INTERVIEW with awesome up-and-comers from Denver AMERICAN CULTURE!
You'll read the interview and run out to listen to "For My Animals."
Recorded before the COVID year began, "For My Animals" from Denver's adventurous American Culture is a statement about following your inspirations and simply writing, recording, and playing to entertain yourself. This talented quartet has joined forces to make music that is equal parts Pop/Rock/Punk/Psychedelic/Experimental with a little Dub just to keep you on your toes. Guitarist/singer Chris Adolf took a break from driving in some treacherous weather to enlighten us on the band and the labor of love that is their first album for Athens, GA's Happy Happy Birthday To Me.
T-BONE'S RECORDS: “For My Animals” goes everywhere - sometimes at once. Your writing echoes the freewheeling AmerIndie of the Eighties when artists like Camper Van Beethoven just followed the inspiration wherever it took them. Is “For My Animals” a reflection of an amalgamation of styles?
CHRIS ADOLF: "For My Animals" isn't really an amalgamation of styles on purpose. I mean... we definitely have tastes and influences that are all over the place and we kind of just let the songs push us around. Let them tell us what they should be as we jam them or record them. Our only rule is that we never force something. But I think the traditional way of thinking about an "album' as being this cohesive thing comes from the long tradition of us experiencing music through an industry. Traditionally, for nearly 100 years, most Americans have been granted access to music through an industry. A record company pays for a record to be made in order to make money. Pays for studio time. There's a budget to hire producers, studio players, etc... A band goes into a studio for a few days or weeks. And the end result is a thing that was all made in the same way, by the same people in the same room with the same equipment in a specific time frame. So... that's kind of what people think of when they think of an "Album". The idea of a cohesive "album". It's informed by industry. By capitalism. But that's just not realistic in the world of actual DIY music. Home-made music. Hand-made music. Hand-made things have natural variance. It's recorded on random borrowed equipment in various basements, various quick studios, etc. We all have jobs so the recording process is spread out all over the course of a year when we have windows of time here and there so the moods of the music vary depending on where our life was at any given point over that protracted period of time. There are exceptions. "Loveless" by My Bloody Valentine, for example, took a very long time to make but it's very cohesive. But.. in general, I think the expectation of an album totally sounding, all the same, is informed by our consumption of industry music.
T-BONE'S: I understand that it is largely pre-COVID. How does it feel listening to it today and what memories hit you?
CHRIS: Well we took for granted the luxury of being able to play shows and actually practice together.
T-BONE'S: What is the history of American Culture?
CHRIS: Long. Perhaps boring. We've been around a long time.
We started around 2014. We have toured the western United States so many times it all blurs together. I think of it as more of a poetry thing. But I've never liked poetry as a format. It's (typically) super awkward/embarrassing to see performed live. A cool band is a great trojan horse to sneak your poetry in. I just kind of rope my friends into backing me. Lucas, Michael, and I have been together for most of it. Kim (Drums) joined us last year when our longtime drummer Cam had to move to the East Coast. Was super humbled when Kim joined us.
T-BONE'S: How would you describe your music to a neophyte?
CHRIS: Oh that's super hard. To describe your own music. We like Crass. The Feelies. The Grateful Dead. It definitely feels like a tour album.
T-BONE'S: The songs have that feeling of wheels spinning and finding freedom on the open road. Have you already recorded the follow-up?
CHRIS: Working on a follow-up now. So far, it's feeling kind of country.
T-BONE'S: Do you see yourself getting back on the road soon?
CHRIS: We want to go as soon as possible. But that's kind of not up to us, it's up to the rest of the country and the national community to defeat this virus so we can safely gather people in sweaty basements again.
T-BONE'S: How did you get the hookup with Happy Happy Birthday To Me? You are in some very good company over there.
CHRIS: If you've been involved in DIY/Lo-Fi/Indiepop music at all for any amount of time you know Mike. (HHBTM owner) He's a huge stalwart of the community. Mike and I have been friends for decades. It only seemed natural to do this lo-fi collection of songs with HHBTM. Yeah, I'm super humbled to share a label with some of the legends he's working with these days. Joe Jack from the Dead Milkmen in particular is a luminary of an influence for me. Seriously my intro to punk when I was in 7th grade. I'm humbled to be anywhere near his orbit.
T-BONE'S: When you look back at why you play music in the first place - what were those records that led you to here? What are you listening to for inspiration today?
CHRIS: I grew up in a small town in the desert Southwest in the 90s. Pre-internet. Finding weird outside of the box stuff was harder to do. I remember a friend's cooler older cousin giving us a tape with the Dead Milkmen, Black Flag, and Camper van Beethoven on it around 1990. That seriously changed my life. I started seeking out and piecing together bits and pieces through Thrasher Magazine. (At the time they had a very cool music section that was accessible at any newsstand. Even in small towns out in the desert.) I remember reading about Sonic Youth there before I ever heard them. Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth... I liked the punk bands that didn't sound like cookie-cutter punk.
T-BONE'S: “Pedals” would be my choice for a single. The way you bring it in with that tape-drag clarion call and then slow it down just draws me deeper into your music. What is a song on your record that surprised you and how did it come about?
CHRIS: We really do try to go into both the writing process and the recording process with no laid-out path or plan. No hippie, but, we really do just try to let the music tell us where it wants to go. So really, all of these songs are surprises to us.
T-BONE'S: There are a lot of four-track sounds on your record. While it makes it kind of loud and clangy, it just cements that you can even make making the record into part of the art. Were these planned out or just those “happy accidents” that make deep listening a necessity.
CHRIS: (See above. Haha!) But... the 4 track thing is literally just a 4 track cassette machine. It's how I first learned to record so I feel super comfortable in that headphone land. But we do use computers too.
T-BONE'S: Do you have favorite “random” moments on here?
CHRIS: They're all random moments. If one of our ideas starts to feel too labored we throw it out.
T-BONE'S: Finally. What is next? Online concert? Bandcamp-only endless tape loop straight from the cassette? Field recordings from your practice sessions?
CHRIS: Those are all fun-sounding ideas. Though I'd feel awkward doing an online concert. Since we can't get together as much we've all been writing alone. I'm currently writing a bunch of stuff with classical guitar, pedal steel, and piano. Michael has shown me some American Culture ideas he has with super loud visceral heavy guitars. Who knows...!!
Our thanks to Chris for taking time out of driving in extremely difficult weather to give us a glimpse into the ideas and thought behind "For My Animals." Thank you also to Lucas, Michael, and Kim as well as Mike at Happy Happy Birthday to Me. Their new LP "For My Animals" is available at T-BONE'S today.
T-BONES Records and Cafe is a full-service fast-casual restaurant and record store in Hattiesburg, MS. We are a member of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores and are the longest-running record store in the state of Mississippi. If you have questions - we have answers … and probably a lot more information just waiting for you at:
Visit our website for more information and shop in our ONLINE store if you wish.
T-BONES ships the best music all over the United States daily. We also specialize in Special Orders. Let us know what you are looking for - we are thrilled to help.