Big Bloom’s razor-sharp, ethereal, and guitar emblazoned sound is hypnotic in its approach. Singer Katie Howard’s carbonated stage presence is a cocktail of roaring vocals, fervid teeth flashing, and neon warpaint. If you haven’t heard their song “Last Daze”, you’re missing out on a distortion lacquered odyssey of weathered emotion and perforated hope. I sat down with Katie at Small Bar in San Diego to talk about the band’s newest EP, local music coverage, and the importance of bell bottoms.
Rob Patrick: Okay, I have a super generic question first. How did the band come together – what was the genesis of the project?
Katie Howard: So [Big Bloom guitarist] Alex Packard actually went to elementary school with me. We were all hanging out in a group of friends. He was in a band, previously, and I always loved music. Eventually a few years had gone by, where he wasn’t working on anything, and we finally came together to jam. We started playing together and began forming the songs that would be our foundation. We worked on those, alone, from six months to a year. The process was redundant, but it was important for us to find a ground to start from. Alex has a crazy, abstract way of playing guitar, and I kind of worked off of that, making melodies and lyrics. Once we started playing together, we said, “okay, this is boring: let’s get some band mates.” [laughs]
You guys just released your EP last year, right?
Yeah, it’s a three track. It’s always hard to pick which songs to record.
Where is “Punk Song”? I love “Punk Song”!
[laughs] We’re about to release another set of songs. We’ve been playing the new ones, and we’re hoping to drop the new EP in April or May. It will be five tracks, and then we’re recording three more songs. I’m really excited about that, because our sound has evolved since the last time we recorded. We started off doing folk-classic rock, and now we have a fast, psychedelic-metal sound.
You said your current sound was a product of a slow evolution. Was the transition something the band always wanted?
I think Alex had wanted the sound to go in that direction. He eventually began to write faster music, and I had been more inspired to be that harder, more raw female voice. He was playing faster, and he had become frustrated because I wasn’t writing anything. I said, “I wont do ska music!” and he said “This isn’t ska music!” Eventually I came around and said, “okay, I can do this – this is a hard, punky, psychedelic sound that I had never been encouraged to do it before.” He would influence me by showing me other bands. I’ve been listening to a lot of Bikini Kill and Cherry Glazzer.
Well, it seems like a natural transition. You seem really comfortable and in your element while playing the new songs. That brings me to my next question: how did your recent video shoot go?
[laughs] It was so fun. It was the most fun I’ve ever had. The guys and I wanted to do music videos for the next pair of songs we’re releasing. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Alberto Sanchez, but he does filming under the name of AcidTones on YouTube. He does black and white, contrast style. I said, okay, you’ve filmed us live – I would love if you did a music video for us, because I’ve never done one before. We practiced in our drummer Sean’s garage, and it ended up being a house party. We wanted people to get crazy. The theme was drag queens and butch, so it was an LGBT appreciation video. All my band mates were wearing girl clothes, there were dudes in high heels.
You guys are going to Tijuana on March 19th. Are you playing at a place called Junkyard or an actual junkyard?
[laughs] I think it’s actually a junkyard. When you go to TJ it’s always so much fun. My friend Chad Deal lives down there, and he’s in a band called Gravvyard. They’re going to be playing in an empty lot, and roasting a pig. They put out an invite, asking if any bands wanting to join them. I immediately said, “hell yeah; I’m down.”
On the post you said you’re going to have a carpool for people that want to come down to the show. In my mind I’m imagining a giant Mad Max-like entourage on the way to TJ.
[laughs] I wish. We offer a carpool because I’m hoping some friends jump on the opportunity. But it will most likely be just us bands and the TJ locals. I’m excited. I have no idea what it will be like. I’m thinking about taking part of the pig and stomping on it. I don’t agree with eating meat. I’m not sure what the locals would think. It would be fucking punk rock to do that, though.
I’m not trying to bait you here, but do you think Pitchfork is good for music or no?
I think any exposure is good. When you’re starting off in music, those are the kind of platforms you look for. I don’t have a huge stand on whether it’s positive or negative. Maybe Pitchfork was more pure when it was just starting out. And maybe that’s not the case now. But I still think it’s a good place for somebody that doesn’t have a lot of exposure to music. That site could be helpful to them.
I mean, I would rather go there than Rolling Stone, maybe.
I think Pitchfork is a step down. If you’re in Rolling Stone we’ve probably already heard about you. I mean, would I want to be featured at Pitchfork? Hell yeah [laughs].
As an artist, do you think that Spotify is good for musicians?
You know what freaks me out about Spotify? Do you remember when Facebook would tell you that such-and-such was listening to this sad fucking song at 3 a.m. in the morning? That was horrible. That was sad.
[laughs] That was a betrayal of privacy. That’s what that is.
Yeah, seriously. I’m glad I don’t see that anymore. Thank God those notifications are turned off. In general, I’m glad when my friends’ bands get onto Spotify, but when I’m looking for a platform to listen to music and jam I will just use Pandora – I’m pretty boring [laughs]. I think it’s great. I’m so neutral on everything. I’m a non-party, even when political shit comes in the mail.
How do you think that CityBeat and the Reader are doing, covering local music?
I really do like CityBeat and the Reader. I look forward to reading their articles. We are excited because we submitted our EP for review. I feel like they could spread the love a little more, on the main features, but I feel as though it’s hard to cover every band in San Diego. Culturally, I’m a fan of so many artists in San Diego. I’m a supporter of anyone that’s working hard and loving to do their work.
Speaking of other bands, you make a lot of cool show posters – how did that come about?
I started performing while I was also working at Ray at Night. It started off with crappy doodles, but then I began doing collage posters. I’ve always enjoyed art, and even studied it in college.
I was checking out Sharkmuffin’s page, and you did some work for them.
I was so excited that they asked me to make one of their show posters. They are my first non-San Diego band that asked me to make them a poster. It’s something I do for fun, but I love doing it. It’s a spontaneous process of going through magazines and taking all of these wacky clips out and putting them together. But I really enjoying doing them for Ray at Night. It’s starting to get to a massive amount of numbers.
Can I just say, once more, that I love Sharkmuffin?
I know! They’re so cool. When I saw the double-necked guitar, I was like, “wow, this chick is so fucking cool. She is not fucking around.” I love Natalie and Kim, too. They are kick-ass. That show was like a neon dream.
It’s really sweet that someone cares enough to hold their arm up to shoot something for, like, twenty-five minutes [laughs]. We talked after the show, and I found out that he’s a music enthusiast. Those are the kinds of people we play for – the people that give a shit, and go to your show even though they haven’t heard of you.
I have to mention that your fashion is amazing.
[laughs] Thank you so much. Those pants [at the Soda Bar show] made me feel like an anime Spice Girl.
I was talking to my friend, and we both agreed that those were the raddest pants ever. What’s your fashion compass like when you get ready to play shows?
I feel like I’m always changing styles. I went through a retro bell bottom phase, and even put on my Instagram bio that I was a “bell bottom enthusiast” [laughs]. I dress how I feel, and it’s what gets me semi-pumped to play shows. The warpaint was fun. It’s another performance appeal – painting my face every time I perform, but with a different color of neon paint. I always loved thrift store shopping. My mom used to take me to those places before I even knew it was cool. I used to say, “this is gross – why are we here?” But, yeah, like the music my style is always evolving and changing.
Lyrically, who are some of your favorite songwriters?
I was raised on classic rock. I have to start with Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison, and Stevie Nicks, to name a few. I don’t really look to anyone when writing. I let the sound take me to where the song needs to be, emotionally. If it’s an angry song, I’ll reach down and ask myself what pisses me off. I’ve always loved creative writing, and was writing poetry before I was in music. My first songs with Big Bloom were a lot more wordy. They had more moral themes. Since the music has evolved, and gotten faster, I feel like the lyrics have become a lot stronger and simpler. They are telling a story, but with fewer words.