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Interview: Superbloom

14 June 2021

There’s no glossing over the fact that many bands are heavily influenced by whatever “classic rock” is to them. You can hear Led Zeppelin in Greta Van Fleet’s guitar rock, the Allman Brothers in Blackberry Smoke’s southern rock, and Queen in The Struts ’70s glam rock. For the members of the Gen Z, Brooklyn-based Superbloom, “classic rock” is music created in the early-to-mid ’90s which means they pay homage not only to the first wave of grunge bands (Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden) but also the bands that followed in grunge’s wake (Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, Fuel). The raspy vocals with the fuzzy guitars on Superbloom’s recently released debut, Pollen, may sound familiar to those who listened to alternative rock radio in 1995, but there’s a freshness that the kids bring to the music.

Via email, Dave Hoon (vocals/guitars), Tim Choate (guitars), Brian DiMeglio (bass) and Matteo Dix (drums) took time to share memories of the musicians they were pretending to be while dreaming of being rock stars in their bedrooms, the influence that grunge music has on Superbloom’s sound and how people should listen to Pollen.

You make no bones about it, right, you’re proudly claiming the mid-90s influence on Pollen, even kicking off with a track called “1994”?

TIM: For sure. Rock, alternative, punk from the ’90s is music we grew up with and is in our DNA.

You likely weren’t born or were toddlers when grunge made the cover of Time magazine and became a fashion statement. Do you remember your introduction to the music from that era? Was it something a parent or older sibling (or aunt or uncle or friend) exposed you to?

DAVE: First time I heard Pearl Jam and Nirvana was at my friend Tommy’s house because he had older siblings who were into it. That house was also my introduction to dirt bikes. Good times.

TIM: It was all friends, we grew up swapping CDs, going through booklets and liner notes, I loved all of that.

BRIAN: I had a friend growing up who would visit every summer and show me tons of that I hadn’t heard yet. One summer when I was 11 or 12 he showed me a bunch of tracks that were off In Utero – some raw energy I hadn’t really been exposed to before, that definitely started the fire.

When I was a teenager, I stood in front of my bedroom mirror and pretended to be David Lee Roth or Ozzy Osbourne when singing into a hairbrush and Eddie Van Halen or Randy Rhodes or George Lynch when playing air guitar using a yardstick. When you were a teenager, who were you pretending to be?

TIM: I had a Whammy pedal and was doing my best Tom Morello.

DAVE: I had braces headgear before it was cool. And there lives a video of Tim and I playing Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People” with fucking strobe lights. Tim was on drums and I was Manson with my headgear on.

BRIAN: I got really into some of the riffy classic rock stuff and spent way too long in my bedroom playing Cream and Deep Purple riffs. Flea from RHCP comes to mind…. there was definitely a 5-string slap phase.

Can you share how the band came together? Is this the original lineup or did you go through different people until you found the right combination of musicians?

TIM: Dave and I have known each other since we were kids, we’ve always been in bands together. We met Brian through a mutual friend and Matteo through Craigslist (and proud of it). This is the OG lineup, we met by the end of 2017 and started properly playing together in 2018. Just a few years.

DAVE: Last name Slist. First name Craig.

At what point did it go from being four guys jamming together to “We think this is a thing that needs a name”?

MATTEO: By the time I joined, the band was already a band. In fact I think it was really meant to be a band since day one, rather than a slow burn 4-guys-jamming sort of thing. The first demos I got sent by Dave were under the band name Low Places, then after our second practice together, Dave turned to me and said “Oh, by the way, we’re not called Low Places, we’re called Superbloom”. That was it.

DAVE: There’s no romantic story like “Oh we need a name now.” I liked the name but was not sold on it right away but I remember asking Brian what he thought of “Superbloom” and he freaked out. So we took that as a sign it was, dare I say, a fucking sick ass band name.

Did you ever kick around any covers in band practice and/or have you covered anything when playing live?

TIM: We haven’t done any covers but we’ve talked a lot about an Elliott Smith cover. I really want to do a loud version of “A Fond Farewell”.

MATTEO: My campaign to cover “MmmBop” and/or and “Rock and Roll All Nite” have been rejected so far but they say patience is the key to success.

BRIAN: They say we don’t play any covers, but there’s been an unreasonable amount of KISS and System of a Down riffs going down lately…so I’m pretty suspicious.

Typically members of bands throw their band name ideas onto a list or into a hat and then discuss until there is one that everybody agrees on. What were some of the names you considered that didn’t make it and what was the worst suggestion that you’re willing to share?

TIM: Our first name was Low Places but I think we all considered that placeholder. It was after the Garth Brooks song, which me and Dave would throw on the jukebox pretty much any bar we went to. I’m full of bad ideas, one of them was Cold Voices. Another was Slow Dissolve. Like Dave said, Brian pretty much cemented our band name for us.

DAVE: This isn’t your question but for every single person who asked us our band name the first like year — we had the same exchange: “What’s your band’s name?” “Superbloom” “Super Blue?” Still happens actually.

BRIAN: What a relief it’s not Low Places. I remember finding a show poster with the name on it and was like “Whew. It’s taken already – excellent”

As a band name, Superbloom has a mid-90s sound to it – of course, there’s the Nirvana song “In Bloom” but I’m also reminded of the band Superheaven whose 2015 album, Ours is Chrome, is not only also a love letter to the mid-90s but produced by none other than Will Yip. Were you thinking about the associations of the name as it relates to the music when you settled on Superbloom?

DAVE: Short answer is no — but when we had our first logo made by this dude Giles, we were stoked and then we saw Superheaven’s logo and it was fucking identical.

TIM: I’m not gonna lie, I love Superheaven.

BRIAN: I also enjoy Superheaven – but no on the name. When Dave was telling me about it when it first got brought up, the superbloom out in California was popping off and it was the enormous, momentary buzzword.

How familiar were you with Will Yip’s catalog of production credits before you started working with him? Did you pick him because he had worked on albums you are fans of?

TIM: Huge fans. I can’t tell you how insane it is to me that he was down to master the album. And he was super nice. For me, I was listening to a bunch of stuff he produced without realizing he was the connective tissue between all of it. When I pierced it all together it was a head explosion moment.

BRIAN: Will’s been producing music I like for a long time. He had recently mastered a record I made, so it was fresh in my mind what it could do to the music already. Seemed like a no brainer for a piece of art we spent so much time on.

I was in my mid-20s during the height of grunge and saw Nirvana play to 200 people about a month after Nevermind came out and just a few weeks before they were on Saturday Night Live. I also saw Pearl Jam play a 300-person club on the Ten tour. In my opinion, I hear more post-grunge in your music than anything else … sort of in that group of bands that came in the immediate wake of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. There’s still a bite to your music but it doesn’t sound drug-addled and dark like many of those bands. What 3 CDs do you think people who are my age and would dig your music still have from the ’90s? And, did you write “Hey Old Man” about me?

TIM: That blows my mind. Seeing any of those bands in small clubs is the coolest shit ever. I’m gonna take the obvious one and say Nevermind. I would also say Purple (Stone Temple Pilots) and Siamese Dream (Smashing Pumpkins).

The grunge scene centered around Seattle (and the Pacific Northwest) and the names of the biggies are recognizable, even by those who may not have been the biggest music fans in the ’90s. Is there a like-minded scene that you’re part of in Brooklyn? Other bands that you think are doing something in the same atmosphere as you are?

BRIAN: There’s plenty of bands around here pushing creative boundaries and making some great music. Only Sibling had some loud fuzzy guitars when we played with them and we were super into it.

Vinyl’s all the rage – and your blue and white marble album looks pretty awesome – but wondering what is your favorite way of listening to music? I’ve listened to a lot more vinyl in the last 14 months since I set up my home office in my basement right next to my record player. But, now, as I transition back into the office, I’m a digital music guy as you can’t beat the portability.

MATTEO: Brian is definitely our resident vinyl-head, and his knowledge of the craft and of music in general is just insane. So it’s been cool to learn more about it from him. I appreciate the format and I like the ceremonious aspect of putting on a record at home and playing it all the way through, but day-to-day I’m more drawn to the convenience of digital – for better or for worse.

TIM: I’m also digital, I throw on headphones and like to listen to full albums. I consume an insane amount of Spotify.

BRIAN: It really depends on what/where/when….I definitely listen to the majority of music on Spotify/Bandcamp for ease of use and it does sound great. But if I’m cooking or brewing fresh coffee on an empty afternoon, there’s nothing better. Jazz on vinyl + headphones is…. chef’s kiss. And vinyl is just cool as hell. Huge sheets of liner notes and lyrics while you’re listening, amazing – but definitely a wild luxury.

When the album was mixed and mastered, did you listen to it in different ways (earbuds, over-the-ear headphones, stereo speakers, in the car) to see if it sounds the same regardless of how/where somebody might listen? If so, what do you think is the optimal way to listen? I’ve only listened with my earbuds and it sounds pretty epic, I’ll give it a try in the car this week to see if it sounds different.

MATTEO: Definitely. Headphones, earbuds, wireless speakers, car stereo.. As many systems as we could get our hands on. The optimal way for me will always be a good pair of headphones, ideally over-ear. To me it’s the most immersive in the way that it lets you hear every little nuance and sound, which I love. Ultimately though, everyone has their own preference and we all hear music differently anyway. My only advice would be to make sure it’s loud.

BRIAN: Definitely checked it out on headphones (also my personal favorite) and some speakers set up in the living room. Don’t have a car so I didn’t hear it when I was driving for a while… but man it was good when I did.

Pre-2015, albums used to be released on Tuesdays. Now, new albums come out on Fridays. Because Pollen was released digitally first, did that give you the freedom to release whenever you wanted or did you specifically target Tuesday to beat the rush of Friday releases?

TIM: This might sound stupid but releasing on a Tuesday was a deliberate throwback to when music used to release, like when stores would put new albums on shelves.

The timing of the release is good – tours are starting to good booked, venues are starting to open back up. Do you have tour plans for 2021 or are you waiting to see how things go before deciding whether or not to hit the road this year?

TIM: Now that the album is out we’re starting to get contacted by a few bookers here and in the UK and Europe. It’s still super early to say but we will tour whenever it’s humanly possible. And if anyone wants to throw us on their tour hit us up.

BRIAN: Talking about some stuff but waiting to see how it plays out – would like to as soon as possible.