Saturday, May 11, 2013

Filling in the Blanks; An Interview with
New Jersey's Eastern Anchors

Eastern Anchors had just wrapped up a rare Monday night show at Hoboken's Maxwell's.
At the time I was feeling kind of lucky getting to see a band whose recent album
"Drunken Arts and Pure Science" had become a recent favorite by a band I honestly knew little to nothing about. It wasn't until the bands singer/guitarist Walter Verde handed me two CD's from the band Aviso'Hara that the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place.
As I listened "Goodnight Sweetheart" and "Our Lady of the Highway" I thought to myself, "How did I miss this?" I mean I've lived in New Jersey for most of the 21st Century.
What could I have been doing with my life? So with more questions than answers I decided to go right to the source to fill in the blanks and find the answer to just what the hell is this thing they call "Dad Rock"? James Damion

James: Can you fill me in on lineage between Aviso'Hara and Eastern Anchors? What was time frame and evolution between the two bands?

Ken: We had all played in the same scene together for a while, but I think the link originally formed between Aviso Hara and a band I was playing in with Aviso drummer Benny Rodriguez called Clydesdale. We asked Walter to record some demos for us. Soon after we recorded our singer/guitarist Bill wanted to move to a pure vocalist role, so we asked Walt to step in and fill the guitarist spot. Clydesdale broke up about a year later and Walter and I decided to keep things going with a new band, which became Eastern Anchors.

Walter: To piggy back off Ken, it took a few years and lapses in activity till we came to this version of the band.  We were a 4 piece with Dave on second guitar.  Dave left for a while and we became a 3 piece, which is where we switched up our direction and I started using different tunings to make the new material work better with one guitar.  Then our bass player left, but by then Dave was available again, so he came back in on bass.  And that’s how we got here today.

Dave: It's a totally muddled path but somehow we came back together as this rock unit. When Aviso' Hara broke-up I had a band called The Slow Wire and put out two records and toured a little. Then when that fizzled out eventually it made sense to me when I got the rock-bug to look for something else. Not to mention after Aviso broke-up we played a bunch of re-union type shows up until last year with Ken on drums! So in reality it's been the same group for some time. Just different songs in different keys and tunings with years in-between.

James: You've been quite busy writing new music and playing shows. What inspired the rise in activity and creativity?

Walter: Well, we put out a record in October of last year, so the increase in shows was definitely in part to sell Cds.  When we did the record, it was basically everything we were playing live as well, so you start to want to be able to switch up the setlist, which leads to more songs.

Ken: As far as the writing goes, I think we get pretty restless playing the same songs over and over.

Dave: Yes, it's true we go through booking spurts and in turn writing sessions that sometimes manage to be super productive. I'm already thinking of the fall. Right now we're in that writing stage again because somehow we don't have any shows until end of May at Asbury Lanes. So we're taking advantage once a week to build up a "new" catalog of tunes so we can try them out and mix them in the set. We're constantly throwing down ideas at home and then when the time is right and we've done some self editing we bring a tune to practice.  Sometimes it's really just a miracle with our schedules that we can even fit a practice in before a show.

James: In writing songs, do you have a certain approach? What's the building process like?

Dave: We're trying to demo everything.
I think we officially have a back-log of songs we're trying to write this summer.

Ken: I think the writing process differs from song to song. Sometimes Walt or Dave will come to practice with a new riff and the song comes together almost instantly. Other    times, we could labor on a riff for months until something comes of it.         

Walter: It varies, sometimes songs come in pretty complete, sometimes we play through a bunch of ideas and see what works. I try not to be too precious about anything because I think we have a sound as this band, so not everything is going to work.  I probably dump more stuff than I keep in this band just because it might not work in the context of a really loud and noisy three piece.  But what ends up an Eastern Anchors song, could only be an Eastern Anchors song.

James: Can you offer a little insight into the CD's title "Drunken Arts and Pure Science? It sounds like an inside joke. Or the secret answer you have to give to get into a club or retrieve your online password.

Walter: It came out of a term that I heard during a city architecture tour, Drunken Architecture.  Then I was thinking about the whole process of writing, recording and finally performing an album.  So, it’s this blend between the science of how it all works, and the drunken art, which is the sense of abandon I think you need to let songs kind of write themselves.  Now that I look at my explanation, it sounds like a bunch of bullshit, doesn’t it?  Ok, it just sounds cool.

James: The album art "Robot in the woods" looks vaguely familiar. What was the idea behind it?

Dave: This is a actual color by numbers painting by our good friend Neil O' Brien. who used to play drums in The Van Pelt and now has a band Ribeye Brothers with Tim from Monster Magnet. Neil also plays in a more experimental group called Wands. I actually won a copy at a benefit auction years ago and when i rediscovered the piece I proposed it to the band as the album art. I think walt came-up with the title as he was ease dropping on a conversation on a train or something.

Ken: We actualIy kicked around a lot of ideas for the album art. But, we all knew as soon as Dave showed us the painting that we should use it as the cover. We also used artwork from Neil O’ Brien for our first CD.

Walter: I just want to add that in addition to Neil’s awesome painting, the rest of the design and layout was done by Stu Wexler at Meat + Potatoes.

James: Can we expect a new record soon?

Walter:  I can’t say how soon, but we’re definitely writing.  I’m finally to the point where I can record the band at home.  We just did a track for a tribute comp to benefit the family of Jason Molina (, which is the first full band track we recorded completely in my house.  Unlike the last record, where we recorded everything we had, I want to demo a lot of songs on our own this time, and then go into the studio to record the actual album. That being said, I plan on making the demos release quality, so that whatever does not make the record can be used for comps, b-sides, etc.

Dave: I would love for us to start tracking in the fall but first we need a big swath of songs to choose from and we're 1/4 of the way there. Which is a good start and we just need to put the blinders on and keep writing. I'm pretty sure we'll have another record out before the Wrens do. We challenged them last year when we heard there was movement in their camp that would get a record out before them. Charles conceded and we won the gentlemen's duel.

James: I had the pleasure of watching the documentary on the band. How did the idea to do the doc come about? Do you think it paints a good picture of the band in general?

Dave: I just had finished doing a web documentary series for Ogilvy & Mather  where I was recently working for the past four years and they asked me to make another piece of original content for the One show awards. So I decided to use some of those resources and all my producing skills i learned over the past couple years and apply it to a story I wanted to tell. So luckily it lined up with the release of our record. So many bands have regular rock videos and in the spirit of documentary film making we wanted toe true about the story and not be all glory. Some of the dark side I left on the cutting room floor and you'll just have to ride in the van with us to hear those stories.
I do have a follow-up planned but we're gonna have to track down all our old drummers and some old band mates to make it happen. Who knows maybe with the next record we'll do part two!

James: Did you have to bribe Jim Testa to say all those nice things about you?

Dave: I've known Jim since 1991 or so. He really does not need too much coaxing; if he has fond memories or at least what his subconscious might not of wiped out. Cool, because our old band certainly had our shitty nights and for some reason those are good memories. He seriously is a pro though. He was saying off camera to me when we were shooting that he had just taken part in a Yo La Tengo documentary and some other one and was not sure if they would ever see the light of day. If it weren't for people like him we would have no idea what it was like as a fan. He wrote about aviso at least a dozen times. He did ignore the first Eastern Anchors record and came through solidly on Drunken Arts like a champ. Although he did see us play he has not been able to catch this version of the band live as of yet but he will.

James: I was living in New York City in the 90's and apart from the occasional Hardcore show or touring band playing Maxwells. New Jersey Rock was pretty much a mystery to me. Can you paint a picture of what the Jersey scene was like then. The bands, the venues, the energy?

Walt:  Wow, early 90’s and late 90’s feel like two different lifetimes for me. Maxwells was always a major spot, and that is where I saw most of the shows that really influenced me.  Well, there and City Gardens in Trenton.  We were mostly associated with New Brunswick, which was great, from the city, to the venues, to the bands and labels that were active at the time, all great.  Then there was the shore scene around the Brighton Bar, where you had Monster Magnet, Godspeed and a ton of other great bands, as well as Heat Blast Records documenting the whole thing (I recommend the Holier than Seattle Comp, if you can find it). Oh yeah, and the Fastlane in Asbury!  I think people might forget how most great indie bands used to actually play in Asbury Park at that time.

James: Tell me about the term "Dad Rock"

Dave: For the record I'm the only dad in the band. Although Ken has cats. It's another way to say we're "experienced".
In term "Dad Rock" made me think of age and playing in bands as we're older and have more responsibilities.

James: Does it get harder to get out and play with the responsibilities of adulthood. Does it make it a little harder to sell and promote your record when you can't play out every week and don't really tour?

Ken: I think it takes a lot more planning in terms of scheduling things like shows and recording time. Even getting together to practice can be a challenge. As far as being able to promote the record goes, I think that using social media and having our record available on sites like "Bandcamp" and "Spotify" helps to make up for the lack of touring.

Dave: I would add to this that our Tumblr site has led to new fans and sales as well. It's basically part of our virtual store-front along with twitter and Facebook we use it all when we can to help promote us and our friends.

Walter: Touring isn’t a good option for us, we just do not have that time anymore, but I do think we can and will do some quick weekenders. We just have to make sure that when we do, that it is worth the time. As far as the internet and social media, etc., I do not think it makes up for not touring. But it does offer a ton of possibilities that were not there in the old days. We put this out on our own label, so I see everything that comes through.  I was really surprised by the amount of foreign sales we have, mostly Europe.  I don’t know where that comes from.  Maybe from the Rolling Stone thing helped some, but we were getting them before that.  So, thank you Internets!

Eastern Anchors  Band Site

Upcoming Event Asbury Lanes Show Details

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