“One thing he wrote about that I find very interesting,” says singer Anna Fox Rochinski, referencing R. Buckminster Fuller as she barrels down the East Coast in a van on Super Bowl Sunday, “is the concept of earth grids, and how there’s a pattern on earth where energy points meet.”
Explaining her admiration for Fuller might seem an odd way to convey sentiments related to Quilt, her Boston quartet that recently issued its second proper full-length, Held in Splendor, on the Mexican Summer label. But Fuller’s broad philosophies, referenced on the band’s 2009 demo, apply to the ensemble, which began as a three-piece, sans bassist, and whose players were necessitated to be generalists, not specialists in a narrow field. The designer and theoretician would be pleased.
“Shane [Butler, guitarist] was always figuring out how to get very deep tones out of his guitar, to the extent where he had a backup guitar he’d put bass strings on,” Rochinski says. “He’d play his guitar through two amps—one for bass tones and one for guitar. It was getting incredibly gnarly, but it was getting to be a lot to manage.”
Swelling to a quartet enabled Quilt to move from what Rochinski refers to as a “floaty, trebly world” to a sonic pasture more befitting of the countless comparisons to ’60s pop psych the ensemble has encountered. She says the move has elevated the band to new heights. But that’s subsequent to the recording of Held in Splendor.
“Doing the album as a three-piece was really special,” she says, ticking off the disc’s slew of guest musicians, including Virginia-born guitarist Daniel Bachman. Among all those collaborations is a composition featuring only Rochinski and a guitar. “Talking Trains” adds a dour texture to the record’s otherwise positive, third-eye peacenik fair. The off-kilter finger-picking keeps the song from being another bland singer-songwriter confection and grants Rochinski’s voice something reasonably unique to float over. It almost didn’t turn out that way, though.
“I had played that song with Shane and [drummer] John [Andrews], before at practice, back when we were demoing the record,” she says. “It started to take on this whole Fleetwood Mac vibe. It was cool. And when we demoed it to send it to [producer] Jarvis [Taveniere], it was just me singing it with a guitar. Jarvis was like, ‘I think you should sit on that stool over there and play it live and sing it yourself.’”
Quilt’s frontwoman says band members never had a deep conversation about including a solo cut on an ensemble album. But Rochinski’s performance history predates Quilt. About a decade ago, she was part of a Boston-area children’s choir that worked stages at Symphony, Jordan and Carnegie halls. A bit later, she wound up going to an assortment of DIY house shows and eventually began performing in those more intimate spaces.
“When I was 16 and drinking 40s at house shows, watching punk bands, I thought it was the coolest thing of all time,” she recalls. “And when I was older, playing those shows, that was an amazing step, too. Over and over again, I’d get caught up in the beauty of different kinds of settings.”
Somewhere between concert halls and house shows, Rochinski worked up a repertoire of acoustic guitar and banjo tunes, plying her performances in and around Boston. Those endeavors eventually intertwined with her Quilt cohorts, resulting in the noisy proclivities of that 2009 demo. There’s another spirit at work on Held in Splendor. Each player’s musical disposition remains clear on his or her independently composed offerings, but the splendors Quilt aims for have yet to coalesce—leaving the band’s future an unknown, but intriguing, road off one of the highways it’s traversing.
SEE IT: Quilt plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Big Haunt and Eternal Tapestry, on Wednesday, Feb. 12. 9 pm. $10. 21+.