This weekend I spent some time with the band, both meeting them in Washington Square Park, where they talked business, and watching them rehearse at their current/alma mater university, The New School [Rob and Lily graduated in 2009, the others are graduating in 2010].
Friday, April 2. Late afternoon, approx. 6 p.m.
Inside of Washington Square Park I find the band sitting in a circle, legs crossed Indian-style, several feet to the left of the Arch. I’d seen them once before–from their performance at Pete’s Candy Store–and of course, I’ve seen their pictures, but it was the circle with a snare drum bag to the side that gave them away.
Unintentionally, they form a certain coordinated band aesthetic: The guys are all wearing button down plaid shirts, Max and Rob are wearing shorts, Angelo and Steven are wearing jeans. The girls, both wearing jeans, wear jackets seemingly fitting to their personas; Lily has on a black and red detailed leather biker jacket, Mallory wears a magenta cardigan.
They’re finishing up a meeting as I approach, and as I sit down, they finalize by scheduling rehearsals for the week of the 26th. iPhones and agendas come out.
Toughest part of being a band? Six different schedules or six different opinions?
Mal: When it comes to our opinions, we’re all pretty agreeable and if we don’t agree we’re open to talking about it and figuring something out
Max: More often than not, we’re on the same page. But, in terms of scheduling, it can be comically difficult. We chain e-mails, 30 replies long, of us of us trying to meet for an hour.
Angelo: With the discussion of opinion varying sometimes, I find that there’s a really nice balance of people and their focuses and their backgrounds. Some people will be focused on different things—what’s most musically interesting, if musical ideals are still being held, showmanship—like is this a good show? Is it boring?—Slow music? Fast music? Venue? There’s a nice balance to keep things on good grounds.
Mal: We all have slightly different musical backgrounds and slightly different musical tastes. We all like a lot of the same stuff, but we all approach music differently and that makes the group diverse in a nice way.
How did you guys get together?
Angelo: About a year and couple months ago Mal, Lily, Rob and I started getting together and started playing some music. We had three songs, but we never played one of them song. It was out of an attempt to try to write music that wasn’t as daunting as the music I was trying to write. I was trying to do something simple, to focus on simple melodies, and to start from the ground up. So we got together, and it felt really nice. We’d rehearse regularly on Thursday afternoons in the tiny [New School] practice room. We added a drummer [Anthony] who played with us for a couple of months, did some shows, then he left town. We asked Max to join.
Max: I actually asked Angelo if I could join.
Angelo: You played more shows that Anthony did when he was in the band, he played Pete’s [Candy Store] once and one of our pot lucks. Throwing pot lucks at our place, that was the shit. Anyway, at the end of summer , with the simplicity of the songs, it felt easier to open up and experiment with some things, like hearing some more textures. So we added Steven on clarinet, bass clarinet and flute. And that’s how the roster is right now.
How often do you guys practice now?
Lily: We used to get together once a week, pretty steadily through the fall and winter. It depends if there’s something major coming up. There was a chunk of winter when we had a show every week, before we went on tour, so we weren’t really rehearsing because we were playing. But since we’ve toured we haven’t been on a regular schedule. We also need a break from each other.
How was the tour?
The entire band simultaneously interjects: It was great. It was sweet. It was very fun. There were a lot of dairy products from the mid-West. A lot of cute dogs.
Max: We went on tour with this band called the Atypicals. Two-thirds of that band are my roommates so we set the tour up together. They have a lot of connections. They’re from Cleveland, so they had some Midwest connections and some Pittsburgh ones, so we were able to fit together some spots in the Midwest. We had five shows in Ohio and two not in Ohio.
Mal: We played in Ohio a lot.
Max: If nothing else, it was great for the experience as traveling as a group and playing every night. Some nights the reception was good, other nights not as good.
Mal: Everywhere expect Pittsburgh received us really well. I mean [Pittsburgh] received us well, but they were just super loud.
Angelo: They were excited to party. My family, instead of listening to us, they were talking about us.
Max: Maybe we got a handful of new friends, but as a band, we definitely got much tighter.
Lily: The most gratifying show was the first night [Columbus, Ohio] in this shitty, weird Indian restaurant, (as a restaurant it was awesome, but as a venue it was less than desirable). It was all students, it was all people who wanted to come out, hear music, dance, and experience something. It was really intimate and it was really fun. It was an amazing show.
Max: It felt like we connected with everybody in the band and in the audience.
How do you guys get your name around?
Lily: The website is definitely helpful, but it all stems from our live shows.
Max: There’s no substitute for making a real connection with a person in a physical space, hearing their music.
Mal: We’re getting recommended. Having friends hear our music and if they like our music they tell their friends. Nothing would get me to listen to a band more than that.
Lily: And that’s where the website comes in. It’s the stepping stone. Someone comes to see us and they say to a friend, this band is awesome, here’s the website, and ideally, they’d come to the next show.
Do you guys have a manager? [They point to Rob]
Rob: We all handle different types of things.
Lily: If someone makes a contact with someone or a venue, that person generally stays in touch.
Rob: I just like to check e-mail more regularly.
Lily: I haven’t checked the email since the day you created the e-mail account.
Rob: I’m just trying to get my 20%
How do you make connections with venues?
Mal: We’ve been playing with a wide variety of other groups, basically since we’ve moved here, so we use the connections we’ve made and picked venues we liked. Often we can email the venue saying we’ve played there before with this group and now we wanna play here with this group.
And where do you typically play?
Spike Hill, Pete’s Candy Store, (Le) Poisson Rouge, Vox Pop, Sycamore, and the Abrons Art Center.
What are your plans for the future?
Lily: We’re recording this summer
Max: We did a little demo, but this would be our first, real, as close to professional CD that we’ll eventually try to get to the attention of people with money.
What’s that process like?
Angelo: The songs are all written but one, we’re working on that. It’s all the arrangements; I’ve been working on them in my head, and orchestrations. It’s gonna be a lot simpler than I’d like but its something I look forward to. [Angelo is the songwriter.] I write the songs, bring them in, and workshop them. Sometimes things don’t change that much, sometimes they change a lot. Sometimes actions will happen and those will sound best. It just takes playing them.
Max: Its fun seeing how playing a song for six months changes it.
What are your inspirations?
Interjections: Humphrey Bogart! Dogs! Good food!
Angelo: Specifically, it’s just looking at music and sound, and letting that drive the musical part. Lyrics are based on a lot of things, either personal, or stories I’ve heard, strange Grimm’s fairy tales.
What are your thoughts on fame?
Angelo: Me and Rob were at South by Southwest. It was a pretty crazy place, but sort of dark at the same time. A lot of people were down there for the same goals: they to be successful for the sake of fame and success, to get noticed and to get a record deal and want to be the next big band. Thirteen hundred bands down there want to be the next big band. You can tell when they’re really focused on the style of their band, and what they’re looking like, the whole rock star thing. Looking at fame and success, it helped me focus on my goal, it’s the music. It’s being honest, and keeping my music honest. There are so many people doing things that are pretty good, and it’s like what will make us different than other people? Everybody’s individual, so we can bring out what makes us individual. There’s a lot of drive in me right now. Like fuck that shit, fuck that shit. Letting things go down a superficial route is a means to an end and it’s sad.
Rob: For me, it’s keeping a balanced perspective between the music and the creative process. But then there’s the necessary business side of things of dealing with money, of how you’re going to pay for things, managers and record labels. I don’t think that for any of us, fame is a goal in-and-of-itself. It’s more just having fun playing the music and playing for people that like it. Ideally, we’re all trying to make music our career, but not on the MTV, Lady Gaga level, except for Max.
Is this band something you want to make into a career?
Steven: I think that the group will go on for as long as it’s going to go on for. We’re all trying to make a career doing music, in some way, shape or form. We all agree that there’s something very special about the group and we all have a lot of fun doing it, and thus far we’ve gotten a good reception, so we want to see where it takes us.
Max: Our vision of life and music doesn’t rest solely on this band, but our band’s an integral part it.
Mal: At this point, this band is extremely important to me. It’s one of my first priorities musically.
Most memorable moment?
Mal: The tour was pretty memorable.
Rob: Getting to know each other in very intimate and even mundane ways. That’s what happens when you see someone for every waking hour for eight days straight.
Max: September, or maybe it was July, it was our first show at Spike Hill and they offered us a residency. The show that night sounded really good, and to me that was an indication that it isn’t just us that feel this way about this music, other people are really responding and want us back, many times in a row.
Angelo: I’m driving in the car in Pittsburgh with my mom, my sisters, and two friends from home and my mom put the EP on and everybody knew every single word. And they had all the metric shit, had it all, and they knew every bit of it. To see that the music can be enjoyed by a lot of different types of people, which is a goal, is nice.
Saturday, April 3. Early afternoon, approx. 2 p.m.