Welcome, friends, to some millennials’ second installment of a weekly series we like to call Free Music Fridays Mondays (FMFM). FMFM will highlight artists who have decided to release large portions of their music for free and will run with an interview of the artist. For the second FMFM, Brian has interviewed ambient pop band High Bloom, and the interview will be interspersed with music they have released for free.
High Bloom is Caroline White and Hans Hoffman, and the two have an impressive musical background prior to the forming of the band. Caroline will be recognized by many for her work in Julia Brown and Teen Suicide, along with her solo project Infinity Crush, while Hans’ side project White Wreath showcased the dreamy soundscapes that permeate High Bloom’s music. The band’s lone release thus far has been Haloed, released on December 11, 2015 for free on their Bandcamp and featured on Stereogum. The project is highly impressive in that it traverses the emotional spectrum in just under nineteen minutes, and while a clear cohesive element exists between each song, they all stand firmly on their own. If you’re into rankings, Haloed is Brian’s second favorite album of 2016 and is easily first among albums with lyrics (Tim Hecker’s Love Streams takes the top spot).
Looking towards the future, the pair told some millennials that a High Bloom album is in the works, without a firm release date yet, but for those looking for something concrete, White’s got an Infinity Crush album coming out on September 16. Brian spoke to the pair via gchat for a shade under an hour and a half, and the conversation covered myriad topics, ranging from their outlook on free music to Caroline’s dog, nominally the state mascot of whichever state she’s in, from poetry to falafels.
You can follow High Bloom and Infinity Crush on Twitter, along with White Wreath on Soundcloud and High Bloom on Bandcamp. This interview has been edited and condensed, but all capitalization is as was typed in the conversation. This is some millennials we’re talking about. We like lowercase.
some millennials: why free music?
Caroline White: i’m all about accessibility. free music makes more people inclined to listen and download and share our work, and if they really enjoy it, which hopefully they do, they can spend the money to have a physical copy. luckily hans and i are in the position where music isn’t our main/only source of income, so it’s nice to be able to provide free music to people.
sm: was the decision to release on orchid tapes because they traffic in a lot of free music? how did that relationship come about?
CW: orchid tapes releasing high bloom wasn’t explicitly about the free music aspect, though that’s important to us. i think we fit in well with their catalogue and warren [Hildebrand, who runs Orchid Tapes] was really excited about songs i was sending him. i have been friends with warren for several years and frequently send him demos and songs. he was particularly interested in high bloom, and we were both happy he wanted to release it.
Hans Hoffman: i’ve like[d] foxes in fiction [Warren’s band] for a long time as well so naturally i was excited about putting something out on warren’s label
sm: one thing that drew me to high bloom was the little instrumental flourishes in the background, like the jazzy horns of “seeing you” – do either of you have a background in music that isn’t specifically ambient?
CW: I actually was pretty actively and seriously pursuing classical music for a while. I was majoring in music performance for french horn in college, and I actually play french horn during high bloom shows.
HH: before high bloom i had been messing around with similar stuff under the name white wreath. the song “seeing you” was actually a white wreath song before caroline and i started formally playing together. but so far that’s been more of an on-the-side thing for me[.] before that i was just in silly pop punk and screamo bands
sm: with those backgrounds, then, are there any influences you’d say you have that might not immediately apparent by listening to high bloom or any of your other projects?
CW: for me, fka twigs and the newest fear of men album [Fall Forever] really influenced how i crafted vocal melodies. lyrically though, i think a lot of the high bloom songs reference infinity crush songs and have a lot of similarities.
HH: lately i’ve been into a lot of stuff like katie dey, fka twigs, sufjan stevens’ album age of adz, clams casino. stuff with production thats kind of weird and jarring but still emotional and familiar
yeah and infinity crush definitely informs the scope of high bloom
CW: oh same @ katie dey
HH: also really into yohuna right now i cant wait for her album
sm: i like that you both said twigs – the way that the vocals melt into the music on haloed definitely has a twigs feel to it
sm: going back to the lyrical side of things, one thing i noticed about haloed is that while there aren’t repetitive hooks in the conventional sense, there are myriad individual lines that could function as hooks. was this a conscious decision?
CW: not conscious, i guess. i realized i was doing it, but it was just something i was drawn to doing instead of intentionally creating repetitions and themes. it was kind of a nice accidental cohesion.
i think it kind of parallels the idea of having “obsessions” in poetry — just images and ideas we are naturally drawn to over and over again. we all have them and i didn’t really resist them on the album.
sm: yeah, that’s understandable. speaking of poetry, “wallpaper” is very transcendental to me with its confluence of the spiritual with the very corporeal
CW: i’m very into ideas of heaven and transcendence, which is hard to get away with in actual poetry but easier/less corny in songs and lyrics
songs are like a separate world and space where things automatically are more creditable. anything is believable or conceivable. you don’t have to work so hard to convince your listeners. but as soon as you write it down, the space you create is grounded in reality.
sm: so, you’re based in maryland, and one thing i like to know is, if somebody was to come to your city who’s never been there before, what’s the one place that you’d suggest that wouldn’t be immediately suggested by all the tourist websites out there?
HH: i live in dc now which is essentially all touristy but there’s a venue called comet ping pong which has really good shows and pizza
CW: the national arboretum is pretty cool
or people could come to my house and play with my dog, wiggles
HH: we also both hang out in baltimore a lot there’s a place called red emma’s bookstore. it’s primarily a coffeeshop but they also have a lot of social justice seminars there and stuff.
and yeah wiggles is the state mascot
sm: all great answers – red emma’s, i think, is similar in its ethos to this place called bluestockings in nyc, though i’ve never been to red emma’s. i fully support dogs being all state mascots, if you want the header photo of this interview to be wiggles i have zero objections
HH: there’s a great picture of wiggles in a towel where she looks like a model
CW: yes!!!! give wiggles the fame she deserves
sm: good stuff. another non-music question that i’m quite fond of – what’s your favorite sandwich?
CW: i love sandwiches in general. good concept / good meal. my favorite is probably BLTs except with vegetarian bacon or tempeh!
HH: probably the sandwiches from amsterdam falafel
idk if they have those outside dc [Ed. note: the good place of the internet has told me that Amsterdam Falafel has locations in Massachusetts, D.C., Texas, and Virginia.]
sm: never had tempeh nor amsterdam falafel, what comes on the latter sandwiches?
HH: its like a build your own falafel sandwich place, they have a milli different toppings
hummus, harissa, etc.
[Ed. note: a mix-up ensued where Brian thought the band had to end the interview, when in all actuality Hans said “we have to go” in reference to the city of Pittsburgh. We pick up the interview from there.]
CW: Hans is whisking me away because he’s embarrassed of me
im always proud of you
CW: we’re a very supportive duo
HH: we’re like that two headed bird in pokemon
sm: wikipedia tells me the [Maryland] state dog is the chesapeake bay retriever – what’s your dog?
HH: i’d report that wikipedia article because it’s obviously the australian shepherd
CW: wiggles is a toy australian shepherd
she’s tiny and mean
HH: shes tiny and mean until you feed her a few times then she will always bring the tennis ball to you
sm: i feel a kinship with her – i’m a tennis player myself and there is nothing in this world that smells better than new tennis balls
CW: i love tennis!!!!!!!!!!!!!
HH: we play often
but without keeping score
that’s how supportive we are of each other