Haunted Summer Expands at The Riot Room
On Sunday night, Haunted Summer broke their polished crystalline sound structure into a heap of refractory soundscapes. The band dispensed with the rigidity of their recorded material to create an experience that was shimmering and liquid—songs that flowed from part to part conflating organic movement and synthetic structure. From the first moment of their set, Haunted Summer framed their performance in a different way than their recorded material by having their tour manager ring a gong to open the room. After their set, I caught up with them to ask them questions about their live set, recordings, and life on tour.
Mills Record Company: So you started the set with a ritualistic opening. Is this something that you do before every show?
Haunted Summer: It’s something we started doing since we recorded our live album. Bo (tour manager) opened the room on the recording, and it totally changed the feeling of the songs and set, so we started doing it before each show and it created a different sort of vibe. We like the idea of turning our live sound into something different, so it gives us a whole new focus when we play our songs. Plus it’s like the gong in “Bohemian Rhapsody”—you here a gong and you know something big has ended or is about to begin.
“Something big,” would be a good way to describe their live sound. Whereas Haunted Summer’s Something in the Water is collaged from ethereal textures and effected sounds, their live show expanded on these building blocks. Their songs unfurled their aural tentacles into a thickened and gritty soundscape.
MRC: How do you view studio time and tour time?
HS: Our demos are something that are polished, we get a producer on them and they kind of fill out the sketches we come up with, but our live show and the album [Birth] is something we got to control pretty much completely. Compared to the EP, our live album was deeper. It was an experience to play through it and create a sound. We love to experiment with our live sound, to see how we can change the experience of our music—like Animal Collective or The Flaming Lips, who constantly rearrange and change their live shows to make something new for everyone involved. We want to do that.
MRC: How do you do that while on tour?
HS: Trust. We trust each other to make something deeper and more expansive. We also switch around our live band and try to get people to bring something new to the music we’re making. Like tonight, Spencer [drums] and Bill [bass & clarinet] brought their own take to the experience. Spencer filled the percussive end of our sound, and Bill brought in the clarinet to jazz us up. We didn’t have that on the album, but it fit and gave the songs a new feel. Stuff like that adds to the tour in really great ways. They help us manipulate our sound each night.
And that sonic manipulation and control was evident in their live version of “Spirit Guides,” which filled up the Riot Room with loops and heavily effected texures. It began with swelling feedback that blossomed into an all-encompassing sound-space. The vocals and melody built under this initial layer and slowly gained force. The song, whose origination revolves around how spiritual aspects guides us in everyday life, seemed to call for this dramatic build.
Though it’s clear that Haunted Summer loves to change their sound, they never seemed to overwhelm one another. During their cover of Animal Collective’s “Bees,” the duo showed a beautifully intimate moment. They traded spaces on stage. John controlled the Bridgette’s vocal processor while she controlled his effects and keyboard. Watching the two trust each other with their sound gave the song a new context while adding a layer under the swirling loops and hazed out chords. This interplay and balance imbues Haunted Summer’s live show with an energy that shatters notions of their recording sound while affirming the underlying force of their songs.