New Music Tuesday 16 - Modern Charms
Posted by Alex Bohea on December 17, 2013
A weekly feature here at The Great Divide Blog is our New Music Tuesday; introducing you to an artist or band you may not have heard of. We can’t guarantee that you won’t have heard of them, but if that’s the case, it might give you a little reminder to revisit them sometime soon.
This week we take a trip over to the South Coast of America to check out one of San Fransisco’s finest new bands, Modern Charms. The band, made up of members from Black Breath and Dissolve, already have a lineup with an extremely high quality past. Inna, who spent some time working with Whirr in the past, is the voice behind the band and draws together the beautifully spacey and dreamy pop that Modern Charms have been producing. With the backing of guitar tones from a galactic bliss and sounds from a distortion wonderland, the band instantly stuck me on their 90’s influenced rhythms. This year finally sees the release of their self-titled mini album which has made many of best of year list. If the influences of Sun Kil Moon, Swervedriver, Smashing Pumpkins and Ride don’t make you want to give them a listen, I’m not sure what will.
We interviewed Mark from the band to catch up on life post-recording, the pressures of starting a new band and what comes next for Modern Charms. Check it out below.
TGD: Hi, can you introduce yourself and give us a little of the history surrounding the band?
Mark: Hi. The band is Blaine Patrick, Inna Kurikova, and myself, Mark Palm. A few years ago I moved to San Francisco and that's when I met Blaine. We hit it off immediately and seemed to have some similar tastes in music, but not so similar that we couldn't introduce and expose each other to new stuff that we weren't already familiar with, which is nice. For example, he turned me on to Sun Kil Moon and Mark Kozelek. And I remember introducing him to Swervedriver's 'Mezcal Head' record on the way down to LA for a recording session. Blew his mind. For real, I've never seen anyone react that way to hearing a band for the first time before. Anyway, we started jamming together and it seemed like our guitar playing and song-writing styles complemented each other nicely and we got some songs together. Blaine said he had a friend who could sing. Inna came over one evening and we played her some songs. She demo'd some vocals for the song When We Get There and it was obvious it was gonna work. Her voice was perfect.
TGD: Whirr became popular in England after the UK tour with Title Fight. With Inna now playing in Modern Charms and Mark coming from Black Breath, did you feel a pressure to satisfy straight away? Does it help having an audience backing when starting a new band?
M: Well, Modern Charms came first actually so there was no pressure. The Modern Charms record was all recorded before Inna ever played with Whirr and before I joined Black Breath so we weren't thinking about anything like that when we were making the record. I think it's helped us a little that Inna played some shows with Whirr and did the live record with them. Whirr has been real helpful and supportive of the Modern Charms record and I think it helps to have a much more popular band, like Whirr, recommending our record to their audience. As for Black Breath, I'm sure there is some cross over, but we've never advertised ourselves as "members of Black Breath" so I don't think that is really much of a factor. I guess it gets mentioned from time to time in articles and reviews, so perhaps that makes some fans of Black Breath curious enough to give Modern Charms a listen. People seem to have very broad tastes in music these days so I'm sure there are some folks who are fans of both bands.
TGD: Your self-titled debut record has finally been physically released. On reflection, what are your feelings on the mini-album post-production? Is it a case of wanting to work on something new straight away due to the unfortunate delay in release?
M: I think we're all very pleased that it is finally seeing the light of day. It's been a long process. On reflection, there are things about the record that could be improved upon for sure. It has it's flaws, but I like that it is kind of a snapshot, or momento, of my time spent living in San Francisco. Of course I have lots of memories of my time there, but it's nice to have a physical object to remind me. As for working on new Modern Charms material immediately, we haven't started on anything new together, but Blaine and Inna have recorded some new songs for their band Dissolve and I highly recommend giving them a listen (www.dissolvemusic.bandcamp.com). It will definitely appeal to anyone who enjoys Modern Charms.
TGD: Can you talk us through the process of making the record? What came easily to you and what did the band struggle with the most?
M: Well, it was kind of an unusual process as far as making a record goes. For one, it was recorded in two very different locations. The drums and some of the guitars were recorded at a studio in Hollywood called Readymix. Blaine had a friend who was interning at the studio so we could get a discounted rate. So we drove down there and did a couple days of tracking in that studio. The problem is, upon returning to San Francisco we were completely broke so we weren't sure how we would be able to finish our record. Money was definitely the biggest struggle with this record. Eventually, Blaine's boss at the time suggested we get in touch with his friend Tim, who was a recording engineer with his own home studio out in Sonoma County in Northern California. Apparently, if he liked our stuff he might be willing to cut us a deal. So one day Blaine and I drove out there to meet with him and play him our stuff. We played him the bed tracks from our sessions at Readymix as well as some musical references of bands we were into like Ride and My Bloody Valentine and he just tore it all to shreds. Surprisingly, Tim agreed to work with us and be flexible about money since he knew we were broke. In retrospect, I suspect he was just as broke as we were and was as desperate to work with us as we were to work with him. After that we began making the hour and a half drive out to Sonoma every now and then to work on the record. For those who aren't familiar with the area, Sonoma County is wine country. Tim's home, where we recorded, was a small farmhouse surrounded by vineyards. A really beautiful environment to make a record in. Even though the commute back and forth was inconvenient, those drives over the Golden Gate Bridge and on through the beautiful scenery of Marin County and in to Sonoma, really became a big part of the experience of making the record. I used to give Tim's young son skateboarding lessons in exchange for a discount on our recording costs. We'd work on the record for a couple hours then we'd take a break and I'd take his son to the skatepark for an hour. Then we'd come back and get back to work on the record.
TGD: The mini-album was released on Clue #2 Records. How did you end up working with them and why did you want them to release the record?
M: Clue #2 is a label run by my friend Andy, who also happens to be my boss. Both Andy and his label partner Hieg were very enthusiastic about doing the record right from the beginning when they heard a rough mix of the session. It's been cool to work with a label where I can be closely involved with everything that's happening with the release. The warehouse that the company I work for is based out of also doubles as the Clue #2 office, so I'm there frequently and can be pretty involved hands-on for the whole process.
TGD: It’s quite obvious that you’re influenced by dreamy pop, especially those bands around the 90’s era. Are there any hidden gems that someone may not have heard of from that era you can recommend?
M: That's a good question. I'm a huge fan of a lot of early to mid 1990's melodic guitar based music, from Brit-pop and shoegaze to the American alternative rock and grunge movement, as well as the "Halifax Sound" stuff that was coming out of eastern Canada at that time. I'm not sure if any of it is too terribly obscure though, especially in this day and age when there seems to be a renewed interest in the music of that era and everyone has the ability to find out everything about it through the ease of the internet.
TGD: If Modern Charms could go on a dream tour with three other bands, whom would you pick and where would you go?
M: We could do an exclusively San Franciscan tour with Fleeting Joys, Young Prisms, and Whirr.
TGD: What can we expect to see from Modern Charms in 2014?
M: You can expect to finally start seeing our record in stores and distros. Aside from that, I'm not sure. I would love to make some more music together, we'll just have to wait and see.