Friday, August 5, 2011

Back Pockets return with Fast Cloud Slow Cloud

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2011 at 9:34 AM

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  • Photo by Mike Germon
Hot on the heels of SXSW last march, Back Pockets’ leading lady Emily Kempf hastily announced the dissolution of her band before retracting her statement in less than 24 hours. Now, six months later and without much fanfare, Kempf has leaked a new and totally charged album titled Fast Cloud Slow Cloud, and it's here more than a week ahead of its scheduled August 13 release date.

We caught up in the pre-dawn hours of Fri., Aug. 5 to discuss the album.

Chad Radford: Your new record showed up on your Bandcamp page [last night], called Fast Cloud Slow Cloud.
Emily Kempf: Yay!
CR: Is there some sort of meaning behind the title?
EK: I guess it’s an inside thing between me and one of my close friends.
CR: Go on…
EK: About three years ago I passed a notebook around a crowded porch of people. At the top of the page I wrote “WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?” People wrote all sorts of stuff, some goofy, some serious. This friend of mine wrote "fast clouds and slow clouds,” along with the band Can. They’re one of my favorite bands ever so I sought him out after the notebook got back to me. I didn’t know most of the people that had written in it. We became close friends after that, basically because of a shared love of Can. He’s older than me by like a decade and knows about all sorts of awesome weirdo music. He turned me on to Nina Hagen, the Residents, 13 Floor Elevators…
CR: Tell me about the record, it sounds like you're pretty ramped-up.
EK: Well there are some oldies on there. As usual we’ve repeated some songs, but they’re all faster now. There are newbies too, “Break up” being my fave, followed closely by “So Lovely” — our one weirdo club song is quickly becoming a tradition. I kept out all of the weirdo phone calls and any low-fi songs, except for the animal noises at the end.
CR: Who recorded it?
EK: We recorded and mixed it all ourselves. It took exactly a month. Adam Bruneau, Jared Pepper, myself and Russell Owens all came together with our microphones and set up for two nights in Jared's living room. Then me and Adam mixed during every available free moment that we had for three or four weeks straight until we left for tour from July 22 to August 3.

CR: Who is in the band now?
EK: Me (keys/banjo/vocals), Adam (bass), Lam Nguyen (violin), Haley Murphy (vocals), Che Smith (vocals), Russell (guitar), Jared Pepper (drums), David Dean (trombone). Then there’s the theater support: Orion Crook, Trevor Howell, Che Smith, Mon Ellis, Kris Pilcher, Stephanie Pharr and Lucky Polavarapu.
CR: All of those people are in the band? I thought you part of going on hiatus after SXSW had something to with a need to downsize?

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EK: Well, we work as a four-piece too; Jared, Russ, Adam and me. That’s the super core group. On the last tour a bunch of people had to leave early, and we finished the last three shows as a four-piece. I’m not dependent on like 13 people now, but they do exist. Also, everyone who's in the band now are people who have either been in the band forever and ever and stuck around through the dark times, or they’re newbies who are super professional — I guess that’s a good way to describe them. They all want to play and travel more than anything else, and they show up on time. It’s super tight. The new drummer is the youngest, but he is very pro. At first I thought he was just really unhappy or something, but he showed up, awaited orders and played well, then left. He has softened up a bunch now. We call him the merman. He has really long hair.
CR: What did you want to accomplish with this album?
EK: At first I was going to make a “fuck you” album but I was advised not to do that. So then I just made an album as best as I damn well could using all of the pain from the breakup and the almost demise of the thing that brought me the most happiness, the Back Pockets. I’ve gained a lot of strength over the past five months or so. The album holds some of that fire, but the live show holds way more of it.
CR: Do you mean your personal break up with Billy Mitchell who had been part of the group?
EK: Yeah, breaking up with Billy. Then the almost death of the Back Pockets. I have gotten way more on fire about all of it — it’s almost sickening. “Break Up Song” and “So Lovely” show the arc of total sad to total fun. I decided to leak it onto the Internet, but the album will be officially released next Saturday, August 13, complete with hand-drawn packaging and all. And we have new T-shirts and stickers that a fan made for us in Austin, TX!
CR: Are you putting it out yourself?
EK: Yes, I’m doing it all.
CR: Do you use a label name?
EK: Hah no! That never occurred to me… Sometimes we call Adam’s room "God’s Room Records" when we are mixing there — his cat’s name is God. Adam is a sweet-ass mixer. He’s really really talented and spent countless hours mixing with me, and without me. Countless. Travis Thatcher mastered it though… This is our second album mixing together, we work well together and we went to Happy Donuts a lot.
CR: What's your favorite thing to get at Happy Donuts?
EK: Coffee. Hah! Boring right?
CR: No. Their coffee there isn’t too bad. Do you get regular coffee or iced coffee?
EK: Regular, always. All summer long baby! I feel like iced coffee is some how less coffee because of the ice cubes, and I need all of my caffeine. I love that weird sugar bowl thing on the mat. They mix all the coffee with that on the mat. It’s just weird to me for some reason. You would never see that at Starbucks…
CR: Do you ever get donuts there?
EK: Late at night sometimes. Darryl is the best; he hooks it up.
CR: What kind of donuts do you like to get?
EK: I guess the ones with cream inside, or the strawberry ones with sprinkles. Those are usually what I go for… Adam gets egg ‘n cheese on a bagel, I think.
CR: Those donuts looks so good, but I don’t eat them because they’re bad for me.
EK: Donuts are so bad for us! Except for when it’s late at night, after a show.

Fast Cloud Slow Cloud will be released Sat., Aug. 13 at the Living Walls show at the Goat Farm. 1200 Foster St.

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