The Carolines

While Portland's The Carolines hark back to the days of Elton John and Billy Joel, they're very much a band of the internet age. A couple of months ago the band posted a message on the Designer Magazine Message board asking us to check them out, we did, were duly blown away and asked them to send over a copy of their "Youth Electronics" album to the UK. Designer Magazine caught up with Nate Purscelley (songwriter, guitar, trumpet, bgvs), Nathan Trueb (songwriter, lead guitar) and Aaron Trueb (songwriter, lead vocals, keyboard) from the band to find out everything we could ever possibly want to know about the Carolines.

Q: Firstly, I guess why the name The Carolines? Why not the name The Emmas or The Janes or a name of another girl who broke your hearts?
NATE: "The Carolines" doesn't necessarily sound like a woman's name if you're thinking of the song, "Cryin' for The Carolines". That song is about a person missing being in a small town where birds land on your shoulder and the pine trees sing in harmony with your heart. There's also The Caroline islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Beach Boys song, "Caroline,No" is really where the name idea came from, but the reason I love the name is that it seems to sound different to everybody who hears it.

AARON: The weird thing is I don't think I've ever known a girl named Caroline. "Caroline, No" is that beautiful song Brian Wilson and Tony Asher wrote about a girl who had completely changed, a sort of loss of innocence. "It's so sad to watch a sweet thing die" Brian sings. Just a really pretty song. I think of that Caroline when I think of our name. Some girl from the sixties.

NATHAN: We just decided on this girl's name, because it reminded us of The Beach Boys song, "Caroline No", and sounded classic, like "The Supremes".

Q: Two of you guys were just 13 when you formed the band. What did you sound like in the early days?
NATE: When Aaron and I first started writing songs together, we didn't know what we wanted to be musically. We just loved music and had so many influences that it wasn't a focused sound. For us it was great because we played all varieties of music, but for some new listeners it was hard to latch on to a "sound" that they could identify us with. When we finally refined our writing styles and realized what our musical goals were we named ourselves The Carolines.

AARON: We had a ton influences, a lot of different stuff from the classic rock era. I don't think we ever had a huge change in our sound, but we have very much improved in our ability to write songs. Hopefully we will always keep improving, and keep being more and more creative.

NATHAN: The sound or style of music hasn't changed, just augmented as we gain new influences and become better musicians and a better band.

Q: The band fit into the same sphere as bands such as Fountains Of Wayne and Ben Folds Five. What influences were you listening to growing up?
NATE: I loved The Beatles, The Bee Gees, Led Zeppelin, The Steve Miller Band,Tom Petty, Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, The Beastie Boys and whatever else my Dad had on vinyl growing up. When I heard Ben Folds for the first time, it changed my outlook completely when it came to playing music in a band. Ben Folds wasn't afraid to write songs like the ones he listened to from Elton John and Billy Joel - both of whom I love and risk being labeled as "soft" in a time when Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots ruled the charts in the US. We're now the same way...we love to play aggresive, but our true passion is melodic, interesting pop.

AARON: A ton of Beatles and Led Zeppelin. The Beach Boys, Tom Petty, Steely Dan, Chicago's early stuff. The Oldies and Classic Rock radio stations in town. When I was really little I listed to a lot of Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bill Haley & The Comets.

NATHAN: I started out with everything from oldies to classic rock.  Led Zeppelin and Steely Dan were my "teachers" when I first started playing. After learning all the Zeppelin stuff I decided it would be important to get to the roots of how all these blues-rock players created this music. I love Lightin' Hopkins, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, T-Bone Walker, and guys like that. Then I became intrigued with jazz and other styles and that has had a definite impact on my playing and writing.

Q: Would you describe the band as a pop band or a rock band and how important is it that you differentiate between the two genre's
NATE: Great question. We always refer to ourselves as pop rock band. I think pop rock has become a significant genre alongside pop and rock with bands such as Fountains of Wayne, Cake and Weezer. I've always thought of pop as being the music written by Nashville writers and performed by extremely attractive musicians, neither of which would describe us. I've also always thought of rock as being darker and being against most anything pop, which also doesn't describe us. We would be yesterday's pop band the same way Supertramp was.

AARON: Some people call Brittny Spears and The Backstreet Boys pop rock, so if you tell certain people you play pop, they might get the wrong idea. When I think of pop I think of Fountains of Wayne. Well written songs with interesting and catchy melodies that still rock. I guess I would call us pop rock. But people can call us how they see us if you ask me.

NATHAN: These days people want to over-classify everything, especially music.  I've heard some call us "vintage-indie-pop-rock", which seems like too much work.  It might take less effort to put the record on and listen to it.  I don't think any of us care what anyone calls us, as long as it isn't "garbage".

Q: "Youth Electronics" is your first proper album. Whats the thinking behind the title and what did you want to achieve with your first full length?
NATE: I had this old keyboard organ in my basement - not sure how it got there- made by General Electric and called the "Youth Electronics". The inside photos from the album's booklet are closeups of the keyboard, and you can see how beat-up it and how depressing it would have been to have tried to learn to play the keys on that piece of trash. The thing takes about a minute to warm up, and most of the keys work except the middle "A" which sounds like a fog horn when you push it down. One of the reasons I love it as a centerpiece for our record is that it is so pathetic. How that relates to us I'm not sure.
On this record we wanted to get the chance to put together a nice pop album with a vintage feel. Although we were happy with our previous EP, we felt that we could go in a direction more towards our roots on Youth Electronics.

AARON: Everyone in the band really loves being in the studio and making records. It is so fun to create music in that atmosphere, and a lot different than playing live. We just wanted to make a good album, and people seem to enjoy it so that is great.

NATHAN: The title came directly from a vintage educational keyboard of some sort that Nate owns. It's vintage and has a cool sound, but is definitely quirky and unconventional, much like us.

Q: I read in a recent interview that you want to keep the band strictly independent. Is that from some old school indie ethic or from what you've seen happen to other bands you admire. Explain?
NATE: Whoever said that in the interview should be spanked...hard. No,seriously, we're not wanting to be strictly independent right now...we don't have any "indie cred" we're trying build or anything. We want to be able to record great records and play in front of people around the globe. We know that a label can help with that. We have seen other bands make horrible decisions and jump into a deal with a label because it was the first offer they were handed. I think everybody in the world knows a guy in a band with a story about the evil label. But luckily, we've learned a few things from guys like that.

AARON: I think that might of gotten misconstrued - we are probably a bit wary of labels just because of bad things we've seen happen to other people. I think there are good deals and bad deals. If the right deal was made, we would definitely let a label help us take our music to more people.

NATHAN: We are not against the record industry or anything like that.  It's that everything is about money at that level, and at the level we're at it definitely is not about the money.  It is still about making music that love and want other people to love too.

Q: On your website Ive noticed you all have journals which keep the fans updated with the daily happenings both within the band and your personal lives. How important is it to keep that connection with the fans and do you believe its helped the band build a fanbase?
NATE: We place a great value on connections with people, whether it be on a website, through email, in person or in music. People find connections with bands in different ways...and it's not to say that a band who doesn't have a blog on their website isn't connecting with their fans...but we think it helps in our case. Most of us enjoy writing about everyday stuff: like what I think of The Thrills album, "So Much for the City", or what Aaron thinks of Hall and Oates, or what comic book Matt is reading. It's all pointless fun...and isn't that the reason for the internet's existence? Truthfully though, I believe that to know a band is to love a band, and we want people to know who we are, love us or hate us.

AARON: I love meeting people at shows or chatting with them on the weblog. I would say that staying personable is pretty important to us. I hope we never get to cool to talk to our fans.

NATHAN: It is very important to make relationships with the fans.  We have made a lot of good friends by talking to everyone after shows, and online.  It helps build a loyal fanbase, and creates so many friendships, which is important.  I can't believe that some other bands aren't as cordial to their fans, I mean these are the people that buy your records and pay to see you.  I think that it's the least we can do.

Q: Despite the influences you have such as the Beatles the band has a very American sound. Is it difficult breaking through in other countries? Are you looking to play the UK in the near future?
NATE: I've always thought people are more hip if they're from somewhere else, and that especially goes for bands. I absolutely love people from other countries because of their contrasting take on simple, everyday life. In music, I think certain bands have a way of captivating the hearts of foreigners better than in their own country. Look at David Hasselhoff! He is loved in Germany and loathed in the US. No seriously...we've always seemed to get great responses outside our hometown of Portland, Oregon and in other states such California and Washington. That said, we've never had the chance to leave the country to test our touring legs on alien we're hoping to appeal to an international audience and get the chance to travel a great deal. I think we'll go over well because we're trying something different musically than most other American bands. I don't think interesting, honest music is restricted by international borders either. I personally couldn't care less if a band is American, English, Irish, Japanese or French...I like good music...but it helps if I can understand the words. Hopefully other people feel the same way, because yes, we are defintely looking to hit the UK soon.

AARON: We would love to play in the UK and if it works out I think we would like to play every country that will have us! We've had some radio play in Germany and Austria, and it seemed to go over pretty well.

NATHAN: I think that good music is universal and timeless, so it shouldn't be hard for us to break into other countries. We write our music with the influence and inspiration from the music we love, and we aren't trying to write songs "to be different", or with any agenda other than making music we are proud of and know people will enjoy.  I think that listeners can respect that even if it isn't the specific genre of music that they normally listen to.  We are definitely planning on traveling overseas in the future.

"Youth Electronics" is out now
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