A classic band from the Baltimore music scene. They’ve been around for more than 10 years, releasing four albums in very different situations. There was a time when they had their ups and downs with 4AD,but that’s a thing of the past. Celebration is composed of singer Katrina Ford and her husband and multi-instrumentalist, Sean Antanaitis, along with drummer David Bergander, Tony Drummond and Walker Teret.
His career hasn’t been a bed of roses. After leaving 4AD they released an album themselves, “Hello Paradise” in 2010, and now they’re back with “Albumin”, released in Bella Union. Their style is quite unique, and has been described as cabaret-punk-rock. Joining Future Islands in the European tour, we got the chance to talk to them before their show in Madrid.
You were in Barcelona yesterday, how was it?
Amazing. I love that town. Beautiful city. We didn’t want to leave. The last half an hour we had we went to the beach and we sat and had cocktails and looked at the ocean. It was like a little mini vacation.
We had to tear ourselves away and we didn’t end up getting to Madrid until two in the morning because we had spent so much time on the beach.
The show was really fun. It was a really big rock club that was kind of like a cave. A lot of people.
How do you feel with the new album? Is it the one you’re most proud of?
Well yeah because it’s the most current but we’re also excited about what we’re working on next and we love where we came from. That’s why we’ve kept going.
I think it’s got such a rich mix of styles it makes impossible to categorise it in a simple style, which is a good thing I think. How was the approach after “Hello Paradise”? Did you produce it yourself this time right?
Yeah. Well we had the opportunity to demo some at home and figure out what we wanted to do before we went into an expensive studio because we were paying for the studio time song by song just by playing a show because at the time we weren’t with Bella Union so we really were a working band and that gave us time to reflect upon what we were working on and a unique perspective. I’ve had the other, we’ve all had the other experience of going in and being like, “OK you have two weeks or a month or X amount of days to do this record,” and you’re really just “pshh”. But this was really cool to do it song by song, two songs at a time roughly. And we’ve all had a lot of experience in a studio at this time in our lives. So it’s a totally different thing when you can go in and talk to the captain and be a part of the crew and make it happen. When I was a kid I didn’t know those things so I would just leave it up to others.
You were with a renowned label like 4AD but it didn’t go very well, and now you’re with Bella Union. How was the change?
I don’t want to keep answering everything but I’d just sat simply there’s not much more to say about it – it was so long ago now. 4AD is a completely different label now. The transition was difficult for us because we had different visions and we realised it wasn’t really working out so it was time to go. But we didn’t have a home for our music for a little while. We had some friends, Friends Records, put out a record for us but we basically licensed it out. We were just kind of seeing what would happen if we didn’t have any deadlines and if we tried to come up with this utopian vision that was really kind of a lot more than we could handle.
You feel more comfortable now?
Oh yeah. Because it’s nice to have other people that will make sure that people are hearing what you are doing. And we’re not good at selling ourselves.
You don’t have deadlines or things like that?
I mean there’s personal creative deadlines. But there’s not like “you must have a video by X date.” Bella Union’s very flexible. I think we would make albums with or without a record label but we’re all happy about Bella Union.
And they’ve really given us a lot of the tools that we need to do what we love to do. We’ve never had that opportunity before. It’s kind of like, we just feel really blessed and super lucky to have them behind us. They’re also really great people, one of my best friends from the record label over there she’s touring with us and Simon’s just like the papa and he’s the loving father and seeing him at shows is really a trip because we’re all big fans.
What’s the most important thing you have to deliver as an artist, and musician, to your fans, in order to make them trust you?
Maybe that’s a question for the fans? We don’t know!
I don’t really… I think if anything I like playing music with other people because I don’t feel alone in this expression. I like playing music for other people or in front of other people. The more people you have the more you don’t feel alone and it’s just like connecting on that universal level. When you can do that with the audience, I mean we can do that with each other-
We make music for ourselves and for each other and maybe that carries over.
I think the music starts from a private place and then when it becomes public it’s up to the audience to take it from the public space into their private space too, so there’s a connection there between our private world that we’ve created and we invite other people to join in and experience it how they want to. I don’t want people to like it for this reason or that reason, they can like it for any reason that they want to. I just want them to enjoy it.
I think the album has got a kind of spiritual vibe all over it that wasn’t that clear in previous releases. How did it show up?
I think that we always try to include a part of our, I mean our last record was tarot themed. Some people consider that entertainment some people would consider that spiritual. I feel that I’m pretty flexible with my belief system. I don’t think that they have any power. But anyway they continue to inspire us and things like that, questing the other, questioning things. Artists have always done that, that’s what they do.
I think it comes from the way you make a song. You don’t just decide I’m going to make a song that sounds like this. You sort of reach out to it and hope that it reaches out to you. And that’s kind of a spiritual process.
Totally. Chanelling some energy. All things written are, once they come out of you.
What would you do if you weren’t a musician?
If I wasn’t a musician?
Would you do art?
Oh yeah. That’s a difficult question because I enjoy art but I don’t think I would do it for a living. I don’t know. I have lots of other things I’d like to do but I always include them with music so I can’t imagine them without, you know.
Everyone talks about the internet and how helpful it is nowadays to spread the word into new bands, but how do you feel about this internet generation?
Katrina: I don’t know. We’re having a hard time adjusting to it because it promises that it will get you out to more people but I don’t really know how much it does. I’m from another generation. I didn’t have this tool when I was a kid and I’m kind of suspicious of it because I’m suspicious of everything. But at the same time I want to get along with everybody so I’m trying to figure it out. We relied on the internet pretty heavily. Like I was like, “OK let’s put all this music online for free and all these videos and all this stuff and see what happens” and nobody saw it.
I mean it’s fast and open sure but it’s also really, really, really crowded. So whether it’s better or worse I don’t know if we can say.
After all these years of career, when you start making new music, what do you think is the difference between now and then? How do you approach music after years of experience?
Ultimately really no. Every band has been slightly different in how it starts. But I’ve been making music long enough, most of the bands I worked with were together long enough that we sometimes jammed and wrote a song or sometimes somebody would have an idea – “This bass line’s cool, let’s do something with this.” It’s the same as “I have this vocal melody. What about this?” So, I don’t know. We don’t really have a formula, it’s always different. Ultimately it’s just us playing together and figuring what sounds good. We’ll have a skeleton, sometimes Sean and I will write piano, vocals. But we’ve been doing that kind of thing forever. And it’s all different ways so that’s maybe why everything sounds so varied.
What does it make Celebration stay together? Is there a secret to make a band together?
Just love each other. That’s pretty much it. Yeah. Love one another.There’s no more to it than that. We’ve been through a lot.
How is like the music in Baltimore?
Fucking great. There’s so many musicians. So many talented people. So many different formats. It’s exploding with creation. It’s exciting, really, really, exciting.
Last question, are you happy?
God. That’s not a constant. I wish I could say I’m happy all the time. I think I’m really fucking happy right now.
Yeah. For now. But you wouldn’t now happiness without sadness.
Yeah it definitely keeps you anchored.
I would say I can’t complain really.
No, certainly not. No. No complaints.