The term "shoegazer" may have been birthed as a pejorative, but at this point, it's practically a badge of honor. The shoegaze movement of the '90s, which found British and American bands drenched in reverb, continues to inspire, influence, and inform the underground sensibilities of garage rock, lo-fi, and punk.
The American Southwest plays an important role in the genre's American chapters. The site of various Beautiful Noise festivals, acts like the Tucson-via-Michigan lovesliescrushing, Astrobrite, and Tempe's Half String, helped promote the sound while adding post-punk and desert influences.
Earlier this year, we spoke with Half String's drummer Kimber Lanning -- owner of Stinkweeds and head of Local First AZ -- about Brooklyn-based label Captured Tracks reissuing the band's music. Turns out the release generated enough interest for a small reunion tour of California.
The band plays the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco on Saturday, June 23, the Part Time Punks Shoegaze Festival (with Mark Gardner of Ride, Sky Parade, Weekend, Lorelei, Astrobrite, The KVB, Tropic of Cancer, Whirr, Moonbeams, Tennis System, DJ Brad Laner of Medicine) at the Echoplex in Los Angeles on Sunday June 24, and the Soda Bar in San Diego on Monday, June 25.
We spoke with songwriter Brandon Capps about the decision to get back together, the US and UK shoegaze scenes, and the possibility of the band visiting Phoenix.
The Part Time Punks Shoegaze Festival will be broadcast live from 7p.m. to 2a.m. (PST) on KXLU.com.
Up on the Sun: When I spoke with Kimber Lanning about Captured Tracks reissuing the songs, she said it felt surreal. How much more surreal was putting the band back together?
Brandon Capps: It's produced a whole gamut of emotions, from complete anxiety to pure elation. The reissue was surreal enough, but considering a reunion has been otherworldly.
I've never been one for reunion tours--there's a good chance something cherished will get bastardized-- so I was a little reluctant to put the idea out to the other band members. But the genuine excitement and support I got in return from Matt (Kruse), Dave (Rogers), Kimber (Lanning), and even Tim (Patterson, original bass player) was enough to convince me that it had to happen. None of us are the "high school reunion" types, but we knew reuniting to do some shows would be a great opportunity to reconnect with a special chapter of our lives and catchup with other friends who supported us during that time.
Was there any trepidation that it just wouldn't work?
If I honestly thought it wouldn't work, I wouldn't have pursued it. I have a lot of faith in our past chemistry, not only as a band but as friends, too. I trust everyone has done their homework rehearsing on their own--we all live in different cities/states now. I'm also counting on the muscle memory we built up through constantly playing together for 6 years.
When was the last show?
I believe it was in 1997 at Nita's Hideaway; we decided to include a couple of half written songs in the set and wing it. I don't remember the other bands on the bill that night. Just before that, we played the '97 POP FEST in Pomona, California. It was a two-day fest with Alan Clapp (The Orange Peels) and a slew of West Coast indie pop bands.
I think the US [shoegaze] bands, particularly from the '90s, were immune to the poison served up by the fickle UK press.
--Brandon Capps, Half String
The "Beautiful Noise" scene -- featuring you guys and bands like Astrobrite/lovesliecrushing -- has become a part of the "shoegaze" legacy. How do you feel the US-based stuff, and the Southwest in particular, differs from the UK sound? Any common distinguishing characteristics?
I think the US bands, particularly from the '90s, were immune to the poison served up by the fickle UK press. "Shoegaze" was not as taboo as it was in the UK back then. We operated in our own realm outside of the influence of a dominant music press, and had a more DIY approach.
Many of us were recording at home on 4-tracks and releasing records independently. The sound in turn was not as hyper-produced, and often more authentic. Sure there was hazy reverb, lots of fuzz and sweet melodies, but I can say Half String for one, had post-punk on the brain, too. Bands like The Names and Swell Maps were certainly influential for us in addition to those epic Creation bands (Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Ride).
Have you guys considered doing any new music?
We recently demoed a song written in '97 that never made it to record. I'm hopeful some ideas are sprung during rehearsals for this mini-tour. We'll be recording a session for Part Time Punks on Monday, which will hopefully include a couple things that never been heard outside of the practice space. Other than that, there are no immediate plans.
How about a Phoenix show?
I'd love to do a show in Phoenix--it would very sentimental for us, since our roots were planted there. Maybe at some point in the future we can coordinate it, but for now I feel fortunate just to have put together these shows in California.
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