Bishops born out of honesty, vulnerability
Ex-Demon Beat and Prison Book Club musician Tucker Riggleman lays it all out about his latest endevour, Bishops, and their album “Silver Linings” on Twin Cousins Records.
Graffiti: First of all, thank you for talking with us. I know that you’re a busy group of guys, which we will talk about. Let’s start at the beginning. There were obviously some other acts that were involved in Bishops’ inception. Could you give us a brief history of Bishops? How long has Bishops been active?
Riggleman: I had been writing solo material and performing it out for a little while, but my focus at the time was on The Demon Beat and Prison Book Club. I always knew that I wanted to give my solo stuff the full band treatment, but I just never had the time. (Bassist) Paul (Cogle) had asked The Demon Beat to come to his studio in Falling Waters to record, but we were always too busy to make it work. Finally, I had a day off and asked him if I could come track some solo material with him. This was in late 2011, and it went so well that we decided to make a band out of it. Those initial demos became the debut full-length that was released in July 2012.
Graffiti: I know that projects like Prison Book Club and The Demon Beat are attached to Bishops because of shared personnel. Where does Bishops fit in, musically, personally?
Riggleman: I think Bishops’ sound lies somewhere in between both of those bands. I wrote some of the songs in PBC, and I’m the songwriter in Bishops, so naturally there’s a connection in that regard. But our sound is much more aggressive at times and resembles more of that garage rock vibe that The Demon Beat had. I think ultimately what is most important is that, especially with this newest record, we have found our own sound and know what we want to do sonically. Personnel-wise, I was in both of those bands, and PBC drummer Andrew Ford played drums on the first Bishops record.
Graffiti: How does Bishops stand out musically among other acts in the area?
Riggleman: There are so many awesome bands in West Virginia right now. It can be hard to separate yourself and get noticed because the talent level is so high, but I think we have made a very honest record that we put a lot of love into. Hopefully that shows.
Graffiti: What is it like writing for the style that Bishops has adopted compared to some of the other outfits in the past?
Riggleman: I was primarily a bass player in other bands, so for me it is completely different. I get to take songs that I write on acoustic guitar and bring them to the band and let those guys add their own touch.
Graffiti: Speaking of writing, the most recent self-titled album has a lot of things going on, in terms of feeling and emotion, sonically speaking. What’s it like writing for these albums, this new release in particular?
Riggleman: ‘Silver Lining’ was a real labor of love for me, as well as a great learning and healing experience. Most people go through a lot in life, particularly in the post-college ‘what do I do now?’ phase. This record is my reaction to the most trying time in my life – it’s my coping mechanism. This band and this music are therapy for me, my way of dealing with things out of my control.
Graffiti: Is there any kind of hierarchy to the creative process, or is it something that is more of a group effort?
Riggleman: I’ve always written the songs, but Paul has been consistently integral in shaping the material and helping me to figure out the best way to present the songs. Payden [Kimble, the new drummer] has been adding some great drum parts to our newest material.
Graffiti: The songs on the newest release are really great indie-pop cuts that have real substance and heart. Would you tell us a bit about the material? Where were inspirations found for the songs? Where are the musical and lyrical inspirations derived from?
Riggleman: I touched on this a bit earlier, but it’s basically my reaction to a very hard time in my life. That being said, I hope that it doesn’t come across as completely insular, and that people can find ways to relate to the subject matter. Not every song is about my experiences. Sometimes it’s nice to look at things from someone else’s perspective and try to write that way, or write about something that your friends or loved ones are going through. Musically, a lot of my peers, but also some of my old favorite bands like The Replacements, Nirvana, and Mineral inspire me. I tend to latch onto bands that convey honest emotion with energetic performance, and that’s something that we try to evoke for sure.
Graffiti: Are there places, things, and/or events that serve as creative inspiration? Maybe even stories or books?
Riggleman: I think the idea of ‘place’ is a prevalent theme in a lot of my songs. I think being from West Virginia instills a certain combination of pride, frustration, and determination, and I know a lot of that shows up in the record. There’s also the notion of being stuck in a particular place and not knowing how to escape, or how to even find the right place for yourself.
Graffiti: Do you find it complicated, as songwriters, to translate what you see and experience as inspiration to a three to four minute song?
Riggleman: I think that so long as you are honest with yourself and your audience that your message can translate. The writing process is very fast and messy for me. Most songs are finished within five minutes and I’m scrambling to write down what just happened. I kind of enjoy trying to say so much in so little – it makes you choose each word very carefully.
Graffiti: Were there any songs or maybe fragmented materials that were left off of the most recent release that might find their way onto the next release, or an upcoming record?
Riggleman: Definitely. I came into the recording process for “Silver Lining” with about 14 solid ideas for songs. We ended up demoing out 11 as a full band, and kept 10 for the record. We’ve also already got a handful of brand new songs that we’ve worked on with our new drummer, so I’d say there’s at least half of another full-length’s worth of material finished. We have some other things in the works instead of jumping right into another full-length though, and we’ll be sure to let everyone know about that as soon as possible.
Graffiti: Going back to the band for a bit, is Bishops a solitary musically creative outlet, or are there other projects that serve as a variety of catalysts for creative manifestations?
Riggleman: Personally, I play guitar in a punk band called RHIN, and that is a lot of fun, but Bishops is my main creative outlet for sure. Paul is in a million bands, many of which he is the lead songwriter, so I’m sure he gets his release from a combination of those endeavors.
Graffiti: With Bishops doing its thing at the moment, what does the foreseeable future hold? For the band? Band members? Maybe undeveloped ideas/projects?
Riggleman: There are a lot of ways that it can go. Perhaps a big move is in store for the near future, as far as physically moving the band somewhere else, but I can’t say for sure.
Graffiti: What can we look forward to, this summer and beyond, from Bishops? Are there any touring plans, or even more recording possibilities being bounced around?
Riggleman: There are definitely some touring plans being made, including a trip to Athens, GA (home of our record label, Twin Cousins Records). Wheels have begun turning as far as our next recording possibility, and they could turn out to be very cool, so we’ll keep you posted.