by Dan Bolles
Greetings Solid State!
Today's edition of the paper featured a portion of an interview I recently conducted with Gabby and Burette Doulgas of The Cush. Due to space limitations, I was only able print about a third of the conversation. What follows is that interview, in its entirety. Enjoy!
There’s been a noticeable void in the Burlington music scene for the last six months or so as Gabrielle and Burette Douglas of psychedelic rock outfit The Cush retreated to the sunny climes of their home state of Texas for the winter. Long one of the area’s most revered acts, the return of these particular snowbirds is a welcome sight, particularly after yet another long, cold and eerily quiet Vermont winter.
Seven Days recently caught up with the husband and wife duo at Muddy Waters Café in Burlington in advance of their homecoming gig this Thursday at Higher Ground.
SD: You guys were doing a lot of recording Texas, so when can we expect the new album?
BURETTE DOUGLAS: We don’t know. If we get set up here [Burlington] in time . . . it just depends on how much we get done. If we get enough done, it might be a full record. Or we might do an EP and the hold on to the rest.
We have a residency tour next month; we’re doing every Tuesday at Pete’s Candy Store in New York City and every Wednesday at The Fire in Philadelphia. And we have some fill in dates in between.
So we’re gonna do that next month and then back on the recording, concentrate on that and have something by the fall. We have about 30 minutes of music right now.
SD: What’s the lineup nowadays?
GABRIELLE DOUGLAS: Our friend Cody Lee is playing drums with us. He’s from Texas. He played in our old band for about seven years and went over to England with us. It’s been going great. It’s a three-piece so far.
BD: The band’s been morphing for the last few years it seems like. But it’s always like that.
SD: That must have quite an effect on your music.
BD: A little bit, you know. At first we were real worried about it. We used to be a five-piece. And then we were a four-piece with keyboards and stuff. The biggest thing was playing as a three-piece without the keyboard parts.
The first time we did it, it was for people who had seen us like a million times and they were like “Oh man, the three-piece is my favorite.” So that was reassuring.
GB: Especially in Dallas-Ft. Worth, our friends there have been with us through so many different phases and they were like, “with the three-piece there’s nothing missing. It sounds just as full.”
Any time you have more members and then break it down, it pushes you in a creative way to figure out how you can play the melody that might be missing.
BD: It puts the songs across in their most basic form. Which is good. You can definitely hear the singing better. We’re trying to concentrate a little bit more on creating sounds with harmonies.
SD: So are the recordings in that stripped-down kind of vein?
BD: A little bit. While we were there [Texas], we recorded drum tracks and they had a piano. So anything we wanted piano on . . . right now it’s kind of piano heavy.
We have other songs that we’d never recorded with The Cush that we’re going to do up here. We’d like to record Steve [Hadeka] on some stuff because he’s never been on one of records and he was with us for a couple of years.
I don’t think it’ll be “stripped-down.” I don’t know, there’ll probably be some stuff that’ll still be . . .
GD: It’ll still have all the ear candy.
BD: Right. You know how it is. The record’s one thing and the live show is a little different.
GD: The thing is that it’s happened naturally. Every time we get ready to record, we never have too much of a structured idea of “this is how it’s going to sound.” It just evolves.
BD: I thought the last record was going to be pretty random. There were some songs that I thought didn’t really fit in. But I got out-voted. But then in the end, they really do fit in.
So right now, we’ve recorded all these ideas that we’ve had. And listening back, it’s kind of all over the place. But by the time we’re done, it’ll be pretty interesting.
SD: How does the scene in Dallas-Ft. Worth differ from Burlington?
GD: Well, one thing is that everything is really big there. We came from Dallas and there was definitely a big music scene there, at the time. But it’s real spread out.
Here, you’ll walk down the street and you’ll be like “Oh, I saw that guy playing at the Radio Bean last night.” You kind of know who does what and it’s a small small enough place where you could go up to someone and say, “Hey, do you want come over and do some recording?” It’s really cool. There, not really so much. It’s more clique-ish.
BD: There’s not a community there, like there is here, the overall support. You have that in cliques and certain groups. But it’s such a big place, it’s hard for people to come together.
It's pretty competitive out there. We went back to the places we used to play, like 10 years ago in Dallas. It was crazy. All the stages are really big there, so you have places about the size of Higher Ground, but you'll have 10 of those in like three blocks. And it's like that in Austin too. So it's definitely real competitive for bands to get gigs.
We went there and that whole part of time is all closed up. The scene just dried up. There's little pockets . . .
GD: We had noticed that before we left. We used to live right around the corner from those places and right before we left, it was changing. And we weren't too interested in the vibe. We'd experienced Texas, Austin . . . and we really like the Northeast. So, going back, it was really reaffirming in a lot of ways.
BD: Dallas got less cool and Ft. Worth got a lot cooler. There's a lot of good bands, that's for sure.
GD: South by Southwest was amazing. Austin still seems to be the place. But it is very competitive.
BD: Texas is so big that it's kinda like its own country. So for a lot of bands, just to be a big band in Texas is a big deal because it's a lot of space to cover. And there's really nowhere else to go. Oklahoma City, New Orleans, anywhere else you're gonna be on tour . . . and we've done that. So be up here, to be able to play in other large cities that are really close is a good thing for us. And it still is.
GD: And with the price of gas, it's going to make touring that much more difficult, especially in Texas.
SD: I've actually been wondering when you're going to start seeing effects from that, seeing fewer bands touring because they simply can't afford gas.
BD: I mean, this May, we're going to have to stay in New York instead of coming back to Vermont each week, because that's like $200 bucks each time.
SD: That's a sad commentary when it's cheaper to stay in NYC than to come home. But you guys were able to tour to and from Texas?
BD: We toured down with Ryan [Power]. He was going to visit his brother [in Arkansas], so it was a good way for him to get out of town. Ryan is pretty much a permanent member.
We played a few bars, but we played a lot of collectives. And those places are always the best. They pay you better, it's more supportive. It worked out really well because between either him or us, we knew people in every town. We didn't make any money, but we definitely paid our way down there. And we played a little bit while we were down there.
Basically the tour back up was we could either drive up. Or we could drive up and play shows.
GD: St. Louis was cool. There are quite a few folks out there that know us and were there to see us. They found us on MySpace and had been fans for a couple of years.
SD: Ah, the wonders of MySpace!
BD: It's interesting to see, the whole MySpace thing. We've been around since the '90s and it's a lot easier now. People already know you, they already know your songs. That's really neat.
GD: Every place we played, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Columbus . . . there was a really good reception. People bought CDs, they knew who we were.
BD: And, on the way down, we played DC and got an e-mail from this guy, Luke Erickson, who was interested in managing us, which we've been waiting on for years. He's from Vermont, but he just got a job with Gold Mountain Entertainment which manages folks like Steve Earle, Band of Horses and a lot of other good bands. He asked us if we need any help.
We didn't even meet him until South By Southwest. We'd just talked to him on the phone. But he had some ideas for us and has been working some things out. It's been a big help, but it's something we needed like, two years ago.
We had that distribution deal with Undertow and they distributed our record. But that was about it.
We're trying to just build our own team. We can record our own records. Indie labels don't have any money. And we have friends on major labels and the labels are telling them that they're not going to do anything special. So what's the point?
Everybody wants to be independent now, so if we can just build our own little team . . .
GD: Before, not only were we creatively producing the music, but we were trying to promote the band too. And that's a lot of work. We both have day jobs and it's like having a second job. We just knew that if we stuck with it, one day we'd have a pool of people. And that's happening now.
SD: You guys spent some time in England last summer. Any plans to go back?
BD: A label in England, Sonic Cathedral, is going to put out a single from out last record and maybe a new song, we're not sure. That's going to come out this summer and we'll be on a compilation at the end of the year.
Going to England was cool. We sort of broke into this whole underground psychedelic thing that I never really knew was out there. It's a pretty big scene over there. It's totally different from what you would expect. It's not all druggy or whatever. It's about cool art.
GD: It reminded me a lot of Vermont, actually. There's a community there. there's artists supporting artists and spreading the word about each other.. There's a couple of festivals that want to have us back in July and we want to book some shows in London. But we understand that it's really expensive to do that so . . .
BD: We paid our way to get over there the first time and we knew that if we went it would help open some doors, which it did. But we'll see what happens.
SD: So are are you guys glad to be back?