Lava Church label /Lovebrrd project Interview [2013-04-16]Lava Church is one of Florida’s most consistent and prolific experimental labels; releasing everything from harsh noise, to ambient, to lo-fi, to drone. Label-runner Patrick McBratney has released a variety of acts including: Sky Stadium, Raven, Mold Omen, Virgin Blood, and Su Sous Toulouse en Rogue, as well as his own experimental project Lovebrrd. I’ve had the pleasure to get to know Mr. McBratney over the past year and appreciate him taking the time to talk about his many projects, his upcoming tour, and baseball.
m[m]:To get started how did you become involved in experimental/noise music?
Patrick I would say that it probably truly began in late 2007, when I moved to Florida. I had been making music already for a number of years, but always in a supporting role in various incarnations of bands with my brother and a few other close friends. But when I moved to Florida I had just turned 18, was in a new place totally different than my home state of New Jersey, and I had no friends to talk shop with or play music, so I just started riffing on my only instrument, my Casio CTK-700. The more I riffed, the weirder it got. Without someone around to say "that doesn't sound right" or whatever, I just kind of went off without boundaries. Now that's not to imply that my previous experiences with music had been like that, but I just never played a real active role, I was an artist and just didn't know it yet. I didn't have the technical skill so I never really explored sounds too much, but once I was on my own I had this itch to create and I did.
m[m]:Give us a little history on Lava Church Records. What was the impetus for starting a label?
Patrick Well I got the idea after attending Bloodfest in 2010. My friend from San Diego was invited to play, and he wanted me to play a set with him and I did. He was really into tapes and noise shit, and when I got there I was really exposed to all sorts of stuff I had no idea existed. But I didn't feel particularly welcome and kind of left the fest with a sour taste in my mouth. I talked with him a bit about starting to make my own tapes for my music and the music of my friends. I kind of had the anything-they-can-do-I-can-do-better attitude thing going. Then, a few months later I got back into contact with an old friend, Jeff Busko, who I used to be in bands with in New Jersey, and found out he was heavy into tapes and had several releases out on various labels for his project Sky Stadium. He said he would do a tape for my label, and that really pushed me to make it reality.
m[m]:In my short time of knowing you, Lava Church's way of presenting cassettes has changed quite a bit. You went from the standard j card format, to o-cards with labels inside the actual cassette, to poly cases with trading cards and now you have a new aesthetic you're about to present. Why the changes? And with the new forthcoming batch do you think you've finally settled on a particular Lava Church aesthetic?
Patrick Well Lava Church is an extension of my artistic persona, I never really stick to one style, so Lava Church doesn't either. I try to lead my creative life with as few boundaries as possible. The challenge I find with Lava Church is finding a way to accurately represent myself as an artist as well as the music of the artists who I am representing with these tapes. But that's what I enjoy about the whole experience, the artistic bond created between myself and those whose music I release. Lately, I've been trying to strike a balance between sharp visuals and more DIY aesthetic, and I think this next batch will finally reach that happy medium. I know that the tapes I put together aren't always the best looking, most appealing, highest "quality" etc., but I they are genuine attempts to represent both the artists and myself, and I believe that people who follow Lava Church understand and feel that.
m[m]:Care to elaborate on this new aesthetic?
Patrick Without getting too much into detail, it's going to have a very minimalist feel. Only necessary text, like song titles and artist name. Screen printed art on the front, abstract original works, perhaps some stamps thrown in here and there. I think I'm ditching the artwork inside the cassette shells, but I haven't totally decided. I originally wanted to get really dirty and scummy with it, but I think I'm going in a slightly different direction. Rather than overtly rough and punk as fuck, it's going to be implied through the minimalist style and contrasting colors. I'm still going to do everything myself, the stenciling, screen printing, folding, artwork, etc., but expect it to be simple, clean, and effective.
m[m]:You've recently, started a mix tape series available as digital downloads. However, you recently expressed the desire to go offline with your releases. Talk a little about the mix "tapes". Will this be outside of your regular Lava Church releases?
Patrick I struggle with the idea of having music online and things revolving around online interaction. On one hand its a wonderful and beautiful thing, it has helped me meet so many people that are now key to Lava Church and my own music. But I think that when everything is totally online, it makes the entire experience less personal. The whole purpose of starting Lava Church was to give people a chance to hear music that is deeply personal in a very personal way, all while maintaining a high level of quality. Anyway, in terms of the music, I go back and forth with putting it online. I want as many people to hear the music as possible, but I don't want it to become devalued and become some mp3 floating around on the internet to be skipped over or deleted. So I think in the future tapes will stay on tape, and the mixtapes will be a way for me to stay connected to new and exciting artists. I can share the music freely and not feel like I'm pissing on someone's work because it's a mixtape, not a full release or anything you know? So yeah, it won't be part of the main Lava Church release family, just a new way to expose myself and others to cool tunes online.
m[m]:What's up with baseball? There seems to be a baseball theme that runs through your projects. What connection do you see between your projects (Lava Church & Lovebrrd) and baseball?
Patrick Baseball is a part of my soul, a part of my being. It runs in my blood in a way that I can't fully describe. Sometimes I think about baseball and it makes me cry because I love it so much. There is something about baseball that is just so perfect I can't truly explain why it speaks to me so strongly.
m[m]:Being such an obsessive baseball fan, who are you liking this year? Any predictions?
Patrick Well I'm a Yankees fan, born in New Jersey to a Yankee family, I can't help it. As far as the AL East is concerned, I can't really ignore the improvements the Jays made, but they could easily be the 2011 Red Sox and just straight up blow it. If the Rays can scrape together some runs, I think they'll continue their recent success. The O's did nothing to improve, but are still tight. The Red Sox are still gonna be garbage. The Yankees are old, but have a tight rotation and bullpen, and when Tex, Granderson, and Jeter come off the DL they'll be a lot better off. I'm gonna hafta say it'll be the Rays with Jays and Yankees battling it out for the AL Wildcard. The AL Central is bogus, Detroit is stacked and plays against two AAA teams basically in the Twins and Indians. The AL West is probably gonna go to the Angels, and if it doesn't shame on them. With the Astros and Mariners to beat up, it'll be much like the Central, 'cept the A's and Rangers at least can keep up. In the NL, I can't speak for too much since I follow AL teams in the Rays and Yankees, but I'm calling the DBax in the West, Pitt in the Central, and the Braves in the East, with the wildcard between the Cards and Dodgers. World Series between the Rays and DBax I think.
m[m]:Without stepping on toes, what have been some of the most personally satisfying tapes you've released?
Patrick Without a doubt the album Universal by Tile was the most satisfying release I've ever put together. It was just so perfect from start to finish. I was already working on the Spires tape, Puzzlebox, when Jeff Busko of Sky Stadium contacted me and basically said, I've got this finished album for my other project will you check it out? So I did, and I loved it. I had also just recently finished a few abstract paintings, and the moment I heard the music I connected it with a specific piece I had made which I would use as the art. From the time Jeff contacted me to the time I was done with art, layout, printing, and dubbing, it was literally like one week. The whole timing, situation, feeling behind it all was just so natural and perfect.
m[m]:What are some of the upcoming releases you've got in the works?
Patrick I've got tapes in the works for noisers Black Beast of Arrrghhh and Nundata. The former being a local Florida homie and the latter being from Serbia. I've also got a new YlangYlang album, who I met online due to my relationship with Felisha of Virgin Blood. A brand new Tile album from my best homie Jeff that is a collection of jams he's recorded since completing his album Universal back in 2011. Also there's the Florida noise compilation I'm co-releasing with your label featuring a nice assortment of Sunshine State noisers. Got the debut for the Hellraiser-inspired electronic fuckery that is Tender Cruncher. Then there's my new album that I'm gonna be touring on in June. Plus a few reissues that I should have more details on in the coming months.
m[m]:Give us some background on your musical project Lovebrrd. Was this your first foray into music?
Patrick Well as a kid I made music with my brother on four track in a band we called Phist, as opposed to Phish. Then there was Pornosaurus Rex with my brother and two neighbors a few years later. Then there was Narchemesis with my brother, neighbor, and Jeff Busko. Then I was loosely involved with the noise/performance art terror group Biowar (also involving my brother and Jeff). But Lovebrrd has been my project since coming to Florida, so like I said before it started with the Casio stuff and the sound has just kind of fluctuated since. I rarely don't release or share something that I record. I've got this kind of mantra with Lovebrrd that's based on trying to represent my feelings has honestly as possible. Like I've said repeatedly about Lava Church and Lovebrrd, it is a representation of myself. Every song I make means something. Every recording has a purpose. Whether it is to let off steam about a current personal event or dealing with repressed emotions, there is something behind it all. Recently, I started a tumblr for Lovebrrd where I post things I've recorded and kind of explain what it meant and how I recorded it. Cause the process doesn't stop when I'm done recording you know? I listen to my own music all the time, I love it. I think it's great, I mean if I didn't believe in my craft then I would be a pretty lame artist. I'm the kind of person who believes if you're not your biggest fan, then you shouldn't even bother. But listening to it is part of the process of dealing with these feelings.
m[m]:With Lovebrrd your output really runs the gamut, from lo-fi casio jams to harsh noise. Have you found it hard to produce this all under one moniker or do you get the itch to to start different projects (based on sound or themes) like many noise artists do? Patrick It's not hard at all. I think that having a bunch of different monikers or whatever isn't right for me. I'm trying to work out my demons in whatever way feels natural and then share it with whoever will listen, so I think having different names for different sounds is silly when the purpose behind them all is the same.
m[m]:I'm aware that you're a huge New Order fan. You've covered New Order live and have a covers project in the works with various artists. How does a rather straightforward new wave/pop band (albeit a damn good new wave/pop band) inform your own work?
Patrick There are a few bands that I credit with inspiring me to make my own music, and New Order is probably the biggest one. When I was like 16, Jeff Busko gave me a copy of Technique, and it became my favorite album. I literally have listened to that album more than anything else. I don't know what it is about it, maybe because Bernard Sumner can't sing and neither can I, but either way something about it made me think that making music is what I wanted to do. So for the two year Lava Church anniversary, I'm having myself and other Lava Church artists cover Technique in its entirety. It should be interesting to say the least.
m[m]:You've started a new band recently, tell us a little about that.
Patrick Well like I said, I was involved with a few bands before leaving New Jersey. But when I came to Florida, it was all solo for a few years. Then my brother moved down, we started a project together and eventually joined up with other people and played Converge-style hardcore shit. I thought we were great, and so did a lot of other people too, but getting the other people in the band to commit the way I wanted to just wouldn't happen, so I quit. That was about two years ago, and lately I've been getting the itch to be in a band again, but I don't want to be held back by other people's lack of drive. So I figure I'll just be upfront about my intentions with who wants to play with me and let them know, I want to be in creative control and I want this project to go somewhere. It's not that I'm trying to win a popularity contest or become famous or whatever, but I think that being in bands illicit different kinds of musical feelings out of me that can only be invoked when playing with other people. So anyway, I reconnected with a drummer who I played very briefly with alongside my brother back in 2009, told him about it and he was down as fuck. So I'm playing bass, he's tearing it up on drums, and we're Terminus Cursus. Live and on recordings there will be lots of other players, but it'll be a rotating cast of people at my discretion. We should have a demo out soon.
m[m]:So this Summer you're embarking on a rather ambitious month long tour with Tender Cruncher and Harmoos. In addition to just playing shows, I understand you plan to go in with an anthropologist's eye and document the whole experience. Talk to us about the tour and how it came about? Will the documentation be for your own personal curiosities or for academic reasons as well?
Patrick I've never been on a real tour before, so my goal for this year was to make it happen, so I am. And Tender Cruncher is my life partner who after this summer won't have a life until the end of grad school in probably five years or so, so I figure it's now or never, you know? Harmoos is one of my favorite bands and is a big influence on me. Will has become a really great friend of mine online, I've released his stuff, but we've never met in person so this is really exciting for me to finally get to meet him and play music with him. As for the documentation and such, I'm currently going to school with aspirations of being a cultural anthropologist. I love people, I love music, I love traveling, I love culture, so it's a no brainer for me. This tour is a chance for me to really explore some questions I've been thinking about for a while, the main one being individuals perceptions of community within the indie/noise/DIY/whatever you want to call it music scene. I want to find out what other people think, how they feel about community and what it means to them. Especially with regards to the advent of the internet.
Patrick Additionally, I'm starting an archive called the American Audio Archive of Avant-Garde Live Performance, or the 4ALP. What it is going to be is an online archive of recorded live performances of noise, experimental, weird, performance art, whatever I happen to come across in my travels, whether I seek it out or just stumbled on it. I want to create a place where people who are not involved with avant-garde music and sound art can explore it and learn about it. Basically, the 4ALP is going to be my main focus academically and musically for the foreseeable future. Lava Church and Lovebrrd will continue as they have been, but the 4ALP is going to be my life's work I think.
Thanks to Mr. McBratney for taking the time to answer my questions. Lava Church can be found on the web here: http://www.lavachurch.com/Hal Harmon