Tulip Frenzy Exclusive Interview With Driftwood Pyre, Whose Debut Was Our 2015 Album Of The Year

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On Sunday, we revealed that Driftwood Pyre had beaten a tough field to claim the #1 spot on Tulip Frenzy’s 2015 Top 10 List.  This likely made sense to anyone who has heard this brilliant band, and especially those who read our rave review when the album came out in early November.

Driftwood Pyre founder Liam Watkins was a prime mover behind the band’s Minneapolis forebears, First Communion Afterparty.  He now joins Tim Presley (Darker My Love and White Fence) as the only person to have parlayed two different bands  into snagging top honors in Tulip Frenzy’s annual ranking.  Through EXAG ‘ Records, he graciously agreed to answer some questions.

1. Congratulations on taking Tulip Frenzy’s Album of The Year honors. Tell us about how the band came together and the process of recording the album. We know you and Aaron (James) began putting the band together in 2012, but would love to know more about how all the members of the band joined, and over what span of time the album was recorded.

Thank you so much for your continued support! We are ecstatic to be featured at the top of such a fine list of musicians. When I started Driftwood Pyre back in 2012 I set out to create a collective. The idea was to make a one-off album and feature many artists backing me up on the songs I was writing in the studio. Recording with Aaron was incredibly easy because he is truly a one-man band. He covered the early drum, bass and some backing guitar tracks.

After a few sessions Aaron and I had set the foundation and invited Joe Werner, my former bandmate in First Communion Afterparty, to lay guitar tracks down. It was at this point that the three of us had decided that we needed to solidify a line up and scrap the collective idea.

Jeanne Oss was a friend and former roommate of mine who had recently moved to Minneapolis and was really interested in playing with a live act. We had her come into the studio to lay down some organ and vocal tracks and knew immediately that we wanted to add her to the line up. All that was left was to find a drummer and after about three weeks of practicing with Aaron substituting on drums he had good news. Courtney (Olsen) was an old friend of Aaron’s from when they lived and played in bands in Los Angeles. She had just moved to Minnesota and was looking for a new project.

When Aaron told us we had found a female drummer I was so excited. I love working in creative environments with women and I knew she would be the perfect fit. We continued to write, record and scrap song after song over the next 2 years as we perfected our sound.

In October 2014 we were approached to sign with EXAG’ Records in Belgium and about two weeks later Jeanne Oss took a job opportunity in San Francisco which was very bittersweet at the time but we were fortunate enough to have recruited Marie DeBris, formerly of FCAP and Magic Castles, to play organ and percussion for us.

2. What’s the songwriting dynamic in the band. We clearly recognize songs that have your signature on them, but do you and Aaron share songwriting duties? Whole band get into the act?

Joe Werner and I are the songwriters in the band but everyone writes their own parts. Usually my songs are created from playing a random riff during practice and if it catches the attention of the band and everyone jams on it we will give it structure and lyrics. Joe has a more traditional approach to his writing and spends a lot of his time outside of practice writing song after song.
3. Now that the album is out, tell us about plans for 2016, and particularly whether you are going to tour outside of the Upper Midwest. (We certainly hope you get to the East Coast…)

We have tentative plans to tour Europe in 2016 and would like to play CMJ and SXSW in the next year. Touring is something that we all are ready for and it is very important for us to reach our audience outside of the Minneapolis psych scene.

4. We are only familiar with First Communion Afterparty as a prior reference point for Driftwood Pyre, but as stated in the review last month and in the Album of the Year write-up, it seems like Driftwood Pyre is — to paraphrase Paul Westerberg — maybe slightly more in the center of the dial than all the way over to the left. Is that conscious? Reflect a change? Or just a reflection of where the songwriters and musicians were when they sat down to produce the record?

We definitely set out to do something different. I didn’t want this to be FCAP version 2.0 and never wanted to come across as a one-trick pony. Our musical influences have evolved quite a bit over the past 10 years and ultimately we wanted to play music that people could dance to.

5. You may have noticed that two other bands from Minneapolis were in the Top 10 (Magic Castles, Flavor Crystals.) Where does Driftwood Pyre fit in? Other bands with whom you are simpatico that we should check out?

I’ve watched the Minneapolis psych scene grow since 2005. Many amazing acts have come and gone and a few heavy hitters like you have mentioned have held on but it’s not our intention to adhere to what a traditional “psych” band is supposed to sound like. I can definitely say that we are the black sheep of our local psych community but we are more interested in what is happening outside of Minneapolis.

Another Minneapolis favorite I think you guys should check out is Chatham Rise. They are an amazingly talented band and they make incredible records.

6. Even though your record is just out, we’re obviously eager for what comes next. Do you have plans for studio time in the months ahead?

We have 6 tracks for our next album already recorded and mixed. The sophomore album has been written in its entirety and we are working on material for a third release.

So… exciting news.  And you heard it here first about the second Driftwood Pyre album nearly out.  Tulip Frenzy’s #1 gift from Santa would be learning that the band is going to play DC when they head to New York for CMJ.  Wherever you are, this is a band you must check out.

One Response to “Tulip Frenzy Exclusive Interview With Driftwood Pyre, Whose Debut Was Our 2015 Album Of The Year”

  1. […] Frenzy’s 2015 Album of the Year honors, and a few days later, we were pleased to publish an interview with Minneapolis psych band who carried the half-filled chalice left over from First Communion Afterparty.  Where FCAP was a […]

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