One of the many, many wonderful things about our music scene here in Portland is …
I had the pleasure of sitting down with some of the ladies of Cool Schmool. While the band has only been playing together for a little over a year, Kaitie Hereford and Jessica Sylvia go way back. The two both attended Arts and Communication Magnet Academy in Beaverton. Through a serendipitous Facebook post the band was formed. They’ve been spending the last year banging out bratty pop punk all over the city of roses and are now ready to launch their first full length album Time Doesn’t Care. Don’t let their adorable, youthful aesthetic fool you though; these girls are hitting on some heavy themes in their music, including mental illness, being queer and feminist love. We sat under the shade of a tree in Colonel Summers Park, enjoyed some libations and tackled these subjects, along with the creative process, touring, and more.
ELEVEN: How did Cool Schmool form?
Kaitie Hereford: I had a million songs on guitar that I had never played before, I had never even tried to play guitar, and I wanted to form an all-lady band, and I made a Facebook post asking if any drummers were interested and Jess and I hadn’t talked in a decade and she replied saying “It’s my dream to be in an all-girl band!”
Jessica Sylvia: I had never been a drummer, I had been a bassist primarily, so we were both starting out on instruments we weren’t familiar with and just kind of went with it.
11: Was it easy? Do you think your background in theater helped?
KH: I think so yeah. We pretty much immediately clicked with it from the very first practice. We had played instruments before. I mean I played drums usually and she (Jessica Sylvia) played bass usually.
JS: We had been in multiple bands before.
11: The new album is awesome. Fantastic job. Do you have a favorite track? My favorite track on the new album is “Flamingo Sunset.”
KH: That’s my favorite track too! (Everyone cheers and laughs)
JS: My Favorite is “I’m a Mess.” “Wavy Waves” is the hit though, that’s the ear worm.
11: The title of the album comes from a lyric in “Wavy Waves” right?
JS: You did your homework.
11: What was the creative process for this album like?
KH: The songs always start with me writing the guitar part and having a drum or bass idea and giving it to the girls. From there, they kind of mess with it and Jess and our new bassist (Adria Ivanitsky) come up with their own harmonies to go along with my singing.
11: What’s the hardest part?
KH: It’s a little difficult to show someone what you want him or her to play when it’s not your instrument, it can seem.. I try to not be controlling, I want the creative input from my bandmates as well. I usually have all the instruments in my head, and when I first started I didn’t even know what a single chord was. I was just making up everything. But I read somewhere that that is how Brian Wilson made Pet Sounds and I was like, “Alright if he did it and he didn’t really understand all the chords and everything then I can do it too!” What do you think Jess?
JS: I don’t know it’s all just fun to me!
11: Is there anything with your music and lyrics that you’re trying to say to the public?
KH: A lot of our songs are about mental illness. That’s something that’s really important to me, getting rid of the stigma around it and saying and making sure people know, it’s ok to not feel good sometimes and to have meltdowns sometimes. That’s a thing people go through. We have a lot of feminist messages that have to do with love, especially the woman being in control in the romantic situation. Also in our lyrics so far we haven’t used any pronouns in our songs. We’re a queer band and we like to keep things open-ended and not keep things about just boy/girl romances. We definitely have a summer vibe happening with this album. We’re releasing in summer and we formed this band in the summer.
11: Has yourself or someone you love had to deal with mental illness?
KH: I deal with mental illness. I have a lot of issues related to that. Our song “Just Another Friday” is about my classic meltdowns. It’s about me going out and trying to have a great night with my all friends and then somehow things just don’t work out right for me. My mind just brings me to dark places and I can’t control it.
11: I think everyone deals with moments like that and I think it’s great that you’re writing about things that so many people can relate to. Any gear you’re geeking out about?
JS + KH: DANELECTRO!
KH: We love the ‘50s, ‘60s vibes about it and just like their colors match our esthetic. The guitars are really lightweight. I feel like they are built for smaller people like myself, so works great for me!
JS: Kaitie has three different Danelectro pedals and a pastel mint Danelectro guitar.
11: You guys have a theme for your band right? Your colors are lavender, pink and mint yes?
JS: Yeah all pastels!
11: So you guys are about to go on a west coast tour, what are you looking forward to or hoping to achieve?
KH: I’m most looking forward to playing with all-girl bands. A lot of our shows are going to be all femme and queer femme bands. We have a benefit for the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls, and I’m excited to get closer as bandmates.
JS: I’m looking forward to meeting new people and exploring the different scenes. Going to DIY places, seeing what their underground is like verses here.
11: Where did you guys record this album and who helped you produce it?
KH: We recorded with Eric Sabatino, at Sabatino Mopeds. He produced and mixed it. We had a huge say in the mixing process and were present for all of that with him.
JS: It took us six months to be happy with the sounds but I’m really excited for this album to come out now.
11: Would you say the recording process was pretty arduous?
JS: It was pretty quick–it was mostly getting the mixing the way that we wanted it. That’s what took the longest.
11: Did you go into the studio with everything written?
JS: Actually no, remember we wrote the harmony parts for “Just Another Friday” and “I’m a Mess” at The Fixin’ To, which is like a block away.
11: I saw The Nude Party there when I first moved here, it’s up in St. Johns right?
JS: Yes. It’s our favorite bar; I run the karaoke there, every Sunday. Twin Peaks Karaoke! We air the new Twin Peaks and then karaoke immediately after so it’s the whole Twin Peaks crew. It’s amazing.
11: I know you guys have your tour and you’re definitely playing some festivals in and around Portland, but are there any other shows that you’re really excited to play?
JS: We’re doing a show with Mere Mention in August that we’re excited for because it’s at the Fixin’ To. Plasma Blast, which is at the Hawthorne Theater, is something else we’re excited for. It’s a huge festival with a million of our friends!
11: Is there anything I missed, anything that you guys want to say to the readers?
KH: Keep making music, girls! Start making music if you aren’t already and don’t be afraid to!
JS: We’ll teach you, were down to give you drum lessons. »
Catch Cool Schmool live in Portland August 3 at The Fixin’ To.