Quilt answer the Questions of Doom
Goddammit. Don't you hate words like revelation? I do. It just seems so fake and phoney and dilutes the experience when you do hear something akin to a revelation. I testified to Quilt's genius in late 2011, and it seems as if I'm paying daily ritual to their debut album on Mexican Summer. I kinda thought it was their 'Os Mutantes' vibe, and instead of just hanging on the past, it is almost as if they had started their own external revolution. Quilt sound as if you put your entire internets to music. Yeah. That good. We had no choice but to get them in for this week's Questions of Doom.
What are the origins of Quilt?
John Dingy Allston basements, half broken music equipment, and a love for Mochi balls.
Anna At our first show in 2009, I was playing a borrowed guitar through a practice amp in a basement and occasionally hitting the strings with a plastic stick from a glockenspiel. At one point in our early show-life, Shane was playing his guitar through an Earth half-stack while I played through a 15 watt practice amp. I often plugged in a banjo too, and it had the gnarliest and most annoying but sort of hilarious feedback of all time. Taylor (our founding drummer) was singing through a wooden speakerbox hanging from the ceiling, and we stuck our microphones in traffic cones because we didn't have mic stands. We didn't give a fuuuck. Now we're all, like, polite.
The band has three songwriters, and yet - the final work sounds like the work of one, how do you conceive the music to sound as one?
John The last album technically had 4 songwriters. We all try our best to work together in the healthiest way possible. We learn a lot from each other dealing with music and dealing with everyday life too.
Anna It's an intuitive process that can't really be verbalized. We've always just known when a song is complete. We work our new songs out live quite often, during shows.
Shane I think we all really love each other as song writers. I think we all feel a really strong connection to what each other is doing when we are off in our own private Idahos, so when we meet in the Idaho that exists for all of us to roam in we really jam together well. It's pretty spontaneous, and must come out of some mutual appreciation for certain parts of the earth and the sounds that come out of it.
Quilt mentioned ashrams and chanting with Buddhists in New Jersey, How do you reconcile the ideas of ritual, religion and chants and the world of rock'n'roll?
Shane If you think they are separate, they will be.
Anna If one wants to assume they are, in fact, two worlds, I don't really attempt to reconcile them. Everything has its own space. I'm not a performance artist, and I at least have readily accepted this band as an awesome and fun rock band that can experiment with lots of nontraditional and bizarre avenues, and it's amazing, but I would never attempt to coax any specific religious dogma on anyone else, even in a subtle way. It would only be for myself, really. People are very impressionable, and you have to be very careful about what you hand them. I'm interested in love and honesty and that's all I can offer right now. Maybe later that will change, but for now, I like to keep it simple. BUT on the other hand, can you make that much true distinction between a kirtan and a rock show? It's up for debate.
John Rock n roll came from the blues. The blues came from Gospel. Gospels can be considered hymns. We all share somewhat similar spiritual & religious beliefs. It doesn't mean you can't play music and go on tour too.
What keeps me returning to the Quilt album is I hear a different story every time it plays through. Are the varying layers of aesthetics important when creating Quilt material?
Shane I think we all get a kick out of things that don't leave dead-end statements. So open ended, constantly shifting, river-like stories that flow as opposed to tell-ya-straight are much more up our alley. maybe? I have always been a fan of onions, and onions have layers. The Incredible String Band did an album called something something 'layers of the onion' right? aesthetics always shift, it's the nature of nature to do that dance.
Anna Each song has its own backstory, and that keeps it fresh for me when I have to play them over and over for people. There's a lot of bittersweet memories and also a lot of strange foreshadowing in the lyrical content.
Musically do you feel you have more in common with Gang Gang Dance and Black Dice than say, the media tag of 'freak folk'?
Shane Is there a 'media tag' for Black Dice, or Gang Gang Dance? those bands are both great. I also love all those 'freak folk' bands. Faun Fables was an incredible act of grace to befall humans in the 2000's, as well as all their contemporaries. I think they actually have a lot more in common with each other than the technologies that separate some of their aesthetics may happen to present...the whole glitch-sample-electronic scene and the acoustic freakers that is. there used to be a lot of crossover of those musics at many shows in Boston and they both really helped influence our sound...as well as all the top 40 hits of the day. and the days before.
John I'm fine with the freak folk thing. I'm not always 100% sure what categorizes something as freak folk, but i've always been a fan of bands in that whole world. I don't think we are solely a 'folk' band though.
Anna It's hard to say because the edges are so blurred nowadays with regard to "genres" and "scenes". If you look at the average young hip person's fashion sense and look through their ipod and watch them try and define themselves, it's a big hodgepodge of this and that. Moving forwards and backwards. As for freak folk, to me it was a movement for a few years that was refreshingly straightforward and humble and friendly... or at least, that's how my sixteen year old self viewed it. I see better now the complicated layers once you enter a realm. It can be weird.
What I love about the songs is the sense of 'space' -- are Quilt under any cinematic influence?
John That scene in Easy Rider when Jack Nicholson is talking about UFOs.
Shane There are a lot of cameras in space. and yes. There are a lot of security cameras in Boston. and most of the cities we play in. so we are constantly under cinematic influence. I am a huge fan of Tarkovsky and Sergei Parajanov. you know? long, painting-like shots that you can really be in for a few minutes. Doug Aitken and Bruce Nauman are great too...you can hang with those shots for a while. Oh also, saw this Mika Rottenberg piece at Mary Boone in NYC last year that was incredible...the sense of space created in the installation was unbelievable.
Anna Dude, on Easter we just made goofy shadow puppet shows in my living room and then watched Godard's "Sympathy for the Devil". So, yes. On that note, the Rolling Stones rule.
Quilt took off relatively quickly after its release and received incredibly well. Was it a weird time?
John It has been exciting mostly. Before the record, Quilt had only done a few short tours. Now we are touring like crazy. On our last tour we got to sleep in old streamline trailers that astronauts slept in when they were in training in the 60s.
Shane Weird time is all the time.
Anna It's always a weird time, unless I'm laying on the beach half asleep with nothing to worry about. That's a rare occurrence, though.
How important is improvisation to Quilt?
John We really love 'Who's Line Is It Anyway?' Colin Mockery is real funny. I saw him do standup once.
Shane It's how we chat.
Anna It's fun, and it balances things out nicely during a live set. But when you keep thinking "ooh this is sooo important that it sounds this way and that", improvisation can get really contrived. Usually though, it totally rules. I've been trying to like the Grateful Dead for years and years, and still am not there yet. Maybe one day the sky will open up and I'll understand. It'll be awesome.
The production of the album seems to have heavily impacted your aesthetic. How so? And why?
Anna The production is cool, Jesse did a great job and pushed us pretty hard. He pulled us from the murky depths of scratchy and reverby lo-fi recording and showed us what's up, up in the heights of snazzier sounds and proper vocal treatments. We hope all our records have a lasting quality
Shane I think we really let ourselves dig into each one of the sounds and each piece of writing. The producer (Jesse Gallagher) also had the chance to become really intimate with each song...so it had a huge effect on the sound. I think there was just a lot of attention payed to the flower that was blooming in the studio, and as a good plant-owner would water each day, the same thing took place with the songs. Always tweaking, re-iterating, and re-positioning until the final fit was found. The fit was found, and it still feels like the songs are growing each day...and for this, i'm extremely thankful for the quality of production.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception of Quilt?
John As i said before, i don't think we are solely a 'folk' band. We have folk songs but i don't think it should tie us down to a specific thing. The Rolling Stones had plenty of great folk songs. No one calls the Rolling Stones a 'great folk band'.
Anna Haha, I dunno, I think a lot of the descriptions of us have actually been really nice. I guess I never think of us as a folk band, but maybe the people are onto something when they call us that. When I hear "folk rock" I think of, like, Hootie and the Blowfish, which is not really my thing at all. So sometimes I'm like, come on, get a little more creative with the wording. But, it really doesn't matter at all in the long run. People can say whatever they want...
What new bands should we be checking out?
John Weyes Blood, The Paperhead, Daniel Bachman, Mike Bruno & his black magic family band.
Shane The Paperhead. Tirath Singh Nirmala. Weyes Blood. Daniel Bachman. Hume. Uke Phillips. MMOSS. Widowspeak. Manners. Happy Jawbone Family Band. Mike Bruno.
Anna The Paperhead, The Fedavees, MMOSS, Da Burdz, Weyes Blood, Creaturos, Connan Mockasin.