Poppies have managed to gain a generous following with their introspective, melodic sound. Singer/guitarist May’s childlike, delicate vocals, perfectly blend with the band’s enigmatic, dreamy instrumentals. We wanted to dig in to the band’s sound and story, and fortunately for us May and Ian (guitar) were eager to talk to us a bit about their creative process and the current gear they’re using.
I read that May and Ian became close during a blizzard. Could you talk a little more about that story, and how the four of you eventually became a band?
May: Sure. I had been seeing Ian’s roommate for a little bit, but staying at their place during the blizzard in 2015 – that was the first time I ever met Ian. I’d been working a service job with some stupid crazy hours and I was just so, so tired. We made spiked hot chocolate or something and then I fell asleep hard for 12 straight hours. So I remember Ian got a kind of strange first impression of me, but we clicked right away. Really, I knew I’d get along with him before we even met because of all his clown magnets on their fridge. Then Keith was a new friend of mine from work, and Steven was an old friend of Ian’s since they were yea high. And now Steven is moving away, he’s helped us pull in Lex on drums.
Ian: Yeah, that all checks out. I was taking a year off from school and working this construction job, so on weeknights I had been recording some stuff in my bedroom, mainly incomplete songs. One night I was listening back to something I had recorded and May poked her head into my room asking what it was, I told her it was my own, and she asked if I wanted to start a band. I met Keith through May as she mentioned, and then Steven joined when he moved to New York from Montreal, but we grew up together in New Jersey. He was my first music buddy, we had a band in middle school called Crucial Party. Steven is a great artist and is doing his own amazing thing now, and he actually introduced us to Lex, our new drummer. We haven’t recorded with him yet, but the gigs have been going really well.
How did you all, individually, get into music? Has it always been a part of your life?
M: I’ve always been into listening, but I didn’t get into playing or writing music until kinda late – maybe four years ago. I bought an acoustic guitar from a pawn shop during a few free weeks I had in college and challenged myself to write a song for the hell of it. I did, and it felt better than anything I had ever done. It was terrifying.
I: I played music all through middle and high school but was never formally trained on the guitar. My brother is nine years older than me, so his cd collection and guitars were readily available when he went to college. I remember drinking 7-11 slushies in his car listening to The Pixies when I was 10 or 11.
Going off the last question, what music did you grow up listening to? Are there any albums that you could say changed your life?
M: A lot of oldies music from the 50s, basically a lot of music my dad would have playing all the time. Probably lots of albums have changed how I think about things, but I don’t have a eureka moment I can think of.
I: My brother used to make me mix CDs with Deftones and Rammstein songs when I was really little, he probably thought it was funny that I was listening to “Du Hast” in my Jurassic Park pj’s. My high school peers were int
You’ve only been a band for less than two years, yet your sound has already evolved a lot since Double Single, getting arguably eerier with every release. In what direction do you see your sound mo
M: We’re recording again in the fall (!) so we’ve been working on figuring that out.
I: We’ve gotten to know each other a lot more since last recording, which helps the song writing.
Here at The Deli, we like guitar pedals, and from your sound, we gather you might like them too. Could you send us a picture of your board(s) with notes about how you use each stompbox?
Ian: When playing live, I use a Korg Pitchblack Chromatic Pedal Tuner connected to a Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter Pedal, then a Fuzzroucious Dark Driving overdrive pedal. My Fender Deluxe is always set to the clean channel, but the Dark Driving is always on so I can get a little bit of gain when need-be without turning on a separate distortion. This pedal also brings out a lot of the low end of the Stratocaster that I play, rounding out the tone, in my opinion. You can play around with it a lot, it’s got a separate diode modification setting, so I’m always tweaking it depending on the room or how the band is sounding. I use the Phase Shifter pretty rarely, only for a few small parts to replicate things I’ve played on past recordings. I’d eventually like to swap it out for a Mu-Tron Phasor 2, my favorite phaser pedal. I used that on the recording of our song “Dumb Advice”. Otherwise, I sometimes use an Akai E2 Headrush for delay. The Headrush has a really nice subtle delay, and I really like that it has two buttons instead of one. I’m kind of a dummy when figuring out one button stompbox delay and loop pedals. My brother modded mine so that the tap tempo button is really easy to push down, allowing for faster tempos and some crazy sounds.
May: I don’t always tune, but when I do I’m doing it with my trusty Korg Pitchblack Chromatic Pedal Tuner! For when the songs get heavy or if I feel like going into some more leady parts, I stomp on my Ibanez Turbo Tube Screamer. Really nice warm and dirty sound.
One staple of your music is May’s distinctive, chilling soprano vocals. Yet, you traded vocals on “Told.” What inspired this move, and do you see yourselves trying out different vocals again in the future?
M: It just kinda felt right for the song. I love Ian’s voice, and yeah, he’s singing on some of the newer songs. Keith, our bassist, sings too – he’s the one singing on “Dog Years.”
I: It’s whatever the song calls for, we’re all writing songs so if one person’s voice feels right, why not.
In the past year, you seem to have been one of the most active live bands in the scene. What’s your most memorable live show experience?
M: I always love when we get to play with friend bands, which happens to be a lot of the time… I don’t know, we haven’t yet had something go horrifically wrong at one of our shows so I guess that means I don’t have a super entertaining story yet either.
I: The first thing to come to mind is our recent show in Florence, Mass. We were coming from Pittsburgh the night before and it somehow turned into a 12 hour drive, which had us arriving at 11:30pm and the club was going to close at 12. We played a short set and revealed that we had nowhere to stay for the night, but a group of kids volunteered to put us up. They turned out to be awesome and unique kids, we did a killer hike up a mountain and they fed us too! Hi Tundrastomper!
M: Ohhh yeah, that 12 hour drive was partially my fault…I had planned a surprise pitstop in Centralia, thinking the boys would be blown away by the hellish smoke coming up through the streets. Here’s a tip! Don’t do that, there’s not enough town left to even call it a ghost town.