Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nude pyrotechnics: An Interview with Bottle Up and Go

Bottle Up and Go is a blues-rock duo out of Brooklyn, composed of recent Wesleyan grads, Keenan Mitchell and Fareed Sajan. Known for a rollicking sound and raucous gigs, the band has been praised by the Washington City Paper for “its half-naked bombast, epileptic gyrations, and fuzzed-out, stomp-box howling.” Intersections talked to vocalist and guitarist Keenan Mitchell by phone (incidentally, at 1 am while he was in a bubble bath) in anticipation of BU&G’s performance tonight at Terrace F. Club.

Q: How would you describe your music? Any specific influences?

A: We’re named after a Leadbelly song. Blues hollers, prison gang songs – I’d describe us as a blues band. Our music is really loud.

Q: Jersey Beat has described you guys as “neanderthalic, barbaric and down-right unrestrained rock ‘n’ roll.” What do you make of that? Backhanded compliment or welcome praise?

A: I think barbaric is a compliment. I’m “neanderthalic”? That’s ok with me; I think that’s accurate. Our music’s pretty stripped down, exceedingly simple. And rock, yes, we are also a rock ‘n’ roll band.

Q: You guys met at Wesleyan. Beyond that, how’d you guys get started?

A: We lived on the same hall so I met Fareed about an hour into my first day at school. I saw that he was moving in a drum set, and I said, “Hey we should set that up and maybe we could jam today,” and we worked out a song or two that day. So we started a band about the first moment we met.

Q: Do you have any advice for fledgling college bands?

Make ’em dance. Be louder.

Q: What’s your writing process like?

A: I write the guitar and the vocals and then I bring it to Fareed, and Fareed plays whatever he wants, and then we have a song. I usually start with one little piece of a guitar or a single phrase that I picked up. Sometimes I look at the Bible and grab a phrase out of there and then expand that into a full song. I never tell Fareed what to play. We all basically write our own parts.

Q: Your music’s very upbeat, but your lyrics seem sort of preoccupied with death? Is there a story behind this morbid interest?

A: I read a lot about death and bringers of death. I’ve also come close to death a few times. One near-death experience is good for a few songs.

Q: Brooklyn seems like such an exciting place to be making music right now. How do you guys find the local scene?

A: All of our friends are in famous bands, everybody we went to school with. It’s fun. Every single night I can go out and see one of my friends play an amazing show. We’re really living the dream here. You can start a band, and you can just be famous. Everyone I know is doing it – seems pretty easy.

Q: Are there any new bands you’d really recommend?

A: Keepaway, Pony Castles, Bear Hands, Wild Yaks (they’re exquisite; you’ll like them if you like our music), The Shining Twins.

Q: If you could tour with any band out there right now, who would it be?

A: Wild Yaks.

Q: What’s your most memorable performance experience?

One time we were playing some sort of party on the outskirts of Brooklyn in an abandoned warehouse space, and they were giving away free whisky. We’d also brought our own liter of whisky to split before the show. I lost my [guitar] slide so I made a slide out of a broken bottle, and at some point, I looked down at the set list to see what song was next, and drops of blood kept falling . And I looked up, as if maybe blood would be falling from the ceiling. That was not the case; I realized it was falling out of my face. At some point early the set, I guess, I sliced my cheek open with the broken bottle that I was using to play. I still have a big scar from that. A bloody show - it was gnarly. I threw up before I got on stage, and then I fell down at the end. It was a memorable performance in pictures, but I don’t actually remember playing the show per se.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m working on getting Fareed to move back to New York [He lives in Allentown, PA]. That’s one of my primary projects. We just recorded a couple new downloads that are just me and the saxophonist. We’ve got some new songs to record. Hopefully we’ll have a new EP in the next little bit.

Q: If you were having a dinner party and could invite three people –dead or alive, fictional or real – who would they be?

A: Dead: Leadbelly

Fictional: Jesus

Real: My girlfriend

Q: What can we expect from the show?

A: I’m going scream a lot, going to climb on stuff. I’m going to probably fall down on the floor a lot. Going to do a lot drinking, before and after the show. I’m going to break my own equipment. (I might break something of theirs, I don’t even know.) Hopefully I’ll get to fight with somebody. We’re also just going to play heartbreakingly beautiful songs and bring a lot of girls in the front to tears. A lot of nudity. Pyrotechnics. Some witty and glib little banter. It’s going to be fucking wild! I hope everybody comes.

Bottle Up and Go will be playing tonight at Terrace Club at midnight.

Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Cristina Luzarraga '11

No comments: