By Eric Baylies
Cushing is a three piece post punk band from Portland, Maine. They are one of the best and most exciting live bands in New England, and they are pretty great in the studio, too! I had the good fortune to speak to Serge about Portland, rock, and everything else.
Noise: Please tell me who does what in the band, and what they do.
Serge: Evan Coffey plays bass, Ric Loyd plays drums and I (Serge Vladmiroff) play guitar and sing. In the studio we all do some extra stuff: synths, percussion, sound effects etc. Evan plays some extra guitar and he also builds custom pedals, drum triggers and other gadgets that we use live and in the studio.
Noise: How are the songs are written? Are they jams or are they written in advance? Is there a main songwriter or do you all take part?
Serge: It’s a combination of songs written in advance and songs that come out of jamming. I guess I’m the primary songwriter but we’re starting to get a little more collaborative. A lot of times we’ll improvise together and then I’ll take some of the tastier bits and arrange them into songs and add vocals. When I do bring in complete songs there are still a lot of things that will morph and evolve as it goes from my rough bedroom recordings to being performed by the full band.
Noise: How about the lyrics?
Serge: The lyrics are one of the tougher pieces for me. Sometimes I’ll scribble down the first thing that comes to mind for a certain part with the intention of coming back later to improve it but I rarely do. I usually end up keeping the original lines even if they don’t always make sense. I do try to write stuff that’s evocative but abstract and nonspecific enough that the listener can bring their own interpretation to it. I don’t think I’m always successful in doing that but that’s the goal.
Noise: Tell me about the individual members influences and how they shape the bands sound directly or indirectly.
Serge: We’re all music nerds and we share a lot of common musical influences. Ric and I are around the same age so that’s not too surprising but Evan is younger so it’s funny that he knows a lot of the same obscure bands that we grew up with, sometimes even better than we do. We all love Sonic Youth, the Birthday Party, the Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Slint and Can… Ric would also include Circus Lupus and Monorchid; bands with solid drummers that lock it down, albeit in different ways. Unwound and Karp are also some of Evan’s favorites. I tend to try and keep things simple and repetitive, maybe taking a cue from Krautrock, No-Wave and stuff like Low. Evan leans a little more in favor of odd rhythms, interesting textures and chaos.
Noise: Do you have any upcoming recording or releases planned?
Serge: There are no recordings planned, but we’d like to get back in the studio soon. We scrapped one track from the last session because we couldn’t get a decent take and we’ve written a handful more since then. Custom Made Music out of Virginia is also going to do a limited cassette release of Curse Of Cushing.
Noise: How did the Custom Made Music release come about? Did you play down there?
Serge: No,it came about through the magic of the internet! Dave Allison from Custom Made Music heard our stuff on Bandcamp and wrote a review on his blog. We continued talking and decided to do the cassette release together.
Noise: Have you guys done any touring? Any plans to?
Serge: No and we have no real plans to at this point. We all have work and families, so a big tour is not very high on the list.
Noise: Fair enough! Do you have any videos on the way?
Serge: Hopefully. We we’ve got a few ideas brewing. I’ve done some experimental films in the past and we all have some background in the visual arts. Evan recently built this crazy video disrupter box. It messes with a video signal in unpredictable and sometimes quite beautiful ways. So we’re working on doing something with that.
Noise: That sounds pretty cool. Can’t wait to see them! What other places have you played in New England?
Serge: Nothing outside of Portland, Maine so far. At least not with Cushing. We really want to get of town and play some nearby places: Boston, Providence, Western Mass, maybe NYC. Keep an eye out for us in 2017.
Noise: Do you have any funny and or horror stories of any New England shows?
Serge: I suppose we’ve had our fair share of blown amps, busted pedals, bad sound systems, belligerent drunks, and empty rooms but nothing really terrible. Stuff I’m sure most bands can relate to. We had one sound guy that was tweaking really hard or something. Just oblivious and happily running around not getting anything done. Forgetting to plug stuff in and turn things on. We were heckling him a bit but I think it went over his head. What else can you do? You just have to make the best of it and not let it ruin your show.
Noise: How did Cushing get started? How long ago and have there been any membership changes?
Serge: Ric and I have known each other since high school and we played in bands together in the early 90’s. I moved back to Maine years ago and asked Ric if he wanted to put something together. We started jamming and tried to find our sound while we looked for a bass player and singer. Ric brought in his friend Sean Hadley (Conifer) on bass and things started to really gel. At first I had no intention of singing but we couldn’t find any good fits so I finally decided to give it a shot. In 2016 Sean got super busy with his work and it was clear that he wouldn’t be able to continue playing with us. I’d seen Evan play in his band Triode a couple times and knew that we had similar musical tastes. I asked him if he knew any good bassists and he said the he might be up for it. Luckily he was and it worked out great.
Noise: Where did the name come from?
Serge: We were looking through a list of islands in Maine thinking that there was probably a good name in there somewhere. There are 100’s of islands in Maine and so many odd names. A lot were just funny: the Cuckolds, Junk of Pork, Old Soaker, Tern Rock… and then we saw Cushing and said “hmmm, that could work!” And of course, it could also refer to Peter Cushing. We’re all big fans of Hammer Horror and B-movies so the more we thought about it the more we liked Cushing.
Noise: How many releases do you have? Who put them out and who recorded them?
Serge: We have two CD EPs which we put out ourselves. Sounds of Cushing came out last year with Sean on bass. We recorded that with our friend, Noah Defilippis (Purse, Haru Bangs), in his basement studio. After Evan joined we went into Acadia Recording Company and recorded with Todd Hutchisen (Crystal Canyon). We released those tracks as Curse of Cushing last month.
Noise: Thanks so much for your time. To anyone, anywhere that likes anything, I strongly suggest you check out Cushing.