Quilt are part of America's underground, a loose-knit conglomerate of writers, musicians, dreamers and vagabond spirits.
The band have released a flurry of material, but new album 'Plaza' could be their best yet. Determined to take the road less travelled, their off kilter indie rock is matched to lyrical complexity that has a devoutly literary feel.
Out later this month, it's a curiously complex little gem, packed with overgrown paths that seem to lead to places of mystery.
Perfect candidates for Their Library, then...
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What is your favourite book and why?
Anna: I have lots of favourites, from different eras of my life! Two of my favourite childhood books that kind of changed everything for me were Harriet The Spy and The Phantom Tollbooth.
Shane: I don’t think I’d be able to say a ‘favourite’ but two that come to mind when you ask that are Magister Ludi by Herman Hesse and Big Sur And The Oranges Of Hieronymous Bosch by Henry Miller.
What other authors do you like?
A: Raymond Carver, Atticus Lish, John Steinbeck, Richard Brautigan, Haruki Murakami are the first that come to mind.
S: In terms of newer stuff I have been a huge fan of Patti Smith’s two latest books and also Bluets by Maggie Nelson was pretty interesting. Some consistent people on my shelf have been Herman Hesse, Henry Miller, James Joyce, Hafiz, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kabir, Robert Bly, Franz Fanon…
What draws you to certain books?
A: Realism, depth in the mundane, strong characters, and an emotional reaction from me. In terms of non-fiction, it just has to be well-written and employ some semblance of poetry in its fact-based writing. I like also reading weird psychological texts sometimes just for fun, especially this dude R.D. Laing. I used to read my mom's psych textbooks as a kid. I dunno, I'll read anything. I love reading the encyclopaedia, I love reading the newspaper, I like (small doses of) dense art theory books, I like sociological books, I like reading books about house plants, I love trashy magazines, and I love poetry.
S: I guess it’s just the unspoken chemistry on some level between authors and readers. Obviously an author has to hone their craft enough to be able to transmit that. And, it’s a readers responsibility to hone their craft of attention enough to be able to contain that. But, yeah I have no clue… haha. I wonder the same thing.
Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
A: I read a John Steinbeck book a few summers ago called The Wayward Bus that I thought was really amazing that did not seem to go down in history as one of his best. But I thought it used all the classic Steinbeck tropes and cut just as deep as some of his other works, just in a more modest and subdued way, and I liked that there was a larger cast of characters than usual, at least for him. I also randomly bought a book in Kansas once called Weeds by Edith Summers Kelley that I had never heard of, and ended up loving it. It was written in 1923 about a woman whose spirited nature gets tampered down by motherhood and becoming a wife.
S: I feel that way about Big Sur and The Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch by Henry Miller. Everyone knows Henry for his controversial series of books he wrote during his years in Paris. It seems to be what people know about Henry. I actually never got into Miller when I was younger but happened to stumble across this book at the cabin that is dedicated to him in Big Sur, California. It’s on the edge of the pacific ocean tucked into a Redwood cove; they host events and sells his books there. I was there for a festival our friends in the band Woods were hosting and picked up the book because of a small reference a friend had given me. It is unbelievable.
Actually, when I started to talk to people about this book they would always be like ‘Henry Miller? That pornographer?’ Haha! Big Sur distils the essence of Miller’s philosophy through his adoration of the people who lived in Big Sur at the same time that he did. In books like the Tropics you get glimpses of Henry’s incredible and euphoric vision of life during certain crossroads and dream sequences…but there is always a lot of ‘filler’. Big Sur is straight to the point and shows an incredibly convicted and compassionate man admiring the world around him. It is also an incredible glorification of the idea of ‘the artist’ - which is always something I like to read about. I feel that Patti Smith and him share a kinship in their spiritual vision of ‘the artist’ - in Big Sur, Henry makes those pronouncements absolute and inspires through his writing while retaining a proper sense of humour about it all.
Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
A: Definitely! Especially Raymond Carver. I had him in mind constantly while working on lyrics for 'Plaza'.
S: I wouldn’t use the word ‘direct’. My production style is to consume a lot of different things and let it soak into the subconscious over a period of time. When songs come out they are probably some coagulation of all that shit that has been becoming friends somewhere down there in the dark. Sometimes I do ruminate on specific authors or poets or songwriters, especially when editing and completing songs, but it’s often not the starting point. Usually I just let it all flow out naturally and then carve / sculpt it later on. Sometimes with more direction than at others…
What are you reading at the moment?
A: I am reading The Point Of Vanishing by Howard Axelrod, which is a new book that just came out, and also reading one of those Best American Short Stories collections, I think it's the 1992 edition.
S: I always read a few books at once: I am late on the Murakami game, so I am reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle; I am also dipping into a book of plays by Lawrence Ferlinghetti titled Unfair Arguments With Existence, it’s pretty incredible; and I also just finished Patti Smith’s book M Train. I had already started Wind Up Bird and then M Train fell into my lap and I couldn’t help but dig in, Patti is a real hero of mine. Funny thing is, she dedicates a whole section of her book to The Wind Up Bird Chronicle which kinda shook my flow. It was crazy to be carrying around the one book and have the other book I was reading referencing that book without my prior knowledge.
What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
A: I don't know! I read constantly as a kid, from a very early age. Maybe one of the first chapter books I read on my own was a Ramona book, by Beverly Cleary. I also read a lot of Roald Dahl at a young age.
S: The Pig Can Jig.
Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?
A: Hell yeah. I spent hours at the library. My mom worked there part time and it felt like a second home.
S: I actually used to just go to the library and read music magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin. I would get really excited when new issues came out. I really liked The Catcher In The Rye in high-school and that is also the time when I discovered Ferlinghetti but, I wasn’t a real reader at the time. I more wanted to just skateboard, play music, and draw. It’s funny because now I am a huge reader. I think I collect more books than records…
Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn’t finish?
A: Sure - most recently, Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins. I got about halfway through and had to stop. I tried, I really did. But overall... it was just really bleh. I also still have my bookmark placed halfway through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which was put in there seven or eight years ago. I am determined to start that one over and finish it one day, but having the bookmark there (which is an Amtrak ticket from a trip I took) serves as a nice memento of a moment frozen in time.
S: Of course. Usually when a book can’t hold my attention for long enough that’s when it’s time to part ways. I may give it a few extra stabs of effort after a break but I can’t force myself to read something uninteresting unless it’s absolutely crucial.
Do you read book reviews?
A: No, not really. But without fail, I always read film reviews after I see a film.
S: Not really. But, there is a book-store in my neighbourhood (Greenpoint) in Brooklyn called Word and they send out a newsletter with book reviews / recommendations. Sometimes I read that.
Would you ever re-read the same book?
A: I've thought about it, but I'm too antsy to move on to another one as soon as I finish a book. Although, last winter I re-read a book called Cherry by Mary Karr, which I loved in high school.
S: I already have a few times with different books. There is so much in this world…you know? When I find something that really works for myself, why should I let it go? Finding a good book that really gets you is like finding a precious jewel amidst an ocean of garbage. I am always going to read new things but sometimes I need to just refresh my memory. Usually in the refreshing I discover a whole new world within the thing I thought I ‘knew’.
Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
A: I think I have to identify with a character in some way for a book to hold my interest. I mean, I've never read a book and been like "good God, that's me!", but some kinds of books are easier to relate to... actually, the girl in Cherry reminds me of me when I was a teenager- she was hanging out with lots of strange friends and always writing poetry. Haha!
S: I’m not much of a voyeur so usually when a book really grabs me it is because I can identify with the character or situation on some level. I think that a good author makes us contemplate inherent truths about ourselves and those around us through stories that are vastly outside of ourselves. So, too many to count. Some people say there are many ‘I’s’ within this ‘I’. I get that.
Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
A: I only really read one fiction book at a time, but there's always a poetry book and sometimes a non fiction book floating around in my orbit while I'm reading other stuff. Although, I keep telling myself I am "currently reading" this Joan Didion book right now even though I set it down at the end of November and have yet to pick it back up.
S: Well, in the actual act of reading, always one. I only have two hands and usually hold the book with both. But, I always have a stack of books around that I am reading interchangeably. Usually one novel, one poetry book, one book on something esoteric, one theoretical book, and one random…
Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
A: I'd like to write poems with Robert Frost, or have him write lyrics for me. We could like, have a rollicking debate about syntax choices over a cup of tea with snow gently falling outside the window and a sleepy beagle under the table... or something.
S: I would really love to just sit down with Patti Smith for a while. She has so much to her. I really feel that she is an incredible gift to our era. I thank the world for her a lot, and I thank her for starting to ‘write’ more.
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Quilt's new album 'Plaza' will be released on February 26th.