Bishop Allen rocks café, sits down with Lawrentian

Tom Pilcher

(nhi nguyen)

New York indie pop band Bishop Allen packed the campus center café with both students and Appleton community members Saturday night, inspiring the mixed crowd to dance along to their singular brand of pop.
Before the band played, I sat down to talk to Christian Rudder, Bishop Allen’s electric guitar player, singer and half of their main songwriting team.
Lawrentian: So how long have you guys been together, and how did the band start?
Rudder: Well, I’ve been playing music with Justin [Rice, the lead singer] as kind-of Bishop Allen for about seven years or so. This version of the band has been together for about two years, though. The band basically formed because Justin and I had been friends forever, because we went to college together.
Lawrentian: You signed to the Dead Oceans record label fairly recently and were unsigned before that, right?
Rudder: Yeah, our first album [“Charm School”] and the EP project [the band released twelve self-produced EPs of new material in 2006 to generate interest from record labels] were all self-released.
Lawrentian: Has being signed to a label changed things for you guys as a band?
Rudder: It has. I was thinking about this the other day. It’s very subtle but the difference is there for sure. We got a booking agent because we had a label, and once you have a booking agent your tours are better. It’s just these little incremental things. As far as [our] nationwide [popularity], I think that’s mostly just based on the music we put out rather than what label we’re on. The label definitely does a lot of little things that we wouldn’t get done ourselves though.
Lawrentian: What’s it like for you as a mid-level band as far as your career and popularity?
Rudder: The way music works these days, it’s pretty viable to be a medium-sized band like us. You can do it as your job, basically, and if you’re smart about it and work relatively hard you’re fine. We don’t have day jobs to go back to at this point.
Lawrentian: You guys were recently in the film “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” How did you end up with that job?
Rudder: The director [Peter Sollett], when he got development money for the movie – which is about New York bands and nightlife – wanted to have it be authentic, so he went to a whole bunch of clubs and just saw bands for six months. He saw us totally randomly, he liked us, he asked me and Justin to go out for a drink with him and we did, and he told us he wanted us to be in his movie, and we said okay.
Lawrentian: Did the film end up changing things for you career-wise at all?
Rudder: It definitely did, but again, it was subtle. We definitely sold some records because of it, and the exposure definitely helped, but not in a way that’s like night and day.
Lawrentian: As a band, what’s your songwriting process like? Do you and Justin write most of the songs?
Rudder: Yeah, Justin and I write most of the songs. One of us comes up with a part to start from, like words, melody or an instrumental part, and then we sit down and try to build it into a song. I end up doing a lot of the arranging and editing and he focuses on lyrics.
Lawrentian: Your EPs have a very homespun sound to them. Did you try to emulate that for “The Broken String” and “Grrr.”[the two most recent records after being signed]?
Rudder: Not really, especially for “The Broken String,” because the whole point of re-recording the songs was to do them in a better place. For an album on a label, I don’t think it should sound quite as homespun, which is the great part about the EP format, since it works to have it feel more homespun.
Lawrentian: So do you have any plans for recording this year?
Rudder: Yeah definitely, these are probably the only shows we’ll play until the end of the year. We want to get in the studio to record and hopefully we’ll have a record done by the summer.

(nhi nguyen)

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