Meeting the many different people with unique visions and approaches to music is what I find most rewarding about this whole musical journey I have been on for some time now. Occasionally you are lucky enough to come across artists who’s application to the art form sometimes makes you question your own approach. Those are the moments of truth that really can’t be described with words. Those moments count in big amounts towards seeing a much larger picture of creativity that exists beyond one’s own front door.
Experimental Ambient music is what you make it. It can exemplify a rich world of escape where one is not constricted by self imposed limitations or predisposed conditions set by key influencers of a scene. It is a place where you are simply an artist wielding a sound wave making it sound as colorful or as dull as you wish. This represents an opportunity for many to have a limitless imagination. The reality though with this certain kind of music is rather indistinguishable artistic output. I have probably heard more ambient tunes than anyone I know, surprisingly for the most part, much of ambient music is homogeneous. In retrospect this has been a disappointment given its potential.
Now Virgin Blood is an artist that is as distinguishable as they come. I have been tracking her experimental moments since way back in I Vacation history. Going back to my early days in Portland when I was just another cat fresh off the banana boat. What caught my ear about her sound was this whole D.Y.O.T. (Doing Your Own Thing) concept actually being realized on many different levels. She had two minimalistic full lengths (Dreamt My Lover, Cupidity) hit from 2011-2012 with Cupidity being the most fluid from start to finish. She also did a collaboration album titled Gold with Ormus which is the perfect listen for those darkened nights.
Hell froze over on Valentine’s Day 2014 when Virgin Blood released “Snow“. Up until then a lot of good releases had dropped, but we paid attention to this one especially because it was a masterful accomplishment in ambient/field recording/experimental/minimalistic art. Snow is a very complete album. From start to finish it flows and then after its completed its course it resonates with you for many hours after. There are probably only 2 radio-esque singles on Snow Lydia and My Man. However, this album is conceptual and my feelings are that it is meant to be heard from start to finish preferably in its tape format.
Shortly after Snow fell, IVIYH had a chance to speak with Virgin Blood about the past and present.
Tell us a little bit about the new cassette tape Snow?
I feel like Snow is a great representation of where I am at now. I am just this big ball of emotions and I think sometimes, when I am lucky, I can express them. Also, I was really grateful to have Sean and Alex who play as ASSS help me mix. I think I get stuck with my own songs and I forget that other people are going to hear them, so it was nice having talented people I trust around.
So tell us about how field recording became part of the album Snow….and tell us your approach to the technique?
I went to visit my mom at her house in the woods, which is the first place she has ever owned. I love my mom she is seriously so inspiring and sometimes I feel so regretful about how bad I was as a teenager! My mom moved to Idyllwild a few years back and I had never been. There was something really magical about it.
I was able to work on all of my songs in my 12 year old sister’s room, which was perfectly absurd. I went out along the stream outside of their place and just recorded with a shitty tape recorder I have had since I lived in Long Beach. It was so beautiful recording there. It was sunny and snowy and the water in the stream was still flowing.
Snow is a very unconventional yet pleasant record to listen to…What other instruments and techniques did you use on Snow?
I use my little Novation Xio for all my music, I sample quite a bit.. I love finding secret sounds. I wish I could just record everything in the shower! I am going to have to figure that out. I am getting better at Ableton, which is always astonishing to me! I have a short attention span with computer stuff, so I am pretty proud.
Briefly describe what ambient music is.
The appeal of anything ambient to me is that it goes against traditional ideas of music. I was into punk as a kid, I mean I still am, but I think this idea of creating an atmosphere is really appealing to me. We all would go to shows to get away from whatever was bothering us at home or school. I mean I think that teen angst still exists in all of my work. I guess I wouldn’t consider this album AMBIENT as much as I would my release with Ormus, but I definitely always think about creating a new world when I write. I am creating because the escape is all I have.
Tell us about the Virgin Blood aesthetic, your personal image and style and where its been and where it is today?
I think style in general should just be fun. I just get dressed for how I am feeling each day. I feel like my style changes pretty often and it always has. I have a tendency to get obsessed with things, whether it is types of music or film or clothing or art. I get sucked in and it is all I want for a few months and then I find something new I love. As I have gotten older I pull from everything that has inspired me in the past and everything I do just becomes a hybrid version of all of my interests. Amalgamation of self, hah!
Is there a song writing / music making process that Virgin Blood goes through?
It is really funny explaining this because I just know how I feel. That is the only way I make music. I usually just work on vocal melodies in the shower and build from there. I know I am going to use them if I wake up with them stuck in my head. I think it may be a bit backwards, but it really is the only thing that works for me. When I am working on samples and non-vocal tracks it is a little bit different, but I still get the ideas in the shower and have to figure out how to execute them. I think I just turned red as I explained this.
Everyone has vices. What are Virgin Blood’s vices?
Oh, god. I really love living alone because I have no one to answer to and I end up having a ton of fun by myself. I really love getting drunk and doing Youtube karaoke through the PA. I have other vices, but I have a job and I would like to keep it that way!
Are there any artists living that you admire and would like to work with?
All my friends are SO talented. I want to start a million new music projects with everyone I know, but there is not enough time in the day. I am working with David from Anne soon. I am pretty sure it is just going to be our version of La Bouche. I have been writing some really positive lyrics about acceptance and dancing forever, just wait!
Some are saying this is the greatest era to exist as a musician, others say it’s the worst, what has your experience been like?
When I think about the state of the world, I usually get depressed. I rather not ponder the past or the future or what is better or worse. Even if “living in the now” is a cheesy sentiment, it really is how I feel. I like to be able to sleep at night. I am happy that I exist and I can share my music and others can share with me.
Are there places you go in Portland to draw influence for your creativity?
There is a spot on the east side of the waterfront that I hide out at. I just like to think and watch there. I have a lot of little secret places. Also, comfortable beds are the best for writing.
Tell us about the other projects you are involved in outside of music.
I run an art space called Multiplex. It is what I think about most of my day, I even have dreams about it. We are changing things up, moving spaces and things are getting better and better. Sometimes I wonder what my music would be like if I actually had time to tour and record more, but I wouldn’t change anything I am doing now. I love helping artists and musicians and cherish all of the bonds created in this space, but sometimes I just wish there were a few extra hours in the day (and I liked sleeping less).
If I were to vacation in your hell what would I find there?
No music, no love, no sleep
Here are some remixes from Snow that are fresh off the press: