When seeking out new music you can sometimes stumble on a band in the strangest fashion. I discovered Minneapolis, MN 4 piece band Symbol & Surface while reading a Michigan State University Athletics message board, as one of the posters had mentioned the band. I quickly found their bandcamp site and began heavy spins of their debut Ep “Brothers” and let their indie folk tunes run circles around my brain. Each of the 5 songs on Brothers has its own hidden quality that reveals itself with repeat listens. My love of the opener “Jonah” was quickly eclipsed when “Scariest Thing Of All” had its chance to bloom and fester. Symbol & Surface bring a fresh sound to the indie folk scene and it was my pleasure to interview them in this edition of 5 Questions.
Cal: First off, can you tell us about your band name and where you came up with it?
S&S: Symbol & Surface comes from Oscar Wilde’s preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray. We really like the thesis of Wilde’s essay (which is about art), and also think Symbol & Surface communicates a broader human impulse: the desire to be seen in full and embraced for all that we are.
This desire leads us to bring our true selves to the surface – to wear our hearts on our sleeves, so to speak. Still, the fear of rejection and disconnect causes us to obscure that truth about who we really are in metaphor or symbol. This tension between honest vulnerability and the security of ambiguity is central to how we approach our music.
Cal: I’ve had the pleasure of spending a lot of time in the Twin Cities (I’ve had many pints at the Happy Gnome in St. Paul) and one thing that amazed me was how active the indie music scene was. Can you tell me a little about your experience of being indie musicians in Minneapolis and how it has impacted your writing and growth as a band?
S&S: Being in Minneapolis and having relationships with other local, indie musicians has been an essential part of the formation of our band and the recording of the Brothers EP. It’s been a privilege to be in a city that has a good local scene, and people who support and value that scene. It’s been really fun for us to be able to record and play with talented musicians who are also our friends.
Cal: One of the real strengths of your debut Ep is how you let each song grow naturally and don’t go over the top with overdubs, often building off of the vocals and an acoustic guitar. Was this a concious decision and can you give us an idea of your writing and recording process?
S&S: All five tracks on the Brothers EP were written by Brian and David as acoustic songs before the band was complete. A lot of the bass and drum parts were written during the recording process. Therefore, the songs naturally had an acoustic foundation. Still, we did make a conscious decision to take a minimalist approach to the musicality on the record and to focus on dynamics. While our writing process now encompasses the full band, we continue to take a minimalist approach to our songs and focus on building around the lyrics.
Cal: You listed The Avett Brothers, Bon Iver and The Tallest Man on Earth as some of your influences. What are three records that have had a huge influence on your wanting to play music?
S&S: Lifted, Or The Story is in the Soil (Bright Eyes); For Emma, Forever Ago (Bon Iver); Second Gleam (The Avett Brothers)
Cal: Fresh off of a brand new Ep in December, what can we expect from Symbol & Surface in 2012?
S&S: We’re currently focusing on playing shows in the Twin Cities with different friends of ours, and hopefully recording our second EP early this summer.
See Them Live:
March 22nd: Symbol & Surface w/Cedar Avenue @ The Fine Line. Minneapolis, MN
- The Symbol & Surface homepage – Link
- You can purchase their debut ep at their bandcamp site – Link
- Follow them on Facebook – Link