Broke-Ass Band Interview – The Depreciation Guild
The Depreciation Guild is set to release their sophomore album, 'œSpirit Youth', on May 18th. Kurt Feldman answered a few questions about the band over email in front of their appearance in Austin at SXSW and their spring tour with Serena Maneesh. The DG will be playing at Bottom of the Hill at 17th and Missouri on Tuesday, March 23rd.
Steven: Hey guys. Thanks for taking the time to educate us out in San Francisco about the band and giving some insight into the daily life of touring, up-and-coming artists. Before we get into that stuff, I was hoping you could describe your sound to unfamiliar readers. Two things pop out. The first is about the classification of your music, and the second is about the Famicom. First things first, though.
Most critics put you in the 'œshoegazing' sub-genre of alt-rock. Before I looked it up, I thought shoegazing was from the listener’s perspective. Shoegazing (literally, staring at your shoes while you walk and listen to music), to me, was reserved for podcasts, waltzes, and Sea Change by Beck. Your sound is not of this variety. Can you explain what 'œshoegazing' is and if you think 'œshoegazing' is an appropriate label?
Kurt: The term 'œshoegazing' more refers to the guitarists on stage in the early 90’s who, because they had so many effects pedals to operate, were always staring down at their shoes. My Bloody Valentine and the like are the forefathers of this genre. We do often get lumped in with this type of music, even though we don’t really use that many effects pedals, nor do we rely so much on the textures they provide as the integral structure or focus for our songs. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what people think the music is, so long as they like it. To me, our sound is just pop music at the core, with more distortion.
Steven: The Famicom. For production novices, what is it? How influential are the sounds in crafting the final song product?
Kurt: The Famicom is the Japanese version of what we call in the US “The Nintendo Entertainment System.” The programming I did for that system (for use as an instrument) was an element that was integral to our first album because it was 1/2 of the guitar/Famicom formula we were using then. Since recording our most recent record, it’s not become emphasized any less, but rather supplemented more by other instrumentation (i.e. synthesizers, live percussion, bass guitar, etc.). It still plays a part in our sound, it’s just woven between more instruments now.
Steven: This was the most descriptive phrase of DG’s sound: 'œIt’s like being licked by sea waves, whilst drinking a cocktail with George Michael.' There’s a lot going on with that. I definitely hear the 80s influence, but I’m not sure what getting licked by sea waves is like. Care to come up with a more accurate phrase?
Kurt: Yes, there’s a lot of 80’s influence in our music. I listen to lots of glossy synth pop, Japanese techno pop, new wave, etc. and that finds it’s way into our music, especially from a production standpoint. As for that description, it’s probably the best one I’ve heard thus far — I wouldn’t change a thing. I love George Michael. I think he has one of the smoothest voices in pop history.
Steven: I’d imagine that the SXSW appearance is a pivotal moment for DG. You had success with 2007’s 'œIn Her Gentle Jaws' (great album name!), offering the album as a free download online. Was the decision, at that time, to offer an entire album for free hard?
Kurt: Not really. At the time, we didn’t have a record label willing to press our album and we felt that it would be silly for people to pay for a record by a band they knew nothing about so we gave it away for free and did the promotion ourselves alongside our manager. It wasn’t that we thought the record was undeserving of a proper release, we just thought more people would appreciate getting something good for free and would be more likely to spread the word if that was the case. For the most part, that was true.
Steven: Can you discuss what the trajectory has been like for DG from the early days playing in Brooklyn to an event with the exposure of SXSW, and the upcoming tour?
Kurt: We’ve never played SXSW before, so there’s really no telling how much exposure we’ll be getting from that. I think for most bands, SXSW is something you do to experience and be a part of and not really reap the benefits of industry representation. For us, there has been a very slow and steady trajectory for interest in the band since we started playing shows 5 years ago, which came from playing shows locally, followed by releasing a record, to touring nationally and internationally. I think that’s pretty standard fare.
Steven: Day-to-day life when you’re touring has to be a grueling existence. What makes it great?
Kurt: Driving around with your friends, eating regional snack foods, and experiencing new sights.
Steven: What makes it horrible?
Kurt: Driving 6-8 hours to a venue only to occasionally play poorly for half an hour, unfamiliar sleeping arrangements sans girlfriends.
Steven: In times of financial straits similar to fellow broke-asses, how successful are you at getting ladies to buy you drinks?
Kurt: My girlfriend Caycee buys me drinks sometimes, so pretty good I guess. I buy most of the time though.
Steven: The tour schedule includes stops at some great cities. Outside of playing on March 23rd at Bottom of the Hill, where else are looking most forward to play?
Kurt: Chicago has always been really good to us and I’m excited to see some of my friends that live there. Likewise for Portland. Also, I really had a great time in Seattle and Vancouver last time we were in those cities.
Steven: Do you have a favorite spot in SF or NYC to hang that’s cheap, fun, and cool?
Kurt: In NY there’s a coffee place I go pretty much every day called Variety. It’s not super-cheap, but it’s great coffee. The Garden is another place where you can buy gourmet snacks and sandwiches for cheap. Those are both in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where we all live. In SF I’ve had some great Mexican food in the Mission. I think the place I’ve been to the most which was really great was Taqueria Cancun. Christoph and Anton are also experts on Mexican food (and food in general) and I think they thought that place was pretty good.
Steven: You seem to be leveraging the super-cheap means of the internet wisely to distribute your music. What other advice could you lend to other ascending musicians that’s cost-effective?
Kurt: If you don’t have an established fan base, giving your music away for free (digitally) can potentially help develop one. Though, I’m pretty sure everyone knows that already.
Steven: Care to list the main influences of your work?
Kurt: Gangway, Scritti Politti, Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Microdisney, The Wake, Cocteau Twins, Bill Nelson, Yukihiro Takahashi, YMO, Talk Talk
Steven: In one word from each member, describe to readers what to expect at the show, other than shoegazing.
The Depreciation Guild with Serena Maneesh
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th Street (17th @Missouri)
Tickets are $12 and can be bought here.