In Pound For The Sound, Phoenix New Times gets technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature style.
End Credits keyboardist Alicia Chrysanthemum has been playing piano since she could sit at it. Her grandparents, who both are musical, got her playing the instrument early in her childhood. Her grandfather plays piano, while her grandmother sings and plays violin. Naturally, she was the next generation of musician in her family.
Born in central Phoenix, Chrysanthemum has been a true local for most of her existence. Which means she has seen the evolution downtown Phoenix has been going through the last decade.
Although she's a newer addition to the Phoenix music scene, Chrysanthemum was also a part of choir and music programs in high school as well. (She attended Metro Arts.) Though she doesn't sing for End Credits, she does help with vocal arrangements, and her musical training comes in handy during the co-writing process. It's a band where everyone collaborates and writes songs together, using each member's strengths to create the best tunes possible. She also recently started a band with a friend from San Diego called Potshki.
Chrysanthemum, and the rest of End Credits, will release their album Reruns on Saturday, September 9, at The Trunk Space with a stacked local lineup. Luckily, New Times was able to squeeze in some words via phone and email with Alicia about her upcoming show, good fortune at Goodwill, and love for Regina Spektor's album 11:11.
New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
Alicia Chrysanthemum: We first started with my Yamaha keyboard I've had since my 10th birthday. That instrument was really important to me because it had velocity-sensitive keys that responded well to my touch. Unfortunately, that instrument died in the heat last summer, but we got a really good replacement from Goodwill for $30 with similar settings. That one is a Casio, I believe.
My signature tone in End Credits is pretty low-fi, and we like to keep it simple and melodic. I do a lot of right-hand leads that are pretty straightforward to the point so that I can dance a bit while we're performing.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
My favorite piece of gear is my Micro Korg that I bought from local musician Gimpheart! I was like, I want a fancy synth that isn't $5,000, so I bought it as soon as I heard it was for sale. It's also cool because I can be like, "Gimpheart touched this," so I can be inspired by the chillwave gods.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
My grandma gave me a piano she had fixed up from the Salvation Army. I just got it moved back from my old house so I finally have it back. I also still have the first keyboard I got when I was 10, and it doesn't work anymore, but it was well-loved. We were even using it in End Credits. Up until a few months ago, it worked great for the band.
Just listened to your track “Peugeot” off of your upcoming release for your album Reruns. Fun track, I really enjoyed the airy, poppy synth all over the track. How did you go about recording the song?
Jal [from Audioconfusion] put me on a direct input for pretty much the whole album. Then on that particular song, we turned up the volume on my keys to keep the leads distinct. I remember we had to do a couple tries to get it right, so I kept adding little tidbits of Doogie Howser-esque soundtrack-type stuff in the transitions as we got along.
It's high pressure for me to be on a D.I. box because I'm like, if I mess up, there's no way to cover it up, and we recorded live so it would be really obvious. When I get stressed out like that, I remember what my Metro Arts teacher Sue would say: "If you make the same mistake three times, it looks like you did it on purpose."
A lot of our subject matter and general themes are inspired by old TV and such, like the song "Peugeot" was written about the show Columbo from the '70s. When I was making up the keys, Sara, our guitarist, told me to think Afterschool Special and the like.
You had said before you joined End Credits that you were playing Regina Spektor recordings in your room and you had mentioned the album 11:11. What about that album inspires you to play the way you do today?
11:11 is my favorite because it's Regina's lo-fi album from before she got famous. She has usually just piano or piano and clapping and makes weird noises with her vocals, even using the pedals on the piano to make percussion sounds. That album inspires me so much because it shows you don't need a bunch of heavy gear to make a good song. Also, it shows that audiences appreciate when you put your own personality and kitsch in your music. The song "Happy Birthday" on our new album, which is the only song written entirely by myself, was inspired heavily by Regina's simple chord progressions and the '50s ballad style of The Shirelles. I've had dreams about Regina listening to my music and totally rejecting me to my core, but even to be rejected by her would be awesome.
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End Credits have your CD release party this Saturday at The Trunk Space. Any words you wish to share with fans about your upcoming show?
The Trunk Space is a great all-ages venue that we have played many times. We chose to have our album release there because they feature positive influence shows with a great open environment for new and experienced bands alike. Our show, like most shows there, is only $7 and we like to keep things affordable. This lineup will feature femme/queer bands including Andy Warpigs and Sturdy Ladies, as well as Angels and Aliens. We want this release to be a fun dance party for everyone! If you like The Muffs or Camera Obscura, you'll probably like us, but we'll love you unconditionally anyway.
End Credits CD Release Party is Saturday, September 9, at The Trunk Space. Doors open at 7:30, and the show starts at 8 p.m.