By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Sometimes, we all need a little hope.
This was the inspirational fuel that jumpstarted Speak, Memory’s mission when they put together ‘Adirondack,’ their latest EP released this past May, recorded at Breathing Rhythm Studio, also with mixing contributions by former member Bartees Strange (Memory Music) and additional assistance from Clerestory AV (Ester Drang’s ‘Goldenwest’ reissue).
While closer in sound to Midwest emo/math rock, the mostly instrumental Oklahoma-based act was heavily influenced by the likes of Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader. Through their time together, they’ve shared stages with PVRIS, Free Throw and The Appleseed Cast.
According to the trio – composed of guitarist/vocalist Timothy Miller, bassist Cody Fowler (Horse Thief) and drummer Jonathan Thomas – ‘Adirondack’ was their first project in almost seven years and focused exclusively “on varying elements of nature and how the volatility of it all often reflects our current economic and political climate.”
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to chat with Miller about ‘Adirondack’ and more.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Oklahoma to someone who has never been there before?
Timothy Miller – It’s somewhere between Oklahoma having a foot in their past, but with an eye towards the future. There is a lot of optimism and hope, but there is always a reminder of where you came from.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your EP ‘Adirondack’?
Timothy Miller – I feel every aspect of putting together ‘Adirondack’ was smooth. The recording process itself was very fun! Despite us only having three days to record, I would equate the vibe to camping out for the weekend – four friends – including Steve Boaz from Breathing Rhythm, who we recorded with – playing tunes, having deep conversations and eating fine pizza – shoutout also to Pizza Shuttle in Norman! It also gave us an opportunity to experiment with different sounds, bells, amps, etc.. For only having three days, the creative juices were strong! Having Bartees Strange – who was a member earlier on in our career – mixing it and Adam Chamberlain mastering it made the rest of the process seamless. Bartees “gets” this music, so it was easy for him to carefully craft the mix to how we wanted it to sound and killing it. It shows his love and dedication to the things he is most passionate about. Adam is someone I have nothing but positive things to say about working with him. I felt we became close throughout this process. We hope to work with him again in the future. He’s so good at what he does, it’s unbelievable! Everything else that happened exceeded our expectations. Chris from Clerestory AV helped with the art and other nifty things for ‘Adirondack.’ I honestly don’t know where we’d be without Chris. He’s been a tremendous help and couldn’t ask for a better person to help us get to where we want to be! A bit of a longwinded response, but yeah, it was a fun and fulfilling experience putting together this EP!
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Timothy Miller – I’m all over the place, which is to be expected. It’s an odd mixture of hip-hop – Jay Electronica’s ‘A Written Testimony’ and Freddie Gibbs’ ‘Alfredo,’ electronic – Bohkeh – and of course, the classics – The Appleseed Cast, American Football, Ghosts & Vodka. I heard a new band – new to me, anyway – called OR. It features Sam Zurick from G&V, Owls, etc.. Just real riffy. I love it!
Music Bugle – What are three of your all-time favorite albums?
Timothy Miller – This is the question I both love and dread! (Laughs) Roadside Monument’s ‘I Am the Day Of Current Taste,’ The Appleseed Cast’s ‘Low Level Owl,’ American Football’s ‘LP3,’ Ghosts & Vodka’s ‘Precious Blood’ and tie ‘The Book About My Idle Plot on a Vague Anxiety.’ I know that’s five, but I just couldn’t keep it to three. (Laughs)
Music Bugle – How did you decide the band name?
Timothy Miller – At the beginning – the first couple years as a band – we went under an unpronounceable German word that, in hindsight, was a death sentence from a marketing standpoint. I hung out with my friend Calvin some years back around that time and I had brought up that we were going to change our name. He then told me about the Nobokov autobiographical memoir entitled “Speak, Memory.” It’s a fascinating read that resonated with me. The older I get, I recount many points in my life that have shaped me to be the person I am today and as a band, the longer we’ve been around, the more the experiences we’ve endured have shaped us to be who we are today. Most importantly, it’s easily pronounceable! (Laughs)
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Timothy Miller – It’s made me more cautious about my surroundings more than before. It was a completely new feeling to be sincerely worried whether you or someone you love will survive the month and how much of the impetus of mitigating that risk was/still is put on us as individuals rather than via an organized, systemic response. I have the misfortune of living in a state in which our governor had refused to issue a statewide mask mandate, despite the evidence that’s out there of their effectiveness.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Timothy Miller – I’ve been going on these long walks and that usually helps clear my head.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Timothy Miller – “Be regular and orderly in your life so you may be violent & original in your work,” from George Flaubert.
Music Bugle – What has been your biggest challenge lately?
Timothy Miller – I think getting back to the groove of things after a year and a half of nothing.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Timothy Miller – It really depends. There’s so many nuances to it. On one hand, it helps because it gives you the ability to reach out to people that for a band of our size would have a hard time otherwise reaching. On the other hand, the algorithms have made it incredibly hard to reach a wider audience, let along reach those locally. If you want people to know about a show, you must put in some money and even then, there are still obstacles. I feel that not only hurts musicians, but it can become real draining after a while. I hope we go back to the days where social media have more positives that outweigh the negatives, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.