Quilt, a band that maintains an independent spirit and affinity for lyrical and instrumental experimentation, is still quite new to the scene despite trudging through the indie waters for about eight years now. Landing somewhere between lush, guitar-driven folk and “meandering psychedelia,” the foursome demonstrated at The Echo Tuesday night that they are experts at orchestrating a truly captivating live show.

Quilt’s performance exuded a celestial, other-worldly vibe, thanks in part to the ominous lighting and grainy nature projections playing on the screen behind them. But the detached, stoner vibe was enhanced by the guy/girl harmonies of Anna Fox Rochinski and Shane Butler, who have perfected the fluidity of synchronized vocals.

The tracks, which are inherently nuanced and layered, haven’t been properly cultivated through the production of their albums, which is not to place blame on the production aspect — it’s just the inevitable result when a cooly arranged and instrumentally dense record is jammed into an mp3.

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Concert photos by Jeff Cordes

What I’m trying to say in so many word is you’ve got to see Quilt live. The band brings their album to life through an incredibly orchestrated and dynamic live set that will compel fans to see the group’s most recent album, Plaza, in a new light.

Halfway through Quilt’s set, when Shane took the reigns on the track “Padova,” a song he wrote as a sort of impromptu engagement of the feelings he was grappling with after his mother’s death, I felt their set being reinvigorated, as if the audience was invited back into the band’s dominion. From the gentle guitar licks to Butler’s pensive, spacey vocals, the whole moment was so beautiful and spellbinding.

Every song that followed carried the same ethereal charm, and incorporating the more psychedelic tracks from their first self-titled album and 2014’s Held in Splendor helped add some dynamic range to the set. “Tie Up the Tides” in particular has an effortlessly catchy sort of up and down harmony that showcases Rochinski’s classical vocals.

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I was lucky enough to sit down with Anna and Shane prior to the show to gain some deeper insight into the inception of Quilt as a band, how they’ve come to harness their sound, and what inspired the tracks off their current album. Read on to get inside the heads of these genuinely lovely, incredibly innovative artists.

Did growing up in musical environments, with family members who were also actively involved with music, contribute to the current development of the band?

Anna: A little bit. It’s always been in my biology and my brain, and how can you not when you grow up in a musical family? My brother is a drummer, and my dad’s grandfather was a successful songwriter, too, so there’s sort of a cool generational thing that I enjoy.

In terms of our actual style, singing classical music as a kid really developed my ear and helped me realize certain sensibilities that I had. And I love jazz. We’re not a jazz band, but it was always in my house growing up.

Shane: Yeah, I grew up around a lot of music. My dad was a band manager in his younger, post-Navy days. He managed a band and drove them around for many years — they sounded a bit like The Byrds. Then both of my parents got involved in a lot of Eastern spirituality, and we were part of different communities that did a lot of chanting and played a lot of Eastern classical music.

So you guys came together at school? And were you like, “Oh you play music, and I play music, and we have similar sentiments”?

Shane: Actually, that’s kind of how it happened.

Anna: In some ways, yeah. It was like we had the same taste pretty much. We didn’t know each other very well when we started our band.

Shane: I didn’t know Anna’s playing that well or what she was into. Our original drummer, Taylor, invited Anna to come play with us one day, and we all had this jam session in my old bedroom. When I heard Anna play guitar, I just knew she had similar taste in music as me because of certain licks she was playing, and I was just like, “Oh, she shreds. She’s cool!” And then we all made each other mix CDs.

Anna: It was like a completely expectationless project. And I think it took us several years to define our songwriting to the point where it kind of sounded more like a real band.

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Photo by Daniel Dorsa

As a classical singer, were you like “I wanna be in a band. I wanna shred and kick ass”?

Anna: No, it was the opposite. I sang classical until the 8th grade, and then in high school, I got way more into poetry and rock n’ roll and went to arts school and all that. Over time, I’ve gotten to be more of a formalist.

Shane: Yeah, everything has been a surprise in one way or another. A pleasant surprise. It’s cool that as we’ve gotten new opportunities, we accept those opportunities and see how we can grow as artists by finding new audiences and studios.

Tell me about the composition of the band. What instruments do you incorporate?

Anna: It’s pretty basic: two guitars, bass, drums, and a keyboard player. On the album we have a string quartet, a flute player on two songs, and a harp player on two songs.

Shane: It’s really fun to make compositions where arrangements can be written for them that are beyond your own capability. We can come up with the concepts and ideas, but don’t have the skillset to play those instruments.

Tell me about your new album, Plaza. I know some songs were written a few years ago and revisited, while others are brand new. Was there something you were trying to explore thematically with the album?

Anna: There wasn’t a unifying theme we thought of ahead of time. It’s not a concept album; the songs all have a different story behind them in terms of how they all came about. Every single song has a different origin.

Untitled. 1992. Ink, synthetic polymer paint, and colored pencil on paper, 20 1/4 x 25 7/8" (51.4 x 65.7 cm). The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection Gift.

So what was the process? Did you write the lyrics first or lay down the instrumentals?

Anna: It was so different for every song. Some of them were already done and [were revisited] and re-recorded as Quilt. And some of them we thought were done, and Jarvis [Taveniere], the producer, was like, “No, you need to write a bomb-ass chorus for this one.” And then some of them were little bits of fragments lying in a pile, and we had to put them together somehow, and that includes lyrics.

Shane: Some of that was thinking first, and some of it was playing first. When you get together as musicians, sometimes things you never thought would come together as an idea end up coming together because somebody’s playing something and [it inspires you] to make it work. That’s the power of a group, and I’m glad we had some of that on this record.

For the songs that you revisited that were written a few years ago, were you like, “I have a totally new perspective on this and want to approach it a new way”?

Anna: If anything, I wanted to maintain the simplicity of one song in particular, “Your Island.” I wanted it to stay short and un-orchestrated.

“Passersby” was the opposite. We were like, “We should really beef this up. There are some cool sounds here.” It’s a very atmospheric song, and there’s dropped tuning, and Simon Hanes, the arranger, arranged these interesting strings that aren’t quite melodic, but more textural. There’s also harp and flute, and it’s essentially the same song, but there was a key change in it that I wasn’t sure I wanted to use initially. It wasn’t until we finished recording that I was like, “Okay, I’m glad we did that ’cause it’s really good.”

Shane: “Elliot Street” is the only one that I had written two years before Plaza was recorded. I had recorded a full version of it before we went into the studio, and as soon as I heard the finished product, I was like, “I wanna play this with the band so badly ’cause I know all of their musicianship is going to bring the song to a whole new level.”

When we went into the studio, Anna wrote this amazing guitar line, and John helped me write a chorus that’s really beautiful. I was really happy with what we came up with. It was fun to take the essence of the song and expand upon it with the band. It really taught me the power of a demo, and how far you can bring it when you allow a group of people to expand upon it.

Compared to your first album, how has Plaza differed production-wise?

Anna: A lot. We had a lot of time for the first album, but it was over a course of six months, with no budget to speak of, with our friend in his kitchen on a digital 8-track machine. He was learning just as much about the machine as we were about recording. It was pretty ramshackle, but we thought it was super professional because we’d never done anything that professional before. We’d only recorded in basements with squeaky kick pedals.

Shane: Essentially, it was a well-recorded home record.

Anna: And it sounds good. It’s very warm.

Shane: Held in Splendor (2014) was really the first studio record we did.

Anna: But our relationship with Jarvis through Held in Splendor made it a little easier to know what to expect [on Plaza]. We were able to push things a little more, or say “No” or “Yes” in an easier way.

Shane: A lot of people write about the new record, and they’re like, “It’s not as experimental as the previous record,” but we recorded with the same producer in the same studio, and I feel like it gave us more room to dance and experiment more with certain things.

I don’t think it’s less experimental. I just think the mood sounds a little different.

Anna: I never thought of us as sounding experimental at all, but I think Plaza is much more concise rather than meandering psychedelia, which is what Held in Splendor is.

I saw you guys at Pickathon a few years ago and was wondering if the space you play in influences the live show.

Anna: Yeah, we played this weird barn in the morning, and the fact that it was the morning influenced us more than the stage did. We thought it was cool that we were playing that early in the day, and we thought, “What if this was the norm, to play at 11:30 in the morning?”

That mood was really different, rolling out of bed and playing a show. I associate that show with getting dust all over my shoes and camping, and it kind of loosens you up a little bit. I feel the same way about the songs no matter what, but it’s really about the audience for me.

I wonder what it’s like from the perspective of a band who was DIY from the beginning and then later had a producer come on board. What was the progression like?

Shane: We played a lot of shows to nobody.

Anna: There are some bands that before their first record even comes out are set up with a manager and a PR team and already have their feet on the ground, so the record comes out and it’s going to be successful. With us, it was like six or seven years of figuring out what the fuck is going on and how to be a band. You experiment with your lifestyle, and then little by little it grows.

When we first signed with Mexican Summer, I didn’t’ know anything about that shit, and that was four years ago. Now we’ve just put out our third record with them and feel a little more like we know what we’re doing, but it’s been about 8 years of elbow grease. We don’t have a manager. We just kind of figure it out.

Shane: I find that each step of the process has been so fun, too. Like DIY, those shows were the best.

Anna: Some of them were so bad, but I look back on them with such fondness. I was so young and I was like, “Oh my god, I’m drinking a 40 and playing my guitar with a xylophone stick.”

Shane: The energy in those spaces was so good. We played in Albuquerque on this tour, and it was the first house show we’ve played in a long time. Those kids were so happy to have a band in the house, and they were so wild. It was so fun.

Anna: I was little nervous for that show because I was like, “We haven’t done this in so long,” and it ended up being fucking fun. The crowd was just having such a good time.

Are you guys happy with where you’re at right now ’cause you’re still able to maintain all this creative flexibility?

Anna: Yeah, I feel fine. It’s not like we’re selling out Madison Square Garden, but I like living in upstate New York and being able to do my thing at home and tour once in a while.

So, the burning question: what’s next?!

Anna: I’m not sure… We’re at the end of our contract with Mexican Summer, so we’re approaching a horizon line. Three feels like a good number of albums to make [with a label] because each one had its own story and life, and we’re just now starting to promote Plaza. It’s like we just had this baby and we’re getting to know it, and that’s my cheesy metaphor for the day.

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