MV & EE are a homegrown, down home and homey-sounding duo from Brattleboro, Vermont. They have been making music for many years, most recently on Ecstatic Peace!, and are in a constant revelatory process- rotating members, guests, tours and various albums, one-offs, EPs and cassette collection releases keep them transient. But that makes sense with the sound of the band, and the collective unconscious that they’ve unconsciously (or not) nurtured.
MV & EE sometimes release music with The Golden Road and sometimes with The Bummer Road, but MV (Matt Valentine) and EE (Erika Elder) are the constants. They discuss with me sound, inspiration, music and touring, and what it’s like to be a musician.
Q. When did you first start playing together, and how did the sound happen and then evolve?
MV. we started jamming in 1999 when we established our own cottage label “the child of microtones terran library of exploratory music” or “child of microtones”/C.O.M. as most people call it. we would explore sound worlds together around the house and play blues songs. we would also sing together a lot with erika’s family around the piano during the holidays.
EE. Matt and I first started playing together in 1999. Tower Recordings was still active then and I started out doing projections for a few of their shows. When people would come ’round the house we all would play as part of the social scene. I was into Alan Sondheim’s Ritual All 7-70 record and Siloah and communal sounding stuff with lots of great little detail – so that happened really naturally.
Then I started accompanying MV at shows. He would play his finger-style guitar raga pieces and I played recorder, zither, percussion and space whisper.
We always played blues and old time ditties and they worked themselves in, but balanced with original songs. We started to realize that some of the most interesting sounds required electricity…
Q. You play with you two as staple members, and then with a revolving cast of other characters, why?
MV. at the core it is just us, it is very much a duo exchange, it always has been…but we enjoy playing with kindred pilots. we are fortunate to have been able to sustain playing with so many great musicians/thinkers. it just seems most natural this way for us depending on the songs and the most practical based on everyone’s lifestyle.
EE…we live together and it’s only natural to work as a duo lots of the time. But we have always been fortunate to know so many incredible musicians, it would be crazy not to play with them. It’s an extension of being social. The people we play with are our friends. We go hiking, we cook dinner, we make records!
Q. How do you write songs?
MV. there is no one set way…i try to stay open.
EE. MV mostly “writes” the songs. I write my own parts for them by playing along, and help edit or arrange sometimes – especially if it’s a song I’ll be singing. And when we play with other people the songs change again from their spirits being in there.
Q. What’s the Brattleboro scene like? Or do you consider yourselves a part of the Western, Mass anti-folk/noise scene?
MV. the brattleboro scene is yer typical rural archipelago, albeit with a centrifuge.
EE. Our scene, like our band, is not tied to one place. Brattleboro is beautiful, and the number of “local” minds we love and respect is pretty astonishing. Some of those heads live in VT, some in Mass, and seeing them regularly is a real thrill. We also plant our tendrils in the soil of NYC, Toronto, Philadelphia, Nashville, and several towns in England and Texas.
Q. Where do you get inspiration for your music?
MV. nature, pathways to unknown worlds, known trails
Q. What do you mean you get inspiration from “known trails”?
MV. rivers, sunsets, comets, contrails. afterglow of the great noise and minimalists that have come before.
EE. There is a technique, lost to most, for getting into your “true mind” . Everything is stored there and you just have to figure out how to retrieve it…
We haven’t completely figured that out yet, so – we listen to records and watch neil young videos.
Q. It seems you are very influenced/inspired by your surroundings. Many artists are inspired by feelings. How do you use your inspiration to write songs?
MV. i try to feel all the intervals and talk back with everything i got, sometimes i try not to feel at all.
Q. You put out a lot of different albums, singles, limited editions, even cassette tapes, why? Does that enable you to try out different types of songs, production, etc.?
EE. Hell yeah.
MV. yeah, i reckon we’re lucky that way. it just seems to be the most natural/ ‘organic’ way for us to produce. we take care of our shit on the street, i suppose it is a form of composting.
Q. “You take care of your shit on the street.” Does that mean you clean up after yourself? Or that you handle your own business? How does that help you creatively?
MV. more like i’m on the corner all the time. see people there rather than the watercooler.
Q. What do you think about internet music culture, not putting out albums, just singles, and the rapid spread of mp3s?
EE. Mmmm, I understand the appeal, but I like record covers really a lot.
MV. if it ain’t stiff it ain’t worth a fuck…ha ha. that was the slogan of a late 70’s label called ‘stiff records’. singles are cool, but i’m definitely more involved with the real people full length weld.
Q. What have been some of your best memories as MV/EE?
EE. I always wanted a job where I could travel, but I never imagined I would also be able to meet all these right-on people all over the world doing it. Aside from the tiny every day miracles, I really like playing festivals. The two Terrastocks we’ve done were especially memorable – like family reunions.
MV. i like being out on the road, zuma (our dog) doing the merch trip. it’s all been a pretty fascinating ride. jams with our family band in toronto have been sweet times, as have been some groovy festivals – primavera, ATP curated by thurston, wickermania, endless gratitude.
Q. What is the family band in Toronto? Is that where you two are originally from?
MV. i meant our fellow skypilots up there, they are the golden road, but we also think of them as the “canada goose” wing. i LOVE playing with those dudes, doc dunn (pedal steel, drums, guitar) – he has another really cool project called ‘the transcendental rodeo’ as well as some killer solo art editions…and mike ‘muskox’ smith, bass. they both sing and dance. really.
Q. You have a box of 12 cassettes coming out soon, and a single too. Are these on different labels? How do you work with so many different people?
EE. This is MV’s day job. It’s lots of work for sure, but it’s great that all these people are into the music.
MV. yeah, the 12 cassette box is on blackest rainbow, a UK based label outta sheffield. we’ve done two tapes with them in the past. a duo show from santa cruz called ‘catalytic dung’ and a trio show with willie lane from oklahoma city. the box is gonna be a spelunkers dream deep into our archive. great sound and a process which i was hands on thru the entire production. it took us a year to put together. the single is also a UK only venture, our second for the golden lab label based in whalley range.
Q. Do you have a full length coming out soon?
MV. ayup, it’s gonna be on ecstatic peace, LP/CD this fall. this one which is forthcoming is our 3rd for the label, 4th if you count the joint release with COM, ‘astral bleachers, big moment’.
Q. What is your upcoming full length on EP! going to be like? Can you give us any ideas?
MV. rural jammer, shade grown.
Q. Do you still play with J Mascis?
MV. yeah, as often as our schedules allow. he is playing guitar and some drums on one of the tapes in the blackest rainbow box and he plays on the next ecstatic peace record. all live in the studio love ins.
EE. J rules.
Q. What are you listening to now?
MV. today i was jamming willie lane’s new solo LP called “known quantity”, i was also riffing along to a group called “help yourself”, their album “beware the shadow”. erika and i were part of a compilation that was just released of early virtuoso recordings from the middle east…it’s a box set on LP and also on CD. the first half is a collection of all really beautiful 78’s and the second half contains responses from contemporary artists….we’re in the company of mick flower, richard bishop, paul metzger, micah blue smaldone, six organs…i was really psyched to be blasting that music today in the epic vermont sunset. here’s to brighter days.
Q. What other artists play with you and what other bands/artists are around you that you jam with, play shows with, etc.?
MV. i dig playing with willie lane, he has been a part of the family tree for awhile now, he just privately released a sweet LP called “known quantity” on his own label cord-art. jeremy earl from woods plays a lot on our forthcoming ecstatic peace album, his voice works really well with erika and mine kinda like vermont and good tie dyes. i also jam at least once a week with my good friend ron from sunburned hand of the man. y’know everyone from J to sloow tapes bart de paepe and all points in between if i’m lucky. we just did some shows on the last few tours with cursillistas from portland, ME…that dude is really on fire right now.
MV&EE with the Golden Road: “Susqeuhanna”
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MV&EE with the Golden Road: “Susquehanna”