Words by Andrew Humphrey
Tsunami Bomb is back with their first LP in 15 years. The Spine That Binds, represents a lot of new beginnings, notably by the recent joining of vocalist Kate Jacobi and guitarist and backing vocalist Andy Pohl. The album was created with considerable physical distances between members, spanning from San Francisco to New York. However, through a shared artistic vision paired with some extraordinary dedication, the band spawned 11 new songs that are equally anthemic as they are catchy. It delivers a mix of dark, creepy vibes with an empowering pop punk flare.
Off Shelf: How does it feel to be putting out your first LP in 15 years?
Gabe Lindeman: I wish I could say that it feels just like you did 15 years ago, but it really doesn’t. The writing process was largely the same as it has always been, with the very obvious hurdle of geography. The same goes for the recording process: there were certain parts of certain songs where we were recording our parts not having a clue what some of the others’ parts were going to be— which was both terrifying, and surprisingly fun… almost like opening up a gift from someone who is really good at gifting. Not like me, I’m pretty bad at giving gifts most times.
Andy Pohl: It feels pretty damn good. As the “new guy” in the band, it’s really my first release with the band – if you don’t count the two song, digital only single we self-released – and as a band we are really proud of how it came together. As someone that has been following the band since their inception, it’s great to see that the band can be relevant 20 years later, still putting out well-written songs with heart and a bit of an edge to them.
OS: How would you describe the evolution of your sound over this time?
GL: I think our sound directly reflects the members, as it always has. Each member has a part in the writing process; therefore, the songs tend to sound like those five ingredients. And in some ways, the new songs sound like the older songs. In other ways, they sound like nothing we’ve ever done before.
AP: I was able to take a bit of an outsider’s perspective to this, and really, I feel that the band has been able to come full-circle in some ways but have also progressed as songwriters and musicians as well. The new album represents the various periods of the band pretty well, incorporating the dark, pop-punk from back in the Invasion/Ultimate Escape era with some of the heavier/angular writing from the Definitive Act era. And with Kate and I adding our own unique spin to the mix, to me it feels like the band is staying true to its core sound, while also allowing for growth and evolution.
OS: How did the reforming of the band come about?
GL: It was suggested that we release a collection of all of our old songs, which led to talk of doing one or two shows to promote it. Some of the old members didn’t want to do it, and some did, so we were challenged to find new members who we both felt were talented, but almost more importantly, people that we felt like could be a part of our family.
We were very, very lucky to already know Andy, and met Kate through our departing guitarist Brian Plink’s introduction… With both of them we knew instantly that we were MFEO.
AP: Awwww…. shut up.
OS: A lot has changed in the recording industry since The Definitive Act – how has it been, adapting to those changes?
GL: I think it has been really great for us, as we are kind of a play-at-will type of band, we are able to reach a large audience fairly easily.
AP: Mostly really positive. Like Gabe said, we aren’t able to really go on lengthy tours like the band used to be able to do. With everyone’s work/life/family schedules, we are a bit limited on where, when and how often we can perform, but it really works to our advantage in a lot of ways. We can play small runs of shows, less often, and it allows for the shows to be a bit more special if that makes sense. We work with a fantastic booking agency, Crawlspace Booking and they’re able to get us into the right areas at the venues that make the most sense, so really all of the shows we’ve played have been rad.
As far as album sales and such, we know that the ways in which people consume music has shifted to ‘mostly’ streaming, so we aren’t delusional that we’re going to sell the same amount of records as the band once could. But, with so many streaming services and avenues in which to showcase your music, we can still get the music out there and readily available, which ultimately is what matters. We’re really grateful for anyone that picks up a physical copy, but we are realistic about expectations.
OS: How did the experience of self-producing the album go?
GL: It went pretty well, primarily due to the fact that we are all reasonably talented—at least the rest of them are, and we work so well together. I bring something to the table, also. It’s usually coffee related, but that’s something, too, isn’t it?
AP: It was a bit of a logistics nightmare, but honestly, it went as well as we could have hoped given the circumstances. Because we are a bi-coastal band, Oobliette [Sparks] lives in New York while the rest of us live in the Bay Area, we had to coordinate all of our demos & songwriting via email, file transfers, etc. It was actually pretty fun, though it made the process go on a bit longer than it might if we were all living closer together.
As the songs were coming together and we were starting to record them, we would get some feedback on the songs from trusted friends that we knew would give us honest feedback. We ended up shelving a good 5-6 songs since they weren’t really shaping up the way we’d hoped. We didn’t really consider using a producer for the record since the band had a pretty clear vision for what we wanted the album to feel like. Everyone was able to have a say in regard to the way that the songs were shaped and the album as a whole came about, which was really refreshing. We were fortunate to work with some really fantastic engineers like Jack Shirley at Atomic Garden for mixing, Steve Orlando for mastering, and Derek King at White Whale for tracking, to only name a few of them, so that helped make the process much smoother. For the next album, our intention is to do the record in one place if we can help it, but that remains to be seen.
OS: How about any fun stories during the recording or writing process?
AP: When we recorded the gang vocals for the songs, we brought in some good friends and a few family members to do the shouts with us, including Gabe’s two young kids, which was cool to have them included on. A lot of laughs that evening. I know Kate and Oobliette had some hilarious days recording in New York that involved some wine and an attempted live stream. Writing lyrics at Kate’s house with her awesome dogs around was pretty sweet. Writing lyrics as a group is always so weird and funny because you have multiple people trying to get into each other’s brains, and sometimes really absurd stuff comes out, haha.
OS: Can you describe what inspired some of your favorite songs, or if there are recurring themes tying the record together?
AP: Well, the songs come from a lot of places, really. Naysayers, in particular, was inspired by the life of our friend Chris LaForge, who had taken on guitar duties in the band for about a year prior to my joining up with the band. He sadly passed away very suddenly, shortly after I joined the band, and it really shook everyone up. That song is all about living your life the way you want to live it, and not giving a fuck about what anyone else thinks, which was what Chris was all about. A song like Tidal is kind of a beginning to a story, where it’s being laid out to the reader/listener what is about to happen… in this case, it’s about how the band is back and is ready to give you all we’ve got. The Spine That Binds, conversely, is sort of like a story’s ending… where there has been this long road leading up to it and at the end, we close with a summation of what’s gone on and that we’re here to stay. A song like Last Call was inspired by the death of Anthony Bourdain. It’s a very personal album, with a lot of emotional highs and lows in these songs, sometimes with the juxtaposition of ‘lighter or happier’ music with ‘darker or heavier’ lyrical content on top.
OS: How has it been working with Jello and Alternative Tentacles?
AP: Oh man, it’s been really great. He’s been a big cheerleader for us, and honestly, we were caught off guard by the fact that he was as interested in working with us as he was. He’s given us some very direct feedback about the songs, which has been really helpful, while also giving us as much space as we need. When it became known that he was a big fan of our earlier stuff, that really helped to solidify how proud we were of how things were coming together since we wanted to showcase the band from all aspects, and not just try to ‘outdo’ the last album that had been released. Alternative Tentacles is such a storied label, and though we may not necessarily be the ‘typical’ band for them, the fact that we can be included amongst such a diverse group of bands is really cool. I mean, The Melvins, Lard, Noam Chomsky and Wesley Willis?
OS: Anything else our readers should know?
AP: We have a few tricks up our sleeves for next year as far as our output goes, so stay tuned about that, there is a lot planned. We are already working on new material for a new record, and we don’t want to wait too long before recording/releasing it, but we also want to do it right. We’ll of course let everyone know how that’s coming along, but we’d encourage anyone that wants to stay informed to sign up for our mailing list on our website and to join The Bomb Squad. Other than that, we just want to express how much we appreciate our fans and we can’t wait to see you at a show!