I remember when I was in film school, all I listened to was Benoît Pioulard’s music to get me writing. There’s something about it that is really difficult to put into words. Try listening to Tack & Tower, one of my favorite tracks of his. It could be the combination of his voice, the ambience of the song, and the poetic lyrics that puts you in such a dreamy disposition. Like you’re in a place you’re not quite familiar with and it’s totally okay. You don’t mind hanging there for as long as the music keeps you company. A couple of months ago, I experienced the music live when he stopped by Los Angeles while on tour with A Winged Victory For The Sullen. A video of him performing A Coin on the Tongue (from his full-length Lasted) that night follows:
Thomas Meluch, his real name, has teamed up with Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below) to create powerful music together as Orcas. With Meluch’s hazy folk songs and Irisarri’s post-minimalist ambient music, it’s pretty easy to deduce that they are perfectly matched. The song Carrion from their upcoming self-titled album has already enamored their fans and surely the album will be worth the wait until its April release. And here, he talks about this new venture, his take on internet censorship, the last book he read, and more.
Carrion by Orcas
Interview by Rozette Diaz
Orcas photos by Bob Hansen.
First of all, what’s the story behind the name Orcas?
Orcas are, to us, a really good emblem of the American Pacific Northwest, which is where we made the album; they’re methodical and often ruthless, but also representative of the oceans’ expanse and evocative of a quiet but powerful nature. We aimed for a certain fluidity in the sound of the album while using disparate elements like pop hooks and spatial ambience, so we find that balance to be quite fitting. As an acronym, it also stands for “ORegon + CAScadia”.
You’ve both teamed up in the past when you released an incredible cover of Broadcast’s “Until Then”. What made you decide to go full-force this time with an LP? Also, why did you decide to go with the label Morr Music for this project?
At the time we recorded that cover version, we were already about 8 months into our collaboration. We read the news of Trish’s passing just before one of our recording sessions, so it seemed natural to devote that time to honouring someone whose work meant a great deal to both of us; we scrapped our other plans and spent a few days getting the piece to a place that we felt did her memory justice.
We’re also both big fans of what Morr have done during this young century, and by some good fortune they were aware of our respective solo efforts when we approached them about this project – so it is a fitting partnership & we’re very happy to be in such good company.
How was the process of incorporating your individual sounds and styles especially when it comes to songwriting? How did you come up with and decide on the Orcas sound?
There was no discussion that went, “Ok: we are going to sound like such-and-so.” We began with nothing particular in mind once we decided to collaborate, just me playing guitar while Raf manipulated the amplifier in real-time, followed by various software treatments.. Eventually some nebulous chord structures emerged, which led to more solid song outlines, which led to lyrics, and so on & so forth. It felt very organic and – while we have different aesthetics at work in our individual music – there’s a core sensibility in both of us that led to the album sounding the way it does.
What kind of experience are you hoping to give the listeners with this new album?
It’s designed in part as a headphone experience, so we’d like it to become something personal for the listener, something to close your eyes and be with, perhaps. Something to be heard front-to-back, a strangely familiar house to walk through.
Where do you plan to take this project? Any tours that we should watch out for?
We’re currently arranging a tour in the UK and Europe for late spring 2012, and have vague plans for a stateside trip perhaps later in the year as well. As for the future, we’re already creating demos of new pieces, but once again without a particular goal in mind – so time, as usual, will tell.
What would be an ideal show for you?
Our only performance together so far was quite a nice one – we were able to use a really lovely grand piano (played by our brilliant friend Kelly Wyse) and had lovely visual accompaniment from Tana Sprague, who performs as Lissom. We envision the live version of Orcas in well-designed, low-lit spaces – the kind where lucid dreams might happen. So maybe don’t plan on seeing us at Coachella.
You’re both on SoundCloud and Bandcamp which are two great means of distributing music online. What do you think of the recent SOPA/PIPA/ACTA issue that has put the internet in a state of panic?
I’m with Stewart Brand, who said “Information wants to be free.” To a startling degree the ‘war on piracy’ is as futile and absurd as the ‘war on drugs’ and will never be won. Sure it hurts a lot of independent musicians in the pocketbook (both of us can attest to that) but it is also the way of things, and neither of us would have nearly the same following or awareness without rampant sharing of our work online. Ultimately it’s a blessing, but like anything a few select people will abuse the privilege, which is just part of the deal.
I suppose the main downside is that the current generation and its children may lose any appreciation for the physical aspect of music (album sleeves; resting the needle in the groove) and begin to take for granted the fact that people have put a lot of effort into making their work sound really good as they reproduce it at 96kbps. But we don’t know what to do about that.
What have you been into lately in music, and literature?
I just finished David F Wallace’s massive “Infinite Jest” after years of planning to tackle it – that was quite a long (but incredibly worthwhile) undertaking and I plan to read it again before too long, as I feel it’s one of those books that demands multiple returns. Music-wise, lots of Chopin and Brahms, a bit of Sixto Rodriguez and some Hoagy Carmichael – and my constants, which are William Basinski and Stars of the Lid.
Lastly, what is your mantra?
It doesn’t matter.