Tym, the drummer from psych experimentalists QUEEN GIZA sat down with IDIOTEQ to talk about his new project CUP, inspired by John Dwyer, his San Francisco garage rock bands COACHWHIPS, THEE OH SEES, and a hint of early EAGLES OF DEATH METAL. CUP’s recent record ‘More Cup’ is actually hard to categorise or fully digest, and its weirdeness makes it at the same time quite a difficult listen, but it surely brings rewards and adventures of all different kinds. Launch it to see for yourself and scroll down to dive into our conversation about CUP, psychedelic music, and some of the current recommended independent artists from New York City.
Hi Tym! How are you? How’s Brooklyn?
Hey, czesc Karol! I’m doing well, just hanging out. Brooklyn is a bit cloudy and cool and somewhat gloomy right now, but that’s fine by me after the crazy heat we were having. How are you? How is Warszawa? You know, I have family there and go once a year.
Yup! Warsaw is very cool this week, treating us well with fine weather. Apart from the engaging day job, it’s all good, thanks!
Ok, so let me me put it this way as I’m not willing to hide my real feeling after listening to ‘More Cup’ :) Your new offering is one hell of a werid ride! What inspired you to hit this sonic direction? How shall we define the CUP?
Haha thanks, that’s the goal! I’ve always been into more gnarly, garage-y rock. When I was a kid, I loved the grittier NIRVANA stuff, like Incesticide. Then I went through a big QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE phase, starting around middle school and lasting until… oh, well I guess it’s still going on. QOTSA seems to be what I always return to when I run out of new stuff to listen to. Relatedly, the first EAGLES OF DEATH METAL album has a very fun, simple, rockin feel to it that I really like. I wouldn’t call those last two garage rock, but I always loved how Homme is able to combine more heavy, sludgy, metal elements with more melodic and musical riffs–something I try to do, rather unsuccessfully. And more recently, I went through a big JAY REATARD and THE GORIES kick, and like everyone else I got super into THEE OH SEES, TY SEGALL, WAND, MEATBODIES, etc., etc. But what I think really has the most influence on CUP stuff is Dwyer’s project COACHWHIPS, which I wish was still around. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the new Oh Sees stuff, but COACHWHIPS had this really raw vibe and sound that I immediately dug when I first listened. CUP is easily defined as super shitty, stupid garage rock, I’d say.
Alright, so let’s right into the details of this bizarreness. How do you tune and effect your vocals to make them sound so psychedelic? Do you prepare your vocal folds before you dive into singing?
I never was and have never been a good singer–I know and readily admit that. It all started in middle school, when I would audition and not get parts in the school plays, instead getting assigned to the crew, building the sets. So I never had the confidence to even attempt to sing in anything until now. I started a band called QUEEN GIZA with a good friend, Eric Casella, and it was the first time I encountered someone using a few guitar pedals for vocals. The first time I heard it I was super into it, and it was around that time that Eric had gotten me into THEE OH SEES, and I loved Dwyer’s weirdo vocals, which are also run through some effects (the holy grail: a Roland Space Echo). Eric ended up moving out of the city, and before he left he was telling me I should do my own thing and try singing using some pedals, something to the effect of, “it doesn’t matter if you suck at singing, just fk up and mangle your voice with some pedals and people won’t notice the bad singing.” I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but I heeded his advice, and ran my vocals through an overdrive and delay pedals, and started singing in my own project. Vocals are something I’m still very much working on, though, and I think I’ve finally found a style that suits my voice in this album, More Cup. Nasally, slightly higher pitched, perhaps a bit cloying. In terms of preparation, I don’t do anything at all–maybe drink some water or beer, and just go. It’s not like they’re going to sound good anyway, so why bother with warming up?
Haha, fair enough.
Back to the record itself, the cover art fits with the music perfectly. Tell me more about the freakin’ ugly monster.
Thanks! That’s an ugly little bat monster, as imagined by Etienne Puaux, this amazing French artist who Eric found for the QUEEN GIZA cover artwork. I asked Etienne if he was game to do CUP album covers as well, in a much simpler style than the Giza album artwork (which is amazingly detailed and intricate). My only prompt was that I wanted it to feature the infamous CUP that I had photographed for the previous CUP album covers, and I wanted it to feature a bat in some way. Etienne came up with the rest. The concept, he told me, is based on Hila Klein’s drawing’s based on photos. I said sounds good, dude. What I like about it is that it’s playful, not too self-serious, but still cool–what I’d like the songs to be, as well. Anyway, you can check out some more of Etienne’s stuff on his Instagram. He’s definitely worth the follow!
Would you say there is a dominant emotion on the record?
I dunno if there’s any emotion that stands out. I write whatever pops into my head into my little notebook, so it’s admittedly random, but there are often themes that emerge, usually based on what I’m preoccupied with at the time. For More CUP I’d say it’s the concept of misunderstanding, confrontation and the avoidance of confrontation, the failure of language, the failure of memory. But all in a silly way, of course. Is apathy an emotion? If so, then maybe that.
Have you already played a couple of live shows with the band? Tell me about your live setting and your approach to playing shows. Do you like this part of the job?
At first I had no intention to play live shows. It was just me making up and recording garage rock on my own, almost on a lark and out of curiosity. But after a while I was like, this would be fun live. I had a friend who I knew played drums, Alex Casella, Eric’s lil bro, and he had a buddy who plays keys, Tim Askerov, and that’s the live CUP setup. Plus me singing and playing guitar poorly. We played a few shows over the summer and have a couple of cool ones lined up/in the works. I absolutely love playing shows and hope we have many many more!
Generally speaking, what are your future plans with CUP? Also, what are your ultimate goals for the project?
I want to keep putting out these short 11-12 song releases, and lots of them–as long as I’m fit and able, like 6 a year or something. I have another one recorded, mixed, mastered, and ready to go already, called U Don’t Like This Cup, and then the songs “written” for a follow up to that one, which I’ll be calling Hiccup, which will bring me to 6 Cups this year. I’d love to put a CUP album to vinyl one day, whether I do that myself or some sort of label wants to do it, so that I can have a physical, lasting artifact of CUP that I can show my hypothetical kids one hypothetical day. But, ultimately, I guess the goal is to keep putting these shitty things out, keep honing my tracking and mixing and mastering skills, keep playing shows, play with some of the many cool bands around NY, play some of the many cool venues around NY. Maybe play some other cities around here, I dunno. Work with cool artists for artwork/videos. But first and foremost, have fun with it. As soon as CUP stops being a fun project, I’m out and it’s dead and I won’t be sorry for it.
Lastly, how do yoou deal with the amazing music scene of NYC? Do you often go out to get some inspirations from live shows of unknown artists? Are you a heavy-gig-goer?
It really is amazing, almost overwhelming. There are great shows happening pretty much every night of the week, and there are so many great bands to see! I try to go to as many as I can, when my own band practices or work doesn’t get in the way, but even then I still feel like I’m missing out on some killer, killer shows. Maybe one day I’ll figure out a way to go to them all, but then I think I’d be worried about my physical and mental and auditory health, you know?
Yeah man, I can only envy you that.
In what ways do you believe that participating art spaces and live shows can benefit you as an artist? Can it be replaced by browsing YouTube and experiencing live music digitally?
I feel like recorded and live music are totally separate entities, and all the best bands I’ve seen have obviously thought about and honed both. For example, WAND‘s records are these tight, polished and heavy things, but their live show is looser, with noise interludes and some improvised breakdowns between songs. FUZZ performs in full glam, with Ty screeching into his mic and saying odd things every once in a while. KING GIZZARD simply don’t stop playing, tying all their songs together for a pummeling 45 minutes before saying a single word to the crowd. My point is that I think a band needs to figure out their “thing” for live performances to become “fully realized”–a live show is as much performance art as music, and the bands who have that down are the most memorable to me. We’re slowly starting to figure some stuff out for CUP, where I clown around and act unhinged between songs. I’m a clown in general, so that seemed to be natural. But each show is different, and who the hell knows what will happen at the next one.
I’ll admit that I’m a huge live-shows-on-Youtube-watcher, because nothing is more fun to watch than THEE OH SEES racing through their songs with the double drummers and Dwyer and Hellman absolutely shredding, Dwyer drinking a beer with no hands while still playing, then spitting out the bottle. But there’s a disconnect, a loss of excitement when you’re just looking at it on a computer screen. Doesn’t compare to actually catching it live.
Apart from live shows, what are other ways to get to know the local DIY music scene?
Find the bands, find the venues, go to the shows. Actually go to the shows. If it exists, find the local labels. I recently discovered a small DIY label in Brooklyn called King Pizza records that does releases for a bunch of awesome NJ, NY, and BK garage/punk/psych rock bands and throws these massive, awesome blowout shows. It’s been a great discovery for sure!
Cool! Lastly, what local artists would you recommend to our readers?
Aw man, there are so many! Here we go: SURFBORT, PINK MEXICO, ACID DAD, NANCY, IYEZ, THE MAD DOCTORS, VAMANOS!, PSYCHIATRIC METAPHORS, SUN VOYAGER, THEE CREEPS, SECRET NUDIST FRIENDS, THICK, THE RIZZOS, THE MELTAWAYS, LEAN, SLUSHIES. I really could keep going on and on!
Thanks Tym! Thanks for your time, it was a fun chat. Feel free to drop your final words and take care!
Dziekuje bardzo, Karol! Was a lot of fun talking. And to everyone reading this/listening to Cup, I’m so sorry, and thank you. Lots of new stuff coming soon!