Lauren Early sucks

On March 2nd, 2011, I interviewed the burgeoning band House Cat, made up of Sarah Lawrence students Lauren Early, Jessica Butler, Trent Creswell, Travis Kaupp, and Dom Boyle. House Cat’s unique sound and lyrics (“The best part of being chemicals is you can let the bad gasses go”) are sure to surprise and fascinate their audience. Their signature eccentricity is punctuated by an ever-changing myriad of instrumental sounds, including violin, guitar, kazoo, saw, glockenspiel, accordion, and a cardboard box to name a few.

The group was already assembled upon my arrival, and after some shifting around and a loving confrontation between Lauren and her roommate, we got started.

 

Left to right: Jessica Butler, Trent Creswell, Lauren Early, Dom Boyle, Travis Kaupp

AQ: How did you guys first meet each other?

Lauren Early: It’s simple. It was the beginning of college and I sat down in the fire safety/safe sex presentation and low and behold, a young Travis Kaupp sits next to me and, in true fashion to our relationship and to our personalities, we made fun of the entire thing. And then, we decided to start a band. Soon came Trent Creswell, who was Travis’ roommate, and… Well, Trent?

Trent Creswell: Well, I insisted on being in the band.

LE: I believe the question I asked was, “What do you think about being in the next great American rock band?”

TC: I said, “Yeah.”

LE: Jessica was in the making for months. Jessica Butler and I were on the same college tour, the first time we visited Sarah Lawrence. And we sort of noticed each other. So anyway, we go to a small school and we would see each other walking around. I have like a really ridiculous memory, so I met her and I said, “Hey, you were on my tour, this is exactly what you were wearing four months ago, I’m Lauren Early.” And she loved it.

Jessica Butler: And then at the open mic they played and it was like the perfect sound, to me, that was like exactly what I’m into. So, I went up to Lauren and told her I play the saw and she got really excited about that idea. I had been like, “When I go to college, I want to play my saw in a band!”

LE: Dom was also brewing for a while…

Dom Boyle: I don’t know when I met you. Probably in my apartment?

LE: Yeah, I hung out with Dom’s suitemate. That was just sort of like a hangout spot of the first-year class. And when we were ready for a new member there was only one violin player for me. It was Dom Boyle.

DB: Oh, but the way I actually joined was you just texted me, “Hey! Do you want to play a show tonight?” and I was like, “Okay!” It was just me and Lauren at the Winter Cabaret.

LE: We practiced for like an hour and Dom was fucking great.

JB: (Jessica burps) I feel better now.

LE: We like to burp.

JB: This is true.

(Lauren burps)

Travis Kaupp: We’re really making a blanket statement here.

(More burping)

LE: The women of this band like to burp.

AQ: So, “House Cat”. Awesome name. What is the origin?

LE: I have a cat. His name is Tabby, which is an awful name for a cat. He is a wonderful cat. My family is especially strange, but everyone is able to get their shit together for this cat… I love that cat. I’d been thinking my entire life about what the name of my band would be. And earlier this year I was writing a song kind of about him and I named the song “House Cat”, and this was before we were all together. I was like, wait a minute! It was really easy for me to stick with that name. And I’m pretty sure it will be the name forever of everything.

AQ: If you had a dream tour, what would your dream venues be to play?

LE: I love telling this story because it makes me sound really, really cool, much cooler than I am. I tried to sneak in to see Radiohead about a week after I stopped working [at the Hollywood Bowl] and I got caught and in a lot of trouble and I was sort of surrounded by the entire staff, shunned in a circle, and got kicked out before the show started. And literally for the rest of my life I’ve heard from various sources about how that was the greatest show of their life. For example, when I took my last paycheck from the Hollywood Bowl to the bank, the bank teller was like, “Oh my god, I just saw Radiohead there, best show of my life!” I don’t think I’m that big of a Radiohead fan, but…Anyway, I would love to tell that story on stage at the Hollywood Bowl.

TC: I think it would be so much fun to play festivals. That’s what I would really like to do. I think festivals are awesome. The ones in Europe, like Glastonbury. And the smaller ones like Pitchfork and stuff like that. But, you know, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza because we can hang out with whoever is headlining if we’re not headlining.

TK: There’s this place called East Edwards in California that’s right by an Air Force base and it’s this huge, terrible, dead, dead, desert. And in the middle of that desert, one time I saw a pile of trash and just appliances that had been shot. I’d like to play there. If that’s possible. We could revitalize the East Edwards economy. We could do it.

AQ: Are there any bands that you guys have been impressed by lately that you want to give a shout out to?

JB: Well, The Strange Boys recently happened for me.

LE: There’s a local L.A. band that’s getting pretty big called Moses Campbell. I went to a lot of their shows; they’re kids who are also from the Valley in Los Angeles, which is where I’m from, and that’s cool. They’re really good, they have a really good album out. It was just cool for me to see young kids be very legitimate and very good.

DB: I like Owen Pallett. He’s a violinist that does other work and he does composition and mixes orchestral music with other stuff.

LE: I saw him last spring at Coachella Music Festival and it was literally like one of the times in my life where I said, “Wow, I really have to do this with my life.”

JB: I guess I also want to say, with the saw: The Music Tapes, Julian Koster is the man that got me into the saw, essentially.

AQ: I’m curious how you guys balance being in the band and also being students here.

JB: Because I’m so passionate about the band, it’s like when we have practice I forget about the amount of homework I have and I forget about everything that I have to do. It’s probably not a really good question for me to answer because I stay up until five o’clock pretty often… Lauren has been saying this about a lot of stuff, she always says, “You can make time.” And I think that’s what all of us do.

LE: Everyone in this band is very involved not only with schoolwork but their own projects. Trent is a playwright and he’s directing a play, and Dom is in the music program, and Travis is writing screenplays, and Jessica works on visual arts in Heimbold a lot and it’s all over the place.

DB: Two days a week I have class until nine or ten p.m. But, you can totally make time and music is something that I feel like I’ll always make time for. I love playing classical music. But for me, playing this kind of improvised music where you really get to be creative and express yourself by not only interpreting music but also making it and taking solos and stuff is just so rewarding and so important to me.

TC: Yeah, I think, at least for me, there’s not a balance. The balance doesn’t exist. Right now I’m directing a production of “Uncle Vanya” the entire House Cat is now in. I think it’s great that we all have enthusiasm for everybody’s projects. Because for me, I have been involved with theater for the past four years and I forgot how much I love to play music because I’ve been in a lot of shitty bands. This is a band that I’m so willing to be in, because I think there’s such an amazing amount of potential.

AQ: As a musician, it seems like your instrument would be very important to you. Do you guys want to talk about how you fell into your instruments, how important they are to you?

LE: Contrary to popular belief, I think my main instrument is a drum set. In elementary school I learned to play recorder and the way that evolved is sort of similar to my songwriting in that some part of me knew that I was a good musician and I think that came from being good at recorder. I didn’t start playing music well until like, ninth grade. And somehow I knew that I could write songs, but I just wrote the shittiest, most embarrassing stuff forever until miraculously I didn’t, which was maybe tenth grade, kind of. In ninth grade I learned drums and I was really into it and really good at it and then in tenth grade got a guitar and taught myself how to play that and I got a ukulele and a banjo and a mandolin and a bunch of stuff. It’s been really important to me. High school was mostly not doing school and doing what I want to do well, which was reading and playing a bunch of instruments. My physical instruments are definitely sentimental to me, but I don’t name them.

TK: I like my accordion a lot. The story behind the accordion is I was on Craigslist for weeks trying to find a cheap accordion, which is tough. Well, it was at the time, now there are a ton of cheap accordions in Los Angeles, for some reason. And there was a family really close to where I was living that was selling them, and I went to see them and they gave it to me and I felt really cool. I didn’t know how to play at the time but I eventually figured it out. It’s definitely not like most accordions I’ve seen. It’s rough, it’s ragged, it’s worn.

JB: The saw just happened. I’ve always really like strange instruments and I heard it in Neutral Milk Hotel and I looked further into that and I found Julian Koster’s band The Music Tapes. He uses it significantly in all of his songs and I thought it was the coolest thing. I started with my grandpa’s old saw and my band teacher from high school gave me an old bow. So, the equipment was pretty poor and I just started teaching myself through Youtube and Google and strange women who play in the subway and strange men from Tennessee. Once I found out I was going to play in House Cat I got myself a real musical saw made by Wentworth in Tennessee. And I’ve been learning more about it as I play it.

DB: Truth be told, my first musical instrument was the Zimbabwean marimba. But I moved to Wisconsin and they don’t have any Zimbabwean marimba teachers there, unfortunately, so then my mom was like, “You have to play an instrument,” and she gave me a choice and I chose the violin. My violin that I like right now, it took me like a year to find it. Because for some reason people always ask about instrument names: it has a name, Carmen.

LE: Dom took a year off and lived in Thailand and he played violin in bars.

DB: Yeah, that for me was a big wake-up for how not to just express myself through classical music. You can improvise and make it sound nice, but also to feel something and express that through your improvisation is a different sort of thing. That’s when I really started experimenting with that and challenging myself to find different ways of fiddling or improvising outside of what’s expected.

TC: I think I started playing guitar when I figured out that it was cool. But I’ve never had a big attachment to any of my instruments, until now. I finally got like, a good guitar and a good amp and I feel kind of attached to them now. And my brother and I make hip-hop songs.

LE: They’re amazing. Trent’s also an amazing dancer.

TC: Well, I love dancing. But I’m really interested in looking into making hip-hop beats.

JB: I have not heard any of these.

TC: Well, there’s one of them. I wouldn’t say as a whole I’m interested in electronic music, but I do like fat beats.

AQ: If you guys, as a band, could rewrite the soundtrack to any movie, what movie would you want to do the soundtrack of?

LE: Easy. Flubber.

TK: That’s true.

LE: Wait, Flubber, and the Big Momma’s House trilogy.

TC: Are we all allowed to answer the question as well? Or is it just Lauren?

DB: I think House Cat Amélie would be really funny.

LE: That was just so well done. Travis actually learned accordion because of Amélie.

TK: I would like to throw out that it was actually Beirut, not Amélie.

DB: I think like Run Lola Run House Cat-ified could be really cool.

TK: I think doing PSA’s could be really cool. Like a public service announcement.

TC: I think slow Southern movies would be a nice thing for House Cat to score. Or movies like Bonnie and Clyde. I think we could score Bonnie and Clyde for sure. Or like The Thin Red Line.

AQ: When you say “slow Southern movies” what are you thinking?

TC: Well, things like All the Real Girls or like George Washington, Badlands, Days of Heaven, the kind of movies that already have a Neil Young, Patti Smith, or Tom Waits soundtrack. Like Dead Man. We could score Dead Man.

TK: We could score the hell out of Dead Man.

LE: Wait! Boogie Nights! That movie takes place where I am from, which is the San Fernando Valley, which is like, the porn capital of the world and the house that I lived in was a porn house a couple owners back. There are like mirrors everywhere.

AQ: What should we be looking out for next from House Cat? Concert dates? Recordings?

LE: The answer is “Yes”.

Check out upcoming shows, other House Cat news, and hopefully Trent’s fat beats at some point on their Facebook page here.

To hear more comedic banter, crude interjections, and Trent’s desire to be the Rum Tum Tugger, listen to the full interview: House Cat Interview Audio

Photo: Katherine Harrison

 

(On Campus Editor) is a film kid and hyper-curious about the world in general. Moonlighting as a wedding videographer, she strives to one day become her own boss as a filmmaker and illustrator. Anna is easy to talk to and anyone who knows her knows that free candy is the way to her heart. To see some of her work, check out www.annaquinlan.com

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