Five years ago, a weekend in the NYC area wasn’t complete without taking in a set by Blues Control. It seemed the Brooklyn duo of Russ Waterhouse and Lea Cho could always be found blaring out their deconstructed riff rock in some trust funders’ basement in Ridgewood or a record store in Williamsburg.
Nowadays, Waterhouse and Cho live out in the wooded wilds of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania where they choose to stay in, cook meals and listen to records like sensible older people should. While chillaxing out there they also wrote their fourth full length Valley Tangents, which was released by Drag City earlier this year. Much like their bearded predecessors, Blues Control staggered upon a spacious and comforting sound in their secluded confines. Gone were the chunky riffs and bombastic rhythms; in came the liquid leads and tranquil electronic beats and bleats. Squint your ears just the right way and you could line up Valley Tangents with any one of your favorite ‘We’re getting it together in the country’ rock records from the early 70’s.
Blues Control are coming back to New York to play Mercury Lounge this Saturday to kick off a tour supporting the Califronia-cum-Massachusetts Psych unit, Six Organs of Admittance. We asked them what they missed and didn’t miss about the city, what they’ve been up to 2012 and other such biz.
What is it like to come back to play NYC after leaving it to live in rural Pennsylvania+ Do you feel like strangers?
Lea Cho: When we visit, it pretty much feels the same as it did when we left. The scenery changes but the general feeling of being in NYC hasn’t changed much. We have more fun as visitors than we did the last couple of years we lived there, but usually we’re ready to go home after a day or two. The one downside of moving away is that we don’t see certain friends as often. There’s also the occasional evening when we miss eating at a particular restaurant. The things we don’t miss are negligent, shady landlords; the cost of living; lack of free time; lack of privacy; and constant noise.
There’s definitely a different feel to Valley Tangents than your earlier output. Do you feel you could have made this LP in Brooklyn/NYC or is it something that could have only came from where you’re living now?
Lea Cho: We probably could not have made this record if we were still living in NYC. I suppose Valley Tangents is our “Move to the country” record– the songs were inspired by the valley; the animals; the local minor league baseball team; the freedom; the peace and quiet–but there were non-geographical factors that influenced the making of the record too. For one, we were able to spend more time in the studio than we had in the past. Musically, our ideas have continually evolved regardless of location. The overarching influences for Valley Tangents are progressive rock, and jazz, but each song on the record also incorporates its own unique influences. Living in the country must have had a subconscious effect, but it hasn’t changed anything fundamental about our music. If anything, living here has allowed us to better realize ideas we’ve had since we started Blues Control.
What have been the highlights of 2012 for Blues Control thus far?
Russ Waterhouse: Besides releasing Valley Tangents, we recently toured in Australia and New Zealand, which was amazing, and earlier this year we played shows with Laraaji in NYC and Europe. Because we’ve been out on the road, we’ve been able to see friends we hadn’t seen since our last tour in 2009, and we made some new friends too.
What’s on the horizon for Blues Control in 2013?
Russ Waterhouse: We have a six week U.S. tour coming up soon, and a European tour in the spring. We’ll be going to countries we’ve never played before, which is exciting. Besides that, we’re working on a couple of singles, and we’ll probably start writing a new full-length after the touring winds down.
What’s Blues Controls’ favorite record to be released this year?
Russ Waterhouse: Sandy Bull & The Rhythm Ace Live 1976 is probably my favorite–a perfect, low-key Sunday morning record. I like when he’s rambling into the mic between songs, and playing along to backing tapes he made of himself, similar to what we do. You get the feeling he would probably be cool to hang out with at a holiday get-together.
Blues Control play Mercury Lounge Saturday, December 1st.