- Posted on Mar 7th 2011 5:15PM by Emily Tan
Memoryhouse are now working on material for a full-length album on Sub Pop, and later this month, the band travels to Austin for its first-ever SXSW. Spinner chatted with Abeele about hip-hop, the beauty of Nouvion's voice and why Memoryhouse's music isn't as soft and gentle as people think.
You were originally looking at Memoryhouse as an audio-visual project, and it transformed into a band. How did that happen?
Denise and I wanted to do some kind of project, but we weren't quite sure what we wanted to achieve with it. Over time, it evolved into something that completely went against our original intentions, which was try to make this really beautiful kind of drone music. Somehow, it evolved into pop music, and I guess that's how we got to where we are today.
Denise provided the visual component of Memoryhouse with her photographs, but now that it's gone from art project to band, do you still intend to keep the visuals of it going?
Absolutely. I think it's hard to define a specific aesthetic, and we try to convey it through all sorts of mediums. Definitely photography is one of the most important to us. We like to keep it consistent, so any music we make will have a visual aspect to it, whether it be a photo or music video. There's always going to be that pairing and it's been something we've been able to establish as our own. We'd like to continue into that direction.
Where did the band name come from?
The name is actually a tribute to Max Richter, who's a German-born classical composer. We were more of an instrumental band, and I was drawing a lot of inspiration from him. I started this project as kind of a tribute to him. Now we're a pop band called Memoryhouse, named after this classical piece, so it's kind of a weird and varied dissonance from the original intentions of Memoryhouse. But I guess that's what makes it unique as well.
Starting as an instrumental band, when did you decide to spotlight Denise's vocals on the songs?
It was kind of a happy accident. We accidentally found out Denise has a really, really beautiful -- and most importantly, human -- voice. It's something people can relate to and empathize with. When we discovered that, we've been gladly pushing it further and further and into the forefront, up until now, when we made the new record. Denise's voice is very front and center and very audible. We want everyone to hear everything we're saying and get the whole picture of everything we're trying to convey. Denise's voice is the anchor for all that.
How did you start playing music?
It's kind of dorky, but I was in a terrible, terrible jazz-fusion band in high school. I guess that was my introduction into the more technical side of music, and it was always fascinating to me and made me want to get my feet into as many genres as I could. Then I learned about minimalism, and I admired the fact it's not how technical it is but how constrained you are in composition. That goes hand-in-hand with pop music very well, because the best pop songs are the ones that are very lean on excesses and very forward with the really catchy hooks.
You mentioned getting into the minimalist movement. Who are your favorite composers or artists in that genre?
I definitely love Max Richter, and obviously Brian Eno was a huge, huge influence to everyone that has ever heard music. Even more contemporary electronica, like Aphex Twin, was very eye-opening to listen to and hear how constrained it was and yet [able to] convey a very simple message through a very simple medium.
Does your classical background give you an edge over other bands?
The thing that makes us stand out is that we're very obsessively specific -- nothing really happens by accident. During recording, everything was being poured over for hours and hours. We overly dissect every little detail. We want to make sure everything sounds very natural and true to life. It's that weird, dorky obsessiveness that we pour into our music that establishes our own sound.
You said in an interview once that you really like My Bloody Valentine. Aside from the layers of music they produce, they are known for the loud volume of their live shows. Memoryhouse don't sound like it can get as loud. Is that something you aspire to?
It's funny, because in the recording, we are very, very soft and gentle, but somehow, when we play live with our band -- our new band especially -- it's really loud. There's a lot more energy to it, because our drummer is fantastic. He hasn't played on our past material but he's playing on all the new stuff. It just brings this really raw energy to it, and it makes me want to crank up the volume a little just to make rock music, which is something we definitely don't do on records.
Do you think you'll ever get as loud as a band like My Bloody Valentine, who have been known to hand out earplugs at their shows?
Well, hopefully not. We don't want to do anyone any physical harm at the shows, but maybe someday.
Do you listen to anything else that doesn't fall into the Memoryhouse type of genre?
I never really listen to anything in our genre. I'm all about hip hop, to be honest. I love Biggie, and I'm really liking Rick Ross live these days. I've never been into dream pop or whatever. I'm not super into that sound, and I always find that if I were to listen to those bands, I'd probably be too influenced by them and not be able to convey my own voice in this music.
Catch Memoryhouse's SXSW Set on Wednesday, March 16 at St. David's Historic Sanctuary (301 E 8th St.) 12AM.
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