Text & Interview: Alec Coiro
Photo: Joey Wharton
Beginning the album with an orchestral flair, Minor Poet announces he’s ready to go toe-to-toe with the epic songsmiths of yore. His unabashed delivery and poignant lyrics are further testimony to the ambition on display. And by the end of the album, the verdict is that the ambition has paid off. The driving music is tight but feels very vibey, like grooves that come out of a band exploring together, so finding out that it’s all Andrew Carter — the man behind the Minor Poet — multi-tracking in his basement is both surprising and impressive.
Born and bred in Richmond, VA, Andrew Carter is a former member of Mad Extras. In fact, Minor Poet came directly after Mad Extras’ came to an end. The popularity of Minor Poet’s debut album And How! has been driven by word of mouth, which is a testimony to the growing power of the Richmond scene. In fact, Carter goes so far as to say, “I can’t think of a better town for emerging artists right now.” So we pointed out investigative lens south and reached out to Carter to find out what the buzz is all about. He tells us about Richmond, recording the album, his lyrics, his live shows, and, just as we suspected, The Beach Boys are a major influence, and we think that Minor Poet is doing those Beach Boys proud.
Read on for our interview and check out the Soundcloud premier of “River Days.”
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to start recording as Minor Poet? Were you in other bands before this project?
Before Minor Poet, I was in a band called the Mad Extras (RIP), and we had been recording an album for about eight months. At a certain point, it became evident that we might never finish the record, and the whole process became very emotionally taxing. My way of decompressing from the situation was to hole up in my basement and work on a bunch of songs purely for fun. Out of these sessions came And How!, and it was pretty obvious that I should get a band together and turn the project into something bigger. Thus Minor Poet was born.
There’s a quality about your music that you don’t hear much anymore, which got me wondering about your influences. Are there bands from the 60s/70s that inspire you?
I think a big reason for that quality comes from the way in which the album was made. Everything was done with an in-the-moment spontaneity, using old organs, toy Casio keyboards, and cheap mics. In this sense, the album harkens back to albums like the Beatles’ White Album or Odyssey and Oracle by the Zombies, a record where they couldn’t afford an orchestra so they used mellotrons to mimic the sound. The Beach Boys are definitely my biggest influence though, ever since I started writing songs I’ve wanted to fill my songs with beautiful harmonies and that rich, multi-layered production.
A lot of musicians look at lyrics as something to round out the melody, but for you, I get the sense that more care is put into them. Can you tell us a little about the lyrics/narrative you’ve constructed on “River Days”?
Because I wanted to blow off steam and get in touch with my creativity when I was writing these songs, I figured the best thing to do was be honest with myself and just talk about whatever I was feeling at the moment. Most of the lyrics on And How! deal with a sense of existential malaise and trying to get a foothold on where I was in my life and what I could do about it. “River Days” is a good example of this. For me, the song is more about a feeling than any literal river. The feeling of being lost, disconnected, and just going with the flow of the moment.
I figured the best thing to do was be honest with myself and just talk about whatever I was feeling at the moment.
We were just talking at the office about all the music we’re hearing coming out of Richmond lately. What is the scene like there these days?
I can’t think of a better town for emerging artists right now. Richmond has always had a really thriving and supportive scene, but it’s only been recently that this is expanding to more national recognition. Richmond’s renaissance has included bigger and better venues to attract touring bands, management companies and fledgling booking agencies that help spread the word. Our label Egghunt Records has been pretty instrumental in this, by exposing awesome local bands like Camp Howard, Big Baby, Dazeases, Manatree, Eric Slick and much more to much larger audiences. I highly recommend visiting!
What are your live shows like and will there be a tour to accompany “And How!”?
For our live shows I play guitar, and rounding us out is a stellar lineup of Noma Illmensee (Manatree) on bass, Jeremy Morris (The Mad Extras) on drums and Micah Head on keys. We also do lots of fun harmonies and cool little embellishments on the And How! songs. Right now we’re finalizing a tour that takes us all around the US through September, October and November. Keep an eye out, we’ll be announcing those dates soon!