Music – Interview – Cymbals Eat Guitars

Posted October 27, 2009 in Music Features

BIMM may-june 22 – Desktop

Out of the frying pan and into the fire with a helpful prod from Pitchfork; after their self-released debut Why There Are Mountains was scored an 8.3 and given a “best new music” tag, New York four-piece Cymbals Eat Guitars have experienced a swift and spectacular swell of success. Creative lynchpin, and singer (read: screamer) Joseph Ferocious talks influences, inspirations and the importance of being indie-pendent.

Hi Joseph! There’s always a handful of stock interview questions that bands are sick of being asked. Which ones rile you the most?

The question about age differences in the band was a factor until very recently. We just replaced our former bassist (Neil Berenholz, at 31 years old, is 11 years Joseph’s senior), so everybody is between the ages of 20 and 25 now. We were really concerned about how it was going to work out; we had been playing with Neil for a long time and we felt like we were really tight with him, but I guess now we’ve got somebody with a similar vibe and aptitude, and it’s all been very smooth.

You’re currently on hiatus from college to concentrate on your musical efforts. Were your parents at all concerned about the prospect of your education taking a backseat?

Our parents have been entirely supportive of our endeavours; they’re very much into it. All of our parents are converts now! They’re like “okay, so you’re not going to get an education, and you’re not going to go to college and get a job like everybody else, you’re going to play music!”

You’ve mentioned your love for Weezer, particularly second album Pinkerton. They made a massive leap from the first album. Do you think there’s something to be said for large departures from the sound you’ve already established? Are you an advocate of taking creative risks?

With Pinkerton, Rivers was kind of laying it bare lyrically, and everything else on the record sounds really raw and disjointed compared to how slick Blue was. The departure is important. You have to broaden your base, the people who listen to you by alienating people with a new sound, winning over a whole new bunch of people. Then, the old fan base comes back and integrates with the new one. That’s what Wilco’s been doing for years, and Radiohead.

You’ve mentioned influences ranging from Pavement to Built To Spill, staples of the ‘90s indie rock canon. Yet when Slanted and Enchanted was released, you would have only been three. How have your musical tastes been moulded and developed over the years?

My best friend throughout high school, his name is Ray; he got me into Weezer, he got me into Pavement, he let me borrow his copy of Brighten The Corners and that was really the record that hit a sweet spot with me for a long time, when I first heard “Shady Lane” I was completely floored. I have my ticket for the Pavement gig in New York and I’m definitely excited about it.

Looking at your lyrics, they really read like poetry. There’s something beautifully evocative about them, they really play on all the senses. Do you yourself look at your lyrics as poetry set to music or are the musical arrangements the essence of your songs?

Lyrics start out as poems, but they never remain that way; I’m more comfortable putting it to music, so I’ll have a song that I’m working on on the guitar and lyrics that are forged independently and I put them together afterwards. I read a lot, I’d say about ¾ of my reading is poetry. I don’t write a lot of songs, I only write a song every three months, it comes in spurts. I feel like I cover a lot in the lyrics, maybe not to someone reading it from the outside, but to me personally.

Your album was originally self-released, and you were just working through a distribution label. Were you completely confident in the decision to release the record without the support of a record label?

I received some pretty key advice from a guitar teacher that I had (Charles from The Wrens), basically that you should just release your own stuff, start your own label, press vinyl and you’ll find an audience. 99% of what labels touch turns to shit, particularly in the major label arena that’s definitely the case. We did what we had to do when no one would take a look at us!

Cymbals Eat Guitars take a bite out of Crawdaddy on the 14th of November for €14.


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