Picked to Click extended interview: blood&stuff

Picked to Click extended interview: blood&stuff
Photo by Emily Utne

blood&stuff is the new band of Ed Holmberg and Dylan Gouert. These ex-Economy Team members perform headbanging, mind-blowing rock shows. Holmberg sings powerful, classic-sounding vocals, while playing stunning bass and guitar. Drummer Gouert plays Dave Grohl-inspired hard and fast drums with intricately woven rhythms. 

Both age 27, Gouert and Holmberg teamed up 10 years ago at Perpich Center for the Arts High School, playing exclusively together in bands ever since. They each began playing instruments and performing when since they were children -- Gouert began with violin in kindergarten, guitar at age 10, drums at 11; Holmberg, guitar at age 10. They've acquired the skills and technique to sound bigger than a 4-piece as a duo -- out of sheer necessity, and a lot of creativity and hard work.

Tell me about your music, and how you started performing with Ed.
Dylan Gouert: I didn't take the drums that seriously till High School when I met Ed. Guitar was my main instrument from 10 until I met Ed, at age 17. Ed heard I played drums, and said, "Hey! Will you play drums for me?" Now its 10 years later and I'm still drumming. 

Tell me how you guys . . . 
DG: . . .  [dryly] how you made me play the drums . . . I was pissed about that for awhile. It wasn't until a few years ago I started actually enjoying playing the drums again. 
Ed Holmberg: It wasn't just me that made you play drums. There were others.
There were others . . . and now they're all gone! (laughing)
EH: laughs- They're all gone. We don't need them anymore. 
DG: and now I like my own style I developed enough, that I enjoy drums.

Did you have model drummers you aspired to emulate?
DG: Pretty standard, like Dave Grohl. The first drummer for Mars Volta had a BIG influence on me. Real jazzy. I went pretty far that way. Now with blood&stuff I'm coming back to that hard-hitting Dave Grohl style. I don't listen to a lot of music, and I find that's been helpful because that makes my stuff a little more original . . . 

Ed, do you want to talk about your guitar and how you incorporate bass into what you play?
EH: I started playing guitar when I was 10. Within a couple weeks my guitar teacher was taking me to his open mic nights. I got the taste for playing live right away. I had a really supportive guitar teacher, Jeff Logan, he's won awards in Minnesota. I studied with him for 7 years. At [Perpich Center for the Arts] I wanted things to change. I started listening to At the Drive-In and other exciting rock stuff. That's when I wanted the high-energy performing. The way I write songs is kind of in a classical style, not classical music. I do bass riffs with melody lines. It's a lot more apparent because of the pickup design . . . 
DG: We've got to keep that a secret. We don't want everyone to know how we do that. I do want people to know it was my idea. 
EH (teases): Don't tell them what it is, but tell them it was your idea!
DG: I built the first one . . . it worked great. 

You played consistently together since you were 17?
DG: We started off as a 4-piece, someone left, then we were a 3-piece, someone left, and now we're a 2-piece! 
EH: The first time someone left, we got a new bassist. But then I had to learn how to sing. We had a show where our bassist didn't show up. It was an awful show, we had to drive like 4 hours . . . 
DG: We were still in HS . . .
EH: Yeah, he didn't show up, so I just blurted out some crap and it was awful. 

You made up lyrics on the spot? 
EH: I remembered some  of his lyrics, but hated most of his lyrics, so . . . it was out of complete necessity . . . even though it was awful.
DG: Everything has been out of necessity.
EH: Right now, the way our songs are written, by the time they're finished its like we have no control over it. We have to write songs that fit the equipment to make it sound right. We can't force something that's not going to sound good through equipment. We do a LOT of trial and error. 
DG: All our gear is a necessity too. We didn't want to sound like a two-piece. We had to buy bigger drums, bigger amps and more of them. Over the last year we've spent a lot of money on gear, experimenting and constructing a different sound. 
EH: Its always an experiment. Every new song we're trying to get the most out of what we're doing. 

DG: A lot of them just don't work with what we're trying to be. But recently we've been letting it happen. Whatever style the songs come out having, we roll with it. 
EH: We've always written together. His ideas, my ideas, it's a shared ownership. That's partially why I think that the music is kind of playing itself. We're really trying to keep it simple. Just recently expanded on a few parts we made a long time ago that weren't working, did a few things I wasn't planning on, and they ended up opening up. If you get trapped in what you think it should be, you miss out on surprises. 

Do you both write the lyrics? 
DG: He writes all the lyrics. I don't even know the lyrics.
EH: Some of them are hard to understand. Some are sort of goofy. A long time ago when I first started singing, I tried to be complex about it. People wouldn't' be able to understand half the things I was singing. A lot of great bands, you can't understand half of what they're saying. I mean, At the Drive-in, shit, I only knew like two of the words they ever said. I didn't think it really hindered from the performance. Every time I see a band, I have no idea what people are singing. I'm really an old man about it. Its like 'What? What the hell are you saying?' 

Your vocals sound instrumental.
EH: Yeah, I've been trying harder to sing melodies and rhythms over what I'm playing . . . I'm not playing the same melody as I'm singing because there needs to be another layer of music. The more we do it, the more we figure out how much more we can actually do with two. 
DG: In this short time we've been a 2-piece, it has made us better musicians. We have to work so much harder to fill out the sound. When we had 3 or 4 people, we could be lazy. Now, every single note he plays and every single hit I make has to have a reason for being there. Ed's responsible for basically three different players. He's doing the bass line, the chords at the same time and the vocal melody. 
EH: Every once in awhile I sing along exactly with what I'm playing, and then I can make it sound bigger by separating it out.

How long have you been blood&stuff?
EH: We worked on this over year and a half. We didn't show any of our friends really for over a year. April 29th was our first show. 
DG: We recorded twice already, but we tossed out both recordings. Because we were moving so fast, it was still so experimental, that months after both the recordings were done, they weren't us anymore.
EH: We'd spend a couple months getting ready to record, practicing like crazy and then the second we was done, we'd write like two new songs and . . . 
DG: . . . they'd like fly out, way better than all the stuff we'd just recorded. There are 10 songs now that we still play. But we've written a lot more than that. Some of them we've never played out.

Is this the first time you've explored doing a 2-piece? 
DG: In previous bands, a lot of the songs would start out with just Ed and I jamming together before we incorporated the rest of the band. A lot of times our old bandmembers were like, 'You guys don't really need us.' We're like, 'Shut up. Yes we do. We need a fucking bass player!' At the time we didn't know . . . It's so much easier staying organized with two people. We have similar work schedules . . . it's just so fucking easy to be in a 2-piece band. Except for all the gear that we have. We have more to haul than we did in any other band. 

Do you plan to make a record soon?
EH: We really want to . . . 
DG: We've spent all our money on that recording we made, and this gear. We don't have the funds . . . we're trying to figure out a way we can record one or two of our songs because we realize we really, really need something to put out. I feel like the lack of recording is really holding us back. It's a priority but we don't know how or when its going to happen. We're perfectionists. 
EH: Our perfectionism is a beast, it's a monster.
DG: It makes what we do possible, but half the time, it kills it. Every other version of this band we've had has gone down in flames because of it. We're trying to keep this one afloat.
EH: We used to play shows, just about every time we're like "We didn't play good enough!" When people told us we were good, we would be weird about it. Now we appreciate everything everyone said to us because this is more us than we've ever been. 
DG: Now we've been doing this so long, We're too plain burnt out and jaded to be that critical of ourselves like that anymore. 
EH: Its too fun, to wreck it like that. 
Both: It's just a blast!
DG: Even when we do fuck up. . . we can read each other's minds. So even if one of us makes a mistake, we'll recover from it in the blink of an eye.

What is your attitude toward about your music and playing in this music scene has evolved or changed while playing here?
DG: We are still relearning the music scene. We really want to tour. We've been playing music for a long time, and haven't left the city and its time for us to go on tour. 
EH: Baby steps.
DG: We played in Texas at SXSW, a couple years ago as Economy Team. 

How about this year?
EH: We're figuring it out. But our plan is to just go. There are only two of us. We wanna go real bad. 

How did you come up with your name, blood&stuff?

DG: I've always had a theory that you could name your band anything you want and its not going to stop you from being successful. There's a million HUGE bands out there with terrible names. The name blood&stuff is going to test that theory because it's a pretty terrible band name.
EH: Yeah, it's lowbrow, it's pretty great. I'd hate to be one of those bands with the sensitive band names, the meaningful ones, it turns me off a little, its like "no way is that band NOT going to be like emo . . ."
DG: We take this band SO seriously, but with the name we went in a completely different direction, with the dumbest name we could come up with.
EH: I love it when people tell me they hate that band name. People say, "That was really great. I enjoyed you guys. I hate your band name." I'm like, "thanks. I loved everything you just said. Thank you." [laughs dryly]. "Stuff" can be anything! What is it? Whatever you want! [Everyone laughs] Such an open-ended name. We know we're a rock band. But a lot of our songs are such different styles, but at the same time our style. Its like just having "blood" in the name sounds like you're trying to be heavier than you are. 
EH: I always use the example, I think 'Nirvana" is a stupid-ass bandname. Their name is like "heaven." It sounds like a hippy jam band name.  Nobody thinks of it like that, that Nirvana sounds like "rape" from what they did. It's grungy and shit. I think, as far as really rocking bands, Metallica is the best name ever. It seems like whoever came up with that at the time, they must have been going [metal voice] 'holy fucking shit! Oh my god! Oh man." 
DG: We've had SO many different bandnames, that are better than blood&stuff, but there was something about it that. We're like okay, that's the one.

Your singing: did you teach yourself?
EH: When I was younger I was around people that would scream their ass off and then sing a little bit. I never quite had the right voice for screaming. 
DG: He can't scream. I try to tell him not to scream. I want him to mellow his vocals down a little bit because when he doesn't try that hard, his voice sounds the best. 
EH: But I want there to be a lot of texture to my voice. I still like to be dynamiic about it. I don't want to emulate anything I'm not feeling. And usually when we're playing I just do what I feel is right. I finally got to this point where I could sing really loud and hit a lot of the right notes. The more I do it the more I can be solid and not pay for it. When male singers have a really powerful voice, there's nothing better in rock music. My favorite singer now is the lead singer of Lead Business. His voice is like the craziest sounding, manly thing in the world.
DG: (groaning) You never shut up about him . . .
EH: I love his voice! I can't sing like that. I know why I think its good. One of the reasons is its powerful. He's being very masculine. When you're playing heavier rock, it demands that. I've found, the louder I sing, the easier it is to keep the note locked in. 

Tell me more about your drumming style. 
DG: One thing that formed my style is having been a guitar player. I interpret the guitar parts on drums. A lot of the patterns I do with my kick drum emulate what I think a bass player would be doing. I incorporate my left foot, and high hat a lot more.  I have a tambourine on there. Just in the last two months I've learned to have a constant beat going with my left foot, and still being able to do everything else. In the 20 years I've been playing drums I've never been able to do that. And suddenly one day it just clicked! 

While I'm drumming I tend to go somewhere else. I don't practice on my own, ever, since I started playing with Ed. I only play the drums when he's playing guitar. And when he's not playing guitar the drum set looks completely foreign to me. Because my style has become so tailored just for his guitar playing. Without his guitar playing, I can't be a drummer. I'm the drummer for blood&stuff. That's the only way I can play drums.

You're a fine artist, Ed . . .you've had some shows, right?
EH: Yeah, I can draw really well and pretty much love it. I draw more illustration.
DG: He draws dragons and spaceships a lot. They're amazing!

Your lyrics sound sort of fantastical, too.
EH: Yeah! [Dylan's] not always so happy with some of them, they're goofy stories about ridiculous things. 
DG: I want his lyrics to be very obscure . . . 
EH: In the past I used to write more obscure, but with this band I was like, no it's only this!
DG: I stopped him from doing that. We'll be playing and I'll hear something and I'll just stop. 'You can't sing that. I don't want that."  
EH: He does have influence over the lyrics. There is an ultimate veto power that happens. 
DG: I love most of the lyrics that he has, that I can understand. But every now and then there will be something that just rubs me the wrong way. 
EH: yeah, and that's totally fine! Sometimes I have to talk him into stuff, but then usually those songs we never play, so . . . 

Anything you want to add?
EH: Neat friends. A lot of people are taking time out of their work to help us. They know we don't know what we're doing. And this summer we're trying to be more responsible. 
DG: this is the first time I've been responsible for things besides the music aspect. I never worked on promotion before, don't want to do all that. 
DG: We don't wanna be spread too thin. We're looking for a manager. 
EH: In our heads, it comes down to somebody coming up to us and saying, "I wanna work for you!" I'll be like, "Okay!" 
DG: It'll fall together, we're heading in the right direction.
EH: I just have such as positive feeling about everything. It's so different than in the old bands, The whole things feel completely different than it ever had. 
DG: We've lost the bad attitudes we used to have. I feel like we've learned what not to do. 
EH: It takes awhile. Gotta be an asshole for a long time before you know what that is. I'm surprised we can still hear. Suppose we get a lot of notoriety one day, people love us everywhere. By that point we'll be deaf. And we won't be able to play a show. So, let's get this going, while we can still do it.

blood&stuff are playing a Grumpy's Downtown Saturday residency through October. 

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