Sounding Board: How did Knifeplay come about?
TJ Strohmer: I began to share my home recordings (which I started doing I guess in late winter 2015) with my now bandmates (Alex Stackhouse (bass), Pat McBride (guitar), Alex Ha (drums), and Chris Norcross (guitar/keys)) who then showed interest in playing, we finally got together in the fall of 2017. Now the recording process is somewhat more of a collaborative effort.
Sounding Board: You write, produce and record your own music, can you tell us a little about your process? Any happy accidents?
TJ: I don’t necessarily have a set process. Sometimes a song is fully written and sometimes I work out the arrangement through recording. My starting place varies, I just try to run with whatever inspires me, be it guitar, lyrics, or melody. I really value the fact that, technologically, recording music is more accessible and user-friendly than ever. The ability to sit for as long as I need to and work through songs alone has helped improve my writing and musical sensibility. It is a constant and endless learning process that I really enjoy. I don’t think I would have been comfortable working with someone else when I was making the first batch of songs. As for happy accidents, they appear on every track, as is the nature of lo-fi recording I think. But there isn’t really anything specific I can think to mention.
Sounding Board: Is there anything you wish you would have known, when you first began the band?
TJ: As of now, no. All that matters really, is connecting with people through music, and the process of playing and creating. You don’t need to know anything to do that.
Sounding Board:.Is there anything you do outside of music that contributes to your creative process?
TJ: Definitely personal experience and worldview is my (or anyone’s, probably) primary source of inspiration, for me, this comes even before the sonic aspect. There’s nothing specific I would really care to share; every song is different, and people will take from it what they want based on their own projections.
Sounding Board: What’s been your favorite show you’ve played so far?
TJ: All have had their positives and negatives. But I really enjoyed our show at The Inconvenience Store in West Philly with Cooking, Brown Rainbow, and David Attias. It was a small and very crowded living room. I got to sit down while playing and I thought we sounded great.
Sounding Board: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
TJ: Right now, I don’t have any outward desire to collaborate with anyone, at least anyone feasible. The element of solitude is something that, for now, I really cherish. That being said, my bandmates have been contributing more and more to the songs, and a few other friends as well. I know a lot of people who make great records that I would be happy to work with if it happened naturally, but no one specific.
Sounding Board: Has being based in Philly contributed to your development as an artist in any specific way?
TJ: For sure, as I said earlier experience is my primary source of inspiration, and I began to write as an outlet to discuss certain things happening around me, which were specific to my environment. Also, a lot of great artists have come in and out of my life and been really encouraging about what I’m doing, which would not have happened anywhere else to the degree that it has. I think and hope they know how thankful I am for that encouragement.
Sounding Board: Yeah, I feel like Philly does have a super supportive scene compared to others and it’s pretty diverse, so people can really draw on a variety of influences. What can you tell us about your upcoming LP?
TJ: I guess not much as of now; the songs are all written and mostly recorded. It’s the first full length I’ve ever been a part of. A lot has gone into the record in terms of physical and emotional labor and I hope/think that people will enjoy it. We plan on getting some professional/more experienced mixing and mastering help. I’d like to put it out late spring/early summer 2018 and I would like to work with a label if it makes sense to do so. I also want to mention here that we will be putting out a 5 song tape of our most recent release ‘with u’ and some bonus tracks with Smoking Room records, from Oakland, CA probably very soon.
Listen to “with u” and “Heaven” below