A lot's happened since SF pop darlings Loquat dazzled us with their critically acclaimed debut, It's Yours To Keep in 2005. For one, lead singer Kylee Swenson (whose ethereal, lullabye voice is reminiscent of Aime Mann and Feist, only less drone-y) and bassist Anthony Gordon got hitched. But there were also hardships - family deaths, an apartment fire and lost jobs - enough to bring the band to the brink of a break-up. Fortunately for us, Loquat weathered the storm and used all the material for what they call their most inspired album yet, Secrets of the Sea, which was released last week. We caught up with Swenson and Gordon from their East Coast Tour, where they're set to play the CMJ Festival in New York on the 24th. They're returning to the Bay to play a much-anticipated Hometown CD Release Party at Bottom of the Hill on November 8. Here's what they had to say about the new album, their Treasure Island Music Festival performance and the San Francisco music scene.
So why have we been waiting so long for this wonderful new album?
Kylee Swenson: Quite a few things rocked the boat after we released It’s Yours to Keep. My grandfather and great uncle (both of whom I was really close to) died, a few of our close friends’ parents and a couple close friends died, Christopher’s apartment burned down, and he lost his job. With all the stresses of life, we almost had a couple band meltdowns and were ready to run off in different directions, screaming. But we kept it together, and I’m glad we did because this was probably our most inspired album we've made.
What's it like playing in a band together now that you're married?
Anthony Gordon: It can extremely difficult at times, but it's also incredibly rewarding to make music with someone you love. Kylee and I don't play a lot of music at home together—we pretty much save it for the studio.
Talk about the new album and working with SF studio Talking House. I love that there's always a different vibe with your songs.
Anthony Gordon: There are a lot of different sorts of styles on the record because we all love a lot of different styles of music. On "Sit Sideways," we did stumble onto that Niles Rogers, Duran Duran kind of pop-funk, but also, that song is about our friend’s Dad passing away and then boating and drinking and doing drugs to cope with the loss. On "These Kinds of Friends," we sort of channeled a lonesome, Roy Orbison kind of vibe—and that song is about preferring the company of animals to people. Whenever we write a tune that seems to be stylized, we generally have a subtext in the lyrics that completely flip the context. Our style might be described as happy-sounding songs with sad lyrics (or visa versa).
Kylee Swenson: Anthony mentions the juxtaposition between the happy-sounding music and sad lyrics, but sometimes the music inspires the lyrics or vice versa. For example, when Earl gave me the demo for “Who Can Even Remember?”, the bridge part had this far-off, watery Led Zeppelin feel to it, and it made me think about how my grandfather and great uncle were “off the pier and rowing.” That’s the image that the music conjured in my mind because it was on my mind that the elder generation was leaving us, and I had to step up as next in line. I was no longer part of the youngest generation anymore, and I needed to think about what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life. Wow, I’m starting to think our next CD should be a comedy album.
Your music is organic and deceptively natural, because people upon first listen might not realize that you play all your own instruments. How would you describe your sound?
Anthony Gordon: We've always thought of our sound as the marriage of organic and electronic music. I tell friends it's like guitar pop, but from the future. There are too many amazing sounds that exist in the electronic world to deny ourselves that creative element, but we're all physical players and our music—even the most electronic stuff—is performance and not programming. Our keyboardist Ryan Manley can really play his ass off with tons of passion and skill, but he can also be crafty and subtle, which is what I think we're really aiming for.
You recently played the TI Fest... main stage no less. What was that experience like? And do you prefer festivals to intimate venues?
Kylee Swenson: I’ve had a few opportunities to watch my knees knock in fear backstage, and Treasure Island Festival was a big one for us. I was definitely nervous, but we did have an amazing time. My only complaint was that when I looked up after the intro of our song “Time Bomb,” my mic stand had fallen down and was pointing at my stomach. Bad mic stand!
What do you think about San Francisco becoming a player in the festival circuit (Outside Lands, TI Fest, etc)?
Anthony Gordon: It's about time. And a huge amount of credit for making these awesome festivals happen here is Another Planet Entertainment. San Francisco is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful, creative, and open-minded city in America. People here aren't so genre oriented to their musical tastes, which I think has played a huge role in how our sound has developed, as well. We know a San Francisco audience will accept a party jam as readily as they will a maudlin, acoustic ballad. - Jason Jurgens from The Owl Mag