Violet Waves released their debut EP Endless in December of 2017. That was nine months ago. Now they are back with a new single entitled “In This Life/Otosis” which features two gorgeous tracks that really hearken to classic shoegaze motifs. The band was kind enough to answer question about their beginnings, recording and writing, gear, and more. Give it a read and go listen to their fabulous music!
Hello Violet Waves. Thanks for doing this interview.
Let’s start by having you introduce yourselves and saying what each of you do in the band.
Brett: Bass. Maintainer of the band fund.
Nate: I play guitar.
Sam: I play drums.
John: I play guitar and do the vocals.
How did the band form and how long have you been together?
Brett: I first met John and the previous drummer Greg on Craigslist. They were looking for a bassist and I was looking for a band. We jammed and wrote songs in the basement of Greg’s parents’ house for a few months. We took to Craigslist again to find a second guitarist and happened upon Nate. I think Sam was from Craigslist too. We love Craigslist.
John: The band formed in a basement around 2016 when our former drummer Greg and I were just jamming and coming up with our own songs. Eventually we decided to find some other members to fill out the band, and that’s when we met Brett and Nate. Eventually when we put out our first EP Endless our drummer Greg had to leave the band because he started going to school in NYC and working on the weekends. Luckily we found Sam, our current drummer, and he’s been a vital addition. So with the current lineup we’ve been together for a little under a year.
How does the band go about writing music? Have you seen any difference from when you started to how things are working now?
Brett: We write most of our music during practice, letting the songs come together naturally. Sometimes someone will send a riff or idea in the group text and we’ll play with it during the next practice. We’re more comfortable playing music together these days, the song writing process is much more fluid.
Nate: John usually comes up with a riff and will play it on repeat until we all catch something onto it and will just play it over and over. Then we begin structuring the song, record to our phones and listen for where we want to make changes. We usually write 80% of a song in 1-2 practices and then make some tweaks over a couple more.
John: I feel like now we have a good idea of what we want as far as song composition and sound, but we have been building on song composition lately to add different elements and fill up the empty space between songs during shows.
You released Endless at the end of 2017. Can you talk a bit about those four songs and how they came about?
Nate: Endless was our way of basically introducing ourselves as a band and finding our general sound so we could enter the scene and play some shows. Since then our sound has evolved a bit, but we still play “Vista” and “Time Stops” at every show.
John: Endless was us starting to narrow down our sound and figure out where we wanted to go as a band. We mixed our love of post-rock and shoegaze music and tried our best to blend it together. We recorded it ourselves in our former drummer’s basement with a rough idea of what we were doing.
Sam: I’ve probably listened to that album more than anyone else in the band because I didn’t play on it. They recorded it in a single day, which blows me away. I joined the band a few months after they released that record, so I had to learn all of those songs before jamming with them for the first time. I didn’t have a chance to set my drums up anywhere in Philly beforehand, so I would air drum to the whole thing from start to finish a few times a day in my apartment.
Both “In This Life” and “Otosis” are gorgeous tracks. Can you talk a bit about writing and recording these tracks and is this single and indication of a coming full-length?
John: Thank you! For both of these songs I had rough ideas of a couple parts that I showed the band, and from there we built on them to what they are today. “Ostosis” became an instrumental track without the intention of it being that. I didn’t like any of the vocal ideas I was coming up with so we played it as an instrumental and it just stuck that way.
Nate: We recorded this by ourselves in our practice space. We brought Sam in at the end of 2017 and wanted to have material he was on and have something new to put out to the public. We actually recorded vocals in John’s room while trying to keep his dogs quiet. We were also fortunate enough to have Corey Coffman of Gleemer master these songs for us.
Brett: I think “In This Life” came from the first time we ever played with Sam, and “Otosis” came out of a regular practice. Nate was our sound engineer, setting up his stash of mics around our practice space. We took our time with these tracks and I think it paid off.
Sam: We had played both songs live quite a few times, so we had a pretty good feel for the structure of each one. The major change that came during the recording process was the Alan Watts sound collage at the end of “Otosis,” which was all Nate’s work. We had been messing around with different speech samples from YouTube videos and he chopped that one up and edited it in time with the music. It really brought the song to life, and now we’re able to replicate that live.
Have you all been in any other bands before? If so, which ones?
Brett: I have, it was a dad rock band.
Sam: I played drums in the Portland shoegaze band NINE:FORTY:PM before moving to Philadelphia. They’re still playing together and have had a string of really great drummers since. They were my first band and they pour their hearts into everything that they do. Definitely check them out.
John: I’m currently involved in a band from the area called It Makes Sounds. I play guitar. It’s a mathy, ambient, post-rock-type band. I also played guitar a few years back for a short time in an alternative rock band with some high school friends.
How has the Philadelphia scene treated you? Do you find that your particular environment has affected what you write and your choice of sonics?
John: The Philadelphia scene has been great! There’s a good amount of house venues and places to play with new ones popping up every year. We’ve learned a lot playing shows the past year or so and have been trying to set up shows with bands that are similar to us and to take our time picking which shows to play. A lot of trial and error. I’m not sure if the area affects what we write, but maybe it does and I just haven’t realized it yet.
Nate: The scene is great and we’re finding great bands and venues that seem to know what we’re about. Although Philadelphia is not necessarily physically pretty, for me personally, the desire to be somewhere with open skies and large mountains is a big influence when I write parts. We all love space, the ocean, snow, and mountainous themes.
For the gearheads, what do you all use both in the studio and live?
Nate: I play an Ibanez Art-100 with Seymour Duncan Blackout pickups. On my pedal board I use an Ellman Fuzz, a Boss Blues Driver, an Earthquaker Levitation, an EHX Canyon Delay, and a Boss CE-2W. For my amp I run a Crate GX900h into B-52 Cab.
John: I use a Fender Telecaster (HH model) that I’ve had for a couple years now and a Roland JC-120 from 1984 that I got for a great price. I’m a bit obsessed with pedals so I’ve been known to switch pedals regularly, but recently I’ve settled on a nice board that consists of a volume pedal into a Boss TU2 tuner, then a Hotone clean boost, which goes into a Wampler Velvet Fuzz into an Earthquaker Devices Dunes Overdrive. Next is a Walrus Audio Fathom Reverb (an amazing reverb that’s great for ambient tones), which goes into a Walrus Audio ARP-87 Delay (which pairs perfectly with the Fathom). After that it’s a Zoom MS-50G, a nice cheap multi-effects box that has some awesome effects. I did some research and found you can get some great shoegaze sounds from that pedal. It finishes off with an Earthquaker Devices Avalanche Run, which is an absolute ambient powerhouse with one of the best reverse settings I’ve heard!
Brett: I use a Fender P-Bass, Fender Rumble head and an Aguilar 4×10 cabinet.
Sam: I use the same setup live and in the studio. I like big drums with open tuning and dark washy cymbals because they’re more bombastic and have better sustain. I play on a Gretsch 24/13/16 kit and I use big Zildjian K rides as crashes. I tend to hit very hard when playing live and the K’s stay balanced in the mix, even when I’m bashing them. Most recently I started using a noise pedal board during live shows. I have a drone synth made by Michael Rucci at Handmade Electronic Instruments out of Oakland, which I run through an Old Blood Noise Endeavors Dark Star reverb and into distortion for some of our noise intros and outros. I also launch vocal samples from a Boss looper pedal, which also runs into the Dark Star for modulation.
If there are any, what artists do you consider influences on your music? These could be musicians/bands, visual artists, or authors.
Sam: In the past when I took lessons I was always taught to hit lightly and not overplay, which led me to have good technique, but when I started playing in bands I had to hit hard. It feels authentic to me. My drum instructor from fifteen years ago would be appalled at the amount of sticks I break, but music is visceral and the way I move while playing is just as important as how it sounds. The drummers who inspire me most are the ones who embody this same unapologetic philosophy: Robi Gonzalez (This Will Destroy You), Lia Simone Braswell (A Place to Bury Strangers), Brian Busch (Cloakroom), Chris Hrasky (Explosions in the Sky), etc. Honestly, though, my biggest inspiration right now is Violet Waves. The music that Nate, John, and Brett write is so beautiful to me that I feel like I always want to bring my best self and my best drumming to what we’re doing collectively as a band.
John: We draw a lot of influence from Explosions in the Sky and other post rock bands like Caspian and This Will Destroy You, and also shoegaze bands like Slowdive, but we constantly gain influence from new music we hear online or at shows.
Nate: Slowdive, Explosions in the Sky, This Will Destroy You, the ocean and space, also Final Fantasy.
What’s next for Violet Waves? Should we expect any touring or more singles?
Nate: Right now we’re still playing locally, working on fine tuning our live performance and hopefully working on a full length soon.
John: We all work the classic 9-5 jobs during the week and try and find shows on the weekends. We hope to tour soon and try to reach out to different areas.
Thanks for doing this. Do you have anything else you would like to say to the readers?
John: Thanks everyone and we hope you enjoy our music!
Sam: Thanks for listening! We put a lot into this music and it’s so meaningful when it connects with people.