Quilt: The Best of What’s Next

Music Features
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Hometown: Boston, Mass.
Album: Held In Splendor
For Fans Of: Women, Psychic Ills, The Luyas

Quilt’s frontman Shane Butler picks up his phone from New York City’s Natural History Museum’s lobby, where his favorite exhibit is “that one with the monkeys with the big noses—I usually go look and laugh at them for a bit”. He explains a lot of his personal artistic energy, much of which is channeled in his band, stems from letting his brain go to sponge.

”[Collaborating in] music constantly changes how you can view the world,” he says. ”…if you try to settle down on one idea of what you are for too long, it can really fuck you up.”

Butler, although now a Boston denizen, grew up in NYC and vagabonded heavily. After our interview, he was headed to Pennsylvania to see his dad. Days before we spoke, his mother passed away.

“This has been one of the most amazing weeks of my life, losing my mom,” he continues, still sounding sunny. “Don’t get me wrong, she was my best friend. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life contemplating death. I think it’s important. I think we see the beauty of life and death as two polar opposites a lot of the time. I just don’t believe that, at all. I think that they are kind of walking with each other all the time, hand-in-hand. ”

That sort of philosophy drives the bolo-draped life into Quilt’s work. “I’m a religious person,” Butler starts, but immediately corrects himself. “Well, religious might be the wrong word. I’m a spiritual person. I’m a total believer, I don’t have any qualms against that… there’s large energy at play. But I also think being a human is one of the largest energies you can have at play. …I just believe anything that feels good for you is what’s right. Being spiritual is a big part of my life, but then again, eating a cheese sandwich can be a pretty spiritual experience, too.”

Quilt embraces the ecstatic. Splendor warps desert sunshine under a kaleidoscopic filter. They sound like fireflies from a cactus jungle, dwellers of a houseboat docked a seaside ashram, stoners in Santa Fe. “The Hollow” gently howls, “I’ll try not to be scared / Of everything we’ll be / For we are the songs we sing.” Anna Rochinski (vocals, guitar, organ) pours over “Just Dust”: “I am not self-contained / I’ll lay here and drift away / There goes my answer / The harder I look / It goes farther / Who wastes their time this way? / We are not undertakers.” Alternating male-female vocals nestle in glowing tidal pools of brackish psych—it’s clear Quilt isn’t just one person’s project.

Butler gushes about the power of collaboration. “It expands your horizons,” he laughs. He’s aware of the statement’s cliche, but his enthusiasm is honest. ”…if you try to settle down on one idea of what you are for too long, it can really kind of fuck you up. At least when I’ve gotten into that position before — of like, really trying to define myself, in a certain way [it] specifically kinda of stalls me creatively. [I have to] take it in from other people… learning how to shed the layers to reveal what you are underneath.”

The band first came together a few years ago when Butler and Rochinski met at art school in Boston.

Original drummer Taylor McVay rounded out Quilt when she joined in 2009. Quilt doesn’t sound like a new band blindly groping for a solid foundation upon which to drive stakes. It whoops with wild abandon and thoughtful harmony, camping beneath a night sky free from light pollution. It was a natural development. The band’s newest member, drummer John Andrews, steps in for McVay on Splendor to hold that foundation. “John is a sort of virtuoso,” Butler says. ”…the songs have changed in a certain way… It’s always give and take when you switch out members.”

Butler speaks in a calm, zen way about the group’s new energy and, well, most things. His mother worked as a professional astrologer and writer, his father wrote sci-fi but now teaches meditation. He uses components from both parents’ professional and spiritual realms to maintain a seemingly constant calm. ”[With astrology] it’s one of those things where you just take what you will… even in my dad’s writing, he’d always say, ‘Use it for what’s going to be good in your life… I’m just going to take what’s my will. You take what’s your will.’” he says. That ethos is applicable in many arenas. “When you look at a painting, you can find your own meaning within it.”