CMJ 2011: Interview With Tropical Popsicle

The Spotlight

Based in San Diego, rising post-punk band Tropical Popsicle weave intimate melodies and pop hooks under a blanket of lo-fi haze. We spoke with Tim and Chase after their Cake Shop performance about their sound, a penchant for fog machines, and opening for Lana Del Ray. Read the interview and grab a free mp3 from the band after the jump…

MP3.com: Where ‘s home for you guys?
Tim: I’ve lived in San Diego my whole life, but I was born in New Jersey.
Chase: I grew up in Orange County, then moved to San Diego and have lived there for eight years.

MP3: How is the music scene in San Diego?
Chase: It’s exciting, it’s doing very well. There are a lot of great bands coming out. We’re doing an in-studio session with Break the Radio on Friday, there’s Crocodiles and Dum Dum Girls…we’re excited to be a part of it.
Tim: We probably won’t be moving to LA or NYC anytime soon like everybody else.

MP3: How did Tropical Popsicle start?
Tim: It started off as a pet, solo project that I was doing while I was in another band, and then it just started to pick up interest. I knew these guys in the band, and really wanted to work with them so we got the band together with just a handful of songs. Our first show was only about five songs long.

MP3: How would you guys describe your sound?
Tim: Goth, psychedelica, little bits of new wave all merged into one.
Chase: It is a dark sound, but there are melodies and hooks intertwined so it has an appeal even though it is pulled back from the mainstream.
Tim: It’s definitely influenced by a lot of sixties stuff. Bands like Bauhaus really come out a lot in my writing.

MP3: What is the band’s live setup?
Chase: A lot of multitasking.
Tim: I play keyboards and guitar, as does the other guitarist Kyle, and Chase plays bass and drums. A minimal drum setup, like Velvet Underground. We use lots of effect pedals to, you know, drown out the sound a bit, haha.
Chase: Effects really help everything we’ve done. Not relying on them, but we’ve found a way to make the songs sound exactly like we want them to soung using pedals. Tim’s guitar tone is insane, and he won’t tell us how he does it.
Tim: We didn’t get to use our fog machine tonight, though. We usually have a lot of fog and lights on stage. Bands don’t really use those anymore.
Chase: We’ve embraced the performance aspect of the live show. Nowadays, you see a lot of bands that just plug in and play, but we want to support the eyes and the ears.

MP3: Was it difficult to translate the songs as written for the live performance?
Tim: I was originally worried about how it was going to come across, I thought we weren’t going to be able to do a lot tunes, but things came out exceptionally better than I thought. They’ve transformed from studio to live, they’ve got distinct natures.
Chase: We’ve been getting peeople to the shows through the recordings, then they come see us live and it’s a whole new thing. Each show we introduce new songs, try out new stuff, so people don’t see the same set over and over again. That gets stale.

MP3: What do you hope to get out of your time at CMJ this year?
Tim: Exposure.

MP3: Do you have more shows this week?
Tim: We have one at Bruar Falls, and a second in the works. We had a third but that one got pulled yesterday.
Chase: I didn’t know about that.
Tim: Hah, sorry – last night was last night.

MP3: Are there any bands performing this week at CMJ you’re looking to check out?
Tim: I’d like to see Zola Jesus, Dum Dum Girls. Dum Dum Girls are from San Diego, so I try and see them whenever I can.

MP3I think Dum Dum Girls are playing an acoustic set tomorrow.
Tim: Yea, I heard about that. I’m not sure I’m going to go, though – I’m not to into the ‘acoustic’ thing.
Chase: When we joined the band, Tim said: “We’re not doing any acoustic sessions.”
Tim: Yea, I refuse to.

MP3: Why is that?
Tim: I just don’t think the music will come across the right way.
Chase: It’s not our sound.
Tim: A lot of the songs were initially written on acoustic guitar, but that’s just out of necessity because I couldn’t make too much noise at the time.

MP3: Do you have any releases for people to check out?
Tim: We’re with this small, DIY label based out of California called Volar. We’ve put out a 7″ with them, but it’s pretty loose. We are looking out to release some more stuff soon. We have songs ready to go, probably a few more 7″s in the future before a full length comes out.

MP3: What are your plans post-CMJ?
Tim: We doing a short tour of the West Coast. We’re opening for Lana Del Ray at a KCRW show called “School Night.” I don’t know how we got lumped in with Lana Del Ray, it’s a total polar opposite. I want to come out on stage with facepaint and wings on our back or something, just mess with people.
Chase: We’ll need like, three more fog machines.

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