Interview- Bearded and boisterous: Philadelphia duo continues Pattern of strong local shows
Two childhood friends who grew up in evangelical families–- and even attended Jesus camps–- have now placed their faith in something called "cabaret" indie rock. And they're heading to Charlottesville's Tea Bazaar fresh off a southern tour that includes the prestigious South By Southwest Festival in Austin–- and fresh off a downsizing.
"We're much happier with the two-piece set-up," says Ward. "We used to really try to impress our music nerd friends, but now we just want to make a good song."
The group's claims to fame include a critically acclaimed 2008 album, a recent tour as Annie Clark's backing band, and a stint playing with noted hip-hop group The Roots.
Like Thiboldeaux, Ward sports a beard, even though it was officially verboten when he was a student at the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Despite such mischief, the the influence of religion hovers over the music, says Ward, who sat for a recent Hook interview.
The Hook: You and Andrew have often cited your evangelical upbringing as a key musical influence–- does it influence your sensibilities now?
Chris Ward: Definitely. We'd watch music being used to affect an audience. People would freak out and dance around. What Andrew and I eventually tried to achieve was that same effect, minus God.
The Hook: Can you explain the transformation from the five-piece "math" rock to the "cabaret" duo?
CW: The biggest transformation came from when we were younger and wanted to mess around with the meter and placement of things. But as Andrew's voice developed, we cared less about how to serve melody. We're not interested in being flashy, more interested in cabaret style.
The Hook: But what exactly is "cabaret" indie rock?
CW: Well, as his voice developed, he started being influenced by opera and musicals, started having a boisterous, direct sound. It didn't make sense with our mathy tendency, so we started the cabaret thing, with really overt, melodic lines that you can sing in your head for days.
The Hook: Your influences range from hip-hop to movie scores to contemporary indie-rock–- how do you draw strength from these extremely varied sounds?
CW: Ten years ago, there were more sectarian feelings about music. Hip-hop has a very forward feel to it, musicals and scores are very emotional and dramatic, while indie-rock is very smart and choosy about what notes it plays. Add it all together and you get really good songs.
The Hook: For your last album, All Together, you drew inspiration from antique photos found on the street–- what inspired you to meld old and new?
CW: It goes back to our religious upbringing; there's power in the past. In the end, religion is just a really good PR campaign.
The Hook: Tell me about your recording process.
CW: We are audio nerds, and our last two records were recorded analog from start to finish–- no computer involved. When you're on a tape machine, it adds some pressure.
The Hook: Are you a slave to technology?
CW: Technology doesn't own me, I own it.
The Hook: Pattern is Movement has been through so many transformations, how do you continue to challenge yourself?
CW: Last year, we went out with St. Vincent, which was a huge band to tour with. I've played in front of 1,000 people before, but not every night–- that was a challenge, and I met it and it made me a better drummer. Last fall, we were asked to play with The Roots, and I never thought that would happen, to play with my hero. I thought I would have choked, but I didn't.
The Hook: What's with the beards? Does it bother you to be labeled under the "hipster" category?
CW: I've had a beard since I was at Liberty [University], even though you weren't allowed to have a beard there. I guess God is cool with beards–- I'm pretty sure he had a beard.
Pattern is Movement plays at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, Thursday, March 25. The show starts at 8 pm and tickets are $7.