ARMS OF TRIPOLI Interview – March 2014

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FTY :  Can you introduce the members of Arms of Tripoli?

[Mike]: Sure, Arms of Tripoli is George Tseng, Jaime Galvez, Robert Bauwens, Vic Lazar, and myself, Mike Bouvet.

FTY :  How did the band get its name and also give a brief history of the band?

[Mike]: Well, Arms of Tripoli formed out of the ashes of another band, The Lights From Here.  Robert, Brian (previous AOT member from Signal Hill) and I had been playing together in the last incarnation of that band and upon its disintegration, decided to continue making music together.  With the addition of Jaime to the original lineup, we made a conscious effort to form a band and start recording songs and playing shows in July of 2011.  It was then that we started kicking around band names.  Each of us brought several suggestions to the table and the front runner at that time was Arms of Saguaros.  However, we just couldn’t all whole heartedly commit to it cause we were unsure it fit.  Brian, being a huge Pinback fan, suggested “Tripoli” instead of “Saguaros” simply due to his affinity for the way it rolled off the tongue.  Everyone else agreed and thus Arms of Tripoli was adopted as our official name.  All the other band names we came up with actually became the names of the songs on the first EP.

FTY :  Can you describe your sound? 

[Mike]: This is actually a pretty difficult question, simply because I don’t think we really necessarily fit neatly into the genres we typically get categorized as (i.e. Post-rock, Math-rock).   Sure, I think we have aspects of our sound that could be classified as Post-rock or Math-rock… but I think we transcend those genres.  For example, I think we could easily be called Progressive or Shoegaze at times.  There’s definitely a Reggae influence and feel underlying the first track on our debut EP (Vikings in the Attic).  So to answer your question, I guess I’d describe us a proficient fusion of all those genres.  Simply put, our sound is the product of all our influences meshed together.  If you were to take all those instrumental sub-genres and throw them in a blender and add a dash of “it really doesn’t matter to us which one we are as long as we love it,” then you get us…

FTY :  You have a new album on Fluttery Records, what can you tell me about that? I must add here that it is a fantastic release, and one that you should be very proud of.

[Mike]: Thank you very much!  We are very proud of it!  That album came on the heels of Brian’s departure from Arms of Tripoli.  We picked up George on drums, which freed Robert and me up to concentrate on other instruments and gave us a very consistent percussion section to build upon, which I personally think makes this album sound less disjointed than when Robert and I were sharing drumming duties.  Also, we welcomed recent Buffalo, NY transplant, Vic Lazar, to the band.  We all instantly connected and the album just came together.  The chemistry and environment were just right… We perfectly clicked and Dream in Tongues came to fruition.

FTY : How did the relationship with Flutter Records happen?

[Mike]: Upon completion of our first EP, Jaime and I religiously spent hours and hours a day sending it out to labels, blogs, webzines, websites, radio stations, etc.  We were basically looking for any avenue of exposure we could find.  We were extremely, extremely fortunate that Taner Torun from Fluttery Records saw the potential in us and expressed interest in us joining forces with Fluttery Records!  Arms of Tripoli is both proud and honored to be one of the many amazing and wonderful bands that consider themselves part of the Fluttery Records family!

FTY :  So thinking back to your debut album that you released, is it now easier to record the music, what is the biggest thing you have learned about the music or band from the debut to this release

[Mike]: Well, I’m not sure if you are asking if tracking is easier… but if so, then yes, it is.  George has had technical training and education in sound engineering.  I recorded the first EP on a little laptop with a six input audio interface.  Without George and his knowledge of tracking, recording this album would have, hands down, been a much more tedious and difficult process… and I think that definitely comes across in the recording itself.  The actual quality in fidelity between the first EP and our new album is like night and day.  I would definitely classify the tracking of our first EP as low-fi.  As far as what I’ve learned about the music and the band from the debut to this release, we have a lot of untapped talent.  I think when we take a less serious, nonchalant approach to composing, we free ourselves to explore our sound more.  When we’re not so concerned with what we sound like or how we may be perceived by our songs alone, we find that we really have no boundaries on where we can push the band sonically.  Sometimes it works, other times, not so much.  But without that first step… that willingness to delve into unchartered territories for us, we probably would have not been able to compose songs like we have been.

FTY :  What is the process for writing the songs? Do you start at the beginning or in the middle? Is it a band effort or single member etc etc

[Mike]: We certainly do not have one approach to writing… but more often than not, someone will come in with an idea… a riff… and the band will take that idea and build on it.  Each individual person in the band will contribute to the song and it will grow out of that one idea.  It isn’t necessarily at the beginning of the song and then we work our way through it adding each section…. It is more like us trying several different things… building it up, breaking it down, rearranging, and finding a common ground where we’re all satisfied with the song.  It is never a single member effort, and we would never want it to be.  Every member of the band is equally represented in every aspect of Arms of Tripoli.  That notion goes far beyond just the way we compose songs… it is fundamental to our nature.  Sure we don’t always agree about everything, but that would be so weird if we didn’t.  Without the ability to compromise when composing, I think we’d never feel we had the freedom to experiment.  If we didn’t approach composing that way, I don’t think we’d all be satisfied with the music we produce.

FTY :  How do you name the titles of the releases and songs on your albums and can you explain the song title ‘Velcro Thunder Fuck’ ?

[Mike]: Though it may not be readily apparent, Arms of Tripoli is extremely jovial and playful, resulting in us bouncing off each other with very humorous results.  Half our practices are spent cracking jokes and laughing about the most random things possible.  So many titles for songs come right from those conversations.  Velcro was originally titled “Velcro Thunder Chief,” by Vic.  When either George or I would message the band with audio files from practice, I would refer to the song as “Velcro Thunder Fuck,” simply cause I couldn’t remember what the third word was in the title that was chosen.  It stuck.  So we changed the name to “Velcro Thunder Fuck.”  Lets see… Canna comes from a conversation we had about someone that looked like a perfect combination of Courtney Love and Anna Nicole Smith, hence Canna.  Snowed In was in reference to Edward Snowden, which was the topic of conversation for every media outlet during the time we were writing that song.  There isn’t any particular deep meaning behind the names… they just often come directly from our ridiculous comments.  Our newest compositions are affectionately dubbed “Bitches n’ Jet-Skis,” and “Lazy Olympians.”

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FTY :  When you are creating or recording your music, do you consider how difficult it would be to play live?

[Mike]:  I don’t think so…  At least I don’t.  I do however think that our live set is much more raw and stripped down.  I like it that way.  It gives a different and unique experience to the listener.  Who wants to go see a band that plays exactly what you hear on the album?  That, to me, kinda defeats the purpose of seeing a band live.  Also, it is logistically impossible for us to try and recreate exactly what is tracked.  We’d need at least 2 additional members.  So we don’t approach our live set in that fashion, which is probably why whether or not it is difficult to reproduce live isn’t ever an issue for us.

FTY: What does each member of the collaborative bring to the band?

[Mike]:  Their influences, their abilities, their passion, their perception, and their opinions.

FTY :  What bands do you typically play with when you have a live show? Do you like bands in the same genre or a total contrast in sounds. 

[Mike]:  I suppose our preference would be to play with bands that are similar to us is sound… but that doesn’t mean that is always the way shows are arranged.  The way I see it is, it is either us, another band, or the venue that arranges a show.  When it is us asking other bands to perform on a bill with us, then we have that option, which we don’t necessarily religiously adhere to it either.   We certainly enjoy playing shows with friends, who may or may not sound like us.  I think that influences us more than anything when putting on a show.  If it is another band or the venue booking the show, then it is usually completely out of our control.

FTY :  What or who influences you to do what you do?

[Mike]:  Musically?  Wow… there are so many musical influences I have… and that’s just me personally.  I know everyone in the band has numerous and wide ranging musical influences.  To list them all would result is a pretty substantial list where a truncated portion might give an out of context, skewed perception of us.  So I think it would be silly and counterproductive to give you a few of my personal musical influences as a representation for the band…

But like as people, as the way we approach life?…, I think the biggest influences on what we do are Juggalos (as a whole) and Scott Stapp.

I know for George, during the mixing of this album, he was sonically inspired by Jessie Baylin’s “Little Spark”, Radar Bros “And the Surrounding Mountains”, Geronimo’s self-titled album and “Inertia” split with Bastard Noise, and some Tom Petty singles.

FTY :  Would you say that listening to bands in similar genres can influence how you sound?

[Mike]:  Oh absolutely… how could it not?  But I think the way it influences you doesn’t necessarily mean that you try to emulate them.  Sometimes it influences you to sound completely different.

FTY :  How does the band promote itself, are you finding social media is a good avenue for this?

[Mike]:  We’ve been somewhat successful in promoting ourselves through social media.  We have a BandCamp, Facebook, Twitter, and SoundCloud account along with a label website and EPK website.  I think though that the best forms of promotion are shows and word of mouth.  The problem that exists with the world of music is that there just isn’t enough time out there for everyone to listen to everything.  The sheer amount of non-commercial, non-mainstream music out there is just incredible.  For example… say I was to limit my sole personal listening preference to one genre (i.e. Post-rock), it could take me eons to get through all the albums released in that genre this year alone.  I could be trapped on an island with all those albums listening to each and every one in every possible waking moment and still not be able to get through them all faster than they’re being generated.  So most music gets buried, regardless of whether or not it is actually good.  On the other hand, so much crap is crammed down our throats by major record labels and corporations that independent music never really has a chance to flourish.  The single greatest obstacle for Arms of Tripoli regarding promotion is just simply getting people to listen to the album.  I honestly believe that if we could overcome that, then promotion would never really be an issue.  But I think the best way to accomplish that is by word of mouth or shows.

FTY :  If you could collaborate with any artist or band, who would it be and why? I guess it would be a multi collaborative effort then

[Mike]:  For me personally, I would say Nels Cline, Tortoise, The Mercury Program, or Beck.  I think for me, as a musician, I would enjoy working with them the most cause I like almost nearly every aspect of their music and I respect them tremendously.  But again, I cannot speak for the band.  I’m sure anyone of us would be just absolutely elated to have the opportunity to work with any one of our personal influences, whether that be in the context of a full band collaboration, or just as individual musicians.  We recently had the opportunity to open for A Minor Forest, and them being a huge personal influence, I felt as excited as a little kid going to Disneyland for the first time…. and that was just us getting to open for them!

FTY :  What advice would you give to any band playing instrumental music starting out today?

[Mike]:  First and foremost, do what you love.  If you are playing music for any other reason than you love making music, then you’re doing it wrong.  Secondly, don’t ever let anyone make you second guess what you love.  As an instrumental band, one of the things we hear often is “Why don’t you have a singer?”  Like that just baffles some people… the concept of music for music’s sake… without being the vessel to deliver some lyrical message just blows people’s minds!  They can’t wrap their head around it so they feel, that in itself, diminishes the music.  We just recently had a review of the album where it was stated by the reviewer that it would be a much better album if we had a singer.  We just like to laugh at things like that and brush it off.

FTY :  Last piece of music you listened to, apart from your own? 

[Mike]:  Me personally…. I’m listening to Beck – Morning Phase, cause it was just released today.  Right before that… I had a friendly conversation with a neighbor in which he highly recommended a 60’s/70’s Prog-rock band I’d never heard of, so I was working my way through Van Der Graaf Generator’s discography.

FTY :  What does the future hold for Arms Of Tripoli?

[Mike]:  Only really great things, I hope.  Great music definitely.

 

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