Interview and Premiere: with @

The duo, born accidentally via texting, releases its album April 16

After I wrap up our interview, I thank @, aka Stone Filipczak and Victoria Rose, but Stone isn’t ready to go. He wants to know what I think of the album, the duo’s debut, Mind Palace Music. I say it reminds me of freak-folk. Animal Collective? Stone asks. Linda Perhacs and Vashti Bunyan, I say. 

“When you say Vashti Bunyan or Linda Perhacs the first thing I think is well I guess I took almost direct influence when I was making “Boxwood Lane.” It’s a love song between Frodo and Sam,” Victoria says.  

Stone then pulls out a PVC whistle and plays the intro for me. I listen later to what he describes as a song about “Hobbit love.” It’s like wind rapping on your door. Victoria’s lilt feels traditional; the intonation harkens back to the Canterbury scene of the late 1960s but is updated by some harmonizing synthesizer.

The album’s evenly split between the two songwriters and each gave the other free rein to do whatever felt right. The workload is almost an exact 50/50. Trading back and forth, each maximized their input and allowed the other to pair it down. Or as Stone puts it: “To choose what actually slaps and what was just a fun thing I did for a second.” 

Victoria adds: “I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever been part of. It comes out on April 16.” Mind Palace Music will be self-released on Localhost3000, a label created for this project.

Today, Insufficient Fare is premiering the song “Cut From Toxic Cloth,” which features a driving drumbeat, winding melody, and resplendently stacked vocals. Listen here and read on for the interview:

Me: How did this collaboration come together?

Victoria: We had been sharing music files through texting and then decided to work on music together.

Stone: Yeah, we were just texting a lot about our individual music cause we’ve been friends through music for years.

Victoria: Mhm

Stone: We both lived in Boston and were part of the Boston scene where I was really into the noise rock scene there and Victoria was playing singer-songwriter stuff. Have you heard Brittle Brian? Are you familiar with that?

Me: Yeah, yeah 

Stone: Cool. So Victoria was doing that for years and I was doing noise bands for years and we met through that. And then in the pandemic we were just texting our tracks that we’d been working on, back and forth, and for months we were doing this. Not even thinking about collaborating. And then at one point, Victoria sent me “Star Game” and said, “I want this but with like soft drums on it..” Not like asking me to do it, but I just did it and sent it back. I thought it sounded great; Victoria thought it sounded stupid. But that’s how it started and then we started texting tracks back and forth and before we know it, it all went really fast after that. the album was done in two months or so. 

Victoria: Mhm 

Stone: So it just kinda came out very much based in texting it was very much enabled by the technology of texting MP3. iMessage. It was an iMessage album, fully. 

Me: Wow! Stone what is your background in music? 

Stone: I studied music theory in community college when I was younger and then I went to Berkley College of Music for a year and that’s how I got into the Boston music scene. And then I just played in bands for a really long time in Boston and Baltimore and most of the bands I was playing and touring with were noise or noise-punk and I would mostly either drum or sing. So this is the main thing I’ve done that’s expressly poppy or folky or really anything like that. It’s definitely a huge stylistic shift for me. 

Me: And what about you, Victoria? 

Victoria: I don’t have a ton of formal training in music but I’ve been playing guitar since I was around 11 or so and took a few lessons here and there. When I moved to Boston I started writing songs and writing music and performing in the scene. House shows and whatnot. 

Stone: And then you blew up on the Internet. 

Victoria: Oh yeah, I made the Brittle Brian record Verisune and it got pretty big on the Internet. It afforded me a lot more opportunities to perform. So I’ve always kinda been in the pop songwriter realm, in terms of my own music. 

Me: And how do you think this record’s different from like a Brittle Brian record? 

Victoria: Right off the bat, half the songs are not written by me. But also, personally, I think my songwriting has evolved a little bit. Become a little more complex and also having Stone bring his own writing to the project and also the arrangements, really complex arrangements with instruments I wouldn’t be able to play has really changed the sound a lot. 

Me: The name @. Was there an anti-SEO premise there? Were you trying to be hard to find? 

Stone: No, it’s just a cool name, straight up. It just sounds sick. It looks sick. 

Me: Do you guys have any musical artists who you think of when you think of what was inspiring you to do this or is it more just a synthesis of whatever you were listening to and it’s not really something you’re aware of? 

Stone: I can definitely think of some shit right off the bat that was a huge influence. Chris Weisman straight up. Enormous songwriting influence on the album. Have you ever heard his music by any chance?

Me: Was he on…. *    (* I blank on the name OSR Tapes?) 

Stone: He’s on NNA. They put out most of his recent work. He’s like a New England singer-songwriter who's a master. He writes songs that are super harmonically complex. Like SUPER harmonically complex, while also sounding extremely beautiful and pleasing to the ear. But he’s playing tripped-out fucked up insane harmony on the acoustic guitar while also singing these beautifully written lyrically amazing songs. So that was a huge influence on my songwriting for this album for sure. 

Victoria: For me at least less Chris Weisman; more Fleetwood Mac. 

Me: Any particular era of Fleetwood Mac? 

Victoria: Yeah, Tusk

Me: Are you guys reading anything good these days? 

Victoria: I’m reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 

Me: Oh, Maya Angelou? 

Victoria: Yea. 

Me: How is it? 

Victoria: It’s wonderful. It’s beautiful. It’s really easy to read but also extremely rich. 

Stone: I’m reading bell hooks kind of. I’m kind of reading All About Love by bell hooks but it’s not very active. I’m not a huge reader honestly. 

Me: Is there anything about the @ project that you guys want me to know?

Stone: I feel like I could talk about it at length. It’s a sick-ass project that came out of nowhere. 

Victoria: You [Stone] said that the first track that you got back to me on the song that I wrote I thought was fuckin’ stupid. That’s not entirely true. But it took me a minute to warm up to it because I don’t have a lot of experience with collaboration so having someone have free rein over my path felt really foreign at first and it took some adjusting. Once I did get used to that format it was really exciting to make.

Stone: Super exciting. I loved the feeling of like when I knew that—cause we would text mixes back and forth constantly as they were being developed—I loved the feeling of sending you something that I knew you were really gonna like. I remember “Letters” specifically, which I think was the first track where it felt like super fucking lit and like sick. The arrangement’s really lush. And I remember sending you that lush arrangement going from just guitar and vocals to this big thing and being so excited because I knew it was crazy and you were gonna be like, “what?” hopefully in a good way.  

Victoria: Yeah! You totally fixed that song for me. I kinda hated it. 

Stone: On the songs that we wrote, we each got like director’s cut. We got final say in what the vibe should be. 

Me: What do you think collaboration taught you guys? 

Victoria: I think I had less experience collaborating. 

Stone: Me and Victoria have settled into this mental or cerebral type of collaborating that is really satisfying to me because you get so much more control over it than if you were one member of a four-piece rock band. This is more like collaborating on a novel or something. We’re really going deep on this shit. 

Victoria: It helped me look at music in a more technical way. Looking at the details. Because I feel like a lot of the stuff I wrote on my own can be very basic and it’s just like the essence of it. But being able to edit and have someone keep me on my toes with this thing—I’m kind of a slow worker—really helped me fall into a good working pace and think about music in a slightly less egotistical way. 

Stone: it felt like we were working on a chair. Like we were crafting the album. This felt like we were working on a thing, at a steady pace, attempting to do a really good job at creating a thing.