When your band is breaking, sometimes it’s important to take a break. Buzzy psych-folk trio Quilt spent the majority of this year in a self-imposed tour hibernation, either home in Boston or in New York working on “Held In Splendor,” its sophomore record due out on Mexican Summer in January. That is, except for one jaunt to Russia. Before the band’s show tonight at TT the Bear’s Place in Cambridge (along with Happy Jawbone Family Band and locals CreaturoS), lead singer Anna Rochinski caught us up on its new 7-inch “Arctic Shark,” the upcoming full-length, and getting flown halfway across the world with her band mates, John Andrews and Shane Butler, to play the one-year celebration of a venue/café in Moscow.
Q. I just made the mistake of searching for “Arctic Shark” in Google images. It freaked me out. Where did that album title come from?
A. I don’t think I thought it was a real animal when I came up with the term for the song! It was more like a phrase that popped into my head, and a whole metaphorical play came out of it. There’s a narrative and a story and a sense of not belonging somewhere, feeling stuck, and not loving your surroundings, I suppose, and not being inspired by them in a way. Ultimately, at the end of the song, that animal is doing just fine in its environment in the Eastern Sea. At the beginning of the song, [we say] “This eastern harbor is full of grief,” and [it’s about] feeling stuck in that sort of dark place, I suppose. A lot of people are baffled by the specific imagery of the Arctic Shark, but it’s really more like a poetic wordplay kind of thing.
Q. Your lyrics are so expansive and you guys have toured so much, does geography factor into the lyrical metaphors you create?
A. Yes and no. We’ve done a lot of traveling and there’s always that tension between wanting to feel patriotic for a place, feeling like you belong somewhere for whatever reason, and having an identity based around geographical location, along with a desire to be completely free and not identify yourself with a place. I don’t think our lyrics specifically make exact references to places, but I think that we’ve gained a lot of perspective through traveling in the last couple of years. Through our own personal growth in that process, we’ve been able to enrich our lyrics and our whole approach to songwriting. Personally, I grew up in Boston, it will always be a part of me in a way, while at the same time, I don’t have any family there besides my parents. My family isn’t from Boston; my parents moved here in their 30s and raised a family here. I can’t quite call myself a townie, I guess, just because I don’t have roots in Massachusetts. At the same time, I’ve created sort of a story for myself and my younger years as a member of the Boston music and art community. That’s a very special thing for me and it always will be.
Q. With “Held In Splendor,” what was the recording process like?
A. I think the experience we had recording the record was a very beneficial thing for us, being able to have a contained space and a contained amount of time to do it. It was so set up. We wound up recording for a whole month, so we had this approach to something in a contained place and time. It felt like there was a balance there. It wasn’t like, recording on and off for a year or something. We had 10 hours a day for a month [to record]. It gave us an opportunity to really, really, really dive into it, same as last winter, when we were demoing the record in Charlestown. We had a space there, and we could really dive into what we were doing, and just be in that wonderful, pure space of just playing without having to worry about time or what day it was or whatever. We didn’t even have windows in the space — well, we did have one, but it was closed. We were in this cave, kind of.
Q. What have you noticed about your bandmates’ growth as musicians?
A. I think that the level of focus in our songwriting has really tightened up. John did all the string arrangements on the album, for three or four songs, and that was so impressive to me. They gave him this little midi keyboard with string noises, and he kind of just messed with it and demoed these string arrangements. We brought in a violin and cello player [to record], and he just sat in there and conducted them, basically. I was like, “Dude, this is so fucking cool! Look at you!” I felt very proud. It sounds so cheesy and sisterly, but that’s how I felt. There was one moment where I was struggling to figure out the right solo for part of a song and I kept trying, and I was tired and I may or may not have been hungover, and Shane just walked right in there, picked up a guitar, and figured it out within like five seconds. It was perfect. I think we’ve gotten better at singing as a group, too. It’s really hard, especially live, but I think we get better and better at it, the more we workshop our harmonies and make sure something is right in a way before we bust it out live.
Q. What’s the best part of playing a hometown show like the one you’re about to headline at TT’s after you’ve been on tour?
A. We’ve only played at TT’s once, and it was a really long time ago, in like, 2009, and our band has completely changed since then. Pretty much completely. For me, that’s this thing that’s making this show unique to me, returning to that specific venue and being in that physical space as the Quilt of 2013, and taking that moment, like getting onstage and having that moment and just appreciating all the positive changes that’ve taken place since the last time we were on that stage, basically. I think that’s the most important thing for me. Obviously, having CreaturoS play with us is special, because we love those guys, and think that they’re great and one of the best bands in Boston right now. Every time we go back to Cambridge I feel excited because that corner in Central Square has such a buzzy energy to it that I find to be very unique.
Q. When you leave Boston, what are you homesick for?
A. I don’t really feel homesick for it. I think I will soon. But right now, I feel more excited about exploring, and the aspects of Boston that I love will always be the same. It’s an important thing to realize about what a true home is and I’ll always think of Boston as my true home. Things like the water, or those days where the air smells like salt from the ocean, and little cool bars that I like going to, or taking a bike ride to Jamaica Plain from Cambridge over the BU Bridge — all these amazing things are so close to my heart that I’ve invested so much of my life in this city that I feel like I can always have those things with me. It’s more like, appreciating all that I can bring with me when I go anywhere from my formative years in this city.
Q. What was the deal with flying to Russia in late October?
A. We got invited out there by a promoter who likes our band. They flew us out there and we played the one-year anniversary of a venue called Volditch Dress & Drink. It’s like a vintage boutique/restaurant café place. We went out and just got on a plane with our stuff. Most of us had never been that far away before. We landed in Moscow and really didn’t know what to expect at all. It was great. I feel like we were expecting some riot or something. So many American people talk about international politics in a very opinionated way, and I found Moscow — at least the people we met — the attitude was a lot more self-contained. “Yeah, this shit’s going down with gay rights, but it’s just a distraction from these other corrupt financial problems that the government has” or something. They were just like, “Yeah, fuck it, it’s all a mess.” We were there to celebrate and play this show, and we were there in the spirit of celebration, and that’s what made it so special. We were playing a space that felt very open. We didn’t really feel like a crushing political weight over us while we were there. It was more like a totally beautiful, surreal gift from the universe that we wound up there for a few days. We were staying in this crazy old apartment that had looked like it hadn’t been touched since the Soviet era, a very retro, cool place, which we loved. Just the fascination with the vibe and light and the way the sun didn’t come up until 8 in the morning, and the fog, all of it, it was amazing. It was like being in a really weird film.
[Interview was condensed and edited.]