B&L: What animal do you associate yourself with (given ourties to oxen)?
Jeff Gorman: I identify VERY strongly with panda bears, grizzly bears, and of course, sloths. When I was 18 my roommate’s girlfriend told me my eyes were so far back in my head that I looked like a panda bear. My self-image obliterated, I dropped out of college and hitch-hiked to South Central China to live wildly among a community of pandas for three years. I’ve since re-integrated back into mainstream society, but a daily dose of bamboo is essential for my well-being.
Jake Cochran: Hawk and rat. One clearly preying on the other.
Side note – Jake has two cats and I (well, my parents) have two dogs. So there’s that. Beyond that, Jake and I used to own a few dairy cows with some friends. Milked ‘em by hand. My preference was to ferment it into yogurt, or sometimes make a farmers cheese (which I was never grrrreat at…)
B&L: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it? How’d it come calling to you?
Gorman: There’s an over-quoted Howard Thurman (…I think…) quote that says “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” May sound cliché to say that “music chose us” sort of thing but that’s how it feels quite often. Music has always been a grounding force in my life and has allowed me to discover who I really am. I like being able to paint a picture of how I’m feeling. I don’t always feel very articulate with my words, but with music I can speak another language fluently.
B&L: What’s the making of a great show?
Gorman: One spirit moving thru us all. Everyone transcending the dreg of modern existence and entering an elevated state of consciousness where you simultaneously dissolve your ego and find your true self. Sweat, dancing, moshing, singing really really crazily. And then dynamic shifts. The crowd being super into it. Highs and lows. Booze, denim. Umm, think that covers it. Probably should have stopped after the first sentence…
B&L: Is it weird to step foot onstage and play to a room full of (mostly) strangers? Or, does that add fuel to the whole shebang?
Gorman: Adds to the whole shebang! 😉
B&L: Let’s talk about your brand new EP, “Sweet Beast.” This thing slays. What sort of goals you had for yourself when you set out to make this record?
Gorman: We’d been a “live band” for the two years leading up to “Sweet Beast”. Meaning, we’d spent all of our energy touring and developing our live show. It was always hard to replicate that in the studio. “Sweet Beast” has, in one sense, been about nailing fundamentals on writing and recording. Not a sexy answer, I know, but it’s the truth. Honing our writing craft in a way that honors and respects the rock’n’roll tradition, and yet adds our new flavor to it. We wanted a body of songs that was both deep and fun. “Sweet Beast” imagery kinda came from understanding your wild side, and how to tap into that mysterious and powerful side of yourself.
B&L: How did Illiterate Light come to be? Why did Illiterate Light come to be? You guys make a lot of noise for a duo…
Gorman: Jake and I became buds in 2010. Went to a flaming lips show, started a band called “Money Cannot Be Eaten,” started running an organic farm, then MCBE disbanded and we “retired” from the farm. Jake spent a year with his wife learning how to build tiny homes, and I joined a few other bands until I started missing playing with Jake. A year after MCBE broke up we started IL as a trio and then it quickly morphed into a duo (unexpectedly, actually). We spent 6-12 months playing shows and road testing gear that allowed us to retain a big sound. A big part of IL’s existence comes down to Jake and my’s friendship and just being really tight with one another and trusting each other.
So we finally nailed down our stage set up (Jeff playing guitar and bass with his feet, and Jake standing drums), and from there things started escalating. It took a while to get comfortable playing our instruments in a non-traditional way – probably about 18 months (laughs). We come from a college town with a good alternative scene and a lot of house shows. Our roots are more based on those small intimate environments, although we’ve comfortably been able to bring that energy to bigger stages now, which is nice!
B&L: We saw you guys open for Rayland Baxter recently, and, upon walking into the venue (the Sinclair in Boston) we had never heard of you. That said, you blew us away. So much energy. So raucous. So engaging… While you’re still largely unknown (which I’m sure is soon to change with the addition of such summer plays as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Newport Folk), how do you describe the music you play for people? And do you tell them the drums are played standing up?
Gorman: We often say alternative or indie rock. Unless I’m talking to my grandmother, in which case I tell her I play in a “band that kinda sounds like Bing Crosby.” (This always makes her very happy…) But anyways, yes, we just call it alternative. A lot of people have been throwin’ us in there with White Stripes and Black Keys, which is flattering but kinda inaccurate IMHO. I often wonder if four-pieces get the same sort of treatment. “Oh, you’re a four piece? nice! you must sound just like Led Zeppelin!” (Laughs) Who knows. Jake and I both love White Stripes and Black Keys, and they inspire us and have laid the foundation for us to do what we do, but we don’t really sound like them sonically. But anyways, yes, we’re a rock band, uhh, I think…
B&L: Let’s talk about songwriting. Is the task of penning a tune an easy or arduous process for you? How does it all unfold? Do the words come first, or a riff/melody?
Gorman: Jammin’ > music (one or two parts back and forth) > melody > lyrics. Probably in that order 70% of the time. But we play with that a lot, we experiment. We’re both multi-instrumentalists so we jump around a little bit. It’s not totally an “arduous” process, but I can honestly say that the inspiration ain’t always there. But something always comes out. 25% of what we write is cosmic magic that falls out of the sky, and 75% of it is grinding and demoing and throwing away and rewriting and all that stuff. I worked on the chorus for “Better Than I Used To” for about a year until it worked. And it’s so damn simple! That’s the goal. To cut away all the fat and find the essence.
B&L: What’s one tune (or, heck, a couple) that exists out there in the ether that blows you away that you kind of wish you had written yourself?
Gorman: “The Beat Brings My Baby Back” – Z Plan
Cochran: “Amos Moses” – Jerry Reed
B&L: Are you grown up yet?
Gorman: A tree grows tall by setting its roots deep in the ground.
B&L: What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform at the Word Barn on April 18th?
Gorman: We’ll definitely be rockin’. Playing a ton of stuff from “Sweet Beast” as well as our new album that is coming out in October. We’ll have our merch guy Matt there doing free caricatures, which is always fun. Our shows tend to be very responsive to the room and crowd. The energy shifts every night, but it’s always a good time.
B&L: Question number 12. If you could have a dozen of anything, what would that dozen of something be?
Gorman: Easy – La Croix. Oh wait, no I should really shoot for the stars here. Hmmmmmm. Uhh, probably a dozen hands. Yes, I’d like to have 12 hands. Then I could show Jack White who the REAL rock god is… mwahahahahah!
B&L: Bonus question: What’s the importance of sporting a floral crop top?
Cochran: Under oath to the rock Gods, no answer can ever be given to this question. You’re not the first to ask, and certainly won’t be the last.
Illiterate Light make a stop at the Word Barn prior to a busy summer, and, are conceivably on the cusp of very big things. Grab a ticket here and thank us later. Exeter’s own Chelsea Paolini kicks things off!