The Boxcar Suite – Every Side of the Abyss (Q&A)

“The Boxcar Suite excel at creating those magic moments. Moving from urgent punk to 60s, Byrds-esque harmonies with ease, The Boxcar Suite craft songs with the energy of a band that’s been jamming together for years. It just sounds so natural.”
-Glide Magazine

Every Side of the Abyss is The Boxcar Suite’s latest record. Tim Pritchard talks about the moment the band realized they were working on something special. And it has indeed become special, with just a bit more swagger than you hear on most other great Power Pop records, but above all with ten beautiful songs.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

The whole process Every Side of the Abyss is hazy, but there was a relatively brief stretch of time in which we started rehearsing the rough ideas that would become Turndt Awn, Lit Hunk, and Post Up, the first three tracks on the record. There was definitely a night when we all realized that we were operating in a different mode than in the past, setting a new tone for the record.

How did this record come together?

After the release of Further in and Farther Out, Boxcar Suite began to change quite a bit. The pretense of trying to work on music for any other reason than creating what we wanted to hear was gone. A new type of Power Pop sound began to take form, and it was really exciting. The band had done two albums and an EP of mostly material written by me but was becoming more collaborative. Phil Caviness and Tony Moore both contributed songs that we fleshed out, and there was a lot more writing and arranging done together than ever before.

When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?

Amongst the band, pretty early on. It was a very collaborative process. As far as soliciting third-party opinion, we didn’t until the record was done. It needed to be an insular process, and we didn’t want anything to get in our heads.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

People all over the world streaming the music, adding these songs to playlists, and taking the time to contact us is success in my book. It’s been so cool to watch people engage with it worldwide.

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

It’s something I’ve always done and always will. The intensity varies, and it’s healthy to focus on other pieces, such as the craft and technical aspects of playing and recording, but the most joy comes from the writing process.

As an artist, you choose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

I’m comfortable with it now but haven’t always been. Some of that is just having grown as a writer to the point where if I’m releasing the material, it’s because I back it 100%. If I was feeling cringe about my work, it wouldn’t see the light of day. But if I like where it’s landed, I’m going to share it. I write in a way that is not necessarily autobiographical and, therefore, can separate my own person from it enough to be objective.

You can pick three co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

Dan Sommers from Happy Little Trees because we’re gold friends for life and have been talking about collaborating again for a long time.

John Davis from Lees of Memory, Superdrag, Rectangle Shades, because he’s made so many of my favorite songs/albums and continues to be a versatile, creative force who I’ve admired for decades.

Meg Duffy from Hand Habits, as I’ve been pretty obsessed with their music the past couple of years and admire Meg’s playing and songcraft so much.

What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?

We played Detroit one time, and it was very surreal. I don’t even remember the name of the club, but it was this veteran’s bar turned music venue which is cool, and had a huge courtyard filled with bizarre gothic décor – gargoyles, wrought iron everywhere, crystal balls. We arrived way to early and hung out for a long time. This guy named Mario told us about all the hit songs he’d written for just about every classic rock band and sang us songs about dreaming.

Everyone tried to get free stuff from us all night. Smokes, beers, records, shirts, food. Mario stuck his tongue in Tony’s ear for no apparent reason. Our set was okay, but we were supporting a band called The Jet Rodriguez who were great.

It was just a really bizarre night that always comes up when reminiscing over pints.

Lyrics are too often taken for granted. What is the line of text or are the lines of text that you hope listeners will remember? And why?

“Just remember that I’ve been wild and neglected, to come to the call, partake in the haul, or be but a child.” I’m choosing this one from Jim Mouse of Every Side of the Abyss, because it’s a sort of confessional and invitation for the listener to follow suite. There’s a sense of humility in that line I’d like to pass on.

When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?

I don’t know, but I recently sent a demo of a new song called Until We Disappear to Phil and he wrote back claiming just that. So watch out for that one!

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?

My childhood and adolescence were soundtracked by actual cassette mixtapes and I just got my grandparents’ home stereo that has a dual cassette deck so I’m going to be making dubs again. Let’s see… I’m going to pick five songs I love that were originally released on cassette that definitely landed on some of my mixtapes.

1) Waiting for the Sun by The Jayhawks

2) The Act We Act by Sugar

3) Breathe Again by Toni Braxton

4) When You Sleep by My Bloody Valentine…oh and

5) Another Realm by The Boxcar Suite…which was originally a cassingle release.

Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?

There’s a kinetic energy that only exists there. That visceral interaction between and audience and a band is really tough to describe but all of us music fans know it. When you can feel it from the stage…there isn’t much better.

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?

I aim to have songs that work lyrically on 3 levels. There’s a purely aesthetic, shallow, drugs/sex/rocknroll cheekiness I want to impart just for fun. There’s the actual narrative or meaning I intend to get across. Then there’s an element of mystery that I probably don’t even understand myself that can allow the listener to define the song for themself. If everyone listening to my music had the patience to follow that, I’d be very pleased.

Suppose you were to introduce your music to new listeners through three songs. Which songs would those be and why?

This can always change, but right now I would say the first three tracks of Every Side of the Abyss – Turndt Awn, Lit Hunk, and Post Up. They landed there for a reason!

If you could tour the world with two other bands, who would you ask, and why?

Superdrag and Nada Surf. These two bands changed my life in 1996 and continue to be two of my favorites ever. Superdrag have been on long-term hiatus but I hear they are at least recording some new music and Nada Surf has never stopped putting out amazing records. Obviously, if this ever happened, we’d be the ones getting asked to open and it would be incredible.

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

“Man, yer like Bob Dylan, Pete Townsend, and The Devil all-in-one” – a rather soused gentleman at a rough bar in Dayton, OH.

Those magical moments when you’re working in the studio. Which moment was the most magical?

For this record it was probably when we cut drums for Lit Hunk. Trevor just nailed it and it sort of set the bar for how I wanted the record to sound.

What place do you occupy in the music industry?

I’m a lifer so to speak. I’m here to make the records I want to make for listeners like me. I think it’s an important role, because when folks like us make and share music, it’s about just that. We aren’t trying to tap into the latest trend, go viral, or commit to any bullshit, just create an honest expression that captures our own amalgamation of the music we love.

If you could pick three singers to sing harmony vocals on your next record, who would you ask?

I got three great ones on this record! Phil Caviness, Tony Moore, and Trevor Bell.

The record is done, the music is out. Is the best fun done now or is it just beginning?

It never stops! I run my own studio to record my projects and others, so I’m always in that space. Recording, mixing, mastering, working on production, etc. But as far as a single release goes, the process is the most enjoyable part. It is very rewarding to have people listening, but it just makes me want to go record more!

The Boxcar Suite is:

Tim Pritchard – vocals, electric, acoustic and 12-string guitars, synthesizer, organ, percussion
Phil Caviness – bass guitar, vocals, percussion
Trevor Bell – drums, percussion, vocals
Tony Moore – electric guitar, vocals

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