Steve Earle wasn't singing about Seattle when he coined "Guitar Town", but he just as well might have been. Thats why I find the Dating Pool, a band consisting of keyboards, cello, horns and percussion so interesting. I chatted briefly with front man Andrew Blakehall about the choice to go "guitar free" and their plans for tonight's Clash.vs. Ramones show.
Tell me a little about the Dating Pool, how did you form?
Craigslist. Definitely the best medium for meeting prospective band mates, other than already being friends with them...
When will you be gracing us with your debut?
It's an arduous process, partly because you want every increment of your song to be perfect, partly because you start to get ideas as your actually lay down each track. You hear things in a different way. Because our songs are so ripe with tempo, rhythm and time signature changes, it makes each (pro tools) session a monster unto it's own. In terms of releasing the album, we are hesitant to commit to an absolute date, but we're pushing for late March.
Where are you drawing inspiration these days?
There's a long list, but I would say the biggest inspiration is a local band called the Harborrats, they're singer\songwriter Sam Russell is one of those rare one-in-a-million musical visionaries who blend brilliant songwriting with a clear and poignant message, which is conveyed in every musical utterance which emanates from his music. Every time I see them live I get that "time standing still" feeling. That moment where you feel like everything is perfect.
Tell me about your name.
It's a metaphorical extension of the adage that being an a band is like dating four people at the same time. In Seattle there is this whole pool of prospective people to play music with, and you try a few out here and there. Sometimes the projects go miserably wrong, as it did with my stint with the Math and Physics Club, and sometimes you fall in love and it all goes wonderful, and the music is like what first kisses and the smell of your boyfriends\girlfriends neck in the morning those first few mornings after they've spent the night.
You've made a choice not to use guitars?
When I first started messing around with songwriting, I wasn't able to grasp the guitar. It didn't feel right somehow. My girlfriend at the time had a Korg X5 keyboard which I began to play obsessively. It sort of naturally progressed into my instrument. I loved how I could play the same fundamental chord progressions that a guitarist could play, but I could also use different synthed sounds (mainly piano, organ, bells, and strings). As I began laying down the piano and vocal takes on my Tascam four track, The songs began to evolve and take on lives of their own. I should state here, that, in the songwriting process, I think there is a point where each song forges it's own entity, and becomes like saplings, and we musicians the musicians who gave birth to them , both the gardeners and the soil. Some of our children (the songs) need to be tended to a lot, worked and reworked, so that they can grown healthy, robust; while others can just be let alone. When the gardener has a clear vision of how he wants his arboretum to look, and, if he has spent enough time in the company of his plants, they become more alive and more individual as they grow. The great songs began to ask (sometimes command) their songwriter to decorate them. Sometimes the panoply calls for elaborate garlands and overflowing double bass\distortion pedals\ backbeats etc. Sometimes they call for simpler things, in my case the garden which began to forth from me, always summoned unto me to bring them the same four things: cello, horn, vibraphone, and drums.
You've got two shows coming up this week. What will you be playing at the Clash.vs.Ramones show?
We're not supposed to tell the individual songs, but we've sided with the Ramones. I should mention it will only be myself, (Andrew Blakehall) our cellist (John Simpson) and trombonist (Karl Benitez).
What can we expect to hear on December 9th?
Seattle is a phenomenal city with a wealth of talent, but we've all been to the local show where a band gets on the stage and bumbles through a set in which all the songs sound essentially the same, where all the changes come in predictable places, and where all the tempos and rhythms are so constant that the life is slowly bled out of the audience. Though we're a new band, we're laboring to prevent this from happening. As a songwriter, getting on a stage and performing these songs you've been writing for years can be a horrifying experience, hoping that people will be moved, be cathartically freed, feel validated -by at least one or two of the songs that you play, is intimidating. Though Keegan (drummer) John (Cellist) Karl Be(Trombone) or Alice (Xylophone) might name drop different bands, in my case, if just one person who owned say, a Neutral Milk Hotel or Belle and Sebastian CD came up to us after the set and say they loved us, it would certainly be enough for me.....