It’s no secret that Shoegaze is a very much loved genre in this Shithole of a Website (TM) called Sloucher. Is it the inherent dreaminess of the sounds? Is it the sometimes whispered vocals? Is it the slight scary undertones of some songs? Whatever it is, our goose pimples are on the draw and all hairs on the back of our neck are ready to stand whenever those reverb & echo drenched notes arrive.
And for the cornucopia of bands we’ve found that do the genre, Echodrone is simply one of the best we’ve encountered. A serendipitous email and some very late reviews later and we’ve found the essence of the band still lingering in the halls of this joint.
So, an interview was not only a necessity, but a privilege. We got in touch with the band and Meredith Gibbons (vocals), Brandon Dudley (bass) and Eugene Suh (vocals, guitars) were kind enough to take our questions.
Hello, Echodrone people, what have you been up to lately?
Meredith Gibbons: Finishing up medical school, living in Seattle, checking out bands I like that come to town.
Brandon Dudley: Coming out of the other side of a lot of change in my personal life – new role at work, new relationship – and keeping on top of new music and old faves.
Eugene Suh: I just finished pharmacy school and am now working as a project manager in drug development at a pharmaceutical company. I’m also listening to a lot of old school no wave like Rat At Rat R!
Could we interest you into sharing a little about the history of the band? How did you all came to be and chose the name?
MG: Eugene Suh and Brandon Dudley know the beginnings better. I just got to join in later.
BD: Eugene posted an ad on Craiglist in April 2005 looking to start an “Indie Rock Band”. I had just gotten out of a situation that was not going anywhere and was looking to focus on shoegaze/dreampop instead of indie, but Eugene’s influences drew me in and I replied. We liked what each other did during the first jam session and started working on a few things Eugene had written while looking for others to fill out the band. We had been playing for a couple of years with our first lineup when Mere joined – she had been playing with another band that we did a gig with, and when she became available after leaving them we jumped at the opportunity to add her talent to the band and haven’t looked back.
The band name came from a two-day email and phone call session between Eugene, Mark Florey (our then bandmate) and I in which we threw out dozens of combinations of words and phrases until one stuck – Echodrone. Funny thing was that we knew about Skywave but didn’t know they had an album called Echodrone until one of their former members contacted us about it after our EP was released! Greats minds etc.
I’ve been to San Francisco once and it was an enjoyably weird city. In what way has the city defined the sounds of Echodrone?
MG: San Francisco is great because it really is diverse musically. I have been to other cities, and frankly haven’t experienced the same degree of diversity. I think as a result, you really can find niches in every genre and link up with other like minded musicians better.
BD: I’ve lived my entire life in the Bay Area and being in proximity to a cultural bastion allowed me total access to any and all sounds, cinema and personalities one could every look for. Live 105 (local beloved radio station) played lots of shoegaze back in the day and I was a huge fan of the genre during the early 90’s. Being a draw for touring bands, I had a chance to see virtually any band I had any interest in. This all meant that I had unfettered access to anything I wanted to draw from in terms of my approach to bass playing or to the shoegaze genre. When we started Echodrone, there was an established community of shoegaze and similar bands that we tapped into for gigs and general support of one another which made the road ahead relatively easy travel.
ES: While I lived close to San Francisco for a number of years, I never had the opportunity to live in San Francisco like Brandon and Meredith had. Regardless, I think San Francisco has still provided a source of inspiration for my musical pursuits! IMHO, Echodrone’s music kind of mirrors the polar extremes of San Francisco. On the one hand, you have the beauty of morning fog, rolling hills and the Pacific Ocean. On the other hand, you have the grimy corners of abandoned warehouses and downtown. I think our music is a culmination of these elements (dirt/grit and beauty, light and darkness).
I’ve enjoyed Mixtape for Duckie quite a bit, what pushed you towards doing a covers EP?
MG: When promoting our last album, Bon Voyage, somebody asked us what songs you would consider covering or something like that. We all started to brainstorm and it sort of took of from there.
BD: I love covers personally and enjoy the various ways that bands transform and play with existing songs in order to make them their own, or pay homage to the original band/work. After Bon Voyage, we were all living apart and were brainstorming about how to move recording ahead while being unable to meet physically in a studio and someone (maybe me?) thought about doing an album of covers as a way to explore working together and recording in this new situation using established songs to make songwriting easier.
ES: Yep, I think it was your idea Brandon! The story behind Mixtape was probably similar to The Replicants s/t album…we were testing out our new recording situation by working on songs that we loved!
(Editor’s note: The Replicants was a one-off band that Failure did before unleashing Fantastic Planet. The whole point of that sideproject was to both pay tribute to the bands they loved and experiment with recording and mastering. You can find the album probably for a few pennies in discount bins. Worth every darn single shiny penny.)
Have you always enjoyed doing covers? I’ve now heard your cover of The Cars’ Drive and enjoyed that.
MG: I think we all enjoy covers because we can get really creative with it. It is kind of fun to take something familiar and add an Echodrone spin to it.
BD: I agree with Mere. :)
What were the rules to choose a song to cover? Some of these choices aren’t the obvious ones people would go for.
MG: I think it was a no holds barred if I recall correctly.
BD: We each got to choose a song and I don’t think there was any dissention over each of the choices. We added the Louis Armstrong song as Eugene had already done a cover of it for his then-girlfriend and so it was already known. I think we then added ‘Time’ by band consensus.
ES: Yep, except Meredith was happy to do any song…so I think the selections were:
Echodrone – Time
Eugene – Are Friends Electric?
Brandon – Sailing
Echodrone – Cry Little Sister
Echodrone – We Have All The Time in the World
Mark Tarlton – Praying for Time
There’s always a lot of animosity for someone like Christopher Cross, but your ‘Sailing’ cover is probably as good and sweet as the original. What can you tell us about this song, what it means to you and what made you chose this track?
MG: This one was all Albini!
BD: I have a soft spot for 70’s soft rock and always thought that ‘Sailing’ in particular was pretty dreamy already. It carries a lot of good memories for me from childhood, as I was 7 or so when it was released. I love what Mere did with the vocals and felt that everyone was on the same page in terms of approach and dare I say reverence for the original?
Duckie got screwed by the script of 16 candles. Discuss.
MG: Duckie did get screwed. It sort of turned him into a martyr for underdogs though. I certainly would have gone for Duckie!
BD: Duckie got screwed by the test audience response to the original ending, where Duckie ended up with the girl. We are to blame!
You’ve been around for a while, starting when shoegaze was more of a fringe genre than the more appreciated beast that is today. What lessons have you gained through these years?
MG: I think it’s a genre that can fall into boring, honestly. I have always been excited by bands that have been able to take this genre and not hide behind the aesthetics of it and think that’s enough, but are able to write great music and sort of stylize it in that beautiful shoegaze sound. Cocteau Twins comes to mind to me as a classic example of awesome songwriting that shimmers in a stylized fashion.
BD: I am an unabashed fan of shoegaze and have been since I first heard Lush in 1990 or so. It’s music that I respond to on every level and have a near-spiritual relationship with. I also agree that blind adherence to the shoegaze tropes really takes a lot of the power out of the music and so am drawn to bands that integrate aspects of other genres into their music (say, Engineers or School of Seven Bells) or are on the edges exploring textures and sounds (dronier bands like Hammock or heavier like 93MillionMilesFromTheSun). I also like bands that remember that “classic” shoegaze bands never forgot to put pop in their noise, like Drowner for example.
ES: I actually don’t listen to much shoegaze nowadays, probably for the reasons that Meredith mentioned. I think it’s a genre that must walk a fine line – paying homage to its ancestors while pushing forward with fresh, new ideas. The shoegaze bands that have failed in the past have either become exact replicas of previous bands (Slowdive, MBV) or push too far forward, alienating their audience in the process. It’s a difficult space to work in, but the people/bands that do succeed in walking that fine line are truly incredible! I am amazed and humbled by what some of today’s shoegaze/dreampop bands are accomplishing!
What are the future plans for the band? Any more releases in the future?
MG: Keep moving along? New releases? Vinyl release would be very exciting.
BD: Find a drummer and a method to continue recording. We have a lot of material in the pipeline that we hope to release this year.
ES: Keep connecting with our fans and working on new material! :)
ES: Thanks so much for the interview Sloucher, we really enjoyed it! Also, thanks to everyone that has stuck with us throughout the years! Echodrone would be nothing without all of your love and support!