Many people have heard of Starving Weirdos and have become familiar with their brand of free-flowing, Northern Californian psychedelia. However, less are familiar with the equally great project from Weirdo bros, Jon & Brian Pyle, as well as Cloaks mastermind Spencer Doran and recently added Greg DeVaney. Their first release is a CD called "Trinity Rivers" on Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's always-amazing label, Root Strata and doesn't disappoint in any way, shape, or form. Like Starving Weirdos, these songs flow from some unknown place, but RV Paintings tread in darker waters, offering up their own antidote to the light.
Brian: RV Paintings began sometime in the middle of 2006. Jon and Spencer had started recording a bit together and then I had the idea to take the recordings they were making and shape them and add a few tracks. I had the name RV Paintings floating around my brain for awhile and it just felt right for this project.
RV Paintings is Spencer Doran (Cloaks, White Sunglasses), Jon Pyle (Starving Weirdos, Trash and Roll) and Brian Pyle. Greg DeVaney is the other member; he's not on the debut record but he'll be on the next one.
Spencer: In the summer of 2006 I had just graduated college and moved from Santa Cruz to Arcata (where I grew up) for the summer months while I was waiting to move up to Portland in the fall. I started jamming with Jon, Brian and the Weirdos folks. I had known them for years as they were some the only folks in the greater Humboldt music scene doing any sort of genuinely “experimental”/“out” (or whatever you want to call it) music.
They used to play as The Lamplighter Ensemble (which later evolved into Starving Weirdos) and seeing them was some of my first expose in a live context to anything of that sort. This was maybe 6 or 7 years ago when I was in high school and they were a bit older. Anyway, by the time I moved back to Arcata after college we were on similar musical paths. I can’t remember exactly how but I ended up playing in the Weirdos for a few shows (playing tapes, slit drum, zither and whatnot) and they went really well, and Brian and I started talking indepth about our approaches to recording, which we discovered were similar in a lot of ways. Meanwhile Jon and I had always talked about doing some sort of recordings together, which we finally got around to doing. We played some of them for Brian; he dug them and had the idea to treat them further, add tracks, and make a bonafide project out of it. We also all played a live show together at some point joined by Gregg DeVaney, who is a member of the group as well, on harmonium. Gregg is actually an old family friend of mine, a close friend of my dad’s that I’ve known since I was a toddler, as well as being one of Humboldt’s few champions of experimental music through his radio show that he’s done since the ‘80s on KHSU (where Brian also has a show). At the same time, as the "Trinity Rivers" material was recorded, John and I actually did a really killer recording session with Gregg that accidentally got deleted. It was rather tragic. Gregg also plays on the Cloaks’ “Crystal Skull in Peru” CD-R that Brian and Merrick put out.
Brian: No story really, just came to me one day and I’ve always felt those really hyper-real you know tiger-in-the-jungle RV murals were so terrific. It’s a shame you don't really see too many RV Paintings anymore. It's the domain of like the old Winnebago’s my grandpa used to cruise. Also I like the way it sounds.
Now, most people are going to recognize RV Paintings as an offshoot of Starving Weirdos, but in my mind and my ears, it's a totally different beast. I think Jefre Cantu-Ledesma nailed it when he said, "This is by far one of the most beautiful and totally dark audio documents out of the Weirdos camp." It DOES seem darker than a lot of the Weirdos stuff, but in a kind of cathartic way.
It's almost like the long lost son of SW, emerging from the shadows for the first time in ages.
Brian: The chemistry between Spencer, Jon and myself is really different than the chemistry in SW so yeah, the end result is totally different. It's quite different improvising with Jon and Spencer than with Merrick and the SW bros. You know, it's funny, we of course aren't trying to do anything different especially myself in terms of approach but yeah, it does end up sounding way different.
For me I’m just reacting and responding to what I hear so the massive difference is really the ideas being introduced with RV Paintings.
Both Spencer and Jon are truly gifted musicians so it allows me to step back a bit as opposed to SW where Merrick and I are out in front leading the charge.
Spencer: I think another key to the difference is the multiple levels of treating that the music goes through. The stuff on “Trinity Rivers” was fleshed out and recorded by Jon and I, treated/edited by me and then overdubbed on and treated again by Brian so it essentially includes three different approaches that, when mixed, makes something different altogether. Both Brian and I have pretty idiosyncratic ways of approaching musical production that I think work together in a way that is much different than the Weirdos recordings.
Brian: You know, it's influential but in a way that's hard to define. We could be on another planet in some living room having the same exact jams. Perhaps the relaxed vibe here in Humboldt produces a certain amount of creativity. But we certainly aren't like, “Look at that redwood! Let's go record!” It's more like, “Set up wherever. Hey, you want to hit this?”
Spencer: Ha ha, yeah. We’re not channeling any forest spirits or anything. And our pretty lax attitude to everything definitely leads to a less clinical approach.
Brian: Not on a direct level but it's in us and it is a massive inspiration...maybe not so much in the music directly but in our lives as a whole and that certainly affects our music. Me personally, I love walking through nature and there are maybe fifty different places within ten miles that offer truly inspiring nature. Yeah, it's massive but never directly guiding the music.
Spencer: Any influence that nature has on us is certainly, like Brian said, not on any conscious level, but it affects us like it does anyone else. Living in a more pastoral setting defiantly gives you a particular mindstate that comes out your art in ways you might not even be aware of. But yeah, like Brian said in the liner notes, “Jam nature.”
Brian: For me, the main inspiration is the sounds happening and being in the present with those sounds and communicating accordingly. One of us will start out with an idea and it kicks off a chain reaction of events and if everything is clicking, the inspiration is inherent; you’re not even thinking about it. You are inspired and, in that state of hyper-creativity, many exciting sound events can and do happen. But I do feel where we live and how we live allows us to reach this state-of-mind much easier. For me, walking through some ancient redwood grove and laying some thick sound in an improv jam are very similar, just one foot in front of the other.
Spencer: There most certainly are pre-existing ideas that we each individually have before recording process starts (though not all the time), but we never have any specific goal or sound in mind for the finished product. Usually, ideas spring from having a room full of odd instrumentation and processing (pedals, sampling keyboards, tape machines, what have you). But a lot of the complete artistic qualities of the music in its finished state are a result of post-production: the concept of using the studio itself as an instrument. The ideas that we record, that come from jams, are edited, reorganized, overlapped, processed, etc., to get what ends up on the album, so in a sense there are two levels where ideas are flowing from: the more spontaneous moments when we record and then the afterthoughts of what to do with the recording.
Brian: Always start off with sound ideas, never any imagery, and the instrumentation is always open. Yeah, we just let it kick off with a sound idea and then take it from there.
Spencer: Yeah. See my last response.
Brian: Very much through the grinder, lots of treatment/mixing always, though in service to the original ideas being expressed. Although this is not a required method. Whatever the recordings demand.
Spencer: I'm just now finishing up a couple things for Alex Cobb's label Students of Decay, a CD-R and also legit full CD both as Cloaks. The CD is a big masterwork that I've been working on for quite some time now. A few months ago some of my more electronic-oriented stuff under the moniker White Sunglasses came out in Japan on a label called Easel that I've been doing releases on for a bit. Still working on some way to be able to sell them over here in the States. Oh, me and Brian are going do a split tape at some point.
Brian: Lots of solo work, piano collab project with Merrick and local piano hero Darius Brottman, keeping up with the EPL!!!! Haha!
The Trinity River is a major river here in eastern Humboldt that runs along the Trinity Alps. It's an absolutely gorgeous river running through some of the most awe-inspiring country in the entire U.S., very rad, deep beauty.
We're working on our second album and it should be ready in a couple months. No plans as of yet to tour but we are wide-open to the idea.
-- Brad Rose (14 November, 2007)