Catching Up With...The Submarines
The Submarines, whose new album Honeysuckle Weeks just came out on May 13, have been places. John is actually from Dubai, while Blake is from Vermont. The two met in Boston, and began touring Europe together soon after. They traveled out West, and, after a breakup and reunion, settled in Los Angeles together. And yet Kansas still holds an “exotic” appeal for them.
It’s just one more example of how The Submarines are a refreshingly down to earth couple that happens to be in a band together. Paste had the privilege of talking to them about their new album, their tiny rental car and all of the things that keep them busy when they’re not on the road.
Paste: So have y’all been really busy working on the album release lately?
Blake: Yeah, lately for sure, because it just came out yesterday. And we had a record release party last night, which was really fun. It was in L.A.; it was at a gallery in Silverlake. And it was just totally insane and fun, and packed.
John: It was really cool, we had this DJ that just played old school dub and rocksteady and stuff, it was a great night.
Paste: I saw that y’all released the album on iTunes about a month ago, and I’ve noticed it’s increasingly popular with bands to release it on iTunes before you release the hard copy. What prompted your decision to do that?
Blake: I think our label is really forward thinking about the digital world, and I know that they’re even doing some of the releases now only online. And they really believe in doing the early digital release, and since they’re a lot more savvy about that stuff than we are, we figured yeah, why not? But it seems like more and more people are doing that now.
John: It seems fine with me. I’m kind of used to the old school way of everything coming out at once, but I guess it’s been good for us so far.
Paste: I guess it doesn’t take anything away from the anticipation of waiting for it to come out at the record store?
Blake: The only thing that I feel like you miss out on is the experience of holding the album in your hands and really seeing the artwork, which, in this case of our new album, our friend Cole Gerst did the artwork and he’s just a really great artist, and I think it would be a shame if people didn’t get to actually see the artwork in all its glory. And I guess when you get it online it isn’t quite the same, but other than that I think it’s great to be able to download records, and I have to admit that’s what I do most of the time. Legally of course!
John: I have mixed feelings about whether it takes away from the impact. I do like the idea of everything coming out on a single day, but I don’t know, they seem to know what they’re doing, so I don’t think it’s hurt us. But it is something to get used to.
Paste: I noticed the artwork on the new album, and it really is beautiful, and the website with the hummingbird that flies around to all the different flowers on the bottom, I loved it. So that was one of your friends that did that?
Blake: Oh, cool! Yeah, Cole Gerst, he also goes by Option-G. His website is option-g.com and it’s really cool. He just does tons of animated stuff. He’s actually working on a video for us right now that’s going to be half animated and half live action.
John: It should be great.
Paste: Oh, I saw the little flip video camera video that y’all did with the “Xavia” song. So it’s just the three of you in that little car when you’re touring?
Blake: Yeah! Hah, it seemed like a big car to us!
Paste: Your equipment and everything, it all fits in there?
Blake: Yeah, we have a three week tour coming up, and it’s actually just a rental vehicle which weirdly, economically, makes more sense. We are going to do our three week tour with the same one. It’s cool; there’s enough room for one person to lie down, you know. We have some crazy drives coming up so that’s going to be necessary.
John: It’ll be insane. That’ll probably be our last tour with a small van, if I guessed.
Blake: Yeah, we wish we were coming down South, I guess that’ll have to be the next tour.
John: It’ll happen.
Paste: I saw that y’all had two songs, one on Grey’s Anatomy and one on Nip/Tuck, so those had to be pretty big deals for you, right? I mean, getting a song on Grey’s Anatomy, as silly as it sounds, everybody hears it after that.
John: Yeah, it’s pretty interesting actually. We don’t watch a lot of TV, but it’s been great, it’s been really great. The Nip/Tuck thing happened a while ago, and that was really cool. It was really strange, though, because they use the song in its entirety, and the cast, they sort of made a video out of it, and so it was a completely different interpretation of the song, so that was pretty surreal, I guess.
Blake: It was kind of amazing, though, because it was a really different interpretation of the song, but it was also a really literal interpretation of the song, which was totally fascinating to see. They really followed the lyrics of the song and fit it into the story of the show and I kind of was just amazed by it. It’s really interesting when you write a song and it goes out into the world; everyone interprets it differently and it’s kind of amazing to get to see it take on a whole new life.
John: Yeah, it’s sort of voyeuristic; it’s weird.
Paste: I saw that y’all played at the premiere party for that movie Surfwise?
Blake: Yeah, John, do you want to talk about that? It’s such a cool movie.
John: I actually did the score, the music score for that movie. Are you familiar with Doug’s other work at all?
Paste: No, I’d looked around at his stuff, I read a little bit about that one when I was researching you guys, and it sounds really neat, like he just travels around and finds stories.
John: Oh, it’s fascinating stuff. He’s probably most known for this documentary called Scratch, which was about the whole sort of turntable movement that came out of San Francisco, Cut Chemist and Kid Koala and stuff like that. He’s an awesome director, and we played the premiere and it was a blast. It was at this legendary theater here in L.A. called The Egyptian and it was really fun.
Blake: And there were all these surf guys like Kelly Slater and the Paskowitz family themselves, they’re such a legendary surf family. It’s such an interesting world to have a look into.
Paste: Yeah, I can tell you, being in Atlanta, that’s a world we know absolutely nothing about over here. I saw your video for the Ydouthink.com Kiss Campaign. Is that Canadian? I couldn’t tell.
John: No, I think it’s in Virginia maybe? It’s just a statewide campaign. I think it’s in Virginia or maybe it’s Florida, I’m not positive. That’s a song that we’re actually working on now, it’s not even on the new album or anything.
Blake: The public service announcement was also directed by Doug, who did Surfwise, so that’s how that came about.
Paste: Oh, okay, so it’s all piecing together now! Well, this was one of my favorite tidbits that I read about you guys. Y’all recorded a version of “Little Boxes” for Weeds?
Blake: Well John, with Joey Santiago from The Pixies, helped score the first season of that show, the instrumental music, and then Gary Calamar, who came on as the music supervisor in the second season, got the idea to have all different artists cover that song “Little Boxes,” and we had done a version of it when John was working on the first season, so that ended up in the mix of all the covers for the second season. So we were really psyched about that because we love the show and the song!
Paste: It’s really fun to watch the show and wonder who it’s going to be this week and try to figure it out when they start singing along.
John: Oh, I know, it’s a very clever idea.
Blake: And we ended up in such good company with that, with Elvis Costello and everyone. That was very cool.
Paste: I was also noticing the Jackdrag site. John, that used to be - or still is - your DJ site, before The Submarines?
John: It’s a band I had for quite a few years before The Submarines, but I do remixes under that name sometimes and I’ve done some producing. When Blake and I met, I was in that band and she was doing her solo stuff, and so we ended up kind of touring in each others’ bands and having lots of fun, and mostly touring in Europe during that time. I haven’t put out any records under that moniker in a long time. I just want to stay focused on this.
Blake: That, and John is still composing for film and TV and stuff, so the Surfwise music, and he also does the TV show Big Ideas for a Small Planet on the Sundance channel. It’s part of their green programming.
Paste: So you’re a busy guy!
John: Yeah, in some ways the touring will feel like a little bit of a vacation, maybe. I hope.
Paste: Are y’all looking forward to any cities in particular, cities you haven’t been to before, or parts of Canada maybe?
John: Oh, all of them, it’ll be interesting going to places like Northampton, Mass., where we haven’t played ever. I’m just looking forward to the whole thing. I’m kind of looking beyond that, too, and hoping to get to the rest of the country, and we’ll see how it goes.
Blake: Yeah, definitely, we’d love to be able to come to some small towns, too. We actually played in was it Atlanta, John? It was a while ago; we were opening for someone else, but it’s so awesome down there and I’d love to go back. It’s so funny because we did tour together a bunch in Europe, and we did go to some amazing places. But I’m still yet to see a lot of parts of this country that I’m really curious about. Kansas seems really exotic to me, just because I’ve never been there!