Band Booking: Butchers & Bakers on Noise-Pop and Russell Hoban

Butchers & Bakers
Butchers & Bakers
Earlier this year, we published “Tiny Heel,” a story written by Rebecca Keith. Keith is also the singer and keyboard player of Butchers & Bakers, whose latest 7″ ably balances pop hooks with noisier elements. I caught up with Keith and guitarist Eli Jacobowitz via email to discuss songs about brunch, literary influences, and what the future holds for this band.
You alluded to recording on your Facebook page — is this for an LP? More singles? Some combination of the two?
Yes, we’re working towards a full length, or working towards working towards one– we plan to track it all ourselves this time if we can get the drums to sound decent, maybe even good, in our practice space. So we’re in both a writing and recording mode and hibernating from shows until February 6 at Cameo (plug!).
“Brunch” took its cue from aspects of city life that frustrate you — is this going to be a continuing motif on your newer songs?
“Brunch” was similar to how I write lyrics a lot, in that I didn’t know what I was writing about until it was done and I stepped back and looked at it. Lyrics come from a gut place for me, although the latest songs we’ve written have been a bit more thematic and yes, definitely gripe-y, couched in a slightly poppy delivery. It’s not like I set out to write “song about X” but a few lines came to me and they unfolded from there. One of the new one deals with the struggle between “job” and “work,” like being Career Barbie versus Artistic Barbie and how Career Barbie has to deal with office politics and eating Pret a Manger at your desk a lot. But it’s also about celebrating–it’s not a total downer. Our other latest song, “Dracula School Night” will hopefully start some serious indie rock beef. It was a lot of fun to write and so far has been fun to perform.

The two songs on the single balance noisier elements with poppier ones. How much of that is instinctive, and how much of that emerges over time? 
Eli Jacobowitz: I’d say we do very little conscious crafting of songs to sound a certain way, and more just play what we like.
Rebecca Keith: Ditto, but our songs have strangely been getting poppier… though recent jams that are in a nebulous state are sludgy psych, but maybe that’s because they’re half-written. Since we sell nothing, though, I think we could get all the way to autotune without selling out. Each song seems to come about instinctively and then we shape the parts, but I don’t think we try to push the songs to be something different from their original impulses. But the general direction of all the new songs seems like an subconscious nudge maybe to make music that you can almost almost dance to?

You referenced Russell Hoban in your interview with Impose; has there been a literary influence on any of your other songs?

Big ups to The Mouse and His Child. One of our old songs, “To Leave the Room,” was a riff on an Olena Kalytiak Davis poem and another one took all its lyrics from an article from the New York Times in the 1800s about a murder on the street where I grew up. But I don’t think anything else uses blatant literary influences–quite possibly I’m unwittingly stealing from people all over though.

What are you reading these days?
I just finished a book of stories, This is Not Your City by Caitlin Horrocks–some really great characters. Just started The Good Lord Bird finally, by James McBride and re-started Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars. I’m looking forward to sitting down with the newish Rebecca Solnit and Andre Dubus III books soon.
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