Are you looking forward to playing Supersonic 2011?
Chris: Very much so. We’ve all been attendees over the years so it’ll be great to play.
Do you know much about the festival? What are your favourite aspects of it?
C: I think I’ve only missed one year since the festival started and we’ve known the people at Capsule for about 10 years or so.
Katy: They are so passionate about experimental music and Birmingham – it is very inspiring. My favourite Supersonic moments include having my hair ripped out and chewed by Al Johnson of US Maple during their first song in 2006, Michael Gira telling the audience to “show him some respect” and Eugene Robinson’s striptease during Oxbow’s set in 2008. Basically: really vivid, confrontational live performances which felt a bit like waking up from a nightmare of being trapped inside your favourite band’s record.
C: I really like the attention to detail at Supersonic as well; the venues all really seem suited to the music and everything always sounds fantastic. That’s something most of the other festivals I’ve been to seem to forget about. I also always end up being blown away by something I knew nothing about beforehand, which is exciting when so many festivals are just about “safe bets” and things most attendees are familiar with.
Is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing?
K: We’re all looking forward to seeing Nathan Bell, Skull Defekts, Part Chimp, Bardo Pond, Tony Conrad, Alexander Tucker, the KARP LIVES film …
C: Nathan had some incredible bad luck getting into the UK to tour in the past, so be sure to show him a warm welcome. He’s fantastic too.
How does your music translate for the live environment? Does it adopt a different form to how it sounds on record?
C: It has to really…
K: It is decidedly less, but hopefully more. It is certainly louder, and simultaneously more energetic and more sluggish.
C: There’s a lot of manipulation of sounds on the record that means creating an exact copy live is just impossible. The solution is to try and bring about different changes to keep the live thing as unpredictable (for us as well as anyone listening) as we hope the recordings are.
What is Mark Spivey’s role in your live sound?
K: Mark assumes a desk position away from the hustle and bustle, and manipulates my drum beats live using echoes and tape delay type sounds to great effect. I like watching him sway along from afar.
C: When we started, we all thought it was pretty crazy that bands put so much time into amplifier and FX pedal choices and all these weird, geeky things, and then almost leave it to chance as to what they would sound like out front when it comes to playing live. It almost seems a bit selfish; like it only matters if it sounds good from the band’s perspective. On the flipside of that, you have dub soundsystems that exist purely to deliver recorded music with real attention to the sound and make it a complete sensory experience for the listener, which seems really selfless somehow. We always felt closer to the latter in how we wanted to present our music.
We don’t have our own soundsystem (yet) but we figured we could maybe think more along those lines. We could fit a couple more amps in the van and make it sound a bit better for us, or we could fit Mark in and make it sound way, way better for anyone watching – plus it’s an extra member to interact with live and it adds that unpredictable element as well, which can only be a good thing.
The only downside to that is that it’s keeping Mark away from writing a book about his experiences in music. That’d really be something. He once introduced Lloyd Cole to Blackie Lawless. It went very badly.
Your recent self-titled debut makes use of just two guitars and a stripped-down drum kit. Did you intentionally set these instrument limitations upon yourself?
K: Yes. I think the thought was that we have all been in bands that have been a little much sometimes – so let’s boil it all down, set some boundaries and work with something a little easier to handle. I am still new to the drums, so I couldn’t really have worked in any other way.
C: We definitely made a conscious decision to do as much as we could to force ourselves to keep it really simple all the time. We all feel music should have some transformative qualities for the people playing it, and most importantly for the people listening, but we didn’t want to end up doing a kind of cosmic-jam type thing to get there (not that there’s anything wrong with that in the right hands). By keeping it this simple and removing as many distractions as we can, it’s easier for us to bury deeper and deeper into the centre of what we’re playing rather than trying to explode out of it in all directions. That’s the plan, anyway.
How did the composition process work for you?
C: The music comes out of really simple cycles of notes on the guitar, or a drum pattern just played out for long periods of time. If we can play something for a couple of hours and still find things we like in it, then it usually sticks around and gets worked into something more concrete.
The studio space we had was always the best place to come up with things as it was small enough to make everything sound really compressed and confusing. So it becomes almost out of our control in there, like you’re working a machine. This usually happened late at night when our neighbours (a pole dancing school) weren’t there to complain about the volume.
You say that your music is designed to bring rise to “personal epiphanies”. Could you elaborate on what you mean by this?
K: I think we mean that by being so stripped down and repetitive, we hope to lull the mind to a quieter trance-like place where you become free to think about something – or nothing, as you may prefer.
C: I just like the idea that repetition and certain frequencies allow a person to get some clear space in their head and come to a realisation about something, anything. I really want that to happen for people when they’re hearing us. It’s important to say that by “epiphanies” we don’t necessarily mean some great vision about something important. It doesn’t have to be big – it can just be a sudden thought that we helped clear out a space for. It’s the clearing of the space that’s important. Seems like that space is something that’s harder and harder to find…
K: Roll up, hectic people…
Do you experience these personal epiphanies yourselves through the creation of the music?
C: Definitely. It’s a good sign when I forget I’m playing for a couple of minutes or so.
K: I’m probably too busy being excited about what I think I can hear happening to experience anything else too majestic, but I can get a bit slack jawed and my eyes can roll if I’m not careful. Then I remember that I’ve got something really tedious to do when I get home and the party is over.
What’s next for yourselves and your music?
K: We aren’t sure…
C: We lost our studio space (Way-Out Is The Way Out) to redevelopment after the album was completed. The building’s a Tesco Metro now, of course. The studio was quite important to the way we make music, so whatever comes next is going to have to be a forced change of some sort, when we try and find somewhere else to call home. But that’s OK – it might work out for the positive.
K: Once we find somewhere to move to, we are going to work on a split 7” with a band we were all recently smitten by called Hookworms. Speaking for myself – I’m really looking forward to starting work on something new, hoping that we are as excited about the new material as we were about the album, and that we have the good fortune to continue to be invited to play incredible gigs up and down the country and beyond to play it live.
C: Agreed. Maybe it might be fun to work with a producer outside of our comfort zone in terms of the way we normally make music to see what happens. Do you reckon Kevin Martin reads ATTN?
Supersonic Festival website – http://www.supersonicfestival.com/
Kogumaza website – http://www.honeyisfunny.com/kogumaza/