Wine's vision has materialized in the form of White Laces, a less complex but still experimental take on traditional pop songs with drummer Jimmy Held and bassist Brent Delventhal. The group's first crop of songs will be available on various formats, including vinyl, cassette and digital download, but deliberately not on CD. The band also plans to post recordings of live performances on its Web site, whitelacesmusic.com.
Style Weekly: How did Cinemasophia end and White Laces begin?
Wine: The end of Cinemasophia was pretty much (like this) - we had the last record come out, did a couple stints (on the road), and on the last set of shows, we weren't getting along very well. It was very frustrating and felt restrictive, I think, to everybody. So, we decided to dissolve it before our friendships were at stake. It was about a year ago. Our last show was at the Black Cat in DC. We played that show and it was done and I don't think we've all been in the same room since.
A few months after that, I had a few songs kicking around and I was going to start doing something musically again, but I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I got a call from a friend who works at a label out of Canada called Unfamiliar Records. He said, "Hey, you should send me your demos." I was like, "I don't have any, but I'll make some." I thought it was a good impetus to start (doing music again). I had seen Field Day last year and Jimmy's a really amazing drummer. I jammed with him once, but I wasn't really sure what was going on at the time. I was traveling a lot and wasn't sure if I'd be able to focus on stuff. He came in and we worked out the songs. I met Brent randomly through an email interchange. He had just moved here and was asking a question about stuff in Richmond, like where to go. I said, "That's a great question, but do you play bass?" In turns out he did, and he ended up being a really great bass player. That's the crux of the band. We borrowed guitar players for the first set of recordings and shows. I play guitar, too, and sing vocals. It went from something that was a bedroom thing, where everything was electronic, to a live guitar-bass-drums outfit.
Will you incorporate keys as much as you did in Cinemasophia?
We're slowly bringing stuff like that into the recordings. We've already used drum machines here and there and had some keyboards replacing some of the guitar parts. We haven't done it live yet, because we've only played a couple of shows and we want to keep it no-nonsense. In the studio, we can mess around more, but we don't have to plug fifty little things in and make sure it's all set and sequenced. We're trying to get away from that right now.
Where did you get the name White Laces?
I pulled that out of an issue of Harpers that I was reading last Summer. I can't remember (the context), but when I saw the phrase, it stuck with me. When I had to put a band name on the recordings, I just thought I'd go with that. I think it works. I'm happy with it still.
As a songwriter, do you prefer writing alone or writing with a band?
I feel more comfortable arranging everything or playing through a song myself a few times and recording it. Because then I can sit with it awhile and live with it, instead of having that (immediate) excitement of playing it with a band. Yeah, it sounds great at first and then a week later it sorta sounds like shit.
With the White Laces songs, I'm demoing everything with a drum machine, which is antithetical to what Jimmy does. He's a really involved, really heavy player. When I brought the first demos in, he was almost working against that. It's obvious that he's not going to play some sequenced thing that I've sampled off of a Casio. So, he's not locked into anything. He does whatever he wants to do. That way, it gives freedom to the band, when I bring the songs to them, to expand and contract. But the arrangements and the melodic structure are there, so when you strip it all back down, you've got this basic element of a song. You can go wherever you want to with it, with a band. I don't sit there and say, "You do this, you do that." It's more, "This is the outline, do what you want to with it." I think it works really well with White Laces, because if we're in a situation where we have to do something different with the song, it's loose enough we can still perform it. Cinemasophia was very tightly wound and you couldn't move away from the (song structure) in a lot of ways. This is looser, more spontaneous. If we want to change something up in the song, we can, as opposed to knowing how the song's gonna go and knowing what's supposed to happen.
Tell us about that one song...
It was the first song that was written and recorded for White Laces. It was a direct dividing line between anything that was going on with Cinemasophia and what is happening from now on. I spend less time piecing things together. I wanted to simplify it and not over think it. Make it something that's louder and more impactful, viscerally, instead of having these little bits (that build up). I'm just trying to untangle things and make it less complicated and, in a lot of ways, make it more directly poppy. I always love bands who, at the heart of their music, it's just pop songs. It's not fair to say White Laces is straight up pop, but I feel like I'm more comfortable starting with this basic chord progression, or a melody, and twisting it from there. Letting a song turn into something else. That's a break from the regimented nature of Cinemasophia. and I don't feel compelled to be attached to a certain style.
I did a couple of demos of the song and I was kicking around ideas and it finally came together. As silly as it is, it was sort of the mission statement of the band in a lot of ways. I thought it was appropriate for it to be the first single on our first EP, which is coming out on Harding Street Assembly Labs. It's Nathan McGlothlin's label, who was in a New Dawn Fades. He approached me about doing a cassette release and I said we were waiting to do some vinyl releases. But, we had the stuff already recorded and the idea for the White Laces music, for me at least, is that we record it and we document it. We go into the studio and we put it out. The turnaround for this was about a month and a half between finishing the recording, getting the mixes, and having it out on Itunes, Emusic, and limited edition cassette. Which is great. I want to keep that up. The quicker we can finish stuff and have it out, the better, so you have sort of a progression of where the band is going. I think it's fun. I always liked that, I was a collector nerd. It works for me, I hope it works for other people.
With White Laces, I am trying to make the lyrical part more transparent. I'm trying to go into more of a narrative form, even if it's an abstract narrative that is pieced together. A lot of "Motorik Twilight" is talking about a period in my life with another person I was involved with that was very mutually destructive. Not in a terrible way, we're friends now. But, that's the basic outlay of the song, parsing out the interactions between two people that are, at their essence, counterproductive at all times. That was the idea and it's written more about my impression of things, as if you are watching a slide show of specific incidences. That forms the narrative, but it wasn't some grandiose idea. I'm trying to think of ways to stick with an image, as opposed to before, where it was abstract and would come off sounding completely vague. I told myself that I'm going to try not to be vague at all any more. The title of the song was actually a switch-up. i was trying to label the file and I labeled it incorrectly as another song that ended up being scrapped. That's how it ended up with that title. I didn't have anything else for it, so I went with that.
You released CDs with Cinemasophia. Why not with White Laces?
It's funny, when I was leaving today from Roanoke, I was looking at CDs at the consignment shop. I thought, "I'm going to have this in my car on the way to Richmond, then I will probably forget about it once I get there." They almost seem like little packs of gum to me. Something you'll pop out for a few (uses) and then forget about and find in your car later. That's partially because I'm so disorganized, but also partially because I feel that's where CDs are.
Not to be a dick, but when Nathan was talking about doing the first White Laces release as a cassette, I was like, "Alright, I'll do any format but CD." Everything (we record) is going to be accessible digitally, even if it's on cassette or vinyl. If somebody has a CD, that's what they're going to do anyway, just rip it. Once something goes out of print, if it's too obscure, I'll give it to people through the blog. There's a certain amount of transparency I want with that. I want to be able to give back to the people who've been supportive of the project so far. I've been really lucky to have their support. Not to sound pessimistic, but most people in the industry at the DIY level aren't in it to make money. I'm not under the illusion that I'm going to be rolling in money, ever, from any of this. If this is going to be important to people, I'm going to put stuff out on multiple labels, not expect a huge return on it, and allow people to have access to it. It's a fair question, but at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is put out a CD. I don't think anyone cares. Nobody really needs a CD anymore. My friends who play shows and sell CDs say they're not selling.
Cassettes are their own market now, too. I was reading the other day about this one cassette label who says all of their releases are sold out. This label in Brooklyn called Fuck It Tapes, everything is sold out. Really? I guess they're not making many but how many of those who bought the tapes actually have tape decks? I wish I could track that when we put ours out. I have two, but I live near Fantastic Thrift, so if I see a nice tape recorder, I go for it.
On a similar note, do you think EPs will become more popular than full lengths?
Everybody is still making full-lengths. White Laces will be doing a full-length. Part of that is because I'm a purist about the format. But right now, it's going back to a singles market. With this one song, "Motorik Twilight," I've been able to have conversations with multiple people. Years ago, if you had one song done and put one song out, no one gave a shit. Now, it's like, "Oh, you have a song?! You have a song, would you like to do this?" So, bands work really hard on that one song and they coast on it. In that sense, EPs are good, because those bands that get that "blog rush" don't feel like they have to (release more than a few songs). Not to be rough on them, but a band can come into existence and five months later get thrown offers they can't fulfill, they don't have songs for. But, a label will say, "We need this in a month." I would really rather listen to an EP by one of these bands, than listen to twelve songs and six of those songs are ones they wrote in two weeks because it had to get to the mastering plant. In that instance, because of the turnover, EPs are better. Maybe some bands write songs in clusters of twelve, but that's a very particular kind of talent I don't come across a lot.
How do you feel about the new noise ordinance?
I had a show at my old house around two months ago with White Laces, Wild Nothing from Lynchburg, and Eternal Summers. The cops came up around 2am, knocked on the door, didn't ask to come in, didn't try to invade or anything and said, "You need to tell the band this probably needs to be their last song, or the next song needs to be their last song." And then they left. Mind you, we were further out near Carytown. I feel like there's a big difference, depending on the area where the cops are patrolling, as to how they're handling it. Some shows, the police roll up and they go through the house and it's awful. The band should never be fined. I'm glad there are so many places to have shows in Richmond, but sometimes it's more convenient to have a house show. It's nice to be able to relax in that atmosphere. For the shear amount of force on the side of the cops, A, it's an exercise in futility, and B, you're just going to tie up the courts with tons of bands and tons of kids who are going to go do the same thing again anyway. It's obnoxious. The city should find a way to help out places that are trying to have legit shows as opposed to shutting them down, too.
I was talking to my friends in New York who had a DIY venue that got shut down. They moved it and since then, they've been strict about making their shows dry shows. Now they're able to have a liquor license in this place. These DIY spaces are able to evolve into multi-purpose rehearsal spaces, artist spaces. I feel there needs to be a more mutual relationship. It's one side against the other. I don't sympathize with the cops, but I've had good experiences. Other people have had awful experiences. It's silly Richmond is trying to squash the music scene. What do they win?
White Laces will perform a free release show for their debut EP at First Fridays in the Courtyard on May 7 at 7 p.m.