Interview – Thought Forms

Bristol based effects pedal enthusiasts Thought Forms combine a love of feedback, My Bloody Valentine and Shamanic improvisation to create a truly overwhelming sonic experience that is not to be missed. M3 had a chat with guitarist Charlie Romijn about their free live EP, the smell of vinyl & the band’s recent US tour with Portishead…

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Charlie – I’m Charlie Romijn. I play guitar in Thought Forms.
I have a solo project called Silver Stairs of Ketchikan and a blog / DIY label called Lava Thief.
I like making stuff.

What inspired you to start Thought Forms? What are your own musical backgrounds?
We got together in May 2004 – a friend of mine from school, Emily Mcmullen, was jamming with this guy called Deej Dhariwal who she’d found on a local music forum (he’d just come home after finishing university and was looking for a band) and she asked me to come along.
There was a spark there instantly and we had a lot of fun making a lot of noise that afternoon…
We became Thought Forms.

Emily decided to leave the band in 2006 so we asked Guy Metcalfe to join us on drums; he was 13 at the time, we’d seen him playing in his band Caldera (a kind of post rock / metal band) when they supported us at a local show and he was the first person who came to mind when we lost Emily!

Before I joined Thought Forms, I had a band called Poor Eric – we played kind of garage punk stuff.
Deej is a bit older and did a bunch of stuff when he was at uni – a lot of soundtracks for the films he was making and he was also in a band with Mel from Ashtray Navigations.

How did you come to be involved with Invada records?
MV/EE asked us to support them at The Cube in Bristol when they were over on tour in 2006 – Fat Paul (co-owner of Invada along with Geoff Barrow) was DJing that night.

He loved our set and came to introduce himself (life hasn’t been the same since…) and asked us if we’d be up for doing a record with Invada.

We went over to the Geoff’s studio to seal the deal a couple of weeks later and have been part of the Invada family ever since!

You recently finished an American tour with Portishead, how did that go?
It was absolutely amazing!
We got to travel all around the US and Canada, meeting wonderful people, playing in these ridiculously huge venues with one of our favourite bands in the world and if all of that wasn’t enough, we had a really great response from their audiences too. We had such a good time, we’re very lucky.

Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
If you’re a “big” band then there’s probably a lot of truth in it.
At our level though, not so much – touring is expensive and sure, you can break even (some of the time) and if you’re lucky maybe even make a little on top, which goes straight back into the band fund for next time.

Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is a realistic solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
I think it’s great, you can give things away for free if you want to, which is cool – we’ve put a few live sets up for people to download that way and it’s nice to be able to share those little extra things that you wouldn’t necessarily want to make a release out of but which you think people might enjoy.

I don’t think it is a solution to illegal downloading but it is kind of… the other side of the coin.
People seem more than happy to pay for music on sites like Bandcamp as well as making the most of the free downloads – in fact, quite often people have paid MORE than the minimum amount for something, which shows that there are plenty of people out there who value music and want to support the artists.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Vinyl is my favourite, it just feels nicer somehow to put a record on than a CD.
It feels more long-lasting too, you’re not going to lose an LP in your car or get the cases all mixed up! Plus they smell good. I like tapes a lot too.

Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
To an extent.
I also think that people don’t really take as many chances on new music anymore.
It used to be that you’d go and buy an album perhaps on the basis of one song you’d heard or on a recommendation or just because you liked the cover and you’d listen to it over and over again and get to know it – and sometimes there would be records or songs which you didn’t really like at first that end up being your favourites.
These days, most people can just check out a band online and if they don’t like it within 30 seconds, the music probably won’t get a second chance.

What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
I haven’t really been following it… I don’t think it would stop piracy anyway.

What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
Well one thing is that in most cases, you can’t really make a living from being in a band, so you have to have another way to make money to live on… but of course, it’s not always easy to find a job that allows you to go away on tour, recording or even just for one off gigs when you feel like it!
It can be tricky to juggle at times.

Finally, what does the future hold for Thought Forms?
We’re finishing off our new album right now, that’s coming out on Invada in July.
We’ve also got a tape coming out on LF Records and some shows lined up in Europe.

For more information about Thought Forms, you can visit their official website and follow them on Facebook. You can also head over to their Bandcamp page to listen to their music and download their free live EP.

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About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.

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