File under: Emotion-filled indie rock with male-female harmonies
For fans of: Built to Spill, the Swirlies, Sunny Day Real Estate, Yuck, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Los Campesinos!
From: Bellevue, Washington
Personae: Andy Costello (guitar, vocals), Lizzy Costello (bass, vocals), Sébastien Deramat (guitar), Jacob Whinihan (drums)
The members of Special Explosion met through Seattle’s School of Rock afternoon music program in 2010, and have since worked steadily toward turning their extracurricular pursuits into a full-time gig. Under the mentorship of Kind of Like Spitting’s Ben Barnett, the young band opened for Deerhoof in 2011, placed second in the Experience Music Project’s Sound Off!, a battle of the bands for outfits whose members are all under the age of 21, in 2012; this year, they’re headed out on their first full out-of-state tour.
Centered around the uneasy harmonies of brother-sister pair Andy and Lizzy Costello, the quartet’s auspicious new Topshelf Records EP, The Art of Mothering updates the ’90s Pacific Northwest indie rock of Built to Spill and Sunny Day Real Estate with eloquence and panache.
Marc Hogan talked with Andy Costello and Sébastien Deramat about their tender age, family matters and why Vincent Van Gogh was “the O.G. emo.”
On youth as a double-edged sword:
Andy Costello: The challenge has been getting people to take us seriously and finding shows with other serious bands.
Sébastien Deramat: And although that’s a challenge, at the same time it’s kind of a good thing. There’s almost something encouraging about wanting to prove people wrong. If people have some preconceived notions about what a young band sounds like, or how well they play, that encourages us to try to disprove it a little bit.
On how being siblings has made the band better:
Costello: If I were to show Lizzy a song or some lyrics, she would understand right away, because she’s my sister.
Deramat: When you’re starting a band, there’s this inherent awkwardness. With family, that awkwardness isn’t there. You obviously know each other super well. You’re not afraid to be yourself. Seeing that honesty that Lizzy and Andy have with each other kind of encouraged Jacob and me to act that way also.
On the target of the EP-closing lyric, “You think you know everything”:
Costello: That was definitely addressing a parent figure. Kind of — I wouldn’t say spitefully, but I do think it carries a meaning, both for the parent and for the child, aka me and Lizzy. There’s a lot of times where you catch yourself saying something to someone and you realize you’re just being a giant hypocrite. I think that line was the biggest of them all. I don’t want to get too in-depth with it, but it’s definitely the kind of thing you say to someone, and then you realize you don’t really know anything, either.
On learning The Art of Mothering (or at least the EP title):
Deramat: When I was maybe 13 some friends from high school started a band that ended after like a month. That was the name of the band. We came up with that from — I went on an internet quote generator or something [and it returned the phrase "the art of mothering."] A few years later, when Special Explosion was writing songs, Andy brought in a song that I thematically and lyrically fit really well with that title. So, it’s kind of cool because that name at first didn’t have much meaning when it was a band name. But now that it’s a song title and the title of an EP, it carries a lot more meaning.
On their relationship to emo:
Costello: One thing we were talking about the other day is, like, Vincent Van Gogh is the O.G. emo. Because he cut off his ear for someone that he loved! Nothing else mattered. I don’t want any of us cutting off our ears. But rather than being an emo band, we are definitely a bunch of emo people. We would do anything to go write a song — whether that means fight with your girlfriend super intensely because you know you’ll get something out of it or, whatever. That sounds terrible.
Deramat: We’ve gotten into arguments about what the word means, whether it’s a music style or more of a mindset.
Costello: I wouldn’t want to categorize us as part of an “emo revival” in the media sense. But I will say personally that emo will forever exist. It’s just a spirit.