By Jess Goulart
Photo courtesy of Kyle Dean Reinford
A little rock, a little blues, a little twang, and a lot of eclecticism, Saint Rich is a refreshing take on the tri-state indie-scene. Steve Marion and Christian Peslak bring a wealth of experience from various other New Jersey projects (including one of BTR’s absolute favorites, Delicate Steve) to the table in their first duo project, yet manage to tap into a sound that is all their own. It will have you toe-tapping, wailing, and swing dancing all at once.
Ok, maybe not swing dancing, but you get the point.
Their debut album Beyond The Drone dropped in October, 2013, to great local reception. Playful strumming and lush guitar riffs wander within peaks and valleys of voluminous drums, perhaps an unintentional mirror of the beautiful garden state backwoods where the album was recorded. Peslak’s mellow vocals are your inviting guide “as you stumble through the maze” echoing back his call of “don’t bring me down.” BTR caught up with the band to chat about the definition of organic music and how it’s actually entirely possible to record gorgeous music from a closet.
What are your backgrounds as musicians? How did Saint Rich come about?
Christian Peslak: We grew up in the same area of NJ, sort of in the woods, its out there but its really beautiful. We kind of knew each other and played some shows together in different bands throughout high school. Then Steve contacted me one day through Myspace, we met up and started recording and it just kept going from there.
Steve Marion: I grew up playing music. I played piano and then switched to guitar. Playing with other people came to be because I had an interest in recording, so I’d meet a lot people in bands because of recording them at my house, and that’s how I moved from just a guy who played an instrument to one playing in actual bands.
What are your major influences for the Saint Rich project?
SM: I think they vary. It’s a song for song thing and a lot of it doesn’t come out of one in particular main influence, it’s everything you’ve listened to in your life up to that point. And then you pick up the guitar and you make a new idea, so it’s hard to really say what specifically influences stuff. On the record I hear this group Springwater form the 70s, a little Strokes, a little Van Morrison, Fleetwood Mac. I hear a lot of different artists.
CP: Yeah I mean, each song becomes a collage. It would be like weird to second guess our songs and say ok like this is gonna move into Patti Smith then over in the bridge its gonna be like this or that. It all just becomes this big mush of influences, and then thirty percent you.
Beyond the Drone came out last October, you guys have anything new in the works?
SM: Yeah we just recorded a cover song and we’ve been kind of just playing. We just got off of a two month long tour with Dr. Dog, and before that was a one or two month tour, so since we made the record we’ve been doing a lot of touring. This summer feels like the first time we’ve had a chance to be home and get back into writing music, because it’s hard to write when you’re on the road.
How is that being on tour for months at a time?
SM: It’s really fun, it’s a unique experience that most people don’t get to have. It can be challenging though, and it’s just different than going home every night from your job. Your job is to play music on stage in different cities. And that can be a fun adventure, but it has its pros and cons because you get to see all over the place but don’t get to be in one place. It’s cool though, because we don’t do it all the time, so we get the best of both worlds. Being home, and then going off on adventures.
Can you give me your favorite story form the past few months on the road?
SM: It was really fun being on tour with Doctor Dog, they’re really great people. At the end of tour their singer came out an sang one of our songs, and I also got to play guitar in their set and that was really fun.
Is there any particular vibe you guys were going for with Beyond The Drone?
SM: I don’t think we set off to make “this,” it happened pretty organically. Christian had been making his own music for a really long time and I had just started to make my own music, but I’d been recording for a long time, and I think the only conscious decision from the get go was that this was gonna be different from Christian’s and my solo stuff and we were gonna be this other thing. And I feel like that’s what it is, and that was our only barometer. As far as musical style, it’s all like whatever happens happens. Whatever we can get inspired by. That’s why the record covers a lot of different musical ground even though it’s under this umbrella of being a rock album.
Are there any songs on it especially close to your heart?
CP: I really like the song Dreams. It’s one of the first couple and it was just one of those things that we were kind of sitting around — we record at Steve’s house and are always just hanging out there anyways — but, the microphone was set up and we had the atmosphere we wanted, and that song just kind of spontaneously happened. We were really super psyched recording it and sort of improvised the structure. And it just came together in a really organic way. I think a lot of songs on the record came together that way, but that one especially.
Can you tell me a little bit about “Officer”?
SM: It’s pretty literal. There’s this cop in my town that’s always giving me and my friends a hard time. One day I was sitting at work, thinking about it and it just kind of came out of that relationship. Its very specific to that one guy.
You mentioned a little bit that the writing process is pretty organic, is that your process in general? Music first, lyrics follow? Vice-versa?
CP: It’s kinda all of over the place. A bunch of the songs were kind of improvised. Some took months and months to finish, some took a day.
SM: The term organic, I’m wondering about that because I don’t really know what that means (laughs.) Everybody is using it a lot lately. Obviously some songs just come to you and others you have to work at, but, I don’t know if organic is the right word or just how long did it take. Because your intention is always to make a song that you like and enjoy. Whether or not one of us picks up a guitar and it just comes to us, or we have to chip away at it, I feel like both processes are organic. I don’t see anyone that’s really making songs saying “it has to be like this and sound like this and be three minutes long!’ I feel like organic is a weird term to describe music because it all comes from there. I definitely sweat a lot over making songs and put a lot of work into it, and it’s work, and organic implies that it comes from no where and just kind of happens, but really what happens is you’ve been alive for twenty something years and all you’ve been doing is thinking about music. So I don’t think anything is really organic.
CP: I think so. I think when you’ve been working on a song for months and months and re-writing things…it’s a process and this idea. Whereas when something just kind of falls form the sky and you write it on a napkin in like ten minutes it has this sort of energy to it.
And it’s a mix of both of those for you guys?
SM: It comes down to there is an idea somewhere or in your head or in the sky and your job is try and realize that idea. And sometimes there’s a really clear pathway to it, and you can see it and be connected to it easily, and other times it’s a little more murky or difficult, but your still trying to realize an idea. With every change or variation your trying to realize it. You’re like ‘I can see it, but this isn’t it!’ If organic means having no road blocks to realizing your idea, then writing is a mix of that for us.
Album art for Beyond The Drone.
What was the recording process like for Beyond The Drone?
SM: Well, it was recorded in my room. I mean, you can do a lot now a-days in your bedroom. I feel like it never matters where something is recorded. A room is a room, it’s what you do with it. Some of the songs were the two of us playing together at the same time, interacting that way in the space and in the moment. Those songs started instantaneously and then others were fully fleshed out and more concerned with how to go about recording ourselves. We also got some of our friends to play on it.
The only thing that wasn’t done in my room was actually done in a closet, and that was the strings in the song “Coming Home”. And that’s all real cello that was done by Anand Wilder who plays guitar and sings in Yeasayer but is also a really talented cello player. So he recorded the string section on the spot in his closet. And it sounds so beautiful, so there’s more proof that it doesn’t really matter where you record something but rather how you’re playing it and how you mix it.
And you guys did the mixing yourselves too?
CP: Yeah, Steve did all the mixing.
SM: Yeah, that’s definitely a tedious process that takes a lot of revision and refinement to get the purest form of the song out and make sure it hits your ears in the right spot.
Can you tell me about the song “Sorry/Sadly?” It seems to have a country twang?
CP: I mean we love country music like Hank Williams. I guess sit just seeped in there.
SM: I didn’t really listen to a lot of country. It almost started off as more of an African thing. In the original demo the sounds was a lot more plucky, so although it maybe sounds a little more country now it wasn’t inspired by country music.
Anything else you’d like to say to fans on an ending note?
SM: Come out and check Saint Rich out! Don’t be shy, talk to us, we love to talk to people about music!
CP: We love you! Snacks at the show!
Or check them out live:
May 28 – Glasslands Gallery – Brooklyn, NY