It's probably a good idea to catch Philly's Reading Rainbow (Rob Garcia, vocals and guitar, Sarah Everton, drums and vocals, and Al Creedon, guitar) at the Elm City Popfest at BAR in New Haven on Sept. 14 or the following night at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton.
Their latest record, Prism Eyes, released on Hozac in 2010, offers 11 tracks of sunny, ambient pop, with Garcia and Everton singing together over layered guitars, synths and Everton’s rudimentary beats. They’ve never been up here before, and you don’t want to seem rude, right? That just wouldn’t be New England-ish. No, it’s in our best interest to get them to come back.
The Advocate caught up with Garcia and Everton by phone from North Carolina, where they were recovering at a hotel after the previous night’s Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh. (Rob did most of the talking, with Sarah laughing in the background.)
How long are you out on tour? What’s the typical tour look like for you?
It’s only a two-week tour. I wish it was longer. Two weeks is fairly typical for us. In March, around the time of SXSW, we went on a six-week tour, which was by far the longest we’ve done. We opened up for Dum Dum Girls for the first half of the tour, and then for the rest we opened up for The Dodos. We were playing venues that were way bigger than we were used to. We kinda play around 200 capacity rooms or smaller, but with The Dodos we played the Fillmore in San Francisco. They have pictures of everyone who played there hanging on the walls when you walk in: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Radiohead.
How do you travel?
Typically we take a Subaru Outback station wagon type of thing, but we are traveling with Eternal Summers and they have a 12-person van. So we are sharing gear and traveling with them.
What are you listening to in the car?
The van only has a CD player, so we went back to burning CDs again. Each van has huge binders of CDs. We’re listening to a lot of Sonic Youth, of course. And Saccharine Trust, Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath. We’ve been listening to a lot of mixes, Blur, The Doors, CSNY. Acoustic stuff is definitely good for long drives in the country. For the city we need something that’s a little more pumped up. It’s usually like Smashing Pumpkins or Nirvana... Sarah used to be ridiculously obsessed with Smashing Pumpkins when she was growing up. She still has her zero shirt, silver pants, like Billy Corgan used to wear. She also brought her Nirvana stuff.
What do you do when you are in Philly? Do you play a lot of shows?
In Philly, if we could, we would play shows every week, but we have to really space them out, especially for promoters, so that we are playing bigger shows. Al teaches at a community college for sound engineering. Sarah works at a coffee shop, and I work at a sustainable green engineering firm. But we try to spend a lot of time practicing and recording. We are really trying to hunker down and record stuff for the new album.
Prism Eyes came out on Hozac. How did that happen?
Two years ago we were at SXSW and we were playing a house show. A guy from Hozac asked if we want to record an album, and we were like, “okay.” We recorded most of it in Roanoke, Virginia, which is where Eternal Summers is from. Al wasn’t in the band at the time, but he mixed the album, and we recorded a few songs in Philly at a really nice studio... I think we are going to shoot for a recording by the end of the year and go to a really nice recording studio.
Who does most of the writing?
So far, I’ll [Rob] come up with a chord progression or melody and we all get together and jam on it. Sarah and I write the lyrics, so we play off each other. She write something and I’ll look at it, and I’ll write something. We’ve already recorded three new songs for the album and Sarah came up with one of the guitar riffs, and it’s really kinda of sick. She’s learning to play the guitar. She doesn’t have a background in theory like I do, so everything is … you have set patterns you fall into when you’ve been playing, but with her it’s all wide open. She sets up with up with a distortion pedal and a long delay and it’s really awesome.
What do you guys play when you do a show?
We try to switch it up. We only play one or two songs from the first album and from Prism Eyes we only play four or five songs. The rest of the stuff is newer.
Have you ever played up here?
This is our first time playing up there. We’ve never been to the Northeast. We’ve never been to Boston. Everyone keeps telling us we have to come up there. Everything we’ve done has been out by Chicago and out that way, so it’s a kind of conscious thing to play up [in the Northeast]. We are really looking forward to playing in Northampton, the homeland of Thurston [Moore] and Kim [Gordon, both of Sonic Youth].
Reading Rainbow, Eternal Summers and Ghost of Chance, Sept. 14, 9 p.m., free, BAR, 254 Crown St., New Haven, elmcitypopfest.wordpress.com
Reading Rainbow and Eternal Summers, Sept. 15, 10 p.m., $9-$11, Iron Horse Music Hall, 20 Center Street, Northampton, Mass., iheg.com