An Afternoon With Tea Cozies

Tea Cozies, from left to right: Jeff Anderson, Brady Harvey, Jessi Reed, Garrett Croxon. Photo by James Elliot Bailey

The Bomber Jacket had the privilege to meet up with two members of the Seattle band Tea Cozies for coffee the day after a crazy, sold-out show opening for Ty Segall. The setting was a neighborhood coffee shop in an old house with a spectacular wrap-around porch. The interview took place outside in the sun on the back deck. There was live music playing from a venue nearby, which contributed to the pleasant, late-afternoon atmosphere. The interview was interrupted halfway through by a man who was eager to network with the band, and the ladies politely humored him. The following is what transpired.

THE BOMBER JACKET: Why don’t we start off by just introducing you guys. Names and instruments. Pretty straightforward.

Jessi Reed: I’m Jessi. I play guitar and sing in Tea Cozies.

Brady Harvey: I’m Brady, and I play guitar, and I sing and play keyboards.

How did you form?

J: Brady and I went to high school together. We grew up in Colorado, and we moved out to Seattle to start a band. That’s where we met Jeff, our bass player. He was actually a guitar player in another band, Daguerreotypes, but we converted him to bass because neither of us wanted to play bass. It’s not that bass is not cool…

B: We just like guitars.

J: [Laughs] And then Garrett (drums) came later. He’s been in a ton of bands. He’s an amazing drummer. His major claim to fame is that he was in Fleet Foxes before they got huge. So those two are Washingtonians, and we are Coloradoans.

Was there a particular moment when you knew you wanted to play in a band or do music? A song or an artist that inspired you?

J: Yes. For me it was Led Zeppelin. My first show that I saw was with my dad, and it was Jimmy Page and Robert Plant at Red Rocks. It was unbelievable. I was so naïve about music that when they left the stage after the show they hadn’t played their biggest hits, and I was super pissed. They hadn’t played “Communication Breakdown,” they hadn’t played “Stairway to Heaven,” or all of the major jams, and I was mad. My dad said, “If you yell really loud and clap maybe they’ll come back out,” and I was like, “Are you kidding me? They’re done, they left, they said goodbye.” He said, “Look, just yell! These other people are doing it, just yell and clap!” so I yelled and clapped really loud, and they came back out, and it that was magical. I thought, “This is what I want to do.”

B: I was always doing music since I was a kid. My mom was my music teacher in elementary school, which was kind of weird because it was always in our house, but I had never picked up an electric guitar or any of those instruments. It had always been classical instruments all the time. I went to the Hall Dance at our school, and [Jessi’s] band played. They were going to do this cover of a song that I knew by The Living End–they’re this cool punk band from Australia–but for some reason your singer girl was too nervous to do it. She froze up and wouldn’t sing. And they were like, “Brady come sing it!” and I was a little too freaked out to do it, but then afterwards I was like, “I should’ve done that…I wanna do that!” So I did. It was cool. It was one of those things where I thought, “I could do that better than that girl.” [Laughs] She sucked.

Do you have a favorite song of yours to play live?

J: My current favorite to play is a new one that’s going to be on our EP called “Muchos Dracula” because it’s really fast. It’s like a punk-rock song. It’s pretty easy to play, but there’s just lots of energy.

B: Yeah, I like that one. I think it’s our whole band’s new favorite because we all love it. Except Garrett has to play it really fast, so I don’t know if he likes it as much. [Laughs]

J: He hates opening with that song. He’s begged us several times to not open the set with it. I guess a lot of the new ones for me are more fun because we just wrote them and they’re fresh. It’s exciting to play and see what people do.

Moving in a different direction…How would you describe the Seattle music scene? Is it accessible for new bands? What was it like trying to book shows and get to know other bands when you moved up here?

B: People are really nice throughout the scene for sure. You can get a show at a lot of places pretty easily when you first are trying to start out.

B&J: There are so many venues!

B: Unless you’re under 21. It’s a little bit trickier. But it is really easy to meet people and just ask them their opinion: “Hey, do you know any other bands who could get on this bill?”

J: I do remember when we first started out we would read [the local newspaper] The Stranger…it was like our bible. We didn’t have friends. The only people we knew were from when I tried starting other bands using Craigslist ads, and those were my only friends, and they were a bunch of weirdos. No offense to them. They all went on to start other cool bands. But there were all these cool bands getting written about in The Stranger who were playing The Capitol Hill Block Party, and I remember e-mailing those bands, not knowing them at all, and getting so many that never ever responded. They probably never listened to anything that we sent them because they got that kind of e-mail all the time. It took a long time to feel, at least for me, that we were part of the scene, not just looking at it like it was inside a zoo as bystanders. I still feel like that sometimes. There are so many opportunities to play in Seattle and meet people, but for a while I felt like an outsider to it all.

How do you feel about the role of KEXP in the Seattle scene? You have been played on the station. What was it like the first time you heard yourselves on the radio?

J: That’s a really good story actually.

B: I went down to Easy Street Records to try to get our record in the store. It was our EP, our first one. The clerk there kinda gave me the shove-off: “I dunno, I’ll have to listen to this…see if it’s sellable…I don’t really know…I’ll give you a call in a couple of days.” The standard spiel. So I call him, and he’s like, “I haven’t listened to it yet. Why don’t you just bring some down? I looked at the cover, and it looks pretty cool. Why don’t you just bring some?” So I bring them down there and meet the guy again, and he said, “This might sell…I dunno.” His name was Troy. All of a sudden, later that same night we were listening to KEXP and the DJ said, “Yeah, this is a new band…just met this person today…”

J: “Dropped off a demo…”

B: And I was like, “What? I didn’t drop off a demo at KEXP!” So he played it. It’s because he works at both places, but we didn’t know!

J: We didn’t understand the connection. We were like, “This guy on the radio is lying! We didn’t give KEXP our CD. What a liar!” We realized later that it was the same guy from Easy Street who later became our band manager: Troy from The Young Evils. He was a little harsh with us at first.

B: That’s been incredible. Without KEXP as a resource I don’t know if we would’ve done as well as we have. It’s awesome because you go on the Internet and see where people are listening to you from, and there’s people all over the world. It blows your mind that people can listen to you in Indonesia. It’s totally weird like that.

J: KEXP is without a doubt the lifeblood of this city and the music scene here. I can’t even imagine what it would be like without KEXP.

I understand you are both involved with the under-21 battle of the bands, Sound Off! Can you speak a little about that? What it’s like for younger bands to play and get recognized in Seattle?

J: Seattle is pretty unique, as far as a big city, because we do have The Vera Project, which is an amazing resource for young bands. Sound Off! is just this weird spotlight that hits one time of year where these bands who are very serious about it and put a lot of work into it get recognized and get a little bit of press and [get to play] some cool shows. If they want to continue with it and work hard it can be sort of a launching pad for them. There are some rad prizes that they get. It’s super fun for us to work with them: to get to know these bands, see them at that point in their career, see how talented they are. It’s pretty refreshing for me. To once a year go through that with them. They’re all nervous. It’s scary and stuff, but it’s really just a lot of fun. I feel really thankful to be able to work on that.

What exactly is your role in Sound Off!?

J: I oversee Sound Off!

B: She’s the big cheese! It’s awesome too because afterwards you can see where they go as a band. Just Thursday night we were at Chop Suey and saw Kithkin play. The crowd was like freaking out. They killed it! They totally nailed it.

J: Those kids are gonna be huge.

B: They’re gonna be massive. They’re gonna play Block Party. They’re totally on the up and up. It’s awesome to see a band come out of Sound Off! and totally blow up like that.

If you could tour anywhere, where would you go?

J: England.

B: I think they would like us there.

J: I love British music so much. It would be amazing. It would be a dream.

B: It would be a sweet dream.

J: Not just England. Ireland, Scotland, Wales…let’s do it all.

Do you have a favorite band in the U.K.?

J: A lot of favorites! Beatles, Kinks, I love Blur, I love Pulp, Elastica…

B: The Undertones.

J: The Smiths, Joy Division, Buzzcocks, Wire.

(To Brady) Are you into the same type of music?

B: Totally.

J: David Bowie.

B: It’s weird. I remember one time in high school I was looking at all my CDs, and I really don’t listen to anything that’s not British. I mean I do, but I kinda don’t. I like the Pixies.

J: I’m gonna just name bands.

Tea Cozies play Chop Suey in Seattle 5/5/12. Photo by Zoe Kool

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you at a show?

J&B: Blue Moon.

J: The Blue Moon is a notorious dive bar. We played our first ever show there, which was funny because we dressed up for it. We wore dresses.

B: We’d never been in there.

J: We went in and were like, “Wow. This is where all the homeless people drink.”

B: It smelled like pee.

J: The second time we played there, it was during “Tranciting,” which was sort of our hit off the EP. This one guy who had just been sitting there liked that song so he got up and started dancing during the song. We were like, “Cool! Dude’s dancing.” And then he peed his pants [laughs]. Which was not funny, but we felt really proud that we rocked so hard he peed himself.

B: We really rocked him out.

J: I think that night I broke a lava lamp on stage.

B: Yeah, you did!

J: They had a lava lamp on stage, and I just swung my guitar and knocked it. It was cool to watch the bubbly bits on the ground.

You played a few new songs last night at Chop Suey. Are they going to be on a new record? What are you working on?

J: It’s going to be a four-song EP. We know which songs are going on it. We’re just recording it now, so we’re hoping for an end of summer release date.

Will you be touring around the Pacific Northwest for the EP?

J: Yeah, we’re talking about something in the fall around the Pacific Northwest, then possibly a more substantial tour in the spring.

Where are you thinking about going?

J: We want to go down to Austin again. We did that last year, and that was really fun. I really want to get out to the East Coast because we haven’t done a tour of the East Coast yet. Following the EP we’re putting out our second album. We’re in recording mode right now.

Where do you record?

J: It depends. We did our first album with Erik Blood at MRX. We’re still trying to work out who we want to do our next album with and where. It changes how [the album] sounds so much. We put out a single last year, and the guy who did that, Andy, is an amazing engineer, so he’s always on the top of our list.

Was that “Dead Man’s Sister” last year? I really liked the video for that. What was filming like?

B: That was really fun. It was right over there (points) across the canal. That’s where the company is. They’re called Loaded Pictures, and they were so nice! We showed up to film it, and they had set up this crazy stage in the middle of the room, not where you usually perform in there. There were all these lights! It was awesome!

J: They would say, “Okay, you guys are playing, and just look overhead at the lasers shooting by.” We wondered, “What is this gonna look like? Lasers? What are they gonna do, just draw a line?” Then we saw the final thing and we went, “Holy shit! There are effing lasers in that video!”

Did you know what it was going to be like before you filmed it?

J: We knew the premise of it. We knew there were going to be aliens. We knew that the guys making it were super legit. They were so well spoken, and they approached us with the concept. I think the only things we added were that we wanted the aliens to be kinda Mod, like 1960s aliens. They got us the outfits that the Mod aliens wore. We had to come in and do fittings, and we had a hair and makeup lady.


You were on MTV’s $5 Cover. What was that like? Did you get a lot of exposure from filming it? How did that go?

J: I feel like one of the most awesome things that came out of $5 Cover was not so much the fact that it was on MTV, but it led us to meet so many great Seattle bands and [director] Lynn Shelton in particular. The Seattle film scene is so awesome, and there was no way we were going to have any connection to people making movies. We got to know these cool camera men, Lynn herself, and all these cool people working on it. Also the other bands, The Moondoggies and THEESatisfaction, were really cool artists who weren’t necessarily in our same genre, but they’re awesome people.

B: Lynn was told to weave the thread through the series that even though Seattle’s really huge, everyone’s connected in some way. It’s funny because before we never bumped into each other because we were in different genres, but now we do. Now we work with them on different things.

J: Jason from The Maldives was just a Sound Off! judge. It’s cool to have those connections, because we never would’ve crossed paths necessarily.

B: I think $5 Cover brought the Seattle scene a little closer together, which is awesome. It was fun!

You played South by Southwest last year. How did that go?

J: I had never been to Texas before, so I was expecting everyone to be wearing cowboy hats and have a piece of straw hanging out of their mouth and be riding a horse.

B: They do, just not in Austin.

J: It was so fun.

Did you meet a lot of other bands?

B: That was where we met Ravenna Woods. We played a show with them down there and got to know them better. There was this other band from Tacoma, The Nightgowns, who were totally awesome. It was kind of like a big vacation for musicians.

J: Anywhere you are there’s live music happening in every direction. “Do I want to go in this coffee shop and watch this amazingly famous band? Or do I want to go into this skateboard shop and see this other famous band?” It’s so weird. We were walking by…where were we?

B: We were looking for Mexican food, and some guy asked, “Do you want to see J Mascis? He’s playing inside right now.” We walk into this tiny place and J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. is just jammin’ it out on his guitar right there.

What kind of venues did you play in?

J: We played a Thai restaurant.

Did you get free food?

J&B: Yes!

J: It was really good! It’s called Thai Fresh.

J: We played a wine bar, which was cool because it was an outdoor show on a hill overlooking the city. We played right after the sun went down, so it was really beautiful. We played a cowboy bar. That was the most Texas moment. It had country superstars painted on the walls.

B: They had just opened, and they didn’t realize that they needed to have bands play there, which was weird because it was SXSW. They ran out of toilet paper! They were unprepared when they booked this show. They had a brand new sound system, but there was no sound guy, so someone who sort of knew a little bit [about sound engineering] barely messed with it, and it sounded incredible!

J: We tried to do as many shows as we could down there. The thing is that we flew down there, so we didn’t have a drum kit or amps. We had to borrow stuff, and that was funny. Next time we go down we’re definitely going to drive.

Anything else to add?

J: We’re putting together a show for August that we’re really excited about. We can’t announce any of the details yet, but it’s going to be in Seattle, possibly Chop Suey. I guess that’s not very juicy.

Secret show…no details yet…could be anything?!

B: It will definitely be off the chain! [Laughs] Just kidding! I hate that expression.

J: It will be the most “English” show in Seattle featuring no English people.

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