Andrew Carter, frontman of Richmond's Minor Poet, chats with us about the process of recording and inspirations behind his new album, And How!, out now via Egghunt Records. Check out our conversation below.
I’ve been listening to And How! back-to-back, how long have you been planning/ writing the album before you recorded it?
The album came together over the course of a few months during early summer 2016. A lot of the songs came from song ideas and melody scraps that I had amassed over years of writing songs, mostly things that didn’t fit with the bands I was in. This project became an awesome outlet for me to explore these ideas and give them the creative space to become their own songs.
What was your recording process like? Did you try out any new techniques, or instruments? A different approach altogether?
The recording process took place in the basement of the house I was living in. I had a little makeshift studio down there, with guitars, bass, drums, and a ton of different keyboards and organs. If the album has a certain uniqueness to it, it’s because I took a very freeform approach. I only had some junk mics and recording equipment, so each track was an experiment in wrenching interesting sounds out of what I had, rather than fall back on more traditional studio techniques. I played around a lot with layering, especially on the guitars and vocals, and manipulated toy Casios and old organs to fill out the sonic space.
What was the first instrument you picked up?
When I was about thirteen, I picked up the guitar and spent some time learning that, until I moved on to piano, and eventually drums. I’ve never really had much of an intuitive knack for playing instruments, but then again, I never dove into trying to master any one instrument like a lot of my musician friends did. Instead, I was always focused on trying to write songs, which was my true passion; so each instrument I learned was just another vessel I could use to bring my songs to life.
Photo by Joey Wharton.
Where did you grow up? Has your background influenced your music?
I was born in Upstate New York, but moved to Richmond, Virginia around the age of ten and have been here ever since. Richmond is an incredible place to live, and my love of the city has bled into my music for sure. You can hear references to it all over And How!.
What’s your writing process? Have you dreamt songs, or do they come to you in parts? Do you write the lyrics first, or the melody?
I don’t really have a given method of writing. Each song on the record has it’s own different story behind its conception. However, I do try to consistently work on song ideas as much as possible. Besides being my creative outlet, daily songwriting keeps me sharp. At the same time you can’t force inspiration, and many of the ideas I have get put on the shelf until that burst of creativity comes around and I can weave these musical fragments around something I really want to say. All that aside, one song on the record, “Unfamiliar Hymn,” is a very literal song about a dream I actually had. It was such a vivid and important dream I just couldn’t not write a song about it.
Richmond has a lively music scene, do you feel inspired by your community? Are you ready to get out? If you do, will you go back?
The music scene in Richmond has influenced me in countless ways. When I was a younger teenage songwriter, I saw local acts around town that challenged everything I thought I knew, and since then I’ve always strove to keep in touch with what our community had to offer and really support it. There’s nothing else like it. Life is unpredictable and I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay in Richmond forever, but if I leave, it won’t be because of anything against Richmond. My family and friends live here, so no matter where I go, I know I’ll always end up coming back home.
Growing up, what were your favorite bands to listen to?
I didn’t really start to become aware of the music that changed my life until mid-way through my teens, and then everything came really fast over a few years and I became a voracious listener that soaked up all the classics like the Beach Boys and Beatles, as well as older indie legends like Yo La Tengo and the Magnetic Fields, as well as contemporary greats like Fleet Foxes and Wilco, and so on and so forth. It’s hard to really put my finger down on one artist over another, because all it took was one great song or album and I’d be floored and my head would be spinning.
Pet Sounds or Wild Honey?
Good question. I think Pet Sounds stands on its own as probably top five greatest accomplishments in music history, and there’s not really anything more I can say that hasn’t already been said. It has been an incredible inspiration for me, it was the first great record I heard where the music could convey and carry so much of the emotion you heard in Brian Wilson’s voice and make you feel things you’d never felt before. That being said, I think their 70s catalogue is sorely under appreciated, especially records like Surf’s Up, and in the last few years I’ve had fun diving in and finding those gems.
What do you hope to accomplish with And How!?
And How! was made with no other goals then to be a creative expression, and I never thought I’d end up doing anything with it at all. So in that sense, the fact that it has come this far has been a really lucky and humbling experience. From here on out, I think the plan is just to get out on the road and try to connect these songs with more people.
What do you have coming up? Anything you’re looking forward to?
The record has just come out, which is awesome and exciting, but we’ve still got a lot going forward. Music videos, interviews, radio stuff, you name it, but most of all, shows! I love being on the road and meeting new people all over the country, so if we can tour as much as possible over the next year, you won’t hear any complaints from me.
Will you be coming through Nashville?
Yes! We have show on September 21st at the East Room with Miki Fiki and Forest Fire Gospel Choir. Hopefully it will be the first of many times coming to Nashville.