FEATURE INTERVIEW with Pocket Vinyl

Interview by Corrine Jensen

Pocket Vinyl has certainly evolved over the years. Originally a three-man group based out of New York, going by the name The Series, the band now calls Norwich home and features a married couple performing on stage. Meet Eric Stevenson and Elizabeth Jancewicz, they are Pocket Vinyl and they’re adding a new dimension to New London’s already diverse music (and art) scene. Eric sings and plays the piano as his wife Elizabeth paints original artwork, which is then won, a la silent auction style, to the highest bidder at the end of every show. These two recently took time from touring in support of their newest album, Monsters Talking, to be ridiculously cute together and chat with Wailing City about their music, touring and being the new band in New London.


WC: You’re Pocket Vinyl and the concept of your show is very unique, how did that come together?

Eric:
Well, I didn’t want to tour by myself.
Elizabeth:
And I’m not musical. What can I do? I’m a painter. I’ll paint because in Cloud Cult they paint. It all accidentally fell together.
Eric: Cloud Cult is one of our favorite bands.   
   
WC: It’s just the two of you on stage and you’re both doing very different things, how do you make sure you’re putting on a good show for people?
Eric
: It’s hard to put on a live show for people. Sometimes you see a band that’s been doing it for years and they just know what they’re doing and it’s a great show. We’re always asking how can we make it better? I want to keep it spontaneous and mix up what I say every night but you need a little bit of structure and a style of how you compose yourself. It’s all about creating small moments on stage. On our song "My Brother’s Time", there’s a pause and Elizabeth does a ‘Woo’. She wasn’t in the studio for the album so we recorded her ‘Woo-ing’ over the phone. At the live shows she’ll turn around and let out a big ‘Woo’ and go back to painting and it’s great because a lot of people always smile at that.
Elizabeth:
It’s a moment. You need something to stand out in your songs so people remember and it doesn’t all flow together.
Eric:
Yeah, I feel like we need to come up with more moments like that.
Elizabeth: I don’t want it to be me doing my own little thing over here and he’s doing his own thing there. We try to somehow have a connection to each other.
WC: How did you two meet and how did you wind up in New London?
Elizabeth: I was born in Norwich but moved to Northern Canada when I was a baby. You drive North for two days to the end of the road and then take a train for a day. I mean, like, really Northern Canada. I moved back here for my last year of high school and went to Norwich Free Academy.
Eric: We met at Houghton College in Houghton, New York and I grew up in the town my entire life. In college I did a lot of stage stuff and there was a variety show every semester and a buddy and me would always make up skits. She kind of knew me from seeing me on stage.
Elizabeth: Yeah, you would be making fun of people and I didn’t want anything to do with you! I thought he was a complete jerk and I didn’t want to get to know him. He graduated the year before me and at my senior year art show he showed up and we clicked. We moved back down here in July 2011 about 2 weeks before our wedding.
WC: What do you think of New London and the local music scene so far?
Elizabeth: We really like New London. It’s way cool. Our first exposure to New London was The Telegraph because as soon as we moved here we needed to find a record store. Immediately we were talking to people in there and we met Daphne (Martin) and Karrie (Bulger).
Eric: We did our CD release show there.
Elizabeth: We’ve been to the co-op and walking up and down the street and…
Eric: Sarge’s! I’ve gotten into comic books recently.
Elizabeth: We saw a few of the films in the summer at the Hygienic. It’s just a nice art community and area. I want to help it and be a part of it as much as we can be.
WC: You’ll be playing at The Bean and Leaf on January 11th again, looking forward to it?
Elizabeth: It’s a cozy little place and they feed us. My grandmother always comes and everyone is always really nice to us.
Eric: This will be our third time at The Bean. We really want to build our local fan base and be a presence in New London and to add to the rich musical community already. I don’t think anyone really knows us yet.
Elizabeth: We’ve had small crowds here because we’re local but nobody really knows us yet. The people we have played to have been super welcoming and nice and want to help us out. I feel like a lot of times we need to prove ourselves so we’ll talk to people and tell them to let us play a show for them and make their own decision but usually people like us.
WC: I heard you guys do house concerts, what is all about?
Elizabeth: House concerts are nice. People invite their friends and they come over to listen to us. It’s a lot of fun. The most important part of any show is getting to know the people we’re playing for, from the audience to the sound guy. I guess some call that ‘networking’ but for me it’s just building relationships and getting to know people and making friends and we don’t really know people here and we want friends, so we play. We’re interested in doing more house concerts, we’re small, it’s just the two of us.
WC: So do you bring your own piano or do they have to provide one?
Eric: I never want to use anyone’s equipment because I like to bang on it and hit it. One time we were playing at The Buttonwood Performing Arts Center in Middletown, CT and they have a grand piano and asked if I wanted to use it. I was like “No, I don’t. I mean, well, I do but I really for sure don’t want to break it!”
Elizabeth: Our stuff it bangs around in the car and we bring it everywhere and we won’t feel as bad if it breaks.
WC: You just came off a 2-month tour all over the East Coast and Midwest, how was that?
Eric:
It was "The Synesthesia tour". I feel like we need to bring back naming tours because bands don’t do that enough anymore. I think it romanticizes it a bit. The tour was a good learning experience.
Elizabeth:
It was really good to get out there and we received a really good response in some places. We went to parts of the country I’ve never been to and there was a point we kind of just realized that we were so far from home, from anyone we know, out in the middle of the Midwest with fields everywhere.
Eric:
The Midwest was tough, we had a lot of great adventures and the road trip was fun but some of the shows were tough. Our 75th show, in Iowa, was our first show where we didn’t sell the painting. It worked out well because we gave that painting to my aunt in Indianapolis who we spent Thanksgiving with. We still met some good people there.
Elizabeth:
Also, he got sick 3 times on this pass tour. Every place we went we asked do you have tea or lemon water or something?
Eric:
I could hardly sing. At a house concert in Toledo a friend gave me a bottle of Jim Beam and after every song I’d do a shot and keep going and each swig would last for a song. I don’t remember getting too tipsy and at the end of the set I was actually feeling ok.
Elizabeth: Thankfully, we were staying there and didn’t have to drive.
WC: You’re starting "The Sister Tour 2012", what else is going on for Pocket Vinyl?
Elizabeth: We’re going to take half of February off so I can work on art but we’ll probably still do a few local shows.
Eric: We’ve played with some great bands and I’m trying right now to make a charity album with them. I always thought about maybe doing this when we became bigger and have more fans but then I thought ‘Why can’t I do that now? What’s stopping me?’ I hope to get 10-15 tracks and put it together for the charity WarChild.Org. They’ve put out several compilations themselves with a bunch of huge bands on them and I always bought those albums and liked them. We’ll release it digitally on bandcamp and it should be coming out pretty soon.
Elizabeth: We definitely wanted to focus on a charity that was kid centered. I grew up with a lot of foster brothers and sisters and it’s really on our hearts a lot because kids can’t stand up for themselves.
WC: What do you hope for Pocket Vinyl?
Elizabeth: Biggest goal would be that we could live off this and have a steady income and pay our bills and fill our gas tank. We don’t need to be famous. We just want to do art and music full time and continue to constantly enjoy doing it.
WC: Last question, any advice for bands, musicians, artists just starting?
Elizabeth: Definitely be grateful for every little blessing you get. Savior it.
Eric: Yeah, if someone buys a CD, be thankful because they really didn’t have to or even come out to your show.
Elizabeth: And be a nice person. I’ve talked to so many bands on our level that are grumpy and I don’t want to talk to them. Remember that people came out to see you so be nice and friendly and make them want to keep talking to you and come out and see you again. It’s funny to realize that in this business, there really aren’t big breaks and no one is going to find you and make you. It’s really just so much more talking to people and then they talk and then they talk. I feel like I just realized recently it’s really the people at shows talking to their friends. It’s hard work and a whole network of friends.

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