Souvenir Driver is a Portland trio comprised of members Ethan Homan, Bob Mild, and Nate Wey. We can't put it better than what's already been said about their sound: "Laid back in-the-times reverb drenched golden zoned-out fuzz pop with a mysterious drowned-out disembodied vocal presence." That about sums it up perfectly. Enjoy the interview, and explore the links and videos you find below. You might just find your new favorite band today.
How and when was Souvenir Driver formed?
The band started as a solo recording project around the time my previous band was disbanding. It was songs being built in various bedrooms as I moved out, or on the road in hotel rooms while traveling. When I wanted to play live, about a year ago, Ethan was the first person I asked. I still remember us drinking Tecates in the back patio of Hungry Tiger (a really fun Portland bar), and just feeling stoked that I'd be playing with him. From there, it was just a matter of asking people who play in bands I love and who think similarly as I do. Ethan played in Soft Paws, Bob, the next person I asked, plays in The Upsidedown, and our newest member plays in Hawkeye and is one of the funniest people alive. I pitched the idea of the band to Bob while working in Las Vegas. I was so nervous about it, and I called him underneath a glowing neon sign. It was super surreal. I'm very lucky that all these great friends of mine also happen to be wonderful musicians.
Can you tell us what the band has been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc)?
We have a few things up our sleeves, but for now we have to keep that a secret ;)
Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?
We try to call our music "Bliss Pop," a name we made up to describe where the melodies come from -- no matter how bright or dark they are, they all come from a blissful spiritual state. Out of the established genres, we probably sound closer to shoegaze and dream-pop than most other ones; and I think its totally awesome when people describe us as having those sounds. I still remember when I first heard those great shoegaze bands... it was like being hit by lightning. In a general sense, I think the idea of genres is a good way to discover bands you might like.
What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
Of the modern movement -- Crocodiles are by far my favorites. They totally blow my mind; and their melodies constantly get trapped in my head. Also, The Raveonettes, A Place to Bury Strangers, Pink Mountaintops, BJM, & Black Angels get many spins on my turntable. Aside from that, there's tons of inspiring bands & friends in Portland making modern psych/shoegaze: Whole Wide World, The Shivas, Hawkeye, The Upsidedown, Miracle Falls, SexyWaterSpiders, Charts ...
What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?
For me -- just a microphone with tons of reverb connected to it -- whether in a studio or live through a pedal. I have a small, but fun pedal chain for my guitars -- The Holy Grail reverb being my most used. Ethan only has one pedal, but damn, he makes it sound amazing -- the Space Delay.
What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
Each recording we've done has been a different process with different gear and different people. The JOY LP was all done in bedrooms around Portland (and a few hotel rooms while I was traveling for work). A lot of that sound came from those dreamier moments when you wake up, slightly out of this world, and go directly to your computer to hit record. It was a very blissed out experience.
The Jeanne Moreau EP was the first thing we did as a proper band and was all done in our rehearsal space, which is Bob's basement. Our good friend James Buehring, who makes techno music, flew up from Santa Cruz to help us engineer it. Myself and him did it with limited microphones, and tried to give it a "live," basement-y feel. We really wanted it to sound "classic" and if that makes sense. To get more than two microphones on the E.P. we used the inputs on a Zoom H4n Field recorder to record snare and drums separately from the computer. That gave us a four mic set up which was rad and fun! After recording, I'd have to copy and paste the files from the H4n into my computer. It was a bit laborious but worth it. We spent three days recording it, and then a couple weeks of intense mixing. The final mix was finished the night before our release show; giving us a day to dub the 50 cassettes. James Buehring and myself mixed it together through email, exchanging Logic files.
Speaking of, I absolutely LOVE Apple Logic, but I think for a recording software, whatever you know best is what will work. Pro Tools and my brother swears by Ableton. I think its just whatever you're used to using. We use an Apogee Duet primarily for the mic pres.
How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway; how do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?
I think its an exciting time for DIY artists and underground artists like us -- there's so much access and freedom to do cool and out-there weird stuff. At the same time, I don't want to pretend that these changes don't hurt some mid-level indie acts who would've made a career in the past but now have to work at a restaurant on the side. To me, art is very valuable, and if I can afford to drink at the bar, I don't mind paying a few bucks for art. But I think sites like bandcamp act like a bridge between those two schools of thought (free vs paid), and I think that's fucking awesome. BC puts more control in the hands of artists and makes it easier to support an artist directly for their music, in the way the artist wants to be supported, as opposed to their label. I love how each artist can price their stuff as free, or a few cents, or many dollars -- its just really cool. And ultimately, I'm always optimistic about art -- I think it will always exist, and its just a matter of adapting to new circumstances.
When it comes to label releases versus DIY/bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
I mentioned above the reasons I dig bandcamp, and we love doing DIY releases such as cassette tapes and download codes on weird objects. We're going to try and push this even farther if we can. But labels are super rad cause they have the resources put stuff out on vinyl (something too expensive to do DIY), which is my favorite way to listen to music.
Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?
Woah, you're reading my mind! I listen on different formats (streaming sites, cassettes, mp3), just I just really love vinyl. The sound is amazing, and more than that, something about the ritual of pulling the record out of its sleeve, dusting off the turntable, lowering the needle, and looking at the artwork feels very intimate and magical to me. It makes you listen.
What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
For me, more than music, I'm influenced by cinema, nature, romance, dreams, memories, art, and small intimate moments. These things often present melodies or tempos to me that I transform into songs. For example, the title track from our latest E.P. came from a moment of watching Louis Malle's The Lovers. This one image was so magical I paused the film and imagined the song over it. But the musical artists that have influenced me the most are probably Jesus & Mary Chain, Sparklehorse, and Talking Heads. Non-musically, Haruki Murakami and Joseph Campbell have probably had the most profound effects on my personality and my artwork.
Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc)?
My favorite filmmakers of all time include Antonioni, Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick, Woody Allen, and Truffaut. Lately I've been super into old American noir films, especially this one called "In a Lonely Place," which is like the cinematic equivalent of Ricky Nelson's song "Lonesome Town" and one of the reasons we covered that song.
For art, the photographs of Jason Fulford are so inspiring we used them for our last music video.
Musically, I'm right now super into Luna and early Rolling Stones, a band I strangely never was into growing up and just got obsessed with recently. I always listened to "new" music growing up and also in college, but about six years I got into 80s music, then 70s music, then 60s, and now 50s. Some of the 50s songs sound so extremely dreamy to me it drives me crazy. I love it. Out of contemporary bands, Crocodiles really destroy me (as I mentioned earlier); and Portishead's Third I think is the best "sounding" record to come out in the past 10 years. The new Brian Jonestown Massacre record is also killer -- it reminds me of Neu! and all that great Kraut stuff for some reason -- its really exciting to me to hear good BJM. Oh, and the best record to not be out yet is Miracle Falls' upcoming debut album. When I pick up an ipod instead of vinyl, that's normally the first thing I go for.
If you had to choose one track that was the ultimate definition of your sound, which would it be and why?
Maybe "Mountains" which might be poppier than other songs, but is the ultimate example of our philosophy for lyrics and melodies; and which we tried to keep dreamy and poppy at the same time.
Can you tell us a little about the band’s song writing process?
Some songs are written at home, and sometimes Ethan will come in with a guitar part; but lately, the writing has felt spontaneous and free and just pours out of free jams, and out of the bliss that exists in the moment. I'm lucky to play with a people who are adventurous enough to go with it when it comes.
What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?
Our philosophy on life is very similar to our philosophy on music: Which is that life can be an intoxicatingly blissful experience if you choose to show up for it. Every day we have to make the choice whether to engage in our reality or disconnect from it. I think that engaging makes the world far more dreamlike and malleable than sleep does. Life is magical and wonderful and strange if you decide to let it be; which is actually a tough decision to make. In any case, I like to do my dreaming while awake; and we approach music the same way -- as a place of mystery and interpretation and wonder.
"Life is so meaningless, but I think that's why I like it I guess." - From our song, Mountains