Sounds x Interview: Switching the Label with TREADS
“Clearly with a name like [Whiskey Bitches] there is a little bit of an image to keep up and all of that started as a fun joke band to me and I didn’t think it was something I could keep up.”
On a very hungover Sunday about a month ago to the day, I ventured out of my bed (a feat I must say) and headed to a fancy hotel bar for brunch with the Brooklyn babes // badasses TREADS. I showed up late as usual (train delays, blah blah excuse) but they were more than understanding-and had already ordered a few mimosas. As I sat down, we almost instantly got into a conversation about John Mayer and how good of a guitar player he is (“who’s the emo guy who plays really good guitar … he’s a sick guitar player from Berklee Music School” … “Oh John Mayer, who I hate, but he’s an AMAZING guitar player) and as we all ragged on his emoness but also pure artistic talent, I knew it was going to be a Sunday well spent- my hangover was in good company.
And that’s what TREADS is; formally they came together as Whiskey Bitches (more on that later) but what kept them together was their love of music, their excellent caliber of playing, their desire to learn and grow as musicians, and their ability to work well as a unit.
I first came across them when we were putting together our cassette mixtape with intheclouds records, and since then it was clear to me that these guys don’t just know how to rock, they also have a deep understanding of music, and aren’t afraid to show it- or experiment along the way. So without further ado, I present my second best hangover (my first was a few weekends ago on a beach in Monterosso) with the lovely TREADS.
“Before all of his stuff came out, I had a buddy in high school who was really into John Mayer and I was like ‘seriously’ … he had all these weird demo tapes of him playing live shows, and he was doing like blues stuff, with other blues players and I remember being like he’s the biggest waste of talent, because he’s one of the best guitarists I’ve heard in a long time, but I HATE everything he does.”
Meet Mike, who I’ve been Facebook friends with for almost a year now and had no idea he was the same Mike until well after the interview. He’s the guitar and backing vocals in TREADS; unless you count the time Madge lost her voice and he had to fill in as vocals.
Which brings me to Madge. She’s the cool chick sitting in the back of the classroom in a leather jacket and like a Stone Roses shirt who visibly doesn’t give a fuck, but then also manages to graduate at the top of your class. She’s loud and unapologetic and strong in who she is, proud of what she knows and also capable of acknowledging things she doesn’t know; and it’s rad.
As the main vocals and guitar, Madge is very different than what you would think of her-if you, like me, associated her with her Whiskey Bitches days. She’s so far from just a whiskey bitch it’s almost insulting to put her in that same category; but we all have a past, and that’s the whole point of growing, right? She’s done classical piano for 15 years, stopping after high school, and instead studied recording at NYU-Tisch, and understands the whole business side of music.
She’s a silent killer if ever I met one, and in the weeks following the interview, she also kept in touch and asked about my sick puppy. A silent killer with a heart of gold.
“John Mayer’s music suckssssss. Well, it like good-sucks. It’s really good if you’re going through a breakup or something. You’re just at home eating ice cream or I don’t know a pita bread and crying listening to John Mayer.” Me – Left Bank head bitch, and occasion-specific John Mayer fan.
“We go through breakups really differently …”
Meet Glenn, drummer in TREADS, who fun fact KILLS it on the drums but hadn’t had a professional lesson until three years ago.
“My going through a break up was like spending the night skating against traffic in New York City. I didn’t put any John Mayer on … I just picked a northbound avenue and skated against traffic.” -Glenn
From then our food and more mimosas arrived, and we pivoted from John Mayer and skateboarding to things you probably want to read about.
Because Madge went to NYC for recording, we got on the topic of her involvement with the production of TREADS’ music.
“When it comes to the initial tracking and recording of things, we will go to a studio to do all of the drums because you need a drum room and a place that can do that well, so we will go to a place and I try to not get in the engineers way when we are his studio too much … its their studio, its still their session. But then all of the vocals and guitar production I do at home, and the bass I do in our practice space with Kris, and we do all of the bass tracking together.” -Madge
“So who mixes?” -Me, slightly less hungover
“For mixing you need a lot more gear, so we got this lovely human named Eric who has his own studio – he was a year ahead of me in school and was always very good, and its funny because Mike recommended him as someone he knew separately …” -Madge
“I worked with him on other projects and when we were talking about how we wanted to sound, he popped into my head as the guy who would sort of get it there.” -Mike
“He was like I dig the songs enough and I’m happy to work with this, and he’s definitely better at it than I am, which is helpful. And because we went to the same program we speak the same language, so the back and forth has actually been really refreshing and nice.” -Madge
Sidebar: because I’m late as shit getting this interview out, their EP has been released, and you can listen to it here.
Sidebar 2/Shameless plug:The conversation then pivoted over to the cassette that we put out with intheclouds records, which Madge mixed due to the time crunch of getting our tapes out.(Huzzah!)
“I think eventually I just need to buy a walkman,” -Glenn.
“So you listened to the cassette? Did you enjoy it?” -Me trying to boost my ego, one interview at a time.
“I enjoyed it, and the other bands too.” -Madge
“This is really the first TREADS EP.” -Madge
“It’s [the new EP] the first one written as TREADS,” Glenn said. “[The first EP] was like spillover from Whiskey Bitches and those songs were all written before I joined, and I kind of re-wrote the drums, versus being written.”
“Yeah this EP is all stuff that we’ve done together.” – Madge “And its more of the direction that we want to keep going in.”
“So Left Bank interviewed Whiskey Bitches a long time ago, Alex Norelli did it during Northside, right when I launched the magazine, so I’m really interested to hear how Whiskey Bitches became TREADS.” -Me
“I was just growing out of the image. And I think that some of the other band members really wanted to keep going in that direction and Glenn and I are more on the same page, like what we are doing now makes more sense for who we are. We were getting heavier once [Glenn] joined the band.” -Madge
“Clearly with a name like that there is a little bit of an image to keep up and all of that started as a fun joke band to me and I didn’t think it was something I could keep up.”
“So was it an age thing?” -Me
“Originally Whiskey Bitches for me grew out of another band I had called Fuck Yeah, and it was my “serious band” and Whiskey Bitches was the joke side project, but then it started to get a reputation … the songs are kitschy and fun but that became my only band and when I tried to make it more serious it was clear that as a group it didn’t make sense anymore.” -Madge
It was during the time that they had a Rubber Tracks session originally for Whiskey Bitches that TREADS (at that time name TBD) had really started to evolve into its own direction.
“I joined the band because I really liked the band and was going to their shows and Madge was complaining about how she wanted to book shows but didn’t have a drummer.” -Glenn
“And thats a similar story of how I joined the band too. In my other project I had played shows with them and had been a fan for a while, Madge hurt her hand and they asked me to play guitar because I was familiar with the songs and had been to the shows, so I learned all of the songs in a week and played as the guitarist for a show, and then somehow accidentally we were like ‘hey its fun having two guitarists’ and thats how that happened.” -Mike
… and this was as Whiskey Bitches? Wait. TREADS? Anyone else a little confused?
“The name changed basically happened … so we recorded the EP, we put it out a year after we recorded it, by the time it comes out that September we’re already TREADS. I think Northside of that year was the last Whiskey Bitches show we played.” – Madge
Somewhere between all of this, our mimosas were refilled and Glenn mentioned how badly he wants to release a TREADS metal album. Which is kind of the beauty in the name change: they can do that. They can do whatever the hell they want to do.
“We suddenly have a band where the musicality is a lot higher, which is why its more of an exciting project for me personally. It’s no longer like 3-chord joke music, and I don’t mean that at all in a bad way … there is something a lot more fun if you come from playing for a long time, and you want to get better musically over time.” -Madge
“I mean you went to music school …” -Me
“And I was always shy about saying that out loud but as I’ve gotten older I’m more confident, and I would like to be considered a respectable musician not just a 3-chord punk player.” -Madge
“I also find that I’m surrounded by multi-instrumentalists, and when I replaced Eli in Whiskey Bitches, I remember he got a tattoo of a guitar on his arm and I was like why that and he’s like ‘oh I’m a guitarist, but I play drums, but you should definitely take that drumming role.’ I didn’t even realize he identified strongly as a guitarist, like that is his musical voice. And the more I work with good musicians, I think that good musicians play multiple instruments – Glenn
Sidebar fun fact: When writing music, Madge starts most of it on piano, but very recently she has started approaching and applying all of the things that come naturally on piano, to the guitar.
“And I’m the opposite, while the only lessons I ever took were piano, I would never play piano live because I’m not good enough. But while guitar is my first language, I write a lot of my melodies on piano because it makes me think of melody differently than I would with guitar.” -Mike
What became really interesting and apparent to me, was that not only were these guys good musicians, but they wanted more from the music they were creating through TREADS. Being that Madge is so classically trained, the way they compose their music is a lot more refined than your average punk band. So while on stage, you get the punk vibe or aura if you will, but behind the scenes, the composition of those same tracks is a lot more meticulous and strategic.
“This is the first band that I’ve ever played in where at the end of the show I can usually count the mistakes on one hand. Normally its like whatever mistakes happen, happen constantly but with this one they don’t. And I can tell you, we just played Knitting Factory last week, and I know two mistakes happened.” -Glenn
“Whats funny is that you’re one of those drummers that you’re so on that when you make a mistake, I notice, and you notice too. You’re consistent enough that its noticeable and we know exactly whats going on.” -Mike
“Mind you he’s playing with a sprained wrist and its like you’re really injured right now and shouldn’t even be playing, and you still only made just one mistake.” -Madge
The cool thing about this—just in sharing a meal and drink with them—is that they spend a lot of time together honing their craft and cultivating their relationship/friendship with each other. Its 100% obvious, and while I’ve been around a lot of bands during this time, it’s nice to see a band that is fun and badass, but also a serious fucking band. It’s very orchestrated, and it’s nice to watch.
“Whiskey Bitches was fun to play drums because you could kick over half the drum set and it would still be fine, it would be fun and silly and everyone would laugh but whatever.” -Glenn
“But is that kind of limiting do you think? That lack of freedom?” -Me, hangover finished and fully engaged.
“I think we are growing into it [freedom] more and more. My next aspiration is to get to a point where there are songs where we have longer instrumentals to give us more space. But when we say freedom, there were no solos in Whiskey Bitches … it was just we looked sloppy.” -Madge
“And freedom doesn’t have to be sloppy.” -Me
“It’s like adding places where you can start to play together more, and be like do we want to extend this another 8 bars, like how do we become the kind of musicians where we can get on stage and read a crowd, and react together, I think that is the next step. Now that we have a unit that is working together.” -Madge
“Watching where TREADS has gone before I was playing and being in it now, the evolution I am finding is very interesting and enjoyable.” -Mike
“I think we stopped focusing on how to play Northside and more thinking like how do we get to the Garden in 10 years? How do we got to a place where we all feel like we’re bringing something to the table that expresses the sum of all of this life and musical training and playing, and trying to make more room where everyone can come to the table and say ok this is something I want to play, this is something I want to do. And it feels really awesome.” -Madge
Catch them July 27th at Mercury Lounge, or August 15th at Alphaville. A huge thanks to TREADS for giving me (and now all of you) a glimpse into their world—excited to see what’s to come. Listen to their brand spanking new EP below x