Articles - Interviews - "Slick Rick Was Jamming With His Dick, Listening to the Popular Shapes”

This band, Popular Shapes, comes off like a cyclone of convulsive spitfire. Their sound has been described as an angular, jarring art-quirk noise that can generate a rollercoaster of seizures. And their live shows are herald by the likes of Mitch Cardwell as some of the best in the punk scene. I sat down with two of Popular Shapes’ members at Ray’s Pizza in NYC on a fair July evening, in the year of 2003, to talk about their peculiar group, amongst other irrelevant things.
 
LE - These questions better be good.
 
NI - These questions better get me off.
 
BG - Ok! State your name and what instrument you play.
 
NI - I’m Nicholas and I play guitar and sing.
 
LE - I’m Lee and I play bass.
 
NI - Trent plays guitar and he’s not here. We don’t have a drummer.
 
LE - Heavy Kevy just quit and moved to San Francisco.
 
BG - So you’re from Seattle, right? Washington State. Home of “Grunge.” So do any of you have “Singles” in your video library?
 
ALL - No.
 
NI - I did have that soundtrack in eighth grade, I think. The Paul Westerburg song...that’s a good song, I don’t care what anybody says.

BG - I think everyone who was in eighth grade when that movie came out had that soundtrack. Are you enjoying NYC’s sites on your visit?
 
NI - We saw Thurston Moore’s castle today! By the Statue of Liberty...that fuckin’ red thing....
 
BG - Dude, don’t Thurston and Kim live in Massachusetts?
 
NI - Not anymore… All the people on the boat were trying to visit him but he’s listening to the A-Frames and won’t let ‘em in.
 
BG - Okay, so how long ago did you form Popular Shapes?
 
LE - Um...it was close to two years ago.
 
BG - How did you guys get together?
 
LE - Nicholas and I have played in a band since we were teenagers. And Kevin used to book our band in Eastern Washington. And he eventually moved to Seattle and started a band with us. Trent was from Eastern Washington too and he joined...
 
BG - Is it easy to find a practice space in Seattle? Cause forget about it in NYC...
 
LE - I was just talking to a friend and he said it’s a lot easier to do it in Seattle than here.
 
NI - We practice at a space called the Jam Box. We’ve come to the conclusion that whenever we practice on Tuesday nights is when every single bad band in Seattle gets together and practices in the same space...with Nirvana covers going on...
 
LE - Alice N Chains...
 
NI - Haven’t heard any ska-core though...we...we don’t practice anymore...we’ve stopped.
 
BG - That’s encouraging...thanks...
 
NI - We need a drummer.
 
LE - Anybody play drums? Whoever reads this fuckin’ magazine...?
 
BG - So were you guys living in Seattle when the whole MTV “Real World Seattle” thing was going on?
 
LE - Yeah, I saw those dudes one day.
 
BG - Did you try to get on the show?
 
ALL - No, no…
 
BG - Pheeh...I would have.... All right, so do you guys tour a lot on the west coast?
 
LE - Toured once...a little Northern California tour...and Reno.
 
BG - And you’ve played Canada, right? So that’s a world tour.
 
NI - Yeah, kinda...
 
LE - We’ve played Portland.
 
BG - Do you have plans to tour the east coast?
 
LE - I’d love to come to the fuckin’ east coast.
 
BG - You should play tonight! I’m sure you could find someone to play drums and guitar in NYC...
 
LE - Yeeeeeeaah........someone.....
 
BG - I play hipster keyboards and have a drum machine...
 
NI - Have you heard the record?
 
BG - Yeah, I actually listen to the CD a lot.
 
NI - That’s encouraging. If we could use a drum machine we would, cause drummers are crappy, but it would never ever, ever work.
 
BG - Well, you can write some pretty complex stuff with a drum machine.
 
NI - It would be terrible!
 
BG - As long as you’re on time...
 
LE - That’s the key...as long as we’re on time...
 
BG - Ahh...
 
NI - That’s not the way our band works.
 
LE - Kenny’s the only person you know that has seen us live and he’ll tell ya...
 
NI - We’re not the tightest...we don’t pride ourselves on the “live/tight” act.
 
LE - More on the “live/loose” act...

BG - Okay then...Records you’ve released so far are?
 
LE - A little 7” with Dirtnap Records…it’s a split with the Intelligence.
 
BG - Full-length coming out soon?
 
NI - Released by On/On Switch in September; and they’re gonna do fifty 7”s. They are being pressed somewhere in New Zealand.
 
BG - And they’re hand-lathed, right?
 
NI - On clear vinyl. It’s gonna be hot.
 
LE - I’m sorry we had to put someone through that. We have a Chemical Brothers cover on Side B.
 
BG - What song?
 
NI - I think it’s called “Let Forever Be.”
 
BG - Who decided to do a Chemical Brothers cover?
 
NI - There was a film festival in Seattle and a bunch of directors were in town that had shot movies, videos, etc in the festival. A local club organized a show where each band had to do a cover of a video that a director made. The deal was you get to do three of you own original songs and then you had to play your version of the cover song…while the original video played in the background…so it had to be timed correctly. There was a big list full of really crappy stuff. I don’t know why we chose the Chemical Brothers… I wouldn't even say it was a cover by the time we got done with it. I don’t think anybody at the show knew the song in the first place. So it just probably sounded like another original to them. It was ridiculous.
 
BG - And what song is on the A-Side?
 
NI - “Flattered You’re Terrified,” the only slow song on the album.
 
BG - That song is on your web site, right?
 
NI - Yeah, it’s off now.
 
LE - We have these awesome pictures on our web site now.
 
NI - It’s called “Kickass Dudes Factory,” check ‘em out.
 
BG - Okay, so...I’ve heard nothing but good things about the band. What have you heard?
 
NI - We really don’t know...
 
LE - I can’t tell. People say nice things, and people don’t really say mean things, ya know? Zack at Sub Pop City had a hard time finding his “jam.”
 
NI - But he liked it.
 
BG - That’s good...umm... Who writes the lyrics?
 
LE - That’s him, Nicholas.
 
NI - Me. Other people have contributed names and song titles.

BG - I wanna know what, “Our head’s in the freezer,” and...
 
NI - That song’s mostly about being sunburned and cooling off.
 
BG - So your songs do have meaning?
 
NI - Yes!
 
BG - And some other lyric about, “Bee stings...”
 
NI - Well it’s mostly about summer.
 
LE - All our songs are about summer.
 
NI - Yeah...cause the song goes...”The bees in your sandwich get you all worked up. The bees in your sandwich get you all stung up.”
 
BG - Are you including the lyrics in the record pamphlet?
 
NI - No.
 
BG - I think you should.
 
NI - I was thinkin’ if we did a vinyl one that’d be cool to do...but...
 
LE - Do you think that’s cool when people know the lyrics?
 
BG - It depends on the band. Sometimes it can work against you...ahem Firestarter/Teengenerate...
 
LE - Dude, Teengenerate should be regarded as the best poets of the last decade.
 
BG – Well, Teengenerate maybe… But back to your lyrics, I don’t really think “Florescent Bikes” are that depressing...
 
LE - If you saw his florescent bike on the wrong day you might get depressed. It always had flat tires and shit, and it was hard to ride...
 
NI - You’d get laughed at if you rode it.
 
BG - Yeah, that is a shame...so, besides Popular Shapes, what other forms of creative expression do you guys pursue?
 
LE - I do films. I write scripts.
 
NI - “I write scripts... All kinds of scripts.”
 
LE - He’s a graphic artist. He works for the Seattle Weekly.
 
NI - I like doin’ stuff.
 
BG - What about the other guy?
 
LE - Trenty-Baby? He plays in another band called Holy Ghost Revival. They’re a fantasy rock band...but I think the singer will end up killing himself before too long, so...go see ‘em while he’s alive.
 
NI - Yeah, they’re awesome. They’re really young, 19-20, but they’re doing fantasy opera rock. Nobody else is doing that, or even trying to do it.
 
BG - Okay, back to...the movie.
 
LE - The movie!
 
BG - How many films have you made, Lee?
 
LE - I’ve made two. “Polterchrist” and “Benny, Marty, and Jerkbeast.”
 
BG - A movie star! I have sources that say you’re quite the ladies man.
 
LE - Who told you that!
 
BG - I can’t say. I have to protect the identities of my informants.
 
LE - No comment.
 
BG - So, is it because of your budding movie career?
 
LE - Yes... Did you see the fuckin’ movie?!
 
BG - Your movie’s fan-fuckin-tastic! The best $5 bucks I’ve ever spent!
 
LE – No…I don’t even think it’s true... Whoever told you that…
 
BG - It was Jed.
 
LE - Jed. Of all dudes...
 
BG - He told me, “That guy, Lee, is always with these hot chicks.” And I said, “That’s because he kinda looks like Leonardo DiCaprio.”
 
LE - Ohhhh...
 
NI - Oh yeah, I emailed him pictures when you had long hair and he was like, “I didn’t know Leo was in your band.”
 
LE - Yeah, yeah, yeah...
 
NI - I liked the long hair.
 
BG - Looking like Leonardo DiCaprio can only help you, Lee.
 
NI - We saw “Catch Me If You Can” on the airplane...
 
LE - Yeah, I got mistaken for him three times.

BG - Ha ha!... All right, the last question I have is - what’s your favorite shape?
 
NI - No.
 
LE - The dick!
 
BG – Mine’s the hexagon.
 
NI - Everyone thought we were gonna wear shape shirts for our first show.
 
BG - Where did the band’s name come from, anyway?
 
LE - I think I said it one day.
 
NI - Well, some how I think it might’ve stemmed off from the Population.
 
LE - No, actually, what we really wanted to do, not over step over any bounds here, we wanted the band name to be “The Outrageous Math Test” more than anything.
 
BG - That’s a great band name.
 
LE - It is. A friend of ours came up with it though. We didn’t want to steal it from him. So we let him use it.
 
BG - Did you have any other cool band name ideas?
 
LE - What about “Night Vision Uterus.”
 
BG - That’s equally good.
 
LE - Well, I don’t know if it’s equally, but...
 
NI - Please stop there.
 
For more information on Popular Shapes please visit www.popularshapes.org or www.ononswitch.com
 
Interview by Joe Domino. Photographs supplied by Popular Shapes.

 
 
© blankgeneration.com 2003