Stream: Plains / Drew Price, The New Love Crowd EP

Sjimon Gompers

Plains, Drew Price

From left, the creative minds of Travis Swinford (aka Plains), and Drew Price. (courtesy of the artists, & Happenin Records)

In early September we brought you one of the first listens to Friends and Family from Drew Price's Bermuda Triangle, and today we bring you The New Love Crowd EP, a split between Plains (aka Travis Swinford) and Drew Price. A holiday gift of giving of new love, and new hopes, Price and Swinford bring their respective indie styles together on this release from Montevallo, Alabama's creative chance takers, Happenin Records. Brighten up your lazy morning or afternoon with these two, who join us after the stream for an inspired discussion session.

Like sound collages found on Drew Price's Friends & Family; The New Love Crowd EP begins with the total sensory over-stimulation on the trans-radio-dial signal bleed on the intro, “New Love”. Then Drew breaks it down in the half conscious and sincere warm richness of “Gold and Marble”. “Marble” glistens in the dew drop vision of freshly awakened eyes, with a chord tone and steady rhythm that sounds like it was fed through an old boom-box. Despite the title, “Sported Tame” brings forward some straight-up American underground pop with touches of twanged weirdness. Price keeps the song alive with romantic chance and opportunities for all kinds of genuine strangeness like the lyrics, “take a chance on love, if it's worth a try, take another heart and make it stranger”.

Keeping on that tempo and vibration, Plains keeps the torch of Lou Reed and the Velvets burning from the old undergrounds to the new. “Following Prince” walks in toe with the giants, and keeps it stripped down and real with bursts of skronk to chords that strike like holiday hammock daydreams. “Old Wash” hints at the ways both Price and Swinford sounds may inform themselves in the manner of which the past never leaves their musical approach. “Old” washes over like grainy video of old surf films, summoning the bedroom recording resurgence that the past half a decade has enjoyed. Both Drew and Travis specialize in jumbling the time tables and spectrums that confuse the linear timelines and of tomorrow and yesterday for a sound that synthesizes and melts together the sleepy-eyed conventions of time.

In the spirit of the season, we bring you a roundtable discussion with Drew Price and Plains' Travis Swinford where we get deep into the music, concepts and thoughts behind the tunes, remembrances of Lou Reed, and other items and notes of inspiration. Also check out their new Tumblr site for The New Love Crowd.

First of all, how did both of you agree and come to this split, especially so hot on the heels of so many releases between the two of you?

Travis: Drew and I had been scheming over working on something together. We've worked on our own side by side for years now. Chris [McCauley of Happenin Records] asked us if we wanted to release a split and we were down. Seems like the split was a first step in making something together, although we did these songs on our own.

How did you all first meet?

T: Drew and I met in Birmingham through friends about six years ago. We were both recording already. The first time I saw Drew play as Drew Price's Bermuda Triangle, like five years ago, I loved it and I told him his music sounded like he was sick of hanging out with everyone. I really knew where he was coming from. Ever since then we've been pushing each other with our own works. The New Love Crowd was something that came to me a couple of years ago. I was at a show in Montevallo and the phrase struck my head. I went outside and wept. It felt like lightning in my head; I was so vulnerable to those words. I knew it was something for me and Drew to do together. We'll be working under that name together in the future. Naming the split is just saying, 'nice to meet you.'

Travis, what can you tell us about these sessions from the split perhaps came from or maybe informed the developments on your new, Stone Cloud release.

T: Actually these songs are on Stone Cloud. I was finishing the mixing when Chris asked us about releasing a split. I wanted to give a taste without spoiling the full feel of Stone Cloud. Although these songs are definitely on the planet with Stone Cloud, they are separate words existing in a healthy way with Drew's songs. They open the door to the rest of Stone Cloud without really getting into the thick of it. They all move the same way-straight ahead. Unlike the last Plains album, they're not hidden in any weirdness. We've both been working in a no bullshit way. Stone Cloud is, in a very thin slice, about learning how to love the world while being inside of it, so there is a lot of 'ok, let's move on' and in turn, more warmth and self-awareness in the songs.

Tell us about how you take us out of our gourds with the abstract tape-head splitter of “New Love” to the absolutely gorgeous, “Gold and Marble”?

T: “New Love” is actually all four songs on the split. We wanted an intro and I decided to warp it all together. It was how we made sure all of our tracks had equal volume. It works in its own way.

Drew: Oh yeah, we were just hanging out trying to mix the songs to a good volume level, and we tracked them over each other, which is probably not the best approach, but we found something we thought was cool, so we added it as a track to the album.

D: For “Gold and White Marble”, I wrote the chord progressions and melodies first without any intention for them. Then I attempted to understand why I chose these sounds and what they were doing for me. I clearly liked them and thought they said something I wanted to say, so I took a stab at what that is and wrote some lyrics, that I'm pretty sure nobody can make out, about loving someone that you can't be with. The song's an attitude more than a statement about something. The lyrics serve a purpose, but they are supposed to be hard to make out. It's how it is perceived sonically that is important. Typically, I'm concerned with attitudes and textures more than opinionated statements and literal poetry. I'm a rather rhetorical, charismatic person if I don't keep myself in check. As an artist, I try to avoid convincing people to take my stance on my personal outlook on things. The song is a feeling that has lasted in my life the past year or so. It's severely concerned with family, love, money, sociology, socio-psycholigcal dynamics within these realms, etc.etc. I'm a white, 23 year old male from Birmingham, Alabama.

“Sport Tame” is a real warped bender and weird wanderer, how was this psych-super-stupor made?

D: As for “Sported Tame”, I was concerned with rock and roll. In the past, I've released many songs that are strictly concerned with attempting to articulate perfect, surface level, sonic experiences. I have done this with psychedelic pop, house/dance, shoegaze, and whatever else. These songs are rigorous constructions. Going through the process of finishing out a bachelors degree in sociology this year left me pretty exhausted, so I wanted a sort of 'fuck it' approach to my new music. I wanted a song that exercised the philosophy of honest, straightforward music that simply expresses an attitude that reminds you that most things that concern people are arbitrary symbols that shouldn't get the best of you. This song was actually inspired by Travis. He makes fun of the concept that certain seasons have flavors in the U.S. and how people love it, like Christmas Starbucks drinks and Halloween inspired menu items at a Barnes and Noble or something. I wanted to make a rock song that commented on buying into something like that and experiencing the nostalgia the product promotes. I mean, if you feel it, it's real right? Good for those people. I love the holiday season. I went into the construction of the song with no ideas, just relaxed intuition. I wrote and recorded it in about a day. It felt good. I didn't care what it was because my brain made it, and that's not my fault.

Travis, from “Following Prince” to “Old Wash”, there is a big VU ghost lingering about. How did Lou Reed's music effect you personally and creatively, and how have you been handling with his passing?

T: Lou Reed's music has been a big part of both me and Drew's creative practices. There's a seductive honesty in his sound. Learning from someone like him dares you to be more straightforward, more genuine. Stop hiding your poetry, stop twisting knobs. Play a song. For me, I've learned that there is a difference in keeping it simple and keeping it subtle. Singing a little softer, listening more closely, becoming a better lover. The sound is a body that you have to listen to in order to make pleasing. Lou's sound was an animal heart and a head swimming in love—love on animal time. The result is raw cool. Like realizing you're broke and alone on a street. All of a sudden, the whole scene shows itself in an affirmative gentleness. The world is often softer than you let yourself feel. When I learned about Lou's passing, I was sitting in my apartment alone. My heart crumpled. It was Sunday morning. I had spent the previous night out with friends until we heard the birds waking up. Our eyes were open together. I wasn't sad, I was overwhelmed by the subtle thunder of the music playing on. I felt the immortality of the art that had become so close and sweet to me. The music can do no wrong. We all now have a lot of work to do.

D: Right on.

“Old Wash” has the best lead off ever that is not “Foggy Notion”, what is the story behind this track?

T: “Old Wash” was written like a lot of the songs from Birthday Island. I let secret metaphors spill out by giving the sound of the line, the kinetics of the breath and rhythm, a lead over the mission of the words. The result is having a wider range of ideas to work through. Instead sticking to the path of the words, I let the sound of the words grow and I garden from there. 'A sidewalk grew into a zoo.' It's about surfaces—not like, about fake people or something, but how things look and what it means to hold onto a look.

What are you both doing for Xmas?

T: I am taking my ass back to my family in Huntsville.

D: My family lives here in Birmingham. My older brother just got married, so I have spent a lot of time with them recently. I also just graduated from school, so we have just been celebrating all over. It's been great.

What are both of your New Years plans?

T: Hopefully I will be in a cabin in the hills of Tennessee with the lovely twin brain and my best friends.

D: I'll be there with them. I get a little sentimental during New Years, so hopefully we will bring it in right with a wholehearted good time.

Toasts and hopes for 2014?

T: Toast to good sounds that make you feel real, toast to things that look good. Ready to get back to recording. Ready to tour. Hope y'all enjoy.

D: I feel that. Cheers.

The New Love Crowd EP is available now from Happenin Records.

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