by Rachel L.
Humility is one of the strongest characteristics I admire when a band proves they have it. Sometimes it seems a really and truly humble musician is hard to come by. Meet Kickball. This trio from Olympia/Portland keep it as modest as possible, sticking with friends instead of record execs, living rooms instead of stages, and good times rather than negativity. I caught up with drummer Lisa Schonberg to talk about their beginnings, the recent France/European tour, and how the band’s calendar is based around the farm’s.
Rachel (KEXP): How did you become a band?
Lisa (Kickball): I grew up in Staten Island, NY, Jacob grew up in Portland, Adam grew up in Arkansas. I moved to Olympia in 2000, Jacob and I were in a band, Vegan Seagull together, and Adam and I were in a band called the Strangers. Jacob and Adam were in a performance arts class together. I suggested to Jacob we should start playing our own songs, because Vegan Seagull was the other member’s songs. When we started, Jacob had written songs already and had them recorded on a 4-track alone. I came in and we started making parts over them. The songs before were really poppy and more simple than what we play now. As the band progressed, Jacob would start to write the songs alone and we’d create other parts. Now, we come up with ideas together at practice; essentially jam. After playing for so many years, we’ve been a band for six years, it has really evolved over the years.
R: The DIY life style seems really important to you and plays a role in the band.
L: For us it may not even be DIY, I think it’s become under that label. For us it’s very important to work with people we really care about and love, to stay with friends. There is a list of people in our CD insert who have influenced our music, and the friends who helped us out on tours. We’re working for our own network, releasing our albums. We’re very inspired by your friends.
R: Houseopolis is your own label, right?
L: Our last release, Everythingisamiraclenothingisamiracleeverythingis we put out ourselves and promoted it ourselves. Yeah, we’re not against another label, if the right one came along and we could relate to, we would totally go for it.
R: And you play primarily house shows?
L: Yeah, especially in the US tour. We also play a lot of smaller venues, like the Vera Project. We like the energy of houses and small spaces. We like the energy of hardwood floors, it sounds really good. We don’t really like playing on stages because we like to feed off the energy of the crowd. The stage creates a huge separation.
R: Have you had any bad experiences while touring around in houses?
(She starts to tell me stories about grungy venues, but then they all end positively with “But the show turned out really good!”)
Kickball at Plan 9 Video, Bloomington 7/2/07
R: Man, I can’t get any dirt out of you! I suppose the positivity plays into your ethics, though.
L: We always try to keep a level of intimacy and keep it fun! It seems when you show up for houses, there is level of excitement. It’s not as consistent from venues, where there are bookers whose jobs it is to put shows on. Sometimes when we’ve played bars they’ve turned out worse than house shows. We’re not against playing venues, but houses and smaller venues seem to work out better for us.
R: Tell me about the tour in France.
L: We actually visited twice last year, both times with Clara Clara. We had been wanting to tour in Europe for awhile, since we’ve been a band for six years. We found out about Clara Clara through friends, the two months of touring was pretty much a blind date. We shared a van and equipment, and essentially become best friends. There were quirky little things we had in common — we both liked to play on the floor instead of stages. All the amps were compatible with our sound. It really worked out well. There were some really amazing shows and made lots of new friends. For the second tour, for the first time ever, instead of playing it by ear, feeling out the crowd, we actually orchestrated a whole set with segues between songs. We played the same set almost throughout the tour. It was really fun to do that. The songs had repeated parts or a theme. Many of our compositions are created during tours. A lot of our ideas come up without talking to each other — we’ll try something new and know we all enjoyed them, repeating them at the next show.
R: When are you coming back up to Seattle?
L: We’re talking to some friends about having some shows in the next couple of months. Jacob is a farmer, I’m an entomologist. He was working at the Evergreen (State College) farm until recently; he started working on a small farm in Olympia with a friend. We’re going to play some shows in the Northwest and write new songs. We’re getting in the mode of practicing and writing new material.
R: What direction is your new material heading? I notice with the album ABCDEFGHIJKickball had strong influences of Modest Mouse and Built to Spill but the Everythingisa… you came out into your own.
L: I think it’s taking the Everythingisa… direction and pushing it even further. Definitely many of our songs evolve while on tour, but we spend so many hours in the basement working on songs. We spent four days in Anacortes, staying up late nights, coming up with new ideas, a lot of layers and overdubs to create new textures. That is where I see us really heading. We can’t really tour until the new harvest is over. Can’t tour until the squash comes up!