Interview: John Andrews (QUILT)

An interview with John Andrews from QUILT.
By Libby Miller

They may be art students from Boston, but their music evokes pure west coast gold. Rich harmonies like sunshine at magic hour, quirky bridges, warm key shifts, piano and strings rippling like surf in the ocean… All of this plus languid reverb that my kid says sounds like music playing in the bathroom “because of the echoey-ness.” Quilt will take you to places you’ve been before, but with new eyes, and new voices too. Echoes of the Doors ricochet with those of The Clientele and Felt. Where tambourine meets synth, generations converge and expand in a strange, beautiful Sergeant Pepper dance between all the dimensions of the universe. In their new album, Held in Splendor, Anna Fox Rochinski’s beguiling Alice-in-Wonderland vocals make listeners want to follow her down any rabbit hole. As she sings with a forthrightness that characterizes the album as a whole, Tie up the tides as they’re rising / as they fall / What can I get? What can I hold? / Should I even ask these things at all?  Yes, we want to tell her. Definitely. Yes.

QUILT plays Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on February 14th.

Beyond recording in a proper studio, what were the major differences between making the new album vs. the first one? What has changed/evolved for the band over the last few years?

Well, there were quite a few differences between the making both albums. The first album was made over the course of a year in everyone’s spare time. The new album was recorded in one month. Quilt has been a band since 2009, and we have grown very organically since then. Sometimes bands start and three months later they get real huge and they just aren’t ready to handle certain things. We have had a slow gradual processing of growing to where we are and it has made things healthier and sustainable.

What’s it like to now have so much incredible press under your belt, from NPR to Pitchfork to Elle magazine? How do you feel about the kind of feedback you’ve gotten so far? Do you feel it’s an accurate representation of who you are as music makers in the world?

It’s always great to have people respond in positive ways to your art. I’m super appreciative that we have received fairly decent reviews. It’s also important to take all that feedback with a grain of salt and not worry too much about what people say about your music. I think it can be bad for your own creative process to worry about other people’s opinions.

How does the existence of personalized internet radio (Rdio, Pandora, etc.) affect the way you think about and produce music? What, if any, are your current favorite personal stations?

To be completely honest i don’t really listened to any online radio stations like that. Usually driving in a car i just try to find an oldies station. I think it’s great that there are custom radio stations like that though. I did used to like a lot when i was younger. It’s sort of like this weird family tree of bands. The ‘similar artists’ section is a cool way to discover some new music. Thats how i found out about this dude John Simon who produced The Band’s albums. He’s got a solo album that is pretty funny. He’s got an interesting singing voice. It’s not the best voice but that’s why i like it. David Byrne said something along the lines of “I can’t trust singers with good voices”. I’m down with that. Sometimes.

Your lyrics are beautiful. I especially love Tie Up the Tides and I Sleep in Nature. What’s your lyric-writing process? Do you collaborate?

Thanks! Writing lyrics can either be the easiest thing in the world, or the most difficult. I find that sometimes if you sit down and your like “I’m going to write the lyrics to this song” it will just never happen. Lyrics definitely come to me best when I’m not even thinking about it.   It happens a lot just spontaneously. I sort of channel this weird energy and wonder to myself afterwards “Who really wrote those lyrics?”. Because sometimes they just pour right out of you without even thinking about it. The lyrics in I Sleep in nature just came to me in 2 seconds. “To find the water that lives within the ice” has so many meanings to me.  We all write the lyrics and they are born all over then place. Riding bicycles, walking through the woods, eating a donut.

Talk a little bit about the album cover for Held in Splendor, with the three blanketed figures in the boat. How did that come about?

It was a collaborative idea between all of us. It’s the pond in Jamaica Plain, MA. I always wanted to shoot a music video there. Shane was walking around the pond one day and took a picture of the weird little island in the middle of it and showed it to us. Anna and I brought a bunch of our favorite blankets and fabrics. We rented a boat and paddled out there. The boat house told us that if we went past the little island, we would get in trouble and they would send a “rescue” boat to holler at us and send us back, so we had to do it fast. Our friend Allison Phamarkis shot the photo. It was a nice day. Our blankets got soaked with nasty pond water and i accidentally left one in my car for weeks and it made my car smell terrible. My car smells bad any day though. The blankets are all clean now and reside on my sofa.

Describe your first conscious breakthrough moment as a band…the one where you knew—or at least suspected—you were putting something good out there, something you wanted to share.

We got an email from this cool dude from Australia who told us he listened to our first album in a sensory deprivation chamber. He has probably experienced the album in a way that none of us have even. He basically WAS the album at that point.  We have also been told by several people that they have had very spiritual experiences listening to our music. I love hearing that stuff.

Favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman movie?

Man that is a tough one. I’d say Punch Drunk Love is one of my favorites. His character in that is so scummy and badass. The sound design in that movie is super strange and psychedelic. I also thought he was pretty good in “The Master”. I saw that movie at the Coolidge Corner theater in Boston with my friend Ali and there were some annoying teenagers talking the whole time and Ali turned around and  yelled at them. It was funny.

Where on your European tour are you most excited to go and why?

I am so excited to go everywhere in Europe. We’ve never been there before so I have absolutely no idea what to expect. I really want to go to Stone henge but I’m not sure if it will fit in our schedule. I’ve always been very attracted to that place. Man, that shit was definitely built by UFOs. We are going to be in Amsterdam for our bass player Keven Lareau’s birthday. I can only imagine how that night will pan out.