Interview with DC Area Deli Artist of the Month Various Eggs

Creating Success from Disappointment

By: Natan Press

August 15, 2014

I deliberately made a scattered and ornery record with a lot of unfriendly choices. The simple piano ballad blows apart into a cacophony. The prettier songs are paired next to harsh avant-garde instrumental interludes. Imperfections were left in the performance to keep it human. The subject matter is consistently dark.

You describe Don’t Expect Much From Others as an attempt to reflect your wide range of influences, while centering on a theme of disappointment. What makes the album successful to you?

That the album exists is a success. When I started recording, I didn’t have a band. I had moved to Richmond from New Jersey for my job. Phil, my first bassist, and Julie, who sings on the record, both lived (and continue to live) in New Jersey. I hadn’t even met Tricia, my drummer-to-be, yet. I had played a couple of practices with Justin, the bassist on the album, in an avant-garde jazz trio project and we might have done one performance as a duo by that point.

I began recording without the goal of making an album. The first song I recorded was “Summon Us All Up.” All I needed for the song was an acoustic guitar and Julie to sing it. It was a controlled experiment to see if I could handle recording in a studio with a producer.

What were the challenges you overcame to make a complete work?

I learned that I freeze up when I attempt to record my own vocals. I think I’ve developed a little bit of a neurosis about it. I get anxious and start to feel like I can’t swallow. I did a lot of terrible takes of “The Need” in the studio and, in the end, I recorded the vocals in my living room while getting drunk.

Prior to working with me, Tricia was solely an orchestral percussionist and accustomed to following a conductor rather than leading the song as a rock drummer. It’s a bigger transition than most realize.

Are you happy with it, or disappointed?

Happy with it, of course. Leonardo da Vinci is given credit for the saying “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” This is very true. There will always be things I wish I did better or fixed. When I listen to the record, I pick apart details like I am grading my own homework. If I were to circle back to it, I would re-record a few key moments on it. But, I enjoyed the learning process, I’m proud of the songs, and I’m amazed at the variety of sounds that can be made by the same five people.

How have people responded to your mix of sounds? Do you find that audiences appreciate the variety?

I deliberately made a scattered and ornery record with a lot of unfriendly choices. The simple piano ballad blows apart into a cacophony. The prettier songs are paired next to harsh avant-garde instrumental interludes. Imperfections were left in the performance to keep it human. The subject matter is consistently dark.

I expected people to respond well to the songs on which Julie sings lead. And they have; I get overwhelmingly good feedback on those songs. But is has also been a pleasant surprise that people have listened to and liked the rest of the record. When I started getting feedback from strangers about the record’s sense of purpose, it felt pretty great to know it was understood. In a live setting, the variety works for us because it holds the audience’s attention. Though, categorizing our sound sometimes proves a challenge.

How did you record this album?

It was recorded with Tricia Kupec on drums and percussion, Justin Poroszok on bass, and Julie Bosak on vocals. Allen Bergendahl engineered the recording and co-produced it.

How and why did you choose the songs?

Julie and I chose the songs while talking about the first recording session on the phone. She suggested I pick a couple more songs and make a go at making an E.P. or an album. Her choices included “The Need” and “I wish the best for you.” I picked “Girls” and “Biggest Fish” because I thought I was going to be recording the album on my own and I thought I could pull them off. I have a version of “Biggest Fish” where the drums are programmed.

Where did you record and with what?

It was recorded mostly in Richmond at either Scott’s Addition Sound or at my house, which we’ve nicknamed The Birdhouse. Conveniently, these locations are about a mile apart from each other with multiple coffee shops between them.

Otherwise, the first recording session, which was guitar tracking for “Summon Us All Up,” was done in a small studio in Hope Church in Henrico County. Additionally, I really messed up recording Julie’s vocals for “I wish the best for you” so I ended up going to New Jersey with a vocal recording setup and re-recording them in a warehouse near Asbury Park. That warehouse was full of boxes and, because of this, turned out to be one of the most acoustically sound places I’ve ever recorded in. I might want to go back there to record more.

When you’re asking ‘with what?’ are you asking about brands of instruments or microphones? I’m not really a gear head. I basically learn just enough to make the sounds for which I am looking and defer to expertise about a lot of the details.

Richmond bands often do well in our polls, partly because the Richmond scene is so supportive, and mostly because Richmond has so many amazing bands. How has Richmond been to you?What’s it like being a band in Richmond?

I’m still learning the Richmond music scene. But, there are some really great things going on in the Richmond music community and some very friendly people.

There is a venue close to my house called Bandito’s where I saw The Dickies play back in November. From what I gather, the guy who owns the place gets legendary punk bands like Agent Orange, DI and T.S.O.L. to play there. I had lived a few blocks away for well over a year before I found out that this was happening. It was amazing to discover that Agent Orange performed “Miserlou” so close to my house and terrible to know that I had missed it.

When I started checking out local bands, the first one I really liked was Heavy Midgets. I told the booker at Strange Matter that I wanted to play a show with them. As a testament to Richmond’s friendliness, a couple of weeks later, he put us on a bill with them.

I couldn’t conclude any question about the Richmond music scene without mentioning Richmond Independent Radio (WRIR 97.3). I’m surprised at how friendly they are and how much they do to support the arts in Richmond. Plus, the DJs are music geeks and I think music geeks can tell when they have come across another music geek. You can sense that they are thinking, “let’s skip the ‘getting to know you’ stuff and talk about Roxy Music.” They are my kind of people.

What’s next for Various Eggs?

More music! We are working on a new set of songs. The goal this time around is to merge together the different types of sounds we want to make into something cohesive.