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25 October 2011

Interview: Anna Conner and Casey Harvey of Thrushes.

When The Sun Hits Interviews Anna Conner and Casey Harvey of Thrushes

The Baltimore-based noise pop quartet Thrushes have been charming gazers since 2007 with the release of their debut album, Sun Come Undone. Members Anna Conner, Casey Harvey, Rachel Harvey and Scott Tiemann, having cut their teeth in the formative Baltimore all-ages indie scene of the mid-90's, came together to form Thrushes, and they've been creating their unique brand of catchy gaze grunge ever since. You can check out their website HERE. Enjoy the interview!

How and when was the band formed? Is there a story behind the band name?

Anna - The band formed in 2005 (?). Casey and Rachel asked me if I wanted to play music while we were playing in a pick-up baseball game with friends. Soon after Matt joined. We’ve been playing ever since.

The name Thrushes was chosen off of a band name list Casey compiled, and it was the name we liked best.

Can you tell us what you guys have been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc)?

Anna - Right now we’d like to focus on writing songs for a third album.

Casey - Yeah, we’ve got about an ep’s worth of new songs that we’d like to expand to a full album. New material is nice step forward for us in terms of song writing and sounds. We added a new drummer this year and that has opened up a lot of new directions for us to play around with.

Do you consider Thrushes' 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?

Anna - I think labeling a band as being under one specific genre can get sticky, especially if you ever plan on evolving musically. I think in general we love the feel of the dream pop scene, and probably would identify with that right now. But who knows where we will be in the future. You never know what will inspire you next and where that will lead.

Casey - I think we’d definitely fall within the shoegaze spectrum in terms of the sounds we play with and gear that we use. However, we maybe have a more punk and classic 90’s “college rock” flavor than some bands on of the dreamier end of the spectrum.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?

Anna - I think there are many new bands who are doing a great job of representing the genre. It’s hard to beat the classics though. Asobi Seksu is def a contemporary band whose doing it well. But Florence and the Machine has some tracks that really master that dreamy/ psychedelic sound.

Casey - We really love a lot of our east coast friends bands like The Vandelles, Screen Vinyl Image, The Sky Drops, 28 Degrees Taurus, etc. On the bigger scene M83 and School of Seven Bells are really excellent!

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?

Anna - Refer to Casey...

Casey – Reverb, Echo, Fuzz! Really love Dr. Scientist Radical Red Reverbator pedal. On the echo side I had been using vintage RE-201 Space Echo, but they were really inconsistent live, sounding wildly different at different temperatures and environments. I switched to the RE-20 pedal version which we pretty close, but I’ve recently replaced it with a Strymon El Capistan tape echo which is AMAZING! For fuzz I use some DBA pedals and the LAL Super Oscillo Fuzz 88 is pretty awesome. I started playing out of 2 amps a couple of years ago and it really fills out the sound live.

Thrushes. Heartbeats.

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?

Anna - I think that bands have to redefine how they will write music, tour, and sell their music now that record sales no longer define a band’s popularity. It can be positive if the band is willing to embrace change and find new ways to market themselves and gain a fanbase. Touring is essential.

Casey - On the plus side it’s soooo easy to make decent records and release them on your own without label infrastructure, but the drawback is the speed with which the public seems to eat up and spit out “new” bands. It really feels like a constant battle to keep your name out there these days.

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?

Anna - Well, we don’t have a label. So the only way I know how to release an album is to save up money and do it ourselves. I think labels are great because they have more venues to publicize their bands and can get elusive touring gigs. Then again, I understand why so many bands have reverted away from labels because it gives them absolute control over their own music. Both have pros and cons.

Casey - I think labels per se are pretty much over. It’d be interesting if labels took a more curatorial approach and sign bands to single releases or something like that. Managers and agents have taken on a lot of the traditional label roles of publicity and press and with recording getting cheaper and the decline of physical pressing, there really isn’t much of a need for labels to invest in that end of the project.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?

Anna - I prefer cds. I spend so much time driving that I listen to most of my music in the car, on the cd player.

Casey - I still prefer to have physical stuff like cd’s or records.

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?

Anna - For me I listened to a lot of death cab for cutie, Feist, John Doe, and the velvet underground when writing for the past two albums. I love musicians with sincere voices and stories to tell.

Casey - Roy Orbison, Link Wray, Ramones, Buddy Holly, Sonic Youth, Spector Girl Groups like the Ronettes & Crystals, The Cure, Beach Boys, surf and early rock n roll guitar sounds.

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc)?

Anna - Right now I like botanical prints and vintage fairy tale illustrations. Anything that has some sort of slightly off kilter appearance and a bit of nostalgia. I’ve been listening to a lot of talking heads and david bowie.

Casey - I’m really digging Anna Calvi right now, great guitar work, singing and cool style. Jarred Alterman’s “Convento” is a really gorgeous new film about an incredible artist working in an old Portugese convent. He makes these kind of bizarre automaton hybrids with amazing little gears and motors and repurposed animal parts and remains. A type of steampunk taxidermy I guess, pretty amazing!

Thrushes. Aidan Quinn.

If you had to choose one Thrushes track that was the ultimate definition of your sound, which would it be and why?

Anna - Aidan Quinn. Because emotion is at the heart of the sound.

Casey - Into the Woods. Good dynamics, cool melody, slightly creepy

Can you tell us a little about the band’s song writing process?

Anna - Our songs start as a jam session. When we find something we like, we map it out on a white board. If we’re lucky the lyrics come on the spot during the jam. Usually I find a few phrases I like, and build on it at home. When we get back together we finish the song with lyrics and tighten it up.

What is the band’s goal for 2011?

Anna - Well, 2011 will be over soon. Our goal is always to keep writing and creating.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?

Anna - Probably my favorite anecdote is “how do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time.” No matter how hard things seem or how difficult life gets, you will get through it. though it may take a little while.