In this installment of The Band’s Perspective, we talked to USSA Pleasuredome, a band based in Baltimore, Maryland whose music is full of eccentric and experimental drone sounds, laced with thick layers of spacey guitar effects. USSA Pleasuredome is an independent band who was happy to tell us about their process in regards to promoting and publishing their own music. Guitarist, Greg Scelsi told us the intimate truth about their band’s journey and their new album, Dead Medium.
You have a new EP that is set to be released, Dead Medium. Can you tell us about it?
It’s 5 tracks and close to 30 minutes long. Dead Medium is our first official release that captures our sound as a three-piece band with live drums. Prior to 2013 we were basically Brian on guitars, me (Greg) on bass, a lot of effects and a loop pedal with drum beats. Early this year Ed joined us on drums, which adds a lot more natural dynamics to the music. This release sounds much bigger, louder and the songs are a bit more focused except for one track that we just made up on the spot. I grew up with 45rpm records and cassette tapes. By the time I was a teenager everything was CDs. Today’s focus is on mostly digital formats and I’ve heard people say that CDs are now a dead medium. Well I heard the same about vinyl and cassettes but those formats are still alive and well, even though most come with a digital download card. So we are packaging the Dead Medium CD inside an actual crime scene evidence bag. That’s not all, there will be a toe tag download card tied to the cd as well. We’re very happy with how the EP sounds and we got creative with the packaging.
What was the recording process like?
We are a self-contained machine, meaning we do everything ourselves. I’ve learned no one works harder for the band than its own members. Brian Miller plays guitars but also does all the engineering, mixing and on Dead Medium he also did the mastering. We recorded the EP at Orion Studios in Baltimore in 4 hours this Summer. We basically used their recording room because it sounds great but we brought all our own recording gear. We set up and played live. There are very few overdubs on most of the EP. It represents how we sound live at this time and it sounds big. For our next recording I’d like to go into a professional studio and do some actual production. Some really crazy sounds that we couldn’t create in a live setting.
What are the pros and cons of being a Baltimore based band?
I was born and raised in Baltimore and musically we have many options. There is a thriving though sometimes small scene for most types of music here. We have a lot of official venues and underground venues putting on shows almost every night of the week. Baltimore is close to DC, Richmond, Philly, NYC, Pittsburgh, even Boston is less than 8 hours away. So our central location allows for playing more shows out of town. Studios, music fans, and the bands are really involved in the music scene. The downside is the scenes seem disconnected from each other, at times there are 4 great shows I want to go to happening at the same time. It also sometimes feels like musicians that move to Baltimore end up doing better in the city than bands made up of locals. I actually find that openess to be a great quality about Baltimore. USSA Pleasuredome is very lucky that we have a core group of people that really look out for us and help us. For that we are extremely thankful. Baltimore hasn’t been completely infiltrated by the music “business” so artists can feel free to just do their own thing without the complete temptation of wanting to impress the “right” people.
Describe your genre of music?
The Baltimore City Paper said we were a “droney, darkside post-everything band.” I think that’s pretty much spot on. Genres are great reference markers, good places to begin but they are inherently vague. Pandora Radio has its musical genome project where it figures out your musical taste and serves up new musical selections that it believes you will like. Interestingly enough no matter what new station I create, Joy Division pops up on the rotation without me even requesting it. I certainly have a melancholic temperament and I think that specific genres don’t matter much to me as long as the music has a sad melody. As much as I enjoy wallowing in depression, I realize that the pitch blackness really surrounds a thin cord of brilliant positive light that cuts through it all. In my heart I am an optimist. Sometimes ussa pleasuredome is just one person, sometimes we’re a 2 piece but usually we play as a 3 piece. We use guitars, bass, drums, electronics, loops, voices and field recordings. At times we are ambient and quiet, other times we are loud and driven. We don’t really feel like we fit anywhere but we’re amorphic enough to fit just about everywhere.
Do you identify with the shoegaze genre?
Yes I personally do. I first heard My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless in 1994 and I never stopped listening to it. At first I thought the cd was warped because the bending swells they do sounded so strange. That album has been the background soundtrack to so many of my life experiences. It’s certainly an influence on some of ussa pleasuredome’s songs but not all of them. After hearing MBV I discovered Lush, the first Bowery Electric record, and Cocteau Twins. I like the floaty, gauzy, dream qualities to most of the bands labeled as shoegaze as well as those sad, sad melodies. Now there are so many bands in the genre that I can’t keep up.
What are your plans and goals for 2014?
The Dead Medium EP will be out in early Jan. We’re writing new music so we can release another EP later in the year. We are also working on a release of mostly ambient field recordings and noises. Something very raw, simple and not very musical. There will be East Coast mini-tours scheduled to support the releases. Hero Shores Transmission is our blog focusing on how living a life that is true to who you are is really an artform. In 2013 we released our first compilation of 14 Maryland bands and we received an awesome response from everyone. Now our goal is to release 1 maybe 2 more Hero Shores Transmission Compilations in 2014. I can proudly say that we creatively work well together and are good at getting things done.