Fuelled with a misty eyed adoration of classic influences deeply rooted in the psych and folk of the 60′s / 70′s, Boston outfit Quilt’s latest album Held In Splendor has been met with mass critical acclaim on both sides of the atlantic. And rightly so. Fuelled with a knowing understanding of ‘the classics’, Held In Splendor is a never ending source of discovery – full to the brim of quirky chord progressions, off kilter harmonies and fantastic song writing.
Ahead of their forthcoming European tour, the group’s founding member Shane Butler talks us through the band’s history, their song writing process and dissects the influences that run throughout Held In Splendor‘s DNA.
Although Held in Splendor is your second full-length release, there’s a lot of folks here in the UK and beyond discovering your music for the very first time. Can you give me a short potted history of Quilt by way of introduction for our readers?
Sure thing. Anna and I, met in Boston, MA while mutually attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and being part of a local music collective centred around The Whitehaus Family Record in Jamaica Plain, MA. At the time we formed it was myself, our original drummer Taylor McVay, Anna, and our friend Andrew Connor; the latter who only stayed in the band for a few shows and one recorded song.
Between 2010-2011 while writing our first LP (self-titled) Taylor amicably left our band and before heading out on a tour we called up our homeboy John Andrews, who at the time we knew from his solo-project Wisdom Tooth, to come join us on drums. After that trip we knew it was meant to be. There is a lot of other stuff that happened and keeps happening.
That is the technical, boring history. For the juice of our experiences, y’all will have to keep up with us on the daily and listen to the herstory of Quilt continually unfolding.
There’s been a lot of talk surrounding the influences behind Held In Splendor. Your sound is unashamedly deep rooted within that of 60s psych – an amalgamation of the Nuggets boxset perhaps. For you as artists, what’s so special about this era of music?
I think the whole terminology surrounding the ’60′s psych’ thing is pretty interesting if you put it in perspective. At least how the idea is so tied down to the ‘time’ in which that tradition was birthed and emerged, you know?
We definitely are attracted to the vibe of that tradition, in the same way that artists ever since the 60′s have been – subsequently in the 70′s, 80′s, 90′s and now in these frozen oughts. It’s interesting that since the babies of ‘psych-rock’ or ‘psych-folk’ were born; since humans decided to define those musical styles that way, there has been a constant ‘throwback terminology’ used when talking about or expanding upon these traditions. Especially since there has consistently, since that time, been bands who play music in the ‘psych’ tradition, or just in the folk tradition, or the rock tradition.
Classical music has been played for 1000′s of years, yet we don’t usually draw the same ‘era’ associations when contemporary classical composers do the whole ‘medieval music thing’. Or do we? Oh, well, what does it matter. Rock music that explores folk-traditions, non-western scales, and expansive lyrical content has always interested me for sure; and I know John and Anna love that stuff too.
We also listen to a lot of stuff outside of that tradition; I like a lot of punk rock, experimental, and eastern / western traditional / classical music from the last 40 years too; I also listened to a lot of Gang Starr when I was young, and now that I just thought of that I really want to listen to “JFK to LAX’. It’s interesting how our music does turn out the way it does; it must be where our crossroads intersect or something of that nature.
Also, David Crosby rips. We were both recently featured on iTunes together. Hahhaah.
Held In Splendor is a strong lyrical album – seemingly at times obtuse and inviting. What inspires you as lyricists and do you feel that there’s a specific theme that runs throughout the record?
John said it really well in an interview once; lyric writing is a lot like constant journaling. We are just human beings living on this really bizarre planet while writing and singing about our experiences here. For me, a lot of that experience has to do with living, dying, loving, and laughing. If there is any theme on the record it is just the three of us as individuals and as a group relating our stories of living here with each other to each other. The ‘other’, including all of y’all as well.
Woods’ Jarvis Taveniere helped produce the record and it shows. Stylistically speaking, his production tones match perfectly with Quilt’s musical aesthetic. How did your relationship with Jarvis come about and what was it like working with him? What unique elements did he bring to the table that weren’t present before?
We met Jarvis a few times over the past couple of years and in those times he made me laugh on multiple occasions. He has a great sense of humor and just a very particular and interesting way of looking at things. Also, upon first meeting him I could tell, personally, that he was super easy-going and would be fun to work with. We’ve all really dug the records he’s recorded over the years, so when it came time to think about who we wanted to work with on the record and his name came up it just seemed to make sense. Then we did it, and it made sense. Jarvis is a very tactful dude with his recording; he definitely got all the clearest sounds for us without them sounding too polished and precise – letting the album retain a lot of ‘live’ energy while still sounding like a solid studio album. We dig.
When making this album, what tracks made you step out of your comfort zone the most?
Hmm, well the one track that was very different than all of our other songs was “Talking Trains” – since it was the most stripped down and only featured Anna’s playing / singing on it. That is the first time we had ever done anything like that. Which was super cool; because we all love albums where there are songs like that. I personally love being in a band that has multiple song-writers. This song really brought out in big ways how connected we are to each other’s song-writing; even when ‘one’ is speaking for the feeling of the group. It’s definitely a unique thing.
Who were the artists and bands that first made you want to pick up an instrument?
I think in the back of my mind I always wanted to pick up an instrument; it was just a matter of when and how. I’ve always sung, ever since I was a baby. Whether it was just crying – or something a bit more melodic. My parents brought me up on a lot of stuff, everything from The Beatles, Neil Young, Pink Floyd to Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Brian Eno, to things like Indian Classical music and Hymnals. My upbringing was pretty eclectic musically; there was a vast range within that. I myself; as a young teen started really getting into the whole ‘band’ thing through acts like Sonic Youth, The Pixies, Fugazi, Pavement and many other bands that were still around when I was a young teen. I also really vividly remember when my friend Luke introduced me to The Velvet Underground and The Stooges in early high-school – it was a big moment for me – we started a band a year or so afterwards and from then on out I haven’t stopped.
Catch Quilt on tour in Europe on the following dates:
01/04 – Bristol (UK), Start The Bus
02/04 – London (UK), Windmill Brixton
04/04 – Rotterdam (NL), Motel Mozaique
05/04 – Amsterdam (NL), De Nieuwe Anita
07/04 – Zuerich (CH), El Lokal *
08/04 – Duedingen (CH), Bad Bonn *
09/04 – Forli (IT), Diagonal
10/04 – Rome (IT), Blackmarket
11/04 – Padova (IT), Pulse
12/04 – Freiburg (DE), Swamp
14/04 – Berlin (DE), Kantine am Berghain
15/04 – Hamburg (DE), Astra-Stube
16/04 – Koeln (DE), King Georg
17/04 – Gent (BE), Charlatan
18/04 – Brussels (BE), Beursschouwburg
19/04 – Paris (FR), Espace B
* w/ La Luz