Ten years in and the Miami-based art punk duo of Pocket of Lollipops have finally released a full-length album on vinyl. This Wednesday, they celebrate the official release of Be My Non-Friend Friend, their sixth release and second ever vinyl record. The two creative spirits that make up the band, Maitejosune Urrechaga on bass and vocals with Tony Kapel on drums and vocals, have been married since Nov. 11, 2001. Both say it should have never happened… their band, that is. But with no signs of ever slowing down and with the rapport of a couple with enough experience to be psychically linked, this creative project will probably carry on til death do they part.
Kapel recalls their first live show. “It was just supposed to be this soundscape thing we did for Tasha and Monica [Lopez de Victoria], the TM Sisters. Then someone saw us at that show and invited us to do his party, and then, at his opening party, he invited us to do his closing party, and it just snowballed.”
“At that time we didn’t sing,” notes Urrechaga. “Actually, five months, six months into it, we left on a little tour to New York to play other friends’ galleries and stuff, and when we came back, I told him I thought we needed to add more things like lyrics and stuff like that, and that’s when I started going through some of his books and taking some of his writing and re-writing them into lyrics.”
The decision to release recordings of their unique brand of angular, rhythmic punk also came organically. Urrechaga says, “People started asking us for stuff, and I was like, ‘Uh, not yet,’ so the public kind of made us do it, in a sense. We had the songs, but we never thought of releasing it. Like our first music video, someone offered to make it for us. They wanted to do it, and it’s still like the most fun and everybody’s favorite video,” she says referencing “Cute Chaos.”
The couple explain getting their sound right early on and with little constraints. They didn’t want to just sound loud and abrasive. There was a genuine effort to make the layers sound right on stage, using pedals and amps. Says Urrechaga, “It’s a layering process that we’ve transposed from the recording to the stage … I would tell him maybe I hear this sound but maybe with some tweaking, which is when I got into doing more pedals and adding effects, I could hear also the sound that I wanted on stage, I started to hear what I wanted to hear.”
Kapel, the “him” Urrechaga often refers to in her quotes, agrees that they have refined their sound over the years. Urrechaga says it’s about being more in control of the sound but also key is the rapport they have built up over the 10 years as a musical duo, which is naturally informed by their life as a long-standing couple. “That comfort is for sure there,” she says. “I don’t even have to look. I could even feel what he’s doing without even seeing him.”
There chemistry also translates to them feeling there has never been significant creative rifts to threaten the existence of Pocket of Lollipops, as their varied puzzled reactions to the question immediately attests. Their faces show shock at the idea of it. Urrechaga recoils and Kapel’s jaw drops. Even though they have had collaborators come and go, the creative couple that started the project and continues it remains the core unit. Urrechaga is the first to respond to the idea that creative differences could pull these two apart. “No,” she says. “I’ve actually been like, wow. This is cool. We could actually do this forever too.” She laughs. “Like, it’s so easy and comfortable.”
It’s not like Pocket of Lollipops is all that they do. Both are also visual artists. It comes down to an understanding for space for one another and respect for their other projects. Kapel says, “We also both know that there’s also projects. Like, for instance, Maite just did some classes. She had to work on a series of paintings. You have to respect that idea.”
Sometimes space, like in any relationship is good for the health of the band. “It lets everything chill out inside the house,” he says, “so no, if we were to step back and she wants to work on something or if I want to work something that would definitely be fine, cause the music’s gonna happen … Like, if I’m not working on something with her, she’ll be in the fucking room doing something and vice versa. If she’s working on something painting-wise or something else, then I’m going to be in there working on the soundscapes that you heard on the album.”
Their visual art experience was key to inspiring the title of their latest release, a tight, concise LP of eight tracks, Be my Non-Friend Friend. Urrechaga says Kapel wrote the phrase on a piece paper about a year and a half ago. She took a picture of it and posted it up on their Instagram account. “At the time, we didn’t plan that it was going to be the album title,” she says, “but then we were thinking [about what the title might be], and I had a few thoughts. Then I went back to the Instagram, just scanning, and I saw it.”
“It’s a fun title,” adds Kapel. “It’s more along the lines of the watered down relationships who are just friends online. We’ll sit in a room of 15 people that we know online, and they’ll even respond to things back and forth, but you’ll be in the same room, and you don’t talk to each other. Online you’re fucking buddies, but in person you’re like,” he whispers: “‘Oh, that’s that guy’ or ‘that’s that chick from …’”
“We’re going into a different form of connection right now,” adds Urrechaga. “It’s not a bad thing. It’s like figuring out how those relationships work.”
They have the album streaming on their bandcamp page with the option to buy it on CD, cassette or vinyl. The record comes in two varieties in a limited run of 500 with 300 on violet-colored 140 gram vinyl and 200 on equally weighted black vinyl. “We collect vinyl,” says Urrechaga. “We also get asked for vinyls all the time.”
Much is made about the sound quality of vinyl versus CD or even cassette tape. Urrechaga says a different sound quality exists across all formats. “You can tell they’re the same song, but there is a difference, even digitally. If you post a song on bandcamp as opposed to soundcloud I think it sounds different.”
“Even on vinyl, the vinyl transfers over differently,” adds Kapel. “I think in that respect too, for vinyl and cassette, since it’s such a unique format and sound transfer. It also depends on the [record pressing] plant. We pressed with Sunpress, and I guarantee if we’d press with United it would sound differently … cause they all have different machines, they all have different methods, they all have a different person listening.”
They ultimately decided to go with the local vinyl pressing plant, Sunpress. Urrechaga says its nice to work with a local company because other local musicians work there, and they know these employees personally as artists. “We wanted to press locally just because we like the idea of keeping that local relationship going on,” agrees Kapel, “and it’s just safer for your stuff to not just sit for three days in some truck, being thrown around,” he adds with a laugh.
Pocket of Lollipops official record release is Wednesday, April 10, at Gramps in Miami. The party starts at 7 p.m.