THE CUSH

24 Feb

When listening to the outstanding 2010 album by The Cush – entitled “Beneath the Leaves” – we admit to being at least momentarily overwhelmed by thoughts on the nature of relationship.

We say this not to isolate the relationship between the band’s musical and emotional center of Burette and Gabrielle Douglas, married though they are, and the fascination we have with those who make music from inside the dome of domestic partnership. Yet it’s dangerous – and ultimately not fulfilling – to focus exclusively or largely on the influence of interpersonal relationship dynamics on the music we love so much. If we did, this site would immediately be renamed “Revolt of The Wolf King of L.A.

Rather, the relationships we consider when considering the considerably conspicuous content of “Beneath the Leaves” are those dualities which lie beneath the leaves that fall atop the lives we all lead – light and dark, love and desire, smiles and sadness. The Cush demonstrate that rare ability to capture both in their music – a place where fairly folky tendencies fall in with fuzzy ferocity.

In advance of their appearance at Austin Psych Fest 2012, both Burette and Gabby were kind enough to take our relationship to the next level, via the answering of our ridiculous questions below. Enjoy.

How do you feel the environment of your youth – either the physical locale or the emotional atmosphere – influences the music that you make today? Did you find yourself interested in making music at a young age? Was that interest encouraged? Discouraged?

BURETTE: Well, my parents were definitely music fans, my earliest musical memories are of riding in the car and listening to the radio, or looking at the covers on their 8-track tapes. The ones I remember were CCR, J.J. Cale, T. Rex, Rolling Stones. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I started to play the guitar and understand how music was actually made. My grandparents were musical, so it was encouraged, but also just sort of natural, like it just runs in the family. I always liked the deep tracks on albums – that probably had as much of an impact as anything, knowing at a young age that the hits weren’t necessarily the best songs.

GABBY: My family loves music and there are quite a few musicians/singers in the family. I remember making up songs and singing them out at a very young age. My siblings use to lovingly tease me about my so called songs. My father and sister played piano, they were taught classical music. I would sit down at the piano and play without really knowing how to play, but I would play anyway and make up a song. It felt natural and I was drawn to it. Being the youngest of four, I was exposed to all kinds of music through my parents and siblings.  I mostly remember Queen, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink  Floyd, John Denver, Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond. My interest in music was mostly encouraged. I began to more seriously play music and bass at age twenty.

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What were your experiences playing live music prior to The Cush, not only with Buck Jones but with other projects as well, and how did those experiences contribute to the beginning stages of creating music as The Cush? How do those experiences contribute to your point of view currently?

BURETTE : I grew up in a really small town. There weren’t really any bands that I know of. I had an acoustic guitar that I would run through an old amp and my best friend scrounged up a drum set from somewhere. We wrote a handful of joke-ish songs and would play at beer parties or whatever. Eventually we met a bass player from Fort Worth, played a couple of gigs in Fort Worth and he quit. About a year or so later, I met Gabby through some mutual friends. She played bass, wanted to start a band, and was looking for a guitar player. I had always been more into the acoustic guitar, but I really wanted to be in a band with her, so I started working on my electric. That was the start of Buck Jones, which over the course of the next six or seven years, is where I learned all my lessons about playing gigs, making albums, touring, etc. Buck Jones burned out in 1999. Gabby and I eventually started writing and recording together what became the first album for The Cush. It was nice staring over fresh after all we’d done in the past and making music with no expectations. I think that the one thing that I’ve kept from all that time is to write music that I want to hear – not to pigeon hole myself musically or image wise.

GABBY: Buck Jones was my first band to play live and I remember those first shows feeling a combination of feeling so shy, nervous  and wanting to rock out! I still get those feelings!!! I played some music with mutual friends before Buck Jones, but everyone was going in different directions with college and all, so it took over a year before I found friends that wanted to commit more time to a band, like I did. I had seen Burette perform with his band he mentioned, and I liked his attitude on stage and off stage. I didn’t know him at the time but we had mutual friends. I had played music a couple of times with the drummer from their band,  and when he told me that Burette was looking for a band, I was psyched! Being a part of Buck Jones taught me so much about writing good songs, recording, playing live and the business part of the music biz. So, when we broke up, I applied what I had learned to The Cush, but allowed myself more freedom on all aspects. A few of the things I learned very well: stay true to yourself, to what you choose to create and the songs you hear in your mind.

Is there a musical component that goes along with changing your immediate environment from one area to another – meaning, do you feel the music you’ve made as The Cush living in Vermont differs significantly from that made in Texas? Do you feel those differences are too personal or perhaps just too subtle for most listeners to recognize?

BURETTE : Well,  the sense of perspective that you acquire from being so far away from all you’ve known can be inspiring. As well as homesickness. I still have those feelings now that I’m back in TX – they’re just reversed now. Some of those songs are just now coming to me. Since the beginning, our band (other than Gabby and I) has been in constant flux. We’ve performed as a 5 piece, a 3 piece and a duo. Sometimes with keyboard, sometimes not. Different players bring out different things. Audiences in TX expect to be rocked when they go to a show – that definitely influences our set lists, whereas the Northeast has a lot of smaller, intimate rooms where the mellow songs come across beautifully.

GABBY: I’ve been told by close friends and family that it seems to them that I adapt to change very quickly. Once I was told that, I saw myself from another perspective and could see that … perhaps I do, if I’m comparing myself … With that said, in most ways living in another place most definitely affects my experience in life. What I’m going through, the stories all around me, how I feel about it. But in another way, life is life, no matter where you go, there are ups and downs, just part of it … there is always that reality. To be brief here on lessons learned:  Vermont taught me to be more expansive creatively, step out of my shell and refine that creative energy. Texas taught me to stand strong, when the storm is blowing  in your face at stinging/flatland speeds, not to mention it’s damn hot! I was born and raised in Texas, so my roots are here, but I now have roots in Vermont as well. The heartfelt “good-byes” from one place to another is always an inspiration for a song. Listeners of music will take from what songwriters write and apply it to their own experiences. I find it lovely that we get to be a part of their experience and they ours.

What are the challenges of playing together in a band with your spouse? What are the benefits? Was there ever a hesitation on either of your behalves to create music together? Do you feel you have learned things by playing music together over the years that make you a better spouse? Do you feel you have learned things over the course of your marriage that have made you a better musician?

BURETTE: I never really thought twice about it. I thought it was just a plus that my wife was a musician. Traveling together is great. Writing songs can be tough. We used to have a lot of head-butting, and still do from time to time, but I’m sure most songwriting collaborations do. I always think my idea is the best one, which isn’t always the case. Just learning constructive ways to communicate is the best thing musically in a marriage. The hardest part is that when we tour, no one is at home working and paying the rent. And sharing all the experiences is cool when it’s good times. But when things get tough, or you have a hard gig, or get discouraged … that can be hard because it’s doubled.

GABBY: No matter what you are doing with your time, your life, it’s about how you go about it. The challenges I feel are the same challenges that all long term relationships or marriages are faced with. We just have a mix to it that we create and play music with one another. Many relationships create children with one another. Our music is like our child, in an abstract way.

The benefits: We get to do this and be together! We both understand the need to write/play music. It’s all so exciting at times and it can be totally draining at times. Playing music with one another feels natural and I’m totally drawn to Burette’s music. I want to contribute to his ideas, and I feel it is an honor to write and play music with him. I believe he is one of the best songwriters I have ever heard.  When things get tough, it’s part of life … nobody escapes this. For me, I choose to be as positive and focused and creative as I can, because I understand that every action has a reaction, and I want to make the best of it all!

What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, who are your favorite musical spouses of all time?

BURETTE: This week has been, Gillian Welch, Flaming Lips’ “Embryonic,” Neil Young (always), Sonic Youth (“Murray Street” through “Rather Ripped”). Musical spouses? It used to be Kim and Thurston

GABBY: This week is PJ Harvey v (“Let England Shake”), Sub Oslo (“Dubs in the Key of Life”), Ryan Power (“Is It Happening?”), Sad Day For Puppets (“Pale Silver and Shiny Gold”), Willie Nelson (“Stardust”), Fleet Foxes … Musical spouses … after given it some thought … I feel the same as Burette.

One of the many things that we’ve found easy to love about your album “Between the Leaves” is – for lack of a better description – its penchant for balance, meaning songs like “Telepathic Headdress” and “The Deer and The Owl” can (and have) sound-tracked sunny and rainy days alike. Is there a conscious effort on your behalf to make music with this balanced approach, or is it something that you see occurring organically? Would it be possible to deem a song “to happy” for The Cush, or perhaps “too heavy” for The Cush?

BURETTE: I just try to make the album that I would like to hear each time. I try not analyze it too much. We like to make albums that make sense from beginning to end, so there have been some things that we have that haven’t seemed to fit.

But you never know, they may fit in somewhere down the road. We may make a “happy” album someday.

GABBY: I think it is an organic thing that we strive to find balance in our music. Sometimes this is easier than other times … everyday is different, every song iS a different experience writing and recording it, so it’s always an interesting!

“Too happy” … I don’t know … The Aliens did an outstanding job of writing and recording “The Happy Song,” on “Astronomy for Dogs.” That song totally makes me happy! It makes me laugh, I want to dance and sing out, not take life to seriously. Totally works! I’d love it if we could write a happy song that had the same affect on people!

Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor that we are attempting to start right now) that you are making plans to forgo music making altogether in 2012 and focus your efforts on opening a new, freak-friendly bed and breakfast called, “The Cush Inn”?

BURETTE: It’s all true. We’re just going to run the B-and-B and live off all the royalties from all of our hit singles.

GABBY: We’ll host music and art festivals, with the best festivities, and we’ll all have a grand time at The Cush Inn!!!

How did you first become aware of Austin Psych Fest? Are there any bands in particular that you are excited to have the opportunity to see perform?

BURETTE: Well, being aware of The Black Angels, we were aware of Austin Psych Fest. It seems to be getting more popular every year. It’s much more important for us than something like SXSW because the people who go to it are into our kind of music already. There’s a lot of bands that I know by name only, so I ‘m excited to see a lot of them. I want to see The Telescopes, Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips and BJM.

GABBY: The Black Angels music and then hearing about them putting on this festival. Many bands that we’ve played with over the years have played Austin Psych Fest in the past. We’ve heard so many great things and we’re really excited to be a part of it. I’m so looking forward to it all!

We’ve returned more than once to an intriguing book by Lewis Hyde entitled “Trickster Makes The World,” in which Mr. Hyde (with no assistance from Dr. Jekyll) contends the following:

“The mind articulates newly where there is true coincidence, where roads parallel and roads contrary suddenly converge. The world is suffused with time and space, and therefore fresh speech is always appearing, always being invented. The world is teeming, so mind is teeming, so speech is teeming. There is no end to contingency, and so no end to language. We poeticize as transients.”

Your thoughts? Does your music benefit from a transient impulse?

BURETTE: If I understand the question and quotation correctly, I would say yes.

GABBY: Yes. Living in the moment, absorbing as much as possible and being in an open place to write it into a song that convey the feeling that we are trying to express in words.

What’s next for The Cush?

BURETTE: We have a few dates in spring with The Telescopes.  We’d like to release a new album this year.  And would love to do another UK/European tour if possible.

GABBY: Many new songs to choose from and work on for our next album. More new song ideas that I’m looking forward to working out. Very excited to be playing with The Telescopes in April and APF2012!  Another UK/European tour, I’m ready!

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One Response to “THE CUSH”

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  1. BAND OF THE WEEK: THE CUSH | Revolt of the Apes - April 16, 2015

    […] Here’s our interview with The Cush from 2012. […]

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