interview by RJ Cubarrubia
photos by Christopher Nelson
Portland DIY art-rockers Point Juncture, WA are in the middle of a pretty wild time. Since joining Mt. Fuji Records early this year for their third release, Heart to Elk, the group has also recently announced a national tour with fellow Portland band The Thermals. New label, new album, and a national tour with Hutch and Kathy? Wow, how’s that for an eventful two months? With plenty to talk about, I sat down with the group after their KEXP in-studio on February 19, where we celebrated the DIY aesthetic and talked about their new label and album, their upcoming tour, and how 1/4th of Pt. Juncture and I spent our childhood years in the same Central Florida scene.
You guys are from Portland, but you have a lot of love out here in Seattle. How long have you guys been playing and how often do you come visit us here?
Victor [keyboards, vocals, trumpet]: We’ve been playing for almost 5 years and we just somehow made really amazing friends here in Seattle.
Skyler [drums, guitar, bass, vibraphone]: It all started with the Velella Velella connection; it was the real beginning right there. We met Jeremy Hadley, he was booking for us, and we went on tour with Velella Velella, his band. Of course, on a long tour, you either end up hating a band or falling completely head over heels in love. Luckily, it was head over heels in love and that’s pretty much what kept us coming up here and opened up the freeways.
You’ve been around for five years, so Heart to Elk is not your first album.
Amanda [drums, vocals]: It’s our third.
But it’s a re-release?
Victor: Well, it’s our first on Mt. Fuji.
How’d you guys get set up with Mike [Jaworski] from Mt. Fuji?
Victor: Well, we finished the record and we self-released the other two and we were sort of happy doing that but we were giving out copies to our Seattle friends to try and get people excited. Mike works at the Sunset [Tavern] where we play so we gave him a copy and he was excited about it and he’s a really great guy so we got him involved.
Yeah, talking to you guys before the in-studio, we talked about Minor Threat and Dischord and their DIY ethic towards their music, something that Mike and Mt. Fuji definitely have. Is that something you guys really enjoy and has it been to your benefit?
Skyler: It’s really important.
Wilson [guitar]: The whole thing started, like our last release, Mama Auto Boss, especially. Both the previous releases, Mama Auto Boss and Jefferson Pony, were done all with like, spray-painted everything; we had aluminum pressed CDs and we just spray-painted them. It was Victor sitting around with a gas mask on.
Skyler: They looked really nice, though!
Wilson: Yeah, I thought they looked beautiful. Mama Auto Boss especially looked really good and it’s like this eight part spray-paint process where it’s just crazy.
Victor: It really puts the “Do” in “Do-It-Yourself.”
That makes it look way more kick ass than something normally produced, anyways.
Victor: Yeah, jewel cases end up looking kind of disposable, especially since CDs are kind of now a disposable temporary medium.
Wilson: Yeah, you really need to make an artifact.
Victor: Stephen Malkmus said it’s the nicest wedding invitation he’s ever seen.
I definitely feel you on that. You guys try to make an effort in all forms of presentation. CD’s these days, it’s like, someone gets them, puts it in the computer, and never touches it again, right?
Sklyer: Yeah, we’re all super interested in production and engineering and stuff like that so it’s hard for it to be such a hands on approach, not even just writing the songs, but then working so hard to create them or get them down to tape or hard drive and put it in a jewel case that’ll get thrown away on a CD. We’re going to want you to feel bad for throwing this away! Then the vinyl, of course, is just a dream come true.
Victor: The really fun part of being in a band and putting yourself out there is getting to do really cool things like screenprinted posters, t-shirts. That stuff, that’s what the label should be all about in my mind, like the fun ways of getting your name out there and Michael totally understands that.
That’s really cool, I think part of becoming a complete artist is beyond simply music and it’s cool you guys take that approach, especially listening to your music itself. What are some of your influences? Listening to the new album, I can’t really peg you guys as any type of music.
Wilson: Thanks for saying that!
Sklyer: We like a lot of really drone-y stuff and repetitive stuff and then we also love the immediacy of a Steely Dan record, just all over the place but melodically interesting. I can hear it in Amanda’s chords all the time, especially now that I’m a lot more into Steely Dan. I’m like, “Oh, that’s what she was doing!”
Amanda: It’s been our goal throughout the years to get Skyler into Steely Dan and it’s taken him this long but he’s good now.
Skyler: Yeah, and the aesthetics and sound of bands like Sonic Youth.
Victor: Yo La Tengo.
Skyler: Just that rich, noisy guitar over drone-y melodies. It’s just stuff that makes us feel good. But ultimately, you don’t really think about it until after the song’s written; those influences sneak up on you.
Wilson: We got back from tour, we were on tour with a band from Portland called A Weather, a band that we love, and we had been listening to them and listening to them, over and over, fantastic album.
Amanda: We engineered a song that was supposed to be like them!
Skyler: We wrote a Velella Velella song too!
Wilson: But at the same time, when you hear them, they don’t really end up sounding like those bands at all. It’s kind of neat, I think they take on our interpretation of them.
Skyler: We’re trying to sound like them but just messing it up but it ends up sounding like us.
It really seems like you take that DIY aesthetic to heart, it’s really cool. Do you guys have any other projects?
Victor: The packaging is a lot of the visual art stuff that we do but we’re also involved in a lot of different music projects.
Skyler: I spend a lot of time engineering and recording stuff and it’s usually just me, with a band, and it’s artistic to me because it’s unprofessional. Like, I’m very unprofessional and I get crazy at times but the records at the end, I’m really proud of what they sound like. But it’s definitely like an art experiment. All the stuff I’m involved in, that we’re all involved in, are kind of art experiments.
Wilson: Well, the three of you are ubiquitously attached to the music scene too, like all of you… Paul has played on Decemberists records, Skyler’s done Horsefeathers, Blind Pilot, Talkdemonic and Amanda has done a lot of back-up vocals and stuff and in that same way, Portland is a sort of incestuous community artistically in that everybody helps each out and the bands really support each other and the three of them especially are really well known around town.
Victor: Yeah, that part of moving to Portland has been so inspiring in that you don’t feel like you’ve got your scene or the thing that you do that you’re known for.
Wilson: Yeah, like, you’re in the punk scene or whatever.
Skyler: Basically in Portland, if you’re a jerk, you better be drunk, because everybody gets along. And there’s not much room for attitudes and egos, I find, as far as I know, and that’s really different from growing up in Florida; I was born in Portland then moved to Florida.
I was born and grew up in Florida, in Orlando!
Skyler: No way! I’m from Lake Mary!
No way! I’m from Winter Park, actually.
Skyler: No way! Yeah, dude, Park Ave CDs! That’s where I got records! So you know! You know all about it!
Yeah, Park Ave was like my Easy Street! It’s where I hung out.
Skyler: Yeah! Oh man, that’s crazy. So yeah, that’s where I never felt like I belonged. The hardcore kids didn’t want me because I wasn’t hardcore enough, the punk kids thought I was too emo, the emo kids didn’t want me because I was too experimental.
I totally know where you’re coming from, that’s partly why I’m here!
It’s funny how you mention Portland has an incestuous scene and that’s something you could say about Omaha or Toronto and those places have been great.
Wilson: And even using incestuous, my mistake, I don’t even like using that word to describe something.
Skyler: It’s like a family.
Wilson: And that’s pretty dirty.
Yeah, like a fucked up family instead of a good one.
Wilson: Yeah! And it’s a really great family.
Victor: In the end, it comes down to people doing what they love instead of trying to make a career out of it; they’re just really passionate about it and it shows in the things that they do. We’ve had great experiences with sound engineers because we’re trying to figure out how to do this on our own and make our own records. With people being so free with their time and knowledge, coming over, looking at our gear, and giving us advice, whereas in other towns it seems like people would be more guarded in their passions and they want to keep their sound.
Wilson: Their identities are a little more wrapped up in it?
Yeah, we definitely see that love; you guys are about to go on tour with The Thermals and that’s going to be really big and really fun, especially since it’s a national tour, right?
Wilson: Yeah, it’s going to be big for them, too.
Victor: The fact that they want to take a couple of Portland bands on tour with them is amazing and they could just as easily just play with local bands or do whatever they wanted. It’s really cool.
Yeah, that close community is definitely something I’ve found out here in the Northwest. Thanks you guys!
Wilson: Yeah, it’s a really good thing. Thank you.
Victor: No problem, see you at the show tomorrow night.
Point Juncture, WA’s latest album, Heart to Elk, is out now on Mt. Fuji Records. Their tour with The Thermals and Shaky Hands! begins April 22nd in Boise, ID. You can catch them live at Sasquatch Music Festival on May 24th. For more information visit their website and MySpace page.