Blues Control are meant to be hoppers. Russ Waterhouse (guitar) and Lea Cho (keys) of Blues Control have been on labels from Not Not Fun to Sub Pop and Woodsist and have released formats that are vinyl, CD and cassette by nature. They just moved, too. The once-Brooklyn, New Yorkers recently relocated to Pennsylvania, and that’s where they penned their latest album, Valley Tangents. Released on Drag City Records (yep, another label), they’ve gotten lots of nice compliments for their contemplatively sound duo-powered instrumental rock. Pitchfork remarked, “Waterhouse and Cho now know that they don’t need to be outlandish or aggressively inclusive to be interesting,” while Tiny Mix Tapes divulges “Had it been waxed 30 years ago and self-released in miniscule numbers, Valley Tangents would be a holy grail of the collectors’ market.” And a unique outfit such as Blues Control isn’t generally an overnight success story, as Waterhouse confirms.
Waterhouse says that Blues Control has had a quiet, but steady transformation since its formation in the early 00’s. “I was putting out solo recordings and was asked to play a show. I had never played solo before, and a week before the show, I got cold feet,” he admits. “Lea was my roommate at the time (we started dating, later) and I asked her to jump in and Watersports was formed. Doing a two-piece was a little rough around the edges at first. I was used to playing in a big, improv group and never had played in a duo before.
“Eventually, there was a point when Watersports and Blues Control overlapped – Watersports was more quiet and environmental in nature and Blues Control was meant to be our rock project,” Waterhouse continues. “We were really lucky with the reaction from our friends – the transfer was really positive.”
Blues Control, though filled with heavy influences of classical and jazz piano, is essentially a rock band and elements of psych-washed instruments fill in the spots where intricate piano leads percussively and percussion, well, acts as more of an anchor. Waterhouse says, “Neither one of us felt like a natural vocalist and our vocals were often buried in the music. Being an instrumental band is not something we think about until someone points it out, too. 90% of the time in Watersports, there was no central rhythm and it as a conscious change to have that in Blues Control. Our percussion is pretty unfussy, though. We make up for it with the other instruments.”