Interview: Tremor Low
In March of this year, former Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy played a show at San Francisco’sMezzanine. During the show, a member of Oakland, Calif.-based band Tremor Low, attempted to throw a copy of its newest single, “Peter Murphy is Dead,” onto the stage. Unfortunately, the attempt failed.
Although it didn’t go according to plan, the band still hopes that Murphy will someday hear the song, the name of which is likely a play on the Bauhaus song, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” However, contrary to what the song name might suggest, the band doesn’t wish any ill to Mr. Murphy. Instead, they simply hope that when his time does come, they can take his place as the kings of goth-rock.
Tremor Low, a self-described post-punk new-wave band, has been in existence since early 2009, when three of the four members connected through Craigslist. Originally, just guitarist/lead singer Bellenger and drummer Fabian Paredes were members, but after a couple practices together, they both acknowledged the need for a bass player. Brian Grupé was the first bassist who auditioned, and all three immediately knew they had something special together.
Not long after its inception, the band also added Bellenger’s wife, Jen, to the mix.
“Originally I tried to play keyboards and guitar, and that was a really stupid idea,” Don said. “I think that lasted for two or three shows. And then we brought Jen in just to kind of fill in live.”
The arrangement worked well, and the keyboards rounded out the band’s sound, so Jen became a permanent member.
“Now all our songs are super synth-heavy,” Don said.
Although he had a handful of songs he’d written before the band formed, Don said the songwriting process now involves everyone.
“We still play those songs but we really re-tooled them once we got together,” he said. “[And] each [new] song kind of comes to life differently.”
Where, in the beginning, he and Grupé each used to write songs at home and then present them to the band, now the process is much more collaborative, with songs being written during practice.
“We don’t really jam much but we try to at least be constructive when we do,” Don said.
“Sometimes, we will switch instruments,” Grupé added, referencing himself and Don. “Just because we play really differently.”
And while Paredes stays behind the drumset, the other members agree he is the most vocal drummer they’ve ever worked with, because he’s not afraid to speak up about things he likes and dislikes.
While the band has been together for just beyond the two-year mark, it’s only in the past year that the musicianship of the band has stepped up a notch, with the members working hard to be more than a band that plays together for fun. However, each member lives for different moments.
“Everything has its place, so I enjoy the writing part of it and the show part,” Grupé said.“I don’t like always rehearsing for shows. That can be kind of strenuous because we’re just nit-picking.”
“I like when we first get a song together and it’s really exciting,” Don said, mentioning that two of these songs will be debuted at the band’s next show. “I just love playing them.”
The whole band loves to play shows, but practicing and writing songs can sometimes be frustrating to them. This is because the one thing the band members tend to disagree on is what’s more important in a song – the overall mood or the specific details.
“But that’s why we started recording ourselves,” Paredes said, explaining that Tremor Low records each practice and then listens to that recording together.
“That’s probably the most valuable thing we’ve done this year,” Don added.
Listening to practices together allows the members to hear the music outside of themselves, and make decisions on the direction of a particular song. Meanwhile, the input of each person is considered equally.
“This is definitely more of a democracy,” Jen said. “Nobody’s afraid to share [his or her] opinion and I think that helps the creative process in writing the songs and making them sound good. The songs don’t all sound the same.”
To date, Tremor Low has one seven-song self-recorded release, “The Lead Balloon EP,” to its name.
The songs themselves span the entire tenure of the group, with some being the first demos recorded, while others are a more recent representation of the band’s sound.
“It’s kind of all over the place,” Don said. “[But] it was such an effort, such a labor.”
This labor is constitutive to what the entire Tremor Low philosophy is, which is something that transcends simply being in a band with other people.
“We hang out when we’re not playing,” Jen said, of the group’s close-knit relationship. “It’s just become part of our lives.”
Tremor Low plays Café du Nord tomorrow night with Stripmall Architecture/Halou and Excuses for Skipping. The show begins at 9 p.m., tickets are $12, and the show is 21+.