Back in 2007 I saw a band named Antiques play P.A.’s Lounge in Somerville. At that show, the only people to show up were me, my four friends, and maybe two other people. It’s not exactly an anomaly for a band to find themselves playing to an empty room at that place. But in this situation it was so painfully obvious to everyone in attendance that this band clearly should have been playing to a packed club and not six clowns such as ourselves. They were that good. So then and there I decided that I had to write an article about them, one that would put these boys into the spotlight they so richly deserved. And I did. The article was called “Dynamic Duo” and it was in the “Music and Clubs” section of the paper. It, of course, made the band stars, just as Jon Landau’s piece in The Real Paper (!) catapulted Bruce Springsteen to stardom back in ‘74. Now the Antiques name is familiar in every living room across this fine nation. And as a result, the two main members of the band, drummer Tim Griffiths and singer/guitarist Steve Vallarelli, have a huge house out in Northern California right next to Tom Waits’s abode, where they have since taken to filming a reality show, about what it’s like for two bandmates to live and make music together, with Tom Waits as their neighbor. The conceit is not all that interesting right off. The juicy bit is this: Steve is married and his wife lives with them! It’s really kooky, take my word. Sometimes they invite me out to Cali to have a smoke and a chat. They of course pay for my plane ticket. It’s very nice, indeed.
Everything that comes after the word “It” in the eighth sentence of that last graph is false. But in a decent world, it would all be true, except for the reality show part, which was me going a little overboard. What happened after the article ran is much more mundane, but that’s okay. The bandmembers are still in Massachusetts, living in the same houses they were living when I met them, as far as I know. Steve is still in law school, as far as I know. There is no reality show, as far as I know. And the band is still killing it in the same clubs they were killing it in last year, that much I know for sure.
We recently chatted with Tim Griffiths by phone, who was in Michigan visiting his dad, about a show the band is playing on Monday night at Charlie's Kitchen and a new album coming out called No Fortune.
So you claim to be playing a show at Charlie's Kitchen on Monday night with the Portland bands Gully and Metal Feathers, but when you go to the club's MySpace page, the lineup has on it Hats and Glasses playing with those bands instead of you. So my question is why should we believe you? Umm special guest stars, I don't know. Umm probably believe us, let me see, I don’t know. Charlie’s is a seedy place — I'd say reputation-wise I wouldn't imagine a band like Hats and Glasses to be there, they’re fine upstanding gentleman...
Are you guys playing in disguise as Hats and Glasses? Yeah, we’re gonna do a Hats and Glasses cover set, even though I have none of their music. They seem like a good band. I guess it would be as good a set as any.
Your band has 700 friends on MySpace, yet the last time I saw you at Charlie’s there were like 6 people there. What’s the deal with that? Supposedly MySpace is a place for friends, but I would probably more accurately term it as a place where movie trailers go to die. We basically never use MySpace. About five times a day I get an email saying someone has added me as their friend on there and I basically deny everyone. And our MySpace [page] itself is basically just a dead, wasteland skeleton...But yeah six people at Charlie’s, we should probably work on that
I heard a rumor that you were going to break your index finger on purpose if more than 20 people show up Monday night? Yeah that's gonna take some balls to go through with it, but I'm open to people buying me drinks because I think that'll help along the process.
At what point in the set will you do it? It would seem that the logical place would be on the very last song when I no longer need that finger. So I could probably wait until the very last drum hit of the last song, and sort of sandwich my finger between a drum rim and a drum stick. I've actually done that before just on accident. But, you know, incorporate it into the show, you make it a little theatrical, give the people what they came for.
So you are readying a third full length album called No Fortune. Where are you in the album-making process right now? It seems to be kind of the never ending story, this album. We'd written songs for it as early as a few years ago and they finally made it into the recording stage about a year and a half ago. We just kept recording and casually doing things and getting together when we could. So we kinda just let the process keep going for months and months and months and finally, I think around December, we said “ok we have an album.” So we mixed it down and sequenced it. And right now it’s all mastered. The album itself we have it as a hidden link on the website. So we can see if people can find it. Not that anyone’s going there anyway. But right now it’s just a matter of getting it pressed. It’s being shipped to the record pressing plant right now. So it’s gonna be pressed to vinyl and then we should have physical copies probably in the next month or two.
Talk about the sound on No Fortune. Steve always tries to call up some kind of religious connotations with it. He thinks its got a very orchestral, churchy sort of sound. Myself, I don’t think it was ever a cohesive concept structure with this album. We almost self titled it just because we thought “well it’s pretty stripped down and bare.” I’d say there’s a lot of really huge-sounding tracks on there. Cause there’s layers and layers of instruments...
I think I heard the last track on the album, “Wasting Time,” and it sounded pretty huge, there were a lot of voices. Yeah we’ve been doing a lot of live singing in the studio and singing while playing, layering, kind of having choruses...not like a Bang Camaro thing...but a more stripped down version of that essentially. I’d say Steve’s assessment is probably right. But I’d probably say it has a less overtly religious, and more nostalgic, pastoral quality to it. That sounds really pretentious.
Where’d you record? We did the basics at Basement 247 with Jack Younger over in Allston. He’s done a lot of stuff with local bands, the first thing I heard out of there was Tulsa. We just did about four days worth of sessions there — mostly drums, bass, guitar, some vocals. That was almost a year ago. And then over the nine months after that we did most of the recording at home. We set up a room in the basement of Steve’s house. Which was kinda cool. It’s pretty small. But we got all of the stuff in there.
One more question: I noticed that there was a band called the Antiques out in California. They sound to me like a polished, bizarro version of you. Have you guys heard their stuff? Yeah, there's like 19 [Antiques]. The key distinction to me is the word “the.” We’re just “Antiques.” I don’t feel super strongly about it. I don’t correct people all the time. But I’ve always kind of had a hatred for the “The” bands. I can never get down with it, everyone from The Rolling Stones to The Who. I just feel that the word “the”...it adds an air of self-importance in a way. Like “oh we’re the something...” I feel like some of them [the names] are uncreative. People are like "what should we call ourselves?" And they take a look out the window and say “Lets call it The Pine Trees. Let’s call it The Minivans."
It’s a little presumptuous. Exactly. And I knew there would be a million other “Antiques” bands. I was just like "well let’s just call it Antiques then." Cause we're not "The Antiques" and that’s just silly.
Well, I think that's about it for the interview. Anything else you wanna say? Steve would probably want me to put in some sort of plug for the anarchist party. He’s always doing these anti-government political rants to me, which I always kind of have to take with a grain of salt. Because I say “anarchy, like who's gonna repave the road?” I don’t know.
Steve’s in law school, right? Is he a lawyer yet? Yeah I know he’s in law school but I don’t know that there’s a position for him. Like I said, an anarchist lawyer? He would have to rally against the judicial system that he kind of exists in and then restructure it. And then have some radical anarchist legislature, but I don't know, he believes in it really strongly. You’d have to call Steve; he would explain it much better than I do. I’m just a liberal arts degree misanthrope.