Sources of Inspiration and Creativity, According to Three Divergent Bands

Sources of Inspiration and Creativity, According to Three Divergent Bands

Secret Stages, a two-day music festival in Birmingham, Alabama is the remedy for a unidimensional music taste.

Sources of Inspiration and Creativity, According to Three Divergent Bands

Secret Stages, a two-day music festival in Birmingham, Alabama is the remedy for a unidimensional music taste.

It can be difficult to leave your musical comfort zone. There’s nothing inherently wrong with listening to one genre or artist, but it can encourage musical stagnation instead of exploration. Secret Stages, a two-day music festival in Birmingham, Alabama is the remedy for a unidimensional music taste. Spending just a few hours at Secret Stages, you can catch a twanging Nashville country band, an energetic hip-hop emcee, and some ear-piercing noise rock. In such an eclectic music festival, bands source styles and creative processes and influences from kaleidoscopic fountainheads. Hand Me The Aux sat down with three bands—The Minks, Telefones, and Flamingo Shadow—each of which possess unique and assorted sounds and styles, and asked them the same five questions.

Secret is different from most festivals because it’s based on music discovery instead of going to see your favorite artist at a venue. It’s all based on finding new music. I’m wondering what your thoughts on this festival are and if you’ve played one like this before?
The Minks

Nothing quite like this. It’s a cool idea because there’s different genres so people aren’t coming here to hear the same thing, they’re coming to see new things. Getting in front of new audiences is good.

Flamingo Shadow

It’s been nice to see that there’s bands from all over the country playing the show and it’s a really freaking cool concept. Cause a lot of festivals have the headliners who don’t necessarily need the coverage heavily upfront with a few openers.

Telefones

We’re just here to play, man.

Above: Telefones drummer Adam Reeve sets up his drum kit (Credit: John Robertson).

How did your band’s sound develop, and what are your influences?
The Minks

It’s hard for us because we don’t really know what genre we are. Someone told me we sound like a southern Velvet Underground. I ran with that and I was like ‘okay I’m using that cause that’s perfect for me’. Well, I love blues music like Lightnin’ Hopkins and I feel like that comes out sometimes. But, honestly Jamie really brings the psychedelic with all his tones and his guitar work. It kind of just formed naturally. We just had these songs and played them with enough people and then we honed it into what it is now. I still don’t really like to label what we are (See my HMTA article on genres); it’s really hard to just pinpoint yourself that much. We also have some twang in it too. But then your up to eight descriptive words and people just don’t know anymore.

Flamingo Shadow

I think we’re heavily influenced by bands like the Talking Heads and B-52s, and when we say punk, maybe we mean we’re punk like they were punk. And we source from a lot of influences. World music. African stuff. New Wave. Prog-rock.

Telefones

We definitely tow the line between a poppier sound and a heavier sound, like we do a lot of noise rock but we also have very catchy songs as well.

Above: Lead singer Madeline and Flamingo Shadow performing in 41st Street Pub in Birmingham, Alabama (Credit: John Robertson).

What is your creative process both on an individual and band level, because I know it’s different for different bands?
The Minks (Nikki)

Well I guess since it’s technically my band, I’m usually writing the songs. The melody or something will come to me and I’ll put guitar over it and then I’ll bring it to the guys are we’ll just hash it out and keep playing it until everyone finds their part, like they definitely help. You know, I don’t write the drum parts, Houston fills it in and everything, so it’s collaborative in that way, but I typically write the words and everything. And that just stems from emotional turmoil and all that great shit.

Flamingo Shadow

I love talking about that. We come to every practice with a loop and a totally blank slate. And then we have really really really long jams and we just kind of play together for hours and record the process and from there edit that down into songs. So we’re really improv-oriented but the finished product is always kind of a clean pop song. We ground everything in a loop or some sort of repetitive musical idea that we just kind of build upon a layer on top of and use that to ground us as we’re throwing out ideas and kind of hone it all from there.

Telefones

We all kind of individually write our songs and bring them to the rest of the band. Each person tends to add their own spin on it. There aren’t usually set parts for everybody.

Telefones (Wes)

Yeah, Adam and I write a lot of the lyrics, but even Jason and Jack will come up with lyrics. We all write the music very separately though. At the same time, I’ve really been pushing lately [that] I want to start writing as a band more.

For your lyrical themes, do you have general themes, or is it more situational and organic when something comes up?
The Minks

I think most things are situational. I can’t really just sit down and say ‘well I want to write a song about this’. It kinda just stems from my emotions and things like that. I write something and might not even realize what it’s going to become. I feel like a lot of it is heartbreak and bad luck and things like that [laughing]. It’s a very emotional process for me so I’m feeling happy I’m not like ‘Oh I want to write this great song right now’. When I’m feeling like shit I’m like ‘woah, I can’t believe that came out of me.’

Flamingo Shadow

So we call ourselves a cosmic family band, and we’re very much outside looking in, so we look at it as reporting on the things that happen on planet earth but again, outside looking in.

Telefones

I’ve never had a problem writing them. I’ve never had a block. To say there’s a theme, I think conceptually, but what comes out comes out. If they mean something, I would never tell you what they mean. But, I don’t know, it just kind of happens.

Wes Salton (center) and Jack Faulkner jamming underneath Telefones’ signature hazy red lights (Credit: John Robertson).

What’s the music scene like in your city?
The Minks (On Nashville)

It’s a great community because it’s very healthy competition in a sense because everyone is so good that you have to be good and want to be good. But everyone is really friendly so you kind of push each other. You’re all kind of going for the same goal so you’re helping each other along to get there, and I think that’s awesome. I’ve never lived in another community where that’s as big of a deal. And to see so many friends do so well, it’s pretty amazing.

Flamingo Shadow (On Atlanta)

I think it’s fantastic right now, there are a lot of bands doing really good work. I’m digging everything that Material Girls are doing. The scene feels very vibrant right now. A lot of variation in the sound too. For a long time it was kind of nestled around garage rock and that was kind of the defining sound of the Atlanta scene, but that’s kind of dying away and it’s spreading out to more influences and really much more intricate sounds in terms of types of bands. The quality it really impressive recently. It feels like Atlanta is getting a lot more experimental and a lot more willing to have fun these days.

Telefones (On Nashville)

I can’t say we aren’t better because we’ve been challenged by how high the bar is set. But I feel like people go to shows not wanting to like bands because it’s so competitive at times. Also, we’ve gotten good because we’re in Nashville and you can’t be bad here. You see a lot of bands that are good but they aren’t tight, or they haven’t worked on their shows but their songs are good. If you’re a good songwriter, you have to be a hard worker more than anything.

Photos by John Robertson