If you haven’t already heard, WERS is putting on a concert on the night of Friday, June 17th that you won’t want to miss! It’s a part of the station’s fourth annual 617 Day, celebrating all things local music, local business and local radio. Join us at Brighton Music Hall for the live show or listen in as we air it on 88.9.
The Q-Tip Bandits are one of three incredible local artists on the 617 Day Show lineup. Web Services Coordinator Nora Onanian recently sat down with Claire Davis and Leo Son of The Q-Tip Bandits ahead of the performance, which will be their album release show. They reflected on their growth from some of the first projects they did with WERS to now and chatted about their soon-to-be-released debut album Melancholy Flowers.
SO I WAS JUST LOOKING IN THE LAST TIME YOU ALL DID AN INTERVIEW WITH US WAS JUST OVER TWO YEARS AGO.
IT WAS BECAUSE THE Q-TIP BANDITS WERE A PART OF OUR WICKED LOCAL WEDNESDAY SERIES. AND SO YOU PLAYED A COUPLE SONGS FOR US AND WE AIRED IT ON OUR WEDNESDAY NIGHT SLOT. AND NOW YOU'RE ABOUT TO HEADLINE OUR 617 DAY SHOW.
SO I WANTED TO START BY JUST GETTING YOUR REACTION TO THAT LITTLE HERE AND NOW AND SEE IF YOU HAVE ANY REFLECTIONS ON THE GROWTH THAT YOU'VE MADE.
Claire Davis: You saying that just brings back so many fun memories of not just that time, but also when we got to be in the studio at WERS and we filmed our little 45-minute set. How long was it?
Leo Sun: It was like three songs. First time we were ever on the radio! I remember us piling into the car the night of Wicked Local Wednesday and hearing ourselves on the radio and that experience.
(Both laugh, remembering)
LS: And yeah, I think the one you're mentioning was when we did the At Home Series, right?
I THINK SO!
LS: We shot a couple videos from our own house.
Man, I think just hearing that and thinking about the last year. It just feels like so much has happened. Just in this last year alone. And thinking about WERS as this place for us that's like this hub of music community in Boston.
We got the opportunity to open for Ripe, who I think just did like a Wicked Local or some kind of featured session at ‘ERS as well. We opened for them a few shows and then we opened for another incredible local art called Los Elk at the Sinclair. Then we finished our record. We went on tour. And it feels like a lifetime has passed.
And when I hear you talk about like, ‘Oh yeah, two years ago—’ we were stuck at home for the most part. And we did this ‘ERS interview or ‘ERS session in this exact same spot we’re in now (gestures at the room they are Zooming in from).
I’m like, ‘Wow, so much has happened in that time.’ And so much of that growth is due to the community of musicians in this city. We wouldn't be where we're at if it wasn't for the local support. And yeah, I'm so excited for this.
CD: I think for this upcoming 617 Day, we are at the best we've ever been. And I'm so excited to share this new and improved version of us; to share the show with the local community. And yeah, [I] really can't wait.
SPEAKING OF THE 617 DAY SHOW, IT'S GOING TO BE YOUR ALBUM RELEASE SHOW, WHICH IS JUST SO EXCITING. MELANCHOLY FLOWERS WILL BE YOUR DEBUT ALBUM. COULD YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOU'RE FEELING AT THIS POINT, [JUST AHEAD] OF THE RELEASE?
LS: I think there's like a natural level of just fear right now. Like we've worked so hard on this thing for— just in the studio for the last two years, but some of these songs are songs we played at the beginning of the band. So almost five years ago. And it is a frightening idea that this thing that we've kept so close to us that feels like our songs right now… once we release this album, they're not our songs anymore. They're your songs, they're the people who listen to us’ [songs].
It's like sending your child off to school, I'd imagine. And being like, “I hope you make friends. And if we raised you well, maybe you'll come home and you'll visit and we'll have times where we can appreciate the work that we put in to help raise you.”
Just a lot of excitement and fear, all kind of like mashed up into one thing. But yeah, I think for me, this is the closest we've gotten to expressing what I feel like is a part of me. And I'm really excited to share that. I think one of the hardest parts about recording is just capturing the magic of the live show. The magic of seeing and feeling. And of the music. And I think we did our due diligence for this one.
AWESOME! AND THAT ACTUALLY TIES IN REALLY WELL WITH ANOTHER QUESTION I WAS GOING TO ASK, WHICH IS: WHAT DO YOU WANT LISTENERS TO GET OUT OF YOUR MUSIC?
CD: I think something that we always try to focus on with our music is to have music that people can dance to and have a good time listening to. Kind of escape from their daily life, you know. To be able to rock along to the songs.
But at the same time, we recognize that it's not always just happy times. And I think in our lyrics, we try to address the fact that we have happy times and know what happy times feel like because we have had low times before. We really try and balance the ‘Hey, you can feel good and dance.’ While at the same time, ‘It's OK to cry with us as well, if you need that.’
LS: Mhm, Yeah, that's really well-put. I really think that, like Claire was saying, the goal for the music is like — when you're there with us in the room, seeing us live — I want it to be music to make people move. I want it to have the ability to just get people out of their seats and feel like, ‘Oh my goodness, I can't help but move my body right now.’
But at the same time, create that escape for people. Like life throws a lot of shit at you. And for this, 45 minutes to like an hour and 15 minutes, I want this to be a place where I'm not just the only one expressing, but also I'm creating an environment where the audience can also let out that thing that is burdening them.
You know, I think about that. And at the same time, it's like, I'm a person in recovery, so I've had my relationship with narcotics and my relationship with substances that can be abused. And sometimes I think about that and I'm like, ‘Well, [the music] can't just be an escape, you know? Because that's not hitting the root of the issue.’
And so what Claire's getting at— I also want it to be through our lyrics, through maybe just the harmony in the song, rather than just the dance beat of the rhythm section, that you can dance to it live, you can cry to it when you're alone. And have the energy of it, rather than being an escape like a narcotic, that it’s like a medicine. That it's like we can give back in this way.
I think for me, a lot of the artists and musicians I listen to, they have this way. Eeven when I'm alone in a room and I listen to them, I'm like, ‘Wow, I'm with my friends, I'm with people that get me. How the f*ck did they get that? You know, how did they make that happen? How are these four people I've never met in my life connecting to me in a way that I feel like sometimes I struggle with even just people in my day-to-day?’
I just want to create something that, even if we don't get to meet every single person that listens to our music, that they feel like they know us, and are not alone in that way.
YEAH, I LOVE THAT. ACTUALLY— THIS IS DIGGING DEEP, BUT I READ AN INTERVIEW FROM 2018 AND [LEO] YOU DIRECTLY HAD SAID, “AS MUSICIANS, I BELIEVE THAT WE WERE BRED TO BE HEALERS AND BRINGERS OF JOY.” AND I THINK THAT REALLY SPEAKS TO WHAT YOU WERE JUST SAYING A BIT TOO.
LS: (Laughs) I said that?
IT SAID YOU! MISQUOTED MAYBE? (LAUGHING)
CD: Oh no, no, it was definitely him (all still laughing).
BUT YEAH, I FEEL LIKE RIGHT NOW PEOPLE ARE ESPECIALLY MAYBE MORE THAN EVER TURNING TO MUSIC FOR EXACTLY THAT. SO IT'S REALLY AWESOME.
AND THEN MOVING FORWARD, I WAS GOING TO ASK IF YOU COULD TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WENT INTO THE TITLE OF THE ALBUM MELANCHOLY FLOWERS.
LS: Yeah, it's one of those things where I feel like — I'm still learning about this, but — in the creative process, sometimes the idea is not necessarily this white light, ‘Oh, this is going to be brilliant,’ kind of thing. It's just like, “Wow, this is kind of like a silly idea. Do you guys like my silly idea?”
And it was just, when I was about five years old, I didn't know— so, you know, like cauliflower, like broccoli, but human-engineered to be like ghost broccoli?
LS: I thought that was called a melon-cauli because like, it's shaped like a melon, but it's like broccoli and cauliflower. So like melon-cauli. And in my adult life, I kind of combine the two words to be melon-cauliflowers.
Then I had that moment of like, ‘Oh, but that also sounds like this other thing’ — “Guys, guys, guys, what if we did this?”
Over time, we've kind of had people ask, like, “What does that mean? Is that like funeral flowers? Is that like— what are these flowers for?” And it kind of takes that shape that Claire was talking about.
These songs — I hope — are bringing joy, in a place where you can only feel it because you know that it's not always this good. And I like to imagine that this album is like flowers at a funeral. It’s like the beautiful thing among this sad moment where we're celebrating and mourning life. At least the energy, I wish and hope that it carries that.
DEFINITELY! IT SOUNDS SO DEEP, SO IT'S FUNNY TO HAVE THAT STORY BEHIND IT (ALL LAUGH).
IN THAT LAST INTERVIEW WITH WERS THAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT, YOU TALKED A LOT ABOUT MAKING CHANGES TO THE DYNAMICS OF THE BAND OR THE SPECIFIC SONGS TO MAKE IT FEEL MORE YOU OR LIKE MORE REPRESENTATIVE OF YOU AS A BAND.
IS THAT SOMETHING YOU FOUND YOURSELF THINKING ABOUT A LOT FOR THIS ALBUM?
AND DO YOU FEEL IT'S REPRESENTATIVE OF WHO YOU ARE AS A BAND?
CD: I think, like Leo said, we've been playing these songs, most of them for four years now, just around. Some of them, even five. And as we evolve, the songs continue to evolve. And thinking back on that first time we played WERS Wicked Local Wednesday, if you were to compare that performance to the one that you're going to see at 617 Day, they're going to be wildly different.
And I think each time we play them, they become a little bit more representative of the people that we are in that moment. And I think we are the most high-energy we've ever been and the most free on stage, I think, that we as a band have ever felt. And I think that these songs have evolved to feel that way as well, and we hope that that translates to the audience. And to people to be able to enjoy them in that same way.
(To Leo), What do you think?
LS: I agree. I think that a lot of these songs— I'm trying to think of an analogy. The songs are still the same, in essence. I don't think you can really strip the song of its heart or like its spirit. And it’s just, hearing you say that, I feel like it's so incredible that it's the same songs. If you played this for me, like four years ago, I’d be like, ‘How did we get there? How did we go from what we have here to there.’
But like you're saying, it's just this natural progression. Of the more we spend time with our band members. The more we spend time with each other. The more we really dig in and kind of butt heads. You know, the more we kind of have that collaborative like, “Well, I like this idea. You like this idea?”
How it becomes us is “Let's find something that works for both of those things. And I think the more and more we collaborate, the longer we play these songs, the more these types of ideas start to be a part of the song and be a part of what the sound is.
IS THERE A SONG IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU'RE MOST EXCITED TO PLAY LIVE AT THE SHOW?
CD: We may have different answers for this one.
OH, I'LL TAKE BOTH ANSWERS!
CD: It's really hard to choose!
LS: It is!
CD: And this isn't even the song that I think I thought of initially, but now thinking more about it… There's a song that we don't get to play live very often, just because it's a slower song. You know, it's not that like hype up the crowd type of song. And it is the ballad of the album. But that song is called “Happy” and it's very close to my heart. And [it’s] the first song that I ever wrote in its entirety. And so I'm just very excited to kind of have this full circle moment of being able to perform that song at the album release show, having that song finally be out.
LS: I'm also excited for that song! Rhat's like the hidden gem. For me on the record, that's the— everyone's favorite song is that song. Like that's like the one they listen to the most alone.
I am really happy about this new album because we're starting to feature songs that Claire is singing. And I don't know about you, but I just kind of have this thing of like, I don't like hearing my own voice. I'm getting more used to it, just like hearing it back recorded and getting used to what my voice sounds like.
But we're releasing all these songs that Claire sings and wrote, and [I’m] just like, I f*cking love the Q-Tip Bandits. Because I just want to listen to Claire sing these songs. And I can just go and put on one of her songs and just listen to it and feel like, ‘Yeah, it's like listening to my own band, but it's like her song!’ And I just love that we can do that!
THAT’S SO SWEET!
LS: I'm really excited to play “Chasing Cars.” That's the song we open every single set with. And it's just for that moment of like, ‘We're here.’ like all of a sudden, we're here in this moment with everybody in the room and the energy when we play that song, it always feels like we're opening the floodgates to the rest of the set. And that moment is always so special for me because it's the introduction and I'm excited for that.
And I will say we're going to play a new song that's not on the album. We've been kind of working on some new material, thinking about, you know, what's on the horizon for the Q-Tip Bandits.
And I'm so excited to share this record, but I'm really also excited to show everybody who's there with us that, ‘Oh, this is not the end.’ There's like this infinite — like whatever this thing is that we live inside of — there's possibility there to keep growing. And this is what the new stuff is kind of going to be like. I'm excited to kind of unveil the next step for us as well.
I WAS GOING TO ASK IF THERE'S ANYTHING YOU'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO AFTER THIS BUSY UPCOMING MONTH OF PUTTING OUT AN ALBUM.. (GESTURES) AND YEAH, ALL OF THAT!
CD: Yeah, we've got some exciting little mini touring going on this summer, playing throughout New England. I think after that, we have our sights set on getting back into the studio and recording some singles, maybe the next EP. But we've got a big long list of songs that we're very excited to work on and to bring some life to.
SHIFTING GEARS A LITTLE BIT, LET'S TALK ABOUT THE LEAD SINGLE “DAISY.” I THINK LEO, DID YOU WRITE THAT ONE?
LS: I did, yes.
DO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE MESSAGE BEHIND IT?
LS: Yeah, sure. So I think for me, “Daisy” is the song that is about holding space for the friend who holds space for you. At least the meaning for me has been like, I've been the person that— there's a lot going on behind this (gestures at smiling face).
And I like to put on the happy face, you know, regardless of what's going on. And I think that there is something noble and also very sad about that. There's something that is both admirable, but also heartbreaking about people like that.
And I think a lot of friends came into mind that if they had not opened up to me, I would not even know that they were struggling. Because they always give more of themselves than take for themselves. And “Daisy” is kind of just calling attention to that. I think that for me, it was really important to hear that I was not alone in what I was going through. And if I can provide that for somebody else, I think “Daisy” is my like, at least trying to be my version of like, “You're not the only one.”
(Quoting lyrics): “Profane and pretty thoughts behind your smile.” You know, like, what's going on behind the outward expression?
Yeah, and I think lyrically in the verses, just trying to touch on, like all the things that I tried. I tried religion, I tried mind and mood altering substances. I tried all these things.
It's like such a cliche, but I had a friend in the recovery community, who shared this with me… And he said it so matter of fact. But he was like, “You know, we try to do this thing, we try to like, be the best version of ourselves. And we show up. And we're trying to live this ideal. But what if the ideal is just the friends we made along the way?” And it's one of those moments of like, ‘Oh my god. Yeah, you're right.’ It's so overdone and overplayed. But it's like, ‘Yeah, there's a reason why it is.’
And “Daisy” is just like ‘Yeah, the answer is in the connection we have with other people. The answer is the sharing of what's behind the smile. At least for me — you know, everybody's got their thing. I would not be where I'm at without the people around me. And so I hope it carries that energy.
That's a lot for like a four minute song that really is just like, ‘Hey, if you missed the lyrics and you just want to dance and the horns go “ba da da da da da” and you're like, ‘Oh!’ — that's all right, too,’ you know?
I WAS GOING TO COMMENT ON HOW SONICALLY, IT'S JUST SO MUCH FUN. BUT NO, I TOTALLY AGREE. I THINK IT CAN RESONATE WITH A LOT OF PEOPLE, AND I LOVE THE MESSAGE THAT YOU'RE PUTTING FORTH THROUGH IT.
LS: Thank you.
WELL THAT'S ABOUT IT THAT I HAVE FOR QUESTIONS. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU GUYS WOULD WANT TO TALK ABOUT IN ADDITION TO THOSE?
LS: We got the album coming out soon. Yeah, we talked about that. We covered that quite a little bit.
We have a show coming up that is sponsored by WERS!
LS: June 17th… 617 Day!
CD: And all I got is gratitude. I'm so excited to finally put this album out and to be able to play it for the people who have been there from the beginning and for all the new people and new friends who have joined us along the way.
Can't wait to bring it home after being on tour for two months, and to be back.
LS: Yeah, just excited and very thankful. I think Claire nailed it. Like I'm just I'm so excited to play the show. I'm excited to be a part of this band. All the growth. And being able to give back in any way we can to the people who brought us here.
You can see The Q-Tip Bandits perform songs from their new album Melancholy Flowers and more at WERS’ 617 Day Show at Brighton Music Hall on June 17th. Find out more information here.