Atlanta-based indie band i said i said is known for catchy, poppy hooks mingled with strong vocals and thoughtful lyrics.
Melissa Bukovinac (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboard) and Eric Matthews (vocals, bass) recorded their debut album Slender Threads before Chad Berghman (lead guitar), and Earl Judd (drums) joined the band, and are now recording their second album (their first with the band’s complete lineup), due out at the end of 2010. I sat down with Bukovinac to discuss the band’s journey from Michigan to Atlanta, their influences and goals, and how i said i said’s sound is evolving.
How did the current lineup come together? Tell me about the history of the band. What does each member contribute to the sound?
Bukovinac: In a nutshell, Eric and I dated for a summer in high school, I met Earl when I was at a show with Eric at Lenny's, and I met Chad through my roommate. I like to think that I handpicked Earl. He hates using the same beat twice and is constantly pushing the creative envelope, which pushes me to be more creative. We sometimes joke that Eric doesn't even need to come to practice. He can play just about anything if you give him five minutes, although he'll likely play a poppier version of it. Chad has this really great blues feel to his music. He humors me sometimes, and plays the repetitive riffs I tell him I want, but he really shines when he can play a solo and get lost in the music.
What prompted your move from Michigan to Atlanta? Why Atlanta?
Bukovinac: I was looking for a change, and my sister lived in Atlanta at the time. I jokingly asked Eric if he wanted to go with me. A few months later, he called me up and asked me if the invitation was still open. After that, I knew I had to go. We both moved down without jobs. Those are some of my best memories, sitting around our apartment writing the most ridiculous songs. Eric has been one of the most influential and supportive people in my life.
What was the Atlanta scene like? How did you establish yourself in a new city?
Bukovinac: I started out doing a little solo stuff, but wasn't quite sure where to go, or where I fit in. My view of the Atlanta scene was very limited, and I felt like everybody sounded like John Mayer. I became preoccupied with my job, and that took a lot of my music focus away. For fun I started a little four-piece with Eric, my sister, and her boyfriend, but it wasn't until three years after the move that i said i said formed. That is what inspired me to start checking out venues, going out more, and surrounding myself with other musicians. It really brought that creative fire back into my life. Now I see Atlanta as being an incredibly rich and diverse music scene.
Tell us about your first album. What was the recording process like? How do you feel about the final product? How would you describe it?
Bukovinac: Slender Threads was a really important project for me because it was the beginning stages of i said i said. It began as a collaboration between myself and Camilo Aguirre in his basement just for fun, and I had Eric lay down some bass tracks. Looking back, my songs seem so amateur because they were all written in college, high school, and even middle school. I can't separate myself from the past. Even though I don't feel like it speaks to who I am now, it still represents a huge part my life.
What bands would you compare yourself to?
Bukovinac: Slender Threads sounds more like The Pretenders or Abra Moore. The new album sounds more like Yeah Yeah Yeahs or the Pixies.
What are your top five most-listened-to bands of the moment? (And what’s a current guilty pleasure?)
Bukovinac: A friend just introduced me to Bon Iver (amazing!) I've also been listening to The Kinks, The Roots (How I Got Over), Jimi Hendrix, and my guilty pleasure is a newfound love for NPR.
I know you’re working on your second album. What does it sound like? How is it different than the last?
Bukovinac: Certainly the instrumentation is completely different. First of all, I have a live drummer, and an extra guitar player. It is a lot less "singer-songwriter" and a lot more "indie rock." My songwriting skills have evolved as well, lyrically and structurally. It's also more of a collaboration of ideas than just me bringing a finished song to practice.
How is it the same?
Bukovinac: I'm still writing songs about finding identity and purpose in life. I'm not sure that ever goes away…and I'm still recording a few songs that were written years ago! It definitely is a fresh spin on some old ideas, but it's still me.
What is the future of ISIS? Where would you like to see the band go?
Bukovinac: We've talked about touring the Midwest again, maybe the East Coast, or even some cities in Florida, but right now we're focused on finishing the album. We all have dreams of touring Europe and selling out stadiums to hundreds of thousands of adoring fans…okay, that's just me. But seriously, as a collective band, we're working really hard to build a solid and sustainable following; enough so that we can continue to create enthusiastically. Nothing has inspired me, moved me, and changed me more than my favorite music. I'm just trying to pay it forward.