Porcupine has been slowly inserting itself, into the local Twin Cities music scene. If you didn’t ask, you wouldn’t know that two of them Dave Reinders (Bass) and Casey Virock (Guitar and Vocals) live and work in LaCrosse, WI., While Ian Prince (Drums) lives in Northeast Minneapolis.
That means over 3 hours of commuting for practice and for playing shows. The band has also been keeping busy, releasing new albums both on CD and Vinyl.
Slightly reminiscent of those hook-laden rev 105 indie rock songs, Porcupine’s quick and quirky stop and start riffs and a rhythm section that holds it all together is putting together a sound that is all their own.
Their new album Carrier Wave was released just a few weeks ago, and the band traveled to Chicago to record at Electrical Audio Studios to record with the legendary Steve Albini.
I had a chance to ask Casey Virock about the experience, and what the future holds for Porcupine.
Rift: Why did you decide to use Steve Albini on this new album?
Casey: The past Porcupine records we’ve done ourselves entirely with Davey in charge of recording and engineering. The 2014 release I See Sound was a little different as we had drums, and my guitar recorded at Flowers Studio with (KJ) Kris Johnson. We finished the recording of guitars and vocals with Davey and then mixed it back here in LaCrosse.
The Porcupine Carrier Wave record was our first recording where, at least for Davey and I, someone else did all the recording/engineering. We just showed up and tracked the six songs.
We’re all a fan of Steve’s past work..whether it’s Jesus Lizard, the Pixies or PJ Harvey. They all have a certain sonic trademark, the drums being an obvious thing. We also admire his no-nonsense approach to the recording process itself.
Rift: How was the process different working with Albini.
Casey: We tracked basics (drums, guitar and bass) live with Steve. He and I discussed any overdubs I might want to do on certain tracks before tracking even started. He had me write down a list of for him, for each of the six songs.
He seems to like a less is more approach with tracking. Leaving a lot of space..and letting one guitar be the palette. We did do some guitar and vocal overdubs, but only if we felt it completely necessary. Time was an issue as well. We were to finish the record within 48 hours.
I’ll be honest in saying I was nervous about it. I’m always trying to fill up space with one guitar being we’re a trio..and I’m technically not the best guitar player. That said, I appreciated Steve’s input with tracking and couldn’t be happier with the end results.
Rift: What were the best parts of the experience working with Albini?
Casey: He let us do our thing and made the process a lot of fun. I got to play thru some vintage amplifiers, which is what a guitar geek like myself loves to do, haha! The guy worked his ass off without ever taking a break but to maybe make himself a coffee, or do some technical things that allowed downtime for us. He also shared some insightful..funny stories of past recordings.
I would record another Porcupine and or any record at Electrical Audio with Steve, no question.
Rift: The new album sounds good, while some of it might be because of Albini’s expertise but also it just seems like the band has gotten better. Do you guys feel the same, that it seems like a good step forward.
Casey: Thank you, and yes, I feel we try to ‘one up’ the recordings as we move forward. I feel we also try to change things up a bit, take some risks along the way. Ian and Davey make things easy for me as a songwriter. They are both smart and creative musicians, so I’m very fortunate to have them on board.
I would consider recording a record with Steve Albini a definite bucket list experience.
Rift: You play in the Twin Cities regularly, and with two of you are in LaCrosse do you have a system to decide whether it’s worth it to cover your expenses or is it always worth it?
Casey: I feel it’s always worth it. Lately, the gigs in Minneapolis have been fantastic. Davey and Ian might disagree; I don’t know.
I personally feel more at home playing in Minneapolis than in LaCrosse. That’s not intended as a dig on the ‘scene’ in LaCrosse but people here like their cover bands and or tribute bands.
I do have to say our record release show at LaCrosse’s Popcorn Tavern earlier this month was great.
We felt some great local support and our friends in Valet (Twin Cities) were well received, as well as Pocket Genius (TwinCities) at the Winona, Ed’s No Name Bar show.
Rift: Was there ever an urge to relocate or is LaCrosse the place be and stay?
Casey: Personally, I’ve been thinking a lot about making the move to Minneapolis or St Paul, it should have happened 20 yrs ago, haha!
Rift: How did you hook up with Riot House Records?
Casey: I ordered a record that RiotHouse had released by Empty Mansions (Sam Fogarino from Interpol, Duane Denison from Jesus Lizard, and Brandon Curtis from Secret Machines) sort of an indie supergroup. Brian from RiotHouse and I exchanged emails afterwards, and I asked about submitting some music. He liked Porcupine, and we worked out a contract/arrangement for 2014 I See Sound He’s a great guy.
Rift: The new album has just been put out, Is there an overall plan for the next year for a new recording or is it just get this new one out there and figure it out as you go along.
Casey: The next Porcupine will probably end up being a six song ep as well, but a vinyl release. We thought about releasing Carrier Wave and the next 2016 ep together on a limited edition vinyl 12-inch record.
Rift: If you could give a piece of advice about anything, what would it be?
Casey: My piece of advice? Hmmm…don’t be an asshole, be nice.