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Very Fresh Talks DIY Improvement, Musical Evolution, and Baseball | Feature Interview

by Josh Ginsberg (@world0fdarkness)

The melody that opens Very Fresh’s 2016 EP Hey, It’s Me! ambles like an aging dog among the ottomans and coffee tables and stacks of old newspapers. Its final note is less of a resolution than an invitation to begin again. Throughout Very Fresh’s EP, vocalist/bassist/guitarist Cindy Lou Gooden depicts discomfort and unease in corporeal and existential terms. On songs built atop a bass that sounds ribbed like corduroy and nimble guitar playing that evokes the Pixies’ Joey Santiago (and D. Boon at least once, on “California Low”), Very Fresh plays with a set of 90’s rock tropes that has less to do with the canonized class of Matador Records Indie than a 1993 episode of 120 Minutes. 

When Very Fresh step on their distortion pedals, their songs make good on the promise of their allusions to In Utero and Nevermind. And yet, it’s Gooden’s hushed description of an uneasy evening at home at the beginning of “Schedule IV” that feels most piercing to me.

I emailed Cindy a couple of questions about Brooklyn DIY, her own musical history, music she likes and the Cleveland Indians. Listen to Hey, It’s Me!, out on New Professor Music and Inflated Records, right now.

JG: What's the story behind the evolution of Very Fresh? I remember first hearing you as a solo artist and seeing your name on a bunch of bills at Big Snow. Later, I remember hearing that you were a member of Babement and then I heard Very Fresh right around the time I heard that you were playing in Leapling. I guess I'm asking you to paraphrase your rock CV for me.

CLG: Oh man. I guess the long and short of it is that I’ve always had my hands in mercenary bass work. I met Julian [Fader] and Sadie [Dupuis] when we were all in college, and the scenes I’ve rolled in have always included them in some capacity. VF was first conceived in 2009, and I’ve been really committed to it for just under a year and a half now.

JG: RE: Babement... if Very Fresh were forced to release a Pavement cover as a b-side, which song would you do? Exactly how begrudgingly would you set about recording the cover?

CLG: Well it is kind of silly that Babement has become a byline in so many Speedy Ortiz articles and literally every piece of press I get - how literally one show could have such a huge impact on our respective careers is the most absurd blessing and curse - but I still love Pavement and their songs. I think I’d do "Stop Breathin," and I think I’d be pretty excited about it. Such a great guitar part.

JG: It feels a little like Hey, It's Me! is being positioned as a debut, even though your bandcamp sports recordings that date back a number of years. Is there something that distinguishes Hey, It's Me! from the rest of your recorded output?

CLG: Instrumentation, aesthetic, volume, production quality. This was our first time working outside of our immediate scene, in an opposite-of-DIY studio setting. Jeff Berner, who recorded and mixed the record, absolutely killed it.

JG: How did you settle on the title of the EP?

CLG: I have primary source material for this! See this Twitter exchange from January: 

It ended up actually being a great fit because the EP is comprised of introspective songs about personal stuff, haha.

JG: You've been vocal about your support for The Tribe in this baseball post-season. Can you talk a bit about your relationship with the city of Cleveland today?

CLG: Oh man, what a heartbreaking World Series this was. I’m a lifelong Cleveland sports fan, and going to Tribe games was a huge part of my childhood. I watched them lose the Series in ‘95 and ‘97. I lived in Cleveland until I was 15, but I haven’t been back to visit in over a decade. A lot of my extended family have moved back south now, so I haven’t really had a reason to go back in a while. But I’ll be a Cleveland sports fan until the day I die.

JG: Are there any aspects of DIY music in New York that you believe are in need to change?

CLG: Haha, yes - I think that unless and until the NYC real estate bubble bursts and/or some arts-friendly urban policies are created, the DIY scene will continue to be in serious trouble. I’ve already seen it deteriorate dramatically in the decade that I’ve lived here. 

Aside from the existential crisis angle, I of course think that we absolutely must continue working toward being more inclusive and welcoming to women and non-binary folks, people of color, and people who are not from upper-middle class or wealthy backgrounds. But we need to do so without pigeonholing artists. 

For example: Yes, I am a woman fronting a rock band, but that does not mean that I want to mostly play all-women bills, which are kind of problematic in that they further ‘otherize’ us and make us categorically different from all-dude rock. Another example: music writers assume I’m influenced by bands like Sleater-Kinney because I’m a female voice on top of loud fuzzy guitars. But I don’t even like Sleater-Kinney. I’m actively not fond of them. I like Queens of the Stone Age, Pavement, Nirvana, Ween, etc. I make music in that spirit. Why does the timbre of my voice make these comparisons so much less likely among the people that write about my music?

That’s just my two cents - I’m sure there are plenty who disagree with me.

JG: Can you summarize 2016 in a sentence or two?

CLG: An absolute fucking nightmare of a year.

JG: What's your dream-vision for Very Fresh in 2017?

CLG: I say this all the time, but I want to allocate more time to the band. It’s hard to push it forward with so much time already eaten up. I’d like to tour as support for a bigger band (hello friends who fit this description!). And just take a few big leaps toward making this my life.