This Thursday night The Bilinda Butchers will be throwing a record release show for Heaven at The Chapel, with Craft Spells headlining. Their ambitious debut full-length is a historical concept album set in 19th century Japan with themes concentrating on loyalty, the afterlife, and suicide. Michal Palmer, Adam Honingford, and Ryan Wansley comprise what most should catch as the My Bloody Valentine reference, and have recently been signed to Orchid Tapes (Elvis Depressedly, Alex G). After two successful EPs that were well-received and labeled nostalgia/dream pop, this new album is a synthy and upbeat progression rife with atmospheric pulls and contextual density. Check out the band’s description for the album below, as well as the whens and wheres for their California coast tour with Craft Spells, and purchase the LP on white vinyl from Orchid Tapes here.
“THE BILINDA BUTCHERS’ HEAVEN is a soundtrack set to the diary by Nakajima Ume, a young woman who lived in Japan from 1836 to 1864. The diary’s entries catalog her catastrophic marriage to a cruel nobleman, and her later introduction to a young, idealistic poet whose expressions of sympathy inspire her to escape from her unfortunate circumstances. When her friendship with the poet is discovered, Ume is sent away to a distant village, where she falls into a deep depression and eventually learns of the poet’s death. Though the news of the poet’s death initially disturbs Ume, she soon discovers within herself a new sense of clarity and motivation. Her diary ends with a final pronouncement: she will drown herself in order to reunite with her fallen lover.”
The Bay Bridged: How did everyone in the band meet?
Michal: Adam and I met in 6th grade. He got me into The Beatles and that’s how we started talking about music and after that we became really close, and Ryan is from the same town that we’re from, Concord. We were looking for a drummer about three years ago, and my roommate at the time who’s really good friends with Ryan said I have a friend who plays drums, so it just naturally fell into place. And then we played for two years…
Ryan: It was a long time. About two years before they even offered to me if I wanted to be a part of the actual band, where as before I was just helping them out. I heard this buzz about them and when I listened to them it was exactly what I was trying to do so I wanted to make sure it happened.
TBB: Obviously your name is taken from My Bloody Valentine. Do you think you emulate their sound, or do you think there are other artists you resemble more?
M: It’s actually really weird. A lot of people tend to label us under shoe gaze, and I don’t agree. There’s a slight ambience and dreamy sound to it, but it’s not like My Bloody Valentine at all. Adam and I chose this name when we were really young, like 16. If I could do it over again I would have never done it this way. It’s hard because we make music in a similar style and then we’re named after one of the people from My Bloody Valentine which is a signature staple of that sound. It’s sort of really shitty.
TBB: It’s an easy label.
M: Yeah! And it’s like I can’t really take it back now, I was stupid and 16. I love Bilinda Butcher and I love My Bloody Valentine, but the reason that we did it is because that sound and what it represented emotionally resonated with Adam and I. We’ve always been sort of effeminate and soft-spoken and shy, and Bilinda Butcher with her vocals and whole vibe made sense. We wanted to pay homage. My Bloody Valentine is an influence, but not a direct sound emulation.
We’re really into The Radio Dept. which is a Swedish dream-pop band. Our new record was inspired by a lot of things like weird hip hop and beats and instrumental.
TBB: I read that you called yourself dream pop and nostalgia pop, and I was wondering if you tried to veer Heaven away from that.
M: Well, it wasn’t in mind. Dream pop was not a label that came up at all. It was actually the opposite – making it less reverb, less atmospheric, but it still chimes through. We’re not easily able to shy away from it. As far as I’m concerned, I want nothing to do with the people who make dream pop, most of the people who make chill wave or any of that kind of stuff because it’s all of the same recycled bull shit that came from twee and all of these 90’s post shoe gaze bands. It’s over-sentimentalized. There’s a time and place for it, and it’s not now. It’s fucking over. That’s why with the addition of Ryan, there are songs with breakbeats. It started with what should we do, and do the opposite of that. It’s not 100% defiant and rebellious against it, but that was one of the main points.
TBB: You’re signed to Orchid Tapes now. How did you guys get hooked up?
M: I’ve known Warren who owns and runs the label for a really, really long time. He’s been a friend and we’ve always wanted to work together, but timing was never right. As a band we started talking to labels casually, and we (Warren and I) were talking because his record is coming out right after ours and we were talking about the process and dealing with record labels and dealing with the music industry now, and how dissatisfied we are. He’s an artist, and he runs his label like an artist which is really cool because he wants to make sure the project and art is presented correctly.
TBB: What do you mean by correctly?
M: For example, with a bigger label we would present this record and they would say this, this, and this doesn’t work. You have to market it this way…
TBB: This is the single…
M: Yeah, this is the single and that’s just how things go. With a record that’s as ambitious as what we tried to do I had to make sure it was handled correctly, because there’s a lot of depth and things that have to be explained the right way so the concept comes across, and Warren got it. He understood it, and wanted it to be represented the right way. After talking for three months casually, he told us he wanted to put it out. It just happened really quickly and naturally.
TBB: Yeah. I think that’s how it should be. There should be a strong trust between the label, or really anyone you work with in the music industry.
M: Yeah, definitely. I don’t really know how it was 10 or 15 years ago, but it’s something that everyone has to be wary of because a lot of people are making music in their bedrooms and they don’t get exposed as much to how the industry works. I said no to everything in the first five years of my career, because I didn’t like working with people I can’t meet or talk to. It’s really difficult because there are tons of companies scouting Pitchfork and searching for what’s happening. Like, hey, I do PR! I do radio! Let’s work together. I don’t really know how it goes farther than that, because I always said no, but it’s something that a lot of people have to be aware of because the dynamic is strange and people pop in and out. I have become less and less a fan of working with people through the internet. It’s so easy to build trust with somebody and then you realize they’re across the country and they fucked you out of something. And it’s like great. I can’t yell at you face to face. There is literally nothing I can do.
TBB: I know it’s a concept album, and I wanted to hear how you came across this diary.
M: It’s actually not real, it’s fiction. It’s presented to make you wonder. Since the beginning Adam and I have wanted to make music for movies or video games and due to the fact that we’ve had a fairly small audience, we decided to do it ourselves. We built the story, and wrote a soundtrack to it. I’m really interested in 19th century Japanese culture and authors, and heavy into an anime called Summer Champloo which is based in the Edo period.
I wanted to look into the concept of heaven because here on the coast there are a lot of atheists and agnostics, and I don’t particularly pertain to any one particular religion. My mom is born again and my dad is an atheist so growing up I had this half-way point between being spiritual and not at all. I wanted to create a discussion on what we think heaven is. Heaven doesn’t signify Christianity’s interpretation of heaven.
TBB: The show at The Chapel is your record release party, and then you go on tour with Craft Spells. How did you meet?
M: Justin is actually one of my best friends. I met him a couple months ago, and we’ve known about each other for a long time. He was living in San Francisco for the past year, and that’s how we became really close. We get each other artistically and we’re on the same level and mindset. In New York this sort of scene and style of music is very present and lots of people do it, but we don’t have many like minded bands we can hang out with, so meeting him was really cool.
TBB: Has the band toured before?
M: No, this is our first tour. We don’t really play live very often. It’s not my preferred form of art, and I don’t like going to shows really. I don’t like listening to music loud, but I really enjoy the community aspect and talking to people who understand the scene and the music and get really excited about it.
TBB: And then Craft Spells album that just came out is phenomenal.
M: Yeah, it is really good. It’s definitely stronger than his first one. It’s very poppy and straight-forward and moody, more of an autumn record.
TBB: Do you have a favorite label mate off of Orchid Tapes?
M: I really like Warren and his band Foxes In Fiction. His new record is really good. There was this band called Memoryhouse. They were really good and then they fucked up and dropped the ball when they released their first record. They got signed to Sub Pop, and it was like oh shit, they’re going to do it, they’re going to open the door for all of us, and they released a record and it was such a let down. Warren was in Memoryhouse, he was one of the touring musicians. The reason I really like Warren’s record is because I think it is the record that was supposed to come out. Obviously four years too late, but it’s still retribution. I really like Alex G and I think he’s the next Elliott Smith honestly. His music is sort of naive in a really, really good way.
TBB: If you could write the music for any video game, which one would it be?
M: Jet Set Radio. It’s about graffiti and tagging and roller blading and based in Tokyo.
The Bilinda Butchers Tour Dates:
07/16 – Santa Cruz, CA – Catalyst Atrium
07/17 – San Francisco, CA – The Chapel
07/18 – San Diego, CA – The Hideout
07/19 – Santa Ana, CA – Constellation Room
07/20 – Los Angeles, CA – The Echo