The Rotten Apples: Beach Party at the Orchard
Characteristic of the group is the process of going out of sync, of clicking and then not clicking, and then clicking again. "We're all tight friends," says Guercio. "We have an understanding between music and where things are going with a song." As the drummer he is behind all this. He remembers a quote from Ginger Baker: "A mediocre band with a mediocre drummer is just a bad band, but a mediocre band with a good drummer could get something." "I've never had a good time onstage before this band," says Brandt. "This is the first time that, from the opening notes, people would like the song and start moving to it. And I was like, 'Wow! They want to see this. This isn't some self-indulgent shit show that I'm doing. We like doing this, they like watching us, cool.'"
Waters favors mathematical concepts to delineate the dynamics of the band, like a bow-and-arrow image to represent the dynamics of foreground and background. So there are many layers to their music.
Riehle explains the band's evolution: "If you let a baby shriek and bash its head out in a cave somewhere, with no food or water, and then finally start to feed it a little bit then the thrashing stops." "We don't fuck around anymore, says Waters. "If we want to jam, we jam. If we want to play oldies, we do that. You play more and more, and you feel out more and more how the instrument does its thing."
The band has almost come apart at times. What keeps it together is love. "For any band to get anywhere," says Guercio, "you need to be able to get along with people. These three people are the ones I want to be with more than anybody. This band is just the most fun." They are both people and music makers, and you can't separate one from the other in what they do.
The band never stays in one place. "I remember when I've watched bands that have been around for decades do a song they've done a bunch and I think that's got to suck," says Brandt. "I mean, how many times have The Rolling Stones done 'Brown Sugar'? Maybe the first time I ever played in a band with friends was a Dream House show in 2003, in Providence. Ryan was talking about the elements and props and saying how the conditions were really good for us to experiment and jam. This band when we play a song we've played before, it's really active and fun, sort of like deliberate amnesia, where you get to have the same good conversation again and again. It's not inert, it's like going to one of your favorite places at the beach. It's a psychological destination."
Having fun and partying with the people who listen to them is part of who the band are. "Most of our fans are our friends," says Guercio. "But anyone can like us." Brandt recalls a recent show at Flandrew Fleisenberg's Flopera House, where the emphasis was on abstract improvisation. "That was a different crowd and it was great." "Even when we go on tours," says Guercio, "we're friends with a lot of people in other cities and other states, so it's like friends in the crowds when we go on tours too. We're still a new band here, too. We're just learning to speak!"
They are starting to get recognition, though, and sometimes in the strangest ways. "We were touring the West Coast in a 2-1/2 ton Vietnam-era military box truck," Guercio recalls, "painted entirely in camouflage. We pulled up to a rest area to get gas, stretch our legs and what not, and this lady who happened to be in the same parking lot came up to us. She saw all the people looking out of the back of this truck. She was amused and amazed. She came up and started talking to us and we were all very pleasant and very nice, and she came back over and asked us for our autographs. We were on the 5 coming back through Oregon, on a tour with The Fagettes. No one had ever heard of us before out there."
Their passionate roughness is reminiscent to British '60s band Pretty Things. "I love The Pretty Things," says Guercio. "I was just listening to them today." The Pretty Things never made it as big as many bands they were just as good as. "I don't think it matters how big a band makes it," says Guercio. "Business ruins it. You can say Pearl Jam's a good band but you can still listen to whoever comes underneath them or whatever. Pearl Jam sucks."
Brandt talks about what keeps the band together. "I think we keep being on the same frequency. I was in Oakland staying at my friend's house a year ago, and they were here doing album art for the next CD. I was reading an interview with the guy who did the cover art and they used the image from the same book. I feel like we're often exploring the same questions and curiosities and listening to the same things that wouldn't even be apparent in listening to us. Those interior dialogues get to expand, by having them with each other."