West Coast Reversal: Introflirt Interviews Vibrissae

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Photo Credit: Emma Bell

Band to Band Icebreaker Part II: Introflirt Interviews Vibrissae

Two west coast bands – namely Introflirt from Oakland, California and Vibrissae from Portland, Oregon – have come together for a two-part interview series – where members of one band interview the other. Although the music differs greatly between the two projects, Introflirt & Vibrissae share a love of mid-century aesthetics, ’60s lounge music, and the same coast of the United States.

Introflirt recently spoke with Aaron and Emma of Vibrissae and discussed the trajectory of the Portland-based project.

This is part two of a two-part series. Last time around, we started off with Vibrissae interviewing Ben Benjamin and Vafa from Introflirt.

Introflirt: Your name gets stuck in our heads. It’s so rad. How did you happen upon it?

Vibrissae: We started off with the name ‘Microdotter’ when we thought we were going to head down a different path, musically (Broadcast & 60s soundtracks). When it became clear that we would move in a different direction – for now, at least – we decided upon something that reflected our love of animals. Vibrissae was a natural choice. When people ask how to pronounce or spell it, we realize it probably wasn’t the wisest band name to use, but we still like it.

Introflirt: I wonder if we listen to some of the same 60s soundtrack & lounge music!

Vibrissae: Yes! Great stuff! We still love that kind of thing, though, so Microdotter might live in some form or another – someday. Next album title, maybe.

Introflirt: Do you strive to bring that sentiment and sonic aesthetic into your live performances?

Vibrissae: Yes, it would be nice to bring some of those textures and overall feel into the scheme of things. It’s starting to creep into the set, with the use of Mellotron sounds and that sort of thing. I think it’s inevitable that it will increase in the future, somehow.

Introflirt:  So are you two the core members of Vibrissae? How often does Imber sing with you?

Vibrissae: Although she performs most of the vocals on the album, Imber has not performed with us since last year. She owns and operates two businesses and recently gave birth to her first child, so her time has been very limited. We are still very, very close, though. We speak to each other regularly and are terrific friends. Sandi Leeper is currently performing with us. Her first Vibrissae show was in February.

Introflirt: Each member of Vibrissae is from a different country! Did you meet for the first time in Portland?

Vibrissae: Imber is from Australia, Emma is from Malaysia, and I am from the US. Emma and I met while we were at university, and we both met Imber shortly after she moved to Portland. Sandi is American, also. She is originally from Sacramento.

Introflirt: Did you set out with a sonic goal in mind?

Vibrissae: In a way. Emma and I are married. She is a fantastic musician, so for years, I was always trying to convince her to begin a project or band with me. She finally gave in, lucky for me. She’s a great bandmate and partner. She initially preferred to remain studio-bound and didn’t necessarily want to hit the stage, but now that we’ve been playing shows for over two years, she really enjoys it.

Introflirt: I know there are some purists out there – I myself am one when it comes to my drinking water. But as far as “genre” goes, as soon as there is an electronic element in the music, is it no longer shoegaze? Do you have to then call it dreampop?

Vibrissae: I don’t think so. For example, I think a band like Ladytron has a large shoegaze element to it, and they could probably fall under that umbrella, depending on the person holding it. I’m not exactly sure what we are. Some shoegaze fans are purists, and they would never, ever consider us to fall into that genre. That’s fine. Both of us love bands with electronic elements, and we aren’t going to lose that aspect of our sound any time soon. In fact, recently we have been asked to join bills with acts that are strictly electronic. (Kite from Sweden, for example.) For these shows, we can perform a more electronic-based set.

Introflirt: It’s easier to reach potential listeners in many different scenes by utilizing many elements in your sound.

Vibrissae: Exactly! We think albums that use the same textures and instrumentation throughout their entire run-time are a bit boring. We tend to gravitate to artists who cover a wide range of styles.

Introflirt: Do you customize your live setup depending on the gig? Does that require reworking songs extensively?

Vibrissae: Our live setup doesn’t change very much. We might rotate songs in and out of the set, but our gear hasn’t changed, for the most part. Not yet, at least. We still have a few core songs that we like to play, regardless of the type of show, so there will always be a need for certain instruments.

Introflirt: How has the Portland scene been to you?

Vibrissae: It’s been great! Other bands that we have played with have been extremely supportive, with very little attitude or arrogance. We’ve been incredibly lucky. Of course, as with any scene, there are cliques that are difficult or impossible to enter, but that’s fine. We’ve been fortunate to be on some spectacular bills lately, and some doors have opened up for us in the last few months that are very exciting.

Introflirt: I’ve heard Portland is dark & dreary & rainy – which I prefer. Does it impact the themes in your music?

Vibrissae: We prefer it, too! We love autumn, winter, and the rainy season, and can’t wait for summer to be over. I don’t think it impacts the themes, necessarily, but most of our writing co-exists very, very well with our environment. Then again, one of our new songs centers around our love of the grey and the rain and each other, and it is very much a song born out of living in the Pacific Northwest.

Introflirt: How important is the city a band is based in these days, with all the capabilities the internet offers?

Vibrissae: As far as performing is concerned, I think one’s home base is still fairly important, but it is becoming less and less important all the time. Anyone, anywhere, can write, record, and release music to the public these days, which is both a wonderful and terrible thing.

Introflirt: Do you hope to create an atmosphere when you play live?

Vibrissae: Yes, we definitely hope to create an atmosphere. We have a long way to go to reach our desired effect, but we have received some positive feedback recently that tells us we are heading in the right direction.

Introflirt: You mentioned before our discussion that you are also introverted. Do you find yourself trying to overcome that on stage, or just giving into it and letting the crowd decide the mood?

Vibrissae: Personally, I find myself more anxious during the set-up process. Worrying about gear that might not work and that sort of thing, rather than the actual performance itself. Since neither I nor Emma are the front person (although Emma performs lead vocals on one of our songs), we can place all of that weight on our singer and fade into the background a bit. Maybe.

Introflirt: I love the mid-century feel of your social media profile picture – where is that room with the amazing furniture and wallpaper??

Vibrissae: Thanks! That is our living room. We are sitting there right now. That entire layout and the photographs can be credited to Emma. She has a great eye.

Keep up with Vibrissae

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