Indievotion publishes today the second of a series of in depth interviews with musicians and/or bands that it deeply cherishes. This new interview is with Sarah Duni Bourland from the Long Beach based dark psych gaze, the highly talented trio Space Waves. The interview was scheduled since the beginning of summer and we were really looking forward to doing it because we are pretty sure that the music world must break with the mainstream chain of mediocracy and get in touch with the fantastic work that so many bands are making most of them in a DIY regular basis.
Taking into account that we are working on an in depth article about Space Waves due to be published until the end of the year for now we’ll just state that Space Waves are atmospheric, trippy, rhythmic, raw and even mantric considering that many of their songs melodic backbone seems to work out just like a multi layered incantational texture. One final and grateful word to Sarah Duni Bourland for her prompt and generous cooperation without which this amazing interview wouldn’t have been possible. Good reading!
1. Space Waves formed back in 2008. How did it happen and in which way your cultural and musical background contributed to joining a band?
S: I think Kelley and I each have a strong feeling that we were meant to meet each other. Looking back, it all seemed to happen rather quickly, and there were all these elements in place where we really helped each other. Like when we met I hadn't played music for a year and a half. I had been living in San Francisco and while I did have my bass with me, I loaned it to my housemate the whole time I was there. I wanted to focus more on writing during that time and I took some creative writing and poetry classes. Anyway, so I decided to move to Portland Oregon and that is how Kelley and I met, as housemates at first. But we spent a lot of time together and eventually it became obvious there was a connection there. So basically he got me back into playing music because he would play all the time in the house and he said I should play too. I loved his guitar playing--he had the upstairs attic room so it would float down from the ceiling, very atmospheric. He had a home studio set up there and good speakers and all that, and he would blast songs we liked and we would play along...so I think that whole period of playing together like that was important for us. He also encouraged me to sing—I had always been fairly shy about singing. We each have musical backgrounds since we were kids but I think what was lacking was a strong creative connection with other people, and we found that in each other and were able to help each other grow in that way. Eventually we started writing and recording original songs together, and after we had three of those we figured we could release an EP, so that is when Space Waves was consciously formed and named. I should also maybe mention that Kelley had been recording really awesome electronic music with these great synthesizers he had…the Intro song on our EP and the title track Receptions are examples of those. He has a lot more that is unreleased.
2. Is there any particular explanation for the name of the band or is merely a name with no further “metaphysical” explanation?
S: Yes and no...like I mentioned above, we had three original songs recorded and wanted to put them out, so we needed a band name and an imprint name. I did a meditation where I tried to get as trance-like as I could and came up with the names "Mindwave" and "Space Waves." So we decided Space Waves for the band and Mindwave for the label. I actually like that the name isn't a direct reference to anything in particular. I did internet searches for bands with that name and couldn't find any. So we just went with it...I have different meanings associated with it that have accumulated over time.
3. You and Kelley are not full time musicians. What is it like to be so and how does it interfere with your creative process and rehearsal logistics?
S: We basically try to do the best we can without stressing about it too much. We have a practice room in our house and a home studio setup for recording demos and those are important for us to have. I imagine if we didn’t have to worry about having other jobs, music would become more of a top priority and we’d be able to spend more time on it…there are some areas where I feel we are weaker than others, especially with promotion, videos, and touring. If we were full time we’d probably get things done faster and get more done. I know Kelley in particular would love to be a full time musician, but I have some reservations about it. It would be great to have more time and energy to spend on music though, for sure. In some ways I feel like instead of doing other normal life stuff, like having a kid or buying a house or car, we have our band instead!
4. How would you define Space Waves sound? What is your musical genre comfort zone if you think that there is one?
S: I think we are basically a rock band with some psychedelic and pop influences. I hesitate to use the shoegaze term but we have gotten called that and I understand it and it is an influence. Dreampop or space rock might be categories we fall under too. If we had more time to experiment I think our sound would be slightly different…maybe just more instrumentation. I have just stuck with playing bass and singing for our last two albums, but lately I have been playing an acoustic guitar a lot and I’ve thought about adding that in, or playing my other instruments, but I think we also enjoy just keeping it simple and straightforward with guitar, bass, drums, and that’s it, at least live.
5. Which bands and/or musicians did influence you most and why?
S: This is probably the most difficult question for me because there are so many it’s hard to pinpoint them and the ways they have been influential. I was very into the Beatles from a young age, and I remember liking the Beach Boys a lot when I was young (elementary school age). I was really into a lot of 60s bands as a teenager and wasn’t really into much new stuff, except for Beck. Kelley is into a lot of classic rock too like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. We both love the Cure. But really like I said there are a lot of other influences too, and our individual influences have become each other’s influences. I think my time in school bands had a big influence on me since that is where I learned to play and read music, even though with our band I do my best to shun the traditional aspects of music theory and convention. I guess I want it to be an expression of myself but the truth is just that I get songs in my head and then I get them out through the band, and that’s really about it. I’ve developed a strange way of thinking where I actually try NOT to write songs. So anything that makes its way out as a song really has to stick out in my mind. Kelley started piano lessons when he was four and started playing guitar at age 10 so at this point I think it’s second nature for him.
6. Space Waves did as far as we know cover versions from The Doors, Mazzy Star and Joy Division. Each cover with its own peculiarities but all equally very good and psyched. Is this something that you really like to do and play live? Are there any future covers on the making?
S: Thanks! Well I always prefer playing our own songs and have reservations about covers. I guess I feel like no one else will play my songs so shouldn’t I be playing them? But covers can be fun. Kelley really wants to cover “Achilles Last Stand” by Led Zeppelin. We practiced that one a lot when we last lived in Oregon. With Brandon I think the only cover we have played is Slowdive by Slowdive but it’s been awhile since we have played it.
7. Space Waves spent a few years back and forth between Portland and Los Angeles. Apart from the inherent stress can we objectively say that Space Waves creative process is someway influenced by these two cities?
S: Yeah, I’d say so, definitely. I mentioned above that I lived in San Francisco for a time and took some writing classes there, and I also took some when I lived in L.A. (before I met Kelley). I think growing a bit as a storyteller and writer influenced when I started writing lyrics. Our 2nd album “You Can Ride A Beam Of Light Like a Musical Strum” was recorded when we lived in the countryside in Oregon, which was mostly a strange and isolating experience. We started working on our third album ‘Sing My Song’ there and moved to Long Beach, California in the middle of that, which probably made it a bit more stressful. We were releasing our 2nd album, moving, changing jobs, and starting work on our 3rd album at the same time… so we probably didn’t handle all of that the best that we could have. Moving so much has definitely been challenging for us but things seem to be working out okay in Long Beach/Los Angeles now. I was born and raised here and Kelley was born and raised in Oregon so that is partly why we have moved around so much and I’m sure those places have influenced us in many ways.
8. Space Waves had three different drummers in eight years. Was this only due to geography and logistics or it had to do with the need to redefining the sound of the band and working process?
S: Mostly just geography and logistics, yeah. We’ve actually had more than three drummers, but we have only released albums with three. Carlo played on a couple songs on our first album Receptions, when we lived in Echo Park (Los Angeles) and then when we moved to Oregon we recorded the next two with Mark Loftin, who lived in San Francisco. This was when we lived in Oregon but it was also during the beginning part of our time in Long Beach. It was interesting having a long distance drummer and we were able to do some touring with Mark. Now we have been playing with Brandon for about two years and he lives here so we are more of a regular local band. We are super glad it’s been working out with Brandon. I knew him from high school and I saw him at the grocery store after we moved to Long Beach and said hi, and when I put a call out online that we were looking for a drummer he was the first and only person to respond. I was hoping he’d be interested but I wasn’t sure. And now we’ve written and recorded an entire album and have played almost 20 shows so that’s been great!
9. How would you describe Space Waves songwriting and composing process as well as the main substract of your lyrics? Do they come to mind naturally or do you revise them over a period of time before it is ready to studio?
S: They tend to come to mind naturally for me. I am grateful for all of the songs I have written and it’s not something I try to be overly self-aware of or pushy about. I am thrilled that I have even written any songs at all and if I never come up with any more I’d be fine with that! But right now I have at least 4 more for when we’re ready to start working on new ones. I have ideas for several more than that but those 4 have lyrics and they are basically all structured out. It’s always exciting for me to bring a new song to the band and to hear it be fleshed out in the full sound. Lately I tend to do my initial writing and practicing on an acoustic guitar and I usually will have practiced it quite a bit before I show it to Kelley, and we usually will practice it together before showing it to Brandon, just to streamline the process the best we can. But we will also work on songs all together as well. It just depends on the song. I use the bass for writing too or sometimes I will just hear a lyric melody in my head first. For my lyrics I tend to use more of a stream of consciousness approach. One of my new songs, which I think will be called Blue Hell, was partially influenced by the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. But I usually am just singing about my own experiences or dreams. I tend not to spend too much time revising as I don’t want to take away from my initial expression. I tend to doubt myself so even if I look back at some lyrics and am not too sure about them, I just think, well that’s how I was feeling at the time so I want to honor that, and if I start revising then I will never be finished. Also usually whoever is the main singer on a sing is also the main writer of that song, but we each come up with our own parts. I could be wrong but I think Kelley’s writing usually starts with guitar.
10. You’re about to finish the mixing process of your 4 th LP. Can you tell us about how it went?
S: Kelley has been really keen on the older recording methods, using tape reels and all that, and we have incorporated tape into our 2nd and 3rd albums, but for this one we went full blown analog. So that was interesting. It seems to me to be a dying art in a way. I don’t think it’s really taught much in schools so it seems like you have to have real-world experience with it. We worked with Larry Crane (of Tape Op Magazine and Jackpot! Recording Studio in Portland) again who knows how to work with tape but rarely gets to do full albums on tape anymore. We recorded onto 2” tape and mixed down to 1/4” tape and mastered from that. For the vinyl the company we use will make the lacquer straight from the tape so it will truly be all analog. We recorded drums, bass and guitar all together and overdubbed vocals and Kelley overdubbed extra guitar and synths, organ or piano on the songs that had extra instrumentation. It’s a lot of work, a lot of planning, but also a lot of fun. We try to be as efficient as we can in the studio since we can’t afford to dilly dally. We all thought that the basic (or raw as I like to call them) tracks sounded better than anything we’ve recorded before. I am not very technically minded and I don’t even pretend to know much about recording, so I can’t get too detailed with this. We love working with Larry though and hope to do so again in the future, and now we have plenty of tape we can re-use for future recordings. As I type this we are waiting on getting the final masters. I think partly why I have such weird mental filters around writing songs is just the sheer amount of work that goes into getting them recorded. They really have to mean something for me to go to all this trouble—even if it’s kind of fun trouble.
11. When in comparison with previous LP’s and particularly with the fabulous Sing my Song what can we expect from the new album sonic palette?
S: It is similar to Sing My Song, but I think it is a little bit heavier on the rock side. We have one or two quieter songs. It’s our first album with Brandon drumming so there may be some notable differences there. Like on Sing My Song there are some synths/organ/piano done by Kelley on a few songs, and some cool guitar work. He played his customized J. Mascis Jazzmasters (Fender and Squier) and he got to use some really awesome guitars for overdubs on some of the songs; a 1953 Les Paul Goldtop, a 1956 Fender Telecaster and a Guild semi-hollowbody from the 70s that he used for feedback. A great studio moment was his overdub on “Aaron’s Song” where he got this blistering sound at the end. And Larry did some really cool things too, like with the tube tape echo. Hopefully all in all it is a good balance of all our different aspects. I think it has a bit more dynamic range than our other albums, good rhythms and riffs and hopefully it will reach some people who will dig it…and if not, at least we had fun making it. I sing on every song except the token instrumental track (“Aaron’s Song”) and “Place of Mind,” which Kelley sings. On 5 of the songs I’m the only singer.
12. Considering that Space Waves have always adopted a fully independent approach to music industry how is it going to be the release process of this new album?
S: We are still figuring that out! We are DIY out of necessity more than anything else. We are thinking a small run of vinyl, probably 100 copies, and we want to try our best to promote it and send cds to radio stations and write to blogs. Life is probably the least hectic it’s been for us so hopefully we will do a better job with this than our previous releases. Money is always a factor though and we don’t have a lot to spend on promoting. We are also looking into registering with our PRO and all that more business side of it, but at this point I’m not sure how all that will pan out. It’s tough for us to navigate all of that and I get confused and overwhelmed. When you’re a diy band with no distribution or support it does make it harder to get noticed, I think, and with our schedules there are only so many shows we can play out. Between work and home responsibilities it does feel rather challenging…that’s why we just try and do what we can and not stress too much about it.
13. Are there any plans concerning playing in Europe in a near future and touring the upcoming album?
S: Not in the near future. We haven’t really talked about touring for it yet but if we did it would probably be a smaller California tour. Again touring is something we sort of fantasize about but I don’t know how realistic it is. Maybe we will try to play some shows in L.A. once we have the album out. I’m sure we’ll have at least one album release show.
14. If you had to describe the past seven years in the band’s life how would they look like?
S: Love, inspiration, dedication, frustration, isolation, confusion, perseverance, wonder, fun, therapeutic, educational, a reason for living.
Thanks for the music Space Waves!