The TVD Interview: The Submarines

By the time The Submarines got to their Washington D.C. show at the Black Cat, being on tour had taken its toll on the voice of Blake Hazard, the lead singer/guitarist of the indie pop duo. Her voice was noticeably raspy, but she still sang beautifully and enthusiastically to the crowded and excitement-filled room at the venue. Not only did the band’s performance shine, but somehow she and her other half, in the band and in their marriage, John Dragonetti, were still able to answer many probing questions about their famous family lineage, being a married couple that also plays in a band together, and how much Steve Jobs likes them.

Blake, did being the great granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald in any way effect how you were brought up on culture or the arts? Was it an influence on how you first got into music?

Blake: I think so. It is hard for me to know because I don’t have the experience of not having him as a great-grandfather, so I don’t know comparatively. It seems like most people do read him in high school and are exposed to his stories. I guess I have lived more closely to it just because my mom is very involved in keeping up with their estate. Like, Zelda’s [his wife] paintings were in my childhood bedroom. They were a little frightening to me as a child, but I really appreciate them now!… My parents have been really supportive of my artistic endeavors, so I guess whether that came from my mother’s relationship or not, I don’t know. A lot of us have grown up in artistic or creative families, but then sometimes I think growing up in the adversity of growing up in an un-artistic family sometimes makes you more adamant or more steadfast to be a musician.

The two of you have obviously known each other for a long time, and are now a married couple. But what did you think of each other the very first time you met/what were your very first impressions?

John: I think you remember it better than I do.

Blake: Well, I had already known John as a musician and had already admired his work, but I don’t think he knew who I was. John had a girlfriend at the time we met, so it wasn’t romantic, as they were together. But we met at a club in Boston, it was either a Fountains of Wayne or Flaming Lips show? We had a mutual friend. I even remember what he was wearing.

John: Really? What was I wearing?

Blake: You were wearing a nice kind of pea coat. But anyway, we soon started working together. Our professional relationship started before our personal one.

What musical qualities do you think the other person brings to your band that you don’t think you would be able to?

Blake: John’s musicianship is far superior to mine. I am just an intuitive player, and he has an incredible ear and a real talent for coming up with crazy sounds that I would never even imagine.

John: Blake has a beautiful voice and it was the first thing that I fell in love with when we were working together. So I mean, I can’t, write great lyrics. She writes beautiful songs. I can put a song together, but I wish I could write and sing like her.

What were you excited to showcase in this most recent album (Love Notes/Letter Bombs) that you haven’t done with your past work?

John: The first thing we really wanted to do when working on this record is involve other people more. We definitely wanted to make something a little more aggressive sounding, something we enjoyed playing live a little more. We listen to our first record now and we think, ‘Oh my god, these songs are so slow.’ Which is fine, but we are just in different places in our lives right now where we need some more energy.

We had this guy John O’Mahony mix it, and he did the Metric record Fantasies, and sonically that really impressed us. We recorded it out in Los Angeles at the Sound Factory.

The writing process for this record was also more collaborative. We usually kind of work on ideas separately and then bring it together, which we did on this record, but we also plopped ourselves in a room, which was a bit more challenging.

Blake: We kind of needed to. We had been doing things separately for this album and things weren’t coming together like we wanted them to. I think we struggled to find out what we were trying to say. There were a couple of songs that were like story songs, but for the most part we were very in the moment, and it took some time to become removed from it to understand that really this record was about working on a record together. Some of the conflicts and tensions, but also the joys we were having together came through in the lyrics, which is kind of strange to realize after the fact.

The Submarines | Fire

Where did you get the name The Submarines?

Blake: I wish we had a better story for that. It just kind of came up, and we instantly loved it.

John: I like the underwater-ness of it. But then submarines can be claustrophobic. And so can relationships.

Blake: It can be both really lonesome and really claustrophobic.

So being a couple as well as a band, do you have nights where you just want to go out and have a nice dinner and not talk about the band, like married couples with families try to not talk about the kids for a night?

Blake: Yes, but we always fail at it.

John: That is something we are failing at miserably, actually.

Blake: We really try to do that, and it will be like ten minutes before something comes up. Because bands are different than even jobs; not that people don’t care about their jobs, but we are always trying to figure out how to make things different or better or thinking of something in a song we want to try, and that is exciting, and you want to talk about it. So then after a few minutes you are right back into it again.

You have had your songs in episodes of the show Nip/Tuck, and the songs “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie” and “Submarine Symphonika” were used in Apple commercials for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. What do you think of your songs being placed in so many commercials and TV spots? Are you a fan of the products, do you really even care?

Blake: You almost never get to see the final product when you approve it. I have seen I think, all of it, and I love it, I love being a part of current popular culture in that way. Even if it is a show we don’t watch much.

John: It is a similar feeling to hearing your song on the radio. But TV shows bury that stuff in the background most of the time. But the Apple ad, you couldn’t escape it, which was great actually. It was instrumental in a way that didn’t throw us into this next level like Feist or something like that. And Steve Jobs actually gets the final say on those things, so it was flattering that he picked us.

Blake: Hopefully it just served as an introduction to us for some people.

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