Wailing City Spotlight: Interview With Pocket Vinyl

Published April 18, 2024
Interview By Meghan Killimade

Pocket Vinyl has been rockin’ the piano & paintbrush for a number of years now! How did you two get started?
We went to college together, and towards the end of that, we started hanging out due to the fact that we both had broken hearts. We were so heartbroken and blunt and just needed a friend. We both knew each of us was not ready for a relationship (and didn't want to jump back into one), and that had the wonderful effect of us becoming great friends. About a year after that, we had each healed and realized "Oh man, this person is pretty sweet." I (Eric) was going to go on tour in the summer of 2010 by myself on the piano, just because I'd never done it before. By that point we were dating and wanted to hang so Elizabeth decided to come along and paint. It went well enough that in 2011, we got married and decided to try PV full time, and 13 years later, we're still doing it amazingly. It feels like we've been hanging by the skin of our teeth for nearly that entire time, yet somehow we persisted.

You guys are truly “road dogs” having toured all over the nation - playing many different types of venues - clubs, galleries, coffee houses, record stores, libraries and book shops! What are some of your favorite places that you’ve played and do you have any fun stories and/or experiences from the road?
Eric: Well, most of our best stories tend to be from the first few years, since we had no idea what we were doing and got in a lot of weird situations. These days the tour stories are more mild since we have a bit of a routine, but the shows and tours are all better! It's funny how the best stories are all about everything going wrong, and when things are really clicking, it's always boring to talk about. For the sake of brevity, here's a list of random, weird places we've played in throughout the years: basements, 3 weddings, kitchens, an abandoned dentist office, a Hot Topic, an outlet mall, a movie theater, a run down gas station/curio shop, a condo fitness center, several haunted houses, an auto mechanic garage, a cave, and a former mall food court. And just to make this fun: two of those places are lies. Try to guess which ones.

You just dropped a new album, “Painless, Filled With Candles” – which are 12 songs taken from 10 hours of solo piano recordings. What was the inspiration behind this album?
Eric: I was listening to a lot of Nils Frahm in the past year. He has this technique of playing/recording the piano where he turns the mics WAAAY up and places very softly. This produces a very DIY recording where on top of the piano notes, you can hear the mechanics of the piano. The buzz of the strings, the movement of the hammers, the softness of the felt....it's very intimate. We wanted to try to imitate that sound. And also, I'm not much of an improviser on the piano, but I wanted to test myself. So over the course of a month I recorded a whole bunch of songs I tried to invent on the spot, and then combed through them. 12 of them work GREAT together as the new album. We have another 20 or so that we're slowly releasing on our Patreon over the next year too. I find it very exciting, since usually by the time we release an album, we've overthought the songs to such a degree that it can destroy my view of it. "Painless, Filled With Candles" still feels very fresh to me. I know an album of instrumental improv piano songs was nothing ANYONE was asking from us, but I'm very proud to have done it. It's nice to learn you can do something, you know? I wasn't sure that I could at first.

You also released an album last February 2023, “You Never Say Goodbye When You Leave”. Tell us about the album, meanings behind some of the songs and where it was recorded.
Eric: We recorded it in the garage of Craig Murphy (the wonderful bearded banjo player in Bards of Gungywamp) who let me and Alex Glover borrow the space for 8 days at the end of 2021. Alex played guitar live for us sometimes, and has produced everything we've done since Winter Person. He's absolutely fantastic in everything he does. YNSGWYL is unique in our catalog because all the songs were 50% to 75% done when we went into the studio. They're usually at 100% in terms of lyrics, construction, structure, and all that, but Alex helped finish write all those songs with me. That was a first. We didn't try to have an album theme when we went in, but afterwards, we realized it was an album of angry prayers and personal uncertainty. No doubt a side effect of the pandemic. And to be honest, I still don't really understand that album, which I know is weird to say! All our other ones make sense to me. Even "Painless, Filled With Candles" makes more sense to me than "You Never Say..."!!! I have no idea why. It feels like the album and songs are keeping me at arm's length, where meanwhile some fans have said the exact opposite for them. It is a very weird experience for someone else to understand your art more than you. I....like it? I don't know. I'm still processing it.

Some questions for Elizabeth! Do you have an idea of what you’re going to paint ahead of time, or do you just paint what comes to mind when your set begins?
Elizabeth: I usually start out with the colours I want to use at least and sometimes I start out with an idea, but I always let the show take me wherever it wants the painting to go.

Does the music that Eric is playing inspire/encourage what or how you paint?
Elizabeth: Not consciously, but I’ve been told by the audience that it seems I paint faster or slower based on how fast the music is, or I tend to use darker or lighter colours depending on the mood of the song. It’s not purposeful, but I think that’s pretty neat!

Wailing City Archive: Pocket Vinyl plays Telegraph 11/5/22

Do you ever run out of time to finish a painting?
Elizabeth: I always have a set list so that I can keep an eye on how long I have left, and I try to time out what I can finish based on the songs. Maybe twice in the past 1,000 shows I’ve asked for an extra song to finish up the painting.

At the end of each show, the painting is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Having played over 1,000 shows now, how does it feel to know you have so many of your beautiful pieces out in the world?
Elizabeth: It’s wonderful. I think everyone should get to own original art in their home. Often people have told me that my art is the first time they’ve ever owned original art, and that it’s encouraged them to then go on and support other independent artists. Art is for everyone, not just the super rich.

Have you ever had a favorite painting that was hard to part with?
Elizabeth: Sure, a few times. But that’s all part of the process. Photographing each painting helps with that. Then I at least feel like I can keep a small part of it.

Do you photograph/log all the paintings?
Haha, see the my answer to the previous question. Yes. I also then will often make prints of the paintings available to people who maybe missed out on bidding on the original. We also have a Patreon (plug!) where we mail prints of my paintings to our supporters every month, like an art subscription club!

Congrats on publishing your first graphic novel “How To Completely Lose Your Mind” – which was released in October! Talk about the book, the promotional tour you did last fall and are you planning to release more in the future?

Eric: The book follows our 2019 tour where tried to break the world record for playing a show in every state in the fastest amount of time, and how that experience really messed us up mentally. We also feel it's one of the best things we've ever done, and are super proud of it. It also came out with a real life publisher, which was sweet. It's the first time someone came to us and said "hey I think we can make money off you" which is always what you want, right?

We hit the road for 5 weeks in October all the way to Seattle and back, launching off with a show at the Telegraph, which was where the first show in the book happened! It was great to launch the tour and book at the same place we launched the tour back in 2019. We tried to book as many book shops and libraries as we could, and man, they did not disappoint. We weren't sure if it would work but we had a GREAT time. We got a lot of new fans who normally may not come out to a bar late night, and most of the shows were done by 8:30 or so, which means we got to bed at a reasonable hour most nights. I cannot stress how positive of an effect that had on the tour as a whole.

A new video for “This Won’t Work Out’ was released back in February and Elizabeth’s paintings have literally come to life! Who did the video and how did it all come together?
Eric: Matt Silva, (brother of our drummer Jay Silva), approached us about doing it. For about a year he's like "I'm making progress!" every once in a while, but we were honestly in the dark most of the time. Then one day he's like "Here it is!" and we were absolutely flabbergasted. It's amazing.

Tell us something that most people might not know about Pocket Vinyl?

Eric cannot be in a record store, book store, or library for more than 5 minutes without having to poop. It's called the Mariko Aoki phenomenon and he...suffers?....from it. Elizabeth has a light form of synesthesia.

Any advice for musicians just starting out in the gigging/touring circuit?
Touring is all about what you're willing to sacrifice. You'll learn very quickly whether or not that life is for you. It helps if you have some unmistakable need to get on stage and perform. Some people call it "drive" or "passion" but it often feels more like a mental illness (at least...it does to us). Also, absolutely no one knows what they're doing. Every musician/band that "makes it" does it on their own road. No two ever go down the same path. Everyone's just making it up as they go, so just have fun. Making music and performing has to be worth it in and of itself. Any success (whatever that means) after that should be treated as pure frosting.

Any favorite local bands/musicians, venues or businesses you want to shout out?

Yes, but I hate this question because I'm always afraid of leaving someone out. So instead I'll say this: I am very hopeful about the NL scene right now. I think we're right at the beginning of a GREAT new period. I'm inspired by a number of newer bands, personally, and I think we have a solid foundation of venues in the area too. I believe we could really continue to build it higher than it's been before.

You’ve seemingly been very busy in the last few years with tours, albums, videos and even a graphic novel! Besides taking a well-deserved rest, what's up next for you guys?
Rest. That'd be a nice thing to learn. Maybe someday. In the meantime, we have on the horizon:
we're acting in a horror movie in Missouri for the month of June
We're also writing the soundtrack to said movie
We have a new full band album called "Rabbit On Fire" coming out in September (Kickstarter for the vinyl coming in May)
We have ||||||||||||||||||||||||| coming out later in the fall
We are working on a 10" record thing
We are working on an experiement/weird piano album
We have 4 or 5 music videos in various stage of happening
we're working on a coffee table book of lyrics and paintings
Many more shows are going to happen in the fall
Elizabeth has illustrated a children's book that a Canadian publisher is putting out in the fall
We have another graphic novel that's "the Good Place and Good Omens meets Groundhog's Day" we're pitching
Several other graphic novel ideas in various forms of development
Elizabeth is still putting out 2 Touring Test comics a week online
An 18 card tabletop game that has been on the backburner for years
And a lot more random stuff in various stages of completion. Now is a great time to jump on the PV train.

Anything else we missed or you wish we would have asked?
Let's end with my favorite reminder: every single person on earth is absolutely winging it.




Saturday 4/20 @ Telegraph - New London
137 Bank Street
"Record Store Day Weekender" 
Pocket Vinyl set at 5:45pm / all ages

Thursday 5/9 @ Golden Owl - New London
19 Golden Street

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