What if time didn’t exist? What if by splitting up every single second of your life, every experience could become both something you’ve already been through and something you have yet to face? Time, and its perception, has always been a pop music obsession; nostalgia for an age yet to come, Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley used to sing. An obsession shared by Blouse, a Portland based trio conceived eighteen months ago by art school graduates Charlie Hilton and Patrick Adams and bass player and studio wizard Jacob Portrait (also in Unknown Mortal Orchestra). Their self-titled debut album – a short sweet shock lasting just over half an hour – is a snapshot of their love for the past (hints of icy new wave, the multi layered sounds of the best 80s productions, and in Videotapes even the sound of tapes melting), blurring the edges and discovering new and uncharted territories. “I was in the future yesterday”, Charlie sings, and it sounds so true. Jacob kindly sat with us and talked.
First of all, let’s get to know Blouse. How did you get together? And how did the band develop?
Charlie and Patrick became friends at Art School, which turned into jamming in the basement, with myself (Jacob), who was living with Patrick at the time; that led to recording some songs at a warehouse studio I have in Portland. Into Black was uploaded to bandcamp and received some nice reviews and a fan video. They band decided to do a 7″ with Sub Pop records and eventually signed with Captured Tracks for the debut LP. Which brings us to NOW.
Was there a precise estethics idea since the beginning? Was it drawing from music or other influences? If so, which ones?
I’m not sure about precise estethics, but I think the LP clearly represents its influences. I have some equipment from the 70′s and 80′s that definitely made an impressive on the recordings; keyboards and effects boxes. Charlie has a chorus pedal that we love to use on stuff. Essentially, We would get together and smoke cigarettes and have a drink at the warehouse; listening to music in the background. Someone would hear something that sparked some inspiration. Charlie writes songs on her own quite often, so she would grab a guitar and start showing us an idea. We would end up with a recorded song the next day. The majority of the LP was made that way.
Portland, Where you come from, was described in “Dig” as a small community of likeminded artists, and more recently parodied in the tv show “Portlandia”. Leaving the exaggerations aside, is it really so?
Portland is positively a small community of artists. I think the show Portlandia is pretty funny and accurate. I’m not sure DIG is accurate, but at the point in time it was filmed, I think it shows a bit about what was happening in Portland.
After a couple of singles, you finally release your debut, which seems to shed the initial “dream-pop” tag or at least mixes it both with icy synths and rhythms and melodic bass lines not heard since the hey days of New Order’s Peter Hook. Would you agree? Was it the goal you were trying to achieve?
We just did what we wanted, song by song and I think you can expect more of that in the future. Patrick played bass on most of the album and you can here his style pretty clearly; pumping rhythms and hooky ideas. Charlie has a very calm aesthetic with her songs and vocal delivery. She is also great at coming up with little catchy keyboard lines. Mixing that with drum machines and simple programming, and the equipment I talked about earlier, I suppose it sometimes ends up in a New Wave category.
I am particularly intrigued by Time Travel, whose musical nod to the early 80s synth wave, particularly the restless marching of Depeche Mode’s Photographic fits perfectly its retrofuturistic lyrics. “I was in the future yesterday”: can you tell us more about it?
That’s what I thought, too. Charlie wrote that song and recorded it on garageband. She sent it to me and Patrick. At the time I was really into the arpeggiator on my Juno 6. I did a couple passes layering the keyboards. There are three on the recording. Charlie came in and sang on top of it. Time Travel sounds pretty authentically 80′s; the mix of keyboards, with the soft vocal and retro-futuristic lyrics. We had layered the lyrics at one point, but Patrick was concerned it sounded a bit, too robotic. So, we ended up printing the mix with the single lead vocal, which I think was a good idea.
Unlike other new bands, you also give enourmous importance to the visual side of your music. The video for Into black is simply stunning. Tell us more about it.
Friends of ours with a video company named, Wooden Lens made that video. They cut pieces of a film (Les Amants du Pont-Neuf) together to accompany the music. It worked pretty well.
Three essential facts about you which will never appear in your biography.
I get mad when I’m hungry, Charlie was a ballerina, and Patrick loves Full House.
Finally, a quick game: songs to be whistling to. and songs you hate to find yourself to be whistling.
Whistling Brian Eno’s Needle In The Camel’s Eye. Not Whistling ERIC CLAPTON.
“Blouse” is out now on Captured Tracks
mp3:Blouse – Videotapes