Finally at their third record with Exposing Seas (on limited pink vinyl, CD and digital, release due to 9/18), Thrushesdeliver a new canvass of 8 dreampop tracks blended with exquisite bitterness, bathing into soaring reverb and touching lyrics. Now, loop play on Joan Of Arc (currently, the sole new track available), and enjoy the reading of this short talk I had with Anna Conner (vocals, guitar), Casey Harvey (guitars), Rachel Harvey (bass).
komakino: You know, as I finally finished to listen to your new record, later I put all of your three titles on my mp3 player and selected 'shuffle', so, jumping from Heartbeats, to Joan Of Arc and Crystals, it came to my mind what Casey says on your last interview on WTSH blog: "we still sound like Thrushes, which really is just what Anna, Rachel, Scott and I sound like when we play songs together.".
That was, it is my thought back there: they are still Thrushes. So, what does make Thrushes' sound? There is always that background, emotional bitterness which doesn't match exactly with the idea of a bluebird of happiness singing. All this blabbing, to ask: 'what is the process after your songwriting? And how you keep it true to your own sound.' I like to think that, while Anna is the dreampop core, Casey is in charge of all the noise in your songs.
Casey: Thanks Paolo! I think when Anna, Rachel and myself originally got together and started playing in 2005 we realized how our own strengths and more importantly how our own musical limitations can work together.
Rachel learned bass while in the band and has a real affinity for clear & concise melodic bass work much in the vein of Kim Deal.
Anna is the better technical guitarist of the two of us and really excels in working with Rachel to drive the melody.
I have always been more interested in playing tones and textures, but have a real love of early rock and roll like Link Wray, Buddy Holly, etc. That early rock and roll and later the 60's girl groups typically had a good dose of teen angst and melodrama amplified by lush arrangements and instrumentation. So at the core I think Thrushes comes from that tradition of widescreen cinematic rock, but we use guitars instead of string sections.
Scott is the strongest musician in the group and he adds a wonderful blend of rock drumming and very orchestral and unique parts also.
Anna: Our songwriting for this album changed a little out of necessity; schedules were tight so we couldn't always write full songs together as a band. Sometimes ideas would emerge from a group practice or from a small song writing session with just Casey and I. Casey would record our ideas and upload them to soundcloud. Then I would work on lyrics at home and text them back and forth to Casey. The benefit of this is that some of the songs a little lyrically weirder than usual. Sometimes I would watch a crazy movie or read a book that really hit me, and then sit in my office and write lyrics while listening to our recordings. Casey and I really spent a lot of time together getting the melodies right on these songs before bringing a loose outline to the band. But yes Casey is definitely the noise/sound machine in the group! He really works hard to get the right kind of effect for each song.
Rachel: Jamming. While this word can conjure images of dimly lit smokey rooms and hours of droning musical explorations... it is how we write (minus the smoke, dim lights, and practices that last more than 2 hours). We just get our instruments, start playing, and a song comes to life. If we're really lucky, Anna just starts singing out of nowhere and the lyrics are done too. It's such a collaborative process and we're inspired by one another as we write. We never practice or write without everyone together.
komakino: I read you have careers, families, you changed 3 drummers (right?), so, going on with a band is never that easy; and I assume that you can't make a living on music (name me nowadays a 'new' shoegaze/dreampop band who can, people!), still, you released 3 records in 8 years, and I see a lot of DIY attitude in that. Is your musician-life a secret in your daily job?
Casey: Yes, you're right Thrushes is not our full time career. We love playing together and making music that we like to play. Thrushes, like 99% of bands, is a labor of love that costs more than we make from it. We all came of age in a very vibrant DIY/punk rock scene and that certainly informs our process.
komakino: Do you live all in Baltimore, right? This may sound naive from here, but, do you feel part of a local scene?
Casey: Yes, we all live in Baltimore. The last few years have been pretty quiet with us so we certainly were more plugged in to scene when we were in a more active period. However, Baltimore is a small and very vibrant scene and extremely supportive of the arts in general and music in particular. The last 3-5 years have seen a rise in bands that are similar in feel to ours which is really exciting and a different direction from what Baltimore sounded like historically.
Baltimore is traditionally a very rock and roll and avant-experimental town. When we were first starting out we were one of the few bands playing in a gazey style. Now there are a lot of excellent bands we feel akin to.
Rachel: Going to shows can feel a little strange. At one point we used to play once a month in Baltimore. So going out and not recognizing anyone can be disorienting... but it's also exciting. We play the same venues as before so it's like going back to another time in life but feeling way more confident and self assured.
komakino: Let's talk about the new record, can you tell me more about the title, Exposing Seas?
Anna: We got the name after I was texting Casey about recording. My autocorrect weirdly changed 'recording session' to 'exposing seas'. We thought it sounded cool so we stuck with it. I think though it's a good title because when I think of exposing seas I think about revealing something huge, and that's what we've got for our fans with this album.
komakino: Why did you choose Joan of Arc as first single? I read there is also a video for it on the way.
Casey: Joan of Arc is arguably one of the strongest and most singular songs on the record and it shows a difference in terms of arrangements (strings, percussion, etc.) and production that is maybe a little unexpected from us. Yes, there is a video that will hopefully be finished shortly.
komakino: How long did the studio recordings take? Do the final version of your songs change significantly in comparison with the (eventual) demos?
Casey: The recording session was 4 days and the mixing about a week and half. The songs were for the most part similar to the demos we worked up with the exceptions of probably Joan of Arc and Slow Road because of the added instrumentation and arrangements
komakino: I am curious, during the recordings, do you play and record all together, or do you make separate takes?
Casey: Yes, we record live to tape with overdubs, vocals added later. Hopefully that sense of a real band playing in a room together comes across on the record
Rachel: All together! We do everything together :)
komakino: Am I wrong, or this is your first release on (bubblegum pink) vinyl?
Anna: Our past drummer Matt Davis is a spectacular artist and he created the cover art for the first two albums. We wanted some continuity with the look and he was really in charge of creating that. As for this album we were looking for something with a similar vibe. Casey's cousin, David Norbut, is a photographer and has done our press photos before. He took these beautiful sea scale photographs and we are lucky enough to be able to use one for the later album cover.
I guess we like the feelings that's sky scenes evoke and also feel that they are a good visual representation of or sound.
komakino: I think most of your songs are pretty cinematic: did it ever happen you watched a movie and you thought that one of your tracks could be fit for the soundtrack?
komakino: You know, some bands sometimes (say they) do not like to re-listen to their records, maybe because it kinda happened to hate them in reason of a dreadful gestation in studio, endless repetitive listens when mixing and mastering.. so, do you still listen your old and new records?
Rachel: Sure! We're proud of our journey. To draw a comparison, while we did right these records in our adulthood... Sun Come Undone was definitely like high school, night falls was college, and Exposing Seas is our masters thesis. Maybe our phD will be next? ;P