selfishness–deregulation, the handing over of America to corporate interests, circling the wagons, the insistence on America First!… all wrapped up in shameful jingoistic posturing, one hand waving a flag and the other taking your wallet. USA! We had gone from the heartening scenario of the gas crisis in the Carter years, which is, I think, the last true example of Americans actually acting with a sense of pulling together. They did real things, made real (if not great) sacrifices–drove less, got smaller, more gas-efficient cars, etc. It almost seems mythical to me when I think about it now, because everything around us (climate change, for one) dictates bigger sacrifices and changes than we successfully effected back then; only today’s Americans do exactly the opposite of what is required–buying bigger bigger BIGGER vehicles, traveling/flying more, ordering more shit from Amazon, building bigger homes, getting bigger appliances, sucking up more resources and eating everything in sight. That those Keurig machines could even exist in this day and age boggles the mind. Americans, of course, love them.
What is your own favourite part of American history and what makes it special to you?
Rachel: Well, this is cheating on the question a little, but I’d sure like to see pre-Columbian America, mainly so I could see what nature–flora and fauna and sea–was like, pre-trampling and despoiling. I know big civilizations already existed with the tribes, and land clearing was happening even then. But–as far as I know–First Peoples weren’t hunting things to extinction or extracting/cutting/plundering nearly so well as later peoples did. I’d love to see my own region (Pacific NW/US) when the forests were full of gigantic trees, and that dense forest floor. I’d like to see the land and all the creatures, the ocean and all its creatures, breathe the air. I’d really like to see it all pre-people, actually. The answer, therefore, to “what would make it special to me” is: no people at all. 😉
I’ve heard you are a fan of BBC costume dramas, which is your favourite one and why? Also if you could star in one of them then which character do you think suits you as a person?
Rachel: OOOHhhhh! So many! So many! I do love a good costume drama! And the BBC really does do them best. 🙂 Gah, how to choose? Faves include: Jane Eyre (1983–I’m a purist–but I do like the 2006 version–Ruth Wilson is the only actress I’ve seen who approaches the greatness of Zelah Clarke’s Eyre); The Forsyte Saga; The House of Eliot; Our Mutual Friend; Middlemarch. But I’d have to pick either Persuasion (1995) or Pride and Prejudice (1995–wow! That was a good year!) for my absolute favorites. I have watched those too many times to count. If I could star in one, which character suits me?… hmmm. I’d like to think I’m Lizzy Bennet, but I’m probably more Mr. Rochester. 😉 NOTE TO THE BBC: Please make Villette!
For the majority of your life you have lived in Portland, what is it about Portland that keeps you there?
Rachel: Ugh. Nothing, anymore. I and mine and my sister moved out a year ago because we couldn’t take living there anymore. It’s changed so drastically over the past 10-20 years, it’s unrecognizable…so depressing. I went through a long period of frantically dragging my poor husband all over town to try to escape the awfulness (constant construction/overdevelopment/razing, decades of it now; increased crime; tagging, garbage, lines and cars everywhere; displacement; pollution; soaring prices; noise; and some really up-their-own-asses new residents hashtag NOT ALL NEW RESIDENTS) and find peace. Alas, it was not to be had, so we finally got out. I only wish we’d done it sooner. I feel like I was in mourning for my city for the past decade plus. I felt like a stranger there in my hometown, my lifelong home. By the time we left, I didn’t care anymore what happened to it. Just exhausted and sad. It has been “loved” to death death death.
Can you please tell us of your aunt Mette who formed inspiration for one of your songs on your album Half Hours With The Lower Creatures?
Rachel: I don’t remember much about her because I was so little when she was still alive. I never met her in person. But she corresponded with me from Madagascar, where she was a missionary. I remember writing to her and I remember her spidery handwriting–she was very very old when she was writing to me. She was from Norway. I would give anything to be able to talk to her now.
Can you remember the first demo tape you ever did? How did it feel to hear your music recorded for the first time?
Rachel: My brothers and sister and I recorded ourselves doing stupid shite, growing up, so I was pretty familiar with the sound of my own voice. My husband bought me a Tascam Porta 05 when I was in my twenties, not long after we married, and that was a turning point–he made me start to take my songwriting more seriously. It was so wonderful to be able to record multiple tracks, because I’d been using two tape machines to do that! Going back and forth until things got faster and faster and higher and higher, hah! Anyway–it was a great spur to creativity and made my brain just GO. I really loved it.
I think I just felt….satisfied, when I first heard my music recorded. And also twitchy and dissatisfied, because there are always things you wish you’d done differently. But I generally self examine as I go along with a ruthless rigor that prevents (most) later regret. If I don’t like something, I can always tell, and I’m not shy about changing it. I follow my gut and my ear. That’s a weird visual…
You put your all into your music, it’s all you. You do everything yourselves with no other input from anyone. What is the importance of this to Filmspeed, to do everything yourselves?
Filmspeed: As indie artists? It’s everything. We’re in a modern industry that lives and dies by the innovation of musicians. Time, budget, schedules- these are all things you’ve got to constantly balance. The more we can do internally as a unit, the better chance we have at long term survival, and with any luck, success.
You thrive on the live experience, describe your typical emotions and feeling when you are all on stage?
Filmspeed: Its the rush. Its the purpose. Its home. A live audience is our drinking buddies, our close friends. It’s not quite the same to type it out in words. Its those moments where a whole room gets together and collectively loses their minds if only for a split second.
You hail from Orange County, I don’t know Orange County but I do know that rock and roll is everywhere and at it’s heart. How does Orange County reflect in your music?
Filmspeed: Well… although we live and work in OC and around Los Angeles. The soul of the music is directly channeled from the Motor City, Detroit. Nick and Craig are born and raised with the whole family still living there. “You gotta lose your mind in Detroit, Rock City”. Over the years though Orange County has sprinkled in refinement, professionalism, and tripled down our drive and passion. In a place where the weather is always great, it means we can gig 7 days a week.
You have your own podcast, so tell us more about it. Why did you decide to do the podcast and apart from the music what is all your artistic input into your podcast?
Filmspeed: Well it’s a recent development for us. We actually wanted to get much more candid with our fans. Since theres so many outlets for bands to reach people, (social media, gigs, albums, etc.) we wanted to peel back the curtain and have folks get to know us on a friend-level. So the podcast, “Consistently Off” is really just a recording of the 3 of us catching up for the week and whatever rants ensue thereafter.
Not good to hear about the break in to your rehearsal space guys, how did this make you feel and has it stopped you from doing what you do so well musically?
Filmspeed: Yeaaa, thanks so much! We appreciate the wishes. Being on the losing end of thievery is never great. Immediately following though, our close friends and fans all jumped into action. GoFundMe accounts were opened, plans were made, and guitars were replaced all without our knowledge. A few days of sorrow for sure, but instantly being reminded that we are loved, supported and respected is more than a fortunate turn; its fuel to put the pedal down and take this thing to the top!
Tell us a little more about Beer 4 Boobs, I personally take my hat off to you gentlemen for doing this but please tell the world more about the whole event?
Filmspeed: These events are always a privilege. Its not even a soft spot for us, it’s a requirement. Everyone has had their lives affected by cancer, most recently, both Nick and Craig had parents taken by cancer. Cancer benefits will be on our show schedule as long as folks ask us to appear.
Loving the Cold As Ice cover guys, what made you want to officially cover Foreigner then do a phone video of it?
Filmspeed: Hey thanks! Its all about thinking “outside the box”, as you can probably tell from the video, we didn’t take it too seriously. Best part is that all our closest friends got together for a night of laughs and drinks. In our opinion, theres no better way to make a music video.
Purple Rain, great choice of film and it’s soundtrack, can you all tell me your favourite films that have just as good soundtracks apart from Purple Rain?
Filmspeed: Sh^ttt manggg… theres no better production. That’s prime Prince. Better than that? Let’s put a small vote in for “Team America: World Police”, there’s a genuine brilliance to that whole work of art.
It’s time to go Hexadecimal, it’s time for you to have a great big plug of the great musical wonder that is Hexadecimal. Time for you to tell all Wicked Spins Radio readers and also their listeners (Will be plugging it on my show) all about Hexadecimal. AND 3….. 2….. 1…. GO
Filmspeed: ATTENTION ALBUM LOVERS! Repeat! ATTENTION ALBUM LOVERS: We have self-produced, full length album that covers over 2 years worth of material. It spans a massive range of stories, moods and energies. It is non-stop sound, filled with interludes and segues. It’s a record that you’re encouraged to press play and strap in for the ride.
If you have not witnessed the glory that is Thunderpussy – live or otherwise – it’s time to wake up. We had a chance to glimpse their live performance tactics at this year’s Sasquatch Music Festival, and we were absolutely blown away as they upstaged the other performances going on around them. Seattle-based, this all-female band – expertly comprised of Molly Sides (Vocals), Whitney Petty (Guitar), Leah Julius (Bass), and Ruby Dunphy (Drums) – is taking their chops to the road, giving North America a taste of their high energy, brilliantly colored stage presence and gorgeous rock music. We’re about to join the party at Riot Room on Tuesday night, and we got the unique experience of asking guitar extraordinaire Whitney Petty some questions leading up to the tour. Check out the brief moment we got, as she explained finding her musical soulmate and creating tantalizing melodies.
Let’s get back to the basics. What was the first song or album you ever remember listening to, and do you think it has any impact on who you are as a performer today?
When I was 12 I bought my first Aerosmith CD, Nine Lives, it had just come out. I still know every word and nuance of each song on that record. I am still totally in love with Steven Tyler. Aerosmith are a huge influence on me.
While you’re busy “piercing the walls of Valhalla”, does anything about your conception story strike you as amazing? Was it a meet cute? Tell us about your beginnings!
Well, meeting Molly was an incredible event in my life. It’s a singular feeling when you meet your soulmate. And like I said, I love Aerosmith. I had always hoped that one day I meet my musical accomplice, like the Steven to my Joe. That’s Molly.
What is the recording process like?
It depends on the song, but there is usually always a melody first. Sometimes that melody is on the guitar, and sometimes it is with a lyric. Each song kind of has its own DNA.
You put out your s/t EP in May, and it’s absolutely captivating. Any personal or behind the scenes anecdotes from the recording process you’d like to share?
Working with Sylvia was a dream. Everyone learned so much about the process from her everyday. We should have had a film crew with us in the ‘Real World Ashland house’, as we called it. One of the highlights was recording Young and Pure very live and very stoned (as per Sylvia’s request) in the dark at the very end of the session. There is some magic on that track!
Anyone have a favorite song off of that EP, or something you prefer to perform?
There isn’t any song on there that we don’t like to perform, but some are more lively than others! Velvet Noose is always thrilling, and we all love to play Torpedo. With three distinct parts it’s always a journey…
We got the unique pleasure of witnessing you perform at Sasquatch earlier this year. How does festival life compare to your regular touring life? Is there something you prefer or dislike more?
CATERING. Is what’s up. Festivals are rad!! We love getting to meet artists and see big shows up close and personal.
And. Your OUTFITS. Are you always that bedazzled? What inspired that choice for Sasquatch? (We are in love.)
Yes!!! We love the glam;) Shout out to Pakio Galore out of Seattle, who makes a lot of our costumes. Molly is very instrumental in the vision of how we present ourselves onstage. And who doesn’t love a good color theme?!
When you need time to regroup – to conquer writer’s block or find your new sound or take a minute – where do you go? What’s your safe haven?
Molly and I love nature. We go to the mountains fairly often, in Idaho. And I love Kauai, when I can get there. But there is no place like our native Seattle!!!
Any fun pre-performance rituals?
Drink the blood of virgins, sacrifice a goat, that kind of thing…
Your rider list is probably pretty modest compared to, say, J.Lo. But if you could have anything on your rider list, what would you do?
Kittens and puppies in the green room, obv.
Something a little off-kilter… Do you believe in intuition and. the power of psychics? Why or why not?
Of course. I believe in the collective unconscious and synchronicity. I believe in Karma. I think there is a subtlety to life and events that many people perceive and many miss.
Don’t forget to head out to Riot Room on the 16th to enjoy the magic of Thunderpussy’s live performance, and keep up with them here.
We’ve had a blissful courtship with indie rock/folk duo Seasaw since before Imperfect Fifth ever existed. Having had the opportunity to review an album of theirs at a previous publication, my mailbox experienced an unexpected and happy surprise when they shipped me a vinyl copy of said album with a personalized thank you note. The music industry is incredibly rewarding in most ways, but to get a hand written note is rather rare anymore. That particular memory stayed with me, and then when I got a chance to peep the material for their new album Big Dogs, I was floored.
Lucky for me, I got the unique opportunity to meet up with Meg and Eve on a balmy September day in Kansas City while they were on tour. We sat down while they tried some tacos from Mission Taco, and chatted a bit about that new album and their progression as artists. Check out the words below!
What’s the first song or record you remember hearing, and does it have any bearing on who you are as a performer today?
Eve: The first thing I probably listened to would be the Beach Boys because my dad is a huge Beach Boys fan. He would make me mix tapes of the Beach Boys that I would play on my tiny kid cassette tape player. He made me lots and lots of music like that. And we would listen to it all the time in the car too when I would drive around with my dad. I don’t know that anyone could live up to the amazing harmonies and chord progression that the Beach Boys produced, but of course it’s always in the back of my mind to choose something even a fraction of the beauty that they were able to create sonically. They did such cool things in the studio too as their albums progressed.
My dad also made me a mix tape that had The Kinks and included “Lola”, which is one of my all-time favorite songs. As you know, it’s a song that has a very adult theme. But I brought it in for show and tell in 2nd grade and I think the teacher called my parents and was like, “Did you know that Eve** brought ‘Lola’ in?” Of course they loved it. It’s an amazing song.
Meg: I remember listening to Billy Joel’s The Stranger a lot with my dad and dancing around the living room to that. My mom would always play Carole King’s Tapestry. I was a dancer when I was little, so I would put those two songs on and kind of go for it. I don’t think they shaped anything besides the fact that I still listen to those records today.
My parents didn’t listen to a lot of music. Eve went to a lot of concerts growing up, but I didn’t really. I think the first concert I went to was when I was in high school with my brother. Music was there. I played instruments and stuff and I sang here and there. But I really remember Billy Joel and I still listen to it all the time. I have my dad’s copy of The Stranger vinyl. They would all write their social security numbers on their records so they were safe, but that was when social security numbers weren’t as protected so now it’s blacked out on the copy of the vinyl. In hindsight, a pretty poor choice but kind of cool.
The inspiration behind the title track from Big Dogs – and much of the album – was brought on when the duo played a festival slot recently. A band member from the act playing after them jumped on stage while they were wrapping up their equipment and harassed them about moving too slowly. “If you want to play with the big dogs, you need to get the fuck off the stage,” he yelled at them. This caused a verbal altercation, and the ladies didn’t have security or stagehands to help them out. The power imbalance was notable, and bred some of their most alluring new work.
So from the last album to this one, there is a little more edge, and that’s for a variety of reasons including subject matter. When the – actually heartbreaking – event happened that inspired “Big Dogs”, did you dive in and write a song, or did it take a second before you were able to process and create material around it?
Meg: It was mostly me that the interaction happened with, but Eve came to bat for me and we both had an interaction with the person. So we had talked about it together and had brainstormed a list of all of the things that were funny because we wanted to be able to process it somehow. So we wrote some of the funny things that were said — some of the words in the song are actual direct quotes. Then I would say it was maybe a month later that I sat down and hammered it out and wrote “Big Dogs”.
Some songs take me a long time to write, but that one kind of just poured out really fast. It was done within an hour or two and then Eve helped me make some revisions. It was pretty quick that it happened after the event.
Eve: So we were going to name the album Big Dogs before the song and then Meg wrote the song so we were like, “Oh, great. That’s even better.”
So when the theme of the music video for that song came up, how did you guys decide to go tongue-in-cheek?
Eve: I came up with the idea just after hearing what Meg had written. The image of a dog is kind of tricky in a song because of the language involved and we think the phrase is funny. So, we were trying to figure out a delicate way to be kind of cutting with the idea of what a big dog is. Because it is someone who is kind of a sad person who doesn’t have self confidence and is a bully and has to call themselves that to feel important. So we wanted to portray that in a more artistic and creative way so there wasn’t just dogs on everything.
It came about after trying to be very thoughtful about how to portray that idea. And then I came up with the invisible dog and it fits. We a kind of tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic with everything we do, and I like how it makes you have to think about it a little harder so it’s not as obvious. Even the front cover to the back cover forces the listener to wonder who the Big Dogs are. Is it the women on the cover or the image of the dog on the back? I like how it makes people try to figure it out and dig a little deeper to understand the meaning. That’s wha we did with the video too.
How did your recording process differ this time than with the last album?
Eve: There’s definitely a big difference. With the last album we did everything ourselves. I engineered everything so I couldn’t put my whole mind into the playing piece of it because there was still that hindrance of about 10% brain energy. This time we had a friend engineer the whole thing for us so we really got to go all-in. We also spent a lot of time demoing the songs. It was probably about a month before we started recording so we were able to go through many iterations of the pieces to get them to a more full state. We didn’t have as much time to do that with the last record. I think that really helped inspired a lot of the full and different sounds you hear. We were able to have fun with it.
As for your live performance, you guys do such a wonderful job. Was that something that just came naturally to you? How did your performance style come to be?
Eve: Well, we’ve been working on our presentation for as long as we’ve been recording. We’d start sitting on two chairs and Meg would play the bongos and I would quietly cower near the guitar. So we just had to grow into the confidence to do things that are more thoughtfully laid out for the audience’s sake and for the flow of the music that we’re performing. So there is a lot of thought that goes behind the flow of what we’re doing. We’re constantly tweaking things and trying to make it better because it’s just the two of us in the moment so anything can go right or wrong and throw something off. So there’s a lot of energy in our performances because we can only rely on each other to make the music. So I think that pressure gives us the reason to act the way we do.
There’s a lot of thought that goes into our social media and the esthetic on our stage and the esthetic in our album and the fact that it’s blue. Every little piece has been made cohesive to grow into this more thought out and developed product that you’re going to hear on this album, all the way from the recorded version to the final piece to the performance.
In these 8 years that we’ve been together, we’ve been stepping towards something we can stand behind. Each piece is more 100% than we could in the past because we just didn’t have the experience at that time.
When you were here in June, did you get a chance to experience KC at all? I know it was a pretty quick trip.
Eve: No, and there’s a lot to see. It looks beautiful and we need a tour guide to show us the inside scoop. (wink)
Is there anything specific that you have planned for the rest of this tour for your off time?
Meg: We only have like one off day but it will be in D.C. so we’re hoping to hit some art museums. We’re meeting some friends in Baltimore so that’s what we will be doing as well. I think we are going to the restaurant at the top of The Revival there too. This tour is going to be a lot of fun.