Entertainment
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Entertainment

Athens, Georgia, United States | INDIE

Athens, Georgia, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Gothic

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"Interview with Entertainment"

Make no mistake about it, MOVEMENT is very high on Athens-based deathrock trio Entertainment. On their new album "Gender," Entertainment take all the best parts of early 80s LA goth and wrap them in layers of spaced-out dub, postpunk shards, tinny synths, and cavernous silence for a listening experience that is in turns discordant and funky. (Is that a dirty word?) Two shows at Jacksonville’s FACTORY night showed that they could bring the goods live almost even more than on record, evoking early New Order and the Cure’s classic trio formation under deep red lights and strobes. MOVEMENT sat down with vocalist/guitarist Trey Ehart and bassist Kimberley Saint Thomas to try and pin down a band in constant flux.


I like the trio format live. It changes the dynamics of the album in a more rhythm-oriented direction - like krautrock and the Cure circa "Faith." It's more skeletal and atmospheric. Were you pleased with the trio sound?

K: Wow, good call. We've been talking about "Faith"-era Cure a lot recently, although more in a manner toward our next album. In addition, we do have a fondness for krautrock. I really like NEU and Can comes up a bit during road trips as well. Trey is a big fan of Bowie's Berlin period, where krautrock mixes with Eno's atmospherics.

I like how we play as a trio. I enjoy how the three of us interact as people, and I think our personalities allow each other the room we need to make our point without stepping on toes. I'm starting to think that a three-piece is the ideal configuration if there are a few strong personalities. Could you imagine the Police lasting as long as they did if they had a fourth, equally intense member? Based on band logistics - we shared a guitarist with another band that toured a lot - we found ourselves thinking and writing as a trio long before we actually became one. In a way, it was an evolution through sickness: we spent most of January taking turns having colds and missing practices, and when a show came up we had to decide whether we'd play our older material as a four-piece that hadn't been in a room together for months, or go with a newer set as a trio.

T: It makes sense but I hate being chained to a guitar. Whenever we add a fourth member it always seems to make everything muddy onstage, and then we crack them in half. We've gone through four of them in three years, mainly because our writing style is very intense and organic and I think most "guitarists" are trained to think in a very pre-arranged way- normal chord progressions and filling every empty space with noise. We're upside down; it's drums, then bass, then the rest is expression. Plus we can keep a three-piece together. And we know each other so we can react to each other.
The Banshees used to audition guitarists by challenging them to make the noise of a horse falling off a cliff with their guitar, and I really agree with that point of view. We just use it as a weapon or a layer of paint. Before we came down we were rehearsing "Patroness" and I remember working on it until we said, "That feels good, very skeletal." So that's right.

Do you try to keep your live setup pretty minimal? I didn't see much in the way of pedals or computers, etc.

K: We're poor! Our minimal setup is a combination of necessity and preferred aesthetic. Maybe it's a part of my punk rock upbringing, but if someone's got a lot of lights flashing or a bunch of shiny gizmos being protected onstage, I just get very suspicious; what are they hiding or covering up? Furthermore, we tend to get a little aggressive onstage. Accidents happen. Guitars can take it, laptops can't.

T: When you're broke and driving around in a van the last thing you want is more equipment! We just use what we need to make a certain tone, the rest is us. We've started toying with the idea of running our synth on a backing track, but it still feels cheap.

Let’s backtrack a little. Who are the members of Entertainment, and who plays what?

Live:
Trey Ehart - vocals, keyboard, guitar
Kimberley Saint Thomas - bass
Barry Watts- drums, electronic percussion

In the studio, it's more of a free-for-all. Whoever, whatever, as long as it gets done.

What’s the history of the band up to this point, and is the name of the band a Gang of Four reference?

K: I met Trey on Halloween. Some friends and I put together a Bauhaus cover band for the evening's festivities. Entertainment just lost their previous bass player and the girl he was dating came up and kinda gave me a preliminary interview, asking if I had played in other bands and stuff. When she left I asked a friend who she was, and he told me, "Her boyfriend's in Entertainment." I hadn't heard of them, so I took that to mean her boyfriend was a lawyer!

T: It's a cultural reference, the value of art has been reduced to its entertainment value. If you get that you get it.




Is dub or reggae at all an influence for the band? I hear it a lot in the emphasis on the basslines and the use of space as an instrument. Or is this more of an unconscious influence, maybe from listening to Gang of Four or the Pop Group?

K: I'm a huge dub/reggae fan, and we listen to a lot of it in the van. It's very good morning music. It's also very good late night music too. We listened to Lee Perry and the Upsetter's "Blackboard Jungle" album the morning we left Jacksonville. We go back and forth along the timeline as far as the influence/influenced thing goes. David J is obviously a big dub fan, and that comes out in both Bauhaus and Love and Rockets. It was funny, the first time Trey heard the Stooges' "Fun House," he said he understood Nick Cave much more.

Space is an element sadly missing in a lot of today's music. I agree- it IS an instrument of sorts, or at the very least, it's like a canvas or a piece of marble, and leaving a little bit exposed helps set definition. Heck, you can't have a sculpture if the marble is completely chiseled away, can you? It becomes dust, and unfortunately, a lot of music sounds very dusty, as if they recorded as much noise as possible, perhaps thinking that if it ever got too quiet, someone might point out, "Hey, this sucks."

T: Yeah, Kimberley loves dub. I love dub from it being filtered through the postpunk bands, so I guess it's subconscious. Gang of Four, Bauhaus, Pil. And those guitar atmospheres... and reverbed snares.

Tell me about the making of the "Gender" album? The album is a very organic, "live" sounding record...

K: It has a lot of live elements, but the songs were restructured over and over, and then we'd re-record parts based on finalized arrangements. The songs as they appear on the album were rarely performed that way prior. We did a lot of relearning throughout the album-making process.

T: "Gender" is really us falling apart, going through guitarists and looking for
a sound and being surrounded by a lot of death and isolation. Having spirits whisper to me and basically breaking down mentally in the middle of making a record. We had it and then we destroyed it, cut it up into new songs and redid everything over, only under this influence. I wanted to capture the concrete room it was made in, which is the live feel. And wanting to sound unlike anything contemporary.

The songs are not exactly linear verse/chorus/bridge arrangements – how does a song like "Patroness" come together?

K: "Patroness" is *almost* a linear pop song, but it's like we write a song, then we un-write it. Imagine drawing a picture, then erasing half of the lines, then adding new ones. After a few nights, go back to the picture and do it again. After a few weeks, you'll wind up with something that contains elements both old and new, original ideas inspire newer ones. It almost becomes a matter of theme vs. detail.

T: If you listen to the demo CD that comes with the vinyl there are two or three early versions of "Patroness," and you can start to piece the creative process together. But it's really just me suffering over the songs and trying to get all the anxiety out of my mind and it spilling into the music. We CAN come back to a chorus, sometimes. I can't really explain it, I just usually think in straight lines and not patterns. The songs grow, I guess. When you've come back to a verse or a chorus you've changed.

Would you prefer for the album to be heard as a cohesive whole or would it not particularly bother you if it was downloaded piecemeal?

K: I enjoy hearing the album on vinyl, one side only. I think each side plays out like a solid EP. I love that folks download music piecemeal, it puts each song in a position where it has to stand for itself. I love a good concept album, and I appreciate the effort that goes into making and sequencing an album "just so," but I do love the shuffle feature on my mp3 player. I love being surprised by songs I almost forgot about. I love how my player sometimes tries to tell me a story by placing certain songs in a newer context. Somehow I can hear things with a refreshed perspective.

T: Start to finish. A giant ego trip. We're out of touch with modern listening habits that way, but whatever. We're doing a digital-only EP called "Lip-Gloss Shine" in the fall with new, more single-ready versions of "Flesh," "Confusion," and "New Joys" for people that want the "hits".

Was it important for you to release a vinyl version of the album?

K: I love the fact that due to using different mastering techniques, the album and CD sound slightly different. Kind of like space as an instrument, I feel the same way about the needle being the final instrument.

T: Yeah, very. We couldn't afford it, then Duchess Archive in New York approached us. We just got a vague email, then they had it remastered in LA and pressed on 180 Gram, and it sounds massive. A giant sigil corrupting the rest of your music. Vibrations like spells…

What are your writing and compositional methods? Is it a collective effort? Does each member bring in snippets and sketches or completed pieces?

K: Back when gas was over $4 a gallon, Trey would spend a few nights each week at Barry's house instead of making the Athens-Atlanta commute every day. During that time they recorded a lot of beats and bassline snippets. We've been dipping into that well for awhile, and we just play on those ideas and flesh them out. From time to time I'll just play basslines as the other two are putting their gear together, and they'll jump in once they're set up. By our rules, a song isn't really considered "done" until it is released, and even then...

T: Two of us will get together and lay down sketches and bring it in. Then we start fleshing it out. A lot of times we'll add something on the spot or we'll work off a bassline Kim comes up with when we're setting up. When we get the parts down, we'll rehearse it a few times, lay it down to a click track and then I'll take it away for a while and bring it back, sometimes completely changed.

I used to be very tense and cause friction, but recently we've gotten way better about it. I think we all just understand each other more. I can't make sense of things when we're all standing in a room together.

How important is image and visuals in the presentation of your music?

K: There's a joke Henry Rollins once made along the lines of, "We'll leave nothing to the imagination... we tried that the last time, and in our opinion, it didn't work." I think, in a very generalized way, a visual image helps offer an idea as to where you're coming from, or at the very least, what you're saying is, "I like the way this looks," and folks can gauge that as they will to see if they think there's any compatibility.

T: To me, very, but that doesn't have to be a spectacle. Lately I feel like we're just ugly and should be hidden by darkness.

What's your first memory of music?

K: My very first? I can recall making up and singing a song in the shower when I was about four years old. I don't remember the words or anything, but I do believe it actually had a chorus, because at one point my mom came in the bathroom and sang along with me. I'm assuming she listened outside the door long enough to figure it out. I was equally embarrassed and proud. Woah... there you go, read into that what you will.

T: I used to play the Roy Orbison 45 of "Pretty Woman" a lot when I was really young. And my mom says I had a crush on Debbie Harry. I also remember her playing the Doors, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Neil Diamond a lot, so those are my real influences.

Are you working on new material? How is the sound shaping up?

K: We've been working on the second album, a few single-type things (we have a split coming up), a few radio-friendly mixes of some "Gender" songs. It's always been a mix of creating some new songs while simultaneously revisiting older material and revamping it. Whenever we work up a new live set, we wind up adding songs we just wrote, and then working in a song or two that hasn't been played out in years.

T: It's a lot more ceremonial. We're using tighter rhythms and more melodic synths. There's more isolation and sorrow and less about atonal guitar. Like the atmosphere in a cathedral while pounding out rhythms... like a sculpture. - Movement Magazine


Discography

12" Single: China Walls (Adistant Sound / 2006)
LP: Gender CD (Adistant Sound / Stickfigure Records / 2008)
Comp - "Connect The Dots - Music Of The Prids" (Five03 Records / 2008)
LP: Gender Remastered Vinyl (Duchess Archive / 2009)

Photos

Bio

Entertainment take all the best parts of early 80s LA goth and wrap them in layers of spaced-out dub, postpunk shards, tinny synths, and cavernous silence

As part of the new crop of US underground acts updating the American Deathrock + UK Post Punk aesthetic, Entertainment have performed legendary and up and coming artists: Nina Hagen, Lene Lovich, TV on the Radio, Christian Death, Radio Berlin, Glass Candy, the Prids, Veil Veil Vanish, Blessure Grave, Faith + the Muse, IAMX and Dead Confederate.

In 2006 they released the China Walls split 12" record with A Spectre is Haunting Europe (Canada).

In 2008 the released their debut album Gender with Stickfigure Records (Atlanta).

“Gender” was voted Deathrock.com album of the year for 2008.

“Gender” CD was re-released in Europe in april 2009 through NMMV distribution

“Gender” was remastered + re-released on vinyl through Duchess Archive (NY) in April 2009.

Entertainment has been described as:
• the sound of death on vinyl.
• the sound of Bauhaus + Radiohead fucking.
• the sound of Black Flag covering Joy Division.
• a crossover between Killing Joke and Adam And The Ants who forgot to tune their guitars.
• Bauhaus, Joy Division, (very early) U2, and Chrome having an orgy.

Entertainment is currently writing and recording new music for a second album and looking for independent labels for 7” and 12” single releases­­.

"…walking in on local quintet Entertainment is (sic) like resurrecting a scene from The Lost Boys. A platinum-blond, Kiefer Sutherland-esque frontman was matched in intensity by the wail of keyboards, U2-ish atmospherics, baritone moan and a martial insistence. Gyrating women in leather and leopard print did a "light bulb dance," reaching upward and twisting, twitching wrists in ecstasy to the melodic goth-glossed howl."
- Tony Ward/Creative Loafing Atlanta