[Note: This is part of a series of archived interviews I did for a website I previously worked for, Avant Greensboro. This interview was conducted for April 6th, 2012.]
For this week’s interview, Keith and I got to talk with one of Greensboro’s newer bands – and definitely one of the most original. The Village Tricycle consists of Rebecca Henderson on vocals, Mike O’Malley on drums and vocals, and Jeremy Harris on keyboards and vocals. Together, they make up some sort of musical-esque punk rock band. Keith and I went over to Jeremy and Rebecca’s house, where we talked to them on the porch. We arrived slightly early and Rebecca arrived slightly late, so Jeremy gave us a preview of a song that would be on their upcoming release that will be out sometime in May. When asked if it would be an EP or an LP, Rebecca only said, “It’ll be somewhere between 7 and 12 inches.” Before we departed, Rebecca and Jeremy insisted we give them locks of hair for their ‘hair jar.’ They made sure to inform us that it was their second jar – their first one had been stolen off their front porch.
How did you meet?
Jeremy Harris: One night, one dark and stormy night, I emerged from my apartment after a long and arduous journey into the dark realms of the human psyche. I had a long conversation with Lucifer, the prince of darkness. My mind was still reeling from all the things he had taught me. I came onto the porch to have a think, to have a cigarette. Rebecca was sitting here. Introduced herself.
Rebecca Henderson: I’m a bitch like that.
JH: She started asking me about my tattoo. I said something about Satan. “I’m friends with Satan.” She was like, “Oh cool, so are you like into voodoo stuff? That goth stuff?” Something about goth and I was just like, this bitch has no clue what she’s talking about. I heard ‘goth stuff’ and I was like, “I have just had a three hour long conversation with Lucifer” and I was like, “you don’t know me. You don’t know me.” And then I sat there in silence.
RH: He was acting like I was the weird one. You came down and twisted yourself on the couch in your underwear with a cigarette.
JH: After I had recovered from my experience, I apologized and we became friends after that. Rebecca knew Mike from Charlotte. I met Mike one night at a house and there was a piano and we all started singing. I’m one of those people who hears someone else is a musician and I’m like, psh, whatever, and then Mike sat on the piano and I was like, whoa.
RH: We’re a band with two musicians and three artists.
How long have you guys been playing music together?
JH: After that first night.
RH: We were like musical fuck buddies.
JH: Whenever we were all drunk in the same place we played together. At some point we decided to try to write a song.
RH: We were eating sushi and I was like, “Jeremy. I have these words in my head.”
JH: So we started trying to write a song and we needed a little extra something so we hounded Mike.
RH: We were like, “Mike, come write a song with us” and we wanted him to come with his bouzouki. But he came with these drums and we were like, “I guess you play drums now, motherfucker.” All in all we’ve been a band since January.
JH: We’d been fooling around since the summer and then we decided to write songs together.
How would you describe your music?
RH: It’s background porn music for gothic fans. Wait, what is it? It’s 1920s punk rock. It spans a pretty wide music gap because we decide we want to write a song in a certain style. Jeremy’s pretty good at picking out styles.
How do you write songs? Is it a joint effort or does one person do it?
JH: It’s totally collaborative. Working in a group always has to be completely collaborative or else the power dynamic is skewed. If I am ever in a band, not doing solo things, I feel like everyone has to write songs together. Since we live together, we are a lot of times on the same wavelength and we come up with a plan, a concept, a storyboard, so to speak. Then we’ll bring Mike in and he helps tidy up the loose ends.
RH: You’ll know when there’s a Mike moment in a song. We won’t write anything and have him come fill it in.
How did you get your name?
JH: I remember this story differently than what I’ve heard from Rebecca or Mike. I always remember joking between the three of us about who’s the third wheel. Who doesn’t belong, who’s the third wheel. Then we were like, we don’t have to have a third wheel, we can be a tricycle.
RH: Then we brought in the Village Bicycle idea and it became a ménage-tricycle – and then The Village Tricycle.
JH: Everyone gets a ride on The Village Tricycle.
What artists have influenced you the most?
RH: Influenced is a tricky word. I would say informed. A lot of the music we’ve heard has informed us to what we like about music but it’s not what you’d pick out as an influence.
JH: As far as influence goes, everything is an influence. If you like it you’ll incorporate it into your own art. If you hate it you’ll figure out why and why you don’t want it to be part of your art. As far as informed, I think that’s why we three work together. We come from very different musical backgrounds.
RH: I think that Mike brings the Tom Waits-carnival. Jeremy brings the classical Bjork-Tori Amos. I’m somewhere with post-modern riot Nick Cave.
JH: There are areas we overlap. We all enjoy musicals a lot.
RH: We all like punk a lot.
JH: We like trashy 80s music.
RH: Kate Bush. If we had to summarize one influence it would be Kate Bush. For me at least.
What was the best live show you’ve ever seen?
RH: [To Jeremy] Are you going to say Bjork?
JH: No…For me it would be Joanna Newsom, [which] was like one of the best in my memories because by the end of the show I could look in any direction and there was someone full out bawling in tears. The demographic was so wide. Everyone was so moved. Tied between that and Zola Jesus. I went to this show in Chapel Hill and there were literally twenty people there. It was so intimate and she’s like 4’11” and raging on the stage. It was so personal and she was drawing straight from ‘the source.’
RH: I think the hardest thing for a band to do is win over people when you don’t already know their music. So in that sense, I would say the best show I’ve seen probably to date in the sense that I sort of left completely fulfilled and exhausted…There’s this Puerto Rican punk band called Davila 666 that was playing with my friends’ band, Paint Fumes. They were highly recommended and their record is really cool. I think it’s weird that we do covers because I was into it and I was like “oh my God.” They did this cover of “Hanging On The Telephone” and it was all in Spanish but I was singing along in English. It was weird. Just because it was so surprising, that was the best show. We really like live music. I think music is meant to be seen live.
What inspires your mash ups and what artists to use?
RH: Number one, they’re very good practice as a band. We started off not doing original stuff. We liked certain songs and for us as artists they’re better in conversation with each other than on their own. It’s like a way of generating experience without generating content.
JH: The whole idea of the sum being better than the parts.
RH: It’s our invocation when we use them in our set.
JH: We’re drawing energy from those artists that have come before. I think it’s something everyone does. You hear one song and sing another song over it that reminds you of another. It’s become kind of an art. Songs that match up musically as well as a theme. And it’s just fun. Everyone likes to have a song that people recognize.
RH: Especially as a new band – just to tap into people’s psyche.
JH: You get that with straightforward covers but two or three songs you’re like, oh surprise! It’s another level of excitement.
What do you like best about playing in Greensboro?
RH: People will show up.
JH: I’ve never played anywhere else so I don’t have much to compare. I think for me one of the best things about playing here is being exposed to little niches of people. Little families that you normally wouldn’t come in contact with. Like were it not for playing at The Flatiron, there are all these people that I never would’ve met. I would have never gone to The Flatiron on my own. It’s just not ‘my scene.’ But that is rewarding. To be at parties and stuff. It’s this whole other group of people who are not a part of my immediate reality that you can come to appreciate.