Marc Bianchi is the artist Her Space Holiday. He’s recently finished touring with added band members and his latest album XOXO Panda and the New Kid Revival.
Epilogue: So you just got back from tour. How was it?
Marc Bianchi: It was really, really good. It moved kinda quickly and we had some good times. The shows weren’t enormous but they had a lot of energy. We almost got out of it in one piece but we ended up causing a little damage to the van on the second to last day. Other than that it was probably the most fun time I’ve had in a long time.
Was it yours?
No. We rented a “sprinter” and they’re super, super tall. We pulled into this hotel parking lot the night before and got under it fine, and I guess the pavement was a little angled when we were pulling out we clipped the top of the air conditioning unit. So that part was a bummer since it was a rental, but… We almost got stuck, but one of the guys in the band, Nick, jumped up on the roof and he was so pissed that he was punching the air-conditioning unit down. It cut his hand open, there was blood all over the van, but we were able to get out and make it to Seattle. So I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.
So, you haven’t toured in a long time…
Not in the U.S. no, it’s been 5 years. In between I went to Japan, Europe, and Australia a whole bunch, but for the state’s it’s been a long time.
So it’s not like you were out of the game.
No, it’s just different. It seems like there was more attention put on the other countries. And we did some stuff on the west coast stuff, and last year we flew to a couple of shows. It’s hard, also, since I don’t have a full time band, so we have to coordinate who’s off, which friend’s band isn’t touring at the time. In Japan I have a band I play with that lives over there, and they came with me to Australia. So it’s just tough coordinating people.
What else were you doing during that time?
I was taking a long time to record this last record, but I was also doing some scoring work, there was some TV show stuff, there some remixes and I was writing lyrics for other artist in different countries. So I’ve been working every day, but just in different forms to make ends meet, just not necessarily for Her Space Holiday.
What kind of TV shows?
It was mainly some licensing stuff I had to do. There’s a show called “Aliens in America”, and one called “Samantha Who”. It’s been all across the board, but it was the scoring that was specific—an online show called “We All Float On” that I did some stuff for. And there’s this documentary about Outsider artists called “Make” that’s coming out later this year, and that’s what I was working on primarily.
You’ve been a career musician for the better part of the last two decades. After your American touring hiatus, did you notice anything different, any changes about the touring industry when you got back?
Yeah, it’s fucking crazy how quickly things are changing on all different fronts, from the past five years, or even a couple of years ago. For one the music industry, for lack of a better term, is completely falling apart. Not only just revenue—not to make it about money but it is a business if you’re going to put a record out—but the idea of buying a hard copy record is just so minimal. I think it’s nine percent of what it was. And when people are actually buying records they’re doing it on iTunes, but even that is so rare. I have friends that work for some really big successful record labels, and one of them was saying in Europe their record sales were down eighty-seven percent.
I didn’t really know how to gauge this because I don’t tour often enough—but the shows themselves, unless you’re a huge artist that people maybe put money aside to see one or two of a year, those are getting much, much smaller as well. I think a lot of people are grappling to see, especially with technology, what is a new way to sustain it not only as a business, but also as a viable form of reaching people with music.
It seems like for the most part that labels are staying alive by just getting a couple of good licenses a year. But other than that, people are robbing Peter to pay Paul. There are definitely labels just folding left and right.
You used to run your own record label, right?
A long time ago, called Audio Information Phenomena. But it was just for a couple of years.
Do you have any interest in doing that again?
When I did the label, it was around the time I was starting Her Space Holiday. The only thing I ever released by HSH was one split 7-inch, because I was really focusing on the other bands. But the longer that I do this, and the older I get, I kind of toy with the idea of just doing things in-house.
I mean, I really like the labels and people I work with and they’re amazing (Mush Records and Wichita Records) but it may come to a time wheree who knows who’s going to be around. They’re both doing fine at this point. I think there’s somewhat of a know-how where if I needed to I could start doing things on my own. But even then, when I was running the label before, I was taking the model after when I was playing in hardcore and we were doing stuff grassroots. Even then I’d have to learn a bunch of new things, but starting a record label right now seems like the worst possible thing you could do. Even if you were well connected, you’d have better luck opening up a sandwich shop.
Epilogue is a design-oriented publication. You recently did a live event with Tokyo based designer and illustrator PCP (Heisuke Kitazawa). Could you tell us more about that and your connection to physical forms of art?
That event—which was strange because it was a “retrospective” and all my friends make fun of me for that because we’ve only worked on three projects together, so that might be a little premature—the event itself focused on three projects we did together. The first one was a The Telescope, a children’s story I wrote, and he did the illustrations for it, and then there was a soundtrack that came along with it. The second thing—he did the artwork for the last album—and during that time we stayed in touch during the whole process as I was recording and he was drawing and making illustrations. We were giving each other feedback and were tailoring things back and forth based on the work we were showing each other.
And the last one was this new little picture book ‘zine thing he did called “The Candle Jumped Over the Spoon.” It’s based off this new song that’s coming off my new record that he did an illustrated story for.
But basically, my two favorite mediums to work in are actual writing as an author; or illustrators and designers. And I can’t do both, so it’s like music is a default. So when I’m making music, it’s like a substitute for doing things visually (I tried to mess around with some short films, but that didn’t work out.) So working with Heisuke was a way to broaden that. And we have very similar personalities, even though we’re completely on the other side of the world. He was able to take the sounds and put them in a visual form, so it was a lot more satisfying.
I mean, I love music, and maybe I discredit because I do it, but I think as far as visual art goes I think it’s a much more sophisticated process or can be. It’s always interesting to work with people in other mediums, because I have absolutely no idea how they create those things: my brain doesn’t work like that.
So you don’t paint or anything?
No, I don’t do anything like that. I can’t control my hands that way.
Terrible segue, but does that have anything to do with why HSH went the electronic route?
The electronic route—the new record doesn’t actually have any electronics on it—but what happened was when I was playing before I got a little four-track. I was putting my little ideas down on tape, but only had a guitar and one keyboard and didn’t have the skill set when it came to other instruments (and not that I do now). So I started discovering samples and found a way to broaden the sound without actually being able to play the instruments.
The problem was, I just got further and further away from actually making music. Everything was just editing. After a while, you might as well just be editing spreadsheets. The last record, I just wanted to get a pile of instruments and learn them as I went along.
So how did the transition happen, shunning electronic beats and featuring a band?
It came down to: I was going to quit playing music. I was so fed up with the process and the isolation of it. But then I went to Spain and visited a friend and I was talking to her to clear my head and was talking to her about this and she was like, “Why don’t you just stop doing it for a while, get a bunch of instruments, and write about things that make you happy that are a little bit more light hearted, and do it as a project?” So initially this last record, I didn’t know what was going to happen with it. It definitely wasn’t going to be a ‘Her Space Holiday’ record, and came out in Japan under the title ‘XOXO Panda’ as the artist’s name. But then I realized “this is what I do now, it doesn’t have to be a separate project.” So when it came out in Europe, the ‘States and Australia, it came out as a ‘HSH’ record.
When I started, I mean… there’s always so much of your personal limitations, or insecurities or shyness in your work. I think I was just doing it for long that it doesn’t matter—and it’s so subconscious I didn’t think about it before—but it doesn’t matter if it does well, and there’s no projection on it. It’s been around for so long that it (HSH) can do what it wants to do, there’s more of a freedom. I feel like I can breath a little bit more whereas I was just suffocating under samples and glitches. Nothing against that kind of music, but it was just getting to me.
You’ve also done a lot of remixes in for some notable artists.
It’s been a while. I’ve done stuff for Bright Eyes, Elastica, REM, and American Analogue Set. But I can’t get into the flow of doing remixes anymore, it’s kind of tedious in itself, so… I only had two tricks that I learned doing it, and I think those ran their course. It’s been a little while…
I digress, but was there really any point where you just decided “Forget the drum machines, I’ve got hand claps and finger claps?” Because that’s what I hear from the new album.
I think it was after I recorded the second song from the new record. And maybe I didn’t consciously say, “I’m never going to use electronics again.” But it was a just a lot of fun so I kept going. But it’s really funny that you said that, because last night I was listening to the Volta album, the Björk record, and I started making an electronic song and was like “I haven’t done this in a while.” So last night, after two years, I started working on electronic stuff, and it is terrible.
Did you throw it away?
Haha, no, I think I need to redeem myself. I have to know that I can at least edit stuff again. It was just a weird process. It was like reading a book on a blackberry—so disconnected. I was just staring at a screen, just moving stuff around, but I guess we’ll see.
What are your plans for the rest of the year? You mentioned a new album, or was that XOXO Panda?
No, it’s a new record. I’m seven songs into it, but I may scrap it. I don’t know. We’ll see. When you come back from tour, there’s just so much stuff in your head, so much stimulus. So I came back and listened to it and was like, “I don’t really know about this record…”
In August I think I want to try to go to Iceland for vacation, finish up the new record, and then maybe move back to Texas. We’ll see. Other than that, the future is wide open… supposedly, for a little while.
Her Space Holiday Interview