Treefort Interview with The Bilinda Butchers
Written by Lanny Lieu on March 26, 2015
Named after vocalist/guitarist of My Bloody Valentine’s Bilinda Butcher, The Bilinda Butchers are a dream pop/shoegaze-infused trio from San Francisco consisting of Adam Honingford, Ryan Wansley, and Michal Palmer (from left to right). Earlier tonight, they played their first festival to a packed room at Boise’s Linen Building as part of the 2015 Treefort Music Festival. Before their captivating set, I had the chance to sit down with the guys and talk a little bit about their beginnings, their latest record, and their future of possibilities!
LL: How do you guys feel about playing Treefort?
MP: It’s very exciting! We’ve never been here before. The venue we’re playing in [The Linen Building] is a medium sized venue. It sounds really good. We’re here on tour with Craft Spells, which are great friends of ours, and we’re just very excited to play!
LL: How did all of you guys meet and how was the band formed?
MP: Adam and I went to middle school together and we started making music since we were 13 or 14. Then Adam moved to Pennsylvania and we talked on the phone all the time and it’s actually when he moved back – that’s when we were both really into My Bloody Valentine and we just decided to start something and we picked a name. We love Bilinda Butcher and her voice and what she represents. I was like “I have this name I want to use and let’s just start something” and we did. Ryan joined a couple years later when we started playing live. We were looking for a drummer and my roommate was like, “you should call Ryan.” We knew each other but we had a different group of friends. My roommate called Ryan and told him his friend us looking for a drummer to play in his band and so when I got on the phone with Ryan and Ryan was like, “I was gonna call you.”
RW: Absolutely. It totally worked.
MP: It was fate. It just worked out.
LL: How long have you guys been together?
MP: Since the beginning… 8 or 9 years but we’ve been seriously playing live for like three years, probably.
LL: Have you guys noticed any differences from your music in past vs. what it’s like now?
MP: I think the core concepts haven’t changed. We like to play music and we’re really into soundtracks and sound design and music in relation to film. That is why we did the concept record. That theme has continued but we’ve evolved in terms of sound.
LL: Your latest album, Heaven, is released via Orchid Tapes, a label based out of the New York area. How did you come into contact with Warren Hildebrand?
MP: We’ve known Warren for a really long time. He’s a super old friend. When we were shopping around for a label and trying to figure out how to release it, Warren and I were already talking and exchanging music and he asked me and really wanted to release it. It felt right at the time. We wanted to do it that way and it seemed like a really perfect idea.
LL: Where was your album recorded?
MP: San Francisco. Oakland, Europe, and Japan but we did it in my bedroom with our producer, Lucas, and mixed it all in San Francisco.
LL: I understand that the concept revolving around Heaven has to do with a diary of a fictional character in 19th century Japan. How did you come up with the back story for this character? What inspired her?
MP: It’s fictional, in a sense. The woman is a real woman who existed. The story is slightly manipulated but it came about from a lot of travel diaries that I read from the 12th century to the 19th century in Japan. There’s all these fairy tales – one in particular, the lover’s suicide that is like, a really famous story. We took pieces of that and created this timeline and story line that covered all these complex topics like death, love, destiny, fate, heaven and we tried to encompass them in a story line that told her original story but also added these elements.
LL: How do your live shows compare to the album version of your songs?
MP: There is a difference but it’s working for us at the moment but we might switch it up in the future.
AH: I think the most important thing that we realize is that when we record and make music, which is our preferred art, we like to take on challenges and blend genres. When we started playing live, we realized being minimal and stripping as much out as possible was key. When we started, it was really complex. We had a bunch of gear and backing tracks and decided it wasn’t fun playing that way because it was really hard to get the sound right so we just stripped everything and tried to make the most of out of two guitars, bass, and drums. We still have some synth parts that we play with pads but it’s much more minimal.
LL: What plans do you have for 2015?
MP: We’re going to score a short film and we’re currently working on some remixes but we’re going to work on music. We’re not as keen and eager to tour. We have a lot of art to make.
LL: Do you guys see yourself putting out an EP with this work you’re doing or are you going to wait for a full album release?
MP: Honestly, we want to push the boundaries of what is “normal” to do so I don’t know if we’ll do an EP or album. It might be something completely different. We might do a film. We might do a music video. Just something a little more unconventional.
For more information on The Bilinda Butchers, visit their website.