An Interview with DC's Own Pleasure Curses

Pleasure Curses 3

How did you guys get started?

Evan: Well, we met a long time ago at this music camp Day Jams. It was this weird rock and roll music day camp for little kids to go to. But recently, I was going to school at JMU and his significant other at the time was going to JMU and we met up and started making music after not really talking to each other for like 12 years or something like that. We’ve just kind of been doing this thing ever since.

Jahn: Yes, that is what happened.

What kind of music did you listen to growing up?

Evan: I listened to a lot of hip-hop. My older brother is from Southern California so I had this real weird regiment of older brother hip-hop and pop punk music and stuff. Then I was in a middle school wannabe DC hardcore band so we started listening to Fugazi and then we got really into the scene and we realized we were just 12 year olds in Alexandria not really attached to anything in DC.

Jahn: I listened to a lot of Beatles growing up, like pretty much everybody. My dad was big into Elvis Costello. I think we both mutually shared a love of bands like sort of dance-punk bands. I was in a dance-punk band in England.

Evan: Yeah, early 2000s indie dance that was the coolest thing I was hearing at the time.

Jahn: Respected bands kind of dissolved so we dabbled in electronic music because you don’t need as many people…

Evan: Just a computer.

Jahn: …and we kind of joined our resources to do this.

What would you describe “this” as?

Jahn: People come up to us and say “Do you guys know Depeche Mode?” and it’s like yes, we know of Depeche Mode, New Order, and all that. We’re definitely aware we’re not reinventing the wheel but it’s pop/electro whatever.

Evan: We like making people dance, we like funky music. And fun music and that’s just the mist we’re trying to communicate to people. You know have fun and dance and let loose. What we’re trying to do might not translate perfectly in exactly the right message to someone but as long as you’re receptive to it and you’re digging it, it’s all good. Even if you don’t like it, that’s still a relationship to it so I’m cool with that.

So you guys have a house show later tonight?

Evan: We do. It’s this cool DIY venue. It’s called Mr. HQ. We’re playing with another band Champagne Fever from DC, Output Message from DC, and Alark from NY.

Do you guys do a lot house shows?

Evan: We do. We try to at least, that’s the most fun.

Jahn: We’ve played a lot of sort of shows where we just snuck in before they got shut down, or whoever owned the building decided to turn it into a condo or something.

Evan: It’s such a cool experience of being up in someone else’s business in the best way possible. I’ll be sweating and other people will be sweating with me. I don’t look as weird standing in a radio station. It’s a weird communion at a sweaty night party. It’s the best.

What has been your favorite gig?

Jahn: It’s no longer in existence but we headlined this show at The Dunes and we tried to get off stage and they dragged us back on to do an encore and everybody was feeling it and it was…

Evan: The ideal night.

Jahn: Yeah it’s when people aren’t staring at you blankly…

Evan: Not responsive…

Jahn: …and they was a great show we played in California, Philadelphia. The town was called California in Pennsylvania.

Evan: It was a little college town but it looked like October Sky. It was this little mining community but it was the coolest house show.

Jahn: We were playing in a basement next to the washing machines.

Evan: Everyone was super down for it because it was the only thing to do in the town so they were all really down to hang out and dance and have fun. Our set up is really as self sufficient as we can make it, which can run into problems at times but it’s very portable for these house shows because that’s really our element.

I’m pretty surprised at how condensed you are while still having a very large sound and only being two people, too. That’s truly amazing.

Evan: That’s kind of what we’re shooting for. People come up after shows all the time and say “So when are you guys getting a drummer?” or “Are you guys going to have guitars come with you, being a band?” and I’m open to that and I think we both are because bands are fun but it’s something awesome where I hand him the microphone and we plug in cables and we just start and all the music starts happening and it’s more fun that way.

Plus you drum…

Evan : I like to think I hold it down as much as I can.

Part bassist, part drummer…

Evan: Part paranoid schizophrenic because have to work so many hats but it’s more fun when you can manage it yourself rather than trying to make someone else do it for you. Sometimes it can be mutually not beneficial.

Jahn: and the more people the more dynamics you have to work with. I think if we were playing regularly bigger shows we’d probably expand but at the moment it’s just easier to turn up with this.

Evan [chuckles]: Just to turn up as it were

So do you at this moment have a future goal in mind?

Jahn: Our future goal is when we first started we’re still learning but we were trying to perfect our set up and we didn’t quite know what our sound was and now that’s triangulating into a style. So, we’re going to go outside of Chicago into a house and record and just sort of be isolated…

Evan: …Yeah, bunker down.

Jahn: …There’s like no furniture, running water and heat, no Internet. It’s just isolation, turn our phones off and just try to work vigorously with material we’ve been kicking around.

Evan: Just to expand on all the stuff we’ve learned, playing out way too much around DC and use it with all the new music we’ll hopefully write and be awesome and everyone will love and dance to.

The new song you played, “Burn”, that was awesome live.

Evan: “I’m so glad you like it. That was our main worry because we’ve had a lot of versions of it so when we’ve been working on different versions live it’s always like we don’t know what people respond to each one even if the one we intended to is not that way.

I love that you a) have a bass and b) have live vocals because I don’t think most people associate electronic music with those things nowadays.

Jahn: We’re not DJs but we’re also not a bass, guitar, drums live band. We float in between. We are musicians. We started as musicians. The things that we play, if it’s being triggered by us at the moment it was something that we played at some point live.

Evan: People feel uncomfortable about it. People don’t really know how to place it. We’ve played at places where they probably should’ve gotten a DJ to play thereand nobody appreciates necessarily what we’re doing that’s different from a DJ. “Do you have Beyoncé?” It’s rough but in the same way it means that it’s new and it’s interesting and not the same thing over and over again.

Jahn: The more variety we throw in it the less it feels like a karaoke because I would really feel awful if we were just going up there and just going through the motions, backing tracks where I’m just lip synching.

I know you said you’ll be recording soon. Do we have an album or EP to look forward to?

Evan: It’s hard. Everything is weird because the way that people like to organize songs on the Internet is super weird so we’re trying to figure out how our stuff should be organized and what’s easiest for people to the vibe we’re really trying to communicate for each release we’re working on. I’d say definitely something, definitely an EP maybe a single before that but regardless steady output in the next couple of months. So we’re really excited about that.

Jahn: When we first started we were very excited about what we were doing but still learning so production wise it was like “ok it’s done, it’s done now, let’s put it out immediately” but it’s like no you have to hold your cards a little closer to your chest…

Evan: …But we’re excited and in that way it’s more exciting because you know there’s something you’re excited about that you hope other people will be excited about and it generates this kind of buzz. But you want to show people; you just want to share. It is more quality control at this point.

We just had a conversation about this the other day, how albums are released nowadays and how sometimes they put the singles listings on iTunes, sometimes they don’t, sometimes people drop five singles off an album and how it’s very interesting how it works now.

Evan: It’s definitely interesting. We were just talking about this. We had played a show last night in New York and we were driving back at 3 in the morning and we were talking about how it’s all about context. Because now, there’s no music that doesn’t exist without you knowing a lot about the context of the music and so you have to see how you can package it for people to make it interesting. There’s certain things that people have seen before and even if they’ve seen it before they can think of some creative way to put a cool spin on it so that they receive the material in an interesting way because that’s where we’re at right now. A lot of things have been done. It’s 2014 and music’s been around for quite awhile especially organized music so you have to re-box it and try to put a cool new spin on things.

Jahn: You notice our parents, they grew up on vinyl when they were in college and then they rebought their vinyl collection for cds. They would still listen to it like vinyl, from the first track to the end. So this idea of shuffling and you can choose is not always within them. So I know I grew up with my parents’ sort of greatest hits so when you look at a band’s discography it’s not as shocking that they have a song that’s very different style form song to song. Like what is a track? What is an album?

Evan: Yeah, the Internet makes everything kind of weird. It’s been fun learning the processes of that and learning how to share music with people. You have to be progressive.

Jahn: So our way of being progressive is coming out with vinyl.

Evan: Vinyl is still pretty cool.

So a couple of us noticed you have an 80s flare about your music.

Evan: We love that whole culture; we grew up in that culture. I have a tattoo based on a New Order song so I love the 80s but all we try to do consciously is to really allow it to be an influence and not a box. We want to use that as a reference point and change it and make it a little more modern and run with it as opposed to trying to let it govern what we do. But I can’t fight it. I was a kid and recorded me singing “Personal Jesus” into my dad’s tape recorder and it happened and I can’t take that back. I think we try to use the 80s as much of a tool as we can because we both love it so much.

The DIY music scene is exploding right now, almost as a renaissance in a way. So many people are working together to make these pop-up venues. How do you guys feel you are fitting into that or working within it?

Evan: I love the DIY community in DC. There’s people that are bending over backwards to make things really awesome for people and they don’t have to. Seeing that intrinsic motivation for something you interact with and respect so much is so nice. It’s a great time to be a rising band in DC music.

You guys do a lot of the production and visuals yourselves. Is that all self taught?

Evan: That’s pretty much what we really pride ourselves on is that we started with some knowledge and Jahn has some art background and he went to school for music and I didn’t go to school for music but I’ve always loved music. So we just started doing it. And we didn’t do it great at first so then when you start to try to do it better, you learn a lot. We have self-taught a good deal. It is hard to go on your own morals of “I’m just going to figure this out” but it’s way more rewarding that way.

Jahn: Instead of having friends, I would dick around on computer programs and experiment with shapes and stuff and it helps with an environment if you want people to focus not necessarily on what we’re doing or how cool we look but the vibe. And it’s not about the two of us being in front of you as a spectacle.

Evan: You should just look at each and vibe out and dance. Creating a vibe is key…That’s the tagline for the DC movement we’re trying to do.

Any last thoughts or cool fun facts we should know?

Jahn: Guilty pleasures don’t exist. So if you like a song, and it’s deemed uncool or whatever, it’ll probably come around and become cool again and elements of that. If you like something you shouldn’t be ashamed of what you’re listening to because it’ll come around and be important.

Evan: I want to dance with you. If you’re at a show, I want you to dance and I don’t want you to feel bad about dancing. No one should feel bad about enjoying themselves. I feel like some people think they’re not going to look cool if they’re enjoying themselves and that’s not their fault, that’s the fault of the environment they’re in. And I just want everyone to just pull together and dance. And I don’t think that’s crazy to ask.

Jahn: And anything you do, try to do as much of it as possible. On your own. At least attempt, even if you’re failing, try it yourself because you’ll surprise yourself in how much you can do on your own and how much you’ll learn and become a well-rounded person in your output creatively.

Well, if you ever decide to make a career change, I highly recommend going in the self-help/book writing route.

Evan: Well, we may be coming out with a musical tour and self-help tour and a motivational side project for that then. That’ll be the next move.

Jahn: We should do that. We should do books on tape. “7 Highly Affected Habits of Pleasure Curses”.

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