Automatically Yours on their short, gentle existence
The Madison band, formed just last year, band plays its final show on June 26 at Mickey’s.
ince forming in summer 2014, Madison band Automatically Yours have played vulnerable and understated guitar-pop in the midst of a growing community of punk and garage-rock bands—when they play a show, they're often the welcome, chorus-laden exception to a bill of punchy distortion. In fact, the band’s new tape, The Trouble With The World Is Me, is the first release from Rare Plant, a new tape label run by Erick Fruehling of Madison garage-punk outfits Fire Retarded and Dumb Vision and Claire Nelson-Lifson of power-pop band Proud Parents. There's also something endearingly unvarnished about the band's sound: The tape captures Alejandra Perez's gentle but catchy vocals and guitarists Luis Perez and Ross Adam's nimble, clean-toned hooks with warm but matter-of-fact production from bassist AJ Daughtry Krill (who recorded, mixed and mastered it). And in that sense, Automatically Yours sounds at home among punk bands. And though the band happily tags itself as "twangy twee indie pop," the actual songs favor maturity over preciousness: "Over There" and "Can't Stand It" combine pleasant melodies with bummed-out, lovelorn lyrics, and "Getaway" goes right for a gnawing minor-key ache. The band makes no bones about worshipping tender-hearted late-'80s indie-pop, but the songwriting is incisive and the execution unpretentious.
The Trouble's nine songs are a pretty good little body of work considering the band's brief life: Automatically Yours will play their final show, on Friday, June 26 at Mickey’s, as Adam is moving away from Madison barely a year after arriving here from Melbourne, Australia. The other four members will still be playing music in Madison: Alejandra Perez is in a new band, Tarpaulin, Luis Perez (Alejandra’s brother) is in another new band, Zinky Boys, drummer Matt Barnidge is in garage-rock band Headplow, and Krill has a project called And The Curse Of The Frozen Hair. All five met up with me recently to talk about the new recording, embracing the term “twee,” and ripping off Smiths riffs.
Tone Madison: So the story of your band is that Ross moved to Madison from Australia just last year, then managed to find everyone else and start a band in pretty short order?
Ross Adam: I arrived in Madison in July 2014 and it came together quite quickly, which is unusual. I tried a few things out on Craigslist, which never, ever works, ever. But yeah, this came together surprisingly quick, which is really good. I contacted Luis, and I also knew this guy called Jay, Jay said he was friends with Matt and then so that was the connection there. And then Luis knew his sister, I think, from growing up together.
Luis Perez: I’ve known AJ since I was 13. He was my teacher.
Ross Adam: So AJ groomed him from a quite a young age.
Tone Madison: And in your bio on Bandcamp, you even say that Ross just Googled “indie pop” and “Madison” after moving here.
Ross Adam: I’m English but I lived in Australia for like 12 years, and before I got here to see if there was any scene in Madison, so “indie pop Madison.” The two things that came up were Luis’ bedroom music thing, which is called Automatically Yours, and this J, who I mentioned before, who does a radio show on WSUM, “One, Two, Twee!" Both of them replied to me. J was like, “Do you want to co-host the show with me?,” which was cool. And Luis and I chatted a bit and I asked if he was interested in doing it as a full band, and he was, so we went from there. The two Google hits from that search were quite good.
Tone Madison: The bands you play with are mostly pretty abrasive, punk-influenced bands, and you’re a lot more gentle, obviously. Is it interesting sharing a lot of shows with more aggressive acts?
Alejandra Perez: I’m really good friends with the Fire Retarded guys, and I lived with Bobby Hussy for a long time, and those guys were looking for something different, and they really welcomed it: “Absolutely, please try something different, everybody’s playing garage-rock right now!” It’s interesting because you’d think that people wouldn’t have a good response to a different thing because that scene is so tight, but I feel like when we play, people dance, people seem to be into it, and it’s good.
Ross Adam: I don’t think there’s many places in the world that you could do an indie-pop band and only play with bands that sound like you. I was in an indie-pop band in Melbourne, which was an amazing indie-pop scene, but we were always playing with punk bands and things like that. I think the difference is for me, that playing live with a band, especially in a place that only has a vocal PA, it’s quite hard to pull it off live sometimes. When we played at the university at the Rathskeller, that was one of our best gigs because it was a full PA. I don’t know about anybody else, but I find it quite hard to re-create it live.
Alejandra Perez: When we did our tape release, Rare Plant sold 20 of our tapes. Which is awesome, because I don’t think just 20 of our friends bought our tapes. It’s nice to know that there’s people outside of just our friends that are listening.
Luis Perez: I think it also shows the support in the Madison scene that’s starting to happen now.
Tone Madison: It’s funny that you guys really embrace the term “twee,” because it’s such a pejorative and reductive label.
Ross Adam: Yeah, look. I don’t know what Luis thinks or what anyone else thinks about this. I don’t think it’s a great term, but it’s just an easy word to use.
Luis Perez: Because sometimes you say “indie-pop” and people are like—
Alejandra Perez: That’s such a big umbrella.
Ross Adam: Back in the '80s and '90s, “twee” was never used for this sort of stuff. I’m not sure where it was coined, but it came about in the late '90s and it was more of a negative thing.
Tone Madison: That term didn’t really jump to mind when I first heard your music—I mean, it’s gentle and melodic, but it’s not cutesy. There’s an adult perspective to it.
Ross Adam: Which is why I personally identify with the whole C86 thing, because if you listen to those bands, it’s not cutesy at all. It’s melodic, it’s very pretty, but there’s a lot of seriousness in the lyrics, and it’s kind of based on the punk thing. It’s political.
Luis Perez: People even call Beat Happening twee, but they have a lot of dark songs. I think it’s always been kind of an interesting term. I’m guessing me and Ross are the only people with an opinion on the word “twee.”
Matt Barnidge: Definitely, for me, “twee” was like, “Uh, I’m in a twee band? I don’t know.” [everyone laughs] And the stuff that I found on YouTube was definitely a lot cutesier than our stuff is.
Luis Perez: Ross identified me when we met up—I was wearing a Smiths T-shirt.
Ross Adam: It was pretty obvious.
Luis Perez: Smiths T-shirt and a cardigan—that must be the guy who’d start an indie-pop band.
Ross Adam: At least two of my songs came about from me trying to play Smiths songs, stealing a couple of the chords and going off in a different direction. I’ll try and play it, think, “fuck this, this is too hard,” then simplify it and steal it.
Tone Madison: What are some of the specific songs that have come about that way?
Ross Adam: “Without You,” which is the last song, the last part is ripped off from “This Charming Man,” in terms of the chords. So not exactly the same, but the basic shapes of the chords.