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By Tony Bonyata
Livewire's exclusive interview with |
Jan. 7, 2008
New York City is renowned for delivering some of the greatest and often-ground-breaking acts known to rock music - from The Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, Patti Smith, The Ramones and the Talking heads to more recent cutting-edge indie acts such as The Strokes, Interpol, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On The Radio.
One band of note that has recently emerged from this ever-bourgeoning scene is The Bosch, a quartet that successfully marries the immediate, one-two punch of punk bands like The Ramones and The Dead Boys with the detached cool of Lou Reed, while also adding in enough Nuggets-era stained garage rock and West Coast surf music to make both Lenny Kaye and Dick Dale beam with pride.
Livewire's Tony Bonyata recently caught up with this talented foursome consisting of Matt Harrison (vocals & guitar), Andrew Raff (keys & saxophone), Valerie Sauve (bass) and Holt Richardson (drums & vocals) to discuss the ups-and-downs of being a band from NYC, how they're able to adapt to the changing face of the music industry, some of their favorite Big Apple haunts, along with sharing their ultimate performance goal (hint: it's not too far from The Rolling Stones' 1975 promo stunt of performing live on a flatbed through the heart of Manhattan... although it could potentially be a bit more wet).
Livewire: Alright, let's get this name thing out of the way. Why "The Bosch?"
Andrew Raff: Matt and Holt had been playing together under the moniker hieronymus Bosch. They both studied art history in high school, Matt's dad is a respected art curator...
Holt Richardson: Hieronymus Bosch believed in the folly of mankind, Holt used to find depraved ways to pass the time in art history class. Most people have trouble spelling "Hieronymus," plus it's hard to compete in Google PageRank with a famous artist with a 400-year head-start. So, not only is "The" significantly shorter and easier to spell than "Hieronymus," but it also lets us be one of those very few bands whose name starts with "The." It stuck because of it's a multitude of meanings... Literally, "Den Bosch" in Dutch means "a forest," and it's a sort of insult from the WW2 era used by the French, referring to the Germans. So, retroactively, it's like "out of the woods," and "unpopular folks" all at once.
Livewire: Your newly released seven-song Hurry Up EP is already drawing comparisons to acts like The Strokes, The Ramones and even Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. Do you think these type of comparisons are fair or do you feel they're easy tags to latch onto since you're all NYC-based bands?
Andrew: Because there are so many influential bands to come out of NYC, it's certainly possible to find a touchpoint in the same ballpark—these are certainly more apt comparisons than other bands from the NYC area like, say, The Spin Doctors or the Beastie Boys.
It's totally fair to many of these bands, because we've listened to all those bands a lot. I think NYC just breeds a certain arty, frantic sound no matter what era you're in.
Livewire: Do you feel that being a band from NYC is an advantage, or are there any negatives attached?
Andrew: here in NYC, we have a vibrant music and nightlife scene, which means many opportunities to play with different bands and performers. But there is always so much going on that it can be hard to bring out a crowd, as it there is always somewhere else to go and other great bands playing at the same time.
Matt Harrison: NYC is a tough place to be. It's all the best combined with all the worst that this country has to offer...There are many more opportunities here than most parts of the country, especially considering the number of venues and their own individual character...
When we have gone out of town to play, we've found an unusually abandoned enthusiasm in the crowd, which we often don't find in NYC, and also we've found that there is a little extra something—not quite respect, but something like respect—that we get for being ambassadors of the Big Apple. No doubt, people in New York are savvy, sophisticated, and often they get this glazed look where they really look like they need to have a good time and then... we help them get there.
Holt: I think this is also a product of our increasingly media savvy society. Our American heritage lately seems pretty much to only have the entertainment industry to be proud of, so everyone feels a sense of ownership....but forgets about having fun.
Livewire: You've got a lot going on through these seven songs: from old-school punk, hook-riddled pop, garage rock and even a bit of surf and ska. Considering that you draw from so many different inspirations how do define your music when people ask?
Andrew: One word: phenomenawesometastic.
Holt: I think our bio line is: "...drawing on their entire storied history of rock music...." We like little bits of it all, we're pretty varied in our tastes, certainly I view this as a strength...and I know my personal tastes are for artists like The Clash, Ween, Frank Zappa, and Camper Van Beethoven... all artists who were/are far too interesting to have only one definite sound.
Matt: There are a lot of genres available for the cherry-picking, and in the end if you have an idea you should just choose whatever helps you bring it to fruition. If that means you put in surf with pop that makes it all the more interesting.
Livewire: Hurry Up is now your second EP. Do you have plans to release a full-length in the near future?
Matt: We'd like to record and release a full-length.; we are in the process of writing and developing songs that could be part of our next recording. We are also considering just to record and release shorter collections more frequently. Putting out a seven inch and internet release and appeal to the audiophiles and the masses all at once. Since we're a band that draws not a little from the earliest days of rock and roll, why not record that way and focus on singles?
Livewire: Is there any message behind the EP title?
Matt: Bill Clinton told me to "Hurry Up," our tracks are very high-tempo, and who knows when we're all going to be underwater, so it's best to have fun while you can!
Livewire: You recorded these seven tracks in NYC and had Duane Lundy (The Scourge of the Sea / The Apparitions/ Martha Berner) co-produce them with you (who also produced your first EP). What was it that made you choose to work with him again?
Holt: he smells nice. he makes us feel comfortable. You start to develop a real rapport with a producer over time, Duane knows our strengths and weaknesses, takes notes on demos, has seen us play live several times now...it's like having a lover, hopefully you learn the right buttons to push with your partner. Duane knows all my buttons.
Matt: he does know Holt's buttons. It's not pretty for the rest of us. But Duane has become The Bosch's life partner. he gets us, and knows the right approach for recording us. We're not Steely Dan - we try to get a performance in that's raw and has the right feel, and then we're moving on. he understands and sets up our sessions accordingly. I'd also like to give credit to Matt Verta-Ray of NY hed Studios (and of course heavy Trash). he got our vibe and is a master analog craftsman, and part of the reason the record sounds so good is his doing. I like to think that when he puts in his pomade in the morning, sometimes he listens to The Worst Thing.
Livewire: The vibe of this effort is one of raucous high-energy. how do your live shows compare?
Andrew: Compared to the EP, the live show is even more high-tempo, more raucous and slightly longer. On the album, you miss the awkward stage banter that you get with the live show.
Valerie: And if you're lucky, Holt will take his shirt off.
Livewire: Describe your fans.
Andrew: Our fans are 28% smarter and better looking than the general American public.
Holt: his name is James Kelly, he is 18 years old and lives in New Jersey.
Livewire: If someone tells you that they're visiting NYC for the first time where do you tell them they have to go before they leave?
Andrew: Brooklyn! It's America's fourth-largest city. Combine a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with a stroll around Brooklyn heights (the first neighborhood preserved as an historical district in the US). It's nice and scenic.
Matt: It all depends on how much you like to drink. If you do, forget about serious trips to the far-flung reaches of the city, or even museums - your sleep schedule won't allow for it. Focus on the excellent music venues and alcohol-serving establishments. Otherwise, get up early and roll around town while the sunlight is soothing all the hipsters to sleep. Actually, the best option is to do whatever it takes to not sleep and do it all.
Livewire: Do you have a favorite club to play in town?
Matt: The Mercury Lounge. Unlike many of the other clubs in the Lower East Side, Mercury is first and foremost a music club, and the music room isn't in the basement or in the back - it is the club's raison d'etre. It's the best-sounding small room in NYC and the staff is always professional and friendly.
Livewire: Being a band from NY that plays punk, did you ever have the opportunity to play CBGBs before they closed?
Holt: My previous Band, German Cars vs. American Homes did play the main stage. I'll never forget it. It is preserved on minidisk, which will never go out of fashion J.
Livewire: Favorite NYC record store?
Andrew: Does Insound www.insound.com (NY-based online indie retailer) count?
Matt: There are lots of good record stores here, so for me it's really about, is it a good experience to shop there? I really like Etherea on Avenue A. The staff is friendly and helpful, and they have a nice vinyl selection of new rock music. Other Music and Academy are also good spots. Much as I like the great selection at Kim's on St. Mark's, I thought that ‘tude went out of fashion some time ago - you know, even before record stores became an endangered species.
Holt: No, 'tude is alive and well in "This Town" ha-ha! Get it? "This Town?"
Livewire: Hurry Up is self-released effort. Will you be seeking label support for your next release or do you feel it's even necessary in this age of self-promotion with so many new methods of getting music to the people?
Andrew: For a large part, the internet makes it possible to promote and sell music directly without signing to a label. Radiohead is showing that it's possible to go it alone and still get noticed, if you are Radiohead. They have access to the bully pulpit of the major media and a critical mass of fans who will support them in any endeavor (including me.) For a band that hasn't written "Creep" or recorded The Bends and isn't one of the biggest bands in the world, a record label can still be very useful. Signing with a label not only helps by being able to take advantage of established distribution and promotion efforts, but for a new band, it also helps add another bit of credibility to the developing band's efforts—it is an easy signal to other parts of the industry about the nature and opening of the band. Where a label can help push a band to the next level, it can be a mutually beneficial arrangement. Even though there are so many methods of getting music to the masses, you still need to find a way to get the people to listen. Unless you're in an exceptionally good position, a label also helps provide legitimacy, expertise, guidance, and a network of contacts. But for a new band, while the support of a label may no longer be necessary, it is a valuable asset. It means having more people working to promote and support the album and a way to plug in with music supervisors for television, films and commercials and other ways to make it possible to sell out find ways of marketing and selling music, which makes it feasible to record more music.
Matt: While I'd love the validation that would come with label support, the much more satisfying recognition of more and more people digging what we do is what I'm after - and, these days, I think it makes for a more sustainable band anyway.
Livewire: What is your preferred choice for listening to music (vinyl, CD or digital?)
Andrew: I'm the delegate from the digital generation. Vinyl still sounds warmer than CD and simply better than MP3/AAC, but for those of us who live in studio apartments, work in offices on the computer all day, and kneel at Steve Jobs' Reality Distortion Field with our iPhones, it's hard to beat the convenience of digital.
Holt: honestly, I do prefer Vinyl. I'm a touch out of step, by design. I like big record covers, and all the little rituals involved in listening to vinyl, like sweeping the surface of the platter with my specialized brush as it spins around on the turntable, before the needle ever hits the groove. Plus I like making the commitment to listen to a whole side of an album instead of punching skip, skip, skip, until my device randomly picks something I can tolerate.
Matt: Vinyl. I spend more and more of my spare cash on it. It still sounds best, it makes you respect the recording because you have to treat it well as an object, and the lush sound makes you want to really listen to it.
Valerie: I like CDs because it is the better of the two worlds, I still love to look at the artwork, and have this physical thing to collect and look at on my shelves.
Livewire: Any plans on potentially pressing a vinyl 7" or full-length LP for future releases?
Matt: I'd love to press a vinyl release— it fits our vibe well. Hopefully we can get into the studio soon to do a little 7"/digital release and also press a vinyl version of any future album.
Livewire: Your new video for "Brooklyn Cars" is hysterical, with Holt dancing in a spastic, rubbery way throughout. What was the thought behind creating this video?
Holt: Valerie introduced the idea of a "work-out-video", and beyond that, it's just the visually-entertaining realizations of that concept. That's pretty much the way I am in real life, just heightened a touch.
Matt: Holt is indeed spastic, and rubbery.
Livewire: How important do you think promo videos are for bands today?
Andrew: It's yet another way of getting noticed. And with the internet, bands don't have to rely on MTV/Vh1 to show videos. Being able to see videos on demand makes them more accessible and a better promotional tool. Plus, there are many people bored at work who will take 5 minutes to watch a video online and forward along to their friends if it is truly entertaining. While I think that music is still very important, a clever video can elevate a song and be a fantastic promotion for a band. Look at OK Go—they're a good band, but they broke into mainstream popular attention because of their brilliant videos.
Livewire: What new music are guys into?
Andrew: I've been digging this new album by this little unsigned band from the UK called Radiohead. From NYC, I think Earl Greyhound is phenomenal—they play unabashed Zeppelin-throwback rock music that's still modern, stylish and just awesome. heavy Trash, the Jon Spencer/Matt Verta-Ray project is very cool. And that's not only because Matt engineered our EP. Also, The Sadies, who play as backing musicians on some of the heavy Trash album tracks, are great in their own right.
Holt: Andrew, I mean "Strippy" also plays some sax on the above mentioned album.
Andrew: The album isn't new, but I still keep coming back to listen to Devin Davis's 2005 Lonely People of the World, Unite! The disc has a unique frenetic energy, wit and charm. I got into them through their TV show, but Flight of the Conchords (New Zealand's fourth most popular digi-folk paradists) is brilliant. Not only are they funny, but also they write great songs. And to keep it to one jazz album, Chris Potter Underground, "Follow the Red Line" has Potter (a brilliant saxophonist) playing with some of the best jazzers on the rise in NYC, including Craig Taborn, Adam Rogers and Nate Smith.
Matt: I want to meet Ted Leo. I think he'd really dig us. I really like his stuff.
Livewire: If you could live in any place and time, where and when would it be?
Andrew: I do enjoy NYC in late 2007 (and would entertain the notion of living in Cortina, Italy) but I might have to go with the future. That is, the fun "Star Trek" or "Back to the Future II" future, not the dystopian "Terminator" or "Battlestar Galactica" future with killer robots. (OK, my fellow geeks will nitpick that the really awesome modern-BSG could actually be set in the distant past or, like the cheesy original series, what turns out to be 1980.)
Holt: Prehistory. Like ancient nomadic hunter-gatherer style. Or, a post-apocalyptic Mars. A fresh start for a newly unified humanity. Also, the 1950s in the United States, as a relatively young war hero, enjoying the fruits of American Industrial triumph, dead by 55, with a pill-popping, dirty Donna Reed type as my wife. I could dig that.
Livewire: Is it just me or is there anything cooler than a punk band with a talented female bass player?
Andrew: No—there is nothing cooler.
Holt: Nothing, Nothing in this world. Especially considering she's one of the guys, while simultaneously making a bunch of nerdy shits like us look like respectable human beings. Valerie is one of my best friends, and I am so grateful for that extra element she brings to our dynamic. We are beyond lucky to have her among us.
Matt: The only thing cooler would be to have Ed McMahon show up with the big check - and then Bob Barker is there, too, with the skinny microphone! That's my personal awesome fantasy. Failing that, yes, nothing is cooler.
Valerie: Thanks guys. I just like to play bass.
Livewire: With your new EP just out, what are your plans for promoting it and what's next for The Bosch?
Andrew: Our initial plan of action was to entertain one person per day for the next 300 million or so days until we've entertained all of America. Unfortunately, from what I understand about time, that may not be the most efficient or plausible plan. So instead, we're going to try to entertain as many people as possible with our rapier wit, film another video for this EP, play more awesome shows, and attempt to harness the awesome power of the internet (which is not a truck). Oh, and perform on a hovercraft racing up and down the East River.
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