Guidance Counselor wants you to dance, scream, and wear a condom

By Amy Shaunette

If you think the do-it-yourself philosophy applies only to home improvement and arts and crafts projects, think again. In the world of do-it-yourself music, we’re all rock stars. No one knows this better than Ian Anderson, frontman of the Portland-based dance duo Guidance Counselor. Anderson began releasing music under the name Guidance Counselor in 2007 and was recently joined by drummer Keil Corcoran. Together the two are taking the Portland music scene by storm, breathing life into Friday nights at local clubs with their pulsing live performance. Guidance Counselor isn’t signed yet, but big things are bound to happen soon.

The Mac Weekly got Ian and Keil on the phone for a glimpse into the lives of the West Coast’s hippest dance masters.

The Mac Weekly: How did you get into making music?

Ian Anderson: It’s pretty much fucking around, I feel like. I dated a girl for two years and when we broke up, I moved back to Portland, where I grew up, and lived on my brother’s couch. He bought me a Casio so I messed around for six months and recorded stuff on my computer, around July 2005. I was in a crappy band for a year, a folk thing with beats I made. The other guy was a guitar virtuoso and I didn’t know what I was doing. In August 2007, I decided I just wanted to make music by myself. I called myself Moustache Club for a couple shows, but people kept asking me about moustache rides so I changed the name to Guidance Counselor. Keil joined the band three months ago so now I’m just half the band. But I was just dinking around with shit. I always feel that but I’ve been dinking around and not doing anything important. I’m just now starting to get serious. I’m really serious about playing as many shows as I can.

So you’re fucking around still, but professionally?

Ian: Yeah, I’m fucking around professionally. I just like to put shit out there as much as I can.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?

Ian: Art rock? I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I like to think that it’s artsy. I don’t know what I’m doing so that makes it artistically credible as music but not musically credible as art.

How did you decide to bring in a live drummer? How has that changed Guidance Counselor?

Ian: Keil asked me if he could play drums.

Were you friends first?

Ian: Hey Keil, are we friends?

Keil Corcoran: Yeah!

Ian: Yeah, we’re friends. [With Keil playing drums] it’s tighter. I feel like we play better and it sounds a lot better. There’s a lot more energy.

Yeah, I can tell. The new songs really do have more energy.

Ian: Oh yeah, I gave you the new songs. Keil recorded those in my living room.

Describe your recording process. You’re not signed, correct?

Ian: No, we’re not signed at all. In the past, I would wait until I had like six songs I really liked and then I’d have two or three songs that were kind of bogus, and when it got to that point I’d record them on my computer. And then I felt like I had enough to put something out. Keil was talking about doing a seven-inch. And I was like, oh yeah, that’s tight. Since Keil joined the band, we’ve written four or five new songs. I’m pretty psyched about getting label interest-that would be pretty tight. But I don’t know how to go about doing that. So the recording process has gone from me being obligated to record new songs in my bedroom or whatever to Keil actually paying attention to what it sounds like when we record. But it’s still recorded on the computer, in the house.

So does Keil have extensive recording experience then?

Keil: Uh, I’m just kind of a computer nerd.

What is the writing process like for Guidance Counselor? Where do you get inspiration for material?

Ian:Writing lyrics is a really long editing process where I try to write something every day, but sometimes I won’t write anything for three weeks. I have notebooks filled with stuff I’ve written over the past two years and I’ll flip through them and think, “That would be a good hook” or “These two things go together.” So that’s lyrics.

How has the writing process changed since Keil joined the band?

Ian: Writing music has changed. Before I would write jams. But it depends on the song. I’ll have ideas for jams and mess around with electronics. I like to try different things and thing of different ideas; I write each song differently. Now with Keil, I don’t write drunk anymore. And I bring a song to him so he can write a drum part. Keil makes really sick loops. I’m really open to having the writing process be way different because it sucks writing music by yourself, for me at least. It makes me super self-conscious and weird. You just think about how wrong you’re doing everything.

Well, I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. So what are your future plans for Guidance Counselor?

Ian: I want to tour all the time. What about you Keil?

Keil: Not get kicked out of the apartment!

Ian: Yeah, not get kicked out of the apartment. Pay rent and tour simultaneously. I would love to travel but I can never justify it. I love playing [shows]; I’d play every night if I could do it without blowing my voice. If we could tour all the time, that would be sick and totally fucking righteous.

So do you guys have day jobs?

Keil: I make web sites for random people, for doctors. I was making a website for a children’s character that happens to be a monkey.

Ian: I work in a coffee shop. I sling shots. Shots of espresso and milk.

Which coffee shop?

Ian: Stumptown [in Portland, Ore.]. We thought about changing the name of Guidance Counselor to Funktown. That’s our funk side project and I play the mini bass and Keil sings in falsetto and plays a flame guitar.

Sounds good. So you wear dream catchers around your neck and there are some interesting photos on your MySpace. Explain the dream catcher thing.

Ian: I found this dream catcher from when I was a kid and then I started getting a little obsessed with native stuff because I thought it was really funny. When I was a kid I tripped out about native stuff, so the dream catchers remind me of being a kid. But I have a native t-shirt and I found a sweater with a dream catcher on it. People thought I was way into it so they started giving me dream catchers. Actually, we are watching the movie “Dream Catcher” right now.

What’s the Guidance Counselor following like in Portland? Are you local celebrities?

Ian: It seems like the youngsters like us. People under the age of 21 are very enthusiastic at the shows. We have a good underage following. I don’t think adults care that much because they can see through it.

Where do you play in Portland?

Ian: We play at a lot of house parties. Everybody loves house parties. The tightest thing you can do is play a house party because everyone is all spiked and drunk so they dance a lot. They want to have sex with the girl standing next to them so they start dancing, and they get psyched, they get boners. At house parties, there’s just boners all in the front row. We’re the opposite of boner killing. We’re boner nurturers. That’s the name of our side project, Boner Nurturer.

What’s the coolest thing that’s happened since Guidance Counselor began?

Ian: The coolest thing.I guess the show with Starfucker. There were a lot of people there. Or, I think the coolest thing that happened to Guidance Counselor in the past year is that Keil joined the band so now we’re a band.

What sets Guidance Counselor apart? How do you feel about what you’re doing?

Ian: The idea of making music is that it should be something which anyone who wants to do can do, can do it their way and have fun with it. That’s what I do. That’s the best thing you can do. Just have fun with it. Making super standard songs is kind of dumb. I like to dance and I like to scream so if I can dance and scream and people can dance and scream, it rules.

I don’t mean thi
s in a rude way, but do you think you’re particularly talented?

Ian: No. Double no. Not talented. I think we’re fun.

Keil: Yeah, we have a lot of fun together.

Any last words for the Macalester campus?

Ian: Sex is normal, sex is fun, sex is best when it’s one-on-one. Is that how it goes?

Yeah. That’s the George Michael song “I Want Your Sex.”

Ian: Oh, it’s George Michael? Umm, wear a condom. Condoms work. That’s one of my favorite quotes. I work with two pregnant women right now and I want to say that to them to make fun of them because they are both [pregnant] by accident. They are my friends so it’s not that offensive. If you’re pregnant, you have a monster inside you.

Guidance Counselor’s music is available on MySpace and iTunes,