Seattle psych-pop outfit the Purrs are headed to Tacoma to share a bill with local favorites Trees and Timber and People Under the Sun on Saturday night at the New Frontier Lounge.
Last summer, Fin Records delivered the quartet's “The Boy with Astronaut Eyes,” among the best regional recordings of 2013. This weekend, the band will showcase a few things they've been working on since.
Lead guitarist Jason Milne and singer-bassist Jim Antonio, the band's primary songwriter, checked in to give us the skinny. Here's some of what they had to say.
Tacoma Weekly: You've been together for a minute, but I'm a relative newcomer to the band.
Antonio: Most people are.
TW: How did you guys hook up?
Antonio: We formed in the year 2000 via a couple of well-placed ads in The Stranger, and we've been playing ever since. Three of the four are original members. Every band has a rotating position, and ours has historically been rhythm guitar.
TW: The Spinal Tap thing.
Antonio: Yeah, exactly. But lately, we scored a person. (To Milne) What's her name again?
Milne: (Cracks up.) Her name is Liz (guitarist Herrin.)
Antonio: She's been with us for a while. She's actually from – not Tacoma – but Auburn, so she's got family and stuff down there.
TW: At what point did you realize you had something special? You had to have something that really clicked to stick together for 14 years.
Antonio: Well, you would think that. But I know lots of older couples who have been together forever who just hate each other but can't get a divorce. I'm not exactly sure that's a good barometer of how special we might be.
TW: The Purrs actually hate each other. That's my lead.
Antonio: I wouldn't say it was special, but I just thought we sounded good. The thing that really kept us together was our shared interests, and we got along with each other.
TW: Maybe speak to some of the reference points that went into your sound.
Antonio: I wouldn't say it's a super unique set of influences or style choices. It's just basically been two guitars, bass, drums – as many vocals as possible. We love psychedelic music. A lot of bands use that phrase, and I'm not sure it's exactly well applied to us, but we often get stuck with that one.
Milne: Jim was just writing a ton of songs, too. The styles varied, and what worked with the band at a high rate ended up being developed and recorded. There wasn't any conscious decision on the sound.
TW: Your latest is “The Boy with the Astronaut Eyes.” Take me back to the moment that set the tone for that one or established what direction you went in.
Milne: It was somewhat random. I think we had about 15 songs we were looking at. At some point, we drew the line and said it's gonna be these 10. … Once we had those, I think we put a lot of care in the sequencing and what effect that has on listening to the whole album.”
Antonio: I thought we did a pretty good job with this one. Personally, I really like the last song (“Over and Out”) even though we don't really play it out so much. (It) kind of ends on an up note.
TW: Why don't you play it?
Milne: When “The Boy with Astronaut Eyes” record came out and we were touring, supporting it, we were playing tons of songs off of that. But now we're trying to get a couple songs here, a couple songs there off of each record.
Antonio: And we're working on new songs. A little less than half the set has been new stuff these days.
Milne: We recorded four more new songs with (Seattle producer) Erik Blood. Then we have another batch we're starting to work on in demo.
TW: Tell me about the new songs.
Antonio: The last eight or nine songs have been a bit more (upbeat) and there's a lot of guitar solos, which I just love, actually. ... We've got songs with a bit more “poundiness” to them, and some tension in the guitars.
TW: Tell me about the new songs that are getting the most response.
Antonio: I don't know about response 'cause usually we're playing in front of a bunch of drunk people, and they just clap to whatever. (Milne laughs.) I wouldn't say we judge our songs based on audience response. It's not like we don't care or whatever, but we are going in a direction; and people can either jump on for the ride or not.
TW: For the people who aren't drunk, what can they listen up for?
Milne: I think the three ... that we'll be playing in Tacoma, are 'American as Apple Pie.' Another song is called 'Late Night Disturbance.'
Antonio: “I Really Don't Need This Now” is another one. All three of them were, basically, inspired by specific events - kind of. I would say “Late Night Disturbance” was definitely spun off that whole Cafe Racer massacre that happened (in 2012.)
TW: Were you guys regulars there?
Antonio: No, I had only been there once or twice. It just kind of colored my writing of that song. That's about the closest thing I can say. Somebody does something, blows up and does a bunch of stupid, horrible, violent (stuff) because they weren't thinking properly, for whatever reason.
“I Really Don't Need This Now” was pretty much a song driven by the collapse of my last relationship. You're trying to deal with some emotional pain and then nitpicky crap that happens every day is piling up on top of it. ... The (freaking) bathtub starts leaking or your phone bill comes. Some miniscule thing hits you at the wrong time.
TW: It sounds like there might be a darker thread running through the next collection of songs.
Antonio: There might be, but I don't wanna say that. One of the things I like about our band – and this is what I like about a lot of bands – is you take either horrible noise and say 'hey hey hey,' beautiful stuff over the top of it; or you take a really beautiful sound and you say terrible things over the top of it. People always cite Jesus and Mary Chain for doing that type of thing.
I think it's a brilliant move: You take something sonically one way and lyrical imagery that's completely the other way … I think that's a pretty honest view of what life is. It's got really great things right next to really bad things, always at the same time. That's just the way it goes.