I've been a fan of Cerberus Shoal for a long time, and was a bit dismayed when I learned they were on (as Caleb says) sabbatical. But out of those still burning ashes comes Big Blood. After a slew of self-released, beautifully packaged CDRs, I was completely and utterly hooked. This duo of Caleb Mulkerin and Colleen Kinsella are pure, absolute magic. Hypnotic screeching folk jams and backwoods gems, their songs are perfect little capsules. With their first proper album coming this year from Time-Lag, they don't seem to be letting up anytime soon, and that's good news for the whole family. They're the best phantom four-piece East of the Mississippi...
Caleb: Well when I was about five my father took me to see Kiss on their "Creatures In The Night" tour...which I believe, was their last tour with makeup (sadly void of Ace, and Peter) so my first "real" concert experience was pretty mind-blowing.... I distinctly remember when I was young(er) your choices were wrestling or bad heavy metal, which really is not all that different...but alas my heart was with the beating drums. I got a guitar shortly after. It sat around mostly, got more use as a prop. My father played the drums and was always in some band or other, and my mother was a rabid listener. She has great taste and I truly believe some of the best music of the ‘60s and ‘70s could be heard in our house everyday...but when I was about 14 I heard Slayer, then The Misfits and then finally at about 15 I saw "Born Against" and I think that was the hook; everything about them was addictive for me...and I guess I felt a real want to make music.
Colleen: My first start as a performer came when I auditioned for the young girl Amyrillis in "The Music Man" and got the part. I had a solo and a song singing the lead. I always sang or wanted to...in church, on St. Patty's day for the Sons of Erin Club—always more on the theatre side than a band situation. The music that fueled me growing up was Public Enemy’s “Nation of Millions”, Sinead O'Connor’s “Lion and the Cobra”, Pixies’ “Bossonova and Surferosa”, Jane’s Addiction’s “Nothing's Shocking”, all Early Cure records especially the B-sides of “Standing on the Beach”, Clash, Dead Milkmen’s “Big Lizard In My Backyard”, Prince’s “Purple Rain” and “1999”. Most of the music I listened to came from boyfriends/ friends who were skaters but in high school I got a job in a record store and my tastes exploded. Everyone who worked there influenced my tastes, from Ministry to Jimi Hendrix to Brand Nubian, Pink Floyd, Daniel Lanois to Cannibal Corpse. That's when I started to go to local hardcore and metal shows.
Caleb: Actually Colleen and I have been playing music together for a long time, so Big Blood has been a band unknown to us for quite some time.... The only thing missing was the name.... We were asked to play a show; we spit the name out...and four months later we have yet another identity.... Cerberus Shoal is on a...ahhh...sabbatical, and Threads is taking the winter off...so the time was just right.
Colleen: It happened naturally. Caleb and I had been writing music on our own and recording the songs together. Living so close, we were very much in each other's hair. So we know the music as it was being written.
Caleb: Well it's very direct, and tends to bleed to and from the rest of our life.... The lines get blurry sometimes.... But I would say it's very easy and natural. We don't really argue at all. We play when the baby is sleeping...so we don't have to schedule practice or really do any organizing. It feels really good; we just play music with and for each other. Aesthetically I think we’re both cut from similar cloth.... It’s really a joy and most of all entirely natural.
Colleen: The experience is totally different from Cerberus. Instead of six minds trying to create a sound/vision/aesthetic through sheer time and commitment to each other (it was always a struggle to write music collectively but the product of that work was astonishing for me) , with Big Blood the music comes so easily. Caleb and I are on the same page aesthetically and we both are very excited by each other’s ideas. When I paint or draw, if an image comes easy to me, it is always a catalyst for a whole slew of ideas. That is what it is like creating with Caleb, endless ideas that lead into one another.
Caleb: Well for me, nothing ever seems to be completely realized, so I guess that’s were the idea of "sketches" comes from. At the same time, I also realize I will almost always choose to work on something new rather then seek out every facet of an idea (which can take forever), so most likely the songs will remain as they exist. I don't know what we will release exactly...maybe some kind of compendium...maybe re-record some of the songs (now that they have been played a few times) with some guest appearances. ....Or just keep putting out totally new stuff.... We'll see.
Colleen: Like he said....
Caleb: Shit.... It is in fact a cover of song #5 off that disc!!! I’m glad it is recognizable.
Colleen: Caleb was playing the disc and we went crazy over that song, so we attempted to cover it. It took us a long time to agree on how to approach the song. I found it really difficult to improvise Sumatran-style so I went online and researched the language and used the words I found as a guide for the vocals.
Caleb: Well, it's everything to me really, "where we live" and "how we live". I am a Mainer through and through, and I feel very lucky to have been born in such a magical place. The walls are thick and most does not penetrate, so it's easy to stay focused, to do what you "want". It's a very beautiful place; the ocean is a 5-minute walk from our house. We're close to mountains and country, and though it’s small, Portland is a pretty progressive city that seems to evolve in its own way. We live with a lot of great people: most of Cerberus Shoal, Tarpigh, Threads, Micah Blue Smaldone. There is always somebody playing music and sometimes if you stand in the middle of our house you get that great mix of 6 or 7 people playing completely different songs! And of course our daughter is the "greatest". She has brought so much certainty to our lives and the joy of seeing her grow is limitless. It's an endless source of inspiration!
Colleen: Well I’m not from Maine originally but I feel right at home here in this house with these great people, great musicians and artists i.e. Chris Sutherland (Cerberus, Threads), Tom Kovacevic (Tarpigh, Alhan, Cerberus-97-00, Threads) Micah Blue Smaldone (Threads) and Lisa Purinton. I have felt comfortable since the first day I set foot in this house—now my home. Our individual creativity is of a giving nature, not competitive or suffocating.
After touring so much I always love returning to Maine. Time slows down and it seems ten years behind the progress of construction and gentrification that's sweeping the country's beautiful areas. This house is filled with a family of friends. I wanted to grow up in a big family household and now I am settled in one and our daughter will be growing up among all of us.
Caleb: Actually Paul Agnew, runs NEI solely.... We (Cerberus Shoal, Threads) definitely had/have some input.... In a sense, we were his ears on the streets.... If we saw something on tour that we all loved, we would certainly come home and rave about it. But Paul makes the decisions, and he is a great, great man. We are releasing the Big Blood album on our own out of convenience. These days you can put albums out as fast as you can write them; with CD-Rs, you don’t have to sit on a shitload of CDs. Colleen makes beautiful handmade artwork...so for us it was a no-brainer.... We just make the CDs as people want them/as we write them...plus it’s fun.
Caleb: Yeah I know what you mean.... It can feel pretty degrading. But for us I think it comes down to speed and fun...if we don’t get something out in time, it’s because we said “fuck it,” or “let’s go for a walk,” or “I don’t feel like doing this right now”.... It’s really low stress. There is no outside force to disappoint.
Colleen: I agree with Caleb. We are our own bosses as far as release times and recording. The budget is nil thanks to our personal resources and places of employment. Having our own timetable is a must when you have a little baby who’s growing and changing everyday.
Caleb: Yeah, we have known Nemo for awhile. He is great.... He does the best job that can be done, and if it’s going to get done half-assed, he doesn’t do it all, or waits for the right time...and that is pretty much the way Colleen and I operate with Big Blood.... No deadlines, for the love of it.
Colleen: We are really excited to put something out with Nemo, having been neighbors for a long time. He puts out our favorite band from Maine, Visitations, and has impeccable taste in reproducing art for his records.
Colleen: Caleb approached Michael Connor about doing the comic after he saw our first show and heard the first BB disc. Since he was such a fan and an outstanding artist we were honored to have him do a comic for us. Ironically he had already made some drawings of me from a Strange Maine show I played under Asian Mae back in the summer. The sketches ended up on the inside cover of the comic and they informed his final drawings. We were blown away when we saw the finished book. It was more than we asked for and then some. His drawing of Quinnisa is spot on!
To answer your second question...I am a huge fan of album art, especially the handmade stuff. Printmaking is my favorite medium at this time, and I work in a print shop so the packaging concept was easy. Along with the CD-Rs we really wanted to release very personal “product” that we could sell at a low cost. The artwork is a one-of-a-kind silkscreen on rag paper, complete with art scraps, photos and a flyer from the night we played the set. Caleb, who suggested all of the inserted material, was harkening back to the punk days of photocopied lyrics and art.
Caleb: We are going to put out three more of these Big Blood CD-Rs (with some different packaging ideas, maybe a tunnel book or something), a 7-inch for L'animaux Tryst (Field) Recordings....(Wish I could say more about this.... Let’s just say Cursillistas strikes once more!), a comp track for House of Alchemy. And then I think we will take a break for awhile.
Colleen: We’ve got more music in us before we take a break from BB to play in our other band that does not have a name. Looking forward to more elaborate packaging ideas...maybe a pop-up book.
Caleb: Chris Sutherland coming home! Watching Quinnisa grow, playing music with our friends....
Colleen: Some sunny spring weather and some change in the climate of our country’s ruling entities.
-- Brad Rose (15 May, 2007)