If you haven‘t yet heard A Weather‘s Everyday Balloons, then get on it, people. Not only is it likely to be one of the most beautiful, thoughtful albums you‘ll hear all year, but in the words of Aaron Gerber, it‘s also “kind of funny, but kind of stupid, too.” Actually, that’s what he said Sarah had to say about his idea of naming an album after a moment on Seinfeld, but it’s not untrue of the album, at least lyrically. Gerber is the clever man responsible for such stupidly funny lyrics such as, “you once were a dish sponge, now you clean tile in the bathroom where sponges go to die.” In this interview, we get a peak into the source of his charming, folksy lyrics, as well as some hot gossip you’ll only read on InYourSpeakers. Will there be rapping in the next A Weather release? Was Aaron Krenkel really kicked out of the band for liking Coldplay? The truth lies after the break.
Inyourspeakers: So, this is my first interview, congratulations on that.
Aaron Gerber: I’m honored, I feel very honored. Thanks for the review, too. I read that a little while ago. I think you’re the only reviewer who has noticed or gotten the Seinfeld reference from the title.
IYS: I’m glad you said that, because I was wondering the whole time if that was just a coincidence, or if that was what you were actually shooting for.
AG: No, you got it. You nailed that one. I was kind of wondering how many people would pick up on that. But, as far as I know, you’re the only one, so that’s pretty cool.
IYS: Alright, that’s quite a claim to fame. So was it always Everyday Balloons for you guys, or did you have any other potential titles kicking around?
AG: I’ve kind of been thinking about that for a long time, maybe before we started recording. I’ve just had it as a, you know, a funny thing like, “hey Sarah, wouldn’t it be funny if we called it Everyday Balloons after that moment in Seinfeld?” And she was like, “yeah it’d be kind of funny, but kind of stupid too.” So we just kept that on the back burner and nothing else really popped up, and then I was kind of able to justify it later, as having some sort of thematic meaning in relation to some of the lyrics.
IYS: Yeah, I definitely think so. It’s one of my favorite Kramer moments, just that pure childlike response. It’s just so simple and funny.
AG: *chuckles* Yeah, totally. We should just have balloons everyday, you know? No special reason.
IYS: Why not balloons everyday?
AG: *chuckles* Exactly.
IYS: Hard to argue with. So do you two frequent inyourspeakers, or did you just happen to check out that review? Do you have any other music sites you check frequently?
AG: Well, I think our publicist sent us a link to your review a while ago, right?
IYS: Yeah, that was probably about two months ago.
AG: Yeah, something like that. I’ll admit I do check out Pitchfork every week or so.
IYS: That’s a little depressing.
AG: *chuckles* Yeah. I find a lot of that stuff a little bit depressing and kind of overwhelming to see just how many bands there are in the world. It kind of lessens my excitement about music, just to have this onslaught of all these names and reviews and things.
IYS: It definitely can be a little overwhelming.
AG: Well I have nothing against people who write music. For me, it’s helpful to just keep some distance from that to maintain some sort of sanity with regards to our own music, especially with putting out a new record. When a massive amount of reviews starts pouring in, it can be a little too much.
IYS: Do you guys try to read a lot of them? How much importance do you put on, or how much do you really care about what various reviewers all over the place have to say about your music?
AG: I try to keep some sort of emotional distance between what people write and what I do, but it is kind of easy to just Google yourself. Like I said, our publicist sends us any thing mentioning us, it’s kind of unavoidable. I could easily click on this email and see what this person thought about what I’ve been working on for two years. So, you have to kind of balance it out with remembering that everyone has their own agenda and things they’re looking for in music. If there’s a negative review, it’s not the end of the world.
IYS: Do you guys feel particularly affected by negative or positive reviews?
AG: Not at this point. I think when we were starting out; every review meant a lot more just because you’re putting yourself out into the world, into the public sphere for the first time. At this point, we haven’t been around for a long time, about 4 years. But it’s allowed us to build a little confidence. We’re not just at the whim of the writers’ who celebrate or slam what you’re doing. It’s definitely nice to get reviews like yours that are thoughtful and seem to be on the same thinking of what we’re doing as we’re thinking about it. It’s nice to find kindred sort of thoughts in the world of reviews.
IYS: Well that’s really my whole thing, when I was listening to Everyday Balloons. I read other interviews where you talked about how it’s a lot more -- I think you used the word “cacophonous” thanks to the electric guitars, but at the same time it’s really direct. So I feel like it’s an easy record to connect with.
AG: Oh, good!
IYS: Is that what your aim was, or is that more of a happy coincidence?
AG: Well, the cacophony you mentioned was more intentional, I think. The directness, do you mean more lyrically or musically?
IYS: Yeah, I think more lyrically direct, and then musically not overwhelming, but a lot less direct, I guess.
AG: I think that’s true. I’m not trying to make these statements that people can immediately grasp. I’m not trying to tell stories, but I think the directness comes from what people perceive as an intimate quality to the music or lyrics. To be honest, sometimes I’m not totally sure what I’m writing about when I’m writing it. So, if you feel like it’s direct that’s awesome. *chuckles* It must be working at some level.
IYS: Yeah, you’re doing something right. I read an interview with Sarah Winchester and she said that most of Everyday Balloons was written in one winter, but Cove was more revamping old tracks and drawing from the past a lot more. Do you think one way was better than the other, or just different?
AG: I think it was just a matter of having been a band for one and a half or two years prior to putting out our first record. When we did the second record we were finishing Cove and we did a couple minor tours for that and then all of the sudden we were like, “oh, we should do another album. I better write some songs.” It was more a matter of necessity than anything else. I think having deadlines can be very helpful and keep things moving in a healthy way if they’re not too stressful. I think it did kind of end up working well to write it in a relatively shorter period of time. I feel like there’s more connection between songs just because they were all coming from a specific two or three months, where I was thinking about these things that popped into more than one piece of writing at the time. So, maybe it’s a little more thematic than Cove in that sense.
IYS: I think that’s where I get the directness of the lyrics and the feelings of intimacy that others have been talking about too. Did you have any material come up as you were touring? Did you have songs that were just born out of pure jamming?
AG: Not really. We don’t have elaborate sound checks like a really big band. Some bands just sound checking for two hours and just messing around. That’s not really part of our tour existence. We definitely had some songs we’d been playing for a while on tour, but for me, a tour is definitely not the best time to be writing new music. “Giant Stairs,” “Lay Me Down,” “Happiness” have been around probably since we started touring for Cove, so at least a year or two years.
IYS: Kind of the go-to songs on the road?
AG: Yeah, just because even by the time you finish recording an album, for us, we’re already looking for something that will excite us like having a new song. We had one new song that we did for our tour for Everyday Balloons that we did in April. Even just having that one little peak into the future is really helpful to keep things feeling fresh.
IYS: Are there any bands that you guys have seen live and maybe feel influenced live or in your songwriting?
AG: I’d say yes -- we had a pretty great tour with The New Year last September or two Septembers ago that was pretty important for us, for me especially being a large fan of their stuff. So, being able to spend two weeks with those guys and see them play every night and learn how they do it and see how they function as a live band and as people was really incredible. Aside from that, there are a lot of great local bands here in Portland that we will sometimes play with. Point Juncture, Washington is one, Wineland is another, there’s a lot of great bands and anytime you play with a great band you learn a little something that you can kind of keep for yourself.
IYS: Do you think you guys feel more influence by more deliberate music as I would describe Everyday Balloons, or do you just take everything in?
AG: I’m definitely not the most open-minded listener. *chuckles* I’m pretty picky.
IYS: I think that’s a pre-requisite to being an “indie band.”
AG: You have to be kind of an asshole and not like most things, I think. So I’d say the first thing that you said. I’m not really taking in everything, which I think is a similar problem to why I don’t delve deeply into music criticism on the internet. The sheer amount of things out there can be staggering and just make you feel kind of lost and alone -- *chuckles* -- in the internet world.
IYS: Well I think that makes sense to me because Everyday Balloons felt like an intimate experience, like I said, or just mature and not given to hype. Do you think your love of sprouts as a child stemmed your evident maturity for songwriting in particular?
AG: *chuckles* Definitely.
IYS: Were you always kind of an old soul?
AG: A lot of people said I remind them of someone’s grandfather or something. In high school I dressed in cardigan sweaters and plaid pants.
IYS: Yeah, I’ve got a closet full of my grandfather’s plaid pants, so I’m right there with you.
AG: *chuckles* Yeah, I think they’re kind of crucial when you’re trying to make your independence known when you’re coming of age.
IYS: So you generally take it as a compliment, being compared to old men and grandpas?
AG: Yeah, exclusively.
IYS: Alright, I love getting the chance to hear these things I suspected, so with that in mind let me just ask you a nice broad question. What would you say is the correlation between your music and weather?
AG: The weather. Hm…I’d say it’s as much related as any dominating influence in the place you live would be. I mean, I’m not intensely interested in meteorology as a science, but I think just the fact that weather is a constant factor in your day to day life is the only real connection. You look out your window, and that’s the first thing you notice if there’s not something really exciting going on. *chuckles*
IYS: Just kind of like what you were saying about not being overwhelmed by all the different reviews on different sites and just taking life for what it is.
AG: Yeah, sort of. I’m not necessarily putting a grand importance on the weather at the moment, but it does tend to get into my writing because that’s what’s around, you know? I’m not intentionally trying to create weather related music. I think weather is a nice starting place or way of getting into an idea. Starting in a concrete world, for me, usually starts with what the weather is that day, if that makes sense.
IYS: Yeah I think so. It does seem kind of like a grand statement, but you know.. depends on how you look at it. Grand in a folksy sort of way.
AG: *chuckles* Yeah.
IYS: So you said when you’re finished an album, you’re excited to get onto something new. Have you been working on any new material, or are you just focusing on touring for Everyday Balloons right now?
AG: We just did a month long U.S. tour which ended at the end of April, and that’s pretty much all the touring we have lined up at the moment. There could be some stuff in the fall, but we’re taking time off from actual travel. I think our focus now is just writing and doing what we can at home to keep the momentum going. For me, the writing is the more fun part of the whole thing.
IYS: Do you think you’re going to continue the same dynamic of the electric guitars and the loudness of the music versus the softness of the lyrics or vocals or are we going to see more acoustic--
AG: More screaming? Yeah, I think we’re going to do some more rapping on the next one.
IYS: I’m on board. Have you heard of a band called 13 & God?
AG: No, I haven’t.
IYS: Well I believe it’s The Notwist and the rap group Themselves got together, so if they can make it work… I can see it for the next record.
AG: Alright, yeah, we’ll give it a try. No, it’s not going to be drastically different than our two previous records. I don’t think I can sing loud, so I think the vocals will be on a similar level. I’m interested in getting more stripped down, maybe? So we’ll see what that leads to. We’ve been touring as a three piece pretty exclusively since we started because the other guitar player in our band isn’t really capable of touring because he has real life things to attend to.
IYS: Is that Aaron Krenkel?
AG: It is, yes that’s him.
IYS: And you’re sure you didn’t kick him out of the band for his open enjoyment of Coldplay?
AG: *chuckles* That was definitely a hurdle to get over. He actually compared one of our songs to Coldplay, he was like “this song reminds me of that Coldplay song on the radio.” I think it was just the beginning of “Seven Blankets.” He said the organ sound reminded him of some Coldplay song.
IYS: Well I think that explains his absence from touring.
AG: Yeah, exactly. So touring as a three piece, just guitar, bass and drums, is kind of fun to just have those three elements and see what you can do with just three instruments and two voices. So I’d kind of like to explore that limitation aspect a little bit more in recording -- not that we pile a huge amount of overdubs on our tracks as it is, but to just have less stuff happening and see if it can still be interesting.
IYS: So have you been playing more acoustic guitar on the road?
AG: No, I play one electric on the road.
IYS: Well if I happen to know a place that would offer free room and board, is it a possibility that you could play an upstate New York show in the near future?
AG: Not the near future, but in the possible future… We drove through there on the way to Boston. We didn’t find a show there, but it’s pretty. Is there good stuff happening in that area?
IYS: Yeah, there’s some good stuff, there’s the Bug Jar in Rochester, and I’ve seen some good bands play there. The Boulder festival is usually pretty excellent. There are a lot of places in Buffalo. There’s a really great church that Andrew Bird played in, and I feel like that would kind of suit the dynamic of A Weather. Is there some kind of venue you guys prefer, like a bar, or big cathedral?
AG: *chuckles* Yeah, we pretty much just play cathedrals. Castles are good, anything with a moat. We’ve had some of our best shows in non-bar places. I think our music tends to have trouble competing with the broken glass sounds and people shouting at the bar and watching sports on TV. I don’t know if you’ve spent much time in Providence, but there’s this really great place called AS220, which I think stands for “art space 220” where they actually divide the venue into the bar side and the music side which is a great idea. You get the people who are just interested in listening to the music, and it’s dead silence and the other side of the door is where all the laughing and clapping and shouting is happening, so it worked really well for us.
IYS: Yeah I think there’s a certain level of appreciation that should go into certain types of music. You did say cacophonous, but I wouldn’t say rowdy. Rowdy wouldn’t really suit it.
AG: Yeah, so no immediate plans in that area, but maybe someday.