Photography by Jodi Miller
It was a beautiful Wednesday evening in mid-April when I, sun slowly but surely settling in for the night off to the west somewhere, found myself lost in my old black beat-em-up pick-em-up 1980 Toyota Pick-Up in the “neck of woods” that I should know by the back of my hand. I’m over-confidence’s bitch tonight, I thought as the clock on my phone was getting uncomfortably close to 8pm, the time I was fucking supposed to be there! I thought right now as I think back to then. It was time to be honest. I was going to be late.
I called Justin. The chronically punctual me forced a grin on his face while waiting for Justin to answer.
“Hey man,” I said as nonchalantly as I could muster, “This is Aaron, yeah, I can’t find the college!?” More specifically to you, reader, Capital University, where the band works, goes to school, and/or practices depending on who you talk to.
Lightly & patiently Justin gave me directions, which I then messed up again, but eventually got sorted out and way too much time later, I was standing on the back of my truck in the parking lot looking to be seen & found. Finally, I officially met Justin, my main contact to the Super Desserts.
Even though I was a little late, I was the first one there. Well, except Justin. I was thankful. One, I really didn’t want to be the douchey guy who runs a self-important blog who shows up late to an interview he requested, that’s like… a double-douche. Two, it gave me a chance to cool back off, relax, and get my head “back in the game”. It’s a rare-rare day that I have the time, means, or opportunity, not to mention the inclination, to do an interview. I had planned this one perfectly, my ride schedule, my work schedule, everthing. So, having a few minutes to get my head in check was a good thing.
To my delight, we both wore plaid short sleeve shirts and rather non-descript pants (me, grey jeans, him brown cords). In social circles, this would be a “good sign” of some commonality and I felt even more at ease. If he had shown up shirtless, only in leather pants and vest, and me in my cut-off jean shorts & slim fitting t-shirt, who KNOWS what kind of conversation would be had! Surely, the Super Desserts would be merely a tangent and the whole point of the interview would have been lost! Or worse… Vice versey. Fortuntely, my leather pants were at the cleaners, and I don’t think Justin even owns leather pants, so without a fashion wall to metaphorically climb over, Justin & I were free to get to know each other.
We chatted while we waited and little by little the band showed up. Well, most the band… Well, most of the band on some days, maybe not on all days, possibly not today, maybe. You see, it’s unknown actually how many members are in the band. This much I do know, Ianna brought cake & cookies.
After the resident banjo & sitar player, Tyler, and Justin finished “laying down some tracks” on the new album while I had hung outside with the balance of the group as various people from various other bands and/or orchestral-type groups – what were the folks “in band” back in highschool actually “in”? — passed in and out of the building, it was finally time to eat desserts while, appropriately enough, talk about & to the Super Desserts.
What follows is real, though edited down a bit (transcribing 30+ minutes of conversating equals many many pages of text), or at the very least my interpretation of reality, from the recordings of that night, which is & was real to me. As real as any memory with audio recordings can be. What is real? For all I know, you are not real, so who are you to judge what is real to me when you, yourself, are suspect!
But regardless, let’s push play and see what transpired on April 14th, somewhere around 9:30 or so PM when I sat in a chair faced by a horseshoe of talented musicians, namely, from left to right, Tyler Evans (banjo/sitar), Frances Litterski (vocals/bells/piano), Emily Ng (viola), Ianna Shively (vocals/shaker), Matt Ogborn (viola), and of course Justin Riley (vocals/tambourine) and asked them a bunch of interviewy type questions as…
TSURURADIO Presents… An Interview With The Super Desserts With Accompanying Mixtape!!!
*god, I hate my voice on the recorder*
Me: Hello and thank you for sitting down with me! Let’s get right to it, eh? What got you guys into music and how did you ultimately start Super Desserts?
*inaudible, followed by laughter as everyone tries to figure out the guava cake*
Matt: It’s so sticky.
Justin: We don’t have a fork or anything
Tyler: You can keep asking questions, we are just going to keep ignoring you.
Me: That’s totally fine
Ianna: First of all, who wants cake and I’ll pass it along while we answer the questions.
Tyler: You answered a question, you get a slice of cake
Ianna: Nobody wants cake?
Me (maybe): Every answer should be answered with a mouthful of cake.
Tyler (Mouthful of cake): “Well, now that you asked…”
*a bunch of jibber-jabbering*
Ianna: If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.
Justin (seeing this could turn into a 30 minute conversation about cake took the reigns): Before we even played together, I had a bunch of conceptual ideas about what I wanted the band to be like. But um, it was basically there were going to be a lot of members, half the members were going to be girls, and there wasn’t going to be a drummer, there wasn’t going to be a bass player, it was weird concept stuff like that… and me & Bob, Bob & I, we got together about starting this pop band.
He had a couple different ideas & our ideas kinda got merged into Super Desserts. So it was the two of us, then we contacted Eve who isn’t here yet, Bob isn’t here yet, and next was… we were looking for a sitar player
Me to Tyler: You play sitar?
Me (smoothly & as creepily as possible): Niiiiice.
Justin: Sitar was next…
*more dessert talk*
Me: So why Super Desserts, why the name?
Justin: Another of the original concepts would that it would be part band / part art do it yourself,.
Matt: I thought you were going to say part party monster
Tyler: That’s a pretty good album title, “Part Band Part Party Monster”.
Me: Super Desserts Beach Party
Justin: So, we were going to make handmake really original CD packaging. We had a couple ideas already for that as well and uh, we were going to make our own t-shirts, make this & make that, and Bob’s girlfriend at the time was an art student at CCAD and had just put on her first project which was called “Bring On The Supper Desserts” and it was based around jello.
Me: AHA! What was the art, the jello art? Could you eat it?
Justin: Jello sculpture… There was a lot of stuff about how terrible it is, made of hoofs & bones
Matt: She was a vegetarian.
Justin: So it was a cross between this 60’s ideal dessert, like this futuristic dessert of the 60’s and murder. So like horse bones..
Matt: ..suspended in these beautiful jello desserts were grisly bones & stuff.
Me: And from that you became this nice “twee” collective? How awesome-o!
Tyler: Gloom & doom is secretly our thing.
Fances: Obviously her weapon of choice was knives… Sometimes it cuts cakes, sometimes it cuts hooves.
Me: To cut up the horse hooves? Grinds ‘em up.
Me: Uh… let’s see… See. I’m horrible with genre’s. What is twee? Why twee? I call you “twog”.
Justin: Oh… *laughter* okay?
Me: Micro acoustic prog, yeah.
Justin: Micro acoustic prog… *ponders* alright. Twee originally was later 80s, early 90s, connected with C86?
Matt: Yeah… super sugary.
Tyler: Like K Records.
Justin: BUT, nowadays it’s more associated with the Juno soundtrack.
Me: Thoughts on Michael Cera and what he’s done to the movie industry?
Tyler: He needs to do a nude scene, that’s the only place left for him to go.
Me: Can he do anything beside “Michael Cera”?
Justin: Can Johnny Depp do anything besides the exact same movie over and over again?
Me: Well I think in Alice in Wonderland he played, uh, Frodo Baggins, didn’t he? He was doing a nice Frodo. They could’ve saved some money though and just got Frodo.. What’s his real name? Ethan something?
Justin: Elijah Wood.
Me: Okay… Influences??
Justin: Michael Cera… the Juno soundtrack….
Actually, jazz standards? One of my favourites for the past few years has been Cliff Edwards who went by the stage name Ukulele Ike. He would play ukulele, actually, here’s how most people know him, he was the voice of Jimeny Cricket. So he sang, “When You Wish Upon A Star”, “Give A Little Whistle”… and his stuff is just incredible, these old, vaudeville tunes he’s playing ukulele with these woodwind instruments in the background and really amazing string arrangements in the background. And so, ukulele, banjo, bass clarinet, that’s what we are!
Me: And sitar!
Me: So no drums, right? No bushel buckets???
Tyler: When we first started out, we’d bring a snare drum and invite audience members to play on the snare.
Justin: That was one of the concepts too!
Me: How’d that work out?
Tyler: It was a disaster…. A lot of bad rhythm.
Me: So who’s the writer?
Justin: We have seven writers.
Me: How does that work out?
Tyler: It works really well, actually, there’s always momentum. A lot of bands, whoever writes the songs, will write a bunch of songs and will work on those songs for a year and turn that into a record, but here there’s always new material coming in.
Justin: We’re constantly recording because of that, oh, one of the other original concepts of the band was… record songs and release them as fast as possible. Just keep churning out songs.
Me: Two albums a year?
Justin: The goal, actually, was three albums a year! Which we might actually be able to do this year? We released one in January, Banjo Forever, and then this knew one we have like 2 or 3 parts left to record.
Me: And then maybe a Christmas album?
Justin: This one will be early June. And we already have a list of songs that need to be recorded.
Me: That’s great! I love your songs, what I love was that you had these sweet little songs going on and when, of course, you listen to the lyrics, there was a little bit of sadness, like “I Only Love You Because You Can Play Guitar”.
Me: It’s like a Tootsie Pop. All sweet on the outside, but you got that nasty little shit burger on the inside. Yeah… so, you know, why you gotta mess with our heads like that?
Justin: Well, I don’t think you heard the album before Banjo Forever, that one was called Barefoot In The Disenchanted Forest and it was all about, there were a lot of themes in that album about having these big goals & sweet naïve dreams, and then there’s kinda a bitter reality.
Tyler: It was pretty emo.
Matt: Nothing beats upbeat music with depressing lyrics.
Me: Ever listen to Noah & the Whale?
Justin: I… don’t like them.
*awkward moment as I try to back pedal around that and move on*
Me: I love, one of my favourite songs, that I really fell in love with when I saw you at Junctionview, is “Ibiza”. Just the porch-style rhythm, the frantic banjo, how’d that one come about?
Justin: That’s a song Eve wrote and she had recorded a demo using keyboard, drum machine stuff, and it was about a boyfriend she had that lived in Chicago, the whole long-distance thing.
Me: Those (long-distance relationships) are awesome.
Tyler: That’s one that started off with a house beat and kind of a dance song.
Me: I saw the video you guys put up on it on Last.fm/youtube. You had the stop-motion technique with the little kids bike and I’m a bit of a cyclist so it really appealled to me… though, you didn’t put the helmet on until the end. You were promoting to kids to not wear a helmet?!
Justin: That’s why we featured the helmet!
Tyler: I was riding and came to my senses!
Justin: You missed the whole point!
Tyler: No no.. this is wrong.
Matt: It was my daughter’s bike & helmet. The seat kept going up.
Justin: The model on the bike on the side is “Electric Stardom”.
Justin: Which would make a good album title.
Me: I love the song, “Banjo Forever”.
Justin: You’re an Eve fan!
Me: I’m an Eve fan…. Can you tell me a little about that song? It’s almost ethereal.
Justin: Is that the one about a bunny? She had a earlier version with garage band stuff on it, but then we tried a lot of different arrangements & versions… we pay a lot of attention to arrangements.
*a bunch of discussion, can’t make out much*
Justin: At first it was trying to recreate that ah-ah-ah-ooh-ooh-ah-ah. That weird string part she had from garage band, but that got thrown out, and then there was the Velvet Underground arrangement, but that didn’t work.
Me: You should have an alternate b-side, “The Velvet Underground Mix”.
Justin: That’s the first album!
Me: Where, I, where, I haven’t even seen it online? Where is this album?
Tyler: He won’t let anyone here it. I want to re-release it, I think it’s fun but Justin doesn’t want to have anything to do with it.
Justin: So Banjo Forever is actually the 3rd album. The first one is the electric one called Bring On The Super Desserts.
Matt: Still no drummer, but more of a rock band.
Justin: So then on the 2nd album, Barefoot In The Disenchanted Forest, what people think is our first album, is the album to have our new sound.
Me: This will be great, when you guys are like 20 years from now, they’ll be trying to find copies of the first two.
Justin: Yeah, exactly! And there’s this homemade packaging, a 20 page 7 x 7 booklet, and we did all the artwork ourselves.
Me: You should sell at Wholly Craft, they have a couple records that have that homemade thing.
Justin: *laughs* we did! We sold them at Wholly Craft! And we played there tons and tons of times!
Me: Okay, okay, when is the 18 minute “twog” masterpiece, twee-prog masterpiece, coming based on an obscure Grimm Brothers fairy tale???
Tyler: Justin has this weird notion that no piece of music should be longer than 3 minutes!
Me: HAVE YOU HEARD OF THE BAND YES?? You can just put, like, 8 songs together and make it one song?
Justin: We considered it.
Tyler: The Midwest suite.
Me: Could be like a “whole relationship”.
Justin: We considered it but that was one of the original concepts, just keep it short and sweet.
Ianna: And we like to play 50 songs each show.
Tyler: We got 25 songs in our set list, it’s a good.. 15 minutes.
Me: So what’s next for you guys, some touring? What’s the plan? Where you going? Canada?
Justin: We went on a tour after Banjo Forever was released, we did Bloomington & Cincinnati, and we did Chicago & Madison. And we’re definitely going back to Bloomington & Cincinnati again. We just played Athens, OH & we’ll definitely go back this summer.
Me: What about things like SXSW?
Justin: Umm… We talked about it, but I don’t know
Tyler: It’s such a huge band, it’s kind of a logistical disaster to try to go outside of Columbus.
Justin: I do think if we decide to do it next year, we can take 2 vehicles down and not really book a place because we are completely acoustic. We can play in an alleyway and sell more CDs than people in an actual bar!
Me: We should start our own festival! Mid By Midwest!
Justin: Bob’s tried it.
*Here I kind of jabber on about festivals and mumble about loving Canada… pretty silly, let’s skip that and move on…*
Me: So, as a band this size, how do you handle all the drugs, the in-fighting, and the love triangles?
Ianna: We do them all!
Tyler: We handle in-fighting & love triangles with drugs!
Justin: And we hand drugs & in-fighting with love triangles!
Me: That’s the key to these kind of bands… So, outside of the Super Desserts, what do you guys do?
Justin: We are all in other bands.
Me: What’s the world domination plans??
Justin: Don’t dominate the world.
Tyler: We make art for ourselves maaaan….
Justin: Just keep recording music!
Tyler: Our goal is to break-up and have someone really get into our music 30 years down the road
Justin: Seriously, that’s it.
Ianna: And do a reunion show!
Justin: We dream about breaking-up!
Well thanks guys! It was a such a treat (no pun intended, well maybe) to meet & talk with you! And to our dear readers, you need to follow some of this delicious linkage and get yourself more acquainted with this wonderfully delightful band:
Want to know what you get at a Super Desserts show? Here’s a couple videos from their recent performance over in Athens, OH to get yer taste buds all wet & shit!
Okay! Now, as is tradition for TSURURADIO, a traditionally non-traditional site, so when we do traditions, you know they are special, we have built for you a mixtape inspired by the wonderful members of the Super Desserts!
Can I get a woot?
Now, because their songs are pretty short and they are the reason for the season, they got two, the bookends, on this bad boy. In between lies some new, some old, some fun, some maybe slightly serious, but they were all built while thinking of Justin and the crew. Before we push play, I just want to say to the Super Desserts, thank you again so much for your time and the opportunity to meet & hang out with you. But now it’s time to get on with the music as…..
‘Cause Forever Is A Noble Commitment To Any Cause!
01 Super Desserts – Ibiza
02 Broken Social Scene – Art House Director (collectives 4 life!)
03 Delta Spirit – Golden State
04 Frog Eyes – Styled by Dr. Roberts (kind of a opposite-of-twee song)
05 Tunng – It Breaks
06 Lonely Drifter Karen – Show Your Colours
07 Flight of the Conchords – Leggy Blonde (feat. Rhys Darby) (thanks Emily)
08 Gogol Bordello – My Companjera
09 Avi buffalo – What’s In It For
10 Woods – Time Fading Lines
11 The National – Afraid of Everyone
12 Pulp – Common People (for Baby)
13 The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 1
14 LCD Soundsystem – Drunk Girls
15 You Say Party! We Say Die! – Glory (RIP)
16 Crash Test Dummies – You Said You’d Meet Me (In California)
17 Secret Cities – Boyfriends
18 Woodpigeon – Empty-Hall-Sing-Along
19 Meursault – New Ruin
20 Super Desserts – Banjo Forever
That’s it! Hope you enjoyed! Before we leave, got a little video of “Give Your Mom ACall” from the upcoming Super Desserts album “Twee As Folk”! Hope to see you on Friday, June 4th at 7pm at Wholly Craft for the CD release show!!!
PS. This post was huge, eh? If there are any typos, quotes to the wrong person, or bad links… I apologize in advance & I hope you just go with it and enjoy! Cheers!