Saturday, 13 August 2011

Interview - the bilinda butchers

The bilinda butchers are a dream pop duo from San Francisco. Their name is obviously taken from My Bloody Valentine, and their music shares the same dream like tones. Recently their EP regret, love, guilt, dreams was released with critical acclaim. As a duo, Michal and Adam work extremely well together, and we reviewed their stunning EP here. We were fortunate enough to interview Michal and Adam, and they filled us in on what a lot of fans have wanted to ask.

Your music is very beautiful and it feels as though it takes its influences from nature, sorrow, love and dreams. Do you agree with this? Can you expand any further?
Adam: Those are absolutely influences, but I think the most important one you mentioned is love. To clarify, it's not specifically romantic love, but love in general. Love for one's friends as much as for one's lovers. Our friendships have played an immense role in our songwriting.
Michal: Yeah, it has a lot to do with the relationships we've had in our past and present. Darkness and sorrow plays a big role in the way I write personally. We try to create music that brings people back to a place and time in their lives that has relevance to love or friendship (whether good or bad) and elevate that experience. I picture a lot of scenes in movies when I listen to songs which is a huge influence. Glorifying the emotions of romantic situations within the context of a melody.

The Bandcamp website has been a great asset since they have helped in distributing your 6-track EP 'regret, love, guilt, dreams'. And you've been receiving quite a bit of attention lately on internet mixes and blogs; do you find the internet to be a blessing for the bilinda butchers?
A: The internet is an interesting beast. For a small band like the bilinda butchers, it's certainly a blessing. It's allowed us to share our music on a large scale without a major financial investment, and to do it freely without the constraints of a label or anything like that. We love being featured on mixes and blogs -- it really gives us satisfaction to know that people out there like our songs enough to want to share them.
M: The whole Bandcamp idea is definitely a strong asset with helping musicians get their music out to fans while also giving the option to preserve an aesthetic. We were able to make our entire page fit alongside the cover art and "feeling" of the songs. So for the bb's, this was a great help. It saved us a lot of time and effort with getting our stuff out and to the fans, but to be honest it's not my favorite method. The music industry and distribution for our generation is so different from what it was when I was younger, we've had to adapt and see what would work with the way we like to work. So far it's been pretty successful, but I miss the romanticism and mystery of a traditional band that doesn't have a Facebook and is constantly telling me what they are doing and also having physical copies of albums to cherish.

On the topic of the internet, your tumblr ( is very nice. Do you follow other bands on tumblr?
M: Haha, thank you! We definitely wanted to keep a very calming and simple aesthetic that focused on photographs alongside music. Simplicity has a lot of character. We hold on to that very tightly.
A: We actually don't follow anyone on tumblr. I don't really know how that works very well, but we just wanted to have one as a commonplace for people to find our music and bits of news that we choose to share. It's more of a band website than a traditional tumblr in our eyes. I just don't want to have to deal with seeing a bunch of stuff from other people every time we log on haha.

Blueboy and Popgirly first heard about you through your lovely cover of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart's 'This Love Is Fucking Right!'. The next song we heard was 'Girls Don't Cry', yet another cover originally recorded by the Pillows. Are there any other cover songs you have dabbled with? And what songs would you like to perhaps cover one day?
M: The covers we've done have been very spontaneous. Covering songs isn't really my favorite thing to do because all the songs I love and would love to cover I think are already perfect. There's no point in covering a song that has no flaws, but occasionally we're curious to see if we can do an exact opposite of what an original sounds like. The Pains of Being Pure at Heat cover we did was originally very fast with electric guitars so I was curious to see what would happen if we did a really mellow version with acoustic guitars. Same with the Pillows cover. That song was very guitar orientated so we tried to incorporate a lot of synthesizers. Recently we also recorded a cover of The J. Arthur Keene's Band song 'Low Tide' which was completely comprised of 8-bit instrumentation. So we did the complete opposite and used all real instruments. Link here. Adam and I have talked a lot about songs that we have wanted to cover in the past and only a few times we go through with it. We were working on a Magnetic Fields cover and a Drake cover, both of which kind of fell through. I think for now we'll stick to writing more of our own material haha.
*note - Popgirly LOVES The Magnetic Fields, and NEEDS this cover.

Both of you are multi-instrumentalists. What are your biggest strengths as individual musicians?
M: I sort of play a bunch of instruments, but I'm not very good at any of them. Mostly I identify with the guitar and under that, piano or synthesizer.
A: I'll always think about popular music in terms of how it's played on the guitar.

We couldn't see any evidence on the internet to say that you have played live. Have you performed live before? Have you encountered any difficulties as there are only two of you, or due to the complexities of your music?
M: We still haven't played live. We never have, and we rarely ever play in a live context. Everything we write is recorded immediately and we build on top of that. So because of that work flow we are very nervous to transition into the live setting. It's going to definitely to be an interesting experience for both of us.

Obviously both of you are on the same musical wavelength, but have you encountered any challenges as a duo?
M: Adam and I grew up together. We've been best friends since were about 13, so we share so much in common. He showed me everything I know about music and playing music. We're like brothers. So haha, you can imagine how difficult it is for us to get serious at times. We almost always end up joking around and not getting much done haha. But when we're writing, we write a lot separately. We usually sit and work on our own song for a while and then show them to each other and go from there. But it's really in the nature of who we are and our band to work separately. We don't really jam or anything like that so there's a pretty big contrast to the songs we write.
A: It's equal parts burden and blessing to operate as a duo -- what usually happens is that we'll write songs separately and then work the kinks out together. I admire groups that can write as a consolidated unit, and I'd like to try that someday, but what we've done so far works well for us.

What have you been listening to lately? Any underground bands that you could recommend we should check out?
M: I've been listening to a lot of mainstream pop and rap lately. Nothing too underground. But Adam and I have been making mixtapes. We have two up at the moment on our tumblr. Link here. They kinda showcase our different tastes and what we've been listening to. Adam is a bit more up to date with good underground bands than I am.
A: My girlfriend successfully got me into Thee Oh Sees, so I've been digging them lately. Lamp (from Japan) is a wonderful indie jazz pop group that I've been listening to nonstop for the past few months. Aside from that, I've sort of been revisiting a lot of groups that I've been into in the past. As far as recommendations, everyone that enjoys dream pop and shoegaze should listen to Luminous Orange.

What are some of your favourite releases of 2011 so far?
M: I don't really know what's been going on in music lately. I've been out of the loop so long because of all the work we put into our EP. But the two songs that Drake put out were really good. (Marvin's Room and Trust Issues). Also the Weeknd's mixtape House Of Balloons was incredible.
A: I like Panda Bear's new record a lot. I've been meaning to listen to Yuck's album, too, but aside from that I don't really pay attention to new music enough to know what's come out this year.

When you aren't playing or listening to music, 
what do you enjoy doing?
M: Well I love to cook. I grew up around my mom cooking my entire life and as soon as I moved out it struck me. Now I have to cook all the time. I definitely think if I wasn't in music or audio I would pursue cooking. Also I've been dipping my foot in the water of photography. It's such a complex subject matter I almost want to stay at the rivers edge with it. I recently bought an old polaroid land camera that is tons of fun. We use a lot of the photographs from that camera on our tumblr.
A: Hanging out with my friends, which usually boils down to drinking together and talking about ourselves.

Pick one or two songs from each of the past 5 decades; the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, that you love. In addition, do you have a favourite decade and is there a decade that inspires your style both musically and personally?
M: For the 60s, 'Great Pumpkin Waltz' by The Vince Guaraldi Trio.
For the 70s, 'Oh Yoko!' by John Lennon.
For the 80s, 'Gypsy' by Fleetwood Mac.
For the 90s, 'Kiss From A Rose' by Seal.
For the 00s, 'Cherry Blossom Girl' by Air.
I feel that I take a lot of influence from the music and styles of the 80s. Not so much the stereotypical 80s sound but more of the dark jazz and ambient 80s sound. I listened to a lot of smooth jazz with my dad growing up so I think that style has had a huge impact on me.
A: For the 60s, 'Yes It Is' by The Beatles.
For the 70s, 'So Far Away' by Carole King.
For the 80s, 'Teenage Riot' by Sonic Youth.
For the 90s, 'Off Your Face' by My Bloody Valentine.
For the 00s, 'Someday' by The Strokes.
Having experienced the awakening of my musical consciousness in the 90s, I think that's the decade that I most identify with, but I quite like 60s music (and 70s music, and 80s music...), too.

What does the future of the bilinda butchers look like? Have you been writing any new material since the release of the EP, or are you taking a well-deserved break?
M: Haha, I took a 4 day vacation a little while after we released this EP, but as soon as I got back I was ready to start working again. We're about to sit down and start recording our second EP, which we are really excited about. I think it will be a lot more poppy then the last one. This one will be kind of a sister EP to regret, love, guilt, dreams. All the songs are pretty much written so we're hoping for a January or February release next year. And after that we plan on playing live shows for a while.
A: We never take breaks!

Thank so much for the opportunity to interview you!
M: Thank you! <3
A: Thanks! <3