The Seattle band redefines psych rock
It’s time to get lost. Or at the very least get your time travel on. Enter Rose Windows, Seattle’s neo-folk outfit whose debut album resolutely transports listeners. It’s easy listening — experimentation that opens your ears instead of crowding them. “The Sun Dogs” LP blends international instrumentation and sounds from decades past to carry you through a floaty, at times thick, swirling sonic haze. On Sunday, May 11, they bring that musical time machine to Soda Bar.
Rose Windows’ sound is psychedelic, but not in the sense that you’d expect — heavy synth and screeching beats are foregone in exchange for bell-clear, identifiable arrangements and desert-mystic, chantlike lyrics, a culling song for modernity that carries both timelessness and immediacy. David Davila’s whirlwind organs meet the ethereal coos of singer Rabia Shaheen Qazi, backed by vocalists Richie Rekow (bass) and Nils Petersen (rhythm guitar), while Veronica Dye conjures serpents with her flute work. At the center is lead guitarist Chris Cheveyo, the primary composer who, with drummer Pat Schowe, founded the rock group in 2010.
Ahead of their San Diego show, Schowe talked to us about a cat named Hamburger, the “psychedelic” saturation, Bob Marley vs. N.W.A, San Antonio vs. Seattle, and teased a teaser of the new Rose Windows album.
Hannah Lott-Schwartz: Before this, weren’t you in a heavy metal band with Chris?
Pat Schowe: Yeah, yeah, well, it was a heavy band [called Solid Gold Eagle]. It was me, Chris, and we started playing in San Antonio. It was kind of just a party rock, heavy band — we’d always play house shows. Way too big amps, way too loud [laughs]. But it was just kind of us trying to figure out how to play, so we’d overcompensate by playing really large loud amps, and my drums were way too big, and I’d hit them way too hard. And then, you know, as time went on, we kind of just stopped doing that. Our musical focus started switching. You could tell when we moved to Seattle, we kind of started making a slow transition. Actually the last recording of that band — which we never released — you can kind of hear the change into the Rose Windows sound. So it’s cool. At the time, we did enjoy playing that stuff, but like I said, it was kind of trying to compensate for the fact that we didn’t really know what the hell we were doing [laughs].
HLS: So you’re from San Antonio, Texas, originally?
PS: Yeah, yeah. Well, I was born in Midland, Texas, but I lived in San Antonio most of my life. Me and Chris became really good friends and lived together for awhile. Yeah, one day I just decided, you know what? I don’t really see much of a growth here if I’m going to be playing music. You don’t really hear a lot of great bands coming out of San Antonio — I mean a few, but it’s not …
HLS: It’s not a hotbed like Seattle is.
PS: Exactly. It’s not a melting pot like it is here, or even in California. I just kind of up and decided to leave, and Chris was like, if you’re going, I’m going. Everything just kind of fell together. It was strange, how everything worked out. Met the right people, and it was the right time.
HLS: So how long ago was that move?
PS: It’s weird, because the day that I moved here is the same day, four years to the day, that we released our record. So June 25 is when we released the record of this past year, and it was four years before that. It was the day that Michael Jackson passed away, I remember that.
HLS: You have so many markers.
PS: I know! Right? It was really strange. I remember we had a layover, and I saw it on the TV, and I was like, “Oh, my God!” Just totally blew my mind. It was just a weird thing. I was going into this place that I’d never… I’d never been to Seattle. I’d never even gone here at all, not even to visit. I’d just come here with $200 in my pocket, and I was transferring jobs, and I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was a very weird feeling, but it was very cool.
HLS: Do you still have another job, or are you full-time with Rose Windows?
PS: No, no, no. I work. Right now I work at a holistic pet-food store [laughs]. So I sell pet food. It’s cool, I mean, it’s a day job. Every one of us has to get money somehow, because if we were all trying to live off of this, we wouldn’t be able to.
HLS: Do you have a pet?
PS: I have an Australian shepherd/border collie named Huckleberry, and a little black cat named Hamburger.
HLS: What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
PS: Mostly my dad’s music. I was influenced a lot by like Sabbath, Pink Floyd, the Police, Zeppelin. You know, my dad was a ’70s rock dude, so that’s kind of what I grew up on. And, of course, I went through a punk-rock phase, as everybody should. I guess I still go back. I listen to Joy Division and a lot of like older punk music. But, yeah, all in all, I’ve never discarded any kind of music when I was growing up. Because, you know, I grew up in Texas, so I was around a lot of country music. A lot of people, they’re like, “I’ll listen to everything but country music and rap.” You know what I mean? And I was never that kind of person. I’d always embrace all types of music.
HLS: Is there anything that you’ve been hooked on lately?
PS: You know, I’ve been listening to a lot of old metal [laughs]. Like, listening to a lot of weird Metallica and Megadeth and Slayer, and things like that. But I’ve also been listening to a lot of singer/songwriter stuff. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Marissa Nadler? She’s signed to Sacred Bones. I actually played drums on her last record. But I’ve been listening to a lot of her previous stuff. It’s really amazing, amazing stuff. She’s got this really cool, almost like — I don’t know if you’ve heard of Jesse Sykes, but she’s kind of got that feel. And very visceral, sort of just crazy lyrics, superbreathy vocals, but it’s very sparse and open. But I’ve also been listening to, you know, Talking Heads [laughs]. I’ll be listening to like Bob Marley one day and then the next day I’m listening to, I don’t know, N.W.A. or something [laughs].
HLS: For those who aren’t familiar with you guys, how you would describe the Rose Windows sound?
PS: You know, I could go without hearing the word “psychedelic” for the rest of my life. But — and I understand that’s like a buzz word — I would say we definitely have a psychedelic sound [laughs]. But all in all, I think we’re a rock & roll band with some pop elements to it. We always get comparisons to Jefferson Airplane and the Doors, and things like that, and that’s just ’cause we’re borrowing a lot of stuff from older music. So, yeah, I guess in a nutshell I’d just say that we’re a ’60s/’70s-style rock & roll band.
HLS: I think that works. I kind of agree with you on the psych thing. But what I thought was different with you guys, listening to the album, a lot of music that’s dubbed as psych, it sounds like it’s just a bunch of warped noises. It doesn’t sound real at all. And yours sounds real, if that makes sense.
PS: Thank you, thank you. I think what we’re going for — and even Randall [Dunn], our producer, was saying this — we wanted to create the psych sound without using all of the psych stuff. You know what I mean? Without having the wa-wa-wa and all the weird textural stuff. We wanted to make the music itself and the songwriting more psychedelic. And not really rely on pedals and things like that to make it sound that way.
HLS: “The Sun Dogs” is almost a year old now. Was there an underlying theme that you guys were working with?
PS: You know, Chris was the main songwriter, as far as lyrics and stuff like that. I think he was kind of writing about — the underlying theme is just really trying to find beauty or trying to find something beautiful in a really dirty, messed up world that’s just based around money and success, and everything that goes along with that. I mean, if you listen to the last song on the record, we try to leave it with a little bit of hope. Not so doom and gloom. But that’s what I take from it. You’d probably have to talk to Chris to get the full nitty-gritty.
HLS: I like to have the take of people who aren’t dead in the center of the writing. So it’s cool to hear that perspective.
PS: Absolutely. And, I mean, music is all subjective, so you can take something completely different from that, and I think that’s what’s so beautiful about it.
HLS: What do you have coming up that you’re stoked on?
PS: Europe [laughs].
HLS: Whoa! Well, that was easy.
PS: Yeah, we’re touring in Europe in late July, and going through mid-August. Got a bunch of dates over there, playing Off Festival in Poland, playing Way out West in Sweden, and a bunch of other stuff just spread way out there. I don’t think any of us have been to Europe just in general, so it’s pretty amazing that we’re getting this opportunity to go over there. We’re all pretty blown away by it right now. So that’s the biggest thing that we’re looking forward to right now. Of course, we’re writing. We’re probably going to be going in to the studio shortly after that. And we’re going to be recording in Bogalusa, Louisiana. It’s really close to New Orleans. We just kind of decided to go there to get a different perspective, a different feel for this next record. But all the songs are sounding really, really great, and we’re really stoked to release them.
HLS: Any teaser you can give us?
PS: [Laughs] I wish I could. You know, we’re going to be releasing an EP. It’s going to be June 10. So right before we go on our tour, we’re going to be releasing a two-song 7-inch. So that can be a little teaser to what’s going to be next.
HLS: You know, it’s cliche to say, but you guys are going to be big in Europe [laughs]. I have a feeling.
PS: [Laughs] I hope so! I really hope so. It feels like a golden road, but I don’t want to look at it like that right now. I just want to go into it like I’m going to any West Coast jaunt or something like that and then just be surprised by it hopefully.