Sup y’all? =) President Hoodie here with a special BONUS edition of Hoodie Highlights this month! While I do indeed have another fantastic visualist interview coming up in a week or so, I’m more than happy to first share this quality chat between myself & Mike Shirley-Donnelly of Curious Quail! They’ve a brand spanking new single embedded in the midst of this interview as well, which you do not want to miss! As always, enjoy!
Hoodie: HEYA MIKE! Gimme a quick breakdown of who you are and what you’re about!
Mike Shirley-Donnelly: I’m Mike! I play guitar, Game Boy and sing in Curious Quail. We make music that kinda spans alternative rock to film / video game soundtrack.
Hoodie: Cool! On that note, who is exactly is Curious Quail?
Mike:We’re a 5-piece rock band from San Jose, California (sometimes called Silicon Valley, otherwise known as ‘that Bay Area place south of San Francisco). We mix little bits of guitar driven alt rock with orchestral instruments (we have a violinist and our drummer’s background is in symphonic percussion) and chiptunes made with LSDJ on a DMG-01.
Hoodie: Awesome. It’s a unique mix that really works for y’all. I’m totes a fan!
Mike: I’m glad! We often worry it’s too much or that on paper it should’t work so we’re stoked when people respond to it.
Hoodie: Of course I’ve gotta ask about one particular unique ingredient in the mix: the chiptune. How’d that come to be?
Mike: It actually STARTED there. in 2008 I began Quail as a solo project, quit the rock band I was in and started trying to make music that was a mix of the alt rock I loved with the video game music I grew up with. So I’d use orchestra samples and loops to get the more modern VGM feel and then recording single notes on an ATARI 800 and sampling them to get the retro feel. I put out The GLOW Ep in 2009 that sort of showcases all of those angles without ever knowing what ‘chiptune’ was or that there was a community for it. I found LSDJ on a forum a few years later and pretty much switched wholesale to the Game Boy sound.
Hoodie: Oh wow. I had no idea! That’s badass!
Not the first time I’ve heard that sort of story, though; getting into chiptune without being aware of the community. Hell, I didn’t even have a clue until a few years back, or I would’ve been neck deep LONG ago! haha
Mike: It’s the best music community, hands down. I often feel like the dude who showed up to the wrong address of the wrong party with the wrong beer but everyone says “Hey, we’re all friends here anyway!”
Hoodie: hahahhaha #DemFeels #IKnowEm
Mike: We played 8BitLA‘s FreqFest earlier this year and the love and support we got from people who knew nothing about us at a venue 400 miles from home was astounding, especially since we aren’t by definition a “chiptune band”. It’s just one of the many things we do, y’know?
Hoodie: Right. That does sum up so much of this community, though. It’s a damn cool thing.
Mike: ChipCommunity is best. <3
Hoodie: Indeed. \m| <3 |m/
Touring and live shows: y’all seem to be on the ball there, especially as of late. How’s that going?
Mike: Insane. We had things kinda fall into place – our local major rock station LIVE105 (CBS Radio) asked us to play their yearly summer festival BFD in early June and we were already networking with a few bands we’d played with from Portland and Seattle so it all kinda fell together. As soon as we’d got it scheduled we got asked to headline the Great American Music Hall in SF which is like… Robin Williams filmed comedy specials there, this place is massive and I’m still in shock.
We also got asked to play the Underground Music Showcase in Denver so we’re gonna be all over the west coast this summer.
Hoodie: DAMN. That’s awesome! Happy to hear it!
While you’re in Denver, y’all should *somehow* edge a little closer to my region of the world so I can catch a show. That’d be swell. ;)
MY TRUE MOTIVES SURFACE.
Mike: I wish. I think we’re flying in and out one day. Hahaha
Our bassist / vocalist Erin is from Texas though, so we have to make it south at some point. Lots of her family have never seen us play.
Get some AR dates up in there as well. =D
Hoodie: NOW WE’RE TALKIN’. 8-) We’re actually in Texas semi-regularly tbh. Got a good few friends spread across that vast state. If a CQ show there happens, definitely let me know! We’ll try to come down. Could probably recommend some folk to share shows with! =D
Mike: Oh definitely. We met Chalkboards at FreqFest. They’re amazing. I’d love to play with them again.
Hoodie: Alrighty then. About this new single that’s releasing, what? TODAY? (i.e 6/9, the date this interview is publishing!). Tell me about it!
Mike: New song! Yea, it’s out today, which is super awesome. It’s the quickest we’ve ever put out new material; usually several years go between albums. ‘Rallying Cry’ was recorded kind of in secret at Different Fur in San Francisco with Sean Paulson, who is probably best known to this community for his work with Together We Are Robots.
Hoodie: Ah, gotcha! Yeah, that album turned out absolutely fantastic.
Mike: I actually started this band as a solo project to convert a book series that I knew I was never going to finish writing and turn those stories into a song narrative that has spanned all of our work. Our last record, 2014’s ‘AFTER THE LIGHTS FAILED’ told the story of a group of people surviving a global catastrophe. This new single, ‘Rallying Cry’ tells the story of a different group of survivors who are trying to let go of old ideas, old grudges, old traditions and trying to embrace the dramatic changes to their lives.
Hoodie: Oh damn, wow! Well THAT is cool!
I’m familiar with storytelling songs, of course, but taking actual unfinished stories that you wrote and turning them into songs? I DIG IT. Had no idea either! Seriously, too damn cool.
Mike: I was really vague about it at first, but it’s a huge ongoing narrative. All of our records tie into each other in terms of the story, the setting and the characters, and we try to make it subconsciously apparent by having melodic callbacks. If you listen to all three records you’ll hear parts of songs that represent a specific moment weaved into others. If you hear something that sounds familiar it’s because we’re retreading that character or that location.
But on the flip side, you can listen to the songs as one-offs and still enjoy them. I was worried at first about being too heavy handed with the “concept album” thing and didn’t want that to detract from enjoyment, but then I said fuck it and wrote three concept albums.
Seriously, though, once again, it’s a very unique way to do it. Also, now I’m excited to go back and listen with this in mind!
Mike:Start with The GLOW Ep to get full effect! =D
Hoodie: Will do!
Okay, now time for the most important question of all: how in the world are you so good at the selfie game?
Mike: EXPRESSIVE EYEBROWS FTW
Mike: I fell in love about six months ago with making animated gifs for everything. Take photos in burst mode on phone, tweak them a little and BAM – instant fun.
Hoodie: I feel a new terrible/wonderful hobby coming on…
Any final thoughts to share before we close this chat window? (for now; don’t worry, there’ll be other chats b/t us <3 ).
Mike: Honestly I just wanted to thank the Chip community for all the support. It’s weird being a sort of cross genre artist that doesn’t fit into any one group. ChipWIN has been so amazing to us since we first got in touch. We really appreciate it.
Hoodie: It’s been our pleasure, man. Thanks for just as much return support!