Aural States: What is your background and history together? Is Rosebuds your first project?
Ivan Howard: We started playing together because we were bored and wanted to do something way different and fun (apart from the serious art scene in our circle) and it WAS fun. So much fun. And everybody loved the music and got behind us and by our third show, we decided we were onto something real.
AS: Much of your music is drenched with a dreamy, romantic haze and deals with themes of the heart and relationships. Others you can pinpoint broad, even political messages or commentary. Where do you draw your inspiration from for songs? Do the relationship songs have any direct parallel with yours, either past or present?
IH: Every song is different and sometimes people see the meaning and sometimes they invent their own but it’s okay with us because our purpose is to impart music and stories that mean something to people (whether about love or politics or something else) and it’s everybody else’s job to figure out where that lies in the context of their own lives.
AS: What bands have proven to be major influences on your style and sound?
IH: Too many too list.
AS: What bands are you currently listening to and excited by?
IH: Bon Iver, Chromatics, The Loners, Salt n Pepa
AS: How has your experience been on Merge Records?
IH: They’re the best record label in the world and that’s coming from a qualified source because I’ve been a fan of the label for so long (way before we were signed) and, now that we’re on the label, even better. They’re very smart and I have learned a lot from them about music–making choices based on instinct instead of a projected bottom line. For us, then, we make choices based on what we want, instead of what we think people will buy, and Merge keeps putting out our records because they feel the same way.
AS: Have you gotten a chance to work with any label mates like Arcade Fire?
IH: Yeah, we play with other Merge bands often and it’s a lot of fun because we’re all working on our own formula for music but we are all a part of the same family. Like a lot of weird brothers, sisters, and cousins who have different talents or interests but who live in the same house.
AS: Could you briefly recount how you came to be signed so early in your career? Do you think this significantly affected your development as artists?
IH: We recorded a demo in our friend’s bedroom and we thought, “This is great! We’ll send it to Merge and they’ll sign us!” Just then I got out of school and we moved to Raleigh and, though our music did NOT fit in with what was cool in Raleigh at the time, a couple bands from here (The Loners and Ashley Stove) took to us and we started playing shows all the time. So, between sending our demo and being close enough to Merge for them to know about us, we did get signed pretty quickly. As artists, we went through a weird patch because we were a new band all of the sudden in league with other, more established bands like Spoon (who, at that point had been touring for 10 years). So, it was intimidating and probably made us more scared than confident. Just normal growing pains I guess.
AS: Night of the Furies takes your music into a darker, moodier and more mysterious realm than your earlier work. Could you say a little about the overall theme of the album, about the man and his encounter with the Furies?
IH: It’s about knowing something is about to happen. That can seem very ominous (maybe dark) but also exciting. So we tried to capture those two feelings. The man you’re referring to is the man in the short story on the inside of the record. The relationship that unfolds between him and the goddess is all about waiting too. Something HAS to happen, and we know it is about to happen, but we can’t say what it will be… Only that it will be BIG. So there’s a lot of trepidation in the story but, like I said, a lot of exciting tension. We tried to make the music a mirror of that story.
AS: Which tracks have you been especially happy about?
IH: We produced this record ourselves in our house so we’re happy about all the songs because they are the most honest manifestations of what we were hearing in our heads.
AS: Your style has really focused and matured through each of your releases. How do you feel you have progressed and changed as a band from your first album to the present?
IH: I don’t know. I don’t know if matured is the right word. We look at each record as an individual art project so we are always able to change and the next release may sound really hasty and loose, so I’m not sure if maturity suits us yet. We’re still a young band.
AS: You are only playing a handful of dates at the beginning of this year. What are your plans for the rest of the year? Are you planning on touring more, taking time off or going into the studio?
IH: All of those. We are working on more dates now and we’re recording new material so we’ll have some sort of release and tour this year and hopefully some time off too.
AS: What, if anything, do you have in mind (themes, songs) for your next release and future projects?
IH: Our next record is going to be a coming-of-age story about loss and redemption. No, I’m just fucking with you. We don’t know yet but we’re working on it.