Five years ago, Anna Fox Rochinski rode her bike to play music with a couple of friends in a Boston neighbourhood with a guitar and an Indian instrument called a bulbul tarang strapped to her back. The three of them “just dove right in.” That sense of experimentation has been a stalwart through the group’s tenure as Quilt.
Their first album showcased what became of those jam sessions: a timid vocal harmony played over 60’s era hippy folk melded into a driven pop sound. Three years after their inaugural call to action, Quilt’s sophomore record Held In Splendor has secured them as heroes in pastoral urbanite lore. Their folky vocal harmonies remain, but a more decisive and deliberate accompanying melody conveys the experience of a band finally comfortable in its sound.
Some of that may have had to do with the recording process. Their debut album was recorded casually and sporadically, something the band said helped them on their first go around.
“We were like little babies who didn’t have a lot of experience under our belts,” Rochinski explains.
But they have certainly grown up. Rochinski, guitarist Shane Butler, and new drummer John Andrews spent an arduous month in their label’s New York studio last spring, working 60 hours a week and living just blocks away. The band had recorded demos for almost all of the songs that are on the record. Their studio time was for recording.
That process had to start somewhere. Rochinski met Butler at a school for Visual Arts in Boston. The two artists found a bond both through the medium they were studying at school, but also shared an interest in expanding their creative personas to the stage. Rochinski was already playing folk music by herself when she was invited to come and practice with Butler and their previous drummer. One thing they all shared: an affinity to take their art to a higher plane, whatever than art may be.
“We have all sort of had an interdisciplinary approach to making art,” Rochinski says. “[We like to] keep the process open and not keep it confined to something we think the band has to be.”
If anything, the band has expanded this attitude with their latest record. Saxophone and bass are included in the album, as well as the twang of a steel guitar that comes from an affinity for old country records that Rochinski says Andrews has “a soft spot in his heart for.” The way the three of them approach vocals has also changed. The trio’s harmony was often counted as just another melody with the other instruments on the first record but Held In Splendor sees these voices take a more prominent role as the centre of the sound.
With these new sounds and strengthened old ones, Quilt is set to go on tour. They’ve added a bass player, Keven Lareau, to bring some of that new sound from the record to the stage. But compared to actually recording the thing, touring to promote Held In Splendor should be a cinch. Rochinski thinks so at least.
“I just look forward to it. I have a blast … It’s literally like we’re just siblings kind of hanging in a van all the time.”
You can see Quilt play at the Media Club (Vancouver) on February 11.
By Patrick Connolly