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INTERVIEW: SILVERMOUSE

Can you talk to us more about your song “Beef In D Minor”?

Ha! Honestly, I don’t know why exactly we called it that – other than it began in D minor. It’s probably my favorite tune on the album. I always get really buzzed by the transition there from Hot Button into Beef. That super psychedelic whiny harmonium rising from the beats and then Justin comes in with that relaxed and jaunty cigar box guitar riff – it gets me every time!… We are generally pretty spur of the moment namers when it comes to tracks – what we are doing, what is happening around us, some minuscule and random detail that fits the tone of that precise moment. Maybe we were eating beef? Plus,  there’s a lot of beef about beef, especially in permaculture and regenerative agricultural practices… beef is super political, how we can work with cattle harmoniously to heal the land, but we don’t need to go into that… I don’t even think the tune is in D minor any more, maybe kind of, at a push. But the name is there, set in the first stone…

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

No particular event led to this tune, no. Our music comes extremely organically, through us, I would say. So in as much as it is true to say that no one event led to this song, it is also true to say that all events led to the writing of this song.

Any plans to release a video for this track?

Maybe…

The single comes off your new album EARTHADELIK – what’s the story behind the title?

Earthadelik is really our merging with the land, with the land here that we work and celebrate and live on – our farm, this island, this region, this planet. The spirit of the earth is strong and dense and dank on this one, it was like we were being pulled into her. Our farm is in a valley position up in the hills, it is relatively hard to access, so when we are here, we are really here, you know? And there have been so many lessons and so much love, so much life and merging has come this way. The earth offers us what we need when we need it and sometimes that is hard, sometimes it is abundant and it is always – if we allow ourselves to see it as such – our medicine. 

How was the recording and writing process?

Our process on his album was lengthy and varied. We started writing Earthadelik in 2011, when we were still living in the high desert mountains of New Mexico. Then we played with it and developed a wide caravan of unworked tunes during a year that we spent in a tiny island to the east of Puerto Rico – Culebra. That was 2013. The next real wave came once we had settled into our farm home in the west of the main island in 2016, and the real recording preparation started in January of last year, 2018. In natural time, this spring we recorded it live in one straight set. 

In a glade among the trees, we built a stage from the trunks of trees that had come down in the storm. Our friends came to camp out with us and we played and recorded Earthadelik, surrounded by love and high jinks. 

In terms of creation, we are completely split down lines instrumental and electronic. I (Jo) am the electronic beats and bass and all the electronic stuff, Justin is multi-instrumentals. He plays guitar, violin, mandolin, ukulele, flute. He loops his creations in real time and sometimes applies pretty heavy and trippy distortion to his instruments. The fusion in sound is really psychedelic in nature, and becomes greater than the sum of its parts, where sometimes even I can’t tell what is coming from whom!

A new tune comes when I get a nudge from somewhere, the crickets or the nightly chirrups of the coquis (tiny Puerto Rican tree frogs), even the rhythm of my dog’s breath, or a feeling that wants to break out of me… whatever it is, I will start with that sound, and then play around until I have a collection of sounds together that flows and I find a groove with it. Once I’m grooving, Justin listens and steps in. He may play an instrument that I have imagined in my ear, he may have something else wriggling inside his own and pick up something completely different. We don’t usually talk too much about it. Then he doodles, and we jam and I add things and go on that journey. Justin finds pieces and pulls amazing melodies from the ethers of existence, and then he starts looping what he creates: we both start to fly when it is good in those moments. 

Once we have this start, we play around and around with the tune, often putting it down and juggling it with other tunes all being developed in this same way. Then form really starts to emerge, but it always remains largely improvisational in essence. There are no pre-arrangements, just moments that we find and flow in and out of with a language that is both ours and the track’s own voice also. It’s actually pretty cosmic. 

After recording, the listening process is huge. I feel like the listening we have done after the fact of recording this album has been some of the most significant work we have done to date. That sounds a little odd, but the deep listening has invited us to explore the world we created up close, and teaches us so much about what we do – or really, what the music does when we allow it. 

What role does Puerto Rico play in your music?

It is not possible to talk about this album without talking about Puerto Rico – Boriken. This island sustains us, nurtures us, has provided us with a home that is our creation station, muse, daily work/service, and sanctuary. The coquis, the forest floor, people, waves, waterfalls, celebrations and fiestas, mycelial offerings and abundant fruits, roots and water; all of this is playing within us all the time. Puerto Rico is our home, our created home, our adopted home; it is the home that welcomed and accepted us and offered us the space and peace and valley of plenty that we had yearned for. 

What aspect of nature and tragedy did you get to explore on this record?

We didn’t really explore any tragedy anywhere on this album. This is not an album about Hurricane Maria. We do not make music ‘about’ things. But, Hurricane Maria certainly came through our lives and, as our music comes through our lives too, our music and Hurricane Maria are certainly well acquainted. She was a dervish blowing in from the east – she spiraled across the ocean and then basically ate us for 24 hours, taking everything in her path. She came through the island, our town, our land, our community, our family. Everything that did not blow away was transformed, in major or in subtle ways. Nothing was the same after the storm. So, our music must have shifted, we must have shifted, but you know when something happens so organically and so in tune with itself that you can’t even dissect it…? Maria was (and continues to be) one of the great teachers of my life.

Did you always intend for this to be about Hurricane Maria?

It was not about Hurricane Maria. It is our expression of the magic and power and joy and psychedelic majesty of Mother Nature as she spirals through us, up and out, and in and down. Hurricanes are a wild and furious expression of Mother Nature. They are not benevolent. They can feel demonic at the time. They are full of lessons and gifts, hidden blessings. There is power in what remains. This album – we hope – resonates with that power of nature and life.

How did you get to balance the dark tone with the rather much uplifting message of the album?

If there is dark and light on the album, I would hope that is in balance. Light and dark are always in balance. Even if our energies naturally gravitate to one or the other. The darkness or the light is in the ear of the listener, it is not really for us to say.

Any plans to hit the road?

We are booking for summer and fall tours in Europe and the US for 2020. 

What else is happening next in SILVERMOUSE’s world?

New sounds are beginning to whisper themselves and sense impressions are forming in relation to our next body of work that will become our fourth album. We have plans to rejuvenate after the past several months of hard work recording and touring. We hope to enjoy the natural rhythms of our home, celebrate the dry and festive season that is fully enjoyed here for the next six months… and we are stoked to be collaborating with some exciting local artists on some psychedelic gatherings, combining Silvermouse’s sound with theatre, ecstatic dance, and the Puerto Rican drum rhythms of bomba. This is our collective wild experiment – our call to the people of the earth, the medicine tribes, the misfits, the mystics and the hopeful, broken, seeking, the free: a gift to the forgotten and overlooked parts of an island that will never (ever) lose its soul. We will be in the studio, in the garden, milking goats, and I know Justin will be catching as many tasty waves as he can.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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