“Some Kind of Parasitic Vibe Feast”: An Interview with Wesley Powell of Believers

Posted March 1, 2012

After making their debut at last year’s fest, Columbia’s own Believers return to True/False to headline the Mojo’s-a-Go-Go on Saturday Night, in addition to busking at films and leading the way at the March March. Fresh on the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign to release their first EP, True/False sat down with the band’s guitarist and singer Wesley Powell in a cozy corner of the internet to find out what T/F can expect from Believers this year.

—Zac Early 

TRUE/FALSE: I first became familiar with your work at last year’s True/False Film Fest. Leah Cheaney, then one of the music coordinators for the fest, went on and on about your music, saying that your band was set to tear the house down at the Fest. And you did. Can you talk about how last year’s T/F led to Believers?

WESLEY POWELL: A few months before True/False, Tyler and I realized we had spent yet another year—as we had just done earlier, living in Austin—writing and scratch-recording, without a band to bring the songs into the live realm. So, to light a fire under our collective tush, we talked to Kim Sherman about setting us up with a show, without a band and only some demo recordings to plead our  case. She graciously obliged. With a month and a half to prepare, we joined forces with Travis, Taylor and Pete, and began pulling songs from our cache and making them into more than just bits and pieces. It somehow came together. Then Ron Rottinghaus kindly let us play our first first show at Uprise—where three-fifths of us work—it was like a warm up, a confidence booster for our first more public show. Certainly one of the more tender evenings of my life, playing in front of our whole community of friends at my second home. A few days later we played at two in the morning during a True/False party: a blast. And here we are, our anniversary just a few days away.

T/F: The soundtrack you put together for last year’s T/F Bumpers was absolutely haunting and perfectly cinematic. Have you had other experiences with film and/or film scores that informed this work? What was the process like putting that music together? 

WP: Before working on those bumpers with Andrew Palermo, Tyler and I had made the music for his short film A Face Fixed. It was a really enjoyable and fruitful process, quite a different approach for us. A soundtrack is more functional: you need to create something that fits parameters set out by the film itself, its editing, aesthetic, vibe, and so on; all things outside of one’s self. And there is no consideration of how the music will be achieved live—it’s all about recording and production. We hope to do more of it in the future, with one project coming up working with our friend Polina Malikin on a short film.

T/F: For those who haven’t had the pleasure, a Believers live set is a soulful, festive experience where the audience is taken over by the moment, moved to dance. What goes into a Believers set to make that happen—or has it come about organically? Is it that much fun for you as well?

WP: It just happens to happen. Which is nice. And most of the time it’s a real treat for us as well, getting all shaky and sweaty, wibbly-wobbly. Assuming  the equipment doesn’t bum out….

T/F: A striking feature of your live sets is that you have two percussionists at the center of the stage while the rest of the band fills the edges with guitars, samples, vocals, and bass. What’s the reasoning behind that setup? Is it just a space issue, or is there a purpose for such a configuration?

WP: For much of what we play live, the rhythm section carries us. Taylor and Pete are the metronomic backbone, so it makes sense to have us all focus on them. And we like to have the two of them close together so they can feed off of one another’s energy, and the rest of us can feed off that. Some kind of parasitic vibe feast.

T/F: What’s in store for Believers in 2012? Are there plans to tour, write and record more music, or contribute to T/F?

This week we’ll be playing True/False once again, this time at a more reasonable hour during the Mojo’s-a-Go-Go on Friday night. We’re looking forward to it quite a bit. True/False is always a trip. Delays and delays after first sending out our mixes to Chicago Mastering service, we finally received our test pressing, which means we should have them ready for sale at the fest. As for the further off weeks and months, we’re aiming to disseminate our record both in the mail and online, and hope to set ourselves up for more touring around the heartland and beyond. Having music to share gives us another incentive to get out and on the move. It’s another kick in the pants to get on it.