DJ Espurr Interviews Sweet Trip

Sweet Trip is a Bay Area based electronic/experimental rock band, currently consisting of Valerie and Roby. Sweet Trip was formed in the late 1990’s and experienced a huge resurgence of their band about a decade later. Sweet Trip is now more appreciated than ever for their unforgettable releases including their albums Velocity: Design: Comfort. and You Will Never Know Why. In this interview with DJ Espurr or Carissa Adriano from 90.5 FM KSJS, the band covers questions of their experience being a band in the Bay Area, advice they would like to give to upcoming bands, information on the new album, inspirations and more.  

Interview taken place on 1/31/2021 via Zoom.

Transcription of Sweet Trip Interview 

C: 90.5 FM KSJS, it’s Carissa or DJ ESPURR, I’m here with Sweet Trip, we have Valerie and Roby, super excited to have you guys here, a lot of people at the station are super big fans, so we’re all really excited

V: Thanks for having us, there was a time when I was younger, I listened to KSJS a lot too, college radio, yeah 

C: Thank you for being here, first question is, being a band from the bay area, what are your memories of being an upcoming band here, would you consider yourselves to be active in a music scene back then or were you just releasing your own stuff, doing your own thing?

V: Well before when we first started, we tried to be active. We tried to connect with a lot of different bands, during that time bands that were popular were bands like Brian Jonestown Massacre, and a lot of brit-pop type monster bands. We would try to connect with them but we had a different sound from everyone else so we didn’t get a whole lot of shows booked with these bands because they always got the crowds, very few people would go to our shows, we tried to be active, we did tours, we would go to shows a lot, in the beginning it was hard, we didn’t get a whole lot of recognition until mayber after Roby toured with Takako Minekawa.

R: Well also it was hard for us to..it was hard for people to place us in any particular scene, if we got lucky we got to play shows with brit pop like rock bands, if that wasn’t working then we could get lucky playing at a rave, or gigs that have more diverse types of music. People in that scene of like “DJ/rave/electronic music” seem to like us a little better, people were probably thinking we had an identity crisis. What are you? What do you do?

V: We felt like the outsiders in the scene, even then. We couldn’t really fit in in any culture, that’s how it felt before, we tried, we wish we’d been more active but…

C: Here at KSJS we have a large focus on underground local/non-local bands, do you have any advice you’d give them that you wish you knew?

R: How to promote the music better, I wish I had known how to promote our music at live shows. Maybe being a little more savvy or more businessy.

V: And for me to be more social, when I was younger, I wasn’t unfriendly but a little antisocial, I was uncomfortable in crowds or joining groups, or putting up websites, I didn’t like my picture taken. If anyone wanted a picture of Sweet Trip, I wouldn’t want my picture taken. I kind of matured in that way. I’d say go ahead let your picture be taken, give yourself presence in the world/internet. Let them see you, don’t shy away from interviews. I always turned them down. That’s what I would’ve done differently.

R: I’m kind of introverted, I don’t like to be exposed, out there like that. I think as we got older we had to embrace that. We didn’t know the benefits of that. One thing that I was uncomfortable with, it always seemed like placing ads for a product, or making our music/things we were doing into a product, instead of something that we loved…that always made me uncomfortable. But I’ve learned to compartmentalize, I’ve learned to do that and know it wouldn’t affect the end result. 

V: It’s okay to treat your art like a business and not feel like you’re prostituting yourself. Some artists are very sensitive with that sort of thing. 

C: I really believe you need to love what you’re doing. Going off of what you were saying, Roby, about how you wish you could’ve marketed your music differently, Sweet Trip was formed in 1998, it seemed there was a resurgence 10 years later. Did you change your marketing differently at all or did that just happen? 

R: Thank you, basically we were “found objects”. During those 10 years we didn’t market it at all, it didn’t come from us.

V: It’s people like you guys, we were the worst promoters. And a handful of people from the start who like us, nobody knew who we were. Guess we got lucky with the kids. Back then, nobody got it. 

C: I feel like what a lot of people could appreciate about Sweet Trip, especially myself, is that you guys just incorporate a lot of genres into your music. You guys incorporate some of my favorite genres. I really like some Dnb stuff and shoegaze is my favorite genre. Finding a band that has all of those in one thing is super awesome. 

R: That’s really nice of you

V: We love that stuff too, Jungle, Drum n Bass, Darkwave, Shoegaze. We got influenced by those styles.

C: Once COVID is over, are you wanting to do shows?

R: We would like to.

V: Yeah that would be fun.

C: Have you found yourself more or less motivated during the pandemic?

R: Hmm, well. 2020 was a weird year because that was the year we started on the new record and new music, we were totally pumped up about that and at the same time COVID was happening, personally I don’t think that COVID was a problem with being creative. Making music during COVID made life a lot more enjoyable.

V: The only thing COVID affected was how we recorded music, we were hoping to rent a recording studio to avoid noise, but that was the only thing that was difficult. We had to be inventive and come up with ways to black out sound, use the bathroom to record and stuff like that.

C: During your inactive period with the band was there a time where you felt hopeless or in a rut with making music, did you think of taking different routes?

R: We didn’t make any music together, I messed around with music during that time but most of it was me trying new sounds and building tiny little demos that never went anywhere. 

V: We lost touch, me and Roby, we were doing our own thing. He had his own soundcloud, I had my own soundcloud, we got really busy with our own lives. Once we reconnected we decided to do more Sweet Trip stuff, I think the people like sweet trip. They like sweet trip, we’ll give them sweet trip. 

R: We reconnected, it felt like we were never disconnected. We got excited about making music again.

C: So Sweet Trip then, would you say you were broken up? Did you know you wanted to make more stuff in the future?

R: Personally, I don’t know, there was a period after our last record came out, there was a lot of stuff of stuff going on personally that sort of discouraged me from music altogether. I’d work on things here and there to keep myself sane. There was a period where I thought “What’s the point of even entertaining making music anymore”. But at the same time I always wanted to work with Valerie again,

V: Yeah it was like a break up, I never anticipated I’d be working on music with Roby again. Everyone had their own lives, I knew it was done. We never had any audience response, I thought “who likes this”.

We didn’t know there were listeners.

R: After a while of playing music for 10-15 years, playing tiny little shows for mostly our family members I was like, “uhh I don’t know”. We didn’t want to play a pity party

C: How did you know Sweet Trip was gaining traction?

V: Yeah we didn’t notice what was happening, all of the sudden I had people following my personal Facebook account, commenting on my Soundcloud.Then I started noticing, “wow there’s a lot of people discovering our music”. My instagram turned into Sweet Trip content.

R: Same here, what she said.

C: I saw that during your process of making albums you switched from hardware to software plugins, did that influence your sound at all?

R: As far as the gear goes, yeah the switch to software plugins changed our sound. It opened a wide array of possibilities, it’s faster to use than hardware and it’s easier to save your work. Once we moved from hardware to software we had access to more sounds than we had before. It allowed us to do really obtuse and weird production things that only make sense to us. Both records are recorded with software, You Will Never Know Why might have a little more hardware. It wasn’t a conscious decision to go from VDC to You Will Never Know Why though. We never talk about what the next steps are going to be, everything we do is just part of that time, what we’re listening to. It wasn’t a conscious decision. After VDC came out there was this urge to play the guitar more, because I was sucking at it. 

V: It was hard to play shows for VDC, the sound people never knew how to mix it. With You Will Never Know Why it was nice not to have to carry all of the equipment. It was fun to have a drummer and be more of a band with instruments and less synths and computers.

C: You mentioned her earlier but when I found the Takako Minekawa Sweet Trip remixes I thought it couldn’t be real because of how good of a combination it was, would you ever do more collabs/remixes with artists in the future?

R: I would love to, we would love to.

C: I was watching another interview where they named artists and asked you your opinions on them, I was wanting to do the same thing. The first band is Covet, a band from the bay area.

R: I’ve heard some of the music, I’m more familiar with Yvette. 

V: Well, I haven’t heard her music yet but I think I might have seen her. My first impression was “Wow, that’s awesome, look at that girl kicking butt!”

R: And from the Bay Area.

C: San Jose! The next band I wanted to ask about was Duster

R: I’ve heard some things, the sound of Duster escapes me…I do know that I’ve heard it and that I liked it. I wonder if they’re on Darla.

C: It’s funny, there’s a pattern, if someone likes Sweet Trip they like Duster. My last artist is Rei Harakami, I feel like you guys would like it.

V: Was this supposed to be like this?

C: Are you guys inspired by any books or films?

V: When I write lyrics for songs I find that they’re always kind of sad, they’re not happy lyrics, they’re always about being depressed or isolated, the books that I read always have to do with loneliness. Yeah, I would guess so since the books I read are about loneliness, sad stories. 

R: A lot of the things that I read are stories to escape. Things like fantasy books, adventures. Some russian literature that’s pretty out there, things that are based in real life but are pretty absurd. I could see the connection in some of the lyrics I write.

C: A lot of people are super excited for Sweet Trip’s new album, what makes this one different than the ones you’ve already put out?

R: I don’t know.

V: The process. Us recording it was what made it different from the other ones. This record is a lot more intimate with how it was recorded. The previous records are a little more aloof or detached, this one is a little more personal. You can tell with the songs, they’re a little more emotional.

C: If you were to describe it in three words, what would it be?

R: Mature…

V: Sweet Trip, Mature, Childlike. As a band we were insecure, with the new album we’re matured now that we have an audience. The music isn’t being aloof or cynical but we still have childlike qualities. The songs are still really playful.

R: Mature, playful, soft?

C: We’re really excited to hear it. What was your upbringing with music as a child, can you recall a moment where you knew you wanted to do music in the future?

R: I used to have dance parties with my sister when we were seven, as we grew older I got interested in guitar, rock music/heavy metal. I always liked doing that, I would use a tennis racket as a guitar. Then when I was a teen I decided I should learn it. The more I got better at playing chords and playing notes, the more inspired I was to start writing stuff. It was really amazing and interesting to me to be able to teach myself to do that.

V: My parents would inspire me with bossa nova music, they also really loved 60’s. Bands like the Beatles, very melodic, very poppy music. The first time I realized I could make my own music was when they asked me to sing at a funeral. I was like 8 years old, I don’t think they ever heard me sing before but people said they liked my voice. So ever since then they would do karaoke at parties. I thought that was the extent of it, just karaoke. At age 14 my dad’s friend was playing classical guitar, I was enthralled by the whole thing. I was like “woah this is so awesome” so I asked him if he could teach me how to play guitar and he taught me how to play “Dust in the Wind”. So then after that he gave me his guitar and that’s how I got started playing guitar. In High School one of my skater friends was trying to offload gear so I bought his cheap electric guitar, that’s when I started playing with that. Then I’d go to Guitar Center and play with all the effects pedals. At that time I was playing with a band but we didn’t share the same musical tastes. My high school friend told me about Roby and Viet then one day I said, “Ooh, can I go to their practice? I just want to jam with them.” So then I did that and we hit it off so that is how it happened

R: I do want to point something out that like how cool Valerie is because she has skater friends, where like me in high school, all my friends, which were like 2, were all from AV club.

V: No, I went to highschool in Hayward, California. There were a lot of kids there in our school that were into surfboarding, skateboarding. We were just the people who would hang out by the parking lot and that’s where we all met. Not that I was choosing to make friends only with skaters. I was friends with everyone, I was a nerd too!

C: Was there a specific band that inspired the kind of music you make now?

R: Slowdive is one.

V: Slowdive was always one of our favorites. We love Slowdive. Who else…

R: Aphex Twin.

V: Yeah. Electronic music. There’s just so many but those are the two I know people would know. 

C: What’s your process of making music? Is there a blueprint or do you just make it as you go?

R: Make it as we go.

C: I feel like that’s when the best stuff is made, when you don’t think about it too much.

R: Yeah, exactly. That’s the process overall. I’d say 75% of the process is jam with an instrument, whistling something, or going out for a walk and beatbox a little. And I’m not joking, it’s really random. It also doesn’t start with one particular instrument, it could be anything. So like the bass guitar could be the initial state for a song, or again, like a beatbox kinda beat could also do that. 

V: Sometimes a noise or sound, you put that and then layer it. All songs start out their own way.

R: And also I’m not ashamed to say this, trying to copy some artist or some song as a starting point is also a cool thing to do. But it’s not a planned thing. It’s just randomly I hear a song like “Hmm that’s interesting” go to the computer and mess around. Sometimes something comes out of it, sometimes it doesn’t. 

V: I mean I always try to copy that whole My Bloody Valentine sound when I bought my effects pedals for the first time. Or when this band “Spiritualized” was using that tremolo effect, so I’m like “that’s what’s making that sound” so I bought an effect pedal similar so I could copy it. 

C: That’s exactly what I did when I got my first guitar pedal. Copied My Bloody Valentine. “Ohh that’s how they do it!”

V: Yeah you go to their shows and after the show you go up to the front of the stage, see what kind of equipment they have. 

C: Literally, that’s what I did when I saw Duster. I was like “What is that?”

R: The funny thing is I didn’t start copying My Bloody Valentine until a little later. A few years after Loveless came out. Because for a little less than a year I thought my Loveless cassette was warped. Because they play their guitar with that tremolo thing and it goes out of tune. I thought my cassette stayed in the sun for too long. It took me a while to get into it, until I realized. I heard a CD version of it and I was like “wait a minute this sounds just like the tape”  

C: “Ohh it’s supposed to sound like that.”

R: Exactly.

C: That’s super cool how you start inspiration for a song by beat boxing, I’ve never heard someone do that.

R: Haha, I’m not good at it, I’d never call myself a beatboxer. But it’s actually really fun. If you beatbox a beat and sort of think of a melody in your head while you’re beatboxing. 

C: I think I actually got all of the questions I was planning out of the way, is there anything you want to

V: We do want to have your radio show schedule so we can listen to it.

C: Every other sunday from 11 am to 3.

V: We’ll listen in!

 

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