VON HAZE

27 May

VON HAZE

“My Independence Seems to Vanish in Von Haze”

By Ryan Muldoon

I would never be able to say who the “best” band was at the Austin Psych Fest (whether this year or any other). First of all, like all art, music is personal and subjective – who can quantify such enjoyment? Second, the answer is Telepathik Friend.

But for me, I don’t know if there was another band that came out of nowhere and caught me right between the eyes with the perfect blend of volume and vengeance as did the coarse yet beautiful performance of Von Haze – two eagerly awesome people, in love with sound and in love with each other, making music and making your ears ring.

Isn’t that all we really want?

Despite it being a standard place to start, I’m more than a little interested in why you decided to go with the name Von Haze. What’s the story there? The name, for me, evokes something Teutonic, which seems appropriate, as you both look like you could have been on a Baader-Meinhof “Wanted” poster from the 70’s (and, truly, this is meant only as a compliment).

 

Von Haze destroy the U.K. (photo by Drew Cox)

 

 

Katherine: Baader-Meinhof? It’s like you’re staring straight into our souls! Something about it seemed evocative to us when we heard first heard the name. It was in passing and the name stuck for some reason. It was as if the name explained a way to perceive a certain situation. The Teutonic evocation revealed itself to us as well. Turns out the name was that of a baseball player. We didn’t know that at first but like most band name inception stories this one gets boring pretty quick.

Continuing down the “standard” questions, what can you tell us about how the two of you met? Was a   musical bond there from the start of your relationship, or did it only form given the passing of time? How has music – in general – affected your relationship? Is there anything negative about playing music together as husband and wife?

Travis: We met while the both of us were still at university in Richmond, Virginia, and never stopped hanging out. A little while passed and we moved to Brooklyn where we have been living since.  When we started writing the songs that are on the EP it became apparent that we were able to tap into emotions as a pair. There was less of a “band dynamic” to hang your hat on. For me, it feels like it’s about two people and that interests me. There is plenty of room to explore such an intense and personal relationship through the music and we are very inspired by that at the moment. Katherine and I have been together for years and that’s ours to keep. I’d like to think we don’t play together as “husband and wife” because the thought of that seems unappealing and contrary to how we see it, which is more Von Haze than family values.

What does it mean to be musical artists in Brooklyn in 2010? Anything? Nothing?

Travis: When you live some place long enough you start to see all its different sides. Sure, like any big city, if you want it you can get it. It’s gotten me into some trouble and it saved my life in many ways. As far as the music scene, it seems like people use Brooklyn as an adjective attached to a band more and more these days and if it helps to spur some folks on who might not listen otherwise then right on. There are tons of bands in this city. Shit tons. It’s kind of overwhelming.

Katherine: It’s ever changing. Being a musician has connected us with some wonderful people in New York. I suppose it’s the same here as it is anywhere. You work hard and put it out there, only in New York it seems infinite numbers of people putting it out there.

I was shocked to learn that both of you have family roots in my home state of Virginia, with Travis in particular growing up just miles from the (pleasant, but kinda depressing) area where I live now. What where some key moments in your personal musical evolutions growing up? In what way – if any – did being in Virginia contribute to that evolution?

 

Hello, Von Haze in the sand ... (photo by Richard Fearless)

 

 

Travis: Pleasant enough I guess, but totally depressing at least the parts where I grew up. It’s so beautiful in parts but certainly not my parts. We have fond memories of Richmond though. I grew up off of Jeff Davis Highway down the road from city’s center. I think back sometimes and wonder how I’m still alive. It was a grizzly scene where I grew up but I was lucky to have friends and we started a band when we were thirteen. I traded a skateboard for a bass because that was the only spot available in the band and we would play all the time in Richmond. I think people got a kick out of these snarling little angry punk rock kids playing around town. If anyone knows the scene in Richmond they know it’s not the most musically diverse. They love their hardcore and metal down there. It’s something in the water and I might have had a glass or two over the years. I’ve always liked heavy music and it has less to do with genre than the feeling you get when you listen. I saw shows all the time growing up and that must have had an effect.  Watching Sam McPheeters honk onstage in a gimp mask with Men’s Recovery Project definitely warped my young little teenage mind.

Katherine: I grew up in a stale suburb of Richmond and musical milestones were few and far between. I took piano lessons from a woman who terrified me because her entire apartment was decorated in dusty rose and the curtains were always drawn. I still have an aversion to dusty rose. After that, I took violin lessons from a giant, crazy, man who was convinced that my parents were abusive (yeah, they weren’t) and called me names when I quit. So it was my lack of exposure and bad musical experiences as a child that has heightened my senses and enjoyment as an adult. Now I couldn’t live without making and indulging in music. It is an outlet that compares to no other.

Can you name an artist or band you would have never imagined enjoying when you were growing up, but whom you thoroughly enjoy now? What is it about this music that speaks to you?

Travis: We’ve bought a bunch of the Minimal Wave records that are being reissued lately by the appropriately named, Minimal Wave label.  The reissues they are doing are great. We can’t stop listening to them. Turquoise Days is fucking brilliant and I can’t imagine being into them when I was a kid. The music is desolate and weird; it was made in the early eighties on Jersey Island, off the coast of England. We are not talking about a major metropolitan area here. While the music sounds desolate, it’s also melodic and has an intensity to it that you wouldn’t expect given the instrumentation. While listening I try and imagine the two of these guys playing their tunes in some little pub on the sea side completely freaking everyone out.

If you were forced to name them (and consider this interview the application of that force), what are the bands or artists who most distinctly laid the foundations for the music you make as Von Haze? How has your sound evolved from the beginning to the current days?

Travis: I hate it when you use force. It’ doesn’t suit you but since you have the knife in my back … ok. If I have to name bands that we might have listened to and that could have possibly laid a foundation for Von Haze even though we are just as equally influenced by film, nature, mood, and a million other things then I would say bands like Suicide, Kraftwerk, Velvet Underground, Harmonia, Townes Van Zandt, PiL, Stooges, Hawkwind, Crispy Ambulance, Throbbing Gristle, Misfits, The Screamers, and Black Flag make the short list. These days, we are just as interested in sounds we can produce with drum machines and synthesizers as much as bass and guitar. I am very tied to the guitar. It’s the instrument I feel at home with and it’s how I write, mostly.  As a matter of personal taste, guitar virtuosity is mostly lost on me. In fact, I find it boring most of the time. That’s a convenient assertion of taste to mask the fact that there are a million guitarists who are better than me but I have no desire to play that way. I want to hear what it sounds like between all the noodling. I think our sound is minimal in a lot of ways but it would be hard to classify it as so for some. There definitely is an awareness of restraint and the idea of an emotional arch in most of our songs. We have been working on our first full length almost constantly these days and we hope to mix it sometime in the fall. The new stuff sounds different. It’s dark, sometimes excruciatingly so for us personally, especially lyrically, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it sounds like yet.

Katherine: It is hard to say who has laid our foundation. I am aware that all the music we listen to and love, lives in our conscious mind and effects what we make but it’s hard for me to articulate who and how. All I can say is that is comes from somewhere in the gut like it should and when I make something that doesn’t come from the gut it’s no good to me.

How does the live performance compare for you, versus the recording experience? I was severely struck by three equally intense factors during your live set: 1. Volume, 2. a guitar sound that seemed to come straight out of my doom-metal dreams (but not distorted, really!), and 3. the almost measurable sexual energy of your songs – you truly seemed to be performing for each while the rest of us just watched … almost a voyeuristic  feel for the audience. Comments? Disagreements?

Travis: We have been a band now for almost a year and the timeline starts, in my opinion, when we began playing live. The easiest thing for us to do is to make a connection between the two of us and let the music flow through that. We are there to share with everyone while we are on stage. The energy sometimes feels like ours alone but we don’t approach performance with the intention to not include others. It’s a matter of energy and whether or not you are open at that moment to receive what is being given. Perhaps you are thinking critically about the music that is being played – then you feel as if you are being a voyeur in hindsight. It’s how you engage yourself in that instance. I am happy to have all people in the audience receiving the music and performance as they choose. There is no superior experience; if you feel like you are watching a dirty movie then so be it. As for the volume, we hope you feel that too. We like it loud! Now that you have that knife out of my back you choose to sing the sweet nothings of guitar tone talk in my ear. You sure know how to make a boys heart go aflutter.

Katherine: Recording is a fantastic experience. We went to Michigan to do our EP and we fell head over heels for Key Club, the studio where we decided to mix the record. The place is so inspiring even if the town seems barren on the surface. It’s the place I found out I was a red lunar dragon. I think we need to go back soon … people are often saying they are affected by the level of sexual energy in our live performance. It’s interesting, because for us, Travis and I connected because these are the sounds we have created together. We always attempt to be honest in how they are coming though us but we are not trying to jump each other’s bones on stage or anything. When we perform, I am an open channel. If I start thinking about how I am being perceived or let my ego get involved, then it doesn’t feel right. What? Volume? I like it when my bones rattle. It’s like a massage from the inside out.

What music has been exciting you lately?

Travis: I was talking about that Minimal Wave stuff earlier that we are digging at the moment. Those records are great and I can’t recommend them enough. Bands like Moon Duo are making some great records. Katherine and I are getting excited for the new Death In Vegas record that is in the works. Creep is great and they did a killer remix of “Outside The Night” off our EP that will be available soon for your listening pleasure. While walking my dog the other day I bought another copy of “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” at some random stoop sale. I was excited but I haven’t listened to it yet.

Katherine: I’ve been listening to a lot of Michael Garrison and Franco Battiato lately. It’s very romantic music.

What can we expect next from Von Haze?

Travis: We are releasing the vinyl and digital for our EP on June 22nd with Hippos in Tanks who are based out of LA. We will be playing some shows in and around NYC before we head over to the UK in July for our second tour over there. We hope to go out to the west coast when we get back. Regardless of where the tour takes place we know we are going to be playing a lot of shows coming up and we are excited about it. It all changes daily except for the release of course. We are proud of the record we made and we are smitten to see its release only a month away. In the meantime, all we can do is concentrate on our first full length which is shaping up nicely and let the other stuff take care of itself.

Von Haze – http://www.myspace.com/vonhazerocks

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