The Senate is a hot upcoming Seattle band that has been together for several years now and have built up a rabid fan base, including many of my own friends. Two members of the band, Andrew Pulkabrek and Oliver Franklin, were kind enough to allow me to interview them for my blog. I recommend visiting their Myspace page in a new tab or window and listen to their music while you read the interview!
Joel: I first listened to The Senate’s “face-melting acoustic riffage” at a house party hosted by my friends Jeremy, Ashley and Andy about three years ago and was impressed by the unique musical sound you have created. How did you guys arrive at making this sort of music?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: By accident, sort of. We all have very different backgrounds, so what we do is a melting pot of rock and roll, afro-pop, jazz, metal etc.
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek (pictured at right): More than anything else, it was just a matter of trying to make something that sounded good with unusual instrumentation. We all come from musical backgrounds where rhythm and percussion were dominant forces, and in the absence of percussion, we started to develop this rhythmically intricate percussive style of playing that I think we’re still learning more about as we keep doing this.
Joel: When and why did the Senate originally form? I read a little bit about your origins in 2002 on your website, but I was hoping to hear what the Oliver perspective on how it happened.
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: Andrew and I have played music together in various groups since we were in 6th grade, so that collaboration goes way back. I went to high school with Nick Drummond but never really knew what he was about until I went to a show of his with a mutual friend right after we graduated. I heard a lot in his music that was refreshing to me, a dedication to making very polished, tuneful songs. So I suggested we jam, and we wound up playing and writing together all the time until we had enough material to play some shows.
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek: I came in after they had played a few shows together and offered my services to hold down some low-end duties for them. I began to play with them after Nick got a show for the “band” at a benefit concert. I don’t think any of us knew what the addition of a bass would be like, but got together and played the show. It wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t awful either, so we kept at it.
Joel: Where did you originally learn to play music? Was it self-taught or did you take lessons?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: I started playing drums in 5th grade, and took lessons for 4 years. I’m mostly self-taught on guitar, though I did take a year of classical lessons after I’d been playing for a while. My mom has a degree in music, and she taught me the basics of music theory.
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek: I come from a musical family, so I started pretty young. I did a few years of piano at seven, a few years singing in a pretty intense boy’s choir starting at nine, bass lessons at twelve, and private voice off and on since high school. I tend to learn best on the job, and a lot of my skills have come from being in situations where I had to pick stuff up on the fly, but my early training has been the backbone for all of that.
Joel: The Senate has been playing excellent live shows for several years now. Are there any specific performances that really stand out for you?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: Our recent CD release show (for debut full-length ‘Live at Solstice’) at the Triple Door was really great for us. The room is perfect, and we got to have a lot of our very talented friends come share the stage. And I always love coming back to our home at Cafe Solstice for our monthly all-ages show there, the place gets packed and the energy is really, really high. It’s a very enthusiastic crowd, but a very forgiving one, and we can take chances there that we might not feel so comfortable with in a different setting.
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek– Our CD release party at the Triple Door was really fun. It was a lot of work to coordinate all of our guest performers, sound people, lights, promotions, and everything else, but it was a great night. They had a fog machine, too!
Joel: If I were to lock you in a small cage for the rest of your life and told you I was going to put one playlist on continuous loop, which artists would you include? Any songs that you would specifically request?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin (pictured at right): I don’t know if any music stands up to continuous looping without becoming torturous, but I would probably include more ambient instrumental stuff than anything else. Brian Eno and Debussy would probably be on the list. As far as more song-oriented stuff goes, Jason Webley would definitely be good company.
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek– I would request that all records put out by the Motown label in the mid- to late-60’s be on there, along with a whole lot of rock: Aerosmith, AC/DC, Styx, and Black Sabbath would probably be on my list. I would want the Duke Ellington and Count Basie libraries as well. I’d probably get bored of it all at a certain point, but that’s when I’d trade cages with Oliver.
Joel: The Senate has been growing in popularity and has even opened for the Paperboys and Everclear. Have you started to think of yourself as a future rock star?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: No.
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek: No. The possibility of quitting my day job still seems remote.
Joel: Rock stars are notorious for living a hard, fast life full of booze, sex, money and drugs. Have you had any wild and crazy experiences that you don’t think you would have had if you weren’t a member of the Senate band?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin:
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek: Yes.
Joel: Do you have any moral or political messages that the Senate supports through its music or are you guys currently more focused on being the best entertainers you can be?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: Our politics definitely have a presence in our music. We’re all left-leaning anti-authoritarian types with a concern for the direction our country continues to head. But you can have the best, truest, most urgent ‘message’ in the world and still make terrible music, so the craft comes first.
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek: I think Oliver pretty much said it. The moral message has always been that wimpy acoustic music is sinful, and God told me the other day when we went out for coffee that he was going to personally kick the ass of everyone who comes into Heaven without a copy of our redemptive full-length album “Live at Solstice.”
Joel: Does The Senate have a specific demographic market you target in making your music? If so, who?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: We have found a lot of success targeting college-age crowds, but if you come to our shows you’ll see an age spread from 13-70. It’s really cool that we seem to have an intergenerational appeal without it having been something we’ve striven for. The balance between genders looks fairly even, weighted probably 60/40 in favor of the ladies. No planning on our part there, either.
Joel: What are your goals in the short and long term for the Senate?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: Concisely, to continue challenging ourselves as artists by expanding the range of our sound while simultaneously striving to get it to as many people as possible.
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek: Andrew play bass! Sell many records! Make riffage! Riffage! Yarrr…
Joel: Is there anything about the music that you make that you don’t like or would change?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: Never reveal your weaknesses; we can always improve, and I think we continue to get consistently better as a band. We three all have different things we look for in music, and accomodating each other’s artistic needs is part of the deal. So sometimes we might have a tune that we keep around for a given audience or situation, that is proven to ‘work’, even if it isn’t our most fully-realized piece of music.
Joel: As a Seattle band, many people inevitably compare your music to Nirvana. Does this ever make you want to pull a Kurt Cobain and use your shotgun for something other than skeet hunting?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: Do people compare us to Nirvana? I hadn’t heard.
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek: Who? I can’t see how anyone could listen to us and compare us to Nirvana. Did you just write that so you could use the phrase “use your shotgun for something other than skeet hunting”?
Joel: Pretty much, yes. 😉
Joel: Are you or other members of the Senate currently single?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: Nope.
Joel: Where are your upcoming live shows? If someone can only see one or two, which shows would you especially recommend?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: The Tractor Tavern on April 30th!!! Bring your friends. If you’re under 21, then Cafe Solstice on May 2nd will be very fun.
Joel: Where can Senate fans purchase your music?
Joel: Who would you say is your biggest fan? (family members and Jesus don’t count)
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek: My mom and Jesus beg to differ.
Joel: What is your favorite sex positions?
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek: The Levitating Missionary. It’s like the regular Missionary position, except you do it floating three feet above the floor.
Joel: Do you have a middle name? What is it?
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek: Hanson. MMMbop!
Joel: Are you a full-time musician or do you have other jobs/ hobbies?
The Senate- Andrew Pulkrabek: The Senate is one of many other things I do. I sell kilts by day for the Utilikilts company, and at night I have a whole stable of theatrical and musical projects chomping at the bit.
Joel: Any Final Messages?
The Senate – Oliver Franklin: Come see us at the Tractor!!!
UPCOMING SHOWS BY THE SENATE BAND BELOW:
May 2, 2008 – 1:00 pm
May 2, 2008 – 9:00 pm
May 22, 2008 – time TBA
May 30, 2008 – 8:00 pm
Conquest and WhAAM present:
The Senate @ WhAAM
All-ages in Bellingham!
Tickets $6 at the door.
June 6, 2008 – 9:00 pm
June 21st, 11:15 am
Marysville Strawberry Festival
June 21, 2008 – 4:00 pm
July 23, 2008 – 7:00 pm
Auburn’s Shades of Summer
Game Farm Park, Aubrun, WA
August 3, 2008 – 2:00 pm
August 9, 2008 – 7:00 pm
Port Angeles, WA
September 5, 2008 – time TBA
September 6th, 2008 – time TBA
Boundary Bay Brewery