Janet Weiss: Quasi's Music Needs No Explanation
Portland's Quasi will be visiting the Rhythm Room on Monday in support of their excellent new double-album, Mole City. The band, which turned 20, features two accomplished vets of the Northwest scene, Sam Coomes (guitar/vox/keyboards) and Janet Weiss (drums/vox); when they aren't devoting their time to Quasi, both have played with some of the heaviest hitters in the indie world.
In addition to numerous bands only a true Portlandian would probably know, Coomes spent time in Heatmiser (which featured the late, great Elliott Smith) and has contributed keyboards to each Built to Spill record since 2006. Weiss has played drums in the massively influential Sleater-Kinney as well as the Jicks and Wild Flag.
Weiss took some time off of what they refer to on their website as their "extensive and rigorous" tour to answer some questions for us via e-mail.
Up on the Sun: So, Mole City -- what do we need to know about it? You don't need to know anything about it to listen to it. Isn't that the best part of music? It is visceral. The primitive nature of Quasi allows one to understand our meaning without explanations. That said, it is our ninth album and it is our favorite.
Was it the proverbial seven year itch that got y'all back into the studio for this album, or did you do it for the money? That's a funny question, the part about money. It is nearly impossible to make money from record sales these days. I suppose you could call our band a 20 years and counting labor of love. Mole City wasn't recorded in a studio but in a tiny room in Sam's basement.
What are some of your favorite tracks from the album to play live? "See You on Mars" and "Fat Fanny Land."
20 years into the band, what kind of changes have you noticed as far as life on the road? There are a lot more bands competing for a much smaller audience. There used to be a circuit you could depend on for an audience. The more you came back to a town, if you were a good live band, the bigger your fan base would grow. Nowadays you might get some folks out the first time through, but you'll take a big hit when you return.
What are you reading on the road? Life by Keith Richards.
CDs or iPod? iPod, mostly. Sam has a giant selection on his. Sometimes I DJ off my computer using an app I got for a wedding. We've been listening to a lot of American soul from the 60s.
For the gear geeks--any advice for the other two-piece bands out there? We like a gritty raw sound. Anything that helps make you feel like a badass onstage is good. We use two amps to beef up the melodic instruments.
Finally, who's your favorite band from Phoenix? Do the Meat Puppets count?
Of course they count--we love 'em around here.
Doors open at 7:30pm on November is 11th at the Rhythm Room. A new-ish local band, No Volcano, which features ex-members of '90s-era Valley standouts Trunk Federation, opens the show and are followed by Coopersberg, PA's Blues Control, who are doing the west coast leg of the tour with Quasi.
Blues Control is also a two-piece that has tons of cool stuff going on in their songs. Imagine Stan Ridgway and Mickey Melchiondo forming a band, and that's what Blues Control kinda sounds like. If only the Les Payne were still around to play... A two-piece extravaganza could have been had, but we won't hold it against No Volcano for being a quartet.
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