Last week I sat down with Michael Palmer and Adam Honingford of The Bilinda Butchers, middle school friends turned songwriting duo, to discuss their upcoming tour of Asia, which also happens to celebrate the band’s eighth year.
In 2008, just prior to their high school graduation, Adam returned from schooling in Pennsylvania and the two found that they had independently discovered My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, and immediately agreed they should start a band. Sitting in Adam’s San Francisco apartment, we listened to the reissue and vinyl release of their first EP “regret, love, guilt, dreams,” and talked about their first tour abroad, the role of the internet in building the bands fan base, and their 2014 debut LP, “Heaven.”
The Bay Bridged: Can you give a brief introduction for the band?
Michael: We’re the Bilinda Butchers, we’re composed of three members, Michael Palmer, Adam Honingford, and our good friend Ryan Wansley who lives in LA. We’ve been a band for almost eight years now and we’re named after Bilinda Butcher from My Bloody Valentine, we’re from San Francisco.
Adam: We got two EPs and one full-length record.
Michael: We’re a dream pop band, shoegaze band that…
Adam: Likes to party.
Michael: Haha, we’re originally from Concord, we grew up and started the band there. We really started working on music when I moved to Oakland, about five or six years ago, and since then we’ve moved to the city, where Adam and I both live. Our last record came out in 2014 and since then we’ve been on tour with Craft Spells“>Craft Spells.
TBB: Bilinda Butchers is well received in the States, but it seems you’ve found a larger audience abroad. Why do you think that is?
Adam: I think that’s because we started as a bedroom project. I lived across the country for a lot of the earlier days, I went to high school in Pennsylvania. We didn’t play shows for the first five or six years of being a band, so our entire existence was on the internet.
Michael: We released this EP regret, love, guilt, dreams right after Idle Labor, the Craft Spells record, came out, the first Wild Nothing record came out, it was when Toro y Moi and Washed Out were starting to get big. We slid into this kind of blog-centric, really popular genre of music that was getting a lot of attention, we were on the internet and had a Facebook and a MySpace. It kind of snowballed from there. With the internet, for example, people are on YouTube and they’re listening to the Wild Nothing record and then something recommended will pop up, all that connectivity, I think it was a case of being at the right place at the right time. We got connected to Japan when we put out this first EP, and Fastcut Records reached out to us about releasing it on CD and we’ve had a relationship with him ever since. We really loved the indie scene there and through the label we were able to communicate with a lot of people…the internet, you know what I mean?
TBB: Yes, you’re getting ready to tour China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan. How did that come about?
Michael: The whole thing is being put on by this promotion company in China called yeRecords. This woman reached out to us and was like hey — I’ve worked for some promotion companies in China, I really believe in art and music and you have a fan base here, and I want to invite you to come. Out of that this really beautiful relationship developed, us just speaking about music, we talk almost every day on this Chinese messaging app, it’s very informal. In the beginning we were kind of skeptical, it seemed too good to be true, but she’s really genuine, we had a face to face conversation on Skype. Without her and her enthusiasm for the whole thing it would never be happening. She’s putting it on and we’re leaving everything in her hands, her name is Lieselotte Wang.
Adam: It’s really funny because Chinese social media is not that accessible to us so I don’t think we knew that there was a big fan base until she emailed us with screen caps…
TBB: Do you have any concerns about touring abroad, specifically in regard to China?
Michael: That’s a great question. China is really foreign for us, I don’t know much about it and what I do is filtered through America media, the majority of which tends be negative. I work for this publishing company, and we actually publish a book called China Survival Guide and looking through that I wasn’t too concerned.
Adam: I think it’s the typical anxiety of being overseas and being taken off guard, and how shows might work over there.
Michael: Mostly it’s been logistical, trying to figure out how we’ll get CDs imported; luckily our tour manager and the promotion company are handling all that stuff, but because of that we haven’t really talked about how all the day-to-day stuff works, so that’s still a bit of a mystery, but like I said, we really trust this woman.
TBB: Unrelated to the tour, what inspired the cover for Heaven?
Michael: So we wrote a soundtrack to this fictional story about this woman in 19th-century Japan that killed herself to follow her lover into the afterlife. When we were looking for artwork we obviously wanted to work with a Japanese artist, so the label head at Fastcut Records was sending us artist samples and websites, and I think I actually ended up finding (the artist), her name is Tsuji Megumi, who did the artwork. It was actually a series of pieces she had done some time ago, but this one felt really perfect, as soon as I saw it it looked perfect.
TBB: What have you guys been up to since its release and the Craft Spells tour?
Adam: Well, Ryan lives in LA and I think we all wanted to take a little break post-tour. Michael’s been busy, he started school, Ryan went to Europe for a couple months, I’ve been working full-time. We’ve kind of pulled back from the music stuff but now we’re 100% focused on this tour and getting prepped.
Michael: We came back from that tour and I was like, I need to go to school and work on my education. Right out of high school I just worked on the band, Adam went to Berkeley, and after we came back from that tour my life specifically was changing a lot and I told all the guys “Hey, we’ve been on a break for a while, I’m gonna go to school” and everyone was cool with it, like Adam said, he was kind of doing his own thing, Ryan was living in LA and planning on going to Europe for a couple months to work on his own music. Everything really got connected back together when this tour proposition came up.
TBB: Any cool visual artists, television, anime, stuff like that you’re into right now?
Adam: The fuckin’, dude, the guy Xmau.
Michael: Oh yeah, dude, oh my God. For the tour we wanted to make special merchandise for China, and we were super lucky to work with the visual artists who worked with Blur on their last record, The Magic Whip, they’re two guys from Hong Kong, they’re so sick, and they created a T-shirt piece for us. We also worked with a guy from Barcelona who has this Instagram we follow, he does these crazy pieces that look like Akira.
TBB: Anything you want to add?
Michael: I’d like to give a shout out again to Lieselotte Wang at yeRecords for helping us through this entire process of our tour of Asia. A special thanks as well to Jane Blondel of Songs for Children and Naoki Morikawa of Fastcut Records. A big thanks to Earthquaker Devices for supporting indie bands like us. Another big thanks to our manager Kieth Cahoon who has helped figure a lot of this out as well, and my girlfriend Dana Akashi who has helped me stay focused and strong through this whole process. And thanks to all our fans!
Listen to their 2014 record Heaven and watch the tour preview below, and head over to their website for some of the insane collaborations they’ve had on artwork and singles for the upcoming tour of Asia. The tour kicks off June 11 at the Swedish American Hall.
The Bilinda Butchers, Creepers, Balms, Craft Spells (DJ Set)
The Swedish American Hall
June 11, 2016