1. What have you been listening to lately?
Raavi: Buck Meek, Black Country New road & Nilufer Yanya
Justin: Adrianne Lenker, Scallops Hotel, Haley Henderickx
Josef: Madlib, Damon Albarn, The Clash
2. You can only choose one. Reba McEntire or an Entire McRib?
Raavi: I grew up listening to Reba & watching her show. I also don’t eat “meat” so I’ma have to go with Reba McEntire
Justin: Reba obviously. Meat is for the weak.
3. I don’t have a nickname. Can you give me a nickname? I’ll just go by that from now on no matter what it is. (my real name is Isaac Gutierrez)
Raavi: Eye Sack
James: I-Smack Guccinator
Justin: Ack Gootz
4. What is something that you’re currently looking forward to?
Raavi: James Duncan (The bassist of this band) moving into my childhood home with me
James: Moving in with raav also dirt buyer i know you got the album please drop it
Justin: Moving the band to Brooklyn also what James said new dirt buyer pls
5. What was the first concert you ever attended?
Raavi: I think it was Keith Urban or Miranda Lambert. I saw them both at the San Antonio rodeo as a kid with my mom. As for my first concert-concert, it was Lilly Allen at house of blues Boston.
James: First one I paid for my own ticket to was Streetlight Manifesto also at HOB. ska foreva
Justin: Trans Siberian Orchestra Christmas set at MSG. God rest ye merry gentleman
Madden: First concert was Yes, second was Camp Rock. Both happened in one summer and that defines my childhood
Josef: First was High School Musical, second was Bon Jovi... I don’t want to talk about it
6. What should I invest all of my money in (It’s like $32.73)?
Raavi: Fuck I had a good answer for this when my gf was first reading me these questions but I forgot it
James: vitamin water, to the moon
Justin: Whatever the opposite of whatever Elon Musk would say.
Josef: 10 packs of Nerds
7. Make me cry.
Raavi: Go watch the last 15 minutes of Anohana. Actually you should watch the whole show the music in it is really great and it’s only 11 episodes but yeah those last 15 minutes will make you cry.
James: My childhood cat doesn’t understand why I haven’t been home in almost a year.
Justin: No that’s mean.
8. Worst piece of advice that you can give me?
Raavi: The customer is always right
Justin: Vans and crew socks are all season shoes
9. What band has inspired you the least?
Raavi: Lol I wanna answer this honestly but I think I’ll stick to subtweeting about them
(I’m Deleteing All of Justin’s answers for trashtalking Creed. Justin is no longer a part of this interview)
Raavi: wtf^ who in this band is a Creed stan??
Josef: 5 Finger Death Punch
10. Could you beat them in a fight?
Raavi: Probably not
Justin: Absolutely not
Josef: No way
Can you introduce yourselves and tell us your role in the band?
Raavi: My name is Raavi Sita. I write the songs for this project and I play guitar and sing.
James: James Duncan. I play the ba$$
Justin: guitar + engineering/mixing and sometimes producing
Madden: Madden Klass, I am the drummer
Josef: Josef Kiefer, I play guitar
What is your first memory of falling in love with a song or album?
Raavi: Taylor Swift’s self titled. This is the first interview in which I’ve outed myself as a lover of country music. I had two musical influences as a kid, my mom who got me into country music and my brother who got me into 90s-2000s alt rock. This is probably why the second album I got really into was “The Moon & Antarctica” by Modest Mouse.
James: Listening to “The World at Large” by Modest Mouse exclusively for three weeks in 6th grade. I could not stop.
Justin: My dad gave me Green Day’s American Idiot when I was in kindergarten and it was literally all I listened to for probably a year or two.
Madden: Listening to Supertramp and The Guess Who on my iPod shuffle as often as possible when I was 5 and 6 years old
Josef: Supertramp’s Live in Paris album, it used to play on loop in my dad’s car
When did you first realize that you had an aptitude or affinity for creating music? When did you begin writing songs?
Raavi: I’ve been an avid daydreamer for as long as I could remember. I would zone out in elementary school, writing poems or songs or stories in my head. Maybe I’d scribble them down on a piece of paper if I wanted to remember them. That habit followed me my entire academic life. By highschool I was writing lyrics in my textbooks and humming melodies into my voice memo app so I could construct a song around them later. I think my writing stemmed from my love of escapism and storytelling (And from the mind numbing boredom I experienced in school). I was also really lucky because my mom worked at a fancy shmancy arts camp that I’d never be able to afford to go to otherwise. So I spent 5 weeks out of every summer taking performance arts classes. It was there I really began to sing, play instruments, and perform with others. I don’t really think I have an aptitude for creating music though. I think I have a creative mind but I see songwriting as a learned skill just like anything else. It’s something I’ve been doing for so long, so it comes naturally to me.
James: I don’t even know I’ve been playing music as long as I can remember.
Who or what inspired you to pursue music?
Raavi: James Duncan
James: Margot Silva
Justin:Flea from RHCP
Madden: Alex Wolff
Josef: My music teacher from middle school
How did the band meet/form?
James: Raavi and I met in a community choir when we were like 14 or 15 and I thought she was the coolest. Found out she played guitar and convinced her to start a (short lived) band with a couple other kids I knew from the choir and elsewhere. Fast forward and she asked me to play like three of her songs at a gig at the Cambridge YMCA. I absolutely fell in love with her music and again started pressuring her to start another band with me hahah. I met Madden during Berklee’s five week summer program when we were both going to some random party with a mutual friend and I noticed her Pierce the Veil shirt. After hearing her play I realized she was the perfect drummer for what we were trying to do and I hounded her about joining the band which she eventually agreed to. We started playing weekly with Niels, a guitarist I met at five week, and eventually landed some spots on house show bills thanks to Muñeca Diaz and from then on it’s very complicated but we eventually brought in Josef Kiefer and Justin Termotto on lead guitars, both connects of mine from Berklee and that’s the current lineup!
Did you have a sound that you wanted in mind when you first started the band, or is it something you found along the way?
Raavi: It was absolutely something we found along the way. I think you can hear this in our first ever EP too. We recorded it super fast just so we could get some songs out to show for ourselves when we were trying to book gigs. We had a lot of other songs which were kind of RnB-Pop that didn’t end up getting recorded because they just didn’t feel up to quality. It was kind of like we were trimming the fat so to speak. Also I am the most inconsistent writer in the world. I write when I feel like it. Sometimes it’s like the song is holding me hostage. Like I’m just the vessel for this song to come to creation. I don’t have any choice in how it sounds. I don’t sit down and think I’m gonna write an indie song or a math rock song. I’m just going to write it until it sounds the way it was meant to sound… sorry that’s suchhhh a douchey answer lol but I don’t know how else to describe it. If I start a song with a theme or a genre in mind, I usually end up hating it.
I also hold myself to a very high standard when I write. If the guitar part I’m playing is too easy, I get bored with it really quick. Because I’m always trying to one up myself as a guitarist, we ended up going in a much more guitar-driven direction. And I think that sound will be ever-evolving because of my chaotic writing style. Luckily I play with some absolute monsters who will make their instrument sound good no matter what.
What has it been like coming up in the Boston music scene?
Raavi: Oh boy I have a lot of feelings about this. I also grew up here so it’s been interesting seeing just how fast the scene moves in this college town. Boston is a great place to start if you’re looking to get into the music scene. Young people flock to the city every year which has it’s pros and cons. I wish people were more conscious of the city and it’s roots when they come here. So many folx see Boston as the place to be for now. That leads to a lot of self interest and cliques. The scene here is also incredibly segregated. There’s the indie DIY scene, which consists of mostly yts who came here for college, and the equally thriving hiphop/RnB scene, which features way more Boston locals. Anyway I’m trying to keep this concise but I could probably write a 10 page paper on the complexities of the underground Boston scene.
You’re planning to relocate to NY soon! What are you most looking forward to about moving to NY?
Raavi: Kind of building off the last question, the scene in Boston is dense but very small. At some point you realize you’ve done everything you can in this city and it’s time to move on to bigger things. I’m really excited to be living with my bandmates and just getting out of my mom’s house. I love her so much but I’m definitely ready to try and make it on my own, even though it’s scary as fuck. I am also looking forward to the 15/h minimum wage.
I recently found your album Don’t Hit Me Up from 2019, and as soon as I heard the first track I could tell that I was going to absolutely love the album. Can you talk to us a bit about that album?
Raavi: Yeah, thanks for checking it out! We put a lot of love into that record so it means a lot that it resonates with you. It was produced by our friend, Ruben Radlauer (of Model/Actriz and Dirt Buyer). All of the songs were written when I was a teenager so looking back on those songs now, they feel kind of like a time capsule I’ll always have of my youth.
What was the process of writing and recording Don’t Hit Me Up like?
James: This process is something that I don’t know if we will ever be able to exactly replicate. This came from two years of weekly rehearsals and ever-increasing gigs around Boston. Raavi would write new songs and send them to us- whichever ones stuck we would workshop for a few weeks and then add to our live set until we were playing nearly 100% unreleased songs at gigs. We eventually decided on pretty much recording our live set. This led to that album pretty much being a time capsule of our first two years as a band - the songs were written and practiced and performed so many times before we ever got in the studio that they really took on a life of their own and morphed over time throughout our many lineup changes (college makes it really hard) and being the sum of the influences of about ten musicians cycling in and out all playing the same songs, all learning and building off of each other’s contributions. It was a beautiful, unique, and organic process.
One of my favorite songs off of the album is Lipstick. What was the inspiration behind that song?
Raavi:Yeah Lipstick is an interesting one. It is an outlier for us in many ways. I wrote this one when I was 17. It was 2 AM in San Antonio and I was visiting my cousin. I went to her balcony so as to not wake her family and the song came out of me within a few hours. The meaning of the song has changed for me many times. I think originally, I was projecting my own quarrels with femininity onto a friend who was struggling with her identity. At the same time, I was actively coding it as a queer love song, when it definitely was not about love. I think I was trying to trick the listener, as well as myself. Recording this song was interesting too because we originally had a full band, power ballad arrangement, similar to another song on the record “Just To Live”. It was kind of cheesy and we didn’t know what to do with it. I ended up sending our Ruben the first ever voice memo I took of the song, from back when I was in San Antonio and we decided to start over and emulate the vibes of the voice memo. So we recorded it outside on my back porch in one take. We really wanted the environment to become like another instrument in the track. You can hear the wind in the trees, birds chirping and even Justin & Ruben’s footsteps at the end of the track.
Justin: ACTUALLY, Lipstick was originally a full band song, that Ruben and I were really struggling with to make sound the way we wanted. I overheard Raavi play the voice memo for someone and had her send it to me to show Ruben because it was totally the way the song should have been recorded in the first place. I was really into field recording bird sounds/ outdoor noises at the time so that + the voice memo (which literally made me cry) was the inspiration for the version that ended up on the album. Also huge shoutout to Sean from Bug Fight for laying down the sick cello parts on that song.
When a song is completed, how often does it sound like the idea you had in your head?
Raavi:We have five band members so it takes a while for us to figure out when the song is fully arranged and ready to be recorded. Then once it is recorded we usually end up adding overdubs anyway. It almost never sounds like what I originally wrote because the second Madden comes in with the drums, the vibe changes. For the better, of course.
Your song, Run Through, has the following lyrics:
“God I wish I could fix all this shit in my head
God I wish I didn't know I was gonna hurt you
I would act like I lived in your bed, in your bed
But I knew, fuck I knew, you were just a run through”
Is the song autobiographical? If so, are most of your songs autobiographical?
Raavi:Yes definitely. That song in particular was based on a dark time in my life. I almost didn’t even show it to the band because it made me uncomfortable singing those lyrics in front of people. I will say that not every song is autobiographical though. Our new single “Major Tool” is an example of a song that’s about something I’ve been through several times, rather than one particular experience. And every once and awhile, I just LIE! I like to write a song that sounds like I’m telling a story about something I’ve been through and I just made the whole thing (or parts of it) up. Mwahahahaha.
I think one thing that stands out for me throughout the album is that overwhelming sincerity in the songwriting. What is it like to be that vulnerable when writing?
Raavi: It is both scary and empowering. The people who know me, know I am not one to mince words. It’s like a running joke in my life that I am incapable of lying… which kind of contradicts my last answer but songwriting is just another form of storytelling to me, so I see those songs as works of fiction.
Sharing your art with people is scary no matter what. You are already making yourself vulnerable even if you aren’t actively writing about your trauma. For me, writing about my vulnerabilities is a form of self care. Because not only am I forcing myself to reflect on my actions and the situations I’ve lived through, but I’m doing it with the intention of showing my analysis of that situation to the world. In a way it forces me to be less of a brat about things when they don’t go my way because that’s not the persona I want to embody in my work.
Do you think that being vulnerable makes it easier for your listeners to connect to your music, or is that something that you don’t really think about when creating a song?
Raavi: I’m gonna say yes and no… but like mostly yes. Because people will project their own experiences onto the art they consume. I know I do! Again, writing is self care for me so I’m never like actively trying to pull a certain emotion out of someone with my words. Once a song is written, it’s for the world you know? Like I think it’s so cool that anyone can interpret my music however they feel like it.
We have a lyric book available on our bandcamp in which I analyse each song from our record a lil bit. So if someone is especially interested in what I happen to be thinking about a particular song, they can definitely check it out there (buying our merch is a great way to support us ;). But otherwise, death of the author.
Where do you normally draw inspiration from?
Raavi: I get super inspired by live music. So as you can imagine, it’s been a bit of an adjustment since live in-person music isn’t a thing right now. But yeah I am incredibly inspired by my musical peers.
Do you wait until you’re inspired to write, or do you sit down and work your way to inspiration? (does that even make sense?)
Raavi: It totally makes sense! I will say that I definitely try to do both but I am more likely to get something good if I don’t put any expectations on myself. Just noodling around until something comes to me, only works some of the time. When inspiration hits it hits. I’ve written some of my best songs at 3 am.
I ask this question all the time, and I always get interesting answers. I struggle with knowing when something I make is ready or good enough to be shared. Like with this interview. I’ve worked on it for a while now, but because I want to ask the best possible questions I keep deleting and rewriting everything. How do you know when you’re done or ready to share a song or album?
Raavi: I mentioned before that I feel like I’m just the vessel for a song. And this may just be a way for my not so neurotypical brain to describe how I just know when it’s done. It’s kind of like solving a math problem. Like how do you know when you’re done solving for x? When you plug x back into the equation and it works, right? Idk I hate math but that’s the best way I can describe songwriting. It’s like the song is already written deep in my brain, and I’m just solving for x. It’s really hard when you get so stuck on a song that has potential to be great. This is something I’ve been struggling a lot with throughout quarantine. It’ll be like 90% solved but I just can’t figure out the lyrics at this one line and it bugs the hell out of me.
You have a new song coming out in February! Can you talk to us a bit about that?
James: Like I mentioned earlier, our record Don’t Hit Me Up had about two years of a writing process from start to finish. The reason for the album name is that the title track was the song that, when it was written, set the course for what our vibe was going to be. This song is pretty much the same thing, a turning point in our sound and our approach. It’s a lot louder.
What’s the story behind the single?
Raavi: I wrote Major Tool right after we started recording DHMU and right before our second tour in the summer of 2019. So we had been playing this song for quite some time. It is one of three singles we’ve recorded throughout quarantine and by far it was the easiest to get done. In part due to it’s straightforward nature, and also because we’ve been playing it for a long time so we had that shit down.
Who do you consider your influences?
Raavi: I am really inspired by Big Thief, 2000s era Tegan and Sara, and 2000s era st. vincent. Basically queer women who rock lol
James: My teachers over the past four years; Mike Pope and Gary Willis. Getting the privilege to play with monstrously creative drummers; Gui Fuentes, Madden Klass, Nick Arcari, and Sam Stroup. Bassists I know who push me to rethink my approach to the instrument; Matt Grippo, Jannick Frampton, Davey Tanner.
Justin: Female Lead Guitar Driven Music
Josef: Nile Rodgers, Adam Hann, Kieran Hebden
What achievement in music are you most proud of?
Raavi: NPR music tweeted about us once lol that was cool. But also Nora breaking 100,000 streams on spotify was really great too. It took a bit over a year of being out for it to happen, but it definitely felt like a landmark to me.
James: I got recognized at work today by someone who saw us open for Ritt Momney and that felt pretty validating lol.
Justin: Like Raavi mentioned Nora hitting 100k was super validating. Also being recognized as “the guitarist from houseplants” before even being officially part of the band.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
Raavi: Okay so music-wise I would love to work with more POC womxn in rock. Christelle Bofale comes to mind because I think she is making some of the best and most underrated music in this genre. But also (I’m about to out myself as a nerd rn) I would love to work with cartoon show runners like Rebecca Sugar or Alex Hirsch. I would literally KILL to write music for an animated show.
I know it’s going to be some time before bands are able to tour again, but what would your dream tour look like?
Raavi: at this point my dream tour is literally just any tour idc who it’s with.
James: I wanna tour with Hotspit from RVA so bad. Hotspit if you’re reading this let’s link and build
Raavi: Trueee I change my answer to Hotspit
Josef: +1 for Hotspit
What has been your favorite/best show experience?
Raavi: we opened for Orion Sun at middlebury college on 4/20. That was pretty sick. Also the last house show we ever played was a really special show for me. I look back on that night really fondly. It was the last time I saw so many of my friends in a normal way before the storm that is covid hit.
James: Seeing Jack FU dancing a waltz on his own through the entirety of one of our songs.
What has been your worst show experience?
Raavi: lmao we played a show in vermont on our first tour. No one in Burlington knew who we were, because why would they. The band that played before us played the most generic cover set I’ve ever fucking heard. They brought a whole ass crowd who didn’t pay (which means we lost money on gas our first day of touring ever), and IMMEDIATELY left to go to a party after their shitty set was over. Also this was The middle of August and it was the sweatiest, stuffiest basement ever. We basically just played for the band who was last on the bill and their friends who stuck around. That band ended up calling it and didn’t play their set bc it was so hot and no one was there, so basically they were just sticking around to be nice which I appreciated lol. The next day we all went and got piercings together which was super fun.
What are some ways that we as listeners can show support for you and other bands?
Raavi: If you’re able to financially support the bands you like, go check out their bandcamps! Buy merch or download their songs. It definitely goes a long way in making it possible to make music. Especially since live shows aren’t really happening these days. If you can’t financially support the band, you can share their music and follow the socials. I know that’s a generic answer but it’s true.
What can we expect to see/hear from Raavi and The Houseplants in the near future?
Raavi: We are writing new stuff! Likely an EP but who knows what the future holds, maybe inspiration will strike me and an LP will pop out. But yeah I am super duper stoked about the new sound we are working with. We are also dropping new merch soon. All of the shirts we put out are thrifted as to not contribute to fast fashion, and to give everyone a one of a kind shirt. We are dropping a new design soon so definitely keep an eye out for that on our bandcamp.
Is there anything that you want our readers to know?
Raavi: The US is the biggest imperial state in the world and we are all living on stolen land
James: There is no justice without large-scale wealth and land redistribution as long as we live within the current framework of capitalism.
To wrap things up, do you have any questions for me?
Raavi: Not really a question but a praise: You ask very fun questions and that is really rare and cool! This is the 3rd interview I’ve done this week and I have one more after this. Your questions are by far the most thoughtful and interesting to answer so thank you so much for doing this :)