Ged Gengras may be a new name to most, but his work as 1/2 of the excellent Antique Brothers should speak for itself. The band consists of Gengras and his brother Cyrus, playing a whole host of instruments and churning out some seriously spastic and mesmerizing sounds. If this wasn't enough, Gengras also recently released his first solo album under the moniker Fantastic Ego on Phantom Limb Recordings. "Trips the Light" is one of the year's best releases thusfar, and a must-have for fans of Current 93 and Beta Lactam Ring. This interview was conducted through email in February and March. Antique Brothers will be appearing at May's Digitalis Festival in Los Angeles.
My earliest memories of music are the Talking Heads, Taj Mahal, The Beatles, stuff my dad listened too. My friend Jon made me these totally amazing mix tapes when I was in high school and obsessed with Black Flag, Minor Threat, etc. He introduced me to P.I.L., My Bloody Valentine, Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Mission of Burma, Stereolab, Neu!, Slint, Silver Apples, Young Marble Giants and tons more. At the time, I lumped it all under the 'indie-rock' umbrella. These were the bands that really got me started. Also, growing up in Connecticut in the time I did, I got to see the best years of the Northeast chaotic hardcore scene. Seeing bands like Orchid, Jerome’s Dream, Tipping Canoe, Combat Wounded Veteran, and later Pg. 99, City of Caterpillar, and Majority Rule made me want to be in a band.
My first band was called Edamame. My friend Jon wrote songs on guitar and I would lay down weird Moog noises and organ parts. More importantly, I also engineered the 15-20 demos we recorded on my four-track in my bedroom. Mostly, we would take a lot of speed and talk about music. I was also getting into some weird solo recording stuff, but at this point I had no idea how to play anything, so it was all over the place. In college, I sang for a couple of hardcore bands, Life During Wartime and King Moth, and played guitar in one called Man Has Built Machines. Around this time, I started making music under the Fantastic Ego moniker, with some borrowed amps, guitars and a Loop Station pedal. I got the name from a horse racing form. I made my first solo album, a 90 minute tape called “Despite Problems, Problems, Problems” on a four-track, and gave it to my friends. People seemed to enjoy my amateurish guitar loops and mood pieces, so I kept doing it.
Growing up in Connecticut, you got the sense that there was nothing going on. It all felt very isolated, until I got my drivers license. Then I started driving everywhere to go see shows. I was amazed at all these tiny scenes that were going on all around me, totally hidden. University of Hartford used to have free shows at least once a week. I saw Ted Leo on his first solo tour, playing to 9 people. So many great, smaller acts that noone has ever heard of, but going to these amazing shows, being one of 10-20 kids that was always there, really had a huge impact on me, and made me realize that the scale of what you were doing wasn't an issue. Coming to L.A., I understood that the scene for what I was into was still really small, but it felt like the kind of place you could make stuff happen. Meeting people like Grant and (VxPxC) and Brit and Alex from Robedoor showed me that there were other people as obsessed as I was, who just loved the music and wanted to carve out a place for it here. It's more special when you're working to build it, you know? The great weather, weed, and Mexican food don't hurt either.
There were two bands that really grabbed my head and twisted it in this direction. Jackie-O Motherfucker, and especially their album “The Magick Fire Music,” were the first band I heard that was doing this sort of improv/semi-improv stuff that was using the instrumentation of both rock and jazz music, but twisting it into something that was neither. They really cracked open the post-rock egg I had been incubating in my mind for years. The other would be Current 93. I first heard them when I was 16 or 17, a friend gave me a tape with their "Swastikas for Noddy" on it, and for years I hated it, just didn't get it. It wasn't until years later, after I had lost or given away the tape, that I started to hear fragments of the songs in my head and totally crave the album. After some frustration, I tracked down a copy and it just blew me away. The balance between giddy insanity and oppressive melancholy was so amazing to me, as was the total commitment to making this very weird, very dark folk music. They also got me interested in using the forms of Folk music to accomplish something that wasn't the Kingston Trio. From C93 I got Coil, Comus, Six Organs of Admittance, John Fahey, Groundhogs, Pearls before Swine and many many others.
He had come out to live in LA with me, we were doing a quasi-USAISAMONSTER rip-off two-piece band called Body Dump Central, basically improv rock music, with Cy on drums and Moog and me playing guitar. We were listening to a lot of Six Organs, John Fahey, Death Chants. Cy was planning on moving back east, so we were recording as much as we could. One day in June 2006, I said, "Let's try something different", set up a couple room mics, and we spent the day laying down some mellow, drone-y stuff with Cy playing acoustic guitar. On playback, Cy said that it sounded like bears in the woods, which became the original band name. The sessions from that day became the first album. We had about a month from then until he left, so we recorded on every day off of work he had, and edited it all the week before he left. The first five volumes are the results of that month.
Sort of embarrassing, when I was writing for Indieworkshop.com, I reviewed a record by Scott Solter. Antique Brothers was a song title. In my review, I said it was one of the best song titles I had ever heard. I thought if we named our band Bears in the Woods, we would run out of bear ideas pretty fast. We're not even really into bears. I thought Antique Brothers suited the sound, so I stole it.
Over the holidays, we played our first show as Antique Brothers, in Philadelphia with Willie Lane and our good friends Aswara (Rafi and Paul from Death Chants). We also recorded the guts of a new album at my dad's apartment in Connecticut, which will be coming out on the American Grizzly label once it's finished. And in May, Cy's flying out here for our second show ever at the Bottling Smoke Fest and to record lots and lots more! We also started an album via mail, but both of us are really bad about sending things, so it might take a while to finish.
Originally met Grant and Justin of (VxPxC) when they showed up at a housewarming party we were throwing at our place in Echo Park. Grant was commenting on my record collection, I threw on the first Comus LP, which they had never heard, and we talked music. Grant told me they were in an “improv shoe-gazer band with no drummer” and asked if I wanted to jam with them. I was totally intrigued, went to their website, downloaded all the free music on there and started listening. Their stuff really blew my mind, it was so out there!!! And the idea of having 33 finished albums was totally crazy to me. Ran into them again at a New Years party, where I hassled them about playing some more. I went and saw them play a small gig, then jammed with them a couple of times. It was love at first note and when Grant gave me a CD of our first session, it had been titled Together at Last Day. Of course, I started bringing my brother and my girlfriend Caitlin out to play with us, and everyone was having a lot of fun. We were doing it so often it didn't really make sense to call that stuff (VxPxC)+ guests, so we started a new band. We brought in our friend Jake to play bass, and started recording almost every week. The material was killing it, so we decided we needed to get it out there. We played our first show as a 7.5 piece at Mr. T's Bowl, played for two hours straight, nearly got booed off the stage in the first 20 minutes, but by the end, we had won them over. Thousands was born.
No, we are pretty locked in to a line-up at this point, though we have been known to jam with other people. However, not every member is there for every session, so there can be big differences in sound depending on that night's roster. We recorded a session in Joshua Tree with only four of us there, not counting the coyotes, which has a lot of open space in it. At the Mr. T's show, it was all seven, with our friend Erica sitting in for awhile as well, and it was total maximalist terror. When our bass player, Jake, is there, we tend to get locked into grooves a lot easier, and when he stays home, shit starts to float free. Same goes for if Caitlin is playing mostly drums as opposed to more trumpet, moog and shruti box. We are all moody as hell, too, and I think that comes out in the music. Tantrum-core.
Thanks! It was a pretty organic process, in that when I was recording most of the material for it, I had no idea I was putting together an album. I tend to work on my solo stuff really slowly, and I usually don't listen back to things for a long time after I finish them.
Awesome! For a while we couldn't decide if we wanted to do shimmery guitar duets or total dirt-covered earth musik, and I think we struck a pretty good compromise that leans heavily to the latter but every once in awhile lets the former shine through. Caitlin and I just moved into a house with Grant so there will be a lot of time for us to work on stuff. Look for a record someday soon on Phantom Limb.
For the amateur recordist/musician, tension is everywhere. I have guitars that won't stay in tune, pedals that run out of batteries, fingers that won't do what I want them to, tape machines that break down, mics that won't work, shows that hardly anyone comes too, all of my picks lost in the couch, shitty day-jobs I have to go to, scales with extra flats, everything, really. But tension makes you practice, makes you get better, makes you compensate when you don't, makes you move to the 4-track when the 8-track breaks and then move to a handheld cassette recorder once that goes. Once you get in the habit of making music, it's hard to quit, and you make it work.
(VxPxC) - 'Strange on Hind Legs”
Plastic Cloud - s/t
Robedoor - “Unsummoning” and “Procede the Weedian”
Current 93 - “Black Ships Eat the Sky”
the USAISAMONSTER - “Sunset at the End of the Industrial Age”
Neptune - red improv tape
The Circle and the Point - “And So On Forever”
Wooden Wand & the Sky High Band - “Second Attention”
MV+EE & Bummer Road - “Mother of Thousands”
Sleepwalkers local 242 - “Dreamlands”
Whitelodge - “Stream of Dreams” and their s/t LP
and soooooo many more but it's hard to remember!
I can't wait to see everyone here in L.A.! Come say hi! And buy more music... it's good for your soul.
-- Brad Rose (27 March, 2007)