Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bound Stems Vs Imperial China

Bound Stems’ Bobby Gallivan and Imperial China’s Brian Porter owe each other a little gratitude. Porter has housed the Bound Stems Chicago collective at his home in Washington, DC on the few occasions that the band has come through town on tour. Likewise, Porter is indebted to Gallivan for the name Imperial China, which was a history class Gallivan took while in college, where the two met almost 10 years ago. The two friends reunite on Friday, July 25th, when Bound Stems and Imperial China play DC's Velvet Lounge with Pittsburgh’s The Seeing Eyeballs and DC’s Len Bias.

In celebration of their reunion, they each reviewed their friend's new record and interviewed each other. Check out the finished product below, followed by tour dates and mp3s.

Brian Porter on Bound Stems' The Family Afloat

I really enjoyed Bound Stems' first record. The quirky melodies, off-time signatures, and experimentation with song structures, was packaged together to create a sprawling interpretation on pop music. With Bound Stems’ new album, The Family Afloat, the band has done exactly what good bands do on sophomore efforts: narrowed their direction to create a concise, well-crafted group of songs that flow together seamlessly. Despite the differences between the first album and this one, not everything has changed. The bouncy sing-alongs of songs like “Cloak of Blue Sky” and “Passing Bell” demonstrate that band can obviously still write melodies to put anyone in a good mood. Gallivan’s lyrical prowess with themes about gratitude, family, and friends also return. Even the simple statement “I’ll take you everywhere I go” from the opening track, “Taking Tips From The Gallery Gang,” has a bigger impact: the band wants to make their mark and they want you to be there when they do.

Bobby Gallivan on Imperial China's Methods:

When I first heard Imperial China’s EP, Methods:, I recognized the sound as inherently DC. I’m not really sure what that means, but it seemed like it hit my ears that way right off the bat. The songs immediately jumped out at me and seemed so full for a band with only three fellas. They were dancey, complex and unpredictable. There are moments that challenge the listener, as well as short bursts of catchy melody that serve as a pay off (please listen to how perfect the melody for "Space Anthem" works against the delay guitar). The recording is really impressive for a band that has just made its start (relatively speaking). I’m excited to see these songs translated in a live setting and see if the audience dances as hard to "Radhus" as I imagine they will. Kudos Imperial China!

Bound Stems

Questions by Brian Porter for Bobby Gallivan

BP: As I said in my review, I think the songwriting of the new album has a more narrow focus than it did on the first album. Was this your intention? What were you trying to accomplish with the new album?

BG: I think structurally, the new album is as shifty as the last. I just think there is a bit more clarity to this one. It wasn't necessarily intentional. We're just three years removed from the writing of Appreciation Night and it feels like we've made a natural jump. The new record differs mostly from the last in that all of the sounds on The Family Afloat are our own. Appreciation Night had a great deal of studio manipulation, which gave our live show a much different feel. The Family Afloat is definitely more "live-friendly."

BP: Having seen you guys live a few times, I really enjoy the playful onstage relationship between you and multi-instrumentalist Janie Porsche. Janie joined the band after much of the first album was finished. How did her joining the band impact the songwriting?

BG: Janie has a real understanding of music, that the rest of us sort of lack (with the exception of Fleury). She works in chord structures, classic melodies, and harmonies. That being said, she doesn't necessarily write that way, she just brings that ability to a band that works primarily from an instinctual base. But having her involved in the process, was really fun. She really does a nice job of molding her thoughts and ideas to parts and making a song fully realized.

BP: Having only been playing shows for about 8-9 months, Imperial China is fairly young in its development. Any words of wisdom you’re willing to impart?

BG: Play as many shows as you can and keep in touch with the bands that you play with. That includes playing shows out of town. Booking this current tour, we've really benefited from friends we've met along the way. Oh and keep writing!

BP: This is your fifth time touring through DC. What are your thoughts on the city and its music scene?

BG: I'm not really familiar with the current DC scene, but we've really enjoyed our shows here. I think the last show we did here was at DC9 with Bishop Allen, as part of a festival. I believe it was sold out, which is always a plus. But yeah, folks seem to be interested in what's going on here and we've met some really good folks out here. Plus we always have a comfy place to crash when in DC, which is nice.

Imperial China

Questions by Bobby Gallivan for Brian Porter

BG: How do you guys write your tunes? It sounds like a democratic process. Is that the case?

BP: Yeah, all our songs are written in practices by the three of us together. I can’t think of one situation where one of us has come in with a song already laid out. In fact, most of the time nowadays, I don’t even try and write two parts together on my own anymore, because I’ll be fairly certain that we’ll ditch one of the parts. Usually, somebody comes in with a single idea (a guitar part, keyboard part, loop or sample, etc), and we’ll just start with that and see if we can string a couple parts together. Sometimes we’ll try and think of other ideas we’ve written and see if they could be incorporated too. I think it’s easier to do this with three people (fewer cooks in the kitchen, so to speak), but it’s important for all of us to being heavily involved throughout the entire writing process. Personally, I don’t know if I’ve become a better songwriter or a worse one, because now I don’t even know if I’d be able to write a whole song by myself. We’ve always just depended on each other so much.

BG: From an outside perspective, it seems that DC is a great music city. Do you guys feel that way? Are you finding other bands that are in the same position as you, and coming from the same reference point?

BP: DC is definitely a really good music city. There are a lot of bands, and the bands are definitely very supportive of one another. You often see a lot of people from other bands at your show. So we’ve been really happy with that. My only complaint with DC is that there aren’t as quite as many local experimental acts playing some of the bigger shows around town. I don’t know what’s driving that; if it’s a lack of bands or a lack of interest from DC’s concert-goers. That being said, we definitely have seen and played with a lot of DC bands who play great music and are fun to watch live. And really, what more can you ask for when playing and going to shows?!

BG: Favorite DC venue?

BP: It has to be the Black Cat. We haven’t even played there and it’s our favorite venue! It’s just that much of a DC staple. It’s big, it gets a lot of really good acts, and it's location is hard to beat. We’ve got a show there in August, so hopefully we’ll get to play there even more in the future.

BG: What is in store for Imperial China? Full length? Any touring?

BP: Since we just released our first EP this spring, I think we’re going to hold off on recording anything else for awhile. We’re still in the process of really trying to promote the EP, get some press, and try and play out of town shows. Not necessarily big tours, but some weekend trips. That’s the really nice thing about being on the east coast. It’s a lot easier to string a couple shows together in different cities in one weekend.

BG: Who do you think would win in a 3 on 3 hoops game vs. Bound Stems’ top 3? Please explain why you feel this way.

BP: Is this a challenge?! If so, we have a basketball court near my house. You just tell me when. Unfortunately, I think we might be at a slight disadvantage. Not all of us are former basketball players. In fact, Patrick (our drummer) is a hockey player, so he might show up with a hockey stick and skates. Wait, that might be our secret weapon....Patrick could throw a hit on anybody that comes into the lane!

Bound Stems' Regional Tour Dates

7/23: The M-Room, Philadelphia, PA
7/25: Velvet Lounge, Washington, DC

Imperial China's Tour Dates

7/24: Fort Reno, Washington, DC
7/25: Velvet Lounge, Washington, DC
8/02: The Third Floor, Fredericksburg, VA
8/27: Black Cat, Washington, DC

mp3: Bound Stems - Happens To Us All Otherwise
mp3: Imperial China - There Is No Translation

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