Who: Quilt's vintage strain of psychedelic folk first blossomed in the late 2000s, at Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts. "Our early days were really funny," recalls vocalist/guitarist/organist Anna Fox Rochinski. "We knew how to play music, but we were goofy, weird art-school people in a band. It was awesome." Rochinski, singer-guitarist Shane Butler, and drummer Taylor McVay bonded over shared interests, exchanged mix CDs — Butler's first contribution included songs by the 13th Floor Elevators, the Red Crayola, the Kinks, and Grateful Dead — and, over the course of a year, recorded most of what eventually became their self-titled debut album, released in 2011 by Mexican Summer. "The whole debut record was like our graduate school," says Butler. If that's true, then on January 28, Quilt — now featuring John Andrews on drums, replacing an amicably departed McVay — will drop their PhD dissertation, sophomore album Held in Splendor.
Bass Masters: This time, Quilt took refuge in the recording studio beneath Mexican Summer's Brooklyn offices, logging 60 hours a week for a solid month under the guidance of producer (and Woods member) Jarvis Taveniere. The 13-track offering they stitched together plays like a 43-minute séance, opening with the mystic nursery rhyme that is "Arctic Shark" and closing with the aquatic "I Sleep in Nature." In between, followers will find flashes of brisk prog-pop ("Tired & Buttered"); earthly meditations (song titles include "Tie Up the Tides," "Just Dust," and "Eye of the Pearl"); and fuller arrangements that include violin, cello, and bass. "Bass is a new thing for us," Rochinski says. "It's different than adding a tuba to our band — it's not significant in that way. But it brings us to an elevated level of listenability."
Retromania: Despite Quilt's hippie-dippie aura, Butler insists the band didn't set out to induce any acid flashbacks. "I remember when we recorded the debut album, and people were bringing up a lot of '60s bands — I didn't get it at first," he says. "That wasn't intentional at all, but I guess that happens." Still, they're not concerned about being pigeonholed as time-travelers, because, as Rochinski points out, "You can draw threads between anything. I love Vivaldi, but I also love the Mamas and the Papas, which we constantly get compared to." Also! "I love TLC. I'm not, like, a huge fan of them, but no one would ever associate Quilt with '90s R&B. But they're in me."
Lyrics to Live By: "Make amends with everything that will be," Rochinski sings on the Held in Splendor chant "A Mirror," offering a bit of crystal-ball wisdom that could double as Quilt's mission statement. "One thing that's pretty consistent with our band is fluidity," Butler says. "In terms of our gear situation, it's working with what we have, because we don't always have a lot. Or Taylor, for instance, when she left the band, and then John coming in — it's always a changing thing. I think bands can break when it's really rigid or there's an idea that it's supposed to be this way. Allowing it to unfold or blossom on its own is something that we've always at least worked at."