It’s been a while since we spoke to you guys about the last album release. What’s changed in the past several months…year maybe? How the hell have you guys been?
Nathan: We all graduated college and now we have our fancy little degrees in jazz performance and Near Eastern languages. We’re all back in the city, more or less, except Clint moved to New Jersey, which is what you have to do these days, I guess. Recently I was able to involve Sister Helen in another project of mine, a show at the New York Fringe Festival by my comedy group, His Majesty, the Baby. It was a sort of ghoulish sketch show, and Eva, Chris, and Clint were the house band. I’m still working with that group as well as Sister Helen. Their website is http://hismajestythebaby.com
Eva: A lot has happened to all of us since 2012. Right now Chris and I are both playing in a million different bands, and I think having a broader musical outlet has helped to better define what we want to do with Sister Helen. Clint is playing a ton of other music too, but he’s also the manager of a hedge fund now or something, I don’t know, it’s so hard to keep track of what everyone is doing.
So we’ve got 6 brand spanking new tunes titled The Jasmine EP. Why Jasmine? ….why not Joaquin? or Paulette? or even Jasper?
Eva: A few years ago, in the middle of a conversation absolutely fraught with nonsense and confusion, Chris and I invented this character named Jasmine. As the nonsense escalated, Jasmine became a sort of avatar for the more “pop” aspects of the music we were writing at the time. Jasmine embodies the catchy hook and the big, thrashing bridge. All other aspects of Jasmine’s life can be discovered through listening to the EP, or possibly by reading this interview.
Nathan: I personally had nothing to do with the title. Actually, that’s usually how it is for the songs, too: they come to me with music and a title, I write the lyrics to match the title. It’s like a prompt. The title comes first.
Does the non-English language text on the cover say anything outrageous or clever? I’m assuming it’s an Asian language…what inspired this decision? Is your music reaching new markets?
Nathan: Telling you what it means would be cheating… we did run it by a few people, so it might be awkwardly phrased, but I’m pretty sure it’s correct. It’s not like some idiot getting a tattoo of a Chinese character because it was the one that looked cool.
Eva: It’s all about Jasmine. She definitely speaks mandarin. But she might also be the kind of idiot who would get a tattoo like that.
I love the album cover by the way. Who’s responsible for that visual awesomeness?
Eva: The album art is by Alex Carlbon, a brilliant painter and digital artist based out of Northern California. He also does live projections for the band Little War Twins (http://littlewartwins.com/). He’s a bit elusive on the internet, but if you ever get a chance to see one of his gallery openings or any of his art, you should take it immediately.
Nathan: I take credit/blame for putting the text bar on it. We wanted something a little more focused, more straightforward and less cartoonish than our previous album covers, since the music and lyrics more focused and straightforward and less cartoonish.
Now that the album has been released, what’s next?
Nathan: What’s next is lots of people download the album, learn the lyrics (at least the choruses), come to our shows and shout them with us. We’re finna tour at least twice this year so new audiences can hear our music. Maybe the hometown ain’t our scene, you know?
Eva: Yeah in January we’re touring through the south and midatlantic for the entire month…more details on that to come in a few weeks, you can check our Facebook page to stay updated on tour dates! In the meantime we’re playing at a few colleges around the northeast in October, and we have quite a few NYC shows in November and December. We also have a music video coming out in the next few months. Keep yer eyes peeled for that!
What was different about this creative experience as compared/contrasted with the last album? Have you all changed or noticed growth?
Eva: I think we put more effort into trying to create a single body of work with a coherent sound. Hope to Leave No Harm was 14 tracks long and each song was wildly different from the last. As Nathan indicated, I think Jasmine is more focused, she has a stronger sense of self.
Chris: We all were listening to more intricate music while also trying to write the best pop chorus. There’s a better mix between accessibility and entertainment in this set of songs. I was listening to a lot of The Mars Volta and Mastodon’s newer stuff and was trying to emulate their grasp of pulling in multiple types of listeners. We’re all getting better as musicians individually and as a group, there’s a lot less editing going on in our totally awesome pro tools sessions, almost none at all pertaining to time adjusting or splicing.
Nathan: For me as a lyricist, these songs are more personal and less high-concept than the ones on previous albums. The songs are sort of related; they’re all sort of about stubbornheadedness, about resisting for the sake of resisting. Like when a character in a Dostoevsky novel sees a way out of their predicament and doesn’t take it because that would be too easy. Sometimes resistance is a good thing–Open and CP are about injustices in the world, people or entire countries at the margins. But sometimes it’s masochistic and cuts you off from people, which is what Good People, My Own Perception, and Try and Try Again are about. In Conjunction with the Sun is about being really good at the trumpet.
Drop your links so people can easily click them and get to you.
Any last thoughts? Shout outs?
Eva: Adam O’Farrill is responsible for the otherworldly trumpet work on the first track, In Conjunction with the Sun. He deserves much more than a shout-out but unfortunately right now that’s all he’s getting. He’ll just have to deal with that. Deal with it, Adam.
Nathan: I’m not gonna see my girlfriend until February. If you happen to be in Beirut, can you tell her I love her?