March 14th, 2008 | Interviews

Dan Monick

Pocahaunted is working on a dub record and has an art installation as part of Three Burritos at Tiny Creatures later this month. Amanda and Bethany speak to us about sea creatures, child acting and Senegalese funk.

What was it like playing for a class of third graders?
Bethany: It was amazing and weird.
Amanda: The Q&A was them asking us like ‘What kind of songs do you like?’ And us sitting there in dead silence trying to think of radio hits.
B: We’d be like, ‘You like Stevie Wonder?’ And they’d be like ‘…’ ‘What about the Rolling Stones?’ And two kids would raise their hands. They were like, ‘Do you like Souljah Boy?’
A: I realized how blissfully unaware we are of everything popular.
B: I like to pride myself in thinking I know what’s going on on the radio. In my car, my tape player is broken, so I’m like, ‘Oh, cool, I’ll listen to Star 98.7,’ and then switch to the classic rock station—
What’s the best experience you ever shared with the radio?
A: Any time Marcy Playground’s ‘I Love Sex And Candy’ comes on, it makes me really happy.
B: I’m obsessed with Billy Joel. I just saw him play last night. A beer was $9 and the pizza was just a piece of cheese with literally no dough—just cheese hanging off. It was amazing. It was all 40-year-old drunk women, and one kissed my hand like ‘I love you!’ Awesome.
What was the most constructive comment you got from the third-graders?
B: They drew all these drawings for us—
A: —while listening to our music. Their teacher is a big fan of ours. During art time, he’d play our record and sort of insist they draw something inspired by what they hear. They said we were scary Halloween music. They drew us monsters and alligators.
B: One was a haunted house and a ghost, and the caption on the ghost says ‘YOU CANNOT SEE ME.’ And one kid gave us a note: ‘YOUR BAND RULED. AND THE SONG.’
A: I think they were utterly confused. But so are adults.
B: I have a huge pottymouth, so I felt like I had to be really careful—like if I said anything in front of these kids, it’d go down on my permanent record.
A: She’s two seconds from saying ‘fuck’ any moment of the day. And then we went back to playing shows for hipsters—we were like, ‘Whew! Narrow escape!’
What was it like opening for Mike Watt and Thurston Moore on Halloween in Visalia?
B: The car we took up there broke down. Our friend Bobb [Bruno] who records us and plays drums for us a lot—it was his car and the speedometer just said DONE. So he pulls over and we’re in the middle of these vineyards, and we’re like ‘We have to go to the bathroom!’ And then a cop comes…
A: And apparently it’s a federal offense to pee in a vineyard? So we’re running through the vineyard—and my pee makes wine better anyway! I pee in everyone’s wine—not a big deal. But at that point, we thought for sure we were not getting to the show. The car was done and we were done.
B: We called Thurston and he was like, ‘It’s fine—you guys will make it.’ So we called a tow truck and we were towed—
A: —and we were in the car as they were towing us, which is illegal.
B: We were in the back seat taking shots of Jack Daniels, like ‘We might die, so we might as well be relaxed.’ And they dropped us off and another guy and his girlfriend towed us to Visalia, and they were listening to crazy screamo music and the Silversun Pickups, and we were like, ‘We know this band…’
A: We wanted to seem glamorous. And we were like, ‘Hey, we’re opening for Sonic Youth.’
B: And they were like ‘…’ We did sound check in like four seconds then ran to the bathroom and threw on our costumes.
A: We were playing in one of those weird pizza parlor sports bars in front of giant Budweiser flags, and I would never by any means call us high art, but we’re definitely not Budweiser-flag art.
B: We sat at the merch table and made little pouches of candy corn—we also like to think we’re a stand-up duo, so we wrote little jokes and make a hundred of the things with our own hands, and we could not give them away.
A: Everyone in Visalia was worried about getting fat from candy corn. I realized I was yelling at people: ‘You’re not gonna get fat! What are you, on a diet? It’s Halloween! Take the candy!’ Thurston took a few and was like, ‘Candy corn is awesome.’
B: And then he just left it on the table. He didn’t want it. And Thurston introduced us to Watt, who immediately started talking about San Pedro. We were like, ‘We know.’
A: He was wearing the most high-waisted jeans I’ve ever seen. And a flannel. He was probably the hippest person there.
B: He looked good.
A: In an utterly clueless lumberjack way.
What happened to Bobb’s car?
B: We left it there, and Bobb actually finally went up there—it was no longer done!
A: We’re really into playing for people that aren’t what we would consider regular fans of avant-garde experimental music. But there’s always very nervous energy when people are there to see rock or a standing performance—with traditional instruments and traditional structure—because we play one piece.
B: A lot of times we finish playing and people are waiting—no, that’s it! We have one song!
A: It makes people sort of vicious.
B: We did a little mini-tour and played this art gallery for I guess only ten minutes, but when you’re in the moment, it feels a lot longer, and apparently the cops came—
You attract a lot of cops.
A: I got pulled over by a cop that thought I was a prostitute.
How did they bring that up?
A: I had like fur coats and lipstick and I was on the west side by the Standard and I have a 17-year-old in my car, and they were like, ‘Honey, have you been drinking tonight?’ ‘Well, he’s having an Arizona Iced Tea and I’m having Kombucha.’ So anyway the cops came and that’s why people thought we had a second song. They were like, ‘We’re so bummed you had to stop early.’ And we were like, ‘Yeaaaaaahhhhh….’
You should call the cops on all your shows.
A: I’d prefer to call the firefighters.
B: We talk fast and we’re always screaming really loud—we have a joke that people probably hear our music and are like, ‘When are these bitches gonna shut up?’
Who came up with the Mary Kate and Ashley of drone idea?
B: Bobb. Bobb and I are both REALLY into the Olsen twins.
What does it mean to be REALLY into the Olsen twins?
B: They’re just kind of amazing. I always check the fansites to see what they’re wearing. Bobb had a thing where he was like ‘You’re Ashley and Amanda is Mary Kate.’
Is one the good one and one the bad one?
B: They’re both good. But Ashley wears more classy things, and Mary Kate is daring—she’s definitely a risk-taker.
Have you tried to make contact?
B: I’m pretty sure they would hate us.
A: But if you’re on drugs you like us no matter what. I feel like it doesn’t matter what kind of drugs you’re on. Music for people to take appetite suppressants to.
Taking appetite suppressants to make music to take appetite suppressants to?
B: We try to be the healthier version of Spacemen 3. With better teeth.
What’s in the filing cabinet of clippings that you use to make your collages?
B: Books and National Geographics, and we just talk and cut stuff out.
A: We have a gallery exhibit at Tiny Creatures in March, so we’ve been doing a ton of stuff for that.
What’s the best source material besides National Geographic?
A: Go to any Vogue and cut out diamonds.
B: Diamonds and fur.
A: I’m Jewish, so I think everything about diamonds is amazing. I’m really into being Jewish so I make these really bold statements like ‘Jews hate that,’ and then like five Jewish people ask me, ‘Why did you say that?’ But I think I’m really qualified to say what Jews like and don’t like. I said ‘Jews hate slurpees’ and a woman turned around and said, ‘I’m Jewish and I don’t hate slurpees.’ ‘Well, you’re not really Jewish then!’ But you don’t say that. Anyway, Jews love diamonds. Do Italians like diamonds?
B: Italians like gold.
A: Just fancy stuff.
B: We get into weird magazines. Weird books at the thrift store. Like a set where every book is weird: weird forest creatures, psychic connections, stuff like that.
What’s the weirdest animal in nature?
A: Is there any animal that’s not fucked up?
A: When you spend time with a dog, it’s like, ‘No, you’re so weird!’
B: We both hate the ocean. Any sea creature is just wrong. It’s the scariest thing on earth.
A: It’s like being jettisoned into outer space. Why would you wanna go floating through space? What if I was snorkeling and a dolphin went by and touched my leg? I’d throw up in my mouth!
Did you hear about the giant prehistoric sea scorpion?
B: Yes!
A: I’m glad I haven’t heard of that. I’m into babies. There’s really only room in my heart for one thing.
What’s the scariest thing on earth?
B: I hate the ocean, I hate silent films, I hate backwards talking. Silent films because I know everyone in them is dead, and that makes me feel weird. I’m taking an early film class and it’s such torture. The first two-and-a-half-weeks were all silent. Lumiere and Chaplin—kill me now!
What’s the heart of your set of effects pedals?
A: We’re created on the basic principle of voice and vision. Bethany is the voice and I’m the vision, and when Bethany is just in the most clear free like… zen state and her voice is just coming out, it just trumps anything—it’s the pure beauty of what we have to offer. And that’s why we don’t know much about our equipment. I barely know how to work a single pedal—put reverb on and some delay and then Bethany—give her a smart water, turn her back to the crowd and you’re gonna get something like Mariah! I’m like, ‘Give me Mariah tonight, baby!’ I spend most of the time like ‘Let’s use these instruments, or these are the new directions we should go in.’ When you play the same song over and over—a singular piece without a verse or chorus—you need to introduce elements that make you seem like you’re not trying to create the same thing. We know what works for us, and it’s better for us to challenge ourselves. Who wants to hear two girls singing the same vocal pattern and the same chord progression every month for years?
B: That’s definitely true. She’ll call me like ‘I have this awesome idea!’ And I’m like, ‘Fine, whatever.’
A: You’re the talent! You can’t be bothered. And I have no talent. One time I hit a note that harmonized. And she said, ‘Amanda, you’re harmonizing!’ Which—let’s just say—is rare.
How did you first find each other?
A: As a child, Bethany was one of those little show babies—
Like in TV commercials?
B: Definitely—a child actor.
A: Like Annie in Annie! But Bethany’s ex-boyfriend is a friend of ours, and expressed to me that she wanted to get back into music, but doesn’t want to go back to pop sensibilities. So we talked one night—and I run Not Not Fun, so all I deal with is underground sensibilities—and I said ‘If you wanna get back into music, we can do a project.’ We weren’t even friends then.
B: We went in the studio in their house and played a song and made it a routine thing—every Sunday we practiced.
A: Initially Bethany was like ‘This isn’t beautiful enough’ and I’d be like ‘This isn’t weird enough.’ Now it’s instinctive that Bethany brings a certain amount of beauty and I fuck it up—that’s good! Bring on the beauty—bring it on! And let me fuck it up! Now we’re like sisters—really close—we make all the decisions together. A two-person band is a blessing. The fighting stops pretty short.
Which recording is the definitive Pocahaunted recording?
Bethany and I have such a morphing sensibility that we tend to like things very quickly and at the time be very into them, and as time goes on—that recording we love doesn’t really hold up. Maybe what we did in March isn’t as potent now. It’d be really hard to put together a best-of. Maybe just a Billy Joel covers album.
B: I’m really trying to push for that. We discussed maybe trying to do a cover song, but we don’t have lyrics in our songs. It’d be fucked up if the only song we ever had lyrics to was a cover—but what would we cover? Maybe if we cover a Ramones song. Might be cool.
A: We only play two notes anyway. We got that Rockaway Beach kind of vibe.
What’s the next recording going to be?
A: Our dub album is coming out. Appetite suppressant music.
That’s awesome you make people not want to eat.
B: I used to work in this restaurant and a girl said to me, ‘What size are you? You must be a size 12!’ ‘I’m not that big.’ ‘I don’t believe you! Step on the scale!’ So we always say ‘step on the scale.’ And so as long as our music makes one person not want to eat…
What are the parameters of your dream project?
A: Honestly, getting the people that played with Paul Simon on Graceland. If we had a million African percussionists and drummers and back-up singers. Just like Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense. Amazing Senegalese funk.
B: And also a gospel choir.
A: Totally a gospel choir through so much delay.
B: I’m about ready to go sit outside a Baptist church, like ‘Can I get two of you to do a track?’
A: We’re so into studio musicians—we want so many strangers at the top of their game, making us sound like we’re amazing!
B: I’d also be into an orchestra—L.A. Philharmonic!
So you want total numerical superiority.
A: When you roll deep with four hundred people, you’re a force to be reckoned with.