Blossom Hall: A Creative Process Q&A
Blossom Hall is a staple of the Cincinnati music scene that creates eclectic indie pop perfect for connecting with each other and freeing yourself. I sat down with Nancy Paraskevopoulos and Phil Cotter of Blossom Hall to talk about their creative process, the Cincinnati scene, and what’s on the horizon for the group.
Your website says you got together as a side project, an outlet for more psychedelic, weirder pop sounds. Has that dynamic has changed? Does it still feel like a side project or has it evolved?
Nancy: I can only speak for myself but I think it’s a main project now.
Phil: Definitely. As far as the direction, I feel like wanting to be weird and psychedelic is now true more than ever. A lot of our first songs were super poppy and now we’re in the writing process - trying to experiment with some different things.
Nancy: Yeah, and we’ve taken a lot of our original ideas and we’ve just been putting them through the editing grinder - chopping them up and putting them back together in different ways.
So you’ve released Parasols early this year and, as you referenced, you’re working on something coming up for next year. What can you tell me about the project?
P: We have nine songs recorded. We did that with Isaac Karns from Pomegranates and recorded at Marble Gardens. We’ll probably release an EP before the end of the year.
So with nine songs, it sounds like you’re almost done with it. Is there any reason you guys are holding off on releasing it?
N: We want it to be perfect.
P: We just want it to be as good as possible. And we just got a new drummer, Zach [Larabee], who’s really good, but we wanna write with him and see how this gels.
N: And I think it’s possible that something that we come up with in the next couple of months would potentially make it onto the album. Phil does a lot of recording at his house too, so we’ll see.
So Zach is fairly new to the band. Was he with you during the recording?
P: Pretty much right after that actually. He started with us in January, we recorded in December.
Oh really. So you guys were pretty busy last year it sounds like?
P: For sure.
N: [Laughs] I’m sorry!
P: Are you ok?
N: [Still laughing] Yeah I’m just thinking about how busy I was in December.
So it sounds like you guys are kind of taking a creative break-not necessarily from writing, but getting things together- after how hectic last year was.
P: Exactly, yeah. We’ve been doing a lot of shows and the recording was a lot of work and that’s all great but the most fun part is writing. So we kinda wanted to reconnect with that.
You have an upcoming show with Mary Ocher. Her music is very politically charged and very "for the people." Where do you think Blossom Hall fits with this? Do you think Blossom Hall has more of a political message or is it more of a stress relieving, fun thing?
N: Like a lot of our songs have to do with - like our song, “Wake Up to the Darkness” is all about working in an office and, sort of, alienation that Marx talked about, frankly, that I feel is inevitable under capitalism. So we have some of those themes but we, don’t really say it...
P: It’s a little more subtle.
So then what do you want people to take away from a Blossom Hall show? When someone comes to a show, how do you want them to feel when they leave?
P: I want them to feel inspired, to create their own thing and just be happy to hear people harmonizing and singing together, cause that’s not necessarily a common thing right now
When I was getting ready for this interview and listening to all your songs, I did really love the way you guys sing together. It’s so light-hearted and fun.
P: We’re thinking of adding a third singer sometime.
N: What I want people to walk away with is catharsis. I think you’re right in using the word light-hearted. I think we have a lot of, like, really heavy material and we try to approach in a light-hearted way. So I think being able to walk away feeling like the listener is not the only one who’s dealing with these issues - for people to feel connected and then relieved - is what I would like.
Are you guys both originally from Cincinnati?
P: I am, yeah
N: I am. [Looks at Phil] Yes. [Laughs]
P: Well you’ve spent some time outside of Cincinnati, that’s why I said that.
N: I’m from Clifton originally. My parents met working at Skyline. So I feel very connected to the city. But yeah, I lived in Chicago for a little while and Portland.
How does the Cincy music scene stacks up to those other cities?
N: My time outside of the city was very hard - spiritually, emotionally, all of it. And that’s when I started learning how to play instruments. So I wasn’t really connected with any music scene outside of Cincinnati.
So you’ve been playing for a while. Was most of that time spent in Cincinnati?
N: It started in Chicago, and then I came back to Cincinnati. I started playing original music after I came back. That’s how Phil and I met, actually. I was playing one of my first shows of original music - maybe my fifth show ever - and Phil was running sound at the Rohs Street Cafe
P: I didn’t know that was when you were first playing music
How long after you guys met did Blossom Hall form?
P: It probably took like a year. Cause I had another band, Kid Condor, and then…
N: And I had another band too, Nancy and the Garbage Party. [Laughs] So fun.
P: And then when she told me she was starting a new band I, like, begged her to be a part of it. And then we kicked everyone else out of the band.
So Nancy told me you guys have been playing together around 4 years, so how has your experience in the Cincinnati music scene been as Blossom Hall? Well received or...?
P: Oh, very well received. We both are fortunate enough to already be involved in it. I mean Nancy just knows everybody it seems like, not only from playing but just, you know being around. Since I run sound for a lot of places I’ve made a lot of connections that way. So it was pretty seamless.
Do you guys feel good about where the Cincy scene is going? It seems like with summer coming up a lot is happening.
N: Since I came back to Cincinnati, maybe like six years ago now, I’ve really seen things blossom. [Laughs] Pun not intended. But really, I’ve seen the scene going from just like straight up punk rock, almost exclusively in my experience, to just being highly inclusive of lots of genres. So there’s like hip-hop and indie rock going on in the same night. I think, too, there’s a lot of really neat things happening, interesting spaces for collaboration and improvisation opening up, with Caravan and SUNIGHT and Monday night at the Comet. There’s a lot of interesting things happening and opportunities for people to connect with each other in ways that I’m not sure would happen in a bigger city or a smaller city.
Who’s a local act you guys love to or would love to work with?
P: Oh man.
N: So many.
P: Most of them, ha. I mean, we love Soften
N: Brianna Kelly, we love you. We’re really excited to play with ADM, A Delicate Motor, June First.
P: I would love to play with Young Heirlooms. They’re kind of more on the Americana side but I think we would fit really well together.
N: I do too. I’d really love to play with Wussy. I’d love to play with them. They’re so cool. But I can’t think of a show that we’ve played that I’ve disliked. Had a great time playing with Smut. I love to play with Molly Sullivan and her band. MARR is really cool.
P: MARR is very cool.
N: So I think, we’re just rich in excellent music here in town.
P: That was maybe like 30 percent of our favorites.
I feel like it’s a big summer for Cincy music. Does BH have any big summer plans?
N: Nothing we’re allowed to divulge yet.
P: We’re writing, we’re going to be recording more, we’re playing shows. Probably go on another tour soon. We don’t really do things consecutively, we like doing it all.
Be sure to check out Blossom Hall with Mary Ocher and ADM at Northside Tavern June 1 and stay tuned with INHAILER for more on with your favorite bands!