Glimpses of the South Florida Scene: Tumbleweave
of the South Florida Scene is a weekly column devoted to the
artists thriving within Broward and Palm Beach counties featuring
interviews with the folks making it happen. This week, West Palm Beach's (and New York City's) Tumbleweave.
Tumbleweave is Ben Mendelewicz and Matt Cutler, who make irreverent
songs that are all eight-bit and spastic and glitchy and jittery. The
tracks from their nine-minute-long album sound even more fantastic live --
the lack of a drum machine grounds them till they're heavy and kind of
punk too. Not surprisingly, the songs were initially meant as a
soundtrack for a series of comics Mendelewicz was working on -- but more about
that later. They've been compared to a heavily electronic Lightning Bolt, but
more suitable would be a series of heavily electronic lightning bolts.
Ben tells us, in a series of emails, about Tumbleweave's beginnings and
how fans can make their own Matt Damon Squeeze (but not really) -- and Cutler explains the meaning of their bizarre, ingenious name.
New Times: Tell me about how you formed Tumbleweave. What were you guys working on before, if anything?
Ben Mendelewicz: First
of all, I'd like to say that I'm really disappointed that this isn't
Pitchfork. As for how the Weave came to be... Matt and I have been in
bands together since our ska band in middle school. I remember the
guitarist had that cordless guitar plug system thing, which looked so
silly. Needless to say, Matt played trombone and I played a giant Neil
Peart-sized drum set. Not as big as Neil Peart the human, but as big of
a setup as he would have. Anyway, since our last (I guess, post-rock)
band broke up as everyone left for school, I started writing my own
songs based on some comics that I was making. I had planned to release
them as a comic with a soundtrack sort of thing, but then I realized
that would be really stupid. The whole idea of Tumbleweave is to be the
theme songs to a cartoon show I will eventually make. But will probably
never make, if you know what I mean. Long story short, I wanted to play
these songs live, and I turned to the only man who could get the job
done: The ying to my ding dong, Matt Cutler. That's Tumbleweave in a
It says you guys are based in both West Palm Beach and New York
City. Who lives where? I saw that, in August, you were "hanging your
Florida hats," so what's going on with that?
Matt and I are
both from West Palm, but he goes to school in Sarasota, and I go to
school in New York. I'm still writing and going to release new stuff,
but maybe I'll find someone to play with in New York since Matt refuses
to drop out and move up here. He might consider it after he's done
shooting his episode of 16 and Pregnant (look for him on the new
season), but it's still up in the air. For right now, we play shows
whenever we are both home, so the next time will probably be around the
I know you're not playing shows in New York (yet), but there's
something to be said for working on music while going to school up
there. So how are you liking it, and what do you think of the music
scene up there -- in comparison to South Florida's but also in general?
There's definitely a lot more cool shows up here. In South Florida,
there's a handful of really awesome weird bands, but the kooky national
and international freakazoid bands might come to Florida once every
five years or something. And even then, they only make it to Orlando.
New York is like a freakin' mecca for weirdos. I do, however, miss
having a car and being able to just drive your stuff somewhere. But
actually, I sort of take that back. Matt and I got into a crazy car
accident this summer; his synth lodged in between his ribs, and I think
the whole incident gave me diabetes. So I have sort of mixed feelings
about cars now. But when you're in a band, cars are awesome! Oh yeah,
and the bums in New York are way more talented than the ones stinkin'
up South Florida. Yuck! Get up and play some homemade bongos or
That sounds treacherous! I'm glad you lived to tell it. You released Demon Squeeze
recently. Tell me about recording it -- where was it recorded, what was
the process like? Also -- was that you who did the album art? Any
connection to the comic?
Referring back to my last answer, I guess they wouldn't be homemade bongos, being as the bums have no home. But Demon Squeeze
was recorded in my old bedroom in my parents' house. We had originally
tried recording it earlier in the summer, but it sounded terrible, so we
rerecorded it live in one day, which was a first for me. In the past,
I've had big problems with overworking and spending way too long on
projects. Tracking for days, and then the recordings never sounded like
the live show. It was nice to just knock it out. Like BOOOM! You know?
I mean, c'mon, our set is only like 12 minutes (the CD: nine minutes); why
spend months on it? There's a bunch of mistakes in the recordings, but
I'm willing to sacrifice that to stay true to the live stuff. Plus I
had been mixing and mastering on and off since August, so I guess I'm
still spending way too long on this crap.
I did do the artwork and packaging and stuff myself. Like I said,
all of the songs are mostly based off of drawings I made. At least the
titles. So that album art has been in one of my sketchbooks for almost
over a year now. The comic was originally going to be called Demon Squeeze, but... there is no comic. You can make the comic if you want. I just don't want to.
I know you're recording new stuff. Are you specifically
planning to work on another release? I heard "Sumerian Bonanza," which
isn't on Demon Squeeze, and I'm wondering if there are more releases to come.
I'm gonna try to work on another release, maybe by springtime?
I have to alternate between the artwork I'm doing and school, but we
will definitely play new songs when we play around the holiday
time-times. I'm hoping to get a split eight-track out or something.
"Sumerian Bonanza" ("Aryan Bananas") is part of Matt Damon Squeeze, which is a compilation of all the tracks from Demon Squeeze
sped up 3x. For some reason, Matt found the sped-up files hidden in a
"sibling-porn" folder on his computer, and we really dig them big holes,
mon. They might even be better than the real Squeezes. It will get
released soon, but all those totally boogered-out PC geeks can make
their own Matt Damon Squeeze at home! All you need is a Commodore 64
and some of your friend's skin flakes. We're taking submissions, and
whoever can speed up the tracks the best gets a free copy of their
For sure. OK... tell me about real tumbleweaves.
Matt Cutler: OK, you know steamed carrots? I wouldn't eat those as a kid. At
dinner, I'd always like, sneak them in my pants and bring them back to
my room and put them in this like, tub on the top shelf of my closet.
So like, they're molding in there and collecting a bunch of dust, and I
didn't know what to do with them. I ended up pouring a whole bottle of,
like, glue over them. So for some reason, I got in the habit of, like,
locking my door after school sometimes and climbing to the top of my
closet to get down this dried glob of like, carrots, weeks old and
dusty. I'd put it on my head and prance around humming "True Colors" by
Cyndi Lauper. I don't know why, but I must have left it out one day (the
glob), and it went missing. My cats got to it because I found it out in
my yard one day, but it was covered in tangled hair from a hairball the
cat spit up. So whatever, I let that get thrown out, but Ben and I were
doing DMT, like, a year ago and fucking the Grim Reaper, Jack the
Ripper, I don't know, some fuckin' whacked-out demon was, like, holding
me in his hand and singing Cyndi Lauper and telling me to relax and
shit. And so, like, here comes his other hand, and he brings it up to me,
and there's that weird ball of hairy carrots lookin' like a weird weave
all balled up. I don't know, that was it. Then we started playing in
Download Demon Squeeze (donations accepted!), or purchase it
on a bright-yellow CD for $4 (and get a digital, downloadable copy
instantly, in case the mail takes too long) at Tumbleweave's Bandcamp,
and visit their Facebook page.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.