Number One Cup
(prepared in response to the repetitious
nature of press interviews)
How long have you been together? In October of 1993 we began having
conversations about what would eventually become Number One Cup. We had
our first formal rehearsal November 12th, 1993. Recorded our first single in
January of '94. And our first show in March of 1994.
How did you get together? We met at a Stereolab, Unrest, Gastr del Sol show
in Chicago, discovered our musical affinities and quit our current bands before
we ever played together.
What are your influences? It's easier for us to talk about what inspires us than
what has influenced us. The influences are for listeners to ponder. As with most
bands, we've all arrived at a similar musical outlook via different routes. But the
things we all have in common include early 70's Bowie, The Velvet Underground,
late 70's angular, English stuff like Wire, the first three Cure records, and The Fall,
late 70's American new wave like Television, Devo, and The Talking Heads,
Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth, etc. At the moment we're all taken with what
we see as the common thread running from Motown to Bowie to New Wave--tight
production, a sense of space in the playing, and songs that deliver hooks. Of
course, if anyone can hear the traces of our inspirations in our music, we're
Do you consider yourself lo-fi? No. We've made some lo-fi recordings in the
past due either to economic neccessity or aesthetic choice. For example, Ohio
Arts was a song we had been playing live as a big, anthemic rock song, but when
we recorded it that way it struck us as bloated and ugly. So late one night after
we got home from the studio, we tried it with a Micro Jammer toy drum machine
and a guitar through a Pignose amp set up on either side of a stereo condenser
mic going in to a Walkman. Then we took that tape and dubbed it on a dual
cassette deck, adding the vocals live, sound-on-sound. That's the version we put
on the record. Not because we wanted to be lo-fi, but because that version
sounded better. We're always interested in using whatever technology we can
get our hands on.
Is lo-fi valid? As valid as hi-fi. If the recorded version of the song kills me, I don't
care what "fi" it is. But I'll say this about lo-fi: contrary to what Lou Barlow says,
he or Robert Pollard or whoever don't release lo-fi recordings just because
they're quicker and cheaper and easier to do. They know better than anyone that
those recordings have a realism and an authenticity that is as important to the
feel of the song as the chord changes or the melody. In the end, recording
choices become a compositional element.
How dou you feel about dance music/electronica? Dance music is music
meant to function in public, communal settings, as a social lubricant for group
activity. We're more into music with a private function; music meant to be listened
to. None of us dances or goes to raves, so dance music doesn't really serve our
lifestyles. But there's a lot of cool sounds and technologies being explored with
electronica. Our feeling is, like the first Punk or Dada or Surrealism or any radical
new movement, electronica is too restrictive a form right now. Like those other
movements, it will be most valuable when its tenets are absorbed and its
aesthetic cross-pollinates with other music. When sampling and loops and
electronic drums can be employed organically in service of great songs they will
be an enhancing, expanding element.
How do you feel about post-rock? It's a bunch of musicians playing music.
What are you listening to these days? The first three or four Cure albums,
Home Elf:Gulf Bore Waltz, the new Iggy re-mix of Raw Power, Urusei Yatsura,
the new Karate record.
What's with the nature shows? Pat used to watch Marty Stouffer's Wild
America on PBS late at night after delivering pizzas. The middle of the night is a
fertile time for the imagination. By the way, Marty's been taken off the air for
staging an antelope stampede by chasing them with his truck. evidently a couple
of the little critters plummeted off a cliff to their death.
What's with the dream references? We like the illogical logic of dreams. But
we're not into dream analysis or making life choices based on dreams. For that
we use dice.
Tell us about your lyrics. They seem pretty obscure. Our lyrics are not that
obscure. Language is a net. We're as interested in what falls through as in what
gets caught by words. I think we feel that to explain our lyrics would be an
admission of failure. To use words to explain other words seems
counterproductive. Besides, explaining the meanings of songs would be like
ripping open a machine to see how it works--we'd rather just let the machine do
Describe your music. Well, we're not a band with a manifesto. Probably
because we don't have one person calling the shots. In music, as with life, we're
into figuring it out as we go along. We each have our own ideas, but, to our credit,
none of us can be bullied into belief. We believe in music that is not background
music. It's foreground music. It's pop rather than experimental, but with
experimental touches. Our songs are built from the collisions and combinations
of instruments and parts. Our songs are like four people quarrelling. As a result,
no one member can write a Number One Cup song by himself. We're trying to fill
in the blanks in our own record collections; to make the music we always wished
existed in the spaces between other bands; and to fix the little mistakes other
good bands have made due to bad judgement, bad drugs or bad times.
Ultimately, though, our music is Indie rock--meaning it's personal and real and
not motivated by record sales. We're making the music we want to make.
Were you surprised by the success of Divebomb? Yes. Particularly when we
arrived home one day to find a strange message on our answering machine. It
said: "This is John Peel of the BBC." And he was calling to say he was playing
our song Divebomb on the radio. He held the phone up to the speakers so we
could hear the song playing and said "There you are, the truth of what I say." It
was months before we believed it was actually John Peel and not one of our
friends playing a prank.
Where do you picture yourselves in 5/10/15 years? We'll probably be
describing the music we want to make to a computer which will then compose,
arrange and perform it for us.
What have you done for work? We all quit our jobs in January of 1996. Before
that John worked as a Veterinary Assistant and then as a software salesman.
Michael was an adult literacy teacher. Seth worked in an artificial intelligence
research lab. And Pat delivered pizzas.
What do you make of England then? Get us a decent cup of coffee, a fresh
green vegetable, chill the lager and you've got a perfectly respectable little island
here. As far as the music scene goes, we feel like the British system is really
reductive and stultifying. Because you have only two magazines and one radio
station that count, bands either have to ascribe to the tastes of those outlets or
resign themselves to obscurity. That doesn't leave much room for invention or
idiosynchracy. America has dominating media too, but there's room for an
underground, what with thousands of college radio stations playing whatever
they damn well please and tens of thousands of smaller and home made
magazines and fanzines available.
What music changed your life/got you interested in playing music? For
each of us it was different. Micahel grew up in DC and used to go to see Minor
Threat and other DC hardcore bands. Pat grew up in Painesville, Ohio and he
had an uncle who worked at the studio where Pere Ubu used to record. His uncle
used to give him tapes of the stuff those guys were up to. John's older brother
turned him on to the Velvet Underground. And Seth's earliest memory of music
being important was 4th grade, when he had a crush on Linda Jencks, and found
out she was going to be in a local production of the Nutcracker. He spent about a
week listening to his parents' record of the Nutcracker Suite, hoping that being
familiar with the music might help me win Linda's heart. (It didn't work.)