When I sat down this past Saturday at Adriana’s with bassist Lauren Andino and guitarist Willie May from Orgone Accumulator (which also features Andy Woodward and Josh Smith on drums and electronics, respectively) to talk about their final show as a band, they were sort of thrown off by my hand-held cassette recorder. I told them not to worry about it and just try to ignore it, but their eyes would nervously glance at it as they casually explained why they’re breaking up, moving away, and never playing as a band again.
It’s obviously not a dramatic blow-up causing the premature demise, since half the band showed up to talk amicably about it. Everyone is still friends- it’s just a matter of age and logistics and timing causing the split, but May is definitive: “Yeah, this is the last show. We’re not going to get together and play again as a band. This project is finished, and I’m not upset or sad because I know we’re all going to do music again later and eclipse Orgone Accumulator.”
When the band started two years ago, Andino and May said they both wanted to emulate the sound and impact of the early ’90’s shoegaze movement, particularly the lush soundscapes of Slowdive, since no band in Columbia has ever quite captured that sound. But things evolved by accident, as Andino explains: “We didn’t really set any goals. We just started playing for fun and it turned out to be good.” Their initial recordings in a metal practice space with Asa Collier engineering were haphazard and, Andino adds, “really raw sounding, so we kept it that way because it made everything sound a whole lot more brutal.” The resulting two songs focused on May’s jarring, complicated guitar patterns, which pushed the band away from any shoegaze leanings and into a much more experimental realm.
May says that realm has expanded with recent writing, and now he thinks the music more closely represents “an environment- a specific environment, a combination of all our influences”, or as Andino calls it “structured noise.” When I asked them what influences, specifically, had significant impact on their recent ideas, May begged off because, he says, “we don’t want to sound like any one band.” But he did admit that funk, world music, Jamaican music, specifically, Brian Eno’s ambient work, and experimentalists Gang Gang Dance were heavy on his mind as they worked through their new ideas.
Recently recording again with Collier (who the band attributes to “saving their lives” with his extraordinary engineering effort) but this time in a much more refined, “studio-like” setting, Orgone has 5 new songs, which will be combined with its early practice space session and two Sound Lab recordings to comprise a nine-track document of its brief existence. Homemade, letter-pressed artwork will accompany each disc, and the small pressing of 250 will all be ready by the final show this week with friends Alaska the Tiger opening.
May is heading off to college next month to study at Winthrop, while Andino is uprooting completely and moving to New York City with people she doesn’t know and with no real plan firmly in place: “I may go to school in a year or so.” So, the break-up isn’t a surprise ending or a dramatic turn of events. They all knew the band was transient from the start and just wanted to see what they could accomplish while it lasted. Up to this point it’s been a modest dent in Columbia’s music scene, but the band was certainly on track for great things to come. Its fearlessness live combined with such ambitious musical intentions has made Orgone Accumulator one of Columbia’s most promising bands. Even if they each have no regrets, it’s still a shame Columbia won’t ever know what might have been, but as May claims, at least his bandmates will “represent the dirty south for life.”