Are you going to any shows soon?
Yeah I’m going to go see Fall of Troy August 5th.
It’s kind of crazy that you’re into bands like Fall of Troy or Animals as Leaders -- where do you think that comes out when you’re writing?
I like thinking about forms of songs and how to transition from one section to another which metal bands like Fall of Troy or Animals as Leaders do really well. I think a lot about having the music come back to something familiar. You have this song structure that lasts for so long but you can make a circle with it instead of a straight line.
For a release is it less about story and more about sound?
It is about story and it is about sound so with these metal bands, and even all of those classic rock bands like Yes or Led Zeppelin the way that they use motifs within songs -- I’ve had ideas to do that in a record -- to have floating themes, parts of songs happening in between, but we haven’t picked the one song that’s going to be the theme yet because we’ve been really messing around with that in a live setting. The live show is mostly about story and not necessarily sound.
So how do you execute that live?
For my senior recital we played “Wind Up Doll” which is a really scary, fucked up song by Little Peggy March. The set circulates around the theme of 1950’s misogyny. It starts from this packaged wind up doll, and just continues to fall apart, artfully and purposely fall apart, throughout the rest of the show. Between songs we used messed up versions of “Wind Up Doll,” distorted, reversed, or slowed down, then we ended, clean no effects, just the first verse of the song, which turned out pretty effective.
So your music didn’t come out of any purely academic framework but you did meet all of your bandmates through New School? (Pandering to the New School Sound?)
Yeah I met all of them at New School. At New school I really focused on jazz and was chipping away at singing jazz and jazz harmony but then very slowly I realized that it doesn't really feel like a super creative medium. Hearing how close minded my teachers were to music that was not directly influenced by jazz was discouraging and pushed me away from that entirely, but after a two year jazz hiatus I started writing again. I’ve always written for as long as I can remember.
It seems like a lot of jazz academia falls into this issue of wanting to stay in 1950s.
There is a lot of value placed on tradition. I think that what people don’t really think about is that there are these cultural histories and social histories that come with the traditional histories of jazz. Music that demands to stay in the past brings with it the attitudes of the past and that reinforms it. Which is hard.
What histories are you drawing from?
I think everyone has a super angsty teenage phase which is where I found all of the foundational music that makes me feel happy or alive. I was super into the Mars Volta, really into like classic rock, into heavier bands like Veil of Maya. Always super into emotional writers like emo bands.
What do you listen to right now?
I have a playlist! Let’s look at it. I sure like the Cure. I really like the new Fall of Troy. Have you checked out this band 68? This bands sports is really cool. I’ve always been really into Phantogram a lot. My friends are making such awesome music, like your ambient thing is amazing I’m not even kidding I want to sleep to it but I don’t because it’s so exciting. A lot of friends are just killing the game - like Zolaband which you’re also in. Starkiller bass, Chris Turner’s new album, is going to be so sick. I’ve heard some previews I’m so excited
How do you feel about the New York Scene?
I think that the New York scene is better than the LA scene. I really just connect more with the music that’s happening here. People in our age range are super unafraid. We’ll play a super DIY venue that has a shitty sound and doesn't give us anything -- it just means you need to give more and you have to want to give the most you can.
Some people think that being in a good place emotionally makes their writing shittier. Do you?
No it does not. I understand that way of thinking, and felt that way before, but I think that if you ever felt something not good, if it was bad enough you can remember exactly what it felt like, and you can call upon any of those feelings if you need them. I think everyone remembers what it feels like to be lonely or mad... or you can be like me and just be crazy and mad always.
Are you always mad?
No but I really used to be, and then I was like “man i’m so tired of being mad all the time this is exhausting.”
So you just kind of decided not to be mad anymore
(laughs) Yeah basically.
Is the Kathryn Agatha Project only serious?
It depends… really both. I have a dark sense of humor, but a lot of the times I don’t realize it. People will say to me “I laughed about it because you said that in such a funny way, but then I realize you’re actually serious,” but I just think it's hilarious.
What gear are you using right now
Okay this is subject to change but right now I have a TC Electronic Reverb Pedal which is great, an Alter Ego Stompbox Delay also TC Electronic, a Pitchfork Pitch Shifter which is really fun and makes everything sound like a synth its rad, then I have two distortion pedals one overdrive the White Light by Earthquaker devices and the Acapulco Gold (by Earthquaker Devices) which is like a gnarly fuzz pedal.
What are you planning on switching out?
I was thinking about getting a new reverb pedal with different presets because the one I have sounds really identifiable and I’m more interested in a verb pedal that would fuck shit up.
And what is everyone else using do you know?
Okay so David has a SPD Sampling Pad, Devin has the Boss overdrive Pedal an Octave Pedal and a tuner and a boss delay, and Michael has a new synth okay so the original plan was him using a Nord with a Big Muff fuzz pedal and a Carbon Copy Delay pedal by MXR and then he also got the Moog sub phatty but now he has a different synth and he has all the same pedals except now he has an eventide delay pedal. He’s really about delay pedal.
Where does collaboration start and end with your band?
I’ll write the song and then I’ll bring it to rehearsal and we’ll just try to play. So we’re not like a jazz school bands where we have charts I play them the song and we learn it by ear and I play with them because I like what they do and also I don’t play the drums so it's not like I can be like “Hey can you this here,” because there’s probably a more inventive way that David can do it or even a way that’s more like David’s playing because I love David’s playing. I would rather hear what David or Michael have to say before I roll in with my less good ideas for their instrumentation.
And are all of your bandmates in other things?
David, who I’m in the duo project with, is in this super cool electronic duo called Starkiller-bass and they do breakbeats and all this sick stuff with this kid Jordy Karrington. If you’re into video games you have to check it out. and then does stuff with this DJ called A0. It’s really cool trance dance music. He (David) plays in this band called Elbows and Chris Turner’s band the Synth Player plays in this guy Joe Vilardi’s band who writes really cool Fleet Foxes meets Joni Mitchell meets everything cool and he’s also in some jazz things. The bass player is also in Joe Vilardi’s band and in some jazz things.
So you mentioned video games and I know you’re all about video games and cartoons and stuff and you have that job with Pendleton Ward so you get to see all of these cool cartoons all of the time.
So what are the best cartoons?
Okay so best cartoons right now are Over the Garden Wall - it’s scary cute dark funny amazing. Adventure Time set the bar for everyone on what can be done. I’m really into so many animes like Attack on Titan - it’s the best ever but be prepared to just die emotionally. I really also like the old Spiderman cartoons. They are so bad it’s amazing and Spiderman says all of these weird things and he always has these closing lines and he has these weird hip motions and you could be watching alone in bed and you’re like uncomfortable and it’s just so cringeworthy but it’s a relic.
What’s the best sandwich?
The best sandwich is the on chicken avocado griller from Blossom.