On a rainy day at the end of June I had the extreme pleasure to take part in, experience, be blown away by San Francisco's Deafheaven as they toured for their brilliant new record Sunbather. This isn't about them though. This isn't about their awesome opening act Marriages either. This is about the band I didn't even know was on the bill. I was only expecting two bands for my $12, but when we got there I saw that a band from Baltimore called Curse would be opening the show. They were an unexpected surprise. The two of them came out , just drums and keyboards, and ripped through a set that was heavier than I thought possible for just drums and keyboards. Metal minus guitars. Logan was kind enough to talk to me for a few minutes later in the evening and even sign their CD for me. Also, they played a show in a cave. That's about as metal as you can get. I asked Logan and Jane a few questions and here's what they had to say:
You can listen to their record while you read!
The Drawer: How did you guys meet and how long have you been playing in bands?
Jane: Baltimore is such a close knit scene, we just knew each other from putting on and playing shows. Logan and I started dating in the fall of 2011, and started playing music together soon after. Both of us have been in bands since our early teens, so for me, that’s more than half my life now.
The Drawer: So, how long have you guys been playing together?
Jane: We’ve been playing together since November 2011. We wanted to see how it worked if we played music together, so we rented a lodge in Rhode Island--no running water, tons of animal heads everywhere, the whole bit--brought up all our instruments, and wrote our first song, which was a good thing, because I’d already booked us on a fest in Miami in February. We spent the next few months in high gear-we booked
a tour to Miami and back and had a demo and, you know, songs and a set, by the time we left.
The Drawer: What's the song writing process like for Curse, or maybe the better question would be what instrument do you write most of you stuff on?
J: We usually start with a sequence-both electronic drums and synthesizers. Sometimes I start this and sometimes Logan starts this, but Logan more often than me. Then Logan writes his synth and drum parts, and then we work of the bass line on the Juno, and then we do vocals last. The bones really start on the computer though.
The Drawer: What are some of your favorite local acts?
Jane: There’s a lot of great bands in Baltimore! There’s an awesome atmospheric black metal band called Barbelith that are really heavy but super ethereal. There’s also this bizarre and amazing band called Baklavaa that are sort of an updated emo violence band--sort of like Usurp Synapse or Jerome’s Dream if the songs were long and went a lot of weird places.
The Drawer: How is the heavy music scene in Baltimore, and do you feel like you fit in, do you want to fit in?
J: Baltimore has a very vibrant weird music scene, and I think we benefit from that. Some scenes seem to have a lot of trouble with heavy music that doesn’t follow a specific formula, but Baltimore’s used to seeing people try out new ideas and new configurations. It’s great to be part of a scene like that. Sometimes, a scene means a lot of samey things, or people just imitating one or two bands, and that happens a little here, but mostly Baltimore is full of interesting musicians trying interesting things. It’s a magnet for musicians, because it’s cheap, there’s a lot of places to play and community support, and it’s close to other bigger cities if you want to tour.
The Drawer: What kind of press, if any are you getting down there?
J: We have one major alternative weekly, the Citypaper, and they’ve been really good to us from the start and have been really nice about covering the things we do. One of the writers picked up our demo from the True Vine (one of our favorite Baltimore record stores) when we’d only been a band for about 2 months, and they’ve covered most of what we do ever since.
The Drawer: When I saw you guys opening for Marriages and Deafheaven I was pretty surprised at how heavy just drums and a keyboard could sound. How did you guys decided to perform as a two piece? Have you considered bringing in someone to play guitar for the live shows?
Jane: Being a two piece is just an easy way to do a band. Just having 2 people means it's easy to have the same goals, coordinate schedules, etc, but you still have a collaborator to bounce ideas off of and inspire you and do half the work and pay for half the van repairs and so on.
As far as adding a guitar player live, we like making something really heavy without guitars. We really believe in, you know, making it new, and playing metal with no guitars means you're already different from most bands.
The Drawer: Where did you come up with the idea to screen print your logo on sort of thrift store clothes? That's a pretty cool idea.
Jane: It just seemed like a way to expand the appeal of the things we make. It makes the merch more interactive, because you get to dig through this big suitcase of clothes and you come up with something one of a kind, that no one else has. It also means hopefully there is something for everyone, or at least a chance to include more people than those who like medium through XL black shirts. Or, maybe you don’t like band shirts at all, but you’re cool with band leggings. I screen all our shirts myself in the basement, and making some wacky ones makes it less monotonous. Plus, the shirts are cheap, and they’re fun to shop for!
The Drawer: Do you have a way of describing how Curse sounds? It's certainly heavy, but there are also sort of dancey parts thrown in there on the keyboard.
J: We’ve both been in heavy and weird bands for a long time, but also listen to a lot of pop music, as well as a lot of less poppy electronic music. This band is sort of a combination of those interests. People have called us coldwave doom, which I thought was pretty accurate.
The Drawer: You have a limited CD-R album out now that's also available on digitally on bandcamp. I think the art/packaging and homemade aspect of your CD-R is great. How do you feel about physical media vs digital? Personally I like to have something tangible.
J: I think both are valuable. I love having a beautiful object I can hold in my hands, and I love searching through record stores for something rare or special. However, I think it’s a wonderful thing that we live in a world with this other, easier option, and a format that’s so easy to share. I grew up finding out about music through zines and record stores and shows, and I think that’s a valuable, but I grew up in a big city with lots of opportunities to find out about music. It seems like everything is so much more democratic now. A kid who grows up in a tiny isolated town, or doesn’t have any disposable income for the record store has access to a lot more music than they used to.
The Drawer: What has influenced what you guys are doing, and what stuff are you listening to now?
J: I’ve been in heavy bands since I was 14, and the main thing that’s influenced me has probably been the other people I’ve played with, and other bands those bands have toured with, and things like that.Lately, I’ve been listening to Master, We Perish by the Body, the Portland band Fist Fite, my friend Andy pointed me towards this amazing Norwegian black metal band Kvist, and I’m having sort of a PJ Harvey moment, and lots of pop music from your David Guettas to your Taylor Swifts.
The Drawer: What the best show you've ever played?
J: We’ve played a lot of really good shows and really bad shows, but Ithink one of the all time weirdest I’ve ever played was last year in Rapid City. I texted a friend of mine a few days before we were planning on taking a day off there and asked her if she still had her vintage store, and if she wanted to hang out. She wrote me back with, “Yeah, I still have the store, I own a cave now, and we can go in it,and if you wanna get lunch I would totally be free to do that!” When I asked her to back up and explain what the hell she meant by “I own a cave and we can go in it” she simply informed me that she has shows in the cave too, and we should play there. Of course, I said yes, and she sent me the address - on Nameless Cave Road. I still had no idea what she meant when she said she owned a cave. When we got to Nameless Cave Road, there were billboards for a now defunct attraction called Crystal Cave. Turns out she had bought a tourist trap: an 1100 foot long cave covered with quartz crystals, plus a gift shop, petrified garden, and some teepees. She’s in the process of building a house above it. The cave itself is incredible: It has a ton of rooms, and 2little waterfalls, and a human skull in it, which Natasha nonchalantly explained had belonged to an explorer who died in there. We played in the gift shop at the mouth of the cave. It was totally awesome.
The Drawer: What did you think of Deafheaven?
Jane: I loved their set, and they were really nice guys. A lot of times you play with a bigger band like that and they don’t watch your set and they don’t talk to you, which I’m not offended by, it’s just normal. They were really outgoing and introduced themselves right away and watched our set and answered all sorts of dumb questions from us and generally were just shockingly nice.
The Drawer: If you could play with anyone, anyone, in a dream tour, who would it be?
J: We have tickets to see Ke$ha in August. It’d be ideal if we could finish out the tour with her.
There you have it. Curse are currently putting together a fall tour and hope to have a new record ready to go by then. If you get a chance check these guys out. You can get their record right here.
You can also find their demo on bandcamp as a Name Your Own Price download.
I'd suggest shelling out the cash for a copy of their cd-r if you like what you hear. The art is extremely well done, printed on a heavy silver and black cardstock and there's a lyric sheet/poster included.