If you've heard a Cherry Valence song, chances are it was live, and chances are you remember it being a great show. Far more people saw the Raleigh, North Carolina, band tear up a stage than heard their records, as they were one of those outfits that built their reputation on touring incessantly. And having double drummers helped. In the spring of 2004, after seven years and two albums, this became tiresome for founding members Paul Siller (bass) and Cheetie Kumar (guitar), who defected, got married, and formed Birds of Avalon later that year.
Where the Cherry Valence perfected a hybrid of AC/DC, Motörhead, the MC5, and the classic-rock-by-way-of-garage-punk revivalism of the Hellacopters, Birds of Avalon are more about layers, psychedelia, and the song.
The Birds of Avalon lineup was made complete by some North Carolina associates who had spent time in bands the Weather and the Dynamite Brothers (vocalist Craig Twilley and drummer Scott Turkin, respectively), and what better way to hammer things out than to go on the road? (Some of you may have seen the nascent Birds of Avalon in action opening for Oneida last year at the Hi-Tone Café.)
When it came time to record an album, Birds of Avalon enlisted the sizable talents of North Carolina luminary Mitch Easter, the man behind R.E.M.'s best albums as well as the founder of Let's Active and overlooked late-'70s/early-'80s power-pop legends the Sneakers. The resulting debut, Bazaar Bazaar, was released this past Tuesday on Volcom Records. Situated in between the F*cking Champs and the not-to-be-missed upstarts Red Fang, Birds of Avalon will fill out a very satisfying evening of rock when the tour makes it to Memphis Saturday night. I recently spoke with the wonderfully amiable Siller about, among other topics, the transition from the Cherry Valence to Birds of Avalon, working with Easter, and Black Oak Arkansas.
Flyer: What led to the decision to exit Cherry Valence? How do you view this band differently?
Paul Siller: This band is definitely spending more time trying to write hooks than being just simply a live experience with mediocre records. We want the live part to be a bonus. We're trying for a bigger, wider sound, more colorful, and though "pop" can be a bad word sometimes, there's great pop in a lot of things ... early Black Flag and the Ramones, for instance. We want to make something that you can listen to five years from now, and unlike Cherry Valence, this band will cut and slice and rework one song as opposed to making a song a part of the repertoire before it's ready. Some people, like Jay Reatard or Greg Cartwright, can write a great song in five minutes, but we need to work a little harder than that.
Band names are the first piece of information absorbed by listeners and a vital part of a band's aesthetic presentation. Where did "Birds of Avalon" originate?
Well, I'm not really sure how we thought of it. I know that we thought long and hard on it, because it's insanely hard to come up with a name that captures what you're going for as a band. Still, it's weird, because if Led Zeppelin somehow turned out to be a bad band, then their name would be considered a bad band name, but because they were a great band, the name fits and seems perfect. Also, we like the "B.O.A." acronym.
So did it help that Black Oak Arkansas shares the acronym?
Ha, we didn't think of that at the time, but we're fans, and it now seems appropriate for the Memphis show.
What's the story with Volcom?
Well, it's the music offshoot of the major skatewear/gear manufacturer, which seemed really weird at first, but it's four very down-to-earth guys who have been given a section of the huge Volcom building to basically do what they want. They're young enough to be very excited about music, which is refreshing, and being on the label has drawn younger people to the shows. It's great to add a different demographic to the crowds that I feel like I've been playing in front of for years.
What was it like to work with Mitch Easter?
We've always wanted to do an entire album with him but couldn't afford it when Cherry Valence was on Estrus. We've stayed close friends with him for around 10 years. He's got this way about him that's really comfortable — great storyteller and a great sense of humor.