Minor Poet

Interview by Nicki Stein
Issue 54 • August 2017 • Richmond

When you retreat into yourself, you’re bound to be surprised by what you discover. For this indie rocker, that process has unearthed a new confidence in his intimate, lo-fi recordings.

“When you put it on and you get into it, it’s like it’s own little world.” That’s how Andrew Carter describes the experience of listening to And How!, the album he wrote under the moniker of his new one-man project called Minor Poet. As we discussed his much anticipated debut, Andrew and I sat at a reflective metal table just outside of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ Best Cafe. Sunday tourists shook off the sweltering summer heat and swallowed gulps of cool air as they entered the cavernous building, their church clothes illuminated by sunlight streaming through the skylights overhead.

And How! is set to be released on the Richmond label EggHunt Records later this month. The journey into the little world that Andrew describes, an aural reverie vibrating with lazy beach days and ennui heartaches, wrapped lovingly in layer upon layer of plinking Casio keys, surf-inspired vocal harmonies, and dreamy down strokes, began as many deeply personal and cathartic projects do: as an escape.

For Andrew in particular, his escape was to a muggy basement. He had been at work on an album with his former band, The Mad Extras, for most of the summer. Since this was the band’s debut album, they inevitably put pressure on themselves to create a perfect final product. “We were kind of starting to hate each other and not even wanting to do it at all,” Andrew admitted. To let off steam during the recording process, he absconded to the basement of the house the band was living in to write his own tunes. “The point of it was to make something for fun,” he explained. “It wasn’t supposed to be something that would get me really successful. I think that’s what ended up making it good.”

Andrew recorded all of the instruments himself, ranging from vintage organ to guitar riffs, a toy Casio keyboard to thudding drums. “It was mostly just me going around and making weird noises on different things,” he recounted. Taking inspiration from bands like Yo La Tengo and The Magnetic Fields, Andrew embraced the lo-fi quality of his sound. “I was doing more the aesthetic of it, recording things in junky ways.” He further explained, “I always go back to those bands when I feel internal pressure to make my music more polished or radio friendly to get to this next level. I’m like, ‘Everybody loves these bands and they get away with it, so I’m just going to keep doing that.’”

Andrew wrote layered vocal harmonies for the album, evoking 60s pop groups like The Beach Boys and The Zombies, and sublimated his songs with personal lyrics. “Because I was writing for fun, the lyrics ended up being for fun,” he said. “Like an inside joke with myself.” The recording process was so personal to him, he didn’t show the work-in-progress to a single person—even his girlfriend—until the whole thing was finished. When Andrew did eventually allow his friends to listen to the album, they were generally mesmerized. “You should… do something with this,” he chuckled, mimicking their reactions.

If I don’t do it, then a part of my reason for existence isn’t being met.

Andrew Carter

His summertime sonic experiment also attracted the attention of EggHunt Records, the same label that reps Richmond indie-darling Lucy Dacus. Andrew signed with them and has been touring with a live version of Minor Poet in anticipation of the record’s release. Singing his hyper-personal lyrics to a live audience was slightly ironic for him at first. “The record really was just therapy for me at that moment. When I go back and read those lyrics, I think I was just going through something. And now I have to sing them in front of people,” he laughed.

As we concluded our interview, I asked Andrew a simple question, “Why do you make music?” He responded, “I try to explain this to people. My girlfriend, for example, is very career driven. I think that I’m a weird, different type of person where this is just something I’m sort of compelled to do, where it’s the only thing that brings a certain fulfillment and there’s no path. There’s no end goal. It’s purely creative fulfillment.” Andrew tilted his head back, composing his next sentence, his hair falling slightly over his eyes. “If I don’t do it, then a part of my reason for existence isn’t being met. And if this record is good,” he smiled, “it’s because of that.”

Minor Poet releases And How! on Friday, August 25. The album release show at Strange Matter is on Saturday, August 26. Vinyl pre-orders are available now at minorpoet.bandcamp.com.

Photography by Madison Earls

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