Partly Zombish | Interview | New Album, ‘August Cake and the Clicky Keyboards’

Uncategorized July 8, 2024

Partly Zombish | Interview | New Album, ‘August Cake and the Clicky Keyboards’

Partly Zombish is the Niagara Falls, NY-based duo of Justin Von Strasburg and Joe LaPaglia. They make acoustic minimal noise.

They developed their unique style through a shared interest in fringe music and a desire for simplicity and spontaneity in their performances and recordings.

“We have settled on sound”

Who’s Partly Zombish? A duo?

Justin Von Strasburg: Yes, we are a duo made up of myself and Joe LaPaglia. We also have a mascot named August Cake, but he doesn’t contribute to the sound-making.

How did you get to know each other?

We met through a mutual friend, Aaron, in 2001.

Why did you decide to make music together?

We decided to make music together because we both had similar tastes in music that was on the fringes. We actually made music together for the first time long before Partly Zombish, with our friend Reid, back in 2002 with an electronic-based project called The Computer Club. The first show Joe and I played together was as part of the ambient room at a rave called Groove Attack in June 2002 in Niagara Falls, NY. Then, years later, we were in a pop punk band called Go Glorious, with me on drums and Joe on guitar.

For how long have you been making music together? Since 2012?

Partly Zombish has been in existence since August 2011. At that time, we were the only people in our close friend group who liked weirder and more experimental kinds of music. For example, we were both listening to a lot of stuff from labels like Erstwhile Records and Japanese musicians such as Taku Sugimoto. I had already started trying to make solo music using a snare drum in an experimental way, and Joe thought that was interesting. So, one day we decided to work together and see what happens.

Why did you decide to make this kind of, what you call, “acoustic minimal noise”?

The “acoustic minimal noise” thing came as we developed our own approach to sound-making. We always kept things minimal (one “instrument” each) and over time it became an acoustic-based thing. For a while, we did shows where I used my snare drum and Joe used a broken acoustic guitar. We both really do not like having to bring a lot of gear to shows or recording sessions, so that fed into our approach of minimalism and playing acoustic. We are at a point now where, when we play our next show, we are not bringing anything and plan to use whatever we find at the venue. The “noise” part of that phrase came about because we have played a lot of noise shows. So we just decided to also call ourselves a noise act, but we were also acoustic and minimal.

Does each of you have a “role” when you play together? Do you have a certain idea of what you want to do before you start playing? Do you prepare sets?

We don’t have defined roles other than I am usually the one who comes up with ideas for what to do during a show or recording session. Usually, the ideas are something like, “Let’s record outside,” or in the case of our latest album, “Let’s play with the clicky keyboards that go with Joe’s growing classic computer collection.”

Is what you do when you play together: coming together, toying around with objects, and recording yourself?

Pretty much. We think of an idea, set a date to hang out and record, and then we see what happens. I record everything with my Zoom H1 and iPhone.

I enjoyed your latest album on Falt. Could we talk a bit about this record? Why did you decide to use an old computer? Why are there mainly short pieces on the record?

The idea for August Cake and the Clicky Keyboards came to us one day when we were talking about Joe’s classic computer collection and the sound those old keyboards make. They are so loud and clicky. So we thought, let’s do a recording that focused on those clicky sounds. The day came to hang out and record, and it just snowballed into the weirdness that is the album. We started just having a conversation as we were recording and decided to leave it in. The reason the pieces are short is that I am a fan of shorter tracks, and the fact that we only recorded around 20 to 30 minutes of usable material.

Do you see what you do as sound or as music?

Sound. In the early days, we would have said music, but at this point, we have settled on sound.

What does the name Partly Zombish mean?

We are named after our mascot, August Cake. August is a ceramic piece (a human head) I made when I was in college. I showed him to Joe one day, and he said that he looked “partly zombish,” and our name came into being. August was also named the same day by both of us. Joe thought that he looked like cake, and so that became his last name. It was also the month of August, so that became his first name.

Joeri Bruyninckx

Headline photo: Joe LaPaglia and Justin Von Strasburg

Partly Zombish Official Website / Bandcamp

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