Live at CMJ: The Poison Control Center

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photo by Doron Gild

review and interview by Miriam Lamey
photos by Doron Gild

The dynamic Poison Control Center have been featured on NPR, played CMJ twice, will soon put out a split 7” with Apples and Stereo and shared a stage with bands like Rogue Wave, Of Montreal and The Thermals, to name but a few. Somehow, the Iowa natives, Patrick Fleming (guitar, vocals), Devin Frank (guitar, trumpet, vocals), Joseph Terry (bass, trumpet, vocals) and Donald Ephraim Curtis III (drums, sax, vocals) still found time to breathe and release their debut, A Collage of Impressions. Their music and performance go hand in hand; quirky, exciting, energetic and more than a little offbeat. The loud, confrontational “Don’t Go” showed the bands’ more subdued side (yes, it does exist) and Poison Control Center played a happily insane set, complete with somersaults from Devin, gravity defying leaps from Patrick and audience participation. The Poison Control center plays at O’Briens in Boston this evening, then return to New York for a couple of shows.

Before running off to Boston, The Poison Control Center paused to share their musical vision and from exactly where they pull their impressive energy.

Miriam: Your live performance was amazing. It was definitely quirky and exciting, so how do you feel this reflects your personalities?

Patrick: Well, it’s the polar opposite, I think. We’re four, really boring, quiet farm boys from Iowa. Although not necessarily farm boys but that’s the perception anyway.

Donald: I mean, we’re all ery excited about music and we love playing and I think we’re all kind of tired of bands that stand there and try and be like these stoic rock performers or something, but we just like to jump around and have fun.

Patrick: I’d rather be James Brown than…somebody who doesn’t jump around.

[laughter]

Donald: I’d rather be house of pain than…[laughs]

Miriam: Exactly. So where do you take your inspiration from when writing music?

Donald: I think everybody’s different. I don’t want to admit where mine are from, but…well, there’s too many songs that are all about love I mean, in the end, everything’s all about love and life and stuff but, I think trying to find stories and stuff else places, like I’m not interesting enough to have my own good stories, so I just find them elsewhere.

Miriam: Imaginative type things…or…

Donald: Yeah..I’d rather live in something else.

Patrick: It’s kind of weird for us because we all four are equal songwriters in the band: it’s kind of exciting when somebody else comes in with something that you want to get your hands on.

Miriam: So it’s a collaborative thing?

Patrick: Yeah

Donald: I don’t know where everybody else gets their stuff. It’s kind of personal, like, I don’t want to give away my secrets!

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Miriam: So I was reading your site and it said that you recorded your first album on analog tapes. Why did you make that decision and how did that change the sound? What were you going for?

Patrick: I think that all of us are fans of music that was recorded on tape

Miriam: Like what

Patrick: Well, I mean most of my favourite records are from the sixties or seventies and there’s just that particular sound about it and we have all grown up in the digital age where you can record a hundred tracks of tambourine, if you want, and so as far as creativity, it’s good for us where you have 16 tracks on this two inch tape and you have to get everything you want in that song opn those 16 tr5akcs.

Donald: Also, like, doing takes on a song, there’s a lot of times on the album that people don’t realize things happen that we didn’t intend to happen, like, this wasn’t perfect, but we liked it and it’s something that happened and it still sounds good. Sometimes there’s things that don’t sound good, but you can’t fix everything, you can’t put it through a voice tuner and stuff. It’s more real. We wanted to try and record an album that sounded like our live shows as much as possible. At home you can’t see us playing, so you have to get into that.

Patrick: We like having other elements like strings and horns and stuff like that so we tried to cram it all in on 16 tracks.

Joseph: Tape sounds really warm.

Patrick: And we got to record over several B-movies that never made it.

Miriam: What are you working on at the moment?

Patrick: Uh, staying friends [laughs]

Miriam: Well, musically, also!

Patrick: We’re all kind of split up across the country right now.

Donald: We’re all working on songs…we don’t ever have a chance to get together because with the album being out it’s all about playing live shows and stuff.

Patrick: So when we do get together, we’re not hanging out, we’re just playing shows, which is great, but I’m excited for the four-hour drive to Boston to sit with my buddies.

Miriam: I also read that you did a split release with Apples in Stereo.

Patrick: Well, it’s a 7”. It’s not out yet.

Joseph: We get asked about it a lot, and I feel bad because people are like, “when’s it coming out” and it keeps getting pushed back.

Miriam: Well, how did you decide to work with them?

Patrick: We got asked to be a part of the Singles Club…because we are fans of their music. I actually met Robert a long time ago at a Zombies show and offered to buy him a beer. And if you offer to buy Robert Schneider a beer, you are bound to be his best friend.

Joseph: It’s like rubbing a dog’s belly

[laugher]

Patrick: Well, more like rubbing a bald head instead…

[laughter]

Patrick: So I rub his head, buy him a beer, and the next thing I know I was at his wedding, you know, that type of thing. He’s produced some of my all-time favourite albums and he deserved that beer. So then when we got asked to do this with the record label put us with them and we were happy.

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Miriam: How does it feel to be playing CMJ for a third time?

Patrick: Awesome. Best yet. Well, I played last year by myself: they couldn’t come: but I still played at Poison Control Center. It gets better and better. The thing that stinks, though, is the first year, we got to see so many shows because, well, nobody cares about us, and well, we didn’t really desrve to be there. But now, we come and it’s kind of busy and we don’t get to experience the festival, I guess. IT was kinda nice last night to just go and sit with your friends and watch other bands. We’re all big music fans too, so the first year, we did a lot of going to showcases and seeing bands and stuff, and now it’s like, “well, I wish I could be seeing this.” Like, Thurston Moore’s doing an in-store at the Apple store and I have to go pick these guys up from the airport [laughs.}

Devin: Oh, I’m sorry!

[laughs]

Miriam: You’ve played with a lot of big names like Rogue Wave and the Thermals. Who have you most enjoyed playing with?

Patrick: That’s a good question!

Donald: I’d say Of Montreal for me, because they’re the ones who I could get into the show the most. That’s the one band I’d get up and dance to.

Patrick: We’ve been very lucky to open for a lot of our idols. Coming from Iowa, we’re a small enough band through there, and we used to book bands and just put us in the show. But we’ve gotten very lucky.

Joseph: Pylon. That was a dream for me.

Donald: Deerhoof was awesome.


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5 Comments

  1. ryan
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    “A Collage of Impressions” is the best release from a band that I have heard in the last 5 years. These are some of the best people that have ever written and recorded music.

  2. wendy
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    …then you must not listen to much ryan ;-)

    I saw this band the other night and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

  3. ryan
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    wendy, you should stick to you’re John Tesh concerts.

  4. Alison
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    This was great!

  5. Jeff
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    And why has Seattle not been inviting these guys to Bumbershoot? Oh wait, they had Fergie headline, I forgot.

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