Meet The Music: Instant Oatmeal
We're ending 2018 right by sharing Instant Oatmeal with you. I first heard of the St. Louis band back in October, and immediately knew I was listening to something special. They've quickly become one of my favorite new bands, and I'm looking forward to what we can expect to see from them in the future. Shout out to my Spotify discovery list for finally getting something right.
1.Favorite album of the year so far?
Lilia: Frankie Cosmo’s Vessel
Billy: Yo La Tengo’s There’s a Riot Going On or MGMT’s Little Dark Age
Lucy: The Buttertones’ Gravedigging
Christian: Little Dark Age by MGMT
2.What was the first concert that you went to?
Lilia: Ralph’s World at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room
Billy: Thames, a local band I had never heard one song. HUGE fan now.
Lucy: Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran at the Scottrade Center
Christian: Chuck Berry at The Pageant
3.What band do you think that you could beat up in a fight?
Lilia: Simon and Garfunkel
Lucy: The Modern Lovers
Christian: The 1975
4.Can you buy me a Justin Timberlake marionette puppet for christmas?
Lilia: If it’s something that you really need.
Billy: what’s your address?
Christian: Possibly, if it’s cheap enough.
5.Can you guys do a cover of dancing queen?
Lilia: I’d be down. I feel like maybe we could do a STRFKR thing, like their Girls Just Wanna Have Fun cover.
Billy: uhh we better.
Christian: I’m not a huge fan of the song, but I’d do it if people want to hear it.
6.We’re trying to come up with a slogan for the site. Any suggestions?
Lucy: For babies who came out of the womb headbanging
7.What is something embarrassing about another band member that they wouldn’t want you to share?
Lilia: When we were probably in about 5th grade, Lucy and I spent a day or two recording her singing “Hey Stephen” by Taylor Swift but replacing Stephen with Donovan because she was going to send it to this boy in our class, Donovan, because they were technically dating even though they rarely spoke. We truly did it for hours. I don’t even think it was a video, I think it was just an audio recording on her iPod Touch.
Billy: i really don’t know anything about them. to be honest with you, i’m not even 100% sure what their names are.
8.On a scale of 1-10 how cute is Ray Romano?
Lucy: as Manny the mammoth in Ice Age, I give him an 8
Billy: solid 6!
9.What is the most useless fact that you know?
Lilia: Baby carrots are just cut up regular carrots.
Lucy: A snail can sleep for three years.
Billy: most American car horns honk the note F.
Christian: I have never been to Arizona.
10.My friend Seth’s birthday is coming up soon. What is the worst piece of advice that you can give him?
Lilia: Don’t listen to Instant Oatmeal.
Billy: i second the previous statement.
Christian: Instead of eating birthday cake, just eat the ingredients of a cake.
Isaac Gutierrez for Born Loser: Tell us a bit about the band.
Lilia: We’re from St. Louis. The band started with Lucy and I and our friend from school, Ian, in 7th or 8th grade (so around 2014). Then we got Christian to join who went to our grade school, too, but he joined when we were all in high school (probably in 2016). He’s a year older than Lucy and I. Then Ian left and it was just us three until last year when we needed someone to play with us for a concert that me and Lucy’s high school puts on every year. We reached Billy through a friend of a friend and later asked him to be in the band officially. He’s two years younger than Lucy and I but insanely talented. We’re super lucky we found him.
Christian: The band is made up of me, Lucy, Lilia, and Billy. I play piano and keyboard, Lucy sings and plays guitar, Lilia plays the drums, and Billy plays bass or guitar. Billy is more of a lead guitarist when he is playing along with Lucy. We’re all from St. Louis, Missouri. I joined the band back in 2015 or 2016, then Billy joined about a year ago, some time after I left for college.
Billy: I got a text from a random number asking if I was available to play keyboard with who would turn out to be Lilia and Lucy for a benefit concert at their high school. (Side note - the concert was on the date 4/20 and their first choice keyboard player, an acquaintance of mine who shall remain nameless, was “busy”) It turned out that they would rather me play guitar and bass instead of my $20 garage sale keyboard, so I became the guitar and bass man for them!
What pushed you towards pursuing music?
Lilia: Most of my mom’s side of the family is pretty musical, so I grew up listening and watching live music multiple times a year at family gatherings and stuff. I’ve just always really loved music. I used to sing Sweet Baby James by James Taylor at those family gatherings when I was really little, before I got shy, I guess. I think growing up with it so much has added a lot of importance to it.
Lucy: I’ve always enjoyed singing, and guitar was something that I picked up because it provided accompaniment for my voice. Lil’s aunt is a singer-songwriter and she invited us over to her house when Lil and I were about 14. She taught us the basics of pairing lyrics with guitar chords, and it was after that experience that I began to experiment with the process and write more songs.
Christian: Initially, my mom sort of forced me into trying music out. I was about eight years old when she made me start taking piano lessons. I wasn’t a big fan of the idea at the time. She thought I could benefit from the lessons, and she simply asked that I at least try them out for a while. I ended up surprising myself and really enjoying playing the piano. Within about a year, I had gotten much better and it was clear that piano was important to me and that I should stick with it.
Billy: I played the violin and upright bass not particularly well from third grade on, but never really cared for music a whole lot for most of my life. Weirdly enough, seeing my older brother in a doo-wop version of a Shakespeare play at his college made me first fall in love with 50’s and 60’s doo wop. I then got obsessed with pop punk (great choices, man) and then 60s blues rock and then pretty much everything else. My freshman year of high school I begged my mom to let me take up the guitar, something that I had been pleading for her to let me do my whole life. That spawned my love of guitar and music theory. There’s a lot more to this story, but none of it is any more interesting.
Something that stuck out to me when I first listened to “Lucy’s Basement” was the amazing songwriting. Is that usually more of an individual process or more of a collaborative process?
Lilia: Thank you! I write songs mostly on my own and Lucy writes songs on her own. She’s helped me with lyrics before, like on Close Then Far, I only wrote the first verse and the chorus, then she finished it. The collaboration comes more with the melodies and chords and stuff, and less with the lyrics I think.
Something that also strikes me about your music is the way your lyrics present such specific imagery so efficiently. It feels like I’m glimpsing someone’s hidden thoughts. Songs like “I Love My Room” where you sing “I don’t know how to leave someone behind, but I don’t think that this is my first time” have a devastatingly raw quality to them.
Lilia: I view my songwriting as very therapeutic. I actually just recently wrote a literacy narrative for my english class and talked about how songwriting is just another form of journaling for me. It’s cool because I get to unpack and make music at the same time.
Lucy: Writing songs allows me to preserve little bits and pieces from my life, like a time capsule. When I look back on songs that I’ve written, I can remember who I was and how I felt when I wrote it. This allows me to reflect, and that’s very therapeutic for me.
What was the experience of recording ‘Lucy’s Basement’ like?
Lilia: It was a lot of fun to be in that little space together joking around but also doing something so cool. It was little stressful for me because my brother produced it in his friend’s dad’s basement, so I had to ask him for a lot of favors and stuff. I also was having a rough time on the drums for Al because I hadn’t actually come up with a drumbeat for it until basically that day, so I was feeling really frustrated with myself. I was so grateful throughout the whole process, though, for my brother and my bandmates, and the easy access we had to that good equipment. Chuck Berry has recorded there before, which was pretty cool to think about, too. I just remember being tired but very excited the whole time.
Lucy: It was a very nostalgic experience for me. We recorded the EP this summer before Lilia and I left for college, and it provided a sense of closure for me. I was singing lyrics, like the ones in Al, that I had written as a sophomore in high school, and recording them was a way to preserve them and place them safely on a shelf. The songs on the EP were written by Lil and I all throughout high school, and I think there’s something very bittersweet about that.
Christian: It was a fun experience. It was really cool to see Lucy and Lilia’s songs finally put into material form. We definitely had to analyze the songs in much closer detail than how we would before a show. Spending a lot of time in the studio can ware down on you, but we all did pretty well at staying focused. Things went pretty smoothly even though this was our first time recording together.
Billy: It was so fun, and my first experience recording music in a studio. Lilia and I ate so many off-brand Cheez-Its in a room about the size of my fist, so obviously it was a great time.
What do you want the takeaway for this EP to be for someone who listens to it?
Lilia: I don’t really know. I write for myself and basically hope that someone will listen to what I’m saying and relate to it, or find it interesting enough to keep listening and enjoy it. Most of my friends and I are in our freshman year of college right now, and I think it was in September when my friend Ian said that he was listening to I Love My Room on the train (he just started at Loyola Chicago) and started crying in front of everyone. I’m not saying it’s my goal to make people cry in public, but when he told me that, I was like, “Good.”
Billy: My bass part in “Honey Hair.” I like it. Also the amazing songwriting of Lilia and Lucy.
Christian: I want the takeaway for this EP to be the sound that is unique to Instant Oatmeal. This EP does a great job showing listeners what this band’s sound is like, and what Lilia and Lucy can do with their songwriting.
Who do you consider your musical influences?
Lilia: I was listening to The Front Bottoms a lot around 8th grade and the beginning of high school. I still listen to them often. I watched probably all of their interviews, and I was just starting to play drums then, so they definitely influenced me a lot. I’m not as poetic as Frankie Cosmos but I feel I relate to their lyrics so much and have a good amount in common with Greta, so they influence me, for sure. I have a lot of influences that I could write pages on, but those are the first two that came to mind.
Billy: you know when people say they like everything?
Christian: When it comes to music that influences my playing, it’s mainly Jazz and Classical music. I like many kinds of music, but I mostly listen to Rock and Hip-Hop, so that music has influenced me to a certain degree too. Some of my favorite artists and groups are The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Wu-Tang Clan, Big L, and others.
What are your favorite lyrics off of the album? What do you feel resonates with you the most?
Lilia: I wrote I Love My Room most recently so those lyrics resonate with me the most right now, especially “A vision of home is a feeling soft and clear, and you know it ‘cause you feel it here.” I miss home when I’m away, and as I type this I’m home from school for Thanksgiving, so I’m definitely feeling those lyrics right now.
Lucy: The first lyrics in Al are “Al Pacino taped next to Pulp Fiction,” and this is a reference to a drawing of Al Pacino that my best friend Ella made me. It’s this color pencil drawing, and it’s so cool. He’s even got that mean look in his eye that he communicates so effectively in his roles. After she gave it to me, I taped it on my bedroom wall next to this poster I have of Mia Wallace smoking a cig. I brought the drawing and the movie poster with me to college, and now they’re on the wall of my dorm. It’s a sentimental thing. They remind me of my best friend and of home.
Billy: “Do you understand, do you understand what I mean? I’m asking you to listen so can you listen to me?”
What do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
Lilia: I’m into photography so I like to take pictures (@lilia28v on Instagram) I like to watch movies or shows or talk/hang out with my friends. I also like to read. My relationships with my friends is immensely valuable to me, and it’s where a lot of my writing comes from.
Lucy: I’m a big reading fan. I enjoy going on road trips, watching movies with my best friend, sipping on some coffee, collaging.
Christian: I like getting outside into nature, whether I’m biking, hiking, or just walking around. That could be hiking, biking, or just walking around through the park. I also enjoy movies and books.
What advice would you give other young bands that are just starting out?
Lilia: Practice, write, and learn how to play live. Then play live. And record.
Lucy: Write a lot, and don’t be worried about if it’s good or not. I’m a perfectionist and that’s hurt me in the past because it’s stopped me from working on songs that I feel are flawed. Don’t overthink it.
Christian: Practice, always look for new ways to be creative, and stay passionate about what you’re doing. Record your music if you can, and play live as often as possible.
Billy: have fun!
What do you hope to accomplish with/through your music?
Lilia: I like to feel understood, so to gain that feeling would be nice. I really want to make music that I like, and if I like it I think other people will like it which is important to me. Making music is one thing that I can confidently say gives me the will to live, so I want to maintain that happiness for myself, if that makes sense.
Christian: I want people to feel good when they listen to our music. I don’t have a very specific goal of how I’d like people to feel, I just want them to be in a good mood. That would satisfy me.
Which song off of Lucy’s basement has the best story behind it?
Lucy: I wrote “Al” out of a place of teen angst when I was 17. There was one night in particular when I was with my best friend, Ella, and we were trying to find something to do. We went to the City Museum at like 9pm and they wouldn’t let us in because we weren’t 18. Totally lame. Filled with defeat, we drove to the Delmar Loop, which is normally our safe haven, but this restaurant, Blueberry Hill, wouldn’t let us in either. The song is about that frustration but also the appreciation I have for my best friend and the things we did do at 17, like paint our nails, exchange our change for cash, and drive around screaming songs with the windows down. I think this song is one that all teens can relate to on some level.
What is something that you want everyone to know about Instant Oatmeal?
Lilia: We actually have no equipment for playing live so you should buy our music so we can get some. I also feel like we don’t express our appreciation for everyone who’s given us support enough. We love you a large amount. Also, shoutout to my brother, Dylan Voss, for producing our shit. Someone hire him.
Billy: Instant Oatmeal rocks!
Christian: I’ll second what Lilia said and say that our EP would never have been made if it weren’t for the help of Dylan Voss. He was key to us getting our music out there, and he did an excellent job engineering, mixing, and mastering the EP.
What can we expect to see from Instant Oatmeal in the future?
Lilia: I think we’ll be able to do an album.
Billy: We better make an album!!
Christian: We’ll continue doing some shows, and we’ll probably record an album at some point.
And to wrap things up, do you have any questions for me?
Lilia: Who are you? How did you get this job?
BL: I'm Isaac, and I just wanted to become friends with bands that I like, and this was the closest thing to that.
Billy: How are you?
BL: I'm doing great Billy. Thanks for asking.
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