It’s great when you can listen to a band and get lost in the intricacies of the songs. With Houston’s football, etc., their swirling guitar melodies and serene vocals create a great calming effect; you can’t help but sit back and take a minute to really appreciate it.
This February, the band is back on UK soil, so we caught up with Lindsay (guitar/vocals) and Mercy (bass VI) about touring, their influences and the ups and downs of gigging and being in a band.
What made you start the band?
Lindsay: Mercy and I played in a band called Tin Kitchen when we lived in New Jersey during college. When we moved to Houston in 2008, we pretty much picked up where we left off and formed football, etc.
How did you choose your name?
Mercy: We picked the name randomly out of a book on 1920s America.
What/who do you cite as your biggest influences?
Mercy: Discord and Lovitt bands in general. My playing is also shaped a lot by exploring the capabilities and sounds of the bass VI. It’s a sort of hybrid instrument and it’s never been popular, so there’s really no rubric for how to play it. I’ve been playing one for over five years and I’m still finding new sounds.
Lindsay: When I started playing music in the context of a band, I got into using alternate tunings. I’d cite Rainer Maria and Sonic Youth as my biggest influences in the development of my guitar playing.
Mercy – what made you choose to play the bass VI?
Mercy: I started out on a four-string bass, but saw a Fender Jaguar Baritone in a catalogue and was really intrigued by it. I was kind of interested in playing guitar, but had learned bass to join a band. With the Jaguar Baritone tuned E-E (one octave down from guitar), I could throw in some guitar aspects as well as filling the bass role.
How important is touring to the band?
Mercy: Touring is a priority for us because it’s probably the most rewarding thing we do as a band. We’ve had great luck meeting amazing and hospitable people in the US and the UK and we’ve been fortunate to always have great tourmates – from P.S. Eliot on our first tour up to Papermoons on this upcoming tour – who are fun to hang with as well as worth hearing night after night.
Have you played in Europe before? Are you looking forward to coming over?
Mercy: We have been over to the UK three times, but haven’t played the mainland yet. We’re really looking forward to it!
Can you tell us about your best and worst gigs and why you’ve chosen them?
Mercy: We’ve had shows where we played to almost no one, shows where gear broke, and certainly shows where we made no money or almost nothing. But each one I think of had at least one redeeming quality, so it’s hard to say there was a worst. The “worst” gigs are still like the “worst” pizza…better than lots of other shit, and definitely better than nothing.
Lindsay: Some of our best gigs over the past few years have been ones we have played in London. Zine and Not Heard put on a festival called About Time in the summer of 2012. We played for the largest crowd I can remember with some really special bands on that day.
What topics do you like to explore with your lyrics and why?
Lindsay: Most of the band’s lyrics explore mundane and challenging things in my life. Several of the songs are about my experience as a high school teacher and others are about losing loved ones. Others start with a kernel of personal rumination but end up taking on a life of their own once I finish writing them.
Are you fans of social media? Do you think it’s an important way to connect with fans?
Mercy: Just as social media is – to varying degrees – part of most people’s lives, it’s now part of being in a band. I think some bands have more fun with social media and get more out of it than we do. But I don’t think we’re too good at it.
Are there any current bands that you respect and look up to?
Mercy: Okay I’m going to cheat a little on this one – not exactly a current band, but I don’t think they officially broke up so I’m counting it. Each Other’s Mothers was a band that played around the northeast when Lindsay and I were first playing in a band, like 2007-2008. It was a guitar-led mathy instrumental band that was all women. I think there is sometimes this assumption that women’s role as musicians is usually that of vocalists, and that with a “girl band” the attention is going to be on the vocals. There’s also this assumption that ladies ripping it up on guitar, on bass, on drums, is an anomaly. Each Other’s Mothers crushed those assumptions, and inspired me to try to kick ass instrumentally.
What do you think the hardest part of playing in a band is?
Lindsay: For me musically, the hardest part is often writing vocal parts and lyrics. The hardest part for me and Mercy as a band has been finding a drummer who is able to tour as much as we want to. If we could, we would be on tour much more often. Generally speaking, balancing work and music can be a challenge, as we aren’t exactly bringing home the bacon with the band.
What does 2014 have in store for the band?
Lindsay: We are really excited for 2014. Our first show of the year will be with Into It. Over It., TWIABP and A Great Big Pile of Leaves in Houston. In late February to early March we will be touring the UK and Europe with our pals in Papermoons (Deep Elm). When we get back we will be playing the Count Your Lucky Stars showcase at SXSW in Austin. After that we will be playing a couple of shows with Annabel and Mountains for Clouds in the south. We plan to record some songs for an EP and possibly a split after that. We don’t have anything solid planned after April, but we’d love to hit the road again!
Check out the band’s European tour dates here.