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Q&A: Charlie Hughes of Baltimore's Raindeer

On Monday afternoon, Charlie Hughes, the lead singer-songwriter of the Baltimore indie-pop quintet Raindeer, gently fumbled through a phone interview about the year his band had. Like many musicians, art is much easier to create than to discuss for the 29-year-old Remington resident.

But ask the Damascus native the ultimate ambitions of his band, which performs at the Windup Space on Saturday, and Hughes speaks with confidence.

"I'd always make music no matter what, but we're definitely trying to make this a career and get out there," Hughes said. "That's why we're trying to release an album kind of fast, while we're still sort of on the radar, I guess. I'm trying to take it as far as I can."

In July, Raindeer (which also includes Liz Vayda on synthesizer, Nicky Smith on guitar, Brian Goldstein on bass and Beau Cole on drums) released its second album, "Tattoo," on the local label Friends Records. The album was uneven, but the highs showcased Hughes' skills as a pop melody writer. Hughes, who is a sound engineer for the Black Cat venue in Washington, says the follow-up is almost done, and will continue down a similar path. Also on the horizon: an East Coast tour that kicks off in mid-January.

Before that, Hughes discussed Raindeer's third, still-untitled album, what the Baltimore music scene is missing and more.

When you compare the band's earlier work with "Tattoo," what are the biggest differences you hear?

I feel like [songs] got a lot more organic. Before it was pretty much all electronic beats, but I just started trying to blend those with more organic sounds.

Has your songwriting process changed at all?

It's a little bit more of a group effort now. But for the most part, it's pretty much the same. I'll start a song different every time, either from a drum beat or a guitar part. There's no real set way to do things.

How does the new material sound?

We're actually finishing up our new record, and hopefully getting it out in early 2014. I basically just wrote a bunch of demos and brought them into practice. Then we reworked them and recorded them. Wrapping that up soon.

Is it sounding like a natural next step after "Tattoo"?

I don't think it's that different, especially since it's such a close time frame. A lot of people that we have showed it to have said it's a little more poppy, I guess. I don't know. It's hard for me to describe it, but I feel like it's matured a bit. We're kind of figuring out what we're doing.

Is there anything you'd change about Baltimore's music scene?

I know there are a lot of venues, but I'd like to see more venues. Maybe more variety of professional and DIY venues. Especially with us, we have a lot of stage setup stuff so it's kind of hard to just plug everything into a P.A. [public address system] I always like fresh, new places. I think it's exciting, like when the Crown opened up [in Station North] — that was really exciting.

Given the recent police raids on the D.I.Y. venues Coward Shoe and the Broom Factory, the debate of professional venues versus nonsanctioned spaces has been a hot topic. As an artist in the scene, what are you looking for?

It's really awesome to see a band you like on a really good P.A., with a sound guy and everything. D.I.Y. venues definitely have their charm and are awesome, but they are a little difficult sometimes. I feel like all of the major venues in Baltimore have been closing so it's been kind of tough.

On "Tattoo," a song's overall feel seemed more important than lyrics. Has that changed at all?

For this album, I've definitely been thinking about lyrics more. Trying to put vocals more above the mix, too, so we cannot necessarily blend in as much. I think I'm getting more comfortable with it. I've been trying to make it a bigger part.

Have you noticed any reoccurring themes in the new lyrics?

I've been trying to think about that. I always analyze albums right after I write them. A lot of it is about moving on to the future, sort of loosely, I guess. There's a lot about facing obstacles in the future and pushing through. It's tough for me to really describe.

If you go

Raindeer performs Dec. 14 at the Windup Space, 12 W. North Ave., Station North. Bobby Donnie and Early American will also perform. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $7. Call 410-244-8855 or go to thewindupspace.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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