Postmadonna is Living Your Dream (Interview)

by Isaac on 03.15.2012

As far back as I can remember in my life of making music, there has been a common dream among my musician friends. At some time or another, we’ve been sitting around, shooting the shit, and somebody says, “man, wouldn’t it be cool if we just got a bunch of people together, moved into a big house and made music all the time?” Of course, that never really happens. If the dream does become a reality, it lasts, at most, for a couple months before the big pile of dishes gets on everybody’s nerves and a big fight breaks all of their spirits…and all of the instruments in the house. The dedicated musicians that I know tend to be dysfunctional people in other, domestic aspects of life.

Enter Postmadonna. They’re Seattle Math Rockers living together in a house in Montlake, making some of the cooler stuff you can hear on our local stages. If their songs had a face, I bet it would be perpetually smiling. It’s math rock with a drifty, narrative, melodic form that’s hard to pin down. They have a large rotating cast of musicians that switch instruments throughout their live set, and whose names are shuffled all over their songwriting credits. I never got a definitive answer about how many people are in the band. Originally, I was just going to give them a typical write-up about their awesome live performance, but when I heard about how they make their music; living that all-too-common fantasy of “music house,” I had to see it for myself. I was lucky enough to be invited over to do an interview with whoever would talk to me.

When I arrived, they were winding down after a party for their company, Equilitree, that I had just missed. Still, several of the members took some time to answer questions about their living situation, muse about their music philosophy, and share some observations about the state of the industry. Below are some highlights of that interview.

When it comes to interviews, I am no Barbara Walters. Listening to the recording, it’s a little hard to tell who is saying what. If I mislabeled a voice, feel free to correct me. Also, for the sake of making it easier to read, I took some liberties with the sentence structure and chronological order. To experience the interview without my grammatical filter, feel free to listen to all 30+ minutes of the interview by downloading it from here, or you can stream it down at the bottom of the page.

From the left, Cam, Rich, and Pat of Postmadonna

Seattle Audiophile: How many people live here?
Pat: Seven…officially…but we have lots of-
Rich: Six, officially.
Pat: No, it’s seven. (laughs) Who’s not official?
Rich: Nick.
Pat: Nick’s official…well…not on the lease…but…
SA: Who’s paying rent?
Rich: Who’s paying rent? Seven. Yeah.
SA: …and all of you guys are part of the band?
Rich: In an honorary capacity, at least. Yeah. I’d say there’s 5 of us who are clearly members of the band, and we have a couple people who don’t live here who are members of the band. Then we have Nick, who plays saxophone for us sometimes, so he’s basically a member of the band, and Sam, who is our photographer and so much more, as far as Postmadonna goes.
SA: Promotions and stuff?
Rich: Promotions and stuff. Yeah. He’s an amazing graphic artist and designer…
Pat: Pretty much everybody finds a way to contribute in some way.

Rowdy

SA: Was the idea of consolidating everybody in this house a conscious decision?
Cam: I think we knew it would happen.
Rich: Yeah, we were calling it “Music House” for like 2 years before we lived here.
Cam: It was pretty intermittent, but Rich, Pat and I were looking for houses off and on for, coming up on this spring, almost three years. There’s always been that intention that pretty much everyone who was coming to live in this house had some interest in playing music. We knew there would be a sovereign roof over our heads that would welcome experimentation to do that.
Rowdy: I think it’s only natural at some point that they decided to become more serious about what they were trying to accomplish.
SA: So you didn’t know that “Music House” was actually going to happen until it actually happened.
Cam: Yeah.
Pat: We wanted it to happen. We were trying…
Cam: Certainly, I became skeptical until the lease was signed and I slept my first night in the house.
Pat: I was like, “Alright, this is real.”
Cam: “Alright, this is happening.”
Rowdy: The lease hasn’t broken yet.
Pat: Yeah, our lease is still going.
Cam: Our landlord’s awesome. She loves us.
Pat: …since she’s not here…
Rowdy: (laughs) She doesn’t see what happens.
SA: Do you feel like [living together] has tightened you up?
Rich: Well, we could probably still use a lot of tightening up. Yes and no.
Rowdy: It’s put us together in some ways, but obviously it’s never perfect.
Pat: We’ve recently decided that we’re gonna try to do two different groups because everybody’s sort of members of each [group] in some way or another. We’re just doing two different routes because we have so much material now and so many people with creative energy trying to do things…
Rich: We don’t want to do the audience a disservice of trying to pack everything into a 30 minute set, because that’s what we’re playing right now.
SA: (to the drummers) How did you develop [math rock drumming]?
Cam: Not consciously. I will say Rich and I probably have very different trajectories or paths that we have walked on for music. I, myself, didn’t play any music before I played drums. I don’t really have a strong or significant sense of theory or music [training] from other than a sense of playing with people…It’s humbling living in a house with very versatile, great musicians.
Rich: …I was raised playing music. The drums I didn’t start until I was 13, I think.
SA: What were you playing before drums?
Rich: I played the violin. I actually still play it…I’ve really sort of opened up to Math Rock and all that stuff in the past several years.
SA: When you’re [playing] it, what’s going through your head? Are you counting or…?
Rich:Yeah, there’s a fair amount of counting, but only when I need it. You work to solidify something, and you can make it become muscle memory at that point. I think that I sort of have, in my mind, a pretty visual mental approach when I’m thinking about rhythm, as [opposed] to just going 1-2-1-2.
Cam: I’m not really thinking about it…I’m not really ever counting in my head.
SA: What about you [non drummers]?
Rowdy: It’s always been by feeling. I have a lot of classical training in classical composition. It helps me think about it if I have to sit down, but it all comes down to just feeling it out.
Pat: For me, it’s just sound. We have a part that’s like duh-duh-dun-dun-duh-duh-duh-duh…I don’t know what the fuck count that is! I’ve never even thought about it…What is that part? It’s just the way it is. It’s just…that’s it. It’s duh-duh-dun-dun-duh-…
Rowdy: I think that speaks to a greater emotional depth. You can feel it rather than just being able to count it out and talk about it… You just feel it and it happens, then you figure out, “hey, that’s funny, that’s in 10/8!”
Pat: Yeah, sometimes we find ourselves during practice, like the other day [when] we were working on a new song and were like, “Oh! Let’s do 5 for this part,” and then we were like, “you know what? That doesn’t sound good.” Then we just did it the way we were “supposed to.”

Riley chose to be absent for the interview, but was around for a brief jam afterwards.

Rowdy: We try to be weird and sometimes it’s not right. And then we have parts where it’s like, “hey, you’re switching between these two meters,” and it’s like, “oh!…really?”
Pat: Those are the good moments.
Rowdy: That’s so much more listenable for people who don’t think so math.
SA: Do you feel like you’re building up momentum; finding the audience that you need?
Rowdy: We have this big audience in Ohio. We don’t know what that’s about.
SA: Have you been to Ohio?
Everybody: (laugh) No, never, no.
Pat: Most of [the] people who have commented and said they like our music, if they’re not from Seattle or [other] local places, [are] either from Amelia, Ohio, or from the U.K., or Russia. Those are our three big draws!
Cam: I will say, thanks to the internet, it’s pretty amazing that people so easily and simply can become fans from across the world.
Rowdy: I’ve heard in the past that the U.K. is more receptive to progressive rock music, so that’s no surprise, but the Ohio thing is pretty…those kids are very kind.
Pat: It takes one person…and all [their] friends.
Rowdy: We’re always posting on Twitter. Pat and I are just always posting random shit on twitter! Like anything that’s really funny to us…nobody sees that…on Facebook as well; just always trying to be there.
Pat: In being in bands over the years and watching how social media has evolved…there’s definitely a serious correlation between interacting with your fans and getting a response from them. You see bands that talk to their fans a lot, because people want to talk to them…Tera Melos puts out shit every day and people respond to that and say, “This is really cool. This is something I can interact with.”
SA: Some would argue that it’s the record company’s job to find and advertise your band for you.
Rowdy: Maybe in a really ancient form. That middle man existed a long time ago. Even in the 60s and 70s it started to branch out where you could reach anybody on so many different formats. Social media has changed so much. On a yearly basis, things are effecting us in great strides. Even the Facebook timeline thing…the fact that we’re gonna switch to that…that’s like a HUGE CHANGE for us, right…like how people are gonna receive our information.
SA: You gotta be thinking more about what it is that you’re going to post, because someone might find it two years later… “I like this band, I’m gonna read their whole timeline!”
Pat: You gotta be careful.
Cam: It is an archive.
Rowdy: It’s not these physical things anymore, unfortunately. We don’t have a lot of physical releases.
SA: You said you guys have some members in New York?
Pat: One kid goes to school at NYU. He’s actually living here this year. He’s a genius writer, so he’s gonna be focusing on his writing for a while and taking a break from music.
Rowdy: That’s Ryan.
SA: What does he play?
Pat: He’s a guitar.
Rowdy: And singer/songwriter.
Rich: He’s written a lot of the songs that we’ve played…or played live.
Rowdy: He’s great but…you know.
SA: You sound kind of disappointed.
Rowdy: I mean, it’s disappointing, but it’s nothing we can’t deal with. We’re happy to see that he’s pursuing what he wants to be doing and doing it in a positive manner. I’m sure he’ll come back, not to be condescending.
Everybody: (Laughing)
SA: If you had to boil down the manifesto for the band into a text message, what would that be? …160 characters.
Pat: I just want to make music that other people resonate with, and let them resonate with it…that resonates with me!
Rich: I want to play music I care about, with people I care about.
SA: That’s lovely.

Thanks to Rowdy, Rich, Pat and Cam for showing me around the house, and opening up about their music. It was a pleasure to meet you guys. I will see you at some upcoming shows.

Stream the full interview, complete with tangents, here:


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