Local author/man of brilliance Christopher Jug George now has a site where he posts flash fiction. I encourage you to head over there. My favorite at this moment is from October 20th, 2011: Those little ships, constructed in the bottle, how small they seem, how free they roam the sea. She is beauty in a bottle kept in my mind. She is free in the sea, taking on waves by waving back.
About a year and a half ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with local trio Gay Beast. In the interim the band released their best album yet- To Smithereens, toured Europe a second time, and then went on an indefinite hiatus. Gay Beast were one of the most exciting and hardworking bands to come out of the Twin Cities in the last decade. I was fortunate enough to see them year after year improve on their already sizable technical abilities as they pursued a bizarre musical vision all their own. The importance of the band was not limited to it’s musical contributions; members were heavily involved in organizing shows for touring bands, working with the local queer community, and making some of the best posters around. Their presence is sorely missed. Angela and Issac have continued on as Hasps, for news and show listings go here.
Did you guys have a sound you were pursuing early on?
Dan: Well, you probably listened to more punk rock than I did-
Dan: I grew up listening to a lot of 80s pop, Issac grew up listening to Nirvana [group laughter]. We were all into Erase Errata, and early 00’s post-punk.
Issac: Think we had all listened to various parts of that pie, and wanted to do something that reflected that. Something in the same vein or spirit, that was rude or weird, annoying…
Dan: You can say what your influences are as much as you want, but I think once you start writing together, it’s less about your influences than it is just about how you write together.
Angela: If we really knew what we were doing it probably wouldn’t be as good.
Dan: Yeah, totally. You don’t sit down and go, “I’m going to write a chorus that sounds just like blah-blah-blah.”
As far as the songwriting process, how do you guys coordinate what you’re playing?
Dan: Usually what we do now, maybe someone will come in with some small idea and it turns into a bigger song. Generally it gets slightly changed afterward to fit the vocals, like a little bit more room. Sometimes we’ll start out with rhythmic patterns, like write down numbers and then figure out who’s going to play on what beat.
Issac: It’s not so much a jam-thing as it is like coordinating or smithing that goes on with a part.
Dan: Unlike jamming, it’s not that everybody doesn’t know what they’re doing, usually somebody has some idea. But it’s not like “I wrote a song, and you’re all playing on my song.”
Angela: I think before we were trying to put everything in every song, like make them as complex as possible. Now we’re thinking a little broader, putting songs in the context of what might sound good within an album or in a live set.
How do you know when a song is done or still needs to be worked on?
Dan: Usually we’ll work up to a recording, and that will be a version for a while. Then you come back to it, “Oh, I really like this song, but this part always bugged me about it.” You write a song for a recording or for a tour, and it sits there and your ideas start changing and you want to perform it a different way…
Issac: There’s a very ugly, commercial motivation behind it too, which is wanting to have something to sell.
Dan: Sometimes we’ll have part of a song ready, but we’re not comfortable playing the whole thing live.
Angela: And we want to play something new.
Dan: Yeah, so we’ll use the intro to one song as the intro for our set.
Issac: For our own amusement.
You guys seem to be pretty good at making connections with touring bands.
Dan: Well, I really like doing that. I think it’s interesting to meet people from out of town. When you’re on tour, everyday you’re talking about your art project, and it’s exciting to meet people in that position. You can talk to your coworker about their boyfriend anytime, why not engage with somebody from out of town that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise?
Issac: You mentioned that other bands are less proactive, there is sort of a weird feeling among-
There is something, isn’t there?
Issac: It’s sort of this weird feeling of, “Well, if something was meant to happen, then it will just fall out of the sky.” Which is this kind of entitlement in a way, instead of going out and trying to make cool things happen.
…on the topic of lyrics…
Angela: We’re not really overt, it’s not like: “Let’s have a song about health care.”
Dan: More and more now, they’re becoming personal rather than political. For Riot Grrrl it was hard to get the scene off the ground in a healthy way because it was so didactic, the mission statement was about message based music. That time has passed. We’re looking for different strategies. Being queer and being in this type of band is statement enough.
The Chambermaids (local pop-geniuses, est. 2003) are back with a new digital single. One of my favorites from the band, “Whirlpool” started showing up in set lists in the Spring of 2009. This is that rare song that manages to put a shiver in my spine, so I’m ecstatic about having unlimited access to it. Go check it out.