William of OrangeHT007.html

Quite possibly the best demo we will ever receive came in the mail from our nation's capital thanks to The Caribbean. Originally in D.C. area bands Townies and Smart Went Crazy, the boys followed up their astounding album on Tomlab and Endearing (History's First Know-It-All) by coming to Hometapes and recording the William of Orange EP with studio collaborator Chad Clark (Beauty Pill / Silver Sonya Studios). After a few brief tours on America's coasts they have returned with Plastic Explosives, again recorded with Chad Clark and at their own home studio. They consistently amaze us with their musical knowledge, witty charm, epic email threads, and skill at navigating the murky waters where pop and not-pop collide. They make lovely house guests and would love to play your local venue at the nearest convenience.

The Caribbean: America's Premiere Cottage Industry.

Now some words from The Caribbean's Mr. Michael Kentoff himself; questions by Hometapes:

Where are you from? Does/How does your history define you?
We're from Washington, DC primarily.  I grew up in the area and have always had something of an aversion toward politics -- or at least political conversations that last more than five minutes.  Likewise, I have always been somewhat intimidated by the sometimes cliquish DC "scene" be it Dischord, Teen Beat, Simple Machines -- even the faux-My Bloody Valentine shoegaze garbage that came out of Silver Spring and Arlington in the early 1990s.  As a result, I've developed -- not really by choice -- a little bit of a not-fit-in personality in DC, both on a musical and broader level.  I think the group reflects a little of that discomfort and misfit attitude.  You can hear it on our records and onstage -- ours is very elaborately arranged outsider art. 

Where are you now? ...and if you'd like to answer: Why?
In spite of the answer to your previous question, I love DC -- it's part-city, part-town -- and I'll probably stay here for a while.  You don't hear or read people say nearly enough that they love DC, which possibly means people live here but don't really like it or people take their enjoyment of life here for granted or people don't think it's kosher to sing the praises of DC even though they secretly dig it.  Whatever -- it's like no other place I know.  I wish I could describe what makes it so fab, but words [at least the ones I could summon] would cheapen my enthusiasm, so I'll keep mum.  Whenever I'm away for a while in some great town -- San Francisco, Vancouver, Portland, Chicago -- and I fly home into National Airport, I get this warm feeling when the plane takes a north-to-south approach and I can see the city.  People criticize DC because it seems to have so many imports and so few natives, but I look at that as a reflection of a population actively choosing to make DC home as opposed to a place where people grew up and simply stayed as a default.  I'm pretty sure Don and Dave are equally committed to DC and I know Matt is committed to the Baltimore area.  Tony will hate wherever he lives until he builds a house in Nevis/St. Kitts.

Why do you do what you do?
There's a big pay-off in being able to do something large scale ambitious in your life -- something that occupies your time, attention, and desire -- and then to see how it engages strangers and makes them part of our life.  That's why it's a kick-in-the-teeth when people close to me refer to my own pursuit of music as a hobby or my outlet [as in "oh yeah, everyone needs an outlet"] because it misses the compulsory aspect of my life in music.  Music is absolutely irresistible for all five of us.  It's not vacation or fun time; it's pretty much never glamourous; and it often brings sleep deprivation, bad eating, flu symptoms, spiritual pain and rejection.  No one, in his or her right mind, would choose to do this as an outlet from the pressures of the rest of the world because -- if you really really care about art and get some sense of self-worth from what you put out there -- you can never relax.    If I didn't believe the Caribbean compensated for the absence of something in the world [not just my own little life], I wouldn't bother.  Too much work & I should probably open up my social life anyway or spend more quality time with my wife.

Tell us about your musical history. What have you made up til now?
My first serious guitar was a 12-string, which really fucked me up for a long time.  After that, Matt and I were in a group called Townies from 1993 to 2000, so we've worked together on a nearly constant basis for 12 years.  Wow -- we're fucking old.  Townies put out a full-length and three eps.  Plastic Explosives is the Caribbean's third full-length.  Matt's the primary audience when I write songs; he has a razor sharp ear and if a song can excite his jaded sensibilities, I figure it stands half a chance.  He's a tough crowd. Dave's in a group called The Foreign Press who are in some ways even nerdier and more art damaged than the Caribbean.  I'm doing some production and session work with various folks -- Beauty Pill, Pagoda, Kevin Johnson, probably The Foreign Press -- and trying hard to organize the studio for the next Caribbean record.  I think I want us to have a better A/D converter, but that's as far as I'll go into gearspeak.

Think about your favorite artists. Think of a question you'd like to collectively ask them. Now, ask yourself that question and write down your answer.
How do you do your life's work and not get a sinus infection?

What are you listening to/reading/watching lately?
I'm about 100 pages into Peter Guralnick's new biography of Sam Cooke,
Dream Boogie, which is, like everything I've read of Guralnick, interesting and thoughtful in every way.  I'm also reading a book of late-discovered Dashiell Hammett stories called Nightmare Town, although if you really want to get acquainted with Hammett, the way to go is The Continental Op, which is a collection of stories, or Red Harvest, a novel.  In terms of records, Deerhoof's new record is pretty great and the Monk-Coltrane Carnegie Hall cd from 1957 that just came out is astonishing.  I ain't watching much, although we all like to watch Harvey Birdman and The Office [UK version] DVDs when we can.  The Dylan biography on PBS was pretty inspiring.  I think I'd like to see Capote.

Discuss avant garde/experimental vs. pop. We think your music could potentially warrant this comparison.
The Caribbean is not avant garde.  I think that requires an almost conscious and possibly exhaustive effort to subvert form that isn't strictly present in what we do.  We're pop music fans who, in an attempt to personalize and humanize the experience, have crossed over into experimental music or art rock rather by accident.  Everything we think is moving or just really cool -- that's what we want in our songs and that, organically, leads us out of any particular genre.  So, it can be music of any heritage or genre or time period, or a movie like Seconds with Rock Hudson, or a Diebenkorn painting or the biography of Pol Pot.  That's kind of where I was leaning with the idea of doing an EP based on the life and/or work of Weldon Kees -- not a record ABOUT Kees or interpreting his work, just a project intersecting with Kees and reflecting what he represents in our personal experience.  A Neutra house can absolutely inspire a Caribbean song, but I don't see us writing a song ABOUT Richard Neutra anytime real soon.  Where do you start?  Hmmm, let me look at the man's CV.  No one wants or needs to hear that.

List what matters.
Aside from frivolous things like love, our families, friends, art and good health,
Negihama [Yellowtail and scallion] maki.
Raymond Chandler.
A calendar with good artwork.
Personal space.
Parker pens.
Vancouver, B.C.
Brown vs. The Board of Education.
Pro football.
Medicine: from Albuterol to Zoloft.

What's next?
Aside from fighting off a nasty sinus infection, I'm going to be working with a DC band called Pagoda, helping them record their second full-length; they're a bit like Galaxie 500 with a pulse and some melodies.  We've started sketching out new material for the next Caribbean record, which will likely be an EP to come out in 2006 -- possibly a concept EP inspired by the poet Weldon Kees.  Don't worry: it won't be ponderous; Kees was anything but ponderous and it's really just an excuse to write a song called "65 Cent Dinner."  We're also working on the latest iteration of our live act, which, while Don gets used to graduate school, is trio format and lots of electronics.

Plastic ExplosivesHT013.html


The Caribbean Is A Band


The Caribbean