THE DIAMOND CENTER

10 Mar

THE DIAMOND CENTER

“I’ll Be Damned – Here Comes Your Ghost Again”

The Diamond Center is a band that claims to be from from Richmond, Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Earth – we suspect more supernatural origins. How else to explain their other-worldly sound? Their rapid ascent from open mic night hootenanny’s to expertly executed live performances filled with shamanistic sturm und drang? Their ability to write and perform music that sounds and feels like it has lived before, like it is returning to haunt the living, like it is taking care of unfinished business?

It’s no exaggeration to say that The Diamond Center – whoever they really are – stand for many as one of the great musical discoveries of the past year. Their relatively short existence has been a highly productive thus far and with the impending release of two new seven-inch recordings (including this release on the Richmond label, Some Day This Will All Make Sense) and an appearance at Austin Psych Fest 4 , there seems to be no sign of these ghosts dissipating in the near future.

For that, Revolt of the Apes is extremely happy, just as we are pleased to present this extended chat with the center of The Diamond Center, Brandi Price and Kyle Harris.

“Psychoanalysis has taught that the dead — a dead parent, for example — can be more alive for us, more powerful, more scary, than the living. It is the question of ghosts.” – Jacques Derrida

I want to start with talking about where both of you come from, because I know both of you from here in Richmond, but neither of you are from Richmond, and The Diamond Center has only been in Richmond for a short period of time. So let’s talk a little about your backgrounds …

BP: Well, my name in Brandi Price and I’m from Texas – Texas blood, through and through. I grew up in Central Texas and I was born in Dallas. I grew up in a little town outside of Ft. Worth and lived in that area all my life, until I grew up and went to college in West Texas. I started playing music, started playing in bands – well, piano first …

Like, piano lessons and stuff? Or just messing around …

BP: No, I took some lessons from a lady at my church.

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So at that time, at that age, taking piano lessons – what music were you listening to at the time?

BP: We had a rule in my house: You could listen to the religious station, or your could listen to the oldies station – you know, because the oldies station represented a time when things were still pure, still clean, safe. So I ended up listening a lot to the oldies station.

And when did you first start playing with what you would call a band?

BP: It actually wasn’t until after college, when I moved to Athens, Georgia, when I was, I guess, 23.

And all through college, you never played in bands?

BP: No, not at all. I started kind of playing guitar when I was in high school, but it wasn’t really … something my parents wanted me to be doing. They would have liked to see me playing other music, classical music, symphony stuff. So then when I got it college I just kind of let it fall to the side and didn’t really play in college. And then it wasn’t until after college, when I had some friends who were musicians who wanted to play and record, so …

Was being in a band something that you had given consideration to, or was it not something you gravitated to until being asked directly?

BP: I don’t know – what do you mean by that?

I mean, was being in a band something that you longed for, something you yearned to do …

BP: Oh, yeah, yes. Definitely. I guess for some reason I still thought it wasn’t even possible, do you know what I mean? I always felt that being in a band was something that other people did and I was just … Brandi Price from Texas (laughter). But I’ve always had a huge appreciation for music, listening to music, watching music, music being the driving force behind almost everything in my life.

How about you, Kyle?

KH: Well, I’m originally from Georgia. I actually was born in a small town called Dallas, Georgia.

You guys have a Lincoln/Kennedy thing.

KH: Exactly. It was a very, very small town, although actually now, it’s full of Targets and Hooters and whatnot. But I was pretty much obsessed with music and obsessed with rock and roll as long as I can remember, since I was real young. All of my early memories are of listening to my mom’s records. And my mom – she wasn’t necessarily always into the cool bands, but she was really into whatever she was into, you know? She was really into Southern Rock, and being not too far from Atlanta in the mid-seventies, she would see Skynyrd all the time, The Allman Brothers, whoever was coming through. Vanilla Fudge … she saw Janis Joplin at Georgia Tech, y’know.

Do you have memories of her going out to see live bands? Like, “Mom won’t be home tonight – she going to see …”

KH: Yeah, yeah, like, Leon Russell and Bob Seger or whoever, definitely. The story I got was that I was in-uterus when she went to see The Who in ’75, so I’ve technically been in the same room as Keith Moon [laughter]. But, yeah, my memories are definitely coming from my mom’s records, taking them, looking at them, cleaning them, listening to them, you know, sitting on the floor, giant headphones, curly cord.

What was at, say, age seven or eight, the band you remember thinking, “OK, they’re definitely my favorite”?

KH: Probably Styx. You know, that “Killroy” record was perfect for a kid, because it was robotic and weird. And the first record I can remember asking for specifically was “Thriller,” which I think was ’82, so I was, what, six? So I had my own little record collection was my “Muppet Movie” record, and my “Star Wars” record, and “Thriller,” and Culture Club’s “Color By Numbers,” and, I don’t know, Georgia Satellites …

That album is actually issued to everyone in Georgia, right?

KH: Yeah, once you cross state lines, they give you one. So then I started getting into guitar, and I got into Kiss, then I got obsessed with AC/DC, then I got obsessed with The Doors, or whoever. But always obsessed with playing. You know, I was the one where my brother would catch me playing air guitar with the broom, broom guitar or whatever when I was supposed to be cleaning the kitchen. But always had tapes, always had records. So then, I guess, it wasn’t until high school when I … I don’t know, I guess I never really conceptualized that I could actually be in a band, that I could actually get a guitar and get out there and do it. And then in high school, I came across these guys who were, you know, jamming “Sunshine of Your Love” in someone’s garage. So I asked my mom for a bass for Christmas, and we knew someone who was selling one, so I got a Peavey amp and a Peavey bass, and pretty much took right to it. It didn’t take long. And then I … I pretty much played bass exclusively from, like, ’93 to 2007, I guess.

Really? A bass player?

KH: Yeah, yeah. I love bass.

BP: Kyle’s a killer bass player.

Weird.

KH: Yeah.

That’s so weird. But when you say that you took to it right away, did you feel like you had musical aptitude, or was it more a matter of saying, “OK, I’ve been listening to enough music that I know it’s supposed to sound or feel something like this”?

KH: Both, both. I mean, I can remember started in like ’93 and I was listening to … I mean, I wasn’t Mr. Punk Rock or anything, but I was listening to Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. and Husker Du and whatever else around that time, you know, Sugar – all those bands.

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So the area of Georgia you were in, how far away was that from the closest musical scene that would be conducive to your involvement?

KH: Atlanta was the closest, and that would have been about an hour away. Atlanta had a great radio station that we used to listen to, 88.1, WRAS – that’s Georgia State, and that was my savior during high school, that’s what introduced me to so much music. So, by high school we would play our little garage shows, and play at the community center and beg for four dollars because nobody showed up, y’know? So I just started playing in bands. I went to college for a minute and then got out of that quick. I took a break from music for a little bit, just to experience some other things and, I guess, expand my mind a bit. Then I just joined another band out of the blue, joined a power-pop band, playing The Who and Cheap Trick songs and that was great. Played in that band for a bit, played in some other bands, got married, got divorced, and then I met Brandi and we started writing together in ’07, I guess.

So you guys met in Georgia?

KH: Yeah.

BP: In Athens, yes.

And how long had you both been there?

KH: Uh, I moved there in 2000 or 2001, so I had been there for a few years.

BP: I moved there – I guess I had been there about a year before I met Kyle. And I the way we originally met, we ended up playing in a band together. He was playing in another band, and I asked him to come play with my band. At the time, I was playing bass and Kyle was, like, my bass mentor. I love watching Kyle play bass, he’s a great bass player.

That’s so weird to me, because one of the things I wrote down was to ask Kyle about his guitar playing. And I was a little nervous about it because I couldn’t think of a way to say it without sounding odd … but I think Kyle’s guitar playing is odd. But now that I know you started as a bass player, it’s making a little more sense to me. But I think you just have … and odd guitar style!

KH: I like that.

It’s not … I don’t know. It’s not really riff-y, but it’s not … I don’t know, there just seem to be a lot of strange notes in there. Do you think your guitar style is different because you played bass for so long?

KH: I think it comes from playing bass for so long. I don’t think from the perspective of the guitar, really. I think about everything rhythmically and from the perspective of the bass. It’s not intentional, but …

But it’s the way you’re oriented.

KH: Mmm-hmm. It’s more about feeling things out and just … I mean, well, first of all, I never really wanted to, like, you know, play the blues or solo like crazy or whatever. I mean, I do some noodling around or whatever, but it’s almost like … I don’t really want to learn anymore, y’know? I feel like if I learn more …

It might interfere with that process of feeling things out?

KH: Yeah.

So then, does that make it difficult for you to find the right bass player?

KH: Very much, yeah. Luckily, with Will, I mean … well, you know Will.

Will is awesome. And this is still so weird to me, because when I watch you guys live, I find myself thinking, “Goddamn, this bass is fucking crazy!” The bass really feels like it’s at the center of everything. And what I don’t mean to sound so odd, is that when your guitar comes in sometimes, it just doesn’t sound like what you might expect the guitar to sound like.

KH: Yeah, I really do try to keep the bass … I mean, when I play bass, I play kinda note-y and all over the place, but with this band, with Will, I really like him to kind of hang on these single notes and just pound, pound, pound that single note. And I think it kinda grounds it. And then with our guitars coming in, with Brandi’s guitar and my guitar … but it really is a conscious thing to keep it centered on the bass and drums.

So you guys meet, you’re playing in different bands, you’re playing in the same band – and what point does it become, “OK, we definitely need to do something, just you and I”?

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BP: I guess it was when the band we were playing in together just kind of dissipated, rapidly. And we were both kind of not doing anything, and we were both going through some separation and divorce issues, and I – I was basically in the middle of some really crazy shit. And Kyle was the one there saying, “Why don’t you just write and play music? That’s what you really want to do.” And that was really helpful, because without his input at that point, I really don’t know where I would have been. But it was really cool, because we had both been playing bass for awhile and then we started writing and kind of arranging these other songs. And when it got to the point where we started thinking about playing these songs out live, I was like, “I want to play guitar,” and Kyle was like, “I want to play guitar.” So we both did! The first playing out of The Diamond Center was just me and Kyle playing guitar.

Just two guitars and two voices?

BP: Yeah. And I think that was a really important step for both of us, at least as far as taking authorship and ownership of these ideas.

Was that a reaction to being in bands that fall apart and ultimately thinking, “What in the hell am I doing? Do I have my own ideas here or what?”

BP: Yeah, probably. And I think it’s also about being someone else supporter, and just always being there as support. And at that time, we were thinking, “You know what? I’ve got some ideas, I can do some things, let’s do this.”

KH: And it fell together really quickly. We started in early January of 2007 and played out first show after about a month, recruited some friends to play with us, and ended up recording a full-length in May of 2007. We did a couple of little weekend runs to North Carolina or whatever, started doing just a little bit of touring. Then at some point, we just decided we need a change, you know, get out of this small town. And I had never lived anywhere except for Georgia, but Brandi still had connections in Texas, in Lubbock, Texas, where she had done her undergrad, and she had a job waiting there for her if she wanted it.

BP: And my family was still there, my sister and brother.

KH: Yeah, so we just said, “The hell with it – let’s move to the scrub desert, to the flatlands.” And it was the best thing that ever could have happened.

Why so?

KH: Well, not only was it a total fresh start, clean slate, but we were also allowed to consolidate our relationship without any outside influences, any friends or whatever.

BP: We went from Athens, Georgia, where it’s incredibly social and we had a lot of friends and were doing a lot of things, to just kind of, being cut off from anything. There weren’t bars that we could just walk down to and see ten friends. We were just …

Your options become limited to each other.

BP: Definitely. And to writing. And that’s where we just did a huge amount of writing, there in Lubbock, because there really wasn’t much else vying for our attention. So we would just sit down and write.

KH: We quickly met people, though. We started playing out, we played like a little open-mic , and then started getting asked to play out more. And the great thing about moving to Lubbock – it’s such a weird place. I mean, in many ways it is stuck in the 50s, but there is a college there – Texas Tech – so there are young people around. It’s a really strange mix. And plus to me, it was really a total change in scenery, to go from the hills and pine trees of Georgia to this place that’s just totally flat, no water and totally flat. It was a big change – it really shook us up.

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So when you started writing songs out there, what was the difference?

BP: I think one of the biggest differences for me was … I’m a big believer in the idea that everything you go through, everything you pass through, is an inspiration to the music whether you notice it or not. And I think especially the songs we started writing when we got there were really a reflection of that environment and the big sky, and that feeling of being in that space. That soaked in really fast and really changed what we were doing. I feel like when I listen to the first album we recorded in Georgia, it still feels very Southern to me. I can picture the trees and the kudzu, and the humidity and everything, y’know?

No, that makes total sense, especially having heard recordings from both periods. Kyle, did you feel that way, too?

KH: Oh, absolutely, yeah. It changed everything. I don’t know, there’s just something about it. It wasn’t conscious. We didn’t set out and say, “OK, we’re going to move to the desert and write these desert songs.” It just happened.

BP: My parents still live in Ft. Worth, which is about five hours from Lubbock, and the drives we would take to get there take you through just some of the most beautiful parts of West Texas, if there is such a thing. The plateaus, the desert, it’s just so open and you really can see the landscape change. Just the experience of moving through that environment, where there would be these storms, rain storms and dust storms, and you could see them for miles and miles while you’re driving, and then the stars in the sky at nighttime … I think about that drive all the time. And I think the music sounds like that, in the songs.

So this is all a very quick evolution, from meeting, deciding to do something, recording something, taking in a complete change, at least from the perspective of your environment, and then, what? About a year later you come to Richmond? How did that come about? Just looking for a graduate school?

BP: Yeah.

KH: The think about Lubbock is that it’s still basically a small town and it’s easy to get stuck there. We liked it there, but even when we were there, we were traveling, trying to tour a little, made a few trips over to California, trying to go wherever we could in Texas, travelling over to Austin, over to Denton, Dallas, over to Santé Fe, wherever. So we started to consider going somewhere new, and Brandi was thinking about going to grad school so we thought, “OK, that’s our way to get somewhere far away, that’s our reason to move.”

BP: I had gone to school in Lubbock, at Texas Tech, to I had lived there for seven years before moving to Athens and then moving back to Lubbock. So I was looking for that stimulation thing, of going somewhere new and just experiencing a new environment. And aside from Athens, which is way different, I had never really been on the East Coast, and it’s just a different perspective on things, the trees, the humidity, I don’t know. I think Kyle felt the same way, because Lubbock was already familiar to me. You know, I had a past there, and Kyle had a past in Georgia, and then we both had a past there, so we just wanted to find a place that was just new and different, for both of us, together.

KH: Yeah, it was definitely a fresh start. We had no ties here at all.

Was that a consideration at all, or was choosing the graduate school based solely on academics?

BP: Academics.

Exclusively?

BP: Pretty much. I know I wanted to go to grad school and I started the application process and I was like, “I’m going to apply everywhere! The best schools!” and then it’s, like, seventy dollars every time you submit an application. So I thought, “Maybe I’ll just apply to one out-of-state school,” you know what I mean? So then I applied to three Texas schools and then said, “OK, what’s the best school in the country for what I want to do, that’s a public school, that I can actually afford?” and that was VCU [Virginia Commonwealth University]. So we thought, “Hey that’s sounds cool.” So I got in and we said, “Hey, let’s move to Richmond.”

So what do you think, now that you’ve been here … what? Just over a year?

BP: Almost two years.

Oh. Yeah, it’s 2011, right?

BP: Right.

I’ll make note of that. But in those two years, how do you see your music changing? Is Richmond changing the music the same way it did when you moved to Texas? Or are you still dwelling in that Texas spirit?

KH: I think both, actually. Texas gave us this great foundation, and this basic idea of what we wanted our sound to be, but as far as the actual songwriting, yeah, it’s different. I don’t know if it’s just the heavy ghosts of Richmond, or … I was saying to someone after we moved here, I’m surprised by Richmond, because I think I’ve always had a lot of supernatural experiences, or at least been sensitive to supernatural things …

BP: He sees ghosts.

KH: I have a lot of recurring dreams, I see things and I didn’t feel as much of that when I moved to Richmond. And what she said was, “Maybe the ghosts are too thick in Richmond.” Like, it’s so old, there’s too many layers.

That’s actually a way some people describe Richmond, even people from Richmond – that it’s a city that’s just weighed down by old ghosts, old stuff, awful thinking and the awful things that happened here. It’s like a catacomb.

KH: Yeah, yeah. But all that being said, we’ve written some songs. We probably have enough for another album, but we’re intentionally doing these singles first. But to some degree, I guess because Brandi has been so tied up with school stuff, we haven’t done as much sitting down to write. I mean, we have written …

BP: Yeah, we’ve written, but I guess there hasn’t been as much conscious writing, I suppose. We’re more likely to just come up with something, but we haven’t had as much time to sit down and write. But that’s OK when it happens subconsciously, y’know? You can’t always plan it.

KH: But the sound is still there.

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Standard question, but what type of stuff have you been listening to lately?

BP: My go-to stuff recently, for working or doing whatever, has been, like, Galaxie 500 and stuff like that. I don’t know. I guess the first six months or year that we were here, our turntable was broken, or the receiver was broken, actually, and then we got a new one off of Craigslist, and that was right around the time that Steady Sounds opened up, which was cool. There’s nothing worse than that feeling of having records but not being able to listen to them.

If you would have told me even three or four years ago that in 2011, there would be four good record stores in the city of Richmond, I would have told you that you’re out of your mind. I would have said there might be one – that there might be one.

BP: Yeah, well, it’s so cool to have access to so much cool music. I guess lately we’ve both been listening to a lot of psychedelic stuff. I don’t know. We went to ATP last year and when we saw White Hills, that was just, like … we were both, like, “Wow!”

KH: Yeah, that was like … that was … I mean, for our sound … Like, our first album sounds like a record store threw-up. Every song sounds different, y’know?

You could put a sticker on that album – “It sounds like a record store threw-up!”

KH: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the second one is a little more cohesive, not necessarily because the songs are that different, but the sound, I guess, overall is more cohesive. But I’ve always been a sound guy, I like just ridiculous amounts of … sounds, I don’t know. So going to ATP and seeing a lot of these bands live, bands that we had heard but not seen – bands like Bardo Pond were amazing, The Black Angels, who I’d seen before, but still … and like White Hills and even Kurt Vile. It was great. And then along with the, uhhh … extra-curricular activities that were going on, y’know? That helped the situation. But I came out of there, we both came out of there with our eyes wide open, like had been washed in the blood of the sound, y’know?

BP: Plus seeing what all the bands were doing visually, too. Like, every band had projections, but their own interpretation on what they were doing, visually – it was the coolest thing. And I liked so many of the bands, but man, the coolest thing? Seeing Sunn O))) and Boris do “Altar”? That was just … intense. It felt like you were being dragged somewhere to be buried or something. And lots and lots of fog.

KH: Yeah, that definitely, like, solidified what we were doing. I mean, I don’t know if there was every something like a direction for the band. We call it “psych-folk” because we write these songs on acoustics and then do whatever we do to them, so that works. But seeing ATP really made it clear to us what we needed to do for our live show, just really kind of amplify everything, like everything has to go up. Not just volume, but intensity, you know?

The last time I saw you guys play, in Charlottesville, afterwards I said to you, “When the hell did you guys become the world’s best krautrock band?” But it’s not … it’s hard to explain. I mean, go back to White Hills – how the hell can you even explain White Hills?

KH: Right, right.

So I don’t think “psych-folk” quite explains it.

KH: No, it doesn’t. I guess it’s good and it’s bad …

I don’t think it’s bad, it’s just incomplete.

KH: But as far people saying, “OK, what does your band sound like?” And we can say, “Well, you can put us with all of these different kind of bands.” But it’s different, our sound. And it’s not intentional, but it’s not unintentional either. Like, I have this steady diet of bands that I listen to and if I were to name them, you could say, “Yep, I hear that, yeah, that part sounds like that,” y’know? I mean, one of my favorite bands of all time is The Rock*A*Teens from Georgia. They have this weird, kind of heavy reverb thing that I guess now is kind of fashionable, but they were doing that stuff years and years ago. That band has definitely been a huge inspiration. And like, The Black Angels stuff, the new record is just …

Incredible.

KH: It just kills me. And I really like the new – well, I liked the one before, too – but the new Deerhunter album is just amazing. It so dreamy, so weird. But there are some others that are always in the mix, like Neil Young, I’m always listening to Neil Young.

BP: The Velvet Underground.

KH: Definitely. One of my more recent obsessions, and I actually got the record awhile ago and just sort of sat on it for awhile, but, man, Wooden Shijps, and then later Moon Duo. It’s just so …

It’s so good!

KH: It’s so good, and I was thinking about it, and what they do, to me, is they mix, like, Faust and Suicide and put them together.

It’s so dense, right? It’s like two rocks being smashed together and no air in it. It’s awesome.

KH: I dig that. So that band has been huge for me, not that I really want to sound like that, but just listening to it … man. Another band that has been a heavy-hitter for me in the last month or so is Sleepy Sun.

BP: They were another band that, when we saw them at ATP, we were just like … you know, at ATP there’s so much going on and so many bands playing, but when Sleepy Sun played, I was just, like, “I can’t move, I have to stay right here.”

So, have you guys been called The Diamond Center from the very beginning, like from the first show?

KH: Yeah.

So what does The Diamond Center mean to you?

KH: I guess I like that it has some duality to it, depending on where you put the accent. It can be The Diamond Center or The Diamond Center. But where it comes from is I was working in Athens at this picture frame shop and in the same shopping center there was this store called The Diamond Center. And so I’d be sitting there on my lunch break, eating my sandwich or whatever, and one day, I was just, like, “Wow! The Diamond Center or The Diamond Center. That would be a good band name.” And I always kept it in the back of my mind. And a few years later …

BP: Plus, he’s also obsessed with bling.

Oh, I know. It’s embarrassing.

BP: The diamond tooth, the diamond earrings …

It’s what’s holding you back from huge indie-rock success: too much bling.

KH: I like the name. It’s vague, but it’s also focused. And it’s just … I don’t know. Band names are always just so dumb. It’s a dumb thing. I have noticed lately there are a lot of bands with the word “diamond” in their name.

Like Neil Diamond?

KH: We came before him.

Diamond Head?

KH: Before.

Wow.

KH: And then the other problem is that when you go to look for the band online, you have to Google “The Diamond Center band,” otherwise you get a bunch of jewelry stores and whatever. But that’s alright.

I want to end with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut. I’m going to read this quote and then I’d just like to hear your reaction. The quote is: ““I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

KH: That’s great. I love that. You know, that relates to something that we always talk about when it comes to the band, especially when it comes to playing live. There are a lot of bands that are really good and really good players, but for me, for rock and roll, there has to be risk. It has to be there. Roger Daltrey has a quote – “Give me a bum note and a bead of sweat any day.” And that’s what it’s about, y’know? And I’m not talking like I’m going to be Iggy Pop and roll around on broken glass or cut my chest open, but that was his edge, y’know? But to take it to that point where you feel like it cannot go any further – and then push it a little further. That’s what I like. That’s what it’s about for us.

The Diamond Center

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2 Responses to “THE DIAMOND CENTER”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Diamond Center (via Revolt of the Apes) « mr. atavist - March 10, 2011

    […] THE DIAMOND CENTER "I'll Be Damned – Here Comes Your Ghost Again" The Diamond Center is a band that claims to be from from Richmond, Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Earth – we suspect more supernatural origins. How else to explain their other-worldly sound? Their rapid ascent from open mic night hootenanny's to expertly executed live performances filled with shamanistic sturm und drang? Their ability to write and perform music that sounds and feels lik … Read More […]

  2. THE DIAMOND CENTER RETURNS – COURTESY OF “THE COMMONWEALTH OF NOTIONS” | Revolt of the Apes - May 31, 2013

    […] love for The Diamond Center is long-standing and we’re quite confident saying that you’ll not find a more compelling live […]

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