Æ: Aglet Eaters

Interactions In Installments: Her Vanished Grace Part 2

Posted in Discover by R on February 3, 2012

In the first part of this  interv interaction, you saw Charles and I chatting over metaphorical cookies and tea about work, songwriting and our preferred choices of cookies and tea. Using my birthday as an excuse Charlie seized the opportunity to reiterate that they’ve been making music for as long as I’ve been alive – a point worth repeating as it launches the second part of the trilogy. Here we chat about shoegazewaves, HVG’s relationship with the scene and how songs get their personalities.

Well trust in a relationship isn’t shocking (it’s expected, innit) but Nance and you function as a unit which I think is v. cool and much more rare.

Yes, I read in the WTSH interview that you’ve been doing this for 25 years which came as a surprise to me because I know you from the ‘new’ crop of shoegazers, and not so much from the oldies (who are having a bit of a resurgence themselves, aren’t they?). You also interact a lot with the newies – Drowner, The Foreign Resort, Sway and the labels and communities as well, so even if I did know you from then, you’d have thrown me. I think this is the third wave of shoegaze, in fact. Wave #2 was the APTBS, Airiel, Soundpool, Autolux etc. Slightly less known than the originals, but more concentrated in impact. Now the scene has become a lot more intimate and personal – sort of harking back to how it originally was I guess. Celebrating itself. Like how Andrew said today there’d be a new Sway album just for us. I kind of like it that way. Because if you’re not focused on sales, you’re not focused on appealing to a LOT of people and instead can choose to appeal to a few people who you really, really care about.

You know I just explained all this in my thesis today? Using sociological theories? Talk about relevant, eh?

Speaking of 25 years of music, if we bring the Blondie experience into the mix, it would seem you’re pretty understated… not one to toot your own horn much and instead just do the music for the music. Or you have really rubbish publicity skills. You’re doing a good job on Twitter, and within TSC on Facebook so I’d find that difficult to believe.

I think you make perfect sense about how you make music. Learning the instrument(s) is the biggest hurdle because you really need to master the skill before you can make honest music again. You have to be able to play by heart without thinking of the chords and then the untrained ear emerges again. It’s a bit of a risk too because if you don’t go far enough you might be stuck with a trained ear for life! No, I suppose you do reach a point where you can sort of communicate with music… like a medium.

I think music wants to communicate with us. I always see songs as distinct entities from their instruments. Many songs are like people, they have a personality and a message and it’s up to the listener to work out what the song (not the singer or musicians) is trying to say. I think that’s why I tried out music writing, I wanted to see if I could understand what the songs were saying.

Somehow we’re both oldies and newies. Nancy and I were in our embryonic stages as a musical duo when Shoegaze was coined. Already full on C Twins fans, we listened to MBV Loveless, Curve, Lush and Slowdive as they all came out here in the US in 91-92. It felt then and still feels now to me like more than a genre, but actually a sensibility. I remember a music piece in Newsweek that year by Jon Pareles (I think) that heralded the new role of noise in music from Nirvana to MBV. I’ve continued to hear the duality of aggressive lushness ringing through pop music throughout the past two decades.

So I think that that our relationship to the shoegaze scene has been tangential because while it was surely an influence, HVG always explored whatever we felt like at the time. As we got going in our present form, we discovered the Loveless Music Group via MySpace in 2005 and became friends with other NYC bands like Dead Leaf Echo and Soundpool. We heard and got played alongside a lot of the “2nd Wave” bands on FastForwardReverse, Timmy G’s awesome show on East Village Radio. I think this gave us a feeling that we could go with our inner gazer and explore a little more the drenchy side of our post punk dreaminess. So our last 4 or 5 records since then have had more of that.

I feel we have always made a boutique style of style of personally cross pollinated music. I agree that you know it when you hear it and when something clearly wasn’t created just to reach the most number of people, it connects in a way the the big pop music never can. We always thought we could find an audience for our music this way but we’ve had varying degrees of success in that regard over the years. This has led to some ambivalence about publicizing ourselves in any traditional way. We’d stopped trying to seek out label attention long ago and that may have been a factor in our under the radar persona but we really only care about making music that makes us feel good.

I don’t always trumpet the Debbie Harry connection because, while she’s a great friend to Nancy and me, it just seems a little grandiose to always be mentioning it. We love her and love to talk about how great she is if you get us going on it though.

That’s a very perceptive take on the relationship between songs and artists. It aligns with my take on how the song seems to tell you what it wants. It’s very easy to snap into an automatic approach when you’re trying to bring them to life and kill what’s unique about the song you’re working on. It’s a constant struggle to listen and balance being playful and thoughtful. It’s never finished.

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