Luce Unplugged: Five Questions with the Band Paint Branch
February 4, 2014
Kick off your weekend with us! We are hosting another Luce Unplugged Community Showcase with the Washington City Paper this Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. Local bands The Walking Sticks and Paint Branch will perform and local distillery Bloomery Plantation Distillery will offer free tastings to visitors twenty-one and older. Both bands were featured in the City Paper Best D.C. music so expect great music—something we hope you already look forward to with this series.
John Davis, of Paint Branch, performed during the first year of the Luce Unplugged series. We caught up with him and band member, Chris Richards, to hear about what's happened since then.
Eye Level:John did a solo show at the museum in December 2011 and Chris jumped in on a few songs. Was that your first show as Paint Branch and what's happened since then?
John Davis: Although we weren't called Paint Branch yet, that was the first time that Chris and I played those new songs in public. I think it was still several months before we settled on a name and made the project more official. Since that show, though, we've done plenty. We recorded our first album, which is called "I Wanna Live" and we released it ourselves digitally in January 2013. That said, an LP version of the album is due out very soon via the Cricket Cemetery record label from here in D.C. Once we finished recording the album in 2012, we set about putting a band together so we can play full band shows. That's been our main focus over the past year and it's been really great getting to play the songs with a full band. We have Elmer Sharp on drums, Andy Goldman on bass and vocals, and Nick Anderson on guitar and piano. Chris and I are just getting started on writing a new album, which we hope we'll get to work on later in 2014.
EL: What’s the most enjoyable aspect of this new collaboration?
Chris Richards: Honestly, it's completely rejuvenated my friendship with John. We never fell out after the break-up of Q and Not U per se, but we definitely got busy doing other things. It feels great to have reconnected through this collaboration. We've never been closer or more honest with each other as musicians or as friends.
EL: John, you currently work as an archivist and have your Master’s in Library and Information Science. Do you think this is reflected at all in your music? Do you see any connection between the two?
JD: I think there are definite connections between my work as an archivist, along with my background in library science, and the ways in which my love for music manifest themselves, but I don't know much it connects to my actual creative process or musical output. As a music lover, some of my habits, like record and fanzine collecting, are linked to the same urges that pointed me toward library science. When it comes to writing music, though, I'm not trying to do anything other than express something in a way that feels right to me at the moment. I don't have an agenda to preserve any sort of sound or ethos, even if some production or songwriting touches are clearly influenced by music of the past. As a creative person, though, I hope to not work in service of anything other than who I am right now. So, there is some overlap but I think that, generally, I prefer to keep those parts of my life somewhat separate, at least from a creative standpoint.
EL:In the spirit of local art and music, where do you get your own inspiration in D.C.?
JD: The name of our group comes from a local inspiration. Paint Branch is a body of water the flows past various spots that we frequent. When we were having trouble coming up with a name for our band, I saw a sign indicating that I was near the Paint Branch and I thought, aside from being an evocative name that I like it, it could be good for the band, too. The D.C. area, overall, is a very inspiring place to live. There is always great music happening and many places to see it and perform it. The variety of types of music that come from here always pushes you to try to think of something different to do creatively. We're also lucky to live in a place where there are so many resources for visual arts, too. We have so much to choose from and to be excited about.
EL: We normally ask musicians to pick out an artwork to accompany their performance. What would you pick to accompany this performance and why?
JD: I chose Joseph Dankowski's Untitled (water, curb) photograph. I am interested in the flexibility of water, both practically and metaphorically. Water is life, but it can also be death. Water can be clear or it can be polluted, but it is still water. This picture, with its shadows and grime and filmy surface, is ominous, but the ambient light reflecting off the foul water also makes me think of those times where water might be cleansing, too, even at its own peril.
EL: In the fall, I read that you were working on new songs. Are you going to perform anything new on Friday?
CR: We're always working on new songs, so hopefully. I actually enjoy the sheer terror of trying to play new songs that I haven't quite gotten the hang of yet.