Singer, guitarist and songwriter Alexander Miranda co-founded Underpass only last year, and yet their debut LP, “Assimilation,” came out on Desire a few weeks ago. A powerful document of alienation, isolation, despair, hope, and resistance, the icy and despondent dark postpunk of the band might have been released on early Factory Records or on 4AD when bands like The Wake and Mass characterized those labels’ sounds. CVLT Nation reviewed Underpass’s “Assimilation“ here and it’s available to be exclusively streamed on CVLT Nation here.
I was lucky to be able to interview Alexander during the band’s current US tour (details of which are available here).
Alexander Miranda of Underpass was interviewed by Oliver in September 2014.
Q: Can you give us the basic details on the band: When you started, where and who is in the band now (as well as what they play), as well as who was in the band when it began?
Alexander: About a year ago in Vancouver. It was me and my friend Celina, but then she quit. Now it’s me on guitar and vocals. NC is on bass, DL synths and MW drums.
Q: I notice I’ll see that Underpass is listed sometimes as a Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) band but more frequently as a band from Olympia, Washington (like on the Desire promo for the band). A lot of the band members also choose to go by initials instead of their full names. I suspect the two things are related – something to do with citizenship issues? Can you explain where the band is, or isn’t, from, as well as how that may tie in to some of the members preferring not to divulge their names publicly?
A: [Underpass declined to answer this question.]
Q: Who came up with the band name “Underpass,” what’s the story behind it, and what is it supposed to represent?
Alexander: I lived near this underground DIY skatepark called Leeside and I spent a lot of time there creeping around and skating, freaking out. Most DIY parks are under bridges, too. Also, there’s that Johnn Foxx song…
Q: Can you describe the striking logo of the band? It’s very noticeable and pretty eye-catching, even distinctive, which seems like something that’s increasingly hard to do nowadays. Who designed it and what is it symbolic of?
Alexander: Thanks, glad you like it. I studied graphic design for a while and I became obsessed with logo design. Mind control. It’s wild. People often see the logo and think we are fascists… That always makes me giggle.
Q: On a purely musical level, a lot of folks have remarked that the songs have an early Cure vibe. I personally didn’t hear that on the material, except maybe in some parts. To me there was more of a Modern Eon and Sound thing going on. What are the band’s main musical influences, and how do you feel these come through in the completed product of the songs?
Alexander: The Cure has played a big part in my life for a long time now. My dad gave me a Standing on a Beach tape when I was in 7th grade and to this day I hear new things every time I listen to it. Yeah, I’m into a lot if different music. When I was writing “Assimilation” I was listening to a lot of Gun Club – mostly “Miami.” Also a lot of Terry Riley and John Cale stuff too. Top on my list is the Velvets, though. Neil Young and a lot of Love and Son House too…
Q: Would you say Underpass are a political band at all? The lyrics to “Pain of Trust,” to me, are sort of like the lyrics Ian Curtis or Adrian Borland might have written – the awkwardness, loneliness, etc., of feeling something for someone and not being sure if it’s reciprocated. It doesn’t seem political at all. What issues does Underpass tackle in its lyrics?
Alexander: We are a very political band, but I’m not, like, screaming, “Kill your local police chief!” I mean, if I wasn’t a brown boy with big hair maybe I would do that, but there are enough bands with the skin of privilege for that undertaking. I can’t catch that kinda heat and get away with it. The message is subtle, but it’s there.
Q: This is a question I ask all bands I interview: If you were stranded on a desert island and had some magical way to play records, and could only 5 records with you for the rest of your life, what 5 records would those be? (Add “why,” if you’d like!)
Alexander: 1. Nico – Chealsea Girl 2. Neil Young – On the beach 3. The Cure – Seventeen Seconds 4. The Velvet Underground – ST 5. Love – Forever Changes.
Q: How did you get onto Desire Records? Did they approach you? You’re a fairly new band and I think your previous EP or demo was self-released, wasn’t it? What do you think about getting onto Desire so quickly?
Alexander: When we did a repress of our demo, Jerome from Desire bought a tape and and asked us if Desire could put out our record. It was wild. I remember being at the swap meet in San Diego when I got the email. It was trippy. I’m so grateful that he reached out. I’m about to pick up the records in Philly tomorrow. It’s unbelievable, kinda…
Q: There are a lot of great bands in the Pacific Northwest and especially in Vancouver, BC right now – who are some of your fave current bands out there these days?
Alexander: Broken Water, Screaming Queens, Mourning Coupe, Cascadia, Lié.
Q: You’re going on tour soon. Have you ever toured America before as a band? What are your expectations and thoughts about it? Must be pretty exciting!
Alexander: We just played Brooklyn last night and it was unbelievable. We played with Space Meow – so good. We have never toured the East Coast. This is our first time out here. It’s wild – so many people, so much brick. And it’s really hot. Like a gross hot.
Q: Your new LP is coming out on Desire Records and is called “Assimilation.” The Desire Recs press release that accompanies the LP mentions it may be about issues related to cultural assimilation, especially the issue of Native American assimilation into an overarching Western society. Is that what it’s about, and can you maybe give some background on the title, some themes on the LP, as well as how it may tie in with issues of cultural assimilation, domination, etc.?
Q: Where can folks go to keep track of what you all are up to, where you’re playing, and where they can buy your records?
Alexander: www.everythingeveryday.tumblr.com – that’s my personal photo blog, but I also post there.
Q: Anything else I neglected to mention or ask? If there’s anything you’d like to say or promote, now’s your chance…
Alexander: Nah. Thanks so much, Oliver. Can’t wait to see you in Austin!
Underpass debut “Assimilation” LP can be purchased from Desire Records here.
Underpass has a Bandcamp page here: Aboutviolence.bandcamp.com
Underpass Facebook Page HERE!