Q: When did Alcian Blue starts, tell us about the history...
A. Well, Alcian Blue started up after the four of us graduated from high school. In high school, we had various bands, Matt and I were doing stuff along the lines of Jesus & Mary Chain and then got into Curve and Cocteau Twins and Sam and Clark were playing in progressive sounding hardcore bands and would also guest with Matt and I. After high school, we started working on demos and jamming together, this is probably 1997/1998 and by late 98 / early 99 we were playing out as Wintermute and then changed the name to Alcian Blue shortly after. (There was already a Wintermute in Texas) We released Slow Colorless Stare, Angelica Take Me Down (ep), Translucent (ep) and Silvers Sleep Walk (ep) under this line up. When we were working on both the Fall Behind EP and Years Too Late EP, our drummer left the band to join the Air Force. The three of us wanted to keep going so Kim joined the band and we switched to using drum machines and adding synths. You can hear the change of the line up on the Fall Behind EP. We then released the self titled full length with the new line up which brought a lot of our influences in the darkwave/coldwave sounds to the shoegaze sound we were already doing. We played regularly, maybe 1-2 times a month, but touring was hard because not a lot of (U.S.) clubs seemed to be into the shoegaze sound at the time.
Q: Who are your influences/heroes?
A. We have a lot of different influences among the band, but all of us were into the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, The Cure, etc. Sam and I were also into a lot of the IDM and electronic stuff, you know, Warp was huge at that time, and raves were happening in DC. And then later on we were very into a lot of post-punk and kraut rock. Matt introduced us to a lot of amazing Kraut stuff he was discovering. But, shoegaze was always the central influence, it is what formed our sound in the beginning and stayed there as we got into other types of music over the years. I think all of us really loved Slowdive the most. At the time it was really hard to get all those unreleased recordings so we used to all hunt them down and then trade cds with each other. It's how the cover of "Joy" came about.
Q: Tell us about the Alcian Blue´s gigs...how was it?
A. We started out just playing very small shows. There were these guys Adam and Dan who had a house near us and they put on shows there. We played these house shows until we got our first gig at the Galaxy Hut in Arlington VA. It was pretty tough back then. Almost no one was interested in the shoegaze sound and we played really loud so that didn't help matters either. We played at a lot of "dive" bars in DC and got banned from most of them for being too loud. It remained that way for a time, but slowly, we got to play bigger and better clubs. When we met Skywave, they had us play in their town (Fredericksburg) and those shows were always good. We also both would go down to Virginia Beach which has always had a great music scene for shoegaze stuff.
Q: What was your relation to Skywave?
A. Sam was working at WMUC 88.1 which is University of Maryland's radio station. They did a live show there (they still do) called Third Rail Radio and Sam engineered this band, Skywave, and he came to practice and said we should all check them out. Around the same time, Adam and Dan were putting together a big show at a community space and asked us to play and asked Skywave. I can remember the gig really well because just about everyone left the club during our set except Skywave. And then Skywave played and just about everyone but us left for their set. (this is all due to it being very very loud) We both couldn't believe there was a band located about an hour away that loved My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Slowdive, etc.
From that point on we kept in touch and started touring and working together on shows. We would drive out to see them play if we weren't on the bill and Oliver would often drive up to see us or run our projections (both bands used to use a 16mm reel to reel projector). They introduced us to some other bands who were doing similar stuff like The Emerald Down, Aerial Love Feed and Stellarscope, just to name a few. We did a tour up to Canada and then around the time before Synthstatic was released they did a tour with Malory, Resplandor, Stellarscope, and Highspire. Paul couldn't make the tour so I jumped in and took over guitar duties. We also did a couple of shows as a 4 piece, but I think it was 2 or 3 shows like that. Then Oliver moved to NYC and the band split and formed Ceremony and A Place To Bury Strangers. Alcian Blue was running Safranin Sound and when the band broke up, Safranin continued on and put out the first two Ceremony records, The Offering records (who are from the area Ceremony is from), and Screen Vinyl Image records. So, we all keep in touch and hang out and I sometimes play live with Ceremony and they sometimes play live with SVI and also have recorded with us.
Q: In your opinion what´s the best Alcian´s ep, song....etc...
A. Wow. Um, I personally really enjoy the Translucent EP the most. We pushed every piece of gear to it's limit, blew up speakers, gear burned down, the hard-drive fell and broke so we had to start from scratch when it was 90% done. But, I think we were playing really well then and started to sound like ourselves and that's around the time I met Kim who obviously later joined AB and is now my wife and also the other half of SVI. So, yeah, lots of good memories on that EP. I think Everyday is Fall is the best song I ever wrote too for Alcian Blue. I am also a big fan of the Self Titled record too. Frozen Sleep and See You Shine are other faves of mine, but I really like how all of the different influences the 4 of us were into at the time all came together on that record.
Q: Too many people consider Alcian Blue and Skywave the reason for the ressurection of shoegazer....what´s your opinion about it?
A. It is flattering but I don't know how true it is. There were definitely other shoegaze bands around at the time. A lot of us got to know each other online through forums and mp3.com. We would set up shows in each other's towns and it grew out of that. The press in the U.S. seemed to hate shoegaze then too. It wasn't cool to be into MBV for example... But, while the press wasn't ready to champion the sound, a lot of us U.S. bands stuck together and supported each other b/c no one else would. And there was definitely people out there who loved the sound and were very excited that there were bands doing the sound in the states.
Q: Explain, Why Alcian Blue R.I.P., tell us about the end...
A. We had been doing the band for a long time and we were living in different states and we all had different things going on so it just became a good time to call it quits. Our last show was playing Walls of Sound Fest in Fredericksburg. We didn't even get to play our set, the show ran way over time and us and Ceremony couldn't play. But, we ended up doing this cover of Primal by Slowdive with our good friends The Antiques. In an odd way, it was the perfect way to end the band.
Q: When SVI starts?
A. Alcian Blue broke up in the fall and SVI started up that winter. Kim and I had been writing demos using more synths with guitars and by the spring, we had put together a 5 song EP. (The Midnight Sun EP) We had Archie Moore (Velocity Girl / Black Tambourine) master it cause he did a great with the Alcian Blue self titled album. We started promoting it while we were trying to figure out how we were going to do shows with just two people. By around late June we played our first show in DC and then did a week long tour in the mid-west.
Q: What´s the fundamental difference between Alcian Blue and SVI?
A. I think SVI has different influences than Alcian Blue did even though there are some similar things I think we'll always be into. We love shoegaze music but I'd say our interest in electronic music is much bigger than it was during Alcian Blue. You can still hear a lot of shoegaze influence in SVI music, but you can hear a lot of other influences, maybe a lot more 70's stuff like Tangerine Dream, The Stooges, film soundtracks, etc. But, there are still similarities too, I think people can listen to one band and see how the other started after it.
Q: Tell us about the process of recording Interceptors?
A. It was a long process. haha. The album took almost a year and a half to make. It started by recording some demos at a beach house in North Carolina and then went on from there. We recorded everything ourselves and mixed it ourselves. We wanted to try out different ideas and techniques and it just took a lot of time to do that. We also were playing a lot of shows while recording and we did that split 12 inch with Ceremony too. We had some new gear that we were learning to use as well, like sequencers with CV gates on our old synths and we were kind of new to doing that sort of thing. There were a few songs that we ended up recording multiple times because we had a certain sound we were going for and we kept re-recording the song until it sounded right. Some songs, like Asteroid Exile, took forever to mix too because we had so many layers of tracks. That song has the most and we had to keep going back and changing things until the mix sounded right. It was a fun record to make, everything just came together in the end and we knew how we wanted the cover to look and what we were going to call it.
Q: About SVI gigs, what´s represents the great tour in Japan with Ceremony to the band?
A. Japan was an amazing experience for both of our bands. We had a great time over there and had the opportunity to play with a lot of fantastic Japanese shoegaze bands. They have a very strong and cool scene in Tokyo. Manabu promoted the shows and did an incredible job of putting together very nice shows for us, Ceremony and Eskimohunter. They had DJ's playing lots of great shoegaze music between bands and each of the Japanese bands had their own unique shoegaze styled sound. Also, Tokyo is a beautiful city. We both had a great time exploring the city while we were there.
Q: Which bands you love to made a cover version?
A. Live, we have covered The Stooges (I Wanna Be Your Dog), Slowdive (Take Me Down) and Ride (Decay). I'm not sure what we might cover next, maybe The Cure or something more obscure. We'll see.
Q: Which new bands you recommended?
A. Safeashome, The Sky Drops, Soundpool, Nightmare Air, Black Nite Crash, Dead Leaf Echo, Luxa. I could probably keep going, there are a ton of amazing bands out right now! But, I highly recommend those. Also, if you are a Skywave fan, our label Custom Made Music will be re-releasing Skywave's Echodrone on 12 inch too this year. The site is http://custommademusicva.com.
Q: What´s the plans for future....new records, a tour, maybe play in Brazil one day....
A. Right now we are working on a remix record that will be out this spring. We are also releasing two 7 inch singles too. One will be out on Custom Made Music and the other will be on Fandeath Records. We're also working on some tracks for the next full length.
We'll start playing shows again this spring, we're going to take a break for the rest of winter to record. We're not sure what our tour plans will be but we are hoping to go to Europe this year. Brazil would be amazing too. If anyone wants to contact us about coming down, send us an email!
Q: Any parting words?
A. Thanks for asking us to do the interview and talk a bit about the old bands, we really enjoy reading your blog!
Thanks Jake, say thanks to Kim too....your fan Renato!!!!
Interceptors - http://www.mediafire.com/?jevtnohmydm
Chaser EP - http://www.mediafire.com/?ayjcnkymzzi
The Midnight Sun EP - http://www.mediafire.com/?5xv10ljnv0u