What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
Sarah: I grew up with my grandfather’s band playing in his living room every Saturday night. I grew up in a music store that my dad managed. I got my first bass when I was in 9th grade and never looked back. I have always lived and breathed music.
Jereme: I have to credit my parents for that. They had me when they were babies themselves and were always playing the coolest music. I grew up listening to the B-52’s, Devo, the Police, The Beatles, Yes, Rolling Stones, all the cool stuff at the time. My mom played piano and that was definitely an inspiration. They were always super supportive. I joined the school band and played saxophone when I was in elementary school, then taught myself how to play drums when I was a sophomore.
Mike: Honestly, I started playing bass because my two best friends were playing guitar and drums. The best kind of peer pressure. We’ve all been in bands since high school, just playing rock music the way other kids did sports or chess club or whatever. Jereme and I have been playing together since high school, and we met Currey and Sarah in our college years when everyone but Jereme was in Murfreesboro, TN. This is the second band with me, Currey, and Sarah, and the third time Sarah and Currey have played together. Jereme and I have been in . . . geez, at least eight bands together since 1993.
Sarah: Mike and Jereme begged me to be in a double bass band. I finally caved in, hoping it wouldn’t be another “cliche” band with a married couple. It turned out so much better than I hoped it would be.
Jereme: When our band Apollo Up broke up, we wanted to keep playing and I thought it would be logical to be in a band with Mike and Sarah. It was cool, but definitely missing something. That something was Currey. She joined and then everything really started taking shape after that.
Mike: We were in a couple of other lineups between Apollo Up! and Tower Defense, but we kept losing guitar players to relocation and career changes. I think the thinking was that a two bass band where the bass players were married would be more stable. This November is the 10th anniversary of our first show, I guess Jereme was right!
Currey: With one exception, I had gone a few years without being in a band and I was ready to get back into playing. I liked what Tower Defense were doing, and knew we could gel so I asked if they had thought about needing another guitar and some high harmonies. Worked out that they did.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
Sarah: In the City is our longest , post-punk rockin’, most harmony-driven record yet!
Jereme: These are songs that we had been working on for a long time. Some were written before we put out our last EP (2016’s Stay Inside.) I think it shows how we have become more cohesive as a four piece and thematically represent everything that was going on in Nashville at the time. A lot of gentrification, a lot of people moving in from other states, a lot of landmarks disappearing and being replaced by tall skinnies, restaurants and venues getting bought up and converted to condos. You know, all the things that go with being the “it” city for the brief flash that we were.
Mike: The pressures of living in a rapidly changing city, but also the general sense of tension that a lot of folks were feeling over the last four years. It’s a record about, like, slow apocalypse. Living through the end of the world.
Currey: More so than previous releases, I feel like we’ve started getting to the sound that is best representative of what we all like. Some of that has come over time from just playing together more and some of that has come as we’ve gotten better at collaborating on songs.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
Sarah: Mary Timony, Kim Deal, B52’s, and Devo.
Jereme: I have really just jumped back into a ton of 80’s stuff. That has been my major influence in writing. I don’t think that necessarily means we sound like an 80’s group, but there are little elements.
Mike: We’re fortunate that we have a pretty significant overlap in the music we love and draw on for inspiration. Lots of power pop, post-punk, what they used to call “college rock” in the 80s. 90s post-hardcore, stuff that would come out on Dischord, Touch & Go, Kill Rock Stars. We actually put together a playlist on Spotify and Apple Music that you can check out to kinda see where we’re coming from . . .
Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/tower-defense-presents-keys-to-the-city/pl.u-olzWtEapEo
Currey: Yeah, and if you were to boil it down we all like loud rock and catchy vocals, but we really appreciate it when there’s something a little unexpected thrown in.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
Jereme: I’m not sure where we fall from a genre standpoint. I think our influences are wide ranging and that probably filters into our music.
Mike: Yeah, the genre question has always been a struggle for me. People say we’re post-punk, which I guess is a pretty close fit. Short, fast, loud rock songs, but with a heavy emphasis on melody and harmony.
Jereme: I tend to write notey songs that play with rhythms and hemiolas without being too mathy. I like driving 4/4 songs that are fast and short. Don’t overstay your welcome if you will.
Sarah: A fan once told me that nobody else in Nashville does what we’re doing. We are kinda our own entity. Post-punk/rock/pop . Like early REM, B-52’s, 80s college rock.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
Jereme: Books: Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins; Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon; Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Movies: Bloodsport; Notting Hill; Apocalypse Now
Music: Man, if I have to listen to it forever, I guess bands I’ve been in? Just to remember I did something cool when I wasn’t stranded on this island slowly wasting away to nothing.
Mike: Books: Something Happened by Joseph Heller; Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov; The Complete Eightball by Danel Clowes
Movies: Disturbing Behavior (1998); Hausu (1977); Seven Samurai (1954)
Music: Yank Crime by Drive Like Jehu; The Wrath of the Math by Jeru the Damaja; Steady Diet of Nothing by Fugazi
Currey: Books: Can I bring 3 series? I read a lot of fantasy so we’re talking trilogies at least. I’ll go with 3 authors and say Leigh Bardugo, Pierce Brown, and Scott Lynch.
Albums: Pixies, Doolittle; ugh…this is hard. Hot Snakes, Suicide Invoice, & Fleetwood Mac, Rumors (I already have regrets)
Movies: I’ll watch anything. Love Marvel movies. Let me escape…
Sarah: Books: The Princess Bride by William Goldman; Paper Girls by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang; Harry Potter (Hufflepuff represent!)
Movies: Rushmore; Shaun of the Dead; The Goonies
Music: Rips by Ex Hex; Ork Records: New York, New York; Urgh! A Music War (I know that last one’s a movie, but the soundtrack to that, I guess? I need variety or I’ll go crazy!)
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
Sarah: Playing live, for sure.
Jereme: Obviously performing live is so fun and so important. I miss it so much right now. Just the energy, the rush I get playing, and how cool it is after you finish a song and everybody is into it. It’s the coolest thing. I love the studio, but for different reasons. Just the meticulous nature of the process. Bringing those songs to life and hearing the finished product is what it is all about. I love all the little details and quality control aspects of recording. So yeah, I like both.
Mike: If I had to pick one . . . I guess it would be performing live, but it’s tough. I guess I’ll say that I don’t love being in the studio, but I love having the record done. It’s important to me to have a record of the songs we write, whether anyone actually hears it or not.
Currey: Honestly, y’all are gonna laugh, but when practice is good, like really good, that’s the tits.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
Jereme: Ummmmm one time I was playing a house show in the basement. As we were playing there was some water dripping on me from upstairs. This continued for an entire song and then we all realized it was toilet water from an overflowing toilet in the upstairs bathroom. And yes, it was “used” water. Somehow I don’t think Beyonce has a similar story.
Mike: I mostly think back on all the cool folks I’ve been able to meet, and how poorly I handled every interaction: Sneaking backstage when my and Jereme’s old band were playing the same festival as Ghostface Killah, and just kinda . . . awkwardly hanging out with Ghostface; Meeting John Schmersal at the same festival, and boring him with questions about Brainiac, and Ohio’s weird half-proof liquor that they sell at grocery stores; Spotting Lou Barlow in the crowd (at the same basement show Jereme mentioned) and then watching him walk out as soon as we started playing. Good times.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
Jereme: Hmmmm. I guess “Manifest Destiny.” I think it is cool. I love the vocals, the interplay with all the voices. Honestly, I am pretty proud of all our songs on this album.
Mike: The most unique is probably “Pool Party.” On a record full of songs about social pressures, post-millennial isolation, and climate catastrophes, a short little beach party bopper about doing battle for the City of the Ancient Dinosaurs is what I’d call an outlier. Plus Currey sings that one, which is great. I love “Pool Party” and “Manifest Destiny” (which Sarah sings lead on) because their voices are awesome, but also because I get to take a break from all the hollerin’ and just play.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
Jereme: Hopefully keep writing more songs (which we are doing) and putting out more content. I love being in this band and I think we are, only now, hitting our stride.
Mike: For sure, writing new stuff, working on the next record. We’ve already got four songs in various stages of completion. I’m also REALLY excited about playing shows again. We don’t play much (only 3-4 shows a year, mostly here in Nashville) but it’s always so much fun.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
We solicited a question from our friend/patron/label chief/partner in crime Michael Eades because we couldn’t think of anything:
“What’s the first song you learned to play for yourself (i.e. not a piano recital song you hated)?”
Sarah: My Dad taught me “Venus” by Shocking Blue.
Mike: I played piano and trombone when I was a kid, but the first thing I remember figuring out on bass was “Summertime Rolls” by Jane’s Addiction. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to play something that sounded so cool. I still write a lot with building chords off a single pedal note (including “Under the Sea” on In the City!)
Currey: I think the first thing I learned was just writing stupid little songs. I never really sat down and tried to learn songs much because it was too frustrating. I had a friend who was teaching me stuff when I was first learning and he tried to teach me to play “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas. Seems appropriate for someone starting out…
Jereme: My first composition was for solo voice and piano entitled “Pinto Beans and Potatoes”. An instant classic. Who could forget the weight of the lyric “pinto beans, don’t taste good. Potatoes do the opposite.” When my toddler sister interrupted my genius to tell me that our mother told her she could go play outside, I promptly responded “shut up, I’m trying to play a song.”
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
Connect with Tower Defense:
Official Site: https://towerdefense.co/