Forming a band at art school is a well-worn path when it comes to pop/rock trivia. London’s brightest Britpop survivors Blur notoriously played their first ever show at the Goldsmiths Student Union Bar in 1989 and, playing true to their structural building-based hooks, Pink Floyd‘s Roger Waters and Nick Mason both met whilst studying architecture at London Polytechnic at Regent Street. Heck, São Paulo’s CSS championed so much of the carefree art school sensibilities, they even wrote a song about it.
Conceived against the backdrop of smoky basement shows and psychedelic grunge in Boston, Massachusetts, Quilt weave together the sounds of their seventies psych predecessors and return to our stereos in 2014 with Held In Splendor; the band’s spirited sophomore release on Mexican Summer. Ahead of their live shows in the UK this spring, we caught up with guitarist and vocalist Anna Fox Rochinski of the band to talk middle school hair metal, guitar sheroes and their debut dates in Europe.
There’s a lot of ’60s psychedelia and an almost ramshackle cool to Quilt’s sound; were these the kind of sounds influencing you growing up? Whose records were you picking up as a kid?
Ha, I like that phrase “ramshackle cool”. I grew up as an elementary school-aged child with a particularly heavy devotion to The Beatles. The odd thing is it was entirely self-imposed; my parents kind of quietly introduced their music to me, but I went nuts and learned their entire catalogue word for word by the time I was about ten. I would read along with the lead sheets out of one of those “Fake Books” you pick up at a music shop as I listened to their records. After about age nine or ten I branched out at rapid speed to the music of the time.
The whole Lilith Fair thing was big for me: Fiona Apple, Alanis Morissette, Paula Cole, etc., and of course, the Spice Girls were my world for about six months. My all-consuming classic rock phase followed and then I got really really into hair metal in middle school. Guns N’ Roses is still one of my favorite bands. High school was mostly about Jeff Buckley, Magnetic Fields and contemporary indie rock with a large dose of mid-2000s alternative folk like Devendra Banhart, Josephine Foster, etc.,… and then I discovered the Velvet Underground when I was like 17 and that was totally crazy.
There’s been quite a resurgence of this psych-led rock, with bands like Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Feeding People – do you guys feel like you fit into that sort of scene?
I’m sure that, as fellow creatives, we all dip from the same collective sonic pool of our formative years. We are the same age as bands like Tame Impala and I think there is an unavoidable parallel when it comes to the way our generation regurgitates and reinvents everything we’ve absorbed up to this point, even if it happens across the world from each other. I’d love to talk about music with those guys. In terms of a “scene”, I guess it’s hard to pin down, because it’s certainly more of an international community – but festivals that we play like Austin Psych Fest definitely encourage a collectivist feeling in a huge, wide world of bands. It’s great.
You guys are heading across the Atlantic to the UK this April. Where are you most looking forward to playing?
It’s our second time flying over the Atlantic, because we played in Moscow back in October. But it is our first time in Europe! I am looking forward to playing everywhere. I’ve wanted to go to Europe for years. Something about Italy seems particularly exotic to me. We’re spending a few extra days in Paris to hang, and I’m really looking forward to that. A lot of my friends have lived in or visited Berlin and I’ve been hearing about how amazing it is for years now. And, of course, visiting the UK has been a dream of mine forever.
Some of your dates are with the incredible La Luz – are you guys friends? Have you hooked up before? We’re excited for your show at The Windmill in April!
We’ve never met them, but my boyfriend Keven showed me their music earlier this year and I was instantly hooked. I love their harmonies and the wobbly surf guitar tones. We’re looking forward to the shows as well!
What’s the songwriting process like for you as a band? Obviously you and Shane share a lot of the lead vocal duties; is it a collaborative process?
Yes, we make a point of having a collaborative musical process, but on Held In Splendor we also made a large point of allowing ourselves to bring in finished songs as well. That was a first for us. John and Shane and I all sing and write songs, and I think the album is a very good mix of our individuality and togetherness as a cohesive piece.
When did you first start playing guitar? Who are your guitar heroes/sheroes?
Ha, I’ve never heard the phrase “shero” before. My main guitar sheroes of the moment are Annie Clark and Cate Le Bon. They mix a high level of musicianship with pure elegance and balls-to-the-wall single-note work in a way that I love. John Fahey is a guitar hero of mine, in the folk part of my brain. In terms of legendary rock dudes, you can’t go wrong with George Harrison’s mid-tempo melodic guitar parts from albums like Rubber Soul and Revolver. I think his playing influences me greatly. Robbie Krieger is a very under-mentioned yet amazing guitarist. I also love the guitar personality of The Velvet Underground, particularly on Loaded.
I began playing guitar when I was about 12 or 13. My dad’s a jazz guitarist and taught me the basics right off the bat. I kept it acoustic until my late teens when I began exploring electric guitar. I actually was playing five-string banjo before I was playing electric guitar – Karen Dalton was a big influence at that point in my life.
What’s your setup like? Has it changed much from the studio space to your live sound with pedals or the gear that you’ve picked up?
Yes, for sure. When Quilt first started I was playing with just a Holy Grail reverb, and at this point I have a handful of pedal effects that are staples onstage: tremolo, delay, distortion, fuzz, compression and an echo/delay pedal for my combo organ.
Who are you currently listening to?
At this exact moment I’m in the van listening to Geoff and Maria Muldar, it’s an album that John just put in the CD player. A few artists that I haven’t been able to escape for the last few years/months have been Nino Tempo and April Stevens, Connan Mockasin and Skip Spence.
Held In Splendor is out now on Mexican Summer. You can catch Anna and the band in April at the following shows:
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