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Math and Physics Club - Interview

  by Dixie Ernill

published: 16 / 4 / 2007

Math and Physics Club - Interview


Seattle based indie pop band were the first American band to sign to Matinee Records in five years.Dixie Ernill chats to guitarist James about their recent self-titled debut CD and their 80's influences

Based in Seattle, USA, Math and Physics Club are a 5-piece jangle pop band, who have recently released their self-titled debut LP on Matinee Records. Consisting of Charles (vocals), James (guitar), Saundrah (violin), Kevin (drum wizard) and Ethan (bass), they are currently taking a short 'baby break', but hope to be back with a new EP before the year's out. James took time out from nappy changing to spill the beans on the band's history... PB : Your debut EP, 'Weekends Away' came out on Matinee back in February 2005, but when and how did the band actually form? J : Charles and I have been playing music together in a couple of different bands since college. Life kept sending us here or there until finally in around 2002 we found ourselves both living in Seattle so began getting together in earnest to jangle away and write music again. I guess it was in the summer of 2004, after a couple years of false starts, we finally found the right mix of guys to round out the band. Except for Ethan, who we met at an open mic, we found everyone via the magic of craigslist. PB : Being based in Seattle, the home of 'Grunge' music in the late 1980's/early 1990's, it is somewhat surprising that your music bares more resemblance to the jingle-jangle indie-pop bands of mid 80's UK. Was there a conscious effort to distance yourselves from 'Grunge', or does it just reflect the music you listen to? J : Charles and I grew up in Olympia and Ethan in Seattle and we all loved all the stuff going on in the early 90's. We were all naturally drawn to the more pop stuff though. Charles and I logged a lot of hours at Young Fresh Fellows, Fastbacks, Posies, and Dharma Bums shows. Beat Happening was a total all time favourite. Some English friends introduced me to bands like the Stone Roses, Blur, the Charlatans, and the Smiths during a study abroad year at Lancaster University and I absolutely fell in love with all that stuff too. Mix in the Beatles and REM and you've probably got a lot of the major ingredients to our sound. PB : Which bands would you site as your major influences and which bands are you into now? J : The honest answer to that question is really not very rock and roll. My wife and I recently had our first kid, a little baby girl name Violet, so a lot of lullabies and kids songs have been on the CD player over the last few months. Have you heard of 'Rock-a-Bye Baby' ? Brilliant! Charles and his wife just had twin boys and Kevin has a little 18 month old daughter so I'm guessing it's much the same for both of them. We're turning into a total family band! PB : You became the first US band in 5 years to join the Matinee label. How did the deal come about? Are you surprised that more US bands aren't signed up to Matinee? J : We must have caught Jimmy Tassos, its head, in a moment of weakness. Or maybe it was the gob of cash we stuffed in the envelope along with the demo. Who knows? We arrived just as one of my favorite Matinee bands, the San Francisco-based Fairways, were wrapping things up. It is a little lonely to be the only US Matinee band at the moment. Oh well, maybe we should just pull up stakes and move to the UK. A couple of us have pets though so I'm not sure how the quarantine thing would work. PB : After a second EP 'Movie Ending Romance', you finally released your debut LP towards the end of 2006. Personally, I found it a real treat (anything that gets a 35 year old man dancing round the bedroom on a cold winter morning in a rented room in Whalley Range, has got to be pretty good!) and it took me back to my misspent youth, listening to such classic bands as the Brilliant Corners, the Housemartins, the Chesterf!elds and the Desert Wolves, but what has been the reaction elsewhere? J : The Housemartins' "Mighty Ship' was the first song I ever learned front to back followed by REM's 'Driver 8'. The intro to both still botch me up! Lots of people have labeled us as clones of Belle and Sebastian or the Lucksmiths. Others have heard the influences but also the differences. It's always good fun to see what people cook up in the "sounds like" comparisons. Some of the bands none of us have never listened to before! PB : How many copies have you shifted? J : I think the last count from Matinee was about 500,000, but I could be off. None of us are really very good at maths. PB : The songs seem simple enough (so were the Beatles' early singles), but how does the writing process work? Is it a band effort? J : The way it usually works now is Charles will have some chords and a cool melody worked out which he'll pass on. I'll mess around with a guitar part before tossing it out to the band. We'll keep adding parts and evolving the structure till we strike on something we all really like. PB : What comes first the lyrics or the melody? J : I know for Charles it's usually the melody. PB : How have your live shows been received? Have you built up a sizeable following? J: Playing live is always stressful for both Charles and I so we tend to like to do it less than the other guys. Neither of us is really very good on our instruments so things end up a little sloppy at times but we still have fun. PB : What plans are afoot for the band? Any UK dates lined up? Any new releases slated? J : One of the things on our short-list is to get to the UK. We've dreamt of playing a few shows there for a longtime but we're also secretly keen to finally get some classic fish and chips. This is a critical culinary niche which has never been adequately filled here in the US. We're hoping to make it happen in the next year or so. As for recording, we do have plans for another EP this fall. It takes us a little longer to do stuff now that three of us are new dads with little tots squirming around! PB : Finally, how would you describe your music and which three tracks are you most proud of? J : We've always just wanted to make simple pop records full of songs that felt good to play. For me, the litmus test is if I get a shiver down my spine. Then I know we were on to something good with a song. But I guess the thing I'm most proud of was how on the first 2 EPs we were able to record and mix everything from scratch in my basement without having a clue on how the whole process 'shouls' work. We just went totally by ear discovering as we went what made things sound the way we wanted. The versions of the songs on weekends away were originally meant to serve as a demo recording we could send around to the various labels we admired. Jimmy at Matinee Recordings heard it and wanted to release it as is. We just sort of went "What? OK!" PB : Thank you.

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Math and Physics Club - Interview

Math and Physics Club - Interview

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In This Together: EPS, B-Sides, Rarities and Unreleased Songs 2005-2015 (2016)
Fantastic vinyl compilation from Seattle-based indie pop band the Math and Physics Club, which will be appealing to those who are still mourning the demise of the Lucksmiths
Our Hearts Beat Out Loud (2013)
I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do (2010)
Baby, I'm Yours (2008)
Maths and Physics Club (2006)
Movie Ending Romance (2005)
Weekends Away (2005)

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