Show Preview: Theodore’s “Blood Signs” Release at Off Broadway
May 18, 2011
[show_avatar firstname.lastname@example.org align=left avatar_size=62] I like Theodore because they were putting shit back out on vinyl before everyone was putting shit back out on vinyl. I like them because Justin Kinkel-Schuster’s often grave lyrics move me without implying that I should go wallow in a corner and rub my face with extra coarse sandpaper (I’m looking at you, Bon Iver). I like Theodore because they can use a toy microphone on stage and make it sound haunting.
On Friday, the St. Louis quartet celebrates its fourth studio recording, a 7 track 10” on Misra Records, home to artists like Centro-matic, Destroyer, and Great Lake Swimmers. Theo’s Justin Kinkel-Schuster answered a few of our questions about Blood Signs, influences, and the growth of the band over the years.
IWTAS: On Blood Signs, I noticed that at least a couple tracks are ones that you guys play out fairly often but had yet to record. When and how to you make the decision to take a certain song or group of songs into the studio?
JKS: The way that I/we write songs has always been, for better or worse, ahead of any reasonable schedule for making and putting out records. It always seems to be the frustrating case that we’re putting out songs months, even years, after we’ve begun playing them out. That said, the recording process has been different for us with each record, and with the exception of Defeated, TN, which is a record with a theme and story that essentially fell into our laps, we generally set out to make a record when we believe we have a collection of songs that are strong enough and, frankly, when we have enough money to sink into a session. So, I suppose the decision to record with the explicit intention of making a record has always been a function both of the necessity to get these things OUT, YESTERDAY, and financial solvency, or the lack thereof. In short, we try to do the best we can with what we have at a given time.
I hope that what I write feels at once familiar and unsettling to the listener, because I know those are the kinds of things that move me…
IWTAS: Considering the type of story-telling songwriter you often seem to be (at least to this blogger), what kind of narrative structure, if any, did you try to maintain over the course of Blood Signs?
JKS: To me, a good record should be a group of songs that hang together regardless of any overarching thematic intent on the part of the writer. For me, a record isn’t like a novel or a film, it’s more like a series of snapshots, which can often seem disjointed, but ultimately ought to be united by the intangibles in the author’s style. As a songwriter, I try to approach each song on its own terms. I never have any other idea in mind except the shit that’s going in the song. Defeated, TN was an anomaly in that regard, for me as a writer, and I think for us as a band as well, in that the “concept” essentially fell into our laps and we really had no choice but to make a record out of it. I don’t see that ever happening again, nor do I think I’d want it to.
IWTAS: Speaking of songwriting, one aspect of Theodore that I appreciate is that you can delve into some deep, dark water without drowning the lyrics in self-deprecating autobiography. Where, or from whom, do you draw inspiration?
JKS: Inspiration is a strange thing. Usually I don’t have any idea why things come out the way they do. The songs and ideas that I end up being most fond of are generally the ones that just drop out fully formed, or very nearly so. I’m inspired by all kinds of shit. Shit that’s happened to me, shit I’ve done, shit that’s happened to other people. For me, writing is mostly about things that people do, feel, and think, and what they do, feel, and think in the aftermath, because everyday life provides more weird interesting stories than can ever be told. I hope that what I write feels at once familiar and unsettling to the listener, because I know those are the kinds of things that move me.
IWTAS: How has Theodore grown as a band over the last five years or so?
JKS: We’ve never been the type of people that can sit and talk about what we do as a band… I mean, the more years you’re alive and around, the more music you hear, books you read, people you meet, shit you do, it all just keeps piling on and you have no choice really but to grow. That said, we’ve also grown in the way that only people who have failed repeatedly together can. Exactly what that is I can’t say, but there is no bonding agent quite like failure.
IWTAS: We’re a local music blog. Tell us a St. Louis story.
JKS: Shit. I’m no good with stories…But there’s this: One time I found a full grown, dead – yet intact – Great Horned Owl on I-44 at Grand.
The guys gave us the chance to offer a track from Blood Signs to IWTAS readers. I chose “All I Ask”, because it’s a little sad and creepysweet and irrational and whenever I hear the lines “Baby, break the law for me…”, I actually consider doing it. Enjoy!
Finally, two friends of IWTAS take wonderful concert photos and they let us borrow some for this post. Please see more of their work here: Bryan J. Sutter Music Photography and Encor.es by Jason Stoff.