One of the many, many wonderful things about our music scene here in Portland is …
With a wealth of material inclusive of seven albums and precious bonus recordings, Eternal Tapestry is a jam band. While the term brings to mind a certain corner of music culture, Eternal Tapestry refers to the sprawling vastness in each songs endurance; meditative, experimental psych rock woven out of pure improvisation.
ELEVEN: What is the band’s current line-up?
Nick Bindeman: Well we are four right now, but it’s amorphous. One of the guys Warren Lee is overseas right now spending some time in Budapest. We will be meeting up with him when we go to England on tour. Right now it’s me, Jed, and Krag Likins who plays bass. We recently stole my friend Cat Hoch to start playing with us, she’s played with some other local bands like Tender Age, Appendixes, and this group called Daydream Machine.
11: What is Eternal Tapestry?
NB: One of our former members Dewey would always keep playing after the song was over. He would just keep shredding. So “Eternal” was in reference to that, kind of a joke. It was Eternal Heads Band for a minute. After practice one day we were sitting on the porch and somehow “Tapestry” came about.
11: What is Krautrock?
NB: In Germany it is called “Kosmische,” or cosmic music.
Jed Bindeman: It’s a pretty derogatory term in Germany.
NB: There is a great documentary called Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany, which talks about how Kraftwerk, Can, Faust, some of the bigger Krautrock bands, and there were dozens of groups. It was a movement. These were children of people who grew up during WW2, and they felt so much shame related to their Nazi relatives. They wanted to move on from this association, and were trying to redefine an image for modern young Germany in the sixties through music. A lot of new music technologies, such as the use of synthesizers were very appealing. They didn’t want to relate or be influenced by anything, like what was happening with the Beatles or in the U.S. They wanted to start their own thing and set a new trend for Germany.
11: What are some of your other influences?
NB: Probably our biggest influence is a Swedish Group called Träd, Gräs & Stenar, which means “Trees, Grass, and Stone.” They were around for forty years or so since the late sixties. Their music is like ours in some ways, philosophically, in that they like to work with themes with some songs, and they are largely improvised. It’s the notion of a jam band, which these days brings to mind a specific meaning. But they were a ‘jam band’ before that was a term. And we are as well. We are trying to get into the jam band circuit.
11: The titles of your songs relay themes of philosophy, mysticism, science fiction, and now with Wild Strawberries, Botany. How do those ideas play into the music?
NB: They are basically the things that we get into. We are into Sci-Fi, we are into plant life.
JB: Not to say there isn’t depth, because there is meant to be depth past the surface sounds, but there isn’t any hidden meaning. Especially since it’s primarily instrumental music.
11: So when you start to write songs, how are they distinguished from each other?
NB: We don’t write songs. We only improvise. Well, 99 percent of what we put on a recording is improvised.
11: Are you improvising in the studio and then naming the tracks?
NB: We don’t go into studios. Everything has been done by us, like in our basement. Occasionally we are like “We’re making an album” but usually it’s “Let’s hit record.” The idea of improvisation has always fascinated me. Our philosophy has everything to do with intention. When something is improvised, that means it was composed on the spot. That could mean abstract composition, or what we do–melodic composition that’s improvised. But it’s not being pulled out of thin air. We are very familiar with each other and to me improvisation is something that you learn to do with other people, where you develop a language with each other. The more you speak the language, you can anticipate what the persons are going to say. It’s the same with music, we’ve developed this communication with each other that’s become second nature. So when we play music together we are familiar with our reference points musically. So its all about pushing, and pulling back, and different energies and being aware.
11: So if you don’t go into studios, how do you record?
NB: We record on a cassette 8 track machine. Krag has a lot of nice Ampex preamps from the fifties that sound like magic. We are not into fancy things. We don’t use digital recordings because I love tape distortion. I have very rigid aesthetic preferences, being the one that records and mixes it. Like the break up, I don’t like clean sounds so much.
11: What about editing?
NB: Editing is fun. I feel so strongly about this. When you edit something and put it to tape, and its on a record, and you are able to listen to it repeatedly, it has as much intention as any other piece of music, whether it is Bach, Steely Dan, or Mariah Carey. You can hear the same thing every time. When someone listens to Wild Strawberries they are going to hear the one thing, forever. That’s a composition with intention through repeated listen. I think that’s pretty amazing. So even though what we do is improvised, listeners will learn to anticipate certain parts too, as they become familiar.
11: Does improvisation mean that each show is unique?
NB: In a sense. We work with themes a lot.
JB: There are parts of the show that will be completely improvised. We might start on the same page, like in the same key, so it’s not a total free for all, but besides that we will start with a very specific very brief beginning. Then we will just explore, for a half hour or more, maybe returning back to that starting point to wind it down and be back on the same page. Usually it is a melodic theme, something in the guitar line. If we are in a really deep jam where everyone is playing together, but off in their own world, Nick might come in with a familiar guitar line that lets us all know it’s time to return.
11: You guys get lost up there?
NB: Yeah, that’s what’s so great about improvised music because you can reach ecstatic heights. I do music, especially at this point in my life, not to make money or get ahead. I do it because it feels good. It’s kind of this abstract surreal feeling that you get high off of, because you don’t knowing exactly what is going to happen next; you’re pushing, pulling, feeling, listening. And it’s exciting.
JB: I don’t feel like you can have an out of body experience playing a song that is rigid, where if you try something new with it live it sounds wrong. With me, I have a bad habit of closing my eyes while playing the drums, my brain is shut off, im not thinking about anything. It’s meditation.
11: You also do a lot of projections to complement the live shows?
NB: Yeah we do a lot. Our friend Brenna Murphy just did a video for us and also helps us with other live projections.
JB: We do like to have a visual to direct your eyes to and stimulate you, instead of just watching the band.
NB: We should just tell people to bring their dogs to shows.
11: Well you do seem to be animal lovers. Wasn’t your album Guru Overload a benefit with Oaken Palace Records?
NB: We were approached about doing a release to benefit Bornean Orangutans, which are big beautiful creatures.
11: Many of your songs just keep going past the ten minute mark. What is your longest song?
NB: We have had things that are 24 mins, but that’s because that is the length of a cassette tape. And then we just keep playing.
11: What about your trips to the cabin in Zigzag, Oregon?
NB: We rent a particular cabin with no neighbors where we can play music all night. Camp Festivus. A hot tub and most of the Seinfeld box sets. I love that area for camping off of East Lolo Pass. It’s a beautiful notion to go somewhere with the sole priority of living and music. No distractions of work or having to do anything. Everyone is there to breathe, eat, sleep, wake up, have some Obama kush, and play.
11: And you recorded Wild Strawberries there?
NB: Yes, we brought our own studio. Four car loads, two drumsets. It wasn’t a casual affair, we did have to make time for a whole seven days. It was very premeditated. We spent the first 36 hours just setting everything up to make sure the sound was good. We brought a hammered dulcimer, all this junk.
JB: We did that on purpose so we had options.
NB: We are also back to longer recordings. The album Beyond The 4th Door was a lot of shorter stuff to include variety, and a lot of LPs have just been like, two twenty minute pieces, one on each side of a record. This time there was so much material so we wanted a lot of long stuff without editing it out. This way we have full range of more atmospheric, ambient music and blasting double drum stuff. With one LP we would’ve been more concise, but this way we have full exploration of dynamics of what we do.
11: Where are you headed?
NB: We have Austin Psych Fest, a little West Coast tour, and then headed overseas. Both Jed and I have shops in town so we dont go on long tours. Jed’s got a record store, Little Axe Records, and I have a shop called Zigzag Wanderer, a vintage store with clothes and a lot of Middle Eastern rugs, ceramics, books, guitars, lots of stuff.
11: Do you believe in Astral Projection?
NB: One of my friends refers to it as Eckankar. She told me she would totally release from her body while playing drums, and be looking down on herself playing music, with no control over her body. I believe in everything. Bigfoot. Aliens. Why not. »
– Brandy Crowe