After their stratospheric psych single ‘Flying’ blew us away, we thought it best to say “hell yeah!” to NAH. and give them a little of that Q&A treatment.
The DC five piece consisting of Brendan Ra Tyler (Vocals/Bass), Emma Bleker (Vocals), Stephen Rodriguez (Drums), Kristina Marie (Violin/Synths) and Ian Dandridge (Guitar) are wise beyond their years. Throw in the dual vocal attack of Brendan and Emma, an encyclopedic and eclectic knowledge of bands that could make Anthony Fantano weak at the knees and the release of their debut Social Meteor EP, we just had to speak to them.
Hi there! Your Social Meteor EP is a great psych rock record. You play like an experienced band on this debut; I wondered how you all met and how long you have been playing together?
Stephen: Thank you! We all met through either local jam sessions, mutual friends or craigslist ads. Stephen met Brendan at a local jam session in Fairfax, VA. He invited him to play with the band and then he was introduced to Kristina, and later Ian . We met Emma a few months ago when Brendan and Emma started dating. We’ve only been playing with Emma for a few months, but some of us have been playing together as long as three years.
In the last five years, psychedelic music has really taken off; especially with Aussie bands like Tame Impala, Pond and King Gizzard. Who are you listening to at the moment and are you fans of music similar to that which you play, or are your tastes more eclectic?
Brendan: I’m influenced by everything I listen to and that ranges from punk to funk to folk and of course psychedelic indie bands like Washed Out and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. But the music that hits me the most is the music that focuses on lyricism and composition working in harmony. Some good examples of that are Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes, Neutral Milk Hotel, Beck etc.
Emma: Recently I’ve been listening to a good amount of music that places a heavy emphasis on lyricism, Margaret Glaspy & Hospitality being high up on that list, but tomorrow something could catch me that sounds nothing like the music we’re making and I could be equally in love with it. I think that’s a really fantastic opportunity, because if you only listen to music that sounds similar to yours, there’s less room for innovation within that sound.
Stephen: My favourite band is Tame Impala. I love Pond and King Gizzard as well. We certainly do all listen to bands in our genre, but we all have our own eclectic tastes as well. I personally listen to a lot of underground hip hop, funk, soul, jazz, and even some electronic music. If it moves me physically or emotionally or expands my mind, I’m into it.
Ian: My guitar style pulls from a wide range of musical influences, but mainly blends together the explorative blues of the 70s (The Allman Brothers Band, The Grateful Dead) with the reverb saturated tones of more contemporary acts (Tame Impala, My Morning Jacket). I also try to add lounge ambience to the songwriting process inspired by some of my downtempo favourites (Bonobo, Tycho).
Kristina: For my sound, I am heavily influenced by downtempo, experimental and ambient artists such as Vangelis, Brian Eno, and Tycho. My reverbed rock violin style is influenced by Jean Luc Ponty.
Your band is unapologetically guitar based – that incredible solo in ‘Flying’, the bridge in ‘Farp’. What do you say to people (like Queens of the Stone Age) who argue ‘guitars are going extinct’?
Kristina: Queens of the Stone Age bring up a valid point: the music we hear these days are predominantly “in-the- box” electronic based music. Rock legends such as Jim Morrison and David Bowie predicted this transition in the music industry decades ago. Even though we still do embrace guitar-driven music, we are constantly thinking about tone and how to shape sound frequencies: Ian can make a guitar sound like raindrops or a fuzzy distorted noise, I can design any sound on the violin, on analog synths, and in my digital audio workstation.
Tracks like ‘Don’t Think You Should Care’ are epic pieces, exceptionally tight drumming, winding guitar solos and constant shifts in volume and tempo. I wondered if you were fans of those 60s/70s jam bands and/or jazz?
Kristina: I think we are fundamentally into improvisation, as we love to go to local jams regularly to explore free-form musical expression. We have a background or education in jazz in some way or another.
Stephen: I definitely love jazz and jam bands. Ian, Brendan and I are known fans of bands like Phish and the Grateful Dead.
You have done several gigs in the Washington DC area. I was wondering what it is like playing to a crowd and do you have to change the songs at all or are you able to play them live?
Kristina: The beauty of our Social Meteor recordings with Don Zientara was that it possesses the characteristics of a live performance, balanced out with studio effects and processing. We tracked on tape initially, all performing together live in the studio, in harmony. From there, we added the finer details with overdubs, washed out effects, side-chain compression, and more. So the majority of what you hear on the record is how you would hear us live!
You have two lead vocalists (Brendan and Emma) who both sound incredible. How do you choose who sings what, is it from the beginning of the songwriting process or does it come later?
Emma: It’s sort of a mix! Because there was so much beautiful content that already existed when I joined, there were a lot of conversations where we talked out whether or not having me sing on certain songs was the right move for the sound we are trying to create.
Stephen: Brendan is our original singer and initially wrote and sang all of the songs. He had wanted a female vocalist to sing for a while so he could focus more on playing bass and singing back up vocals. We added Emma, and she has done a terrific job fitting well with our sound, writing her own lyrics and singing some of Brendan’s.
Despite the fact it attempts to be experimental, too often than not psychedelic rock sounds very samey. With its greater focus on lyrics, social message, directness and attack was ‘Open Letter’ a conscious effort to show your versatility and did the track come about in a different way compared to the others on the E.P?
Stephen: I wouldn’t consider any of our music to be an attempt to do anything other than express ourselves. Brendan wrote those lyrics from a friend’s point of view who had been stressed out due to college debt. That tune does sound more heavy and less psychedelic than our others, but it has a good and honest message.
Finally, I love how the ‘Social Meteor’ EP closes – that epic ending with ‘Take me Home’ would sound great as the last track on an LP! Is an album in the pipeline, or another EP or just more touring?
Kristina: New music is definitely in the pipeline. We are currently in writing mode and definitely experimenting with our sound even further. We also have several festival appearances including Spaghetti Festival (in Harrisonburg, VA) this fall and an official schedule which will be announced in the coming weeks. Check our Facebook or our website for complete show listings!