Published on December 8th, 2015 | by Alex Thiel0
Unraveling Reels: An Interview with Kate Teague and Her Band
Local indie rock band Reels and their frontwoman Kate Teague have taken Oxford by storm since forming just under a year ago. After a slew of changes to their name and their lineup, they went into Tweed Recording and cut their debut EP, releasing it on Bandcamp in late November. The Local Voice recently sat down with Reels to talk about their new record and their future plans.
What was the recording process?
Kate Teague (guitar, vocals): I think we came in there pretty much knowing exactly what we wanted.
Shane Prewitt (drums): Yeah, I had recorded there twice… [We] were really quick about it. It took two days of tracking.
KT: We knew that with the time we had reserved there, we probably weren’t going to be able to do more than three, maybe four [songs]. We practiced those songs the most before going in there.
SP: The intention was for it to be a solid EP from start to finish.
Hershey Tate (guitar): The sound was pretty much a complete surprise to me, because I can never hear what anyone else is doing in practice [laughs].
Jeremiah Wills (bass): Yeah, being in the studio was the first time that I could hear everything: the lyrics, myself playing… so that was really cool. And then being able to turn right around and listen to it was like, “Oh, wow!”
KT: That totally did not happen to me. I guess my brain couldn’t go there. I was so brain-dead from doing [the EP] in two days, I couldn’t really comprehend it. I didn’t really listen to it until we put it online, to be completely honest… I remember, like two weeks after we had it recorded, Shane was telling me about all these people he had shown it to, and I was like, “Damn! I’ve only shown it to my parents!”
Do you write everything by yourself?
KT: Just the base of the song, the chords, and the melody.
SP: Usually, [Kate] may have some lyric idea, maybe a melody, and then she develops her part as we go, too. Everyone pretty much writes their own part.
HT: We’ll loop one part of a song until everybody comes up with something, then the next part, then the next part. It’s proven to be a really quick way to finish a song—to record and listen to it, then improve upon those parts when we have more time.
Has the sound you’re going for changed since you guys first got together?
SP: Kate was doing ‘50s stuff. Or ‘30s stuff.
KT: It’s interesting how it goes, because my brain isn’t very grunge-y, vs. Shane’s, which is. There are some times when I’ll start with a song and think, “I want this to sound heavy,” but there are other times that I’ll come up with a song and just be like, “Here’s a song!”
Jean Marie Lalande (saxophone): The stuff in the beginning was very bluesy, very quiet, and it took forever to get the band together. Jeremiah [came] really late, and Hershey wasn’t really there in the beginning. We couldn’t really figure out the dynamics of the songs.
KT: It’s been a process, for sure. I mean, like, Shane and Hershey have been in other bands and they kind of know how it goes, but I had never been in a real [band]. At first, I really had no idea. Just because a song had drums, it sounded good to me. As it’s progressed, I’ve been able to pick apart things and see what I like and what I don’t like. That’s been a process just for me personally.
JML: The most complicated part was finding a bass player.
HT: I think we were drunk at the Pig, and [Shane] was like, “Jeremiah, you gotta get in on this band!” [laughs].
JW: I hadn’t played bass in about ten years, so it’s been fun getting back into it. Listening to old-school R&B and soul, where the bass is just awesome.
HT: You had to knock the rust off a little bit, but we were just like, “Hey, Jeremiah, come play bass!” And you were like, “aight.”
How did you finally settle on the name “Reels?”
KT: It’s not a very cool story [laughs]
HT: We found out that there was another semi-popular artist who goes by Pluto, so that went out the window. For some reason, I’d gotten fixated on single-syllable, pluralized nouns. We were in the studio just Googling words. All of them were taken until we got to Reels. I thought Reels sounded cool. It evokes the studio vibe.
KT: And I’d already said that I like words like “broadcast,” and “the microphones,” and words that have those connotations. So I guess that was part of it.
SP: The association with “Reels” is a lot better than with “Pluto.”
HT: Although Pluto works for us too, because Pluto used to be a planet, and we used to be Kate Teague and the Hate League [laughs].
What’s the reception to the EP been like? What’s surprised you?
KT: That everyone likes “Bad Coffee.”
SP: My grandmother likes it. She really hasn’t liked anything I’ve done before. My sister-in-law likes it. It’s gotten a really good reception all around. People are confused by the French [in “Secrets”].
Yeah, what was with that?
KT: I was listening to a lot of Stereolab, and Melody’s Echo Chamber, and I had just become fond of the idea of French songs, but then I thought I could get away with it because there was someone in the band who spoke French. I would never translate a song by myself, because it would never come out right… [B]ut considering Jean Marie could do it, it became an exciting idea once it was mentioned, so we got together and wrote it.
HT: I like the French. I think it’s a cool aesthetic.
SP: I’m not sure I want to know what the song actually says in English.
So most of the band has no clue what the song is about?
HT: It’s like… “Sitting on the toilet, I realize there’s no tissue…”
SP: “How can I keep this secret?”
KT: [Laughing] That’s not what it means! It just is about when you get into a serious relationship, and you realize you get to the point where you have to start telling them all of your secrets. And then how you don’t want to do that.
How does a solo Kate Teague show differ from a Reels show?
KT: I really enjoy playing slow stuff, so when I play solo a lot of it is more mellow. When I play solo, a lot of it is these same songs, just mellowed out. And then I also do a few songs that are too mellow for us to have ever played with… and then a few covers that I’ve just had in my back pocket for a while. But I enjoy [both shows] about the same.
What are the band’s future plans?
SP: We’re hoping to do a weekend a month in the spring, three or four show runs, and then in the summer, all together as one twelve-day run.
HT: I think writing will pick up in the winter.
Kate Teague plays a solo set at The Blind Pig on Thursday, Dec. 10. Reels will play at Proud Larry’s on Thursday, Jan. 21. ‘EP’ is available for streaming and download at reelsoxford.bandcamp.com.