Loquat (Kylee Swenson and Anthony Gordon)

Loquat (Kylee Swenson and Anthony Gordon)

by Jason

Tell our readers a little bit about how your band formed?

Kylee – Earl Otsuka and I were at our friend Eric’s house one night in ‘96, and we just started randomly making a song using his four track, Roland Juno 60 keyboard, a guitar and a mic. Next thing you know, Earl and I were building our own studio and recording music under the name Loquat. In 2001, we met up with the rest of Loquat, who happened to be good friends of ours, and we started playing live. Now we have two studios (one at Earl’s and a portable studio at mine). And after we record our first full-length album – we’ve got two EP – we hope to go on tour.

Anthony – I just showed up one day off the street.

How is the San Francisco music scene and how do you see yourselves fitting into it?

Anthony – The San Francisco music scene seems (at least to me) to be going through a bit of a renaissance right now. A few years ago, it was such a struggle to even find a place to rehearse, and a lot of the talented musicians seemed to move away to NY or LA because they simply couldn’t afford to live here anymore with the lack of jobs, affordable housing, and dwindling number of clubs worth playing at.

After the dot com bust and all the troubles that followed, it seems like a lot of the bands who stuck it out have excelled creatively and the newer bands seem to be getting better and better. Take for instance The Stratford 4, who stuck it out and got better. Or newer bands like Park Avenue Music and Stara Nova who are really showing a more sophisticated side of pop that has nothing to do with the “noise” scene San Francisco used to be associated with and everything to do with human expression and creating beautiful music.

Kylee – The SF music scene is coming back to life. It’s really exciting to see San Francisco bands succeeding. There was a point when rehearsal studios and clubs were all dying when the dot com era came and started walking all over our music and artist culture. But since the dot com bubble burst, the musicians are coming back. Local bands and artists we love include Truxton, Junior Panthers, Stratford 4, Call & Response, Eric Shea, Madelia, Persephone’s Bees, Stymie…. Those bands are all so totally different from each other, but they each bring something cool to SF. As to where we fit in, I have no idea. Maybe we don’t?

I have your Fall ep from the Dream by Degrees label. Can you tell me about the songs you included on there? Why these four?

Kylee – For the Fall EP, we were asked to include at least a couple new songs, and we had very little time to do it. So we took “Swingset Chain,” which was on our first EP (The Penny Drop EP) released only a couple months before, and we rerecorded the bass and did a new mix of it. because it’s hard not to dislike something about a recording you did if you feel you didn’t get enough time to do it. Although the differences are subtle.

“Swingset Chain” is about my best friend from Minnesota, Kari. Kari and I grew up together and have known each other for most of our lives. I’ve known her since she was one and I was five. So that’s an emotional song, as we don’t live in the same part of the world anymore.

“Friend Without Thumbs” is one of the songs we had been playing live, but hadn’t recorded yet. It’s about my cat SCSI and how she is unaffected by the stresses of life. I wrote it right after 9/11. So when I say, “Thanks for trying to cheer me up./ What he did was pretty fucked up,” I’m referring to my cat noticing that something was wrong with me sitting in front of the TV for six days straight after the World Trade Center towers fell, and “he” is referring to Osama bin Laden. I had recently been laid off from my job, so seeing that on TV over and over, I sunk into a depression that I couldn’t snap out of. And animals can sense these things. It’s really very sweet, because they honestly do try to cheer you up. My cat just put her paw on my face and started petting me. Yes, cats can pet their owners. At any rate, I guess I was afraid to write about something so obvious, but when I’m depressed, I simply have to write a song to feel better, so I wrote this from the perspective of my cat.

“Internal Crash” Here I go proving what a depressing person I am. Actually, that’s really untrue. I’m mostly very happy, but like I said, it’s those sad moments that mostly inspire me to write music. It’s rare when I can write about a sunny day on vacation, because I’m too busy enjoying myself and drinking beer. And I’m pretty sure if I wrote a song at that point, it would suck. So this is about my grandfather having a profound stroke. He’s still alive, but pretty much paralyzed on one side. The great thing about my grandfather is how funny he is; even now his one-liners are better than that of most comedians. The remix of “Swingset Chain” was something I really wanted. My friends Tom and Kent (Atomix and Spindly) did it. Some people may not like it because it’s so different from our sound, but I love it! We played it at a roller-skating rink in Minnesota when I went to visit, and everyone started skating really fast!

Your music is infectious. I can’t seem to get the cd out of the player. Can you tell me a little bit about how you approach song writing? Who are the principle songwriters, etc.?

Kylee – Wow, thanks! Up to this point, Earl and I have been the principle songwriters. Either I’d come up with something on guitar or synths and then record it and build it up into a song, or Earl would do something with synths, guitars, bass, etc., and I’d be inspired by it and just start singing over it. But now that we’re a full band, everyone’s welcome to bring ideas. We like democracy, but if we’re not in agreement about a song, it gets shafted. No hurt feelings. We just move on to the next thing.

What motivates you to keep making music?

Kylee – Don’t know. I just can’t stop. There have been times when I think, “I don’t have a house. I don’t have a parking spot for my car. I want a place with a view and maybe some kids.” But I just can’t put my focus there. I just feel like I gotta do music. There are days when I think I suck at it, and I don’t know why I bother, and then there are those rewarding days. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions. But no matter what, I’ll still be writing songs when I’m 85. I just think I’d be depressed if I didn’t.

Anthony – I wish I really knew. I’ve been compelled to have an instrument in my hands since I was old enough to walk, so it’s almost like asking what motivates me to eat or sleep or walk or talk. It’s an instinct.

When did you know you were musical? What attracted you to expressing yourselves in this way?

Kylee – My mom says that I used to sit in front of the stereo as a baby and rock back and forth and try to turn the knobs. Then I got a turntable when I was four, and that’s when the pots and pans came out and I started banging on them. Then I found myself a piano teacher at nine and then picked up the saxophone. Then the guitar after high school. All the while, I was hoarding music, buying records, tapes, videos, watching MTV. It was hardwired into the brain, I think.

Anthony – I think almost everybody is musical. That’s why people love music, even if they think they aren’t capable of making it themselves. The difference between musicians and music lovers is usually just a matter of discipline and time spent learning how to play an instrument. Music is natural, and everyone, whether they feel they have the ability to create it or not, truly has it in them. It’s amazing to me that as animals, which is what we all basically are, we are instinctually drawn to create and enjoy music. To me, it’s one of the most mysterious and wonderful things in the natural world.

Would you please explain how your sound has changed and developed over the last five years?

Kylee – We started out more electronic, and then by nature of getting a live drummer, bassist and keyboardist, we became more organic and live. But we’re trying to go back a little into the realm of electronic. I’m thinking of how Everything But the Girl had a live drummer, but he had electronic drum triggers. And meanwhile, there was a stand up bassist, but Ben Watt played loops and synth parts and guitar. I like to walk that line of organic and electronic.

What artists do you think have influenced your sound most? Any singers that influence your vocal style Kylee? Also, do you have any writers that influence your lyrics?

Kylee – I don’t want to sound like I want to be her, but I do love Björk. Her voice is amazing, her songwriting is amazing, her production is amazing, her lyrics are amazing. She’s the whole package. I also like The Cardigans and Komeda a whole lot. But my style is just a real amalgamation of everything I’ve listened to, from Mary J Blige to Built to Spill to Roy Orbison to the Stone Roses. I don’t know if I sound like anyone. I mean, people will make comparisons, but I just let it come out of my mouth. I want to sound like it’s natural. I don’t want to affect someone else’s voice.

Do you plan on doing any tours? If so, where do you plan to tour?

Kylee – Yes! We want to start by touring around the states, and then take it from there. We’ve already made a shortlist of people we know around the country who would let us stay at their place. But we gotta make our album first.

Are you working with a label right now to put out new music? Is there a full length in your future?

Kylee – Dreams by Degrees is the one label I can mention. They’ve been great to us. And we have a couple other nonexclusive labels we’re working with. But we’re not signed exclusively to a label yet. We’re going to worry about that in a few months, once we have new songs to shop around.

Are there any artists that you are really digging right now? Any artists in the San Fran music scene that ought to be better known beside yourselves?

Anthony – There are lots of great bands playing out here right now. The Stratford 4 are fantastic, and they’re going to have a really big year. Call and Response are good friends of ours and their last record was the soundtrack to every BBQ in the Bay Area last year, so I’m excited to see what they’re going to do next. A few bands that are doing some interesting stuff – Film School, Low Flying Owls, Hard Hands, Gravy Train!!! There’s lots, really. It’s a good time for music in San Francisco


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