When you go to as many local shows as I do, you start to notice the regulars. The drummer who splits his time between seven metal bands. The keyboard player who also plays saxophone and also also works sound at your favorite cafe. Sinclair Palmer is one of those people. They are a grad student in musicology at UNC Chapel Hill, a violin and bass teacher, and they play electric bass for two awesome local bands: The Muslims, a radical punk band, and Caique Vidal and Batuque, an orchestra-sized samba reggae group. (They’re also a Durham Beat contributing writer.)
I went to visit Sinclair at their little cabin by a creek in Hillsborough, North Carolina. We talked about their bands, their post-graduation plans, and then got really, really deep into a conversation about cultural appropriation in music.
This profile is a collaboration with the Trans Music Podcast. Stream the interview below:
Riley: So how much of your time is dedicated to each band individually? You must be in practice constantly, right?
Sinclair: Yeah, yeah. I am. It’s weird because I wasn’t a permanent member of any band until I was 21 or 22.
You were just a hired gun?
Yeah. All the time, just constantly subbing for people in bands. And trying to just make money, make money all the time. So then when, let’s see, Batuque started first… Well, Batuque was already going and then they decided that they wanted to expand the instrumentation a little bit, and so they were like, “All right, we’re going to get a bass player and a horn section and all this stuff.” And they held auditions and everything. And they picked me that night which was really cool, and it’s been probably close to three years now, or something.
There’s a lot of people in that band.
Yeah, there are like 12 people in that band. And so that band rehearses once a week. And then The Muslims, we don’t rehearse as much, but it’s whenever we can. We’re trying to rehearse more. We used to rehearse a lot more. But otherwise, I have to rehearse a lot for the freelance gigs too. Kind of especially the freelance gigs. I’ve played with Kate Rhudy recently, who’s kind of an Americana-country artist in the area. I actually went to middle school with her and then we both became gigging musicians. But she’s toured the country and stuff and I’m just trying to make my money in North Carolina, just sticking around here and not doing anything particularly important.
Hey, hang on a minute now.
I mean, it’s important but nobody knows unless they’re from here and know me, or something.
Right now, to paint the picture, we’re at Sinclair’s small cabin in the woods.
It’s nice. It’s not like a log cabin, but it’s-
It’s got central air which I’m thankful for.
It’s beautiful. They’re looking over the Eno River, there’s instruments everywhere, there’s a wood stove, there’s a little sign on the fridge that says, “Do these things daily: Eat food, take your meds, workout, drink water, practice mindfulness.”
Which I love.
Yeah, taking my meds is one that I really have to remember. I think I’ve been on meds for four years and I can never remember to take them.
Your house is very cute.
Thank you. It’s been in my family … there’s a long story as to why and how it was built, but it was built in the 80s and has just been here ever since. Just like a guesthouse, storage place, but I definitely love living here.
Is this your art on the walls?
Most of it are those made by different family members actually. So my aunt Leah Palmer-Preiss is a local artist who lives in Raleigh and there’s a lot of art in here that she did when she was a teenager. That’s how she makes her living now. She did that in high school I think like a lot of this other stuff. A lot of is also my great-grandmother’s art, like that over the fireplace is my great-grandmother’s
Oh, wow. So you have a very artistic family?
Yeah, most of them have been artists, visual artists, painters in particular. My grandmother also made a lot of this art too. It took like two and a half hours to hang all of it.
And it’s not a huge house.
It’s not a huge house. Every inch of space that I could’ve possibly hung art on, there’s art without it looking too trashy. It already looks kind of trashy.
There is. Did your family get you into music or was it something that you wanted to do?
Well, my dad’s a musician and he’s a bass player.
Oh okay, so right from your dad?
Yeah, but I didn’t grow up living with my dad. I didn’t live with him and didn’t see him a ton, not because he didn’t want to see me, we had a great relationship and everything. So I lived with my mom and she got a degree in theater so she was an actor. She is an actor. She didn’t die, she’s still alive. But she got a degree in theater and I lived with her, and I grew up with her, and she signed me up for my first music class. Which was in the third grade for elementary school orchestra in Raleigh.
Yeah. So my first instrument was a violin actually. And then in middle school in Raleigh I started playing the viola and the bass. And you know, went into high school and did both viola and bass all the time. It was so crazy doing all of these orchestra things and playing viola a lot for money in high school, and then also playing bass in school but not really having it be a very, I don’t know, supervised activity I guess? Playing in school but not doing any extracurriculars but just gigging in high school. Going to places that I wasn’t supposed to be in and making money there, hoping that nobody would question me.
Like jazz clubs?
Yeah. I played at C. Grace a lot when I was in high school, which is this little like speak-easy type bar in-
On the viola?
No, playing jazz bass.
Oh, with a band?
Yeah. Yeah, so that was when my freelancing started, which was in high school, gig, playing jazz. With my dad a lot too.
So did you have lessons too or did you just taught yourself?
I taught myself in high school on the bass.
Oh, my God. Wow.
Yeah, but I was getting lessons on viola but not bass. I had this really strict viola teacher who used to be the principal of the North Carolina Symphony and his name is Hugh Partridge. He’s still around too but he would be like, “You have to practice, you can’t do anything else.” I was in marching band and stuff in the beginning of high school, playing on the drum line and doing all those crazy … I was doing everything. He was like, “You have to quit the drum line! I would stop playing bass because viola’s what’s going to make you money,” and all the stuff. And here I am, not hardly playing viola anymore, which is funny.
But yeah, viola was a big part of my life. And then college is where you have to pick a major. You can’t major in two instruments. They won’t let you do that.
That sucks. They should.
I know. Well, actually it kind puts things into perspective too. Because if you really want to get good, most people just have to narrow their focus.
Just to be able to use energy efficiently.
Mental energy, physical energy and train your body to do one thing and harness everything you’ve got and put it into that thing.
And for people who don’t know the barrier of entry into professional classical music is super, super high. You have to be a true master.
Oh yeah. Yeah, and I was… in the West in United States in a world that’s been really shaped by western supremacy and white supremacy… I was thinking, “Well, I can’t play jazz. I have to play viola. I have to get an orchestra job. That will prove that I’m like a real musician,” and everything. You know? That will prove that I have the best musical training and I’m trained in the most “advanced” kind of music that was like classical music. And so I chose viola and I was a viola major in my first semester of college.
As soon as I got there and met the jazz majors and started connecting with them, and making friends, and going to jam sessions in Greensboro at UNCG which is where I went to college, I realized that I had made a horrible mistake and that jazz is actually a very, very advanced level of thinking. Playing jazz, and thinking, and writing, and all of the other-
And improvising and all of the other gerunds that you can possibly think of-
Making jazz music.
Making jazz and recreating jazz in other mediums, it’s fucking hard to do that stuff. So it’s incredibly respectable.
But then again, if respectability politics are the thing that are propelling you in your music career, then you’re probably doing it for the wrong reasons. I know this is a super long rant right now.
No, no, no, you’re good. I know, I did classical music. I was a violist too, so I did classical music all my entire childhood. I mostly do fiddle now because I think it’s fun.
I think I’ve seen you play fiddle. Forget where, was it like … oh, it was at Manifest.
Yeah, you played at Manifest in Jesse’s band?
I thought so. Didn’t you guys play a gig at The Pinhook two weeks ago?
I was supposed to play on that.
Yeah, you were supposed to play on that.
And I was talking to Jesse about it and I was like, “Yeah, cool.” And they were like, “Here’s the music,” and…
They said you ghosted them.
I did not ghost them!! There was like three days where we didn’t talk because I was in school all day, and then three or four days before the gig I was like, “Hey Jessie, I haven’t heard from you in a minute. What do you want to rehearse?” And they were like, “Oh, I got someone else. I didn’t know what was going on.” And I was just like, Oh, okay.” I was so sad. I was just like, “Fuck!” Did I… Did I ghost them?
Yeah, Jessie was like, “I was really excited about playing with Sinclair, but they totally ghosted me. I guess they don’t want to do it anymore.” So we got this other guy. He was great, but-
What? Oh man, that sucks! I was so excited.
Hey, we still need a bassist, we don’t have a bassist.
Yeah, well I want to do it. I mean I’m super busy until May, basically when I’m not at school. But when I’m out of school I’m trying to fucking play a lot.
Yeah well, you should be the Severed Fingers bassist.
That would be dope.
Well, we practice one once a week.
Yeah. What day?
That’s pretty good. I can do Thursdays. That sucks that Jessie thinks that I ghosted them. I totally didn’t mean to. I have-
I’ll make them listen to this podcast.
Okay. I felt really bad because I was actually excited and I was listening to the music and-
Well you’re a graduate student. And you have like 17 side jobs.
So sometimes text messages don’t work out.
Sometimes it just doesn’t, yeah. And so I mean I also live here and there’s no service. I don’t have wifi or cell service here.
You don’t even have wifi?
I don’t even have wifi. I have nothing.
That must be great for your mental health.
It’s fucking amazing. It’s amazing. Just having a TV feels like an infection.
You have musical and painting supplies.
Painting supplies and I read a lot.
Is that your violin right there?
That’s my violin. It was my aunts. It’s a Stradivarius copy. I have no idea who made it but strings suck on it right now. But I teach a couple of violin lessons.
Yeah, are you going to teach more lessons do you think?
Fuck yeah! Yeah, lessons will make you bank, especially if you have two degrees.
I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that parents cared about masters degrees.
Yeah! Are you kidding me? They’re like, “Oh, you have degrees. You must be the person to go to,” but it doesn’t really matter. You know it doesn’t matter how many degrees you have. But if you’re putting up flyers, or Craigslist ads, or whatever and you’re like, “I have a degree in music performance and musicology.” And they’ll be like, “Okay, yeah.”
That’s fair. If I had to pick between somebody who had a bachelors and masters in the instrument or even one of them in the instrument versus someone who didn’t, I guess I would probably pick that person.
So do you ever compose? Do you ever write music?
Yeah. I usually don’t have time, because writing music takes a lot for me. I’m a really self-conscious person about the art that I make, particularly the music. It’s hard for me to make something and then put it out there. And then that way having degrees kind of sucks because some people are like, “Well, what did you do when you were studying music in school?” I don’t know, I get really caught up about that and I’m like, “I shouldn’t write music and perform it,” because then it’s like 100% mine. I’m not just contributing a bassline, like one piece or something.
And people don’t pay attention to bass players, so it’s easy to kind of hide behind. You’re not playing a lead instrument or anything, so I mean it gives you some freedom too.
So you kind of get in your own head about being the front person? I guess that’s right. Bass, viola, electric bass-
Yeah, it makes sense, right?
They’re all support roles.
Well, yeah. Historically and typically they’re all support roles. And it’s really fun to manifest that space. It’s really fun to be that person and know to yourself that you’re doing something really important. But not having to perform as much, I mean not like perform on stage, but not having to … I don’t know.
You’re never the face. You’re like the left arm.
Well, do you think that eventually you’ll come to your own and start composing stuff or are you just that kind of person who just feels really good being a stellar backing person?
Yeah. I feel someday, well, I hope that someday I will be able to find peace with or be at peace with the idea of being the center person. I do write music and I almost released an EP at the end of last summer and I think it’s kind of hard. It took so much time that by the end of the process where it was like, “Okay, you can release it into the world now,” I was a little exhausted by it and didn’t feel like … I just couldn’t get around to doing the final steps that put it out into the world. I was just like, “I don’t like this music that I wrote anymore,” which is I’m sure how people feel about albums that they released years ago. They’re like, “I don’t like that album. I just released it then, it’s here now and marks a place in my life where something was finished.”
But I felt by the time I can get around to putting it out, I was like, “This should’ve been released so long ago that I don’t even want to do it anymore.”
Yeah, that’s tough. Because in the “music industry,” corporate music industry, that’s how it is. They write songs then it gets released like two years later when the company decides that. And I wonder how that feels for them, because I’ve done the exact same thing. I have a 95%-done album and I wanted to release it before the end of the year. But now I’m like, “Meh.”
You don’t think it’s going to happen. You get all caught up and all the other stuff that you have to do and you’re like, “I’ll get around to it later.” And then by the time you’re like, “I should really do this,” you don’t want to do it anymore. That last 5% you’re like, “Fuck it! I’m cool where I am, nevermind. Nevermind, I don’t want to do that anymore.”
Or you’ve gotten better and then now you’re like, “Well, do I redo this or,”-
Oh yeah, totally.
“Or do I just put it out knowing that I can do it way better now?” That’s just perfectionism.
Yeah, that’s probably what it is. I’m being a perfectionist about this EP.
Well, now that you’re in a punk band shouldn’t that kind of wear away a little bit? It’s cool to be not perfect.
Perfectionism. Yeah, I mean, you know, sometimes … I don’t know what is perfect. I think that’s where I’m struggling.
That’s really philosophical.
That’s yeah, it is a little philosophical.
It’s a great way to not do something is to say, “Ooh, what is perfect? “What should I use as a determining factor to determine whether I release this or not?”
Oh my God, this is like how I… Oh, man.
This is the beginning of a spiral. I can feel it.
It already is…
I can smell it.
You don’t understand, this is why, not why I’m getting out of grad school, but the last few papers that I’ve written have all been like, “Well, how are we defining this thing that we’re holding to this thing, that we’re saying is the standard,” and I mean, I need to stop doing that. My brain goes in that direction and it just goes into a bottomless pit of like, “I guess this paper will never be finished if I keep rambling,” and it’s like swimming through.
Oh man, this is a very fruitful interview for me. You’re right, you’re right. You’re totally right.
What’s your support system like? Do you have people who are like, “No, do that EP baby! It sounds so good! Put that music out like that cool thing you did. People will love it!”
People who are like that specifically, like, “Put out the EP.” Well, everyone that was on it is like, “What the fuck!”
Oh, there was more people?
There were more people on it, dude!
Oh, you recorded with a whole band?
Yes, there’s like… there’s… shit. The notation software came out and everything like… I was just-
Oh, you wrote the entire-
I fucking did it.
You orchestrated it, gave the people, they showed up to the studio-
They showed up to the studio and spent a whole day with me and I paid them. And I paid for studio time and all of the stuff. And all I have to do… there’s a lot of work to do. I have to recorded a couple of tracks, because some of it…
Because you’re better now?
Yeah, really. Bottom line, that’s the thing. If I put my bass playing on there, on the line, I just wouldn’t want to. So yeah, I would want to rerecord for me for sure.
That’s a pretty big deal and I don’t really care about the means by which I record. I would set up a single microphone in the middle of this room and put everyone around it and record like that.
You don’t care about the fidelity, you care about the musicianship?
Oh yeah, 100%. As long as everyone is heard. They just have to be heard.
I mean you could just record your bass parts back at the same place, right? Just get a couple of hours, record it over?
I mean, I just don’t want to.
Yeah? Well, that’s cool too.
I just want to do it all again.
You just want to completely pretend it never happened.
Yeah, kind of. Not that it never happened but…
So like is it jazz?
I mean, no.
Are you singing or…?
No, no. It’s pretty appropriative actually, but if you want to hear more about what I think about cultural appropriation you’ll have to read my thesis. Well, we all cultural appropriate all the time, constantly. Everything that we do. I couldn’t even count the number of times that I’d be culturally appropriating something just in the room that we’re in right now.
So this is what your thesis is about? Okay, this is going to sound really silly. When you say cultural appropriation you mean like sort of the theft version or like anytime someone kind of takes a cool thing from someone else’s culture and uses it?
That’s the thing isn’t it? What’s the difference that we’re giving those two things when we use one word?
See, well okay, I’ll tell you how I… and I’m obviously not an expert on the definition of cultural appropriation-
I’m not either.
When I hear it I usually think about like… Urban Outfitters making like ‘Navaho’ T-shirts and stuff.
Yeah, that’s cultural appropriation.
Yeah, or fake Buddhist stuff getting sold at tchotchke shops.
Also cultural appropriation.
I think it’s stuff that’s like… there’s sort of a loss to a community because their culture is being consumed but not… through them.
Right. That’s cultural appropriation.
But I think that there’s a lot of stuff that’s just like… cultural sharing.
If I make a friend and that person is from a certain culture, and then I spend a lot of time with them, and then we do something together, and then I do it myself and it’s cool.
Like what kind of thing?
Not like a religious thing, but making a food or…
That’s also cultural appropriation.
Do you think of that as a bad thing?
That’s interesting because when I hear appropriation, I think of it as a negative thing.
Well yeah, that’s exactly what my thesis is about. We’re using one single word to describe the morality of such a broad spectrum of actions. Culture is really… you can’t draw a line between cultures, really. Honestly. If you look at any culture, we’ve all been appropriating from each other to some degree since the beginning of our existence.
Is appropriating the right word to use for that though?
Yeah, I mean my thesis is trying to figure out what’s happening beyond cultural appropriation. It’s not trying to say that all of these actions are not culturally appropriative because they are. It’s just the word cultural appropriation is so vague I think. Because appropriating is just like taking something and using it.
Yeah, but even though “appropriation” means that, when people use the term I think they mean a little bit more with specific things.
Right, but what do they mean? So let’s use those words instead. They’re saying like, “Okay, the Redskins is cultural appropriation.”
I think the Redskins is worse. Redskins is just like straight up awful.
Yeah, I mean it’s violence. It’s violence, right? It’s violence, so let’s call it violence instead of just cultural appropriation. Because we’re also calling cultural appropriation like six-year-olds wearing kimonos at their tea parties and stuff. Like six-year-olds, we’re calling an action that is taken by a six-year-old, violence. Like wearing a kimono because they think it’s cool.
I see what you’re saying. Yeah, I see what you’re saying.
You know what I mean? That six-year-old doesn’t know what they’re doing, but these people that are creating the Redskins and like…
And making millions of dollars off of it.
And making so much money, right? That’s violence. That’s a big thing. There are all of these routes of power that we’re not separating from each other by just calling them all appropriation. Yeah, they’re all appropriation, but let’s like… you know, this is violence, this is ignorance, or it’s violence via ignorance, or it’s appreciation. How can we measure what’s being gained? Bruno Mars isn’t Black, he’s not. He doesn’t identify as Black and he’s making music that’s being voted number one all across the Soul Train Awards.
And are we okay with that? Who’s allowed to say whether, or not their people are okay with that? No single person can speak for their entire community, which makes things even more complicated. So given all of this, we’re just calling all of this, regardless of all of these ambiguities, just it’s all cultural appropriation and that’s where we’re stopping. Why? Let’s fucking get down to it.
Like abandon the term, redefine the term, come up with new terms for different ways that it manifests itself?
Different terms for new ways that it manifests itself. It’s not necessarily new ways though. It’s all been happening for forever, but I think we need to be more specific when we talk about cultural appropriation.
If we were just going to say like, “This is culturally appropriative, this is culturally appropriative,’ you would have to fucking stop doing everything that you’re doing. Who designs short-sleeved shirts? And clothes? And your haircut or the tools that were used to cut your hair, or make your food? Or where did you eat lunch today, where did you do this, and what are you wearing, what are you doing?
But I kind of feel like it would be a way better use of time instead of freaking out about a six-year-old to be talking about like, I don’t know, the real economic conditions and what we can do to be more equal and what we can do to not steal financially from each other, and what we can do to teach kids to respect other peoples’ heritages and stuff? Sometimes when people do call-outs… I feel they don’t go that final step.
Right, oh yeah. Absolutely.
What can we do to keep harm from happening? Maybe that doesn’t make sense.
Or like who’s being harmed and what are we calling harm? Do you have to know that you’re being harmed?
I don’t think that you have to know that you’re being harmed for something to be fucked up.
I think that the way that all the different types of oppression work is through miseducation and misdirection.
When you’re making musical choices, does this just get in your head all the time where you’re like, “Oh, I’m appropriating.”
Well, I think about it and I guess I know that I’m appropriating because I don’t really know what culture I am a part of. I know different cultures that I’m a part of. I’m mixed race, so I’m Black and I have no idea what kinds of influences I’ve gotten being a Black person and a white person. I play like Brazilian music, right? Caique would probably not say that I’m culturally appropriating by playing in this band. But I think I am and I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or not, because he wants me to be there. You know?
And it’s also because when I write music and everything that I’ve learned from playing Brazilian music I use everywhere.
Just like punk music or like studying James Jamerson or something. I use that everywhere I play, no matter what the genre. All of that influences me whether I know it or not. I have no idea what I’m using that is specific to where. You have some idea if it’s really specific, but you pick up a lot of stuff subconsciously and you recreate it, you use it subconsciously in the things that you do.
But that’s such an awesome thing.
Well, yeah. But I still think, where are we drawing the line in cultural appropriation? There’s so many legal court cases where all of this shit like copyright law. Where all of this shit is tracked and documented. Where are they drawing the line?
Like where do this riff come from?
Where do this riff come from? Like musical copyright cases, if you look at the evidence that’s presented it’s like, if you can apply the contour of this melody here then why wouldn’t you apply it in these other two songs? Or this bassline? What counts as a melody? All of the philosophical stuff is really put to the test.
Which I think is deeply silly. It’s so, so silly.
Well, that’s the problem, because with music there’s so much…
I mean, I know there’s a lot of money involved, but…
It’s all copying, all of it is copying. And musicians will say this, especially jazz musicians, you are taking something that you like and you’re recreating it with your own addition.
Yeah, and that’s how you’re supposed to do it.
You’re taught in school to do it a certain way.
Yeah, and not just in school but anywhere that you learn jazz or any improvisational music. It’s all copying and it’s pretty agreed upon. We’re told to transcribe and we do it and we learn by doing that and-
And you listen to other people who are better than you and you work on your art.
Use their shit and use them as inspiration.
I mean that’s the way everything works in the world. I work in a factory, the only reasons that… Each factory in the world is not its own thing. I mean trade law is trying to make it that way or trade secret’s trying to making it that way. It’ll be like, one place learns something, one has to do something better, or more efficiently, or cleaner, or higher quality. And other people figure it out. There’s a lot of academic conferences about it. And there are for music too. That’s the way that progress gets made. Is sharing information, and sharing skills, and sharing tools.
Absolutely, for sure. So how do we integrate that, the whole sharing aspect, and how important it is to share?
And how positive it is and mutually beneficial.
And how positive it is and usually mutually beneficial. Usually, if there’s really good intention behind an action, it usually has positive results. How do we integrate those ideas with these negative views of cultural appropriation in its entirety? How do we stop using appropriation to encompass this huge spectrum of results and intentions?
…so how is your thesis going?
Oh man, well, this is the most I’ve talked about it ever probably.
Yeah. I’m confusing myself more and more by the minute. I wrote a paper about cultural appropriation trying to define it at the end of last semester and it’s kind of like releasing the album. The further I get away from it the more imperfect it seems.
Yeah, I’m feeling that as we keep talking about it. We’re talking about it but it’s sort of like… and not in a bad way, but it’s kind of a silly thing to talk about.
It’s related to a way that we’re talking about things that kind of talk about material conditions.
Yeah, but that’s the problem with academia though, I think. Music academia in particular is what I can speak for. But with music academia and specifically writing about art, writing about any kind of art, you’re going to run into these problems constantly.
Because you’re writing about something that’s not physical. Well, it’s physical but it’s conceptual too. You’re writing about a concept.
You’re writing about a concept, you’re spending all of this time and energy talking about something that like … I mean not all the time. A lot of people are writing about really important things that are happening, but a lot of the time when you read academic prose about art it’s concerning all of these things that don’t really seem to matter very much.
Or they’re not real.
Or they’re not real or they’re really outdated.
Because it’s the exact thing you’re saying. We have this term that we throw around a lot that is just kind of bullshit or it’s way more complicated than we’re giving it credit for.
It’s way more complicated than we’re giving it credit for.
Obviously like, you know, an apple is more complicated than the word apple, but it’s still really running up short and it’s keeping us and distracting us from having the important conversations.
Yeah, for sure.
And so what do we do about that? I think it’s good to talk about, because I think in the way it affects your real life is you have a six-year-old getting harassed on the Internet. Or you have people who are doing total bullshit stuff and nothing’s happening because people don’t know how to talk about what they’re doing.
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And the really horrible shit, the really horrible levels of violence like intellectual violence and cyber violence that happens, isn’t being called out properly. It just sucks when you have an entire society turned into a mascot or turned into a Halloween costume. It’s really horrible and of course it has absolutely horrible…
Real world effects.
Real world, yeah. Exactly it is. It inspires a lot of really horrible shit, so I’m going to write about it I guess. I don’t know anymore now that we’ve had this conversation. [Riley laughs] I don’t know, change my thesis topic. Well, now I’m just thinking I’m getting all paranoid. I’m like, “Did one of my professors send this person to talk about this with me?” Like, who do you know?
No here’s the thing. I show up to peoples’ houses, I get out my microphone, I say hello to their cats or their partners or whoever. And then I’m like, “Tell me about the way that you recorded your last album. Tell me about that music video you made.”
And they’re just, “Life is a lie! Life is a lie!”
They’re like, “Let me just start telling you about how my dad was murdered.”
And then I’m just like, “I asked about your piano!” and they’re like, “Well, but you can’t start there.”
“You have to start here.”
I’m like, “Why do you like metal music?” “Well, after my mom abandoned us,” it goes so deep so quickly. And I don’t know if it’s because I’m mostly talking to people who are not used to microphones, because I think that when you get use to being in press stuff, you’ll learn how to sort of mentally wrap-up your thoughts in a cleaner way, or say things you’re not going to regret, or even just talk about stuff that doesn’t matter that much. But the people I’m talking to are a lot of the time no one has been like…
Really, because I have a ton of friends who like my music or know I write music but they’re never going to ask me my philosophy on like, “Well, isn’t punk music cultural appropriation?” And you’re never going to be like, “Well, what’s your philosophy on that?” It’s like calling out your friends… They’re like, “Oh, great show babe! Good job!” They’re never going to be like, “Oh, I noticed in the third stanza of your last record you mention your gender identity. Let’s talk about that.”
“Ugh! What? Oh, fuck!” Clutch the pearls!
But yeah, I just realized we’ve gotten on this long tangent on cultural appropriation, but the way that it started was I asked what kind of music your EP is.
So what kind of music is it? Besides full of cultural appropriation, as we have just determined is everywhere and completely unavoidable in music especially?
But what, just in layman’s terms?
Okay. Well, it’s inspired by a lot of the stuff that we play in Batuque. I don’t know specifically but I definitely know that Brazilian music was used as an inspiration. Otherwise-
Is it like dance music?
I mean sort of. It’s got a lot of the same… it’s not through-composed, so there’s improvisation happening. People are taking solos.
Through-composed means you didn’t write every note is what you’re saying?
I didn’t write every note but there’s a lot of writing. It’s definitely jazz-inspired. There are Afrobeat elements. It’s weird, I’m writing about cultural appropriation, but I have no idea what it’s inspired by.
You don’t always know where your influences area.
I mean, you know, I listen to like Fela Kuti and a lot of Pagoji and Samba music.
So is the bass sort of the spotlighted instrument?
No, no. Not at all.
So even in your own EP you’re in the background?
Oh, yeah. Totally.
In like the… I don’t know what band name… Did you come up with a band name or is it just The Sinclair Palmer EP? You are not the center of attention?
That’s incredible. That’s really interesting to me.
Yeah. Well, it’s still my EP because it’s still like I wrote all the shit.
You composed it.
Yeah, so I guess I was trying to showcase more my composition skills and my knowledge of harmony and stuff. So it was more of a theoretical album, yeah.
What’s the album art going to be like?
Oh man! Well, I was hoping it would be like a picture of me lying on like a pool floaty in a bathing suit wearing sunglasses. I really wanted it to be that.
I volunteer to be the photographer for that.
Sweet, I don’t know how you’re going to float above a pool, but-
Or diving boards.
Ohhhhhhhh, my God!
Just lay on a diving board and be really careful.
Well, just in transmusic.org exclusive, I’m going to be the photographer for the Sinclair Palmer EP.
Yeah. Yeah, if it ever comes out, I’ll call you.
If it ever comes out. Or maybe it will just get so in your head about the definition of cultural appropriation that you’ll just never make any art again.
Yeah, I’ll just die.
I mean you’ve got to pay rent, right? Look, we all have to pay rent. We all have to.
I’ll just be like I’m not… I’ll just live naked in the woods. Never wear clothes or cut my hair.
But then someone will be like, “Well, what are you doing there?” Someone will have a problem with it. We all have to pay rent, we all have to eat food. You still have your list of things you have to do every day.
Like take your meds, eat food, exercise. No matter what the academics have to say you have to do those things.
Yeah. This is very true. Well, maybe I’ll just write a thesis and hope that it gets approved and then they’ll just give me my master’s degree and I can go shove coffee in peoples’ faces someday and not ever think about any of this ever again.
Yeah, sounds good. Sounds good.
All right. Well, this podcast will be like a time capsule. We’ll delete it once you have your master’s.
It will just never be on the Internet again.
That’s not a promise.
I appropriated in this interview.
No, I appropriated this interview.
We both did.
We both did. This is a very violent conversation.
Yeah, I feel so icky right now. I feel so icky right now. It’s okay.
Let’s talk about something happy.
Let’s talk about how much the guitarist in my band has a crush on the guitarist in your band.
So Shante, I’m calling you out, you have the worlds’ biggest crush on the singer for The Muslims. I don’t know what that persons’ name is.
Yeah, Laila. Okay, so Shante’s in love.
Oh, my God.
So I had seen you all, I had come to your last album release, which also, can we talk about the fact that you had an album released like two months ago and you’re releasing one in the beginning of the year? But that’s a different question. That’s very fast and I’m very impressed, but yeah, Shante’s in love. Like what can we do to make like… you know.
Well, Laila’s married.
Oh, dang! Sorry Shante.
Laila’s straight-up married. This sucks, I hate that I have to be the person to relay this information.
Because I had seen you all and I also have met you around, so I was just like, “Oh yeah, what an awesome band. I really like this. Oh, Shante, you’re going to like this band.” We go and we see you guys at Manifest and her eyes were the size of dinner plates. She’s like, “Riley, I’m in love.”
She’s not the first person.
Yeah. Yeah, that’s like… sex appeal is a 100% part of the reason, but everyone gets excited at your shows. Because you are all such beautiful people, you’re jumping around, you hug each other on stage, you’re just so freaking positive and you’re singing about really real shit. You’re singing about stuff that’s really important, so it’s obvious that you’re all leftists or at least somewhere around there. And you’re also super attractive and then you’re also good friends and you seem like you’re all a good time. And so I just think that, yeah I just think that unfortunately your audience is probably all in love with you.
And I don’t know if anyone’s told you this before, but that’s probably what’s happening. And I get that that’s how the entire music industry works. That’s how Justin Bieber works or whatever.
You’re like Justin Bieber for the radical queers. That’s what you all are unfortunately.
[Sinclair is dying of laughter]
I just really felt the need to bring that up, because I thought we were going to talk about The Muslims this whole time. I had no idea … I feel like I don’t know why, but you seem like the kind of person who would be like, “Don’t ask me about my thesis. Let’s just talk about cool stuff.” I don’t know.
Oh, man. I just try to live in all the things that I do.
There all great. So I thought we were going to talk about like, you know … But no, this has been great. I’m really excited that we had this conversation.
Well, nobody ever interviews me. It will be like The Muslims have an interview or like Caique has an interview and I’m just like, “Just give me a paycheck.” But you know, I just like to sit on my couch and practice all the time.
Well, I really liked interviewing you. Maybe after this people will interview you more.
Maybe. I’ve got things to say.