Interview: The Bilinda Butchers

The Bilinda Butchers are a talented San Francisco trio that evades any particular genre, though some will cry dream-pop. Adam, Michal and Ryan make up the band, named after singer/guitarist Bilinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine. Together, the three unite to create a lush, rich, vibrant sound that has evolved and been perfected over the course of the band’s history. Formed around 2007, the band received notably recognition with their 2011 EP regret, love, guilt, dreams. Their fan base has been growing ever since.

Recently finishing a West Coast tour with dream-pop outfit Craft Spells, I was able to reach out to the band with a few questions. Guitarist Adam was kind enough to give me some of his time and answer all that I wanted to know. I present to you: An interview with The Bilinda Butchers…


Hearing Gold: The Bilinda Butchers have just wrapped up a West Coast tour with Craft Spell. Congratulations! What was the most memorable moment of the tour?
Adam: We had a really nice time getting to know the Craft Spells kids, so honestly, the whole tour was a blast. If I had to choose one moment: during our last show at The Echo in LA, we hopped onstage following Craft Spells’ encore and we all played a rendition of The Radio Dept.’s “Pulling Our Weight” together. Only a handful of the people onstage knew the song, but we made it work and it ended up being a lot of fun.


HG: Two years ago, Lil B “THE BASED GOD” sampled “Tulips” for The Basedprint II’s “NYU” track. The month The Basedprint II was released, “The Bilinda Butchers” experienced a huge jump in Google searches. Would you say that “NYU” was a blessing from The Based God?
Adam: We were absolutely shocked when we heard that he’d used a beat that sampled one of our songs! I remember being in class, and my phone was going crazy with texts and calls from Michal, and I was really nervous that something bad had happened. But it was really great news! We were both thrilled. We’re from Northern California, and we love Lil B. Definitely a blessing! TYBG.


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HG: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that both Michal and Adam write their songs separately from each other. Has that style of music writing changed since 2012, and does the addition of drummer Ryan change that process?
Adam: We still write separately, but I think that at this point we’re all ready (Ryan included) to sit down and try to work on stuff together as a band. I’m sure Michal and I will continue to write separately, because that’s always how we’ve done it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the next thing we do is more collaborative. Ryan is an immensely talented drummer and he’s already changing our sound so dramatically that I’m really excited to write songs with him in the room.


HG: Your most recent album, Heaven, is a concept album revolving around the fictitious diary of Nakajima Ume. Could you expand on the process of making the album? Was the concept album more difficult from your other EPs?
Adam: Well, the Heaven story had been in Michal’s head for a while preceding recording (and probably most of the writing, too). Of course, it’s readily apparent at this point, but he loves Japan and Japanese history, and that cultural context inspired a lot of the textures (both musical and thematic) found on the record. He actually spent some time in Japan a year or two ago, and got to meet a lot of people we’ve had online relationships with for years, including indie pop group Lamp, who appears on Tanka, and Juri Nakashima (an old friend of ours) who narrates the record. There were a lot of intersecting elements but somehow it worked out.
I don’t know if this process was more difficult than the EPs… In a way, I feel like those experiences prepared us for this more ambitious project. That said, there’s still a lot of work left, because Michal wants to expand on the story even further through other mediums.


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HG: In a recent interview, Michal seemed to shy away from the Dream-Pop label. What, if any, genre of music would The Bilinda Butchers be?
Adam: I won’t speak for Michal, but I’m always skeptical of generic classifications. Bands are pigeonholed too easily. For example, people take it for granted that we’re a shoegaze group because of our name, but I hear very little of those types of influences on our records. I think “dream pop” is so vague as a classification that it manages to gracefully encompass a lot of different stuff (including, of course, our sound). So I don’t resent that label (because it means next to nothing, and it sounds appealing enough).


HG: What songs have you been listening to lately?
Adam: I’ve been listening to Craft Spells’ new record a lot as a way to relive the tour (“Twirl” is my favorite). Michal co-runs our friend Garrett’s label, ZOOM LENS, and their new artist LLLL’s record is really cool. Luminous Orange just announced a new release, so I’ve been revisiting her music, too. One song that the whole band has been into lately is “Golden Slumbers” by The Beatles — Paul McCartney kills it on that track!


HG: The Bilinda Butchers started when Adam and Michal were 16 years old. What would you say to your 16-year-old self right now?
Adam: Michal and I always joke that our 16-year-old selves would be deeply disappointed in what we’ve become. I think I’d encourage my younger self to live in the moment a bit more, and to cherish his friendships.


HG: According to an interview posted on your blog, the Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams EP was inspired by those four feelings. On Heaven, an album that hopes to start “a discussion on what we think heaven is”, do those four feelings play a part in the album?
Adam: Well, love (and its many related feelings, among them guilt and regret) is a major source of creative inspiration for both Michal and I (and probably for most songwriters!). Dreams, or aspirations, are a driving force in any sort of creative endeavor, too. Heaven would be a very different record if those feelings and ideas hadn’t played a role. But beyond that, Heaven’s central theme, as I understand it, is the achievement of happiness through strict adherence to principles (in this case, loyalty and self-reliance). The whole story is pretty bleak, but it ends on a happy-ish note because its protagonist develops a new worldview at its conclusion.


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HG: If The Bilinda Butchers were to open up a restaurant, what would the establishment be called and what would it serve?
Adam: This is a fun question! I think we’d open a Polish restaurant called “Helena” (after Michal’s darling mother). Gourmet piroshki would be our specialty.


HG: Thank you so much, Adam!


The Bilinda Butchers’ Heaven is now available on their bandcamp. Don’t forget to check our their facebook and website.