Like many band peeps, San Francisco-based musicians Michal Palmer and Adam Honingford met when they were still in school. They bonded over a shared love of video games and Japanese rock, and eventually started the shoegaze pop band that we now know as The Bilinda Butchers (name inspired by My Bloody Valentine vocalist Bilinda Butcher, sometimes shortened to “The BBs”).
The line between coolness and nerdiness has gotten blurred over the years, and when the correlation between cool band dudes being nerds in high school was pointed out, Adam had a good explanation, saying that a lot of it has to do with it being okay to spend time alone.
“I think nerdiness is an abstract concept but to me, a lot of it is being shy and isolating yourself,” he quips. “You hang out in your room all day and you watch movies and listen to a ton of music and eventually start wanting to make music.” We had a quick chat with the band the afternoon before their dreamy Manila set at Fred Perry’s Subculture Live series. The boys spoke to us about their Asian influences and their advice for aspiring musicians.
YOUNG STAR: You’ve had experience playing back home in the States and in other places like Japan, or Asia in general. How does it compare, considering that Japanese audiences are kind of more into quiet appreciation?
MICHAL PALMER: It’s completely silent. It was so awkward because we thought, “Wow, we’re doing so bad.” And then once it’s completely dead silent it’s like “Ahhh.” It’s pretty crazy. I learned to say “Thank you” right away so people will start cheering and stuff. Last time when we came here we had no idea that we had fans. Like, we’d play to 100 people or something like that. The first show we played in Shanghai had 1,000! I think there were videos where you can see my face and I’m like, “What the f**k, this is crazy.
ADAM HONINGFORD: We knew about this but the last time we came, it was very surprising for us. People don’t clap until all the music is done.
Your last album was a concept album inspired by a fictional Japanese love story. How did you get all of those Asian influences? When did it start?
MICHAL: Well, Adam and I met in middle school and we were both really into Japanese music. This is like when YouTube was really just starting and there were tons of Japanese rock bands. And you know, we got into anime and video games. We’re huge nerds so we’re just soaking up and researching. We made friends from Japan over the internet. I saw 2046, the Wong Kar Wai movie, on TV once and I was like “This is insane.” I just really built a connection to it. I remember when I started music, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I knew exactly what sound. But then I heard The Radio Dept. and I was like, “They’ve already done it.” I try to make darker, more sentimental and dramatic (music). And yeah, Japanese and Asian themes just kind of fit into that ‘cause there’s a seriousness to it that I’m gravitating towards.
Do you have any advice for musicians who are also starting out now? MICHAL: I mean, there’s a lot of advice I can impart. Keep doing it. I met Kip Berman from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart right when we started. He said, “Just keep going. Just keep releasing stuff because you get support from people you wouldn’t expect and it gives you energy to keep doing it.”
BROCK LOWRY: And don’t be afraid to talk to people. I think a lot of people try to be cool so they don’t wanna talk to anybody, but being perfectly open and asking questions is really important. I wouldn’t be here with these guys if I didn’t bombard them with questions.
MICHAL: And just be nice. Everybody’s ridden a coattail at some point, and there’s nothing wrong with that.