I'm not gonna say much because this interview is the most detailed we've ever had. I think that editing is good but here we focus on giving artists the space they need/want to say what they feel like saying. More than an interview, you'll see that it turned into a conversation between the boys.
01. Tell us a bit about the history of the band and how did you get to the name? I mean, I think everyone knows who Bilinda Butcher is… but how the idea of naming the band after her came up?
Michal: We started the band when we were sixteen.
Adam: In the summertime.
M: Adam taught me how to play guitar a little while after we met. He showed me a few chords and we kind of just started playing together after that. We had always liked the same type of music and the same bands, so it kind of just worked out. I followed in Adam's footsteps a lot more back then, though. He showed me a lot of bands and taught me the chords and progressions that we use now, which are all jazz-based. So, we were always kind of in a band, but it was never like "oh, okay, let's be in a band." Then Adam moved to the east coast for a while and we would talk on the phone pretty regularly, and I remember asking him if he had heard My Bloody Valentine (because I was really into them at the moment), and he was like "oh my god, I love My Bloody Valentine!" Well, he was actually listening to them for a long while before I had heard them, haha, but we kind of had a strong rekindling with MBV.
I think it was a really important phase for both of us. So, after a while, Adam ended up coming back to California for a year of high school, and I just kind of proposed that we start a band. I was like, "hey, I've got a band name, let's start a band!" He loved it, and that was that.
02. If your music were a planet or landscape or if it had to be materialized on something, what would it look like?
M: I look at every song as a scene in a movie. Every song I write kind of starts with some scene that I see in my head, and it just kind of stems from that. It's not really one specific thing. Every song has a different feel to it. I feel like lot of the songs that we've been working on lately are pretty "dark." I see it like a scene in a movie of a boy losing his girl or something like that, but you know, in movies it's always very theatrical and dramatic.
A: Scenes of melodrama?
M: Yeah, really dramatic.
A: So, it's dwelling on the darker side of the human experience; The sadder things.
M: Exactly. Especially "Sigh"
A: But then there's "All My Friends"…
M: Yeah, and that has a really happy feel to it, but the lyrics are all about being alone. But yeah, I think the bilinda butchers' songs materialize as different movie scenes. That's what we've always done.
A: But the scenes are different for each song. When we approach songwriting we do it with the intention to create a soundtrack for an imagined scene, and lately those scenes have been pretty dramatic.
03. Your first release was a single on beko. How the collaboration happened?
On that release, the b side is a cover of the pains of being pure at heart’s “this love is fucking right!”, tell us about this choice.
M: Adam was really active on last.fm, and then I made an account and listed myself as a member of the bilinda butchers. Then Reno (or maybe it's Charly -- he's kind of mysterious, who runs BEKO contacted me through last.fm and we talked for a while about music, and he liked our songs. We talked about collaborating on his musical project, which didn't really work out. Then, a while later, we talked about an artist from France called kumisolo. I asked him if he had any of her stuff that he could send me, and he actually sent me a package in the mail with her CD and a CD he had released which was very good. I was really surprised, because at the time our demos were pretty bad, and here was this guy who had already released an album and was a fan of a 17-year old who only had a couple of demos out. So after that he mentioned that he was planning on starting a free digital singles label and asked us if we wanted to contribute and of course we said yes, and we ended up being the 14th release from BEKO DSL, with "Tulips" as the A-side and the Pains cover as the B-side.
The Pains cover was my cover. We had seen the Pains in San Francisco like a month before BEKO happened. Adam had been listening to them a lot, especially "This Love is Fucking Right!" and then of course I heard it and I loved it. We thought it was really cool that Kip used the word "fuck" in it but it was a really sweet song. So I thought it would be kind of cool and interesting to hear what it would sound like if we did it.
A: In our style.
M: Yeah, really slow and kind of the opposite of what it was. It's very "Sunday afternoon". So I just recorded it one day and finished in like an hour. It was really quick, and I thought it sounded pretty cool, and I sent it to Adam and he liked it and that was about it. It just kind of happened real quick. It wasn't planned at all. I came home one night and I just sat down and recorded the whole thing.
A: Taking it easy.
M: I always imagined a Sunday, looking out the window on your day off. Very relaxed.
04. Your music is a combination of dreamy guitars, electronics and sweet vocals. I’d say it’s twee having a drink with synthpop and then taking dreampop to dinner on a pier. Said that, could you give your ideas on the music you make? Tell us about influences (not only in music)...
M: I think it's kind of different for both of us; Well, similar but there are these little differences. For me, when we were growing up, all we did was play video games. That was our thing, I think. Adam showed me a game called "Animal Crossing," and that was a huge thing in my life. It still is. And the soundtrack to that game was all I listened to for a long time. I think that's kind of where it started for me. Like, this whole sound. That's when I knew I wanted to compose and make music just like that. Really cute, beautiful stuff. And then we listened to a lot of shoegaze together, and… Well, what do you think?
A: It was a lot of bossa and shoegaze. Sort of like… This combination of sounds that prompted us to start making the music we wanted.
M: I think shoegaze was the biggest impact for us.
A: But I don't think shoegaze as an influence is really apparent in our music anymore.
M: It's not at all, but that's kind of where everything materialized. That and video games.
A: Well, I think our style of guitar playing and the chords we use come from our interest in bossa. The shoegaze thing was an aesthetic approach that we wanted, but we never really got to it. But bossa is really apparent. The shoegaze left us with a lot of reverb, but that's pretty superficial. Video games were absolutely an influence -- the melodies from the Animal Crossing soundtrack, our interest in electronic music… Also, I love 8-bit music.
M: Yeah, but video game soundtracks are a really big part of it, especially for me. It's probably my biggest influence next to The Radio Dept. Yeah, Adam showed me The Radio Dept., and that was like…
A: That funneled us even more.
M: That was like a driving force in making the music we wanted. I listened to them and analyzed everything and tried to learn as much as I could about what they were doing. When I heard them… that was the sound I wanted the bilinda butchers to achieve. Actually, I was a little mad 'cause I was thinking, "fuck, this band already did what I wanted to do." And that's where a lot of the electronic drums came in.
A: Also, we can't drum, haha.
M: Yeah, neither of us can play the drums, haha.
A: Video games and movies are our biggest influences outside of music, I think.
M: Yeah, movies are a big part of it, too. When I hear our music I see a scene of something happening, and that's the biggest influence. Trying to make someone picture something happening, and to make it be very dramatic and emotional.
A: All the lyrics are super personal, too. They are all about specific things or people, so the people we're around are a big influence, too.
05. Talk about your creation process and how do you record your songs. do you have access to a studio or your studio is your bedroom?
M: Up until this point, we've done everything in my bedroom. The studio is my bedroom. When I start writing a song, I just start recording, and I just kind of see what happens, and I try to see what kind of sounds I can mesh with whatever I'm putting down. I start with an idea like a rhythm guitar part, record it and then just kind of go for it and see what happens, and hopefully something good happens. Most of the time something good does happen, but sometimes it just ends horribly. Sometimes I'll make something and I'll call Adam over to put something over it like a lead part or help out with lyrics. It's a very organic process, I think. We don't sit around for a long time and try to make a song. I'll analyze it after recording and fix what needs to be fixed, but when it's happening it just happens. I just let whatever comes out come out. And if it works, great, but if not, then whatever. But when it does I just keep going and going until I cant go anymore and hopefully at the end of it all there's a song.
But Adam and I have different creation methods. We are in a band and we have the same ideas but our songs are pretty independent from one another. Most of the songs I work on are my songs and Adam will help out here and there, but I put most of the effort into mine and vice versa. We write separately. Occasionally we'll write together but the bulk of it is on our own.
A: Yeah, when I'm at home I'm constantly holding a guitar, so I just always play guitar. I'm always playing and I'll mess around with chord progressions and then I'll come up with something. After that I'll have to come up with a follow-up part. And then if its good enough I'll play it over and over again.
M: For me, I'll come up with one chord progression, one loop, and then record it and see how much I can put on top of it. Until something materializes.
A: You have the luxury of being able to record. Since I cant really do that, I have to just remember everything in my head. So it's hard to layer shit on top.
M: And maybe thats why our music is a little different. You have a little bit of a harder time doing it and I think that's why your chord progressions are more interesting than mine.
A: Yeah, maybe on a base level, but in the end your stuff has so many layers that it becomes interesting.
06. And all of your songs, so far, were released for free. What are your point of view on music distribution nowadays?
A: We just had a conversation about this last week. The internet has changed everything, it's made everything more available, both in terms of being financially more accessible and in terms of being immediately within reach, so just on the generic level we have access to more of it. I think it's great. I don't think its a bad thing. The downside is that people don't realize the work that goes into making an album or a song as much because there's so much available to them. It's sort of lead us to be a little bit more impatient, or whatever. We want to hear something we like immediately, whereas if we were to buy an album we might try a little harder. But I think it's good. The conversation we were having was about the viability of releasing something for money now, when you don't really have an established fan base. It's virtually nonexistent. Basically, its all about promoting yourself for free, and the internet makes that easier. I think it's unfortunate that it sometimes costs money to make an album, but not many people pay for it. In the end, I guess everyone has to adapt to it, thats why we release our stuff for free, and we'll continue to do so. I mean well probably have something out at some point that won't be free, but right now, it's all about letting people hear our music and seeing if people like what we're doing.
M: I feel the same about it. I mean you can get anything for free now, which is good and bad. Actually, I think probably more bad than good because before when you had to go and buy an album, you really cherished it. You had it, and it was this thing that was yours. Now you can download an album from anyone and just wade through the songs for 2 seconds and hear that nothing on it really strikes you. Back when you would have had to go down to a record store and buy a CD you listen to each song and you grow with the album. It really takes over. It's a part of you and a part of your life. It's so much harder to find that now just because it's so easy to get anything from anyone at any given moment. You can't see or hear how much time and effort and all these cool little recording techniques that people do because nobody gives a shit anymore. It's all just mp3s to anybody.
A: There's also so much shit because it's so easy to put out.
M: Yeah theres so much crap. There are so many people out there that just don't know what the fuck they're doing. Not saying that we do or anything like that, but…
A: There's just more music, and people are impatient and don't want to sit there and listen to it if its not amazing immediately. I think the biggest loss is that of the album cover. Owning it and having it to look at.
M: The booklet.
A: Reading the booklet. Even when you buy digital downloads it's just not the same thing. And it's a bummer. It's easier and cheaper, I'm sure, for everyone, but at the same time it just loses something special.
M: Yeah it does. We wanted to make music, and we wanted to get people to listen to our stuff. We had all these plans on how we wanted to do our albums, and how we wanted to present ourselves because of the way CDs were presented to us when we were young and when they were still relevant. And I guess it's unrealistic to think that all of it is possible to do when you're an up and coming band. It's sad because a lot of creative people out there wanna share their works with the world but they can't unless they have funding and promotion and all these things that almost always inevitably change the work. It's so much extra baggage.
Releasing stuff for free is good, I guess, but it just ends up being a lot harder for a lot of people to hear it. People have to find it, they have to talk about it and blog about it. It's just a lot of wading through garbage. And it's a lot of waiting. And even more now for us it's based on chance because we don't play live. We do everything in our bedroom, we work on it, we finish it, we're proud of it, and then we want to show it to everybody, and all these blogs that blog about music that make these bands mentionable now… They don't give a shit about some kids that are in there bedrooms just making music. There are so many people out there making music because it's so fucking easy it's just unrealistic. It's just tough. We've been doing okay already I think, especially with BEKO. And I guess the thing that separates the musicians from the people who make music is the time and effort put into each creative work. If you really want to do it, then you do it. The free distribution is very cool, but I just wish it didn't rule the industry.
A: I think what would be ideal is if there was a sort of honor system and you bought things from the bands you really loved. I mean downloading something and you find you hate it then that's whatever, fuck paying for that. But if you download something and you say "oh my god I love this." At least go to a show, or buy a t-shirt. Do something. I try to at least give some monetary donation to the bands that I really love.
07. What is a perfect pop song for you?
A: Hey Hey, Girl by Rocketship. Its 2 minutes long, short and so catchy. A million hooks. And when he says "disgust in your mind"… When that line comes in and the chord change comes, it's beautiful.
M: I don't know how to answer this. I can't answer it haha. It's too hard.
08. The past few weeks saw the release of 2 songs on your Tumblr. What can we expect for the future?
M: We've been writing stuff for three years now, and promising the few fans that we have an EP, but it never happened. Now it's happening. We're recording a single first and then an EP. So there will be two releases that will possibly be put out in a physical form. So I guess as we go we'll be putting up songs and stuff like that. We want the tumblr to be a strictly aesthetic thing. We're not gonna burden everyone with what we're doing and what's gonna happen. It's just gonna be music and pictures. We have a Facebook page that we put status updates on about what's going on and what we're doing.
09. Do you get to live of your music?
A: Not at all. We're broke.
M: We're students
A: We cant even afford an amp. So if someone wants to send us a Twin Reverb…
M: …or a Vox AC30 haha.
A: That would be awesome haha.
M: We do everything: make the music, record it, mix it, master it, distribute it. We do our own graphic design. We do everything ourselves. Every little thing. We have a producer who is a good friend of ours (that we don't pay haha) who produces all of our songs and helps us mix and master, but everything else we do. Thankfully he's happy to do it for free. He's also going to be our live bassist. We don't have any money to pay for anything. The only things we do pay for are things like guitar strings and stuff like that.
10. Any song(s) you’d like to cover?
M: Well, we're working on a lot of things right now. We're planning on releasing a few things next year. We're actually about to go into the studio right now.
A: Actually, we're in the studio right now. In the bedroom in bed haha.
M: Haha yeah. We're actually going into an actual "studio" soon to record all of our demos and such that we've been working on for about 2-3 years. So one of the releases we hope to record will be a cover EP of a few covers we've done.
A: I think we wanted to cover a John Lennon song a while ago.
M: Yeah there have been a lot of songs along the way that we've wanted to cover. "Oh Yoko" by John Lennon, "Somebody That I Used To Know” by Elliot Smith, “Books and Magazines” by the Arctic Flow (who we're very good friends with)… But those never really materialized. The EP will have the Pains cover redone, and our "Girls Don't Cry" cover by the pillows, and two or three more that we won't share with you now haha.
11. Name the perfect place and time to hear your music.
A: Any scenario where there's a boy and a girl in love.
M: I like to listen to our songs on the train, when there is a bunch of scenery passing by and you're not concentrating or focused on anything. When you're driving is good too.
A: I like listening to it alone.
M: Yeah alone, when I'm driving is great.
A: Traveling from one place to another. Also it's great when you're waiting for your girl or boy or you're going to go visit them and you're kind of nervous. Or maybe after you break up. There's a lot of sadness in the music so it's perfect for that.
M: It's a friend to lean on.
12. Recommend something you've been listening lately.
M: I've been listening to Mark Ronson a lot lately, and I'm going back into another AIR phase. Oh, and "Clinging to a Scheme" by The Radio Dept. Adam hates it haha. I think its really misunderstood. He dislikes them a lot after their last album, haha, but he's still going to go see them with me in February.
A: Luminous Orange's new album "Songs of Innocence" and Win A Sheep Free. You can find Win A Sheep Free downloads on my last.fm haha.
13. Anything else you feel like saying?
A: thanks for reading!
M: I kind of want to say, just so it's somewhere to be read… for the people who might one day really follow us and develop a relationship with our music, that the songs that we wrote when we were younger and put out were all stepping stones to what we are hoping to release now. I love those songs very much, and I'm sorry that we just don't sound like that anymore. What we're doing now is really what we wanted to do back then but we just couldn't do it because we didn't have the creative or technical means. So I just want to apologize to the 3 or 4 people who might be upset about our new stuff but I guess thats just how it goes sometimes you know? We grew and the music grew with us .
A: Michal lost his touch hahaha
M: I blew it hahaha. We also want to say theres a lot of stuff coming up so keep in touch with us. The tumblr, the Facebook page, our myspace. We'll keep everyone updated.
We should have a YouTube account up eventually too. We plan on playing live sometime in 2011 in San Francisco, so if there are any fans please come out! I also want to say thanks to BEKO for all the opportunities it's given us. Please check it out!
M: Also thanks a lot to Felipe for this opportunity!
Here you can download their latest releases (that you can find on their tumblr and bandcamp)
And on BEKO you can find a single with two more songs (including The Pains... cover). Go and download it!