Band Q&A: Berry
for The Oklahoman / NewsOK
For 15 years, Midwestern indie pop band Berry has been writing and releasing its intricate, experimental pop songs. From the band members’ early days as Chicago roommates, beyond the frustration of the music industry and to the members’ current lives, spread across the country in a variety of careers, Berry’s creative nucleus has maintained its pull.
The band, which meets by phone regularly and travels to create music together annually, has completed a new album, “Everything, Compromised,” along with producer Paul Klimson (John Legend, Erykah Badu). In celebration, Berry is embarking on a brief tour of some of some of its members current hometowns, as well as Oklahoma City, in which Berry’s long had creative partners.
All four members of the band answered some questions for The Oklahoman about Berry — past, present and future. They’ll perform at Speakeasy on Thursday with Samantha Crain and new band WAD, featuring members of Student Film.
Q: Berry seems like it was a pretty prolific, active band for so many years when you lived in the same place. What eventually pulled you all in different geographic directions?
Joey Lemon: Living in the same house together had kind of an equal-and-opposite-reaction effect on us. Our nucleus had become so tight that we kind of had to explode. We’d pushed and pushed and pushed as a band, and it was hard to see any progress with music as a “career.” I think we were all a little tired of that prospect, so we had to go find other “careers” in order to make music a “joy,” together, again.
Q: Relocation is something that has pulled a lot of bands apart. Was it always clear that you planned on collaborating long-distance?
Lemon: We left our last full-length album, “Blue Sky, Raging Sun,” unfinished when we dispersed. We knew we had to finish that, and we did. We eventually released the album, and we toured, but it wasn’t clear how we’d actually proceed from there. We never said that we were “breaking up,” so I think that helped. Shane has always been a driving force in our continuation, though. He came late to the Berry game, so he’s always had a little more motivation to re-create our unique time together in Chicago.
Paul Goodenough: In hindsight, it is easy to say it was clear all along we should find our way back into regular, sustained, intentional, musical collaboration. There is a powerful force we are all drawn into when we work together, and that I think we all desire very deeply to connect with.
Q: What are some ways the band’s physical separation has informed the way you work together?
Shane Bordeau: Supporting each other and being in touch has become crucial. Times when we haven’t been in touch for two weeks or more really put a strain our ability to work together. We have to put intention into staying connected.
Matt Aufrecht: The time we spend together physically is precious and focused. We can essentially create the outlines for entire albums in a handful of days.
Goodenough: I have learned to be more emotionally invested in my bandmates’ lives. It is just as important that we celebrate each other’s highs and console each other’s lows in daily life as it is for a certain percussion track to get recorded or for a particular press inquiry email to get sent.
Q: With so many self-produced records in your catalog, why was it the right choice to hand “Everything, Compromised” to Paul Klimson?
Lemon: PK mixed our first full-length album. Since then, he’s always been this distant source of inspiration. With “Everything, Compromised,” I was really struggling (with the) live tracks we’d recorded as a band. I was fighting a lot of depression that led to apathy, and PK started kicking my a– … not literally. He’d heard about these songs, and he wanted to hear them. PK is probably the only person I’d trust to help out, so as I finished up vocals and overdubs, I just started dropping everything on him. We haven’t looked back.
Q: What’s your connection to Oklahoma? And to the other artists on the Speakeasy show’s roster?
Aufrecht: We first played with Student Film at a festival in Texas, and they became one of my all-time favorite bands. I made it my mission to play with them as much as possible. Now, whenever we get the chance to play shows, Oklahoma is pretty much mandatory.
Lemon: We met Sam Crain unrelated to the Oklahoma scene. She was studying at a small music program that Paul and I went to on Martha’s Vineyard. I remember hearing her sing around campfire and thinking, ‘Damn, she’s good.’ A year or so later, I booked a solo tour with her. She was a workhorse and an awesome person to collaborate with, so we later booked a Berry tour with her. I recorded her first EP and her full-length album.
Goodenough: There are some appreciable similarities between downstate Illinois where we started and Oklahoma. Lots of weekend piety and church camp, conservative politics, racial injustice and mostly latent, some notably and tragically explicit, white supremacy. Cultural force-feeding from MTV and SPIN. I don’t think it is a big stand I’ve taken or anything, but I have always gravitated towards other people who are similarly fed up, and are seeking other ways of being faithful, political, social and artistic. Sam Crain, the Student Film guys, and lots of people we’ve met through them; we just really vibed with them. We’re kindred spirits.
Q: What happens after this run of shows (and with this new album finally complete) for Berry?
Goodenough: We have poured the foundation for eight more songs. I’ve been really eager to get working on them, as I know we all are. I look forward to us continuing to make new friends and collaborators.
Lemon: More of the same, I hope. We have a start on another album; this one PK has been with from the beginning, so we’re all pretty excited about finishing that. We’re also feeling a certain level of urgency. In the current political/social climate, it seems important to maintain our voice. I think we’d like to keep gathering and recording and playing shows. Maybe we’ll actually try to sell some music instead of giving it away.