Interview w/ Indian Jewelry (District Weekly)


PHOTO by DANNY KERSCHEN

My second interview with Indian Jewelry, this time for The District Weekly:

Known for deeply affecting live performances dug deeper by tribal percussion, overdriven amplifiers, strobe lights set for seizure and any number of guest musicians, Texas-based electronic-noise outfit Indian Jewelry is a band that leaves marks—even if they don’t show right away. Latest album Free Gold! (out in May on We Are Free) put new power through their fundamental mechanics — Suicide, Spacemen, “Sister Ray,” maybe Sun Ra in high orbit — and a show last year in their ex-home base Los Angeles had a capacity crowd just one stubbed toe shy of complete feralization. With founding husband-and-wife team Erika Thrasher (keys/guitar/vocals) and Tex Kerschen (keys/guitar/vocals) and new members Mary Sharpe (drums/guitar) and the mysterious Domokos, the band is gearing up for an upcoming coast-to-coast tour before heading to Europe this fall.

Describe what exactly Indian Jewelry does.
Tex Kerschen: We’re mind blowers. We come around to kick the door open.
Erika Thrasher: I just think of it as this wall of sound, with beautiful tones and harmonic sounds and whatnot. I think that you can hear all kinds of things in it. That’s what I like when I go see a band—to be able to hear other things in it so it sounds different every time you hear it. People describe our sound in all different kinds of ways.

One reviewer described the band’s sound as ‘the type of music that you would be greeted with upon your arrival to hell.’
E: People say things like, ‘God, you’re gonna destroy and melt my brain and my ears!’ But I don’t see it that way at all.

You’re known as a bit of a nomadic band.
E: We just spent most of June and July in New York. We try to keep moving around. We’ve been here on and off for the past year. We’ve spent a couple months touring and were just in New York for about a month. We were in Chicago right before that. Houston’s definitely our home base and always has been.

I’d have never guessed you were a Houston native; you don’t have any semblance of a Texas drawl.
E: Houston kind of wipes that out. It’s a major city. Of course, it’ll come on whenever I get together with my grandma.

The band is known to have different special guest musicians join you onstage in the various cities you tour.
T: It’s just like the Wu-Tang Clan—you don’t know if Raekwon’s gonna show up or who’s gonna be on the stage. Economics prohibit us from taking out four or five tour buses for everybody. It helps keep us from being too precious, too.
Does being married add complications or make things easier for the band?
E: It makes things easier because it becomes like joint forces that are working constantly at the same goal. In other bands I’ve been in, it’s been a little less emotionally charged at practices. But being married is definitely an advantage. With scheduling and whatever, we can just move around together, so it makes it a lot easier.

What happens when there’s a disagreement concerning musical differences?
E: That happens all the time! But that’s going to happen with everybody at some point. With us it probably gets a little overdramatic and I do feel kind of sorry for the people who are around us at the time.

What’s next on the horizon?
T: The upcoming tour is three months long, so it’s looming very heavily. But beyond that we’ve got tons of stuff. We’re trying to become more of an integrated services provider, kind of branch off into a bunch of different things—movies, Erika’s fashion line. We’ve got lots of plans. Some are more manifest and others more latent. This time around we don’t have any kind of commercial agenda. We’re just out there to keep the record straight.

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Interview w/ Indian Jewelry – “Hang With us When We’re on Fire”

My interview with Indian Jewelry as published in LA Record:

Indian Jewelry returned to their Houston hometown after many much-missed months in Los Angeles, though they left behind a closing set at the last Fuck Yeah Fest that will be a secret cherished memory for all those who chose to expose themselves to it. They have a new album coming out on We Are Free and will be playing a rare L.A. show this week. They speak now to Linda Rapka.

In your last L.A. RECORD interview, Tex said he was one the rare few to walk past a street lamp and make it go out.
Erika Thrasher (keys/guitar/vocals): He definitely brings on that type of current. He has a certain magical power.
Tex Kerschen (keys/guitar/vocals): It’s like walking around with your own personalized monogramed black cloud. But that doesn’t happen anymore. It’s all about positive thinking, like H.R. from Bad Brains. That’s a wild blast from the past. I’m all about the future.

It happens to me, like, all the time, and it really freaks me out.
E: Better get right then.

Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of this strange and useless mystical power?
T: Read War and Peace. To get anything out of this world you have to read War and Peace.

You just played SXSW. In three words, how would you describe the experience?
T: Here’s two: Corporate Walkathon. Or: Hung With Friends. There’s five.
E: We played at a children’s museum at this party at 3:30 in the morning. It was sponsored by Red Bull. Everybody was so messed up and they were puking all over the floor. It was a really odd setting. It was super, super crowded. Of course we just got there really late and played this crazy set with the Clip’d Beaks.

You were living in L.A. for a while. How did you end up back in Houston?
E: After L.A. we moved to Chicago and now we’ve been back in Houston for about nine months. We’re still mobile though.
T: We got kinda stranded here after we were in L.A. We were in an economic rut and had to work in a refinery for while. We don’t like things to get too easy for us. It’s like going back home. Or getting sent back to prison on a bunch of trumped-up charges. It’s home and it’s something. It’s a hidden spot in the eye of the world. It’s like a water fountain that dispenses poison.

How’s that different from L.A.?
T: L.A.’s a kind of widespread feel-goodery. An epidemic of feel-goodery.

What intrigues you about the nomadic lifestyle?
E: It’s not so much that—we’ve just made a lot of friends and when we have an interesting opportunity come up, we can’t pass it up. Maybe this next tour will lead us in a different direction.

The band is known to actively add and subtract musicians in the various cities you tour. That’s kind of a unique thing for a band to do.
T: Not really. The old R&B bands used to it. Chuck Berry. Bo Diddley. Jerry Lee Lewis. Little Richard. We’re also more like a rap band than a rock back. We have a humongous posse.

How did the core members meet?
T: The way bands meet, you know? We came together. Everything comes through something.
E: Through playing in various bands and coming together at the right time.
T: We’ve all known each other… well, the many of us in the black hole of the whole thing were in various bands and decided we were gonna have a more strict policy of who were gonna play with. It’s a band, but it’s not a band. It’s also kindred spirits. Even the core members of us have bands that are arguably better. Brandon, our guitar player, has the Electric Set and Terrible Eagle.

That record was released on your label.
T: The record is fucking jamming. It’s breathtakingly good. We had nothing to do with it but being complete fucking fans. Pink Cloud’s another band. The pack of people we work with are real songwriter and bandleaders in their own regard and only hang with us when we’re on fire.

Fans and critics have both noted the dark aspects of your music—one reviewer described it as “either the soundtrack for the insane or the type of music that you would be greeted with upon your arrival to hell.”
E: I just see it as this really beautiful music and people always comment to me like it’s the darkest thing they’ve ever heard, or it’s really good drug music. As far as what I’m putting into it, that’s not my intention exactly, but maybe it just comes out that way. I think people are probably just getting out of it what they need.
T: Descriptions are descriptions. Things from the outside. We’re handicapped because we only see it from the inside. We play lots of music, but it’s just the music we like. We just try to increase the peace, but not in some sloganeer manner. You can’t set out to do one thing if you want to go the distance. And we goin’ on all way.

Tell us what’s happening with the new album Free Gold!
E: It’s coming out in May. We finished recording here in Houston. We were holed up in our house and had everybody come in. We figured we’d do it ourselves because that would give us more time. The way we like to do things, it’s easier to record ourselves.
T: We initially made it to be morning music without being too reductive. You haven’t heard it so it’s kind of unfair for you. You can’t parse my lines for bullshit. It’s all new stuff. In the past it’s all been done and done and reconstituted. The new album’s supposed to be about love but it’s much sadder than that. It’s about things we love, people we love, places we miss, people we miss. People we don’t tell we love. It’s a love record but it seems to be kind of a weeper.

On the Now We Are Free website there’s a rather garrulous letter signed by a self-proclaimed historian, one Mr. Ted Sands, who is unhappy that Indian Jewelry shares its name with a band that was active from 1971-1985.
T: We didn’t do our research very well. We thought it was kind of a distinct band name, and then six million Native American bands popped out of the ether. You can’t argue with history. He sent us some letters—we don’t know if they were cease and desist letters because they were just written in a convoluted kind of language so it was hard to make sense of what he wanted. There’s nothing legal about it—we’re not in violation of any law. The Internet has unearthed a lot of strange worms.
E: We kinda were changing our name for a while. At almost any show we played we changed our name. We finally decided upon Indian Jewelry when we were driving a lot from L.A. to Houston, back and forth, driving along the 140. There were all these signs along the highway for Indian jewelry! Indian jewelry! So it was literally a sign. It just seemed right.
T: We’d been working the angle do to something that had allusions to American Indians. Most of us that are into the idea of any justice and into American history are interested in the idea of indigenous people. In my life, I went to Palestine for a couple years—the country, not the city in Texas, though I’ve been there too—and I had a discussion with good friend of mine—a WWII vet—about looking in your own backyard first to look at injustice, and so I thought I should not be taking but giving love. Like giving the land back. And I’ll take a boat back to Ireland or wherever.

Does being married to one of your bandmates complicate the band situation or make it easier?
E: Wow, how did you know we’re married? I thought it was like super secret.

Word gets around.
E: It hasn’t changed anything because nothing’s really changed. We’ve been together for a long time. We can get a lot done; we’re both pretty focused on the band and dedicated to it, which makes it easier. But, as in any kind of situation, we probably have the same amount of tension as any band.
T: We’ve been together for almost ten years. I think it dictates the dynamic in some ways. We’re kind of stuck together. We can’t just break up. We decided we’d work together for better or for bad.

What do you think it would actually be like to party with Jandek?
T: We could find out if we wanted to. I thought it was kind of a fun thing at the time. He’s from here. He manages an adult entertainment complex. Not in that kind of way, but like a Bennigan’s. Or at least he used to. Now he’s a full time rep for Cool Whip. Since we wrote that song we’ve met people who’ve played with him. I bet he’s just like anybody else.