An Interview with Soda Lilies at Cheer Up Charlies (sort of) – January 15, 2017 (sort of)
Soda Lilies is a shoegaze, lo-fi, noise-pop band hailing from Austin, Texas. I interviewed Soda Lilies at Cheer Up Charlies in Austin, TX on January 15, 2017 at a gig with Blushing and Muff but there was a technical snafu that killed the audio file (hence the ‘sort of’ in the title). The band was kind enough to answer the questions a second time via e-mail. They answered questions about the formation of the band, their writing process, and what’s next for the band.
Hello Soda Lilies. Can you all introduce yourselves to our readers and say what you do in the band?
Ryan Elmore: Hi I’m ryan and I play guitar and sing and write/record all of the music.
Jake Rowan: My name is Jake Rowan and I play drums for Soda Lilies.
Alex Stanfield: I’m Alex and I play bass.
How did you all start making music? Have you been in bands in the past?
Ryan: I guess I grew up with a dad who always had an acoustic guitar around. I started playing that at a young age, just sort of dinking around and started taking it more seriously after highschool. I’ve never had lessons. I eventually taught myself how to play everything (piano, guitar, bass, drums etc.). I used to play in a few psychrock and jazz fusion psych bands back where I grew up in Arizona. (Sun Vs. Moon, Icy Core Of Jupiter, Everything I’ve Never Seen) Then I moved out to Austin a decade ago to get out of bands for a while to record an album doing everything myself, really lofi, and I did under the name Autocoax. I never really released it or anything. I mean it’s on bandcamp but it’s just something I show to random people.
Jake: I started playing drums when I was 13; my brother had a kit he never used and I would just hop on and play along to music. After years of doing that, I eventually formed a band with my friend and coworker at the time called smith+robot, which has been running strong for about 5 years. Last fall, I joined an Electric Light Orchestra cover band that plays here around Austin semi-frequently now.
Alex: I started playing music in high school. I started my first band when I was a sophomore in high school and I’m in several bands currently.
So, how and when did Soda Lilies form?
Ryan: I started doing Soda Lilies in 2014-15 when I was stuck in Houston for a couple of years with an ex-girlfriend, Alexis. She was the other half of Soda Lilies initially but was mostly busy with school because she’s reallllly smart. It ended up being mostly a solo project except for her doing the backup vocals on “Lazy Susan”. I just had more free time and I worked on my songs. When we moved back to Austin we started trying out drummers and bass players but our relationship had been dying and fizzled out and we couldn’t work out our differences. She has some really good songs that we never got to record and I hope she does something with them. The Album cover is of Alexis at Lovett Cemetery (her feet cover the 2 t’s).
It was taken on a road when we both knew our relationship was suffering. It is ironic. Love Cemetery, a figurative place, is our entire relationship. Then I met Jake through a friend. We started jamming and pretty quickly played a show as a 2 piece at dozen street and a really old homeless guy loved us and held us by the shoulders for a really long time telling us so. Then I met Alex through some friends that live in the apartment complex where we practice (We are loud and listen to us from their porch when they smoke) and knew Alex liked the genre and we were introduced!
Jake: I met Ryan through another friend I pedicab with after expressing the urge to play music more frequently. Soda Lilies’s original lineup had just disbanded and he was looking for a drummer and bass player. Me and Ryan met up and jammed and we meshed well right away. Eventually, Ryan found Alex and we all solidified a set fairly quickly.
Alex: Soda Lilies was already formed before I came along. I was staying with someone in the same apartment complex as Ryan and we began to talk about me joining them.
Can you talk a bit about the shoegaze/dream-pop/experimental scene in Austin and how you see yourselves in that whole framework? What does the environment of Austin do for you creatively?
Ryan: There’s a really good and growing shoegaze scene here. A lot of good bands. our specific brand of lofi shoegaze (or slackergaze as coined by Michael of Wild Patterns and the band Lazy Legs, a great band) that wonders off into garage and psych and noise lets us slip in with other great scenes here in Austin. We can fit a lot of different bills.
Jake: I wouldn’t be playing shoegaze if I didn’t live in Austin. There is a thriving, inclusive, experimental scene that’s pretty open to anything you can present coherently. It allows a certain confidence when performing live as well as when we’re writing. I know that as long as I own what I do, then I can succeed in putting on a great show.
Love Cemetary Tapes is this wonderful mashup of shoegaze and almost hypnotic psychedelia with a good sprinkle of experimentation. Can you talk about your approach to writing and recording on this album, especially given that lo-fi feel in your music?
Ryan: Well I did the album before I met these guys and like I said I play everything on it. I recorded it in my apartment. I guess I’ve always just really liked the sound of bedroomy/demo stuff. It’s more intimate. The sound I’m going for is from something I experienced while living in Arizona like over 10 years ago… I used to live under a staircase and I couldn’t fit most of my belongings in there (it was meant for a washer/dryer) but I had access to my own patio that I made into a sort of outdoor living room with a couch and a record player. In the summer, a lot of times I’d forget to bring in my records after a night of drinking and listening to music. They’d bake out there in the sun and warp and get dusty and scratchy so when you’d play them they’d shift pitch and warble and crackle and skip. That is the sound I am trying to convey through Soda Lilies.
Alex: I didn’t help with any writing or recording. It was pretty much all Ryan. I have re-written most of the bass parts though. I feel like when I joined I brought in a lot more bass driven parts.
I like to ask bands about a few tracks specifically on their latest. Can you talk a bit about writing and recording “Ghost Camouflage (fog)” and then the very experimental “The Bees in my Stomach Are Dead and Getting Used to It”?
Ryan: Fog is really fun and garagey and on the record its really short and is supposed to just sorta float through it and disappear quickly, yuh know like a ghost. When we play it live it’s a lot longer with another verse and builds to some really noisey, multi-loop madness. Bee’s I recorded alone in one take. It’s a really emotional song for me. It was during what was the saddest month of my life, very unhappy and hopeless in the love cemetery so to speak. It was when it ended (or began? or continued?). The droning static that frames the entire piece is supposed to sound like, well, Bees.
Jake: Ryan wrote and recorded that entire tape, but I know with Bees we wanted to be able to improvise and experiment with the theme of bees. The song runs a loop in the background that gives off this sound that’s akin of a swarm of bees buzzing irrationally loud and we’re able to improvise on top of that and output this feeling of anxiety that comes and goes in waves. It’s always great to play live as an opener and really sets the mood and tone for the rest of the set. Fog ends abruptly on the record, with this effect that I feel emulates a sort of fog enveloping the remainder of the song. When playing live, I like to feel that we’re able to perform the song past that fog by playing harder and harder towards the end.
What sort of equipment do you use when playing live and, if different, while recording? What sort of set up do you use in the studio to record?
Ryan: I use exactly the same equipment live as in the studio. I write music that I can properly play live. I don’t want to disappoint an audience with a lack of texture. Well, at least knowingly, since I usually fuck up at least twice. I play a 30ish pedal board so it’s gonna happen. I switch between guitars, my burgandy mist metallic fender jazzmaster 62cs and my 96 mij fender jazzmaster that I’ve modded a lot. I gutted the rhythm circuit and built an optical theremin that I filled the cavity with. Really noisey stuff. I play through a 76 fender super six reverb amp. LOUD.
Jake: As far as drums go, I play with this big starburst orange Pearl kit emblazoned with “Chad Smith Signature Drums.” I really enjoy sharing that they have Chad Smith’s signature of approval, for what that’s worth.
Alex: I’m using Ryan’s bass gear, which has a really good tone for us. I do use some pedals to make things a little noisier. Really digging this new earthquaker distortion I got recently. I also use some chorus and a memory boy to make things wavy. I use pretty much the same set up while recording.
If you could have any piece of equipment, with no financial restrictions keeping you back, what would it be?
Ryan: I’d like an original pre-CBS Fender Jazzmaster. Really beat up. olympic white.
Jake: Really, I just need a new ride cymbal, some new skins, and maybe a smaller crash to add to it. After playing with a kit so long you grow accustomed to its particular sound.
Alex: This noise floor fuzz pedal from devi ever Ryan used to have.
So what’s next for Soda Lilies? Should we be expecting more music in 2017?
Ryan: As soon as I find the right label to work with, I want to release “Love Cemetery Tapes” on vinyl with 2 bonus tracks that won’t be available digitally. Aside from that, we have a lot of songs to work with, around 15, and always writing more. Will probably have an e.p. out Marchish and a full length by the end of the year. The focus right now is getting a local following since as far as this being an active, live playing band we are very new to the town. We will be playing a lot of shows this year.
Jakes: We want to start recording this month. We’ll be playing SXSW and we’re planning on touring during the summer.
Thanks for doing this. Any other comments you would like to leave with our readers?
Ryan Elmore: NO!
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