I’ve known Future of What bassist Sam Axelrod going on five years now. I can’t specify the exact date I met him, but he probably could. Axelrod’s talent of remembering dates is just one of his many impressive characteristics — along with a charming wit and weekly dedication to reading The New Yorker in its entirety.
Prior to Future of What, the native New Yorker was in a slew of bands (including two with Caveman drummer Stefan Marolachakis — Dopo Yume, and The End of the World), most notably The Narrator.
In November of 2011, Axelrod met singer Blair Gimma at a party in Williamsburg. The young vocalist told Axelrod, a fan of her 2010 solo album Die Young, that she was looking to start a band. Shortly after, the two musicians teamed up with drummer Max Kotelchuck to form Future of What. The trio is currently shopping around, Pro Dreams, their debut full-length of romantic pop songs.
Future of What will be playing Cameo tonight, with Limited, Regal Degal, and Torn Hawk. I joined Axelrod and Gimma for some wine at Spuyten Duyvil, where we chatted about abortion, sports, and Azealia Banks—all the basics.
Sam: It’s a website.
Blair: He has a song that’s anti-abortion, so we were joking about how we would call the record Pro Life. Not because it has anything to do with babies, just because “Yes, life!” I vetoed that because I don’t ever want to have that attached to us.
Sam: But it’s such a good name for a record.
Blair: It’s a great name if it didn’t have all that baggage of being about anti-abortion.
Sam: We’re talking about taking it back.
Sam: He’s really ambitious in that way.
Blair: So our version of Pro Life — having nothing to do with having a child or not — is Pro Dreams. I want to talk about Max since he’s not here. Max is amazing. He had to work today.
Sam: Integral part of the band. Our band would fall apart without him.
Blair: We were doing the band name search, which can be challenging, or easy. I don’t know — It’s hard to pin down what you want. We were going through everything, our own ideas…And then Sam had his iPad out when we were recording our EP.
Sam: iPad? iPod. I don’t have no iPad.
Blair: Do not put that he has an iPad. [Looks at Sam] It’ll totally ruin you! [Laughs]
Sam: I have an iPod from 2008.
Blair: This guy has a real — in the flesh — New Yorker everywhere he goes. No iPad! So, he was just reading band names, looking for inspiration, and he said, Future of What. I was like, “Oh, that’s cool.” Without ever having heard Unwound, I just existentially related to it and liked the, what would you call it…
Sam: …the connotations.
Sam: My favorite part is there’s something sassy about it: Future of What? You know? I totally divorce it from the album title. I do love Unwound, but we sound nothing like them. I really like their bassist, Vern, so I probably am influenced by him, but I don’t think we have anything to do with them. It would be weird if we sounded anything like them — our name would be a lot lamer.
Blair: One night, Sam and I were recording at the Magic Shop. The Magic Shop is a historic studio — the Rolling Stones recorded something like four records there. We’re more of an electronic band, so it was funny to be in this big studio. We plugged into the nice amps and recorded these blazing guitar parts. Just felt great to be playing expensive guitars, through expensive amps, at an expensive studio.
Sam: It was also a big secret at the time, but they were recording that last David Bowie record there. Like right before that, so we had the ghost of David Bowie. Then this other studio, in Carroll Gardens…
Blair: …Lindbergh Palace
Sam: Used to be called Smith Street, now it’s called Lindbergh Palace. Azealia Banks had been recording there.
Blair: She would leave her lyrics. She still hasn’t released her record. She’s been recording there for like two years.
Sam: We had the ghost of Bowie in one studio and the ghost of Azealia Banks in the other.
Sam: That’s a memorable night—we were recording and had to stop for four hours. The guy whose studio it was had to come in because Azealia Banks was about to go on stage in Warsaw and needed some backing tracks. We had to freeze what we were doing so he could do all this technical stuff and then upload it to Prague or Warsaw, wherever she was.
Blair: I remember the Chinese food we ate.
Sam: We had a lot of vegan Chinese food.
Sam: Very new.
Blair: Two months. We have a lot more collaborative material. It feels deeper, more fleshed out.
Sam: We refer to Moonstruck as a glorified demo tape. We just did it as fast as possible. A bunch of those songs are on the record. We re-recorded them.
Blair: We wanted to book shows and people would be like, “What do you sound like?” It was easier to have something to get people to know our vibes, as opposed to having nothing.
Sam: The record is the real thing.
Blair: Basketball is very much a part of my childhood. I used to come home from an all-girls Catholic high school to watch the Sonics and the Bulls. I used to be really into it, but not at all anymore. But I play a lot of sports. What Peter captured with the Jordan video is very Pro Dreams to us: Him going in for a dunk — you’re jumping, you’re taking a risk.
Sam: Our band zero percent follows basketball. I used to be really into sports as a kid. I used to play this game with my friends where they would name a player from a few years ago and then I would have to say what team they were on. My basketball knowledge just stops in 1994. Now it’s old enough that all those people are done. Our band does not follow sports at all.
Sam: First of all, it’s not Nat Rich’s Thanksgiving football game, it’s our football game — and yes.
Blair: Also, with the sports thing, it’s kind of funny because you think of sports as competitive and somewhat aggro. I don’t think those are things we identify with, so we’re trying to draw on the more sensitive and vulnerable stuff.
Sam: Yeah, and I think that video works well because there’s something sort of dreamy and beautiful about it.
Blair: Emo sports.
Sam: That’s a good name for a record.