Artist Spotlight: Splintered In Her Head
This month’s artist spotlight is the newest addition to the Last Stop Booking roster: Splintered In Her Head. Splintered in Her Head is an electro rock band from Portland, OR. Fans of The Cure, Depeche Mode and The Church will love them at first listen, but the band is solidly 21st century, sprinkling dark glam DNA on fresh songwriting and energetic performances.
We sit down with Micheal and Esteban to talk about the music business as well as their projects.
LSB: Tell us about your upcoming EP. It seems that some of the songs have been in the works for awhile, some with origins while your front man was in Japan. What’s the songwriting process been like for you and how has it differed than other projects?
Micheal: Well, I had the idea for SiHH while DJing in Tokyo. I wanted to start a band over there but never had the opportunity because 1) it was so outrageously expensive and 2) all my friends were these Detroit minimal house techno geeks.. But anyway the songs were all written after I came back from Japan.. Best Things in Life is the only one that I wrote on my own, without help from anyone else. Otherwise it’s a very collaborative process. For Cry Like You Mean It, I took a piano riff that Matt (drummer) had come up with and I wrote a song around that one riff (which you now hear as those mellotron flutes rather than piano). Esteban (bass/keys) brought in Tigers and Cheerios and with a wee bit of help from yours truly we fleshed that out into what we now jokingly call Plainsong Pt. 2 (re: The Cure). When I wrote Madonna it had this slow Depeche Mode brooding trip hop vibe to it, then Esteban and Ephraim brought in the chunky guitar ideas in the 2nd half of the song that really give it a nice heavy facet. The Harder I Try was a collaboration between Esteban and I.
Esteban: The songwriting process from other projects has been quite the opposite actually. Micheal and myself started writing when he got back from Japan, roughly 9 months before the release of this Ep. We started like anyone sharing ideas and interests over sake and sushi, then we hashed out a song or two. Micheal and his production composer skills took my raw pieces and organized them into what was the birth of Splintered in Her Head. The two songs we did initially were Tigers and The harder I try. We had faith and kept at it while numerous people showed interest then had no motivation to help us stay afloat. We kept swimming. As we met with our drummer Matt and guitarist Ephraim in summer of 2012 we really got moving.
LSB: What have been some of your past projects and how have you taken that experience into Splintered in Her Head? What have you learned since then?
Micheal: Well as you know I was a founding member of The Slants, haha. I’ve played in a number of other less name-drop worthy bands. Lakeshore Driving was an old band of mine for years that ended up being my DJ name in Japan. By the time I left Japan I had a solid following and was playing some really fun parties, though I doubt anyone outside of Japan would know the name.
The biggest thing I’ve learned from any past project (or any past experience for that matter) is the value of generosity. You just have to be very kind and generous and not expect anything in return. My favorite people in the world are like that, and I strive to be like that myself. Since I stopped being so selfish with my time and expecting people to do things for me, I find myself both happier and more successful than ever.
Esteban: I was in an indie band back in NY playing with bands like Coheed and Cambria, National skyline, etc in 99′. It was the offshoot of the band EMERSON. Personally I have taken the choppy styles of that genre and Micheal’s mixed them with his flavors, rolled it up in the classic percussive styles of Matt’s love for David Bowie and sprinkled with Ephraim’s heart bleeding guitar riffs. The main thing I have learned is to drop my ego. It gets you nowhere, I mean we are artists and feel strongly and may not always agree, but we write for a greater good – the song.
LSB: Since your debut show a few months ago, you guys have hit the ground running: back to back shows, recording/mixing an album, planning a tour. Give us a glimpse on what it’s been like behind the scenes. What’s your “typical” week look like?
Micheal: Life has been a rush since our first show on November 9th, 2012. Every week is different from the last, though always a bit blurry as one project completes and another begins. One day it’s songwriting, then it’s electronics and rehearsing, then maybe learning a cover song.. The last month or so has seen us focusing a lot on studio work with recording, mixing, and mastering which we just completed earlier this week at East Side Motel and Cloud City studios here in Portland. Right now I’m working on album art and shopping for vinyl and CD duplication. Next week we’ll be making a music video for Best Things, then prepping for the big CD release party with my old band, The Slants. We tour for two weeks after the CD release party, and then we’ll probably work on songwriting again while maintaining an every-three-weeks show schedule here in Portland. Rinse. Repeat.
Esteban: I spend my time with the band writing, writing at home, and hanging out with gorgeous women and cooking gourmet food. Simple.
LSB: Did you have any discussions about what your live show concept would be like before you hit the stage or did it unfold during your initial shows? Have you seen any changes since then?
Micheal: Initially I thought we would be a lot darker and more glam, but as nature takes its course that’s just not the case. I don’t mind though – you can’t shove a square peg into a round hole. We try to put on a good show regardless. There are so many bands that play great music but they don’t perform.. Maybe they’ll just stand up there in t-shirt and jeans and converse and play their guitar… Not us. We want to ultimately wow the audience on multiple levels by putting on a great performance, playing great music, eventually incorporating live video art into our shows, and otherwise doing things just a little bit differently than other indie acts. Who knows, maybe we’ll be the next Flaming Lips. (laughs)
Esteban: Micheal had most of the ideas already in his head, we want to do “shows” not be a rock band. Different make up, clothing etc. At the same time we aren’t trying to be spinal tap and change up for the different crowds “stonehenge is huge, what the fuck is that?” (laughs). But we are constantly evolving as will our music.
LSB: Something that many artist struggle with is developing a consistent brand, voice, and identity. While some find ways to combine elements from their sources of inspiration, others set out to try and create something decidedly new. How did you develop the Splintered in Her Head identity and has the concept seen any changes since you first had the idea for the band?
Micheal: To answer this I’ll simply reference one of my favorite quotes by Jim Jarmusch: “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”
LSB: Many bands tend to have one person that ends up being the driving force behind the group. With this group, it seems that this is Micheal. What kind of role does each of the other members play off-stage?
Esteban: Well Micheal is the warden of this prison. Driven, intelligent and creative. Keeping all of us slackers on a timeline etc. Together though.. we come together like Voltron.
LSB: Some artists have the capability of keeping production in house – writing, recording, mixing, etc. Since you have some solid studio experience under your belts, are you planning on making some releases entirely on your own or do you like the idea of having some “outside ears?”
Micheal: 女の子 (onnanoko), our debut EP, was recorded, mixed, and produced at our own studio in SE Portland. With the exception of mastering (done by good friend Rick McMillen at Cloud City Studios), it was a 100% DIY, in-house production. Rick at Cloud City was a huge help for us though, as he caught a few mixing errors that I made and had me go back and remix a few of the tracks. At any rate, the main reason we did it in house was because we simply didn’t have money to record in a proper studio. But with the low cost of pro-sumer recording equipment, I think we did a great job. In the end I can definitely hear places where outside ears would have helped with guitars and probably drums too, especially on the heavier parts.
Esteban:Well, personally I’m a huge fan of new ears once we are set or close to finishing an arrangement. You spend to much time under a microscope you become a germaphobe so to speak, missing the whole picture and focusing on germs under the frame of the picture. I prefer to do things on our own untill the last minute..that way we get out the raw emotion and things we might forget a trusted musician with skills can come in and give us ideas as a listener. Sometimes it’s just good and we are happy with it..
LSB: Tell us a bit about your upcoming tour: highlights, places you’re looking forward to, how you plan to keep your sanity while sharing an intimate space on the road, etc.
Micheal: Tour is always a crap shoot (laughs), sometimes you land in a great town, sometimes not. But we all get along quite well as a band, so I think we’ll have fun. It’s our first tour so we’re all stoked for it. I haven’t done a proper American tour in years, since before I moved to Japan and I was still in The Slants. I’m stoked because we’ll have an extra day in San Francisco (still my fave US city!) to run around and relax and play a bit. I’m planning on stocking up on this specific Chinese goji berry tea that I love but haven’t been able to find anywhere else but this one shop in SF Chinatown. Also stoked about the Chinese food and shops.. Amoeba Records.. etc. Other highlights… In n Out burger. Always.
Esteban: Highlights – Ephraim driving the van (laughs), looking forward to LA and San Francisco to play for friends who haven’t seen us, as well as making new friends along the way. I keep my sanity with chakra breathing and whiskey.
LSB: You’ve been able to crack the top ReverbNation artists for your area rather quickly, as well as secured a publicist and booking agency in a timeline that most other bands wish they could accomplish. What’s some advice that you’d like to share with other bands trying to make it?
Micheal: Be genuine and be generous and expect zero in return. Work your ass off and create art for the sheer enjoyment of creating art. Stop looking for people’s reactions, stop waiting to be picked out of the crowd, and just create. If you are generous and if you are genuine and if your work is any good, the rewards are beaucoup.
Also, read Seth Godin.
Esteban: Really put the time in. We had some non believers in the beginning and I remember Micheal and I down and depressed on finding the rest of the band members. I sent Micheal an email one day stating this will be bigger, we should keep the train moving, there was no tracks for the train, we built them. There was steam in in the engine tho so we kept at it. Giving up is exactly what it sounds like “no sound in a shoulder shrug”….but we are happy and hope to fill arenas someday. We have the drive. But we do need funding, we are too new, contact micheal if you got a rich dad who can back us…
LSB: Any future plans or final remarks that you’d like to share?
Esteban:I dont know if I speak for everyone, but I would like to tour the world and share our sound with everyone, Im really pleased with the first EP..
Micheal: Lots of future plans. Another album, a lot more touring, music videos, crowdfunding experiments, a SiHH story book, interactive youtube videos, short films, songs in Japanese, acoustic album, maybe a Christmas album, who know, I could go on and on. I want to SiHH to eventually be this multi-faceted art thing that is centered around solid, beautiful, energetic songwriting; but is must also transcend the music alone. I really adore what Amanda Palmer is doing. And Chris Corner with IAMX. Those two are DIY visionaries. They have synergy. They are my heroes.
Check out some of Splintered in Her Head, here.