The sunny psychedelic pop housed on LAKE’s Let’s Build A Roof deepens and interestingly darkens the Olympia group’s previous output. The dozen songs were produced by Karl Blau, someone who clearly has a knack for adding layers without losing a creaky, natural spaciousness (and someone they tour with in October/November). A ways back I mentioned “Madagascar“‘s island feel. The group digs into shimmery horn-lined dream pop on the anthemic “Don’t Give Up” and gets increasingly frantic on the swooning “Gravel,” an exhilarating Let’s Build A Roof standout that debuts after my conversation with the band.
Right, they’re here because they work: Eli Moore’s a part time electrician’s apprentice and his fellow LAKE co-founder Ashley Eriksson works for for Whidbey Island Environmental Action Network, aka WEAN, “a non profit working to restore and preserve Native habitats on Whidbey Island,” an island about 30 miles north of Seattle. As far as the other LAKE-rs: Adam Oelsner’s a baker, Lindsay Schief’s a barista at Stumptown, and Markly Morrison multi-tasks at a bakery. (I didn’t speak to Andrew because he makes a living as a full-time musician. That said, he is also a student at Evergreen College.)
STEREOGUM: Is your father an electrician training you and your sister? Or are they already both electricians? Is there a family business? If so, please describe it some. And, can you describe your duties?
ELI MOORE: My father and sister are the electricians and I’m their trusty/spacey apprentice. It’s my dad’s business and we all generally work together wiring new houses for the kind of wealthy people that move to Whidbey Island every day. It’s really fun working together, we joke around quite a bit. My dad and sister are both very involved in new solar power systems and that kind of thing, so it’s more and more exciting these days because it’s a growing field and you get to work with costumers that are trying to think outside the box. When I’m working I usually do the easy things like wiring plugs, switches, and light fixtures! Drilling holes in the studs and pulling wires through them, hammering staples into the wires to keep them secure, going to the brown bear for extended periods of time.
STEREOGUM: Is there a new crop of wealthy people moving to the island or is this something that’s always happened?
EM: I suppose it’s been happening for a long long time, but it certainly seems to be getting worse and worse. I’m relatively young, so I’m not sure about a new crop … I’d have to ask the old timers. We moved to the Island in 1982.
STEREOGUM: Were your sister and father always interested in Green construction? How long has your father been in the business?
EM: My parents built a log house here on Whidbey when we first moved here. I’m not exactly sure how Green that is, by today’s standards, but it’s very “natural” looking. My sister started building a straw-bale house on the property when she was still in high school, over 10 years ago. It’s amazing and very “Green”, not literally green, but Green like the new compact florescent light bulbs.
STEREOGUM: How often do you work? Hours?
EM: Well, I’m touring, recording, or doing other music related business maybe five or so months a year, so they don’t have me around a lot of the time, which is fine because business is slower these days. My dad really likes to work shorter days, so it’s usually a five or six hour day, sometimes shorter, occasionally we actually work eight hours! A normal work week is between 25 and 30 hours, which is plenty for me because Ashley and I don’t spend a lot of money on Whidbey Island. There are too many free things to do!
STEREOGUM: How does one make the move from apprentice to full-on electrician?
EM: To become a full fledged electrician, to get your journeyman’s license — which is what my sister has — you have to work the equivalent of three years full time (no holidays), and then take a big test that’s full of math and electrical code questions.
STEREOGUM: What are some recent projects?
EM: Their has been some new, bigger solar projects, but I’ve been less involved in that. We’re just finished doing the “rough in” for a church in the woods behind our house. On a different road, but it’s literally just a mile through the woods behind our house. It’s a Unitarian church, which is cool, right?
STEREOGUM: What does a “rough in” involve?
EM: Rough in is when the house is just roof and studs, just the wood and the foundation, and the insulation and sheet rock walls are not up yet. It’s running the wires through the house, nailing up all the boxes and light boxes, that kind of thing. Then when the walls are all done, and painted we come back and put the actual switches, plugs, and light fixtures in. That phase is called “trim.” Here’s an example: “Now that we have roughed in this new house we will wait a month or so and come back to trim it out.”
STEREOGUM: Ha, thanks. Ever wire any musical equipment?
EM: I’ve tinkered, but there are different rules … it’s different voltages, wattage, ohms, all that stuff, so I’m pretty lost in that field. It’s fun to mess around, and I would love to be able to fix my own amps when they break down, but I’m pretty clueless.
STEREOGUM: Maybe your father and sister could help.
EM: We’d have to learn together. I’m sure they know all about capacitors, transistors, and that jazz. That would be a fun project!
STEREOGUM: Can you talk about WEAN a bit? And about Whidbey Island? I’m curious about what it’s like and what’s specific to that place, etc.
ASHLEY ERIKSSON: WEAN is a non-profit environmental organization. They started in the ’80s when a bunch of people got together to stop the logging of an old-growth forest on the island. They’ve been going ever since. WEAN monitors development and also serves as a sort of environmental 911. Not that they are going to go fight a forest fire or anything like that, but if someone has just witnessed the pollution of a wetland or something like that, they can call WEAN to figure out what the next step of action should be. Mostly what I do is help the organization organize. My biggest project to date is a new website that should hopefully put more of what they do online for the public to see and become more involved.
STEREOGUM: When does the new site launch?
AE: It already launched! Just earlier this month.
STEREOGUM: How long have you worked at WEAN?
AE: About a year. But not very much of that year because we were on tour a lot.
STEREOGUM: What are your duties?
AE: Organization building. Web design. Graphic design. Outreach. Other.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a background in conservation?
AE: Nope! But I do have the heart for it.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a background in web/graphic design?
AE: I was in charge of the web site for my high school and took an html class, but that is my only real background in web design. As for graphic design, I’ve never really been a professional graphic artist per se, but I have been a common household artist and designer my whole life with leanings towards the graphic arts world maybe a little more than other kinds of art. I say this because of my love for presentation and lettering. I very often find myself consumed in writing something out in intricate lettering just for the sake of making it look beautiful. I also love drawing, but there’s so much more pressure on myself to make it look a certain way, so lettering is great. I have done a lot of graphic work, but very little of it has been for pay. I mostly just do it because I like to. I made the website for LAKE because we needed one, and then that made me feel confident that I could make a website for WEAN.
STEREOGUM: Are there any endangered plants or animals on the island?
AE: The endangered plant that I always hear my bosses talk about is the “Castilleja levisecta,” or golden paintbrush. It’s one of our rare prairie species. There are others, but that’s the only one that comes to mind. The only endangered species that I know of mainly the big names, like the Orca whales, Bald eagles, and Salmon.
STEREOGUM: Does anyone at WEAN ever make bad puns like “We need to WEAN people off pollution”?
AE: No one at WEAN does, but everyone else always does. There have been a lot of political cartoons that WEAN has been featured in. I will be posting them on the website, hopefully by next month.
STEREOGUM: Where do you work as a baker?
ADAM OELSNER: I work at the Blue Heron Bakery here in Olympia. It’s a quasi co-operatively run business. It started as a true co-op, created by a group of bakers in ’77. Now the structure is more akin to other food service business, but with a particular flexibility. We make cookies, pastries, breads, granola, biscotti, and we have an espresso bar up front. The majority of our ingredients are certified organic, and we try to buy locally when we can. We cater to people with special diets and those who appreciate artisan foods.
STEREOGUM: How long have you been a baker?
AO: One year professionally. I baked my first batch of cookies at 12 or 13.
STEREOGUM: How did you end up at Blue Heron?
AO: Well, my friend Ben got a job there as a delivery driver; he quit after two days and then gave me a reference! I had to take a little shit for him, but i wound up fit…
STEREOGUM: Are you baking a variety of things or do you have a focus?
AO: I make four different kinds of granola and 13 types of bread. My favorite loaf is apricot date-walnut sourdough. The most challenging one is our sourdough spelt loaf.
STEREOGUM: Why’s it a challenge?
AO: A good bread dough has lots of gluten strands that create a network that traps the carbon dioxide created as the yeast eats and shits its way through the dough. Mmm…. It’s harder to develop gluten when you’re using spelt flour. Also, we use wild yeast from a starter, and it has to be well maintained.
STEREOGUM: You’re making healthy stuff. Any guilty pleasures like Milky Way cakes, or whatever.
AO: Plastic army guys.
STEREOGUM: Do you bake at home as well? Or is it more a job thing?
AO: Yes, I like to bake breads, pies, meats … I just pulled a batch of quick soda crackers out of the oven.
STEREOGUM: I’ve interviewed a few bands with bakers in them — well, Crocodiles and Port O’Brien. Any thoughts on the connections between baking and making music?
AO: With baking and music the creative process takes time and develops in phases. It helps to pay close attention to what the dough or the song wants from you. Good results can be achieved with intuition, even if you don’t fully comprehend the sciences of musical theory or micro biology. It’s helpful to experience the process over and over again, until you start to feel comfortable. Music and baking are both totally sweet.
STEREOGUM: I interviewed Hutch from the Thermals about his job at Stumptown many moons ago. Did you guys ever overlap there?
LINDSAY SCHIEF: Nope, I think I have met him a few times, though.
STEREOGUM: How long have you been at Stumptown?
LS: Since August of 2007. A little over two years
STEREOGUM: I worked in a coffee shop at one point. People are picky. Any regulars with strange drink requests?
LS: Our menu is simple, and most people stick to it. But every once in awhile we get orders for “Grande Iced Macchiatos” or whatever, which is annoying. It’s like going to a fancy restaurant and ordering a Big Mac! I guess a lot of regulars ask for a “No foam” latte, which I secretly call a “No fun” latte, because you can’t make latte art with them.
STEREOGUM: What’s the benefit of a “no foam” latte?
LS: You know, I have no idea. All I can say is it’s usually the same type of person who gets a no foam latte: rude, curt, and businessy, most likely with a Bluetooth thingy in their ear! But it’s a mystery to me as to why they like it that way.
STEREOGUM: In your opinion, what’s a perfect cup of coffee?
LS: Well that depends. There are so many different types of coffee, it really depends on what sorts of flavors and mouth feel the individual likes. My perfect cup is one that is balanced and clean, and has a transparency that allows the flavors to open up fully. I like coffees that have a grapefruit-like citrus quality and the taste of milk chocolate, are delicate, and have a long, sweet finish. Ideally, no cream. Definitely no sugar!
STEREOGUM: Which types of coffee has a citrus quality? Have you refined your palette a la wine tasting?
LS: To some degree, most coffees have an acidic quality. This is referred to oftentimes as “brightness.” So when a coffee has a citric acidity, it can mean that it tastes like lemon, lime, grapefruit, or even apples (which is actually ascorbic acidity). We have something at Stumptown called an “acid tasting” where employees taste very small amounts of acids that have been isolated from the coffees. It’s all part of the learning process, it helps us describe coffee in more detail. It actually is a lot like wine tasting, a lot of the terminology is the same — mouthfeel, brightness, mineral, vegetal, savory, sweet, fruity, floral, buttery, refreshing, etc. Some coffees that usually feature a citric acidity are Latin Americans. Those generally have a bit of lemon with chocolate and caramel notes. There is a coffee called Panama Duncan Estate right now at Stumptown that tastes like key lime, kumquat, evergreen and strawberry! But that’s not unusual for us, there are plenty of coffees with interesting flavor profiles like that. Another coffee, the Ethiopia Mordecofe, tastes just like peaches and cream. That’s a coffee that we get every year, and it just keeps getting better as we work with the farm on detail and quality. That’s how the company works, we have a couple guys who are always traveling around the world, looking for the best farms or farms with potential, and then working with them to get better and better quality.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a specialty drink?
LS: I enjoy a perfect macchiato. They are challenging and fun to make, and they taste great. It’s a double shot of espresso with a little bit of steamed milk, like a little latte, about 2 oz or so when finished. I think of macchiatos as little treasures!
STEREOGUM: I remember Starbuck’s having healthcare, the excuse people often gave for working there. Do you guys get healthcare, too?
LS: Not only do we have healthcare, we also get free massage from our company massage therapist! And we have dental insurance as well. They really care about our well-being.
STEREOGUM: Starbuck’s also has those compilations (and label)… If Stumptown made a comp, of if you made one for Stumptown, who’d be on it?
LS: Well actually, Duane Sorenson, the owner of Stumptown, has actually made compilations before of employee’s bands. He had them pressed on vinyl, and even footed the bill! I think it was called Worker’s Comp. There have been a lot of awesome bands represented in the past, and it continues now. We’ve got Yes Father, Schicky Gnarowitz, Starfucker, Science of Yabra, Hello Damascus, Brutal Chalice, Sabertooth, Gepetto, D.L. Sparks, Guidance Counselor, Typhoon, and probably a lot more that I’m forgetting. So yeah, probably I’d put all of those on a comp. And LAKE, of course.
STEREOGUM: Do you work at the same bakery as Adam?
MARKLY MORRISON: The bakery I work at is a rival to the one where Adam works. We prank call each other. It’s like a metaphor for our competitive relationship that I think is one of the driving forces of LAKE.
STEREOGUM: What’s the name of your bakery? It’s also organic, etc?
MM: The name is San Francisco Street Bakery. We aren’t certified organic anymore. A couple years back the wheat prices more than quadrupled and they had to make a sacrifice or three. But it’s good stuff, you know. The owners make sure they are buying quality ingredients.
STEREOGUM: How long have you been there?
MM: I’ve been working there for almost three years, not counting the countless months I’ve spent oon tour during those years. Somehow they always have me back when I return to Olympia.
STEREOGUM: Who take your place when you’re not around?
MM: So far I have been lucky enough to either have a friend hired on my recommendation or train a co-worker in the ways of janiting. The latter is the case with LAKE’s upcoming Fall ’09 tour. It’s my coworker Brenna, for whom I recently filled in for during her summer excursion to Europe. What goes around comes around, I guess!
STEREOGUM: Can you describe your duties/a typical day?
MM: On a typical day, I fire up my boombox and start looking around for things that need janiting. I take out the compost and recycling, eat some pastries, make a latte, mop the floors, clean the bathrooms, dissect heavy machinery, and scrape flour off of the floor with a long-handled razorblade. At the end of the day my jumpsuit is caked with gnarly flour and I resume my normal life.
STEREOGUM: How many employees are there at any given time?
MM: There is always at least one person there 24-7, and on a weekend there are as many as seven or eight employees at once. It’s a small bakery just here in my neighborhood, about three blocks away from my doorstep. It’s nice and quaint.
STEREOGUM: Favorite work-time music for the boombox?
MM: Lately I’ve been listening to soft country mixtapes from my record collection … steel guitar instrumentals, Buck Owens, Eddie Rabbit, Flying Burrito Brothers … But I have noticed that the one thing everybody at the bakery can really get down to is Hall and Oates. That really fattens up the tip jar!
STEREOGUM: You mention making lattes. Do you takes yours with “no foam”? Ever challenge Lindsay to latte competitions?
MM: I don’t put foam, I think that’s more of a cappuccino thing … I just put a very thin froth on the top, and then I doodle an elaborate replica of a Viking ship with the espresso crema before I hand it over to the customer. Lindso and I haven’t had a stand-off yet, but folks should watch our blog for a video sometime during our tour. I reckon whenever we play at an espresso joint we’ll have a go at it.
Let’s Build A Roof is out 10/6 via K. Take a listen:
[L to R: Eli Moore, Ashley Eriksson, Andrew Dorsett, Lindsay Schief, Adam Oelsner, Markly Morrison]