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Thee Oh Sees

Thee Oh Sees

Interviewed by
Brannavan Gnanalingam
Monday 23rd January, 2012 1:41PM

San Francisco's Thee Oh Sees are about to hit New Zealand for four shows. The band started off as an outlet for John Dwyer (Coachwhips, the Hospitals amongst others) to release his home recordings, but expanded to become a five-piece. I talk to vocalist and keyboardist Brigid Dawson before their shows down here.

Why music?

I always loved music. I had a mum who always sang music around the house. My step-dad is a pretty amazing jazz pianist, but I never thought I'd be singing in front of people. I just always sang as a kid, and when I got a little bit older, when I was 18, I worked up the courage to sing in front of people. It took a while. I didn't have that longing to do that for quite a long time.

How did you end up in the band?

I had just moved back from London, and I started working in a café across the street from where John lived. He would come in every morning and I would make him coffee, and we made friends. Finally, I went to see him play in one of his bands, and he came to see a band I was in, and he asked me to be in his band.

You've had a few people come in and out of the band, has that been difficult to manage?

No, not at all. A lot of that stuff just happens. Our old drummer Patrick [Mullins] wanted to move away from San Francisco to somewhere quieter, he moved to Kentucky. People's lives change, and that's mostly how the changes happened in the band.

I understand the band started so that John could do his instrumental, experimental and home recordings. How did it work when you became involved in the band?

It's been a really natural progression. I've been in the band for six years. First it was just John doing his home recordings, and then he did want to start playing live so he brought Patrick in. And they did that for a couple of years for three albums, and I played for a year with them. I don't know if you've listened to any of that stuff but it's pretty different, it's much quieter. Then we had Petey [Dammit!] join the band, and I think it just picked up momentum and then Patrick left and we got a new drummer. Bit by bit it changed into this slightly louder, slightly faster, slightly different songs. It just happened quite naturally over the years.

You guys have been super-prolific, how do you go about recording?

We almost always record live, so we've been playing the songs for a while. We usually just go into the studio and record them one or two takes usually, vocals and everything. The recording process does go quite quickly because of that. We try and record as we've written stuff, which tends to be once or twice a year.

Do you feel the pressure to spend a bit of time on it after recording?

It's really like peeling off a band-aid. You go in there, you record it. It might have some mistakes in there, but you're capturing a moment in time. It's good enough.

At what point are you ready to record?

It's when we've got enough new songs to make an album.

You guys have such a well-regarded live show, does that put pressure on you guys to match those expectations?

No, I think when you're playing music you go up there and do it how you've always done it. You hope that people will enjoy it. That's definitely the other half, the other part of what makes a show great: if people enjoy it, and they respond. It's a give and take situation. For us, we're always trying to do the best that we can, and that's how we play.

How do you view your role in the band?

Very much as one quarter, one fifth of the band. Just one of the members of the band, I suppose.

I guess Thee Oh Sees is seen as such a John Dwyer band, does it all work equally then?

I see what you're saying, John brings in the germs of the songs, and while we're practising, we all come up with our own parts within that.

He also credits you with writing the melodies...

Usually, John definitely writes the lyrics and brings in what he's going to sing. Then we'll work out, I'll come up with something while we practising it, and if we all like it, it sticks, and if not, then we'll try again.

Were you happy with how [latest album] Carrion Crawler/The Dream turned out?

Yeah I was, I hope people like it. I was really pleased with it. It really was a pleasure to record.

I understand it took five days to record…

Which is a long time for us. It felt less rushed, and we could take our time with it, so it was really nice.

Playing in New Zealand for the first time, got any plans for the tour?

I've got an aunt and an uncle there, and I've never met my aunt. I've met their kids, the cousins, but definitely looking forward to meeting my aunt. I think we've only got four shows in New Zealand, but I'm really just excited to go there. I've had a couple of friends from New Zealand over the years, and they've brought back pictures and it's so beautiful. I'm excited to see it.

What have you guys got planned after the tour?

When we get home from New Zealand, we're going to be home for ten days. We're going to be playing on a rock n roll cruise that goes to the Bahamas. After that we're going to go to South by Southwest and then we're going to go to Europe in the summer. After that we're not sure. I think we're going to record in May.


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