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Interview: Birdmonster - 8.15.06
 

Birdmonster - 8.15.06

Interviewed by
Birdmonster - 8.15.06Blog darlings Birdmonster, a foursome hailing from San Francisco, have been making waves in the online world for a while now with their self-titled EP. Now, the unsigned act will be releasing its debut album No Midnight on August 29th, 2006.

Paul: The album is getting distributed through spinArt Records, but just to clear things up, this is only a distribution deal and you guys are still unsigned, correct?

David: It's some marketing help here and there, but it's basically just a distro deal with a little help. It's slightly convoluted, everything is convoluted, but it's really just a distribution deal. We still own a hundred percent of our masters.

Paul: I've read that that's the reason you guys haven't signed yet, because you guys want to have control over your masters.

Peter: We were pushed by a lot of different labels and spinArt was the only one that was really offering something that we were interested in, the kind of deal that we wanted and that gave us the kind of freedom that we wanted.

Paul: Are you adamant about not signing until you have full control?

Peter: I think we would want to only sign with a record label if we felt that it was a good deal. Plain and simple.
David: No set parameters, really. This record is very specific because we funded this record ourselves. Everything about this record, from the first step, the last step and everything in between, it's all ours. We tried to keep everything close to home.
Justin: There's no label that would sign us before our debut and just be like “Hey, you guys can keep your masters.”
Zach: Maybe now we can lord it over them.

Paul: This was the fabulous and glorious debut of your first national tour – quite the kickoff. How does it feel to be on your first national tour?

Everyone: Yeah, it's awesome, haha.
Peter: Well, we've done, like, regional tours before and this time, it was like, when we were leaving town, we told all of our friends “We'll see you guys in six weeks,” and they're like “What?” Our family was like “Oh yeah, you guys are going on tour? How long is it for?” “Six weeks.”
Justin: It hasn't really sunk in yet.
David: I think it'll be a really fun challenge because we'll be able to develop our live show really how we really want it to be even further and I think by the time that we're done with this, you know, we love playing our songs, but we'll have more inspiration and we'll want to write new stuff. You know, we've been playing these songs, well, different versions, but yeah, this record we love and we're going to tour and keep touring continuously and hopefully overseas and stuff. I think it'll inspire us to do new things. Maybe skydiving.

Paul: I was reading an article about you guys in which John Vanderslice called you guys “demonic and weird.”

Peter: Yeah, I remember that.
Justin: Really?
Peter: That was in the [SF] Chronicle article.
Justin: I thought he said we were believable.
Peter: Well, he did, but he also said that we were demonic and weird. He said that we were so nice and ordinary but then when we got on stage, we got all demonic and weird.
Justin: Oh yeah yeah yeah, now I remember that, the context.
Peter: Not that I read my own press or anything, haha.

Paul: It's not really the adjectives I used, but, really, I was thinking the same thing. Sitting there at the restaurant [before the show at dinner], you guys were nice and calm, but then on stage you guys were almost freaking out. It was sweet though, don't get me wrong.

Peter: We were just saving all of our energy up at the restaurant.
Justin: Don't worry, we won't flip out on you too much. Well, I mean, [in a creepy voice] as soon as the mic is off, watch out!
Peter: And then Birdmonster was a three-piece from then on, haha.

Paul: We all know that much of Birdmonster's success stems from, you know, our friends in the blogosphere. I'm curious, were you guys into that kind of stuff before or was it a whole new world when you first started receiving blog coverage?

Zach: Yeah, we kind of discovered the world as they discovered us.
Justin: It was sort of a little of both. What were we on? That first one.
Everyone else: Music For Robots!
David: That was because The National gave him our CD and told him about us when Mark was doing merch for a Clap Your Hands show.
Zach: We opened for Clap Your Hands, as a precursor to that story.
David: Yeah, and then Mark got our EP and Chris [Gorilla Vs. Bear] got our EP, and we started giving them lots of money and they started saying good things about us. It wasn't like we wanted this blogger and that blogger to talk about us, or whatever. A lot of people ask us, not you or anything, but a lot of people ask us, “So was this your goal, to get on the blogs?” and we didn't quite know how possible it was. We got on one or two and we were like, “Wow, this is getting our music out there.”
Zach: I don't think any of us really had any idea about any music blogs, really, before we really started being on them. That's when we discovered them. I didn't know about them, but it opened up a whole new world of music to me.
Peter: I knew about Pitchfork, and Tiny Mix Tapes, and the big ones, but that was it.
Justin: I always say this but I think that the big thing is that instead of just reading a review and having a 58-page description that basically doesn't really get you anything.
David: With the blog, you get like three little nice haha paragraphs and you actually hear a song and you're like “Oh these guys are good” and you might actually buy their CD or see them live or whatever. Whereas no matter what way you really describe a band, it's hard to make me want to go buy the CD, because I haven't heard anything or really even know what it's about.
Peter: I read reviews all the time and Justin and I were talking today, we were listening to some new music because he put some new stuff on his iPod. I was like, “Wow, I've heard descriptions of these bands but they don't sound anything like their descriptions.” I didn't know how they sounded like this or whatever.

Paul: That sounds about right, since I read a few things saying that you guys sounded similar to Modest Mouse, but I don't see it at all.
Zach: We've tried to shake that one for a while. Not because we don't like Modest Mouse.
Peter: We have one song on our EP that had like a bendy guitar note and it was one of the songs where I go for a little more vocals in terms of screaming, and all of a sudden, people heard that, were like, “Ok, there's a bendy guitar note and a scream, Modest Mouse!”
Justin: That was also right when that CD hit the mainstream, with “Float On” and all that.
Zach: On the other hard, comparisons, whether they're legitimate or not, are important for people to identify with.
David: I think that it's still a valid reference point for us, but I don't think that we sound like them. I suppose if you're trying to make steps to Birdmonster with all of these different bands, then yeah.
Peter: Modest Mouse is so great though, so if people want to say that we sound like Modest Mouse, then fine, haha.

Paul: Even though most of the bands hate the question, I have to ask you guys to give me an answer: Describe yourselves.

Peter: I'm about 5'8”.
[laughter]
Peter: We're rock 'n roll though, man. That's usually how we describe ourselves.

Paul: Well, if someone were to ask “Who is this band?”, what would you say?

Peter: I'd say that we are, first and foremost, a rock 'n roll band, one that encompasses a lot of styles from country to Clash-y stuff to more experimental stuff too. You know, a rock 'n roll band that's expansive but without being too lame and prog-y, hopefully. We're a prog rock band, basically.
David: Yeah, we're going for eight or nine minute song minimums with our next album.
Justin: We're like a Dream Theater rock opera. One song – 55 minutes.

Paul: Where do you guys actually hope to go with this band?

Peter: We're ambitious guys. You have to sort of be because you're putting yourself out there, creatively and monetarily. We'd all love to do exactly what we love to do for the rest of our lives, which is to play music, make great albums, make records, you know. If it doesn't work out, then we'll deal with it from there.
David: Definitely a successful career more so than being on Cribs. Although that would be cool. I mean, but to have a successful career, you have to be able to support yourself and to be able to put out the type of album we want. I love the first album and all, but for the rest of our albums, hopefully, to be able to take time out and work on them for three months, let's say, and be in a fancy studio. We'd have to either be on a label or have enough moneys saved up for ourselves. To do that, you have to really work out and sort of just go for it. I think success is like,being on a national tour is a success, putting out an album is a success, everything is a bunch of successes.
Peter: Especially how we were talking about the whole blog thing, I mean, I think ten years ago people might not even have heard this record. A lot of bands have albums that nobody really heard, or they self-released or was on a super local indie label. Now, it's like everybody's sort of growing up in the spotlight. Even if it is a relatively small one like with blogs and the internet, but you kind of have to have a stomach for it, you have to know that everything you put out there is being scrutinized, and you have to be committed to it, you have to believe in what you're doing.

Paul: Do you guys have day jobs?

Zach: We did. This is our day job now. We used to do various things. Law firms, ticket brokering.
David: Assassins. Monkey handlers.
Justin: I was the monkey handler.
Zach: I was the monkey handler. [to Justin] You were the monkey.
[laughter]
David: I did nothing that I would ever consider doing for the rest of my life.
Zach: That's pretty much it.
David: The thing about like, a corporate job or any kind of job that you don't want to do, is that six or eight months go by and you feel like you're getting better at it, but to what end? It's like, I constantly feel like we're becoming a better band and getting better live and writing better songs, and hoping people will listen. If you do that, it's so noticeable, because it's constant practice and constantly touring and writing songs. It's cool to, you know, watch ourselves develop. It's weird to do things in my life where, you know, everything is recorded so when we record, it's so noticeable to see objectively what has happened and what has changed. It's a fun thing to be able to do.
Peter: I think we're all surprised, like, when I go home after a tour or the night after a show, I want to pick up a guitar and play music. It doesn't really get old for us.

Paul: I was reading on the website about [tourmates] Division Day being banned from Canada. Can you tell me what happened there?

Zach: We were on tour with them and they decided to go to Canada. We decided it was too scary because we had heard of too many bands getting banned from Canada for the same exact reason, lying about trying to get into Canada. They hadn't heard those same stories so they weren't as scared as we were and they got banned.
Peter: For all your readers out there, if you're going to play a show in Canada, a lot of bands don't know this, but it's like taking your job over the border and so you have to get special permits and things like that if you're making any kind of money. A lot of times, what the border patrol will do, is that they will have their computers so if they see that you have equipment, they'll ask about the name of their band and stuff like that. People usually aren't prepared for that and so they can't think to lie. They'll Google you and look at your tour itinerary and stuff. I think they [Division Day] said something like they were going to go record at a friend's house.
David: What you don't want to do is that if you say you're going to go record at a radio station and they ask you what the address of the station is, don't give them the address of the club that you're going to.
Peter: Just stuff like that.
Justin: They blew it on several levels.
David: We're going to Montreal and Toronto on this tour and I was told that our booking agent has dealt with all of that stuff.

Paul: Anything else you guys want to throw out there?

Peter: Our CD will be out on August 29th on iTunes!
 
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