Interview by Matteo Bussotti
“The Current”, Midday Veil‘s latest album, is simply spectacular. Listen to it immediately! And, while you’re listening to it, why not reading our interview with their excellent singer, Emily Pothast? So, let’s read what this young, talented singer from Seattle has to say about her band, the meaning behind the album and much more! Hi Emily, it’s really an honor to have you here with us! My first question is kinda of an obvious one: are you excited for the release of your new album, seeing that you’re receiving pretty much only positive reviews (and I’ll add one more: I found “The Current” simply beautiful. Great job, to all of you)?
Aw, thank you so much! It’s great that people seem to like the album, but mostly I’m just excited to finally have it out in the world.Is there anything you’d like to say to your public before they’ll listen to your album? Some information which will help them understand “The Current” better?
I think that when people become acquainted with Midday Veil, one of the first things they notice is that all our albums sound pretty different. Our last two releases before “The Current” were both totally improvised, and our album before that consisted of a bunch of tightly composed songs that were all recorded as though they were in different genres from each other. Our interests have been all over the place, but “The Current” is definitely the most focused album we have made so far. The focus owes a lot to Randall Dunn’s production. Randall is a genius at crafting tones and textures and making songs sound different, but also related to each other.How long did it take you to finish the album? Are there any songs you wrote a long time ago and brought back, or did you write all the songs from scratch?
Haha, it took a while. We started recording in late 2011, and we had our first batch of mixes finished over a year ago. I’m the reason it took so long to put the album out. I have a sort of traumatic relationship with songwriting and collaboration, and I needed to have some time to live with it and make sure I could live with it.
There were two songs that we worked and worked on for months and when we finally got them done, we cut them from the album. Of the tracks that made the cut, there are two that we brought back from a long time ago. “Remember Child” was one of the very first songs that we ever wrote as Midday Veil, back when the band was just a duo. “Choreia” is also an older song. A very different version of it appears on an improvised CDR from 2009 called “Subterranean Ritual”. “Choreia” has been a staple of our live set for a few years, though the composition has evolved considerably over time.I’d like to talk more specifically about the 11-minute-long, almost-suite, last song: “Great Cold of the Night”. How was the song born, what’s its story? Did you have any particular reason to put as ending for your album?
“Great Cold of the Night” is a strange song. Historically, we have recorded our rehearsals and I have listened back to the jams looking for rhythmic ideas I can try to turn into songs. The synth/drum groove of “Great Cold of the Night” originated between David and our original drummer Chris during a rehearsal, and the lyrics are adapted from a Pygmy death chant. It’s the last song on the album because, well, there really isn’t anything that makes sense coming after it!
One of the most satisfying creative experiences I’ve ever had was collaborating with Steven Miller, the artist who directed the video for “Great Cold of the Night”. If you haven’t seen it, it’s basically a short film where David gets abducted during a show, buried alive and sacrificed to the dark goddess while his body is served up as a cake which gets absolutely devoured in an orgy. I love how the images of death, desire, and consumption are so intertwined in the video, and I definitely think of that song as a multimedia piece with the video being an important part of its identity.
Generally speaking, how do you write your songs, usually? Do you have very specific “fields of competence” (like, the bass player only works on bass lines), or is a more “brain storming” kind of relationship, where anyone can come up with an idea for a drum rhythm, a guitar riff, a keyboard melodic line etc.?
Different songs unfold in different ways. There are some songs that started with a vocal melody, like “Remember Child” and there are songs that emerged from an improvisation, like “Choreia”. “The Current”, “Without” and “Within” and “Sun Stone” were all basically written in the studio. My bandmates composed parts through layering and sculpting, and for the songs that have vocals, my parts were the last piece to get written. In general, everyone writes their own parts, but there have been exceptions to that, if someone has an idea they want to hear someone else try.Let’s talk about you, now! Have you always been attracted to this musical genre, since when you started singing?
I started singing when I was very young. I had a voice teacher in elementary school. I sang in a couple of punk rock bands in high school, and I sang classical and choral music for a long time. Then I went to school for art and didn’t have any bands or anything for several years. I listened to a lot of music, but I didn’t take the time to work on it seriously until after I had gone to grad school for visual art.
As a vocalist, I’m influenced by Yoko Ono, Catherine Ribeiro, Sarah Vaughan, Nico, Trish Keenan, Annette Peacock, Joni Mitchell, Laurie Anderson, and Leonard Cohen. I also have a big soft spot for certain 80s pop divas I grew up with like Madonna and Whitney Houston.How was your family? Did (or do) they support your musical career, or maybe were you inspired by someone in your family to pursue it? You know that sometimes when one starts playing music is because one or more of his relatives are musicians, or play music even at an amateur level. Was this your case?
No one in my family is a professional musician, but my family was very musical. We all sang all the time. My father had a vast knowledge of trucker songs and railroad ballads from the 50s and 60s, so he exposed me to some lesser known gems of American pop music from that era.
Unfortunately both of my parents were killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver in December of 2005. I was very close to them, and it changed my life dramatically. Before they died, I was mainly working as a visual artist, but after that it started to make a lot more sense to work in music, which is not just the art of sound, but of time and memory.In “The Current” you have both electronic and “classic rock” sonorities. What do you think about the future of music, will electronic music completely take the place of guitars, drums, etc? Will it fade away? Or will we have a situation of stall, with electronic and “acoustic” instruments at the same importance?
I don’t think rock music will ever disappear completely, because guitars and drums are so physically satisfying to play and hear. But I do think that standard rock instrumentation isn’t as popular as it used to be simply because it’s so much more trouble to do. If you live in an apartment in the city, you have to rent a big enough rehearsal space for your drums. If you have a rock band, it has to have a bunch of people in it, which makes touring more expensive and scheduling more challenging. David and I have another project that’s just a duo: synths, electronic instruments and voice, and all our bandmates have other bands or solo projects that are more on the electronic end of the spectrum. The reason we keep doing Midday Veil is because we like the dynamic possibilities of a broad range of instruments and collaborators who bring different things to the table.What are your plans for the end of 2013, and for the next year? Can you give us a hint about some big tour you’re preparing, maybe?
We’re doing a little West Coast tour in September. In October, we’re playing a new festival in Seattle called Hypnotikon with Silver Apples, Master Musicians of Bukkake, and a bunch of other great bands. We are looking forward to touring in Europe someday soon…right now we’re just waiting for the right excuse to make the trip!
Emily Pothast photo by Nate Watters
Midday Veil Band photo by Marleigh Kataring