I’ve recently been introduced to the amazing musical project of Teddy Briggs from Sacramento, CA–Appetite. The music on Appetite’s recent album Scattered Smothered Covered plays with rhythms and silly melodies with dark themes. It’s really fascinating and I was so enraptured with it that I wanted to ask Teddy, the creator, a few questions.
S: First off, Appetite. Why the name? Does it mean something for the concept of the musical project or was it just something fun?
Teddy: I was trying to think of cool band names (as usual) and I thought of Appetite. I liked the way it sounded and then thought about what it might mean. I think I initially related to the idea of hunger in making music, being hungry in part to be heard but also hungry to just make music no matter what, even if no one heard it. Now I find even more potential meanings for the name, which is my favorite thing about words and language in general, meanings morph with time and context.
S: You’re originally from Los Angeles, but now live in Sacramento? What’s better, Nor Cal or So Cal? Do you think that the environment of each city has had an impact on the music you make?
T: I don’t think one is better than the other. I loved LA growing up there and had great opportunities to do music at my high school. Then I went away to UC Davis at 17 and was still very impressionable. I did a lot of growing up in those years up north so I felt like my identity was connected to that area. I never made much music of my own living in LA at that age. I was just a drummer back then so I’d just practice that. My identity as a songwriter is northern Californian in that respect.
S: You started your career as a drummer for Rooney. What was that like? What did you you learn from that experience that you bring to Appetite?
T: That was so long ago, when I was like 15 or 16. Being in that band was a trip because they had such good connections in LA at such a young age so our opportunities were absurd, like playing our first show at the Troubadour. I was so innocent then that I didn’t even realize that was a big deal. I was always just a drummer at that point and was probably asked to join because I was the best at school. I think that I still draw a weird urge to prove myself from being in that band, like “hey, I can make a dope record on my own, not in LA, away from opportunities handed to me.“ I’m not saying those guys didn’t or don’t work hard, I’m just saying they were in a really nice place at a really good time and I always felt a bit snubbed for deciding to go to college and not being in a rock band at 17.
S: What are some of the influences behind your project? Where do the inspirations for the songs come from?
T: Musically my influences mostly come from my peers who have encouraged me to just get better and better because they do too. I think the underdog nature of Sacramento encourages some folks here to make significant and moving music the best they can make it. In terms of bands, I grew up loving Beck and A Tribe Called Quest and the Beastie Boys. I hated the Beatles in high school for some reason and now I jam them regularly. The What’s Up? dudes got me into them on tour. In terms of writing melodies and arranging songs in general you almost don’t need anyone but the Beatles. They continue to impress and inspire me, as cliché as that might seem.
S: The new album is entitled Scattered Smothered Covered. What does that
T: It was something I heard from a Southern gal I met in San Francisco. I had never been to Waffle house, the southern institution, and she told me those were three ways to order your breakfast potatoes. I liked the way it sounded and related to all of those concepts as stages of emotions that I feel regularly.
S: You recorded all of the instruments on Scattered Smothered Covered yourself. Do you enjoy having that artistic control or do you find that it becomes taxing? Do you bounce your ideas off anyone, if not any band mates?
T: Raleigh Moncrief ,who produced and recorded the record, helped out here and there both performing little bits and helping choose what parts we could play on new instruments we had access to in the studio. I had been demoing all of those songs for a long time before we went into the studio so that wasn’t taxing, I knew everything so well. I bounce ideas off of friends all the time, playing them demos, seeing their reactions and discussing the track. I definitely enjoy that artistic control but in those early stages look for constructive criticism. Also, the song “Little While” was co-written with my friend Mason Lindahl, whose guitar playing really made that into a song worth working on.
S: After Rooney and What’s Up you think you’ll ever go back to the band element? Or do you enjoy making music alone?
T: I have been working with some friends of mine the past few months to turn this project into a live band to properly perform the material. I love writing and recording alone because the project has a certain sound that I have control over. Performing live by myself is kind of terrible because I can’t make the songs as full as they are intended to be. The dudes I’ve been playing with are all very talented and we don’t sound like a carbon copy of the record or anything. It’s a different thing that still does the songs justice in a way that makes me so happy. I don’t know how to thank those boys enough. It has brought me so much joy to hear that material brought to life outside of the studio.
S: Your music has a ton of vocal layers and layers in general. Do the lyrics take the same theme for you? Is there something more to read than the surface level?
T: Definitely. I try to write lyrics that sound cool at the moment and then I look at them and say, ok, what am I talking about here? Then I go back and edit certain things to encourage a certain meaning or feeling. Most songs mean something very specific to me but are meant to be open to interpretation. One of the songs on there, called “Molecules,” was more or less completely random, and then I started thinking about it and now it means something quite specific to me. I like those kinds of happy accidents. After all there’s got to be some reason I’m saying whatever I am even if it is random so the chances they’ll make sense, at least to me, are high.
S: One thing that really drew me into the album was the unusual rhythm of the songs and great percussive elements. How long have you been playing percussion? Who are some of your drummer idols?
T: The Drums were my first instrument. I think I started playing when I was 13 or so. It is the instrument I am most comfortable on. I love any drumming that compliments the music it is working for but still remains dope on its own. I love the drummer from Creedence, Pat Wilson’s drumming on Pinkerton, and Kenny Buttrey on Harvest by Neil Young.
S: Which do you think is your most personal song on the record? Can you tell me a bit about what it means to you?
T: “Over Food” is the most personal song on the album. Of course it is about a girl but also about how girl problems become so personal and defeating. You can’t let the actions or decisions or behavior of another individual crumble you. So maybe it’s time you got over it and just work on yourself instead of ruining your mind over something unattainable. That’s a problem I tend to encounter with my life in general- wanting all these things and forgetting to appreciate or working with what is already in my hands, right in front of me.
S: I think the song that sold me was “Tussy” and there’s a really incredible video that seems to be silly and a bit dark at the same time. Can you tell me a bit about the song and then what the making that video was like? Are you pretty silly in person? Or do you tend to be a typical brooding quiet drummer?
T: I’m a weird, silly dude for sure. We had a lot of fun making the video, and I think that the song has a definite sense of humor, even though the subject matter to me isn’t necessarily funny. It’s about frustration and its inevitability so why not have fun with it and make a funky song?
S: What can we look forward to next from Appetite? When can I see you live in LA?
T: We head up to Seattle and Portland on the 10th and 11th of August, then we have a few shows locally, including Bottom of the Hill in SF on September 14th. We’ll be playing live in LA Sept. 17th at Origami Vinyl. We just want to play good shows as regularly as possible.
S: Awesome, I’m excited to see you live!
08.10.11 – Seattle, WA @ Sunset Tavern
08.11.11 – Portland, OR @ Holocene
08.19.11 – Davis, CA @ Sophia’s
09.09.10 – Sacramento, CA @ Bows and Arrows Collective (Record Release Party)
09.14.11 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom Of The Hill
09.16.11 – Modesto, CA @ Deva Cafe
09.17.11 – Los Angeles, CA @ Origami Vinyl (free in-store, 7 PM)