[PHOTO CREDITS: Ian Doerr/bad digital collaging by Clicky Clicky] Earthquake Party! is a band so good that we actually willingly use their superfluous punctuation. The Boston-based trio makes frenetic indie pop that is so desperately energetic it comes across as imperative, it needs to happen. The act has released only a handful of songs to date (despite being together for about three years), but the urgent thrill of every one of them makes us think of how a diver feels post-plunge as she anticipates surfacing, anticipates the visceral pleasure of that first deep, clear breath of air. After a chance meeting with guitarist Justin Lally early this summer, wherein we discussed the incredibly ambitious LP the band has been working on, we decided it was time to get a better sense of what makes Earthquake Party! tick. And what better way than to survey where the magic is made? As with scenemates Krill, EqP! actually have a fairly unusual practice space situation. No, not a mansion, but a recording studio located north of Boston called Mystic Steamship. We put some questions to Mr. Lally about what it's like to practice there, and, of course, about the album. Along the way he offered one of the most articulate descriptions of the joy of being in a band united in a creative endeavor. We're grateful to Mr. Lally for his time, and we invite you to read on and, if you are not familiar, check out the music below the interview as well.
Clicky Clicky Music Blog: So why do you use this space? What makes a recording studio a better fit for Earthquake Party! versus, say, a malodorous and poorly lit closet at the Sound Museum in Allston?
Justin Lally: It was less of a cognitive choice and more of an opportunity we stumbled into. We have had many spots in the past... ranging from big, dirty rooms where the end of practices always included inviting friends for impromptu shows, to basements that made our eyes and throats sting after being down there for more than 20 minutes. The Mystic Steamship space is great, and having the ability to record practices and listen back is such a helpful tool... Sometimes you don't hear everything that's going on in the room when everything is turned up and everyone is going full bore, then you listen back and realize, "hey, maybe those riffs don't actually go together" or "that drum fill before the first chorus was perfect, we should keep that"...stuff like that.
CC: I'd imagine practicing in a studio created with acoustics in mind offers some advantages, sonically. Is there an idiosyncrasy or quirk of the space that has affected one of your songs, or even your overall sound?
JL: Having a room that is designed for playing music is helpful, but overall we practice for our live show... which includes turning up real loud and trying to create and troubleshoot things that we would run into at a venue or basement.
CC: Usually we ask bands how their practice space smells in this feature, because we think that gives readers a really visceral idea of what it's like to hang out in there. However, I imagine Mystic Steamship is -- if you'll pardon this turn of phrase -- fairly ship-shape. But you must have practiced in at least one pretty rank place before -- any unpleasant memories you wanna share?
JL: First off, Mystic usually smells great because Ian Doerr (who is producing our upcoming record) is always burning these little incense sticks all around... that and the smell of solder, which i also enjoy. The basement of my current apartment is probably the worst place we have practiced... it's way too cluttered to set up any sort of arrangement that is conducive to being creative, and the air quality is shit. Also, the water heaters have exploded a couple of times and soaked the bottom two inches of all of our gear.
CC: I know from our chat early this summer that Earthquake Party! is in the midst of cutting a very ambitious full-length that aims to cram 28 songs into a little more than a half-hour. But I was surprised to hear you say that the music wasn't entirely written. Are you working with some sort of conceptual roadmap that lets you know you're looking for certain number of songs?
JL: There're 28 song names... We'll see how many survive the maturation process. I've been very into albums lately that utilize -- I guess you could call them interludes -- shorter bits of music that help the overall album have a more cohesive identity, but also allow you to cover more ground without sounding scattered.
CC: You guys seems to be about quality rather than quantity, when it comes to length of your songs. But also in terms of the gross number of songs, too: you've been around for three years, but have only officially released six songs. Potentially packing 28 songs on to the new record goes to the opposite extreme. What brought on the deluge? And is there some sense of relief from just getting so many songs out of your head all at once?
JL: We have done what we were able to in the past, and also what made sense for our band at those moments... and it just makes sense to do this album with Ian now. It's been so easy and fun in the tracking sessions... I've had the chance to use some gear I didn't think I'd ever hold, let alone record with (1960s Vox Phantom XII through an original Electro-Harmonix POG through a Traynor stack with blown 15" speakers... totally bonkers). And beyond that, we are really good friends having fun making a record. We'll drive to the beach just talking about the pros and cons of tambourine vs. sleighbells on a track, or which songs could handle drums completely hard panned... it never feels like we're punching the clock and recording music. We have always been creatures of circumstance, right now it's going pretty well.
CC: You also mentioned to me taking a cue from Guided By Voices when thinking about the new record, its brevity, its ratio of big ideas to short running times. I remember being surprised that you covered "Tractor Rape Chain" in your session for WMBR's Pipeline last year [link], because I thought you guys were coming from more of a C86/agit-twee kind of place. Has Guided By Voices always been an influence? Has the scope of what influences Earthquake Party!, and what Earthquake Party! wants to be, changed since the inception of the band?
JL: I've always been a huge fan of melody, and Robert Pollard has always been someone I've admired. That guy has written thousands of memorable songs that don't boast a great riff or solo, it all comes back to the melody. I don't think the thesis statement of the band has changed much at all... I do think we are trying some things on this record that we were incapable of before, but we are still three people humming and yelping about the delight of living with reckless abandon.
CC: What does the next six months look like for you guys?
JL: Finishing the record. I'm trying to put all my waking thought into this thing first before moving on. But... there's been talk of a Beach Toys(check em out)/Earthquake Party! tour in the fall, stay tuned. And of course we will be playing Boston shows in the coming months.
Previous Show Us Yours episodes:
Shapes And Sizes | Dirty On Purpose | Relay | Mobius Band | Frightened Rabbit | Assembly Now | Meneguar | Okay Paddy | Charmparticles | Calories | Sun Airway | It Hugs Back | Lubec | A Giant Dog | Bent Shapes | Krill | Golden Gurls