Pocket of Lollipops' Maitejosune Urrechaga: "I Always Had a Riot Grrrl Mentality"
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Maitejosune Urrechaga is a South Florida artist working in so many creative areas, that there's too many to mention in this intro: comic books, films, novels. She is perhaps best known as the "better half" of Miami's Pocket of Lollipops, a husband and wife outfit where she plays bass and shares vocal duties with her husband drummer Tony Kapel.
The duo has been instrumental in merging South Florida's stuffy art scene with a spunkier, all-fun, no-gloom attitude. The aural results are an art-punk, danceable, no wave sound that glistens in the diabetic saccharine glory of power-pop. New Times has spoken to her hubby in the past, but on the release of their latest 7" record, Letters to Larrup, we decided to check in with Urrechaga. She revealed plans for an upcoming sonic blowout set in Horse Country, gave insights into keeping a marriage successful, and spoke about her affections for the Grateful Dead.
New Times: You guys have been very active since you started in 2009. Is marriage a benefactor or detractor on the musical arrangement of Pocket of Lollipops?
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Maitejosune Urrechaga: I would say a benefactor. We both know each other's schedules, so working around things is super convenient for us. Plus our house is like a giant creative playground. One room for music, another for art, we change things up a lot also. I think we have had our bed in every part of our house except for the kitchen. Let's put it this way, our living room is probably not the usual married couple's living room.
On the marriage note, I'm interested in knowing about musical creation. I have a good idea of Tony's leanings but I'm not really aware of yours, how did your record collections merge and how is the creative process handled in tandem with home life?
When I was younger, my musical taste came from my older sister and mother. My sister and I were allowed to go to concerts at a very young age; the only rule was we had to go together. We actually slept out for concert tickets all the time. It is funny my mom wouldn't let us sleepover friends houses but on the street in front of Eckerd's and Spec's was okay. She would bring us doughnuts and check up on us. Lots of people were there, so it was super fun times.
My mom had a big influence on going to live shows because she always regretted that her mother didn't let her go see Elvis. My mom said she would never do that to her girls, so she let us go to everything. Okay, back to my music taste, my sister introduced me to the Pixies, Violent Femmes, Beastie Boys, Cocteau Twins and some others, but those really stick in my head. I had a big phase in middle school with metal music and in high school I got into a lot of classic rock and hip-hop. I was a big Deadhead, and luckily got to see them many times in Miami and outside of Miami.
I really fell in love with the Dead because I was always able to find rare types of live recordings they did. In high school, I also got very heavy into collecting records. I was a big fan of Y&T and Yardbird Records. I still own my whole "dead collection" on vinyl that's over 25 records that I collected with a friend during my high school years. There are definitely things that both Tony and I share musically, you will always hear Pink Floyd, Modest Mouse, Dr. Dre, and a few others that we both enjoy playing on the computer in the house. And then when it comes to newer stuff, I am usually the one who finds it.
I went through a phase in finding present female artists (before they were big) like Crystal Castles, Bat for Lashes, Lykke Li, CocoRosie that go beyond the media's female pop image. I listen to about eight hours of music a day. I think most music and art has a direct correlation with what is going on in the world. The more I got involved with Pocket of Lollipops, the more I noticed how much I was influenced by female musicians and duos. Love Pat Benatar, Blondie, Cyndi Lauper, Bikini Kill, Eurythmics, Bjork... No surprise that deep down I always had a riot grrrl mentality. I think my friends knew it, maybe I just didn't know what it was called. I did have a cool nickname in high school 'SAM' (Swiss Army Maite). I was very clever at a lot of things, getting out of trouble, changing break pads, building fun things, opening doors, finding food for everyone, I'm sure the list goes on.
In reference to Tony, he always educates me on things both past and present. Tony knows so much history, it amazes me. I'm more of a math, pattern person. Though we are always open to hearing each other's influences at the end of the day, if I want to listen to something in the house I do overrule the decision.
You guys are both artists in different mediums outside of music, and I think that lends a lot to the aesthetic element of the physical look of the 7". It reminds me of better days of packaging like Space Cadette Records, is this an approach that can be expected in future releases?
Yes, I really do enjoy making and creating the packaging of all our band stuff. For me it is kind of meditative. I will set a number and make it a goal to make that many in a certain amount of time. I am really obsessed with making band pins. I think I have made over 700 and no two are the same. I run out of them all the time.
I think packaging is important. I read a book once on the etiquette of Asian culture's gift giving since I was always very intrigued by it. I treat everything I make like a gift. I imagine them opening it; sometimes I give people T-shirts scented by placing them in fun boxes, I make with cool smells that I like. I do other things too but those are secret. I have fond memories of Space Cadette and The Box. I always loved what they were doing musically and artistically. I am starting to see more of that community-based collaborative building here.
In husband and wife outfits, like Mates of State, I find that what works best is the innate chemistry already present before instruments get plugged in. What I like about PoL, is the juxtaposing of Tony's Zen-like calm and deadpan rhythm and vocals with your spunkier persona, though the results tend to be slightly darker in that no wave/art-punk vein. How much of that is a mirror of day-to-day life?
I would say it is very very on point. Actually, I think I am stealing that from you to describe us, it's pretty great. I don't know how Tony and I did it, but we just make stuff organically, and I guess since it is us, it comes out in our music. It is true, I tend to be more like the cheerleader in the band; I am always willing to do anything for the band, he takes a little more convincing and thinks things through. But I have always been like that: I never have felt like I couldn't do anything.
I do remember that when I first starting playing, I would tell Tony you don't have to play with me because I'm your wife. People who have known me for many years know that Tony was/is the only person who was able to stabilize me. I am still very neurotic and have a super-active mind but he has taught me to chill a bit. And I, on the other hand, force him to do things that maybe he wouldn't do, like wearing some snakeskin print pants for a high fashion photo shoot. Maybe one day those pictures will appear some place in like UK Vogue or something. He will probably be mad at me, and I'll just smile.
When we first hooked up, I know many of our mutual friends didn't get our relationship, thank God we didn't listen to any of them. We have always been good friends. Tony was the one person who would wake up super early after we would all have weekends of chaos and somehow we would watch the sun come up and then go have breakfast. It just always seems so simple; we never understood why some people complicate their relationships.
When I spoke with Tony back in 2011, he explained the process as a cooperative between the two of you. He was very clear that he is not the "leader" of the band per se, but this being your first musical venture it seemed at the time like he was definitely an "organizer." Since then how has that changed and what are your thoughts and ideas on taking this project to the next level?
I would say that Tony and I are leaders of the band at different times. We both definitely have jobs that one takes on more than the other, but I think that happens because we know we don't have another band mate to blame for something not getting done. He did hand me the bass, and I always joked with him that I should just play in a band with him because many of his band mates wouldn't follow through, I just wanted Tony to play his drums and be happy.
I am totally ready to take this project to the next level. We have some ideas on what that is and how to get there, so we are tapping into them. In reference to being the leader, I will say that I am the one that says lets go on tour, or I am writing new songs, let's press a vinyl, or we need to make shirts because people want them. Being that I have an extensive creative background, I am usually able to make things happen on the creative part. But booking shows, that is his thing. I just tell him the days I am not available. For example last May, I had a solo art show at Swampspace and all I told him was, don't book too many shows April or May and that he couldn't book on the opening night. That way, I still had time to prepare my art pieces.
I function really well on being extra busy. I also give him lists of things or places I want to visit or play and he makes them happen, I usually find the money or get a guarantee. Though sometimes he's like, "Hey, we are going to do an installation with a performance for this gallery?" and then we both talk about it and come up with ideas. We do a lot of back and forth and push each other to go to other levels. I guess we are both the leaders, we have never really felt the need to compete with each other. We have mentioned to each other that maybe it's because we were both middle children.
What can you tell me about the album title? How close is PoL to whipping and or thrashing someone?
Letters to Larrup... Larrup is my bunny. These two girls kind of sold me on the idea of taking in this bunny they needed to get rid of. I said, let me see him. And when I met the bunny, I fell in love and sent Tony a photo and told him we had a new pet. When I came home with him he needed a new name, they had a lame one. I went to dictionary.com that day and 'Larrup' was the word of the day.
I loved what it meant and learned a new word so that was it. I posted a picture of him with his new name on Instagram and everyone fell in love with him.
We would go to art events, parties and other whatnots that we are involved with and people would mention the bunny and ask to see him and ask about his name and I think one of us jokingly said write him a '"letter."
So that's how it happened. In reference to whipping or thrashing someone; I know about 100 plus people -- you know who you are! -- that have told me I am intimidating. Really, I don't know why. I don't think Tony and I would have to go that route to whipping or thrashing someone, but I am sure if we had to, it wouldn't be a problem for us. (Smiles.)
This is a self-release, right? Any plans on shopping it around for potential labels or PoL exclusively a DIY machine?
I do love being DIY, and yes it is a self-release. We have shopped it around to Sub Pop, Kanine, Dischord, 4AD, Third Man Records, Matador, and a few others. Right now, Team-Love Records has it available on their Library for free download; it goes back to the old school days of sharing tapes. They represent some cool bands like Tilly and the Wall, Last Good Tooth, Broderick & Broderick, and so many others. Broderick & Broderick is so cool, and I am extremely in love with Peter and their other project Efterklang. I'm sure we will somehow be able to keep some of the DIY aspect within what we do.
What's next for both the band and yourself?
We have shows coming up in Florida. Also have something planned for "Casette Store Day" and we got selected for an artists and music residency in Providence, Rhode Island, at the AS220 spot for June 2014. We have some new music videos coming out. Artist Christopher Ian Macfarlane is doing a crazy animation for our song "Open Pirate." We also have one of our songs being featured in a new pilot about a backpacking beaver, it's a travel show about exploring local underground culture, music, celebrities, and things to do on a budget.
I also have some new songs that I am writing, but won't be releasing anything just yet. We have released four albums in five years, so I am in no rush. The last two albums Letters to Larrup and Broken Balloons have been getting more attention both on online radio and colleges. We've done a few interviews on some college radios in and out of Florida. I'm also working on my third comic called "Naninks and the Lady," I usually collaborate with a different artist for each comic.
On October 26, we're also bringing back this musical event we curated "Cashmere Kitties." This will be the third year we do it. We gather musical acts together and find a venue, warehouse or a space to feature everyone. The last two were done during Miami's Art Basel but this one we have decided to go in another direction. We have partnered up with the Helping Hands World Foundation to hold an all ages event at a ranch in Horse Country, we have tons of great sponsors and vendors like Tom Tom Magazine, She Shreds, WVUM, Bike Tech, Diet Radio, Timepeace, Frankie Dogs, and so many more.
So far the line-up consists of Band in Heaven, New Coke, Testokra, Ghost Ease from Portland, and so many others that we will get to share the stage with. We are asking people to bring blankets, listen to music, and enjoy BBQ and grilled veggies, fresh fruit juices, pony rides. Since it is a ranch, the possibilities are endless. You can find all if not most of the info on pocketoflollipops.com as well as a link to everything we have going on.
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