Jordan Blackmon, Chris Gardner and Aaron Graves are three really busy guys. Jobs, kids and bands — but not just any bands. Blackmon plays guitar with the group Toro Y Moi (fronted by musician Chaz Bundick). Gardner plays bass in Washed Out. And they have solo projects, too: Graves performs as Those Lavender Whales, Blackmon as Pussy Wizard, “And I have the honor of playing in the live renditions of both bands,” says Gardner. It’s a happy symbiosis that continues into yet another project: Columbia, S.C.-based recording label Fork & Spoon where “we try to shed what light we can on the music our friends make and that which we find around us here in S.C.,” as Gardner puts it.
The three friends are taking Those Lavender Whales and Pussy Wizard (the band name’s origins are completely innocent, though be careful how you Google it) on tour, and they’ll take the stage at Emerald Lounge on
Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 8:30 p.m. The Blots and Means Well also perform.
The Lavender Whales photo, above, by Diana Kingsbury
Mountain Xpress: Why did you decide to expand Fork & Spoon into a label, instead of keeping it a project among a group of friends? What release are you most proud of?
Chris Gardner: Before becoming a label, Fork & Spoon essentially existed as a collective of friends trying to help further one another in our respective music endeavors. It was a group of about 10-15 of us who would all play in each other’s bands, record one another’s music, share booking contacts we had made in nearby towns and even share equipment. At that time, we were all releasing our music on CD-Rs so we would also share crafty packaging ideas and then stamp or print a Fork & Spoon logo to show it was affiliated with our little group. As the community grew, we wanted to continue sharing the resources we were acquiring and find the best way to utilize the skills we were accumulating. Starting a label seamed like the best way to get the music we found around us out to a wider audience.
We are pretty proud of all of our releases, but to highlight a few: Our first release, the No Way Jose! 12-inch is special as all three who operate the label — Aaron, Jordan and I — played in that band. We just recently sold out of Coma Cinema’s Blue Suicide 12-inch, which was a big deal for us as we won’t be doing a re-pressing. And our most recent release, the Sides of Chaz 7-inch is pretty cool because it was a chance to put out some of Chaz Bundick’s music and he was a big part of the collective beginnings of the label.
What is the music scene in Columbia like? Do you think there’s a sound specific to that city, or the surrounding area? Columbia’s music scene is very dear to me and I think very highly of it, but it is not without its complications. Columbia is a smaller city and so it frequently gets passed over in tour routings. This is largely in part to the absence of any mid sized venues within the city. This has a dual effect on the scene as a whole: While it can shelter the listening experiences of Columbia’s show goers from the national scene, it allows a space for the locals to develop the mindset of “if you won’t entertain us, then we will entertain ourselves.” This makes for a community of eager ears and, as a result, developing local acts are often met with open arms.
Columbia is also a college town and so its population is constantly cycling in and out. While this fact doesn’t necessarily provide the most stable environment for a music scene, it does continuously bring in new faces with new ideas and new things to contribute. This aspect of its contributors constantly being in flux leads me to say that there isn’t a specific sound to the city as those producing the sounds are constantly changing. I find this to be a positive as the scene is constantly changing and reinventing itself every few years.
Pussy Wizard photo courtesy of the band
You and Jordan perform with Washed Out and Toro y Moi, respectively. Do those groups inform your solo work, or do you find that you use your solo projects to go in really different directions? I don’t think that the groups Jordan and I perform with really affect the other projects we are involved in. The voice, direction and aesthetic used in Those Lavender Whales and Jordan’s solo music (regardless of the moniker) were already developed prior to our involvement in Washed Out or Toro y Moi, so these projects are neither inspired from nor a reaction to those other bands.
It sounds like finding time for Those Lavender Whales and Pussy Wizard to play live shows is a rare treat. What’s it like for the three of you guys to get to be on tour together, as opposed to being focused on the record label? Juggling the label with the tour schedules of those other bands definitely makes finding time for Whales and P-Wizz complicated, but it is something that we really enjoy so it’s worth the extra effort. The real treat for this outing is that both bands will be performing together and we will all get to travel as a group and hang out. Jordan currently lives in California, so even when he is not on the road with Toro, we don’t get to see him as often as we would like. The three of us grew up playing in bands together and so it’s always special whenever we have the opportunity to all get together like this.
Did you pick Asheville or Emerald Lounge specifically, or did it just work out in the context of the tour? And what can we expect from the Feb. 25 show? Adam McMillan, who is the marketing director at Emerald Lounge, actually reached out to Those Lavender Whales about coming there about a month or so before we started planing this tour. He is originally from Columbia and so was familiar with the band from when he lived here. Naturally, because of this it made sense to include Asheville in the routing.
As far as what can be expected on the night of the show? You can expect a group of best friends to be having the times of their lives getting to hang out with one another and play music together.