February 3, 2015

Show Us Yours #24: Kindling

Attentive readers with fairly decent memories know that Clicky Clicky fell pretty hard for Western Mass.-based shoegaze duo Kindling early on, back when it was intent on building an open-ended catalogue of demos called Spare Room [link] in an apartment. Well, it turns out the little shoegaze pair that could -- comprised of bike shop guy and Ampere fronter Stephen Pierce and Gretchen Williams, whose proverbial bag is global health and human rights -- had a big 2014: releasing its beautifully blurred debut single "Spike & Wave" via Dallas-based Moon Sound Records; moving into a proper practice space; expanding its lineup to include dudes named Andy, Andy and Jonathan; and performing its first live gigs. And 2015 looks to be even bigger, as the now-quintet plans to record a couple times this month, including a shoe brand-sponsored session at Q Division Studios in Somerville, before starting to track a Kindling full-length later in the year. We decided to check in with guitarist and co-founder Stephen Pierce for an interview before things got too hairy, to learn more about Kindling's new rehearsal digs at Easthampton, Mass.' Sonelab and general goings-on. We thank Mr. Pierce for his time and attentiveness, and invite you to read our exchange below.
Clicky Clicky: So why do you use this practice space? What makes it the best space for Kindling right now?

Stephen Pierce: Sonelab is great. It's a three-minute bike ride or drive from most of our houses, which is huge and makes it feel worth it for me to go down there even if just for an hour or so to work on ideas. It's a 24-hour space, too, which is nice when you can't start practice sometimes until 9pm. Because it's in a warehouse that otherwise hasn't been too developed (beyond the studio, the practice spaces, and two (!!) breweries), we don't have to really worry too much about disturbing anyone. A luxury, to be sure, for a loud band.

CC: Is there an idiosyncrasy or quirk to the space that has affected the sound of one of your songs, or even the overall Kindling sound? I imagine that might have been more of an issue before you moved into Sonelab, yeah?

SP: I think having the green light to get every amp going at once has had an impact on what full-band Kindling sounds like, sure. Like, when I'd plug in at home, or even when recording Gretchen's vocals for the 7", we'd be hyper-aware that we were right above the downstairs neighbor's living room. They're friends of ours, but that made us even more conscious of volume than we would've been had they been strangers. Like, it's easier to just say "fuck 'em, they can deal with it" if you don't know who you're inconveniencing. I guess I'd still feel pretty guilty about that, too. In any case, sound changes when it gets louder, and the songs that we had quietly written and recorded at home get a chance to open up now that we're A) a full band, and B) at Sonelab.

CC: You walk into your space. What's the first thing that you smell?

SP: Any sort of mix of old warehouse smells, like old wood, and lately solder if I've been working on wiring pedals. We never let it get so bad that it smells like old beer, but a world could exist where that may happen someday.

CC: I assume with the recording studio as part of the complex -- that's right, yeah? -- the spaces must be pretty well sound-proofed? Or can you only play when there are no sessions on? Does Mr. Pizzoferrato ever wander in?

SP: Well, the studio is definitely a part of it, but they have a good buffer between the studio and the rooms. I've never heard anything coming from the studio when I'm in our room, and they're super soundproofed, so I've got to imagine that they don't hear whatever's going on in the spaces. We can play whenever. The rooms themselves, though, will definitely experience bleed from neighboring rooms, but I don't think it would really ever be audible while playing except for, like, the quietest bands. No one's drowning anyone else out, I don't think.

With Justin, usually it's the other way around, where I'll go pop into the studio and hang out in his control room with him when buddies are recording, but that's not super often. I try to be conscious about how an outsider's presence may alter a band's studio experience or productivity or whatever. As ya do, I make sure that I'm not coming at the worst possible time before going in. You know.

CC: I didn't realize that Ampere was still a going concern until I saw some notices about recent shows.

SP: Ha, yeah! We're still at it. As long as people want us to do the occasional cool thing in a part of the world that we've never visited, we're down. Like, we're going to Sweden in April to play a single show. Ampere usually practices at Will's studio, Dead Air, in Leverett, which is about 30 minutes from Easthampton, but [we] recently practiced at the Kindling space for the first time. It was fun, but it just sounded and felt weirdly different. I'm sure it was mostly just the context of one band practicing where another band lives.

CC: Kindling has expanded since we first started writing about the band. Has that changed the songwriting process at all? Would you say Kindling is now more "bandy?"

SP: I mean, we're definitely a BAND and we definitely develop by interacting with each other's parts, but the writing process is still something I do at home or on my own at the space rather than at practice. I tend to get the song fully worked out and recorded before we try to start learning it together. The recordings streamline things, make it easier to communicate ideas, especially when you're a guy that isn't super comfortable with the idea of telling people what to do. I've been in bands with Andy, our drummer, since I was a teenager, though - so, really, the drums that I hear in my head when working on the songs at home end up syncing up perfectly with the sort of stuff he'd do. From exposure, Andy's become the drummer in my head, which definitely makes things easy and fast on that end.

CC: So you are the sole songwriter then? Does Gretchen contribute lyrics, or is that all you as well?

SP: No, I'd hesitate to say that I'm the sole songwriter. When you bring other people into a creative thing, whatever you start with becomes a lot more fluid. There's an ebb and a flow. Gretchen brings a lot to shaping the songs, and often the recordings that I begin with will be edited to, like, change a lead or something based on her feedback. It's really important to the band, I think, to have her as a creative partner. It forces me to think outside of myself, which can be hard for me to do after spending, you know, a full day playing the same riff over and over, then listening back to that riff. New ideas that I wouldn't necessarily land on by myself come from that. And lyrically, it's a split responsibility. We started the band together, and I'd never ever want to downplay how important a role she plays in what the end-product is.

CC: All that aside, what do the next six months look like for Kindling?

SP: We're recording a few times [this month] -- two days with Justin, and one day at Q Division in Somerville for a Converse Rubber Tracks session. They have a few pieces of cool gear there that I've never used before, like an Echoplex EP-3 and a Roland Space Echo, so we wrote a song kind of designed to make the most of that stuff. Not too far after that, we'll be going back to Sonelab to record a full-length, which we're just about done working on. The hope is to spend a few weekends playing shows - like New York/Brooklyn, Boston, Philly or wherever makes sense - with friends' bands, but I guess with the recordings coming up so soon, we'll think harder about firming that sort of thing up after we're done. I think it's best for me to only be super-focused on one thing at a time. There's a good deal of insanity, by the way, that goes into our process. All of which [is] on my end.
Moon Sounds Records plans to issue "Spike & Wave" on cassette, according to this Facebook status, so for those of you who feel the vinyl 7" isn't quite anachronistic enough for you, take heart! Apparently, the 300-piece initial pressing of the single to vinyl is dwindling, so if you want one of those, you'd best get on that now. We premiered the single right here in July, and we are very much looking forward to hearing the planned new recordings.

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 | Earthquake Party! | Hallelujah The Hills | Seeds Of Doubt | The Cherry Wave | Coaches | Night Mechanic

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