STEELE INTERVIEWS: singer/drummer Amanda Spring of Point Juncture, WA

The Pacific Northwest has a thriving music scene these days with talented bands such as The Decemberists and Death Cab for Cutie, among others. Only recently, I’ve discovered the brilliant Point Juncture, WA. Intriguing arrangements, varied instrumentation, thoughtful lyrics, yearning and honeyed vocals, feverish melodies all combine to make Handsome Orders an album to play again and again.

Amanda Spring [vocals, drums], Victor Nash [keyboards, vocals], Skyler Norwood [drums, bass] and Wilson Vediner [guitar] comprise the Portland, Ore. band Point Juncture, WA. Amanda and Victor bought a house and built a recording studio in it so that the band can record and engineer their music. Handsome Orders is the band’s fourth release.

I recently spoke with Amanda Spring.

Amy Steele: How did you all meet and decide that being a band would work?

Amanda Spring: Victor and Wilson and I went to high school together in southern Oregon. Portland was the obvious destination for many of our musician friends and other creative types who wanted to remain Oregonians but also have a vibrant scene. Once in Portland, I met Skyler in a recording class and he made me laugh so we became fast friends. Then he recorded our first EP “Juxtapony” at his studio and we included his name among the members on the CD in jest. And what is written becomes true. We have had other members through the years but we are a four piece now.

Amy Steele: Not many women are drummers. What has been your experience as a female drummer?

Amanda Spring: I’ve had a great experience as both a female and a drummer. I think the “girls can’t rock” sentiment is confined to battle of the bands scenes in 80’s movies. Of course Portland is the “Girl’s Rock!” capitol. We even have camps for that sort of thing here. If there is criticism about my drumming behind my back then the joke’s on the hater because I can’t hear it! It’s not uncommon for at least one of the other bands on a bill we play to have a female drummer.

Amy Steele: how did you get into music yourself and learn to play drums and sing?

Amanda Spring: My parents were hippies and we always had a drum set on the school bus parked on the farm, so I dabbled over the years. Even now I wouldn’t say drummer if asked what I play because I have so many musical interests: Songwriting, singing, ukulele, bass, recording.

Amy Steele: what makes you work well together?

Amanda Spring: Point Juncture, WA works well together because we are all friends and we put in years of writing and recording and touring with each other and we’ve learned to let go: of expectations, of musical ideas not gelling, of grudges. People writing songs together (who are often from different backgrounds, music theory-wise) have to learn to communicate respectfully. For example, instead of saying “That part is so 90’s rock cliché” you might say “I could hear some more dissonance over that”. Moreover, if a song is not bringing us joy we just drop it and move on.

Amy Steele: The music industry has changed drastically, what have been your greatest challenges?

Amanda Spring: I am a successful musician because I am fulfilled artistically. I have a studio to record in 24-7. I get to play super fun shows with bands of my choosing and we produce albums that I think are good. It helps that I have side projects too. ioa is a 7 piece band that I lead on ukulele. Also, I play bass in a band called The Four Edge and I make hip-hop beats. I don’t know when it happened but I stopped caring about fame. If the shows are packed at a 300 capacity room I’m not pining over a 700. I’m through with that early 20’s itchy feeling of “when are we gonna get big”. Turning 30 in a few days. (Coincidence?)

Amy Steele: Being in Boston, I have to ask, what’s the story behind the song “Boston Gold?”

Amanda Spring: Unfortunately the title has no connection to the fair city. The lyrics “embossed in gold” just got misheard as “Boston Gold,” which sounds cooler!

Amy Steele: you grow your own food and camp on tour. How does this factor into touring?

Amanda Spring: Camping on tour is awesome if you build the extra time in for it. If there’s only time to sleep, a new friend’s couch is preferable. Camping or stopping to do a hike breaks up the monotony of driving and is a great time to either bond with your band mates OR get some space from them if they’re buggin. Also, beautiful landscapes + free time = song inspiration.

Amy Steele: What would you like to see changed for tours or at venues to make things more eco-friendly/ vegetarian/vegan-friendly?

Amanda Spring: If there was one change I could implore all venues to make in terms of vegan items it would be the milk. Lots of places already carry soy milk but there are such better alternatives. Rice! Almond! Just sayin’.

Amy Steele: Victor told me that you do all a lot the vegan cooking on the road. What are your fave things to cook or go-to recipes?

Amanda Spring: If a tour takes us through the Midwest I bring a grill and a cooler with some homemade sauces. Fall tours have a bonus of being harvest time, so I just pick everything from the garden which besides being delicious makes good gifts for the people we stay with. When we do go out to eat we usually opt for a grocery store, which is cheap and has something for everyone. Sitting in a van for hours a day is not great on the stomach, so eating fast food would just be adding insult to injury. It gets easier to be on tour as a vegan. Partly you learn what to have stocked up in the cooler and partly you learn to lose the feeling of entitlement that you should get a well-rounded vegan meal at every restaurant. After all, entitlement is what makes the SAD (standard American diet) prevail. It does heighten my emotions when I see the lack of options that pervade most of the country. It’s probably good to leave the vegan bubble of Portland to see what it’s like for most of the population. If my example (or BBQ tempeh) inspires anyone, then it’s good for the cause.

My favorite things to grill are veggies with teriyaki BBQ sauce: broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, onion, mushroom. These are good choices because they don’t need steaming first. Tempeh is good too and couscous is easy on the road because it doesn’t take much cooking. I usually bring a big container of marinated tempeh from home in the cooler. Anything that you can make camping you can make in a parking lot. If you’ve got time to stop at a friend’s and use their kitchen before load-in the possibilities are endless. We also make a lot of hummus and veggie “vanwiches” and salads. Just stop to picnic at a rest stop that has running water to wash the dishes.

Amy Steele: What cities have the best vegan options?

Amanda Spring: The best cities for vegan food are what you’d expect: large metropolitan areas. Portland, Seattle, New York, Chicago, Denver, etc. The exciting thing is I’ve noticed vegan options sprouting up everywhere over the years. I think some of that is because people are really starting to look into allergies (thanks dairy-allergic people!) and because of college campuses. Students are the fastest growing sector of vegans. Let’s hope they stick to it after graduation.

Point Juncture, WA website

purchase album: Handsome Orders

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