Given their consistently stellar output, it’s kinda funny to note that Remember Sports has been in some state of flux for just about their entire career. The band started off in Kenyon University basements back when they were just named Sports, playing fast and furious indie rock that bordered on pop punk. The young group recorded their first album, Sunchokes, in a bit of a rush. At the time the band really just wanted to have a document of what they sounded like at those sweaty frantic college shows, and only decided that the group was worth sticking with for the time being when they got much stronger feedback on Sunchokes than expected. The band’s next album, All of Something, was written, recorded, and toured on in a year where half the band was out of college and half the band was still in, with lead singer Carmen Perry and bassist Catherine Dwyer relocating to indie mecca Philadelphia. All of Something is a much more professional sounding record that sands off a lot of the edges from Sunchokes while still retaining the group’s early sporadic spunk.
As the members of Sports slowly dripped out of Kenyon and made their way to Philly they collectively realized the band was again worth sticking with. The group felt like now that they had all finally graduated college that they could properly dedicate themselves to the project and make a real go of it. That required a band-name update to avoid confusion with the other Sports, which led to their cheeky new moniker Remember Sports. The additional time that graduation provided allowed the re-minted band the freedom to tinker with new influences and figure out the kind of music they actually wanted to make. Carmen attested that their unlimited time was a bit of a blessing and a curse, at times being intimidated at the scope of her opportunity and hiding away as a result. In those difficult moments she’d reflect on a quote from her Uncle Oscar, who told her years ago that it’s selfish for talented people to keep their talent to themselves, reminding her that she was bringing joy to the world with these songs. Slow Buzz was the aptly named result of the tinkering, and was a bold step forward for the band. Remember Sports hadn’t fully eschewed their basement punk edge, but now took to their songs with a more measured approach. It resulted in some of their strongest work to date, including “Pull Through” which was particularly revelatory for the band as among the most collaboratively arranged songs in their discography. While they were still working out the kinks, it was clear the group was on to something.
Now some seven odd years and a name change later, Remember Sports finds themselves not just with the most stable living situations of their entire career but playing the best music they’ve ever put out. The band is now well established in Philly and just released their newest record, Like a Stone, last Friday. After years of making records in between classes, the band graduated, grew up, slowed down, and made the kind of record you can make a living off of. With Like a Stone, Carmen and the gang took the slow, methodical approach to songcraft they had utilized on Slow Buzz but with a greater sense of trust in one another and a better idea of who the group wanted to be going forward, resulting in the most self-assured and forward-thinking record of their career. It’s no surprise that the most comfortable and confident album in Remember Sports’ discography is also the most collaborative. Carmen talked about getting over her long-standing issues with giving up her songs to be collaborated on, finally for this record indulging in the process after realizing how much better it made the group. That willingness to collaborate led to changes like swapping instruments for entire songs on this record, which happened on “Eggs” where Catherine grabbed the guitar after rewriting the structure of the song herself, handing bass duties for the track to Jack. The constant tinkering and group involvement led to Like a Stone being the most sonically diverse record in the band’s discography as well, including a southwestern streak inspired by Carmen’s childhood memories of playing tejano music together with her family. Most importantly however, even as the band took on a variety of new influences from Selena to Wilco, Remember Sports never stopped being among the catchiest bands working, as thankfully Like a Stone is filled with the earworm hooks that the band have been getting stuck in fan’s heads for over half a decade.
Carmen mentioned in our conversation that Remember Sports wanted to be a band that would be around for a while, intending on proving as much with this record, and indeed Like a Stone shows signs of a band that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. While Remember Sports never abandoned their frantic basement show fury, they were able to take their beating heart energy and channel it into sounds that make sense for the mature, sensible, loving people they’ve become. I was lucky enough to chat with lead singer Carmen Perry about the history of the band, her memories of recording for the first time with her musical Uncle Oscar, and the process of making your band your career.
GSC: What’s your name and how do you identify?
CARMEN PERRY: My name is Carmen, I use she/her/hers pronouns.
GSC: This album had some inspiration from your childhood love of tejano and country music. What are some of your earliest music memories?
CARMEN: Well, my mom is from Texas, and all of our family, all her family lives there. And a lot of my uncles play instruments or sing so every time we’d have family reunions, there would always be a talent portions of the evening. My family Nonna would you know, she’s the diva in the family. She always likes to be singing lead. My Uncle Oscar releases music himself under a band called A Whole Bunch of Jackalopes. There’s always a lot of music and singing around in my family and I feel like I was always too embarrassed to participate really, but it’s something that was very prevalent.
GSC: Have you ever since then played with any family members in any capacity?
CARMEN: Yea! My Uncle Oscar who I just mentioned lives in Austin. During my freshman year of college I visited him for spring break. I had just started writing songs then, or I had written songs before but I had just started sharing songs then. He has this studio in his shed in his backyard with really nice stuff. It kind of wasn’t really my idea, but he was just like, okay, we’re going to record you, we’re going to record some songs today.
GSC: Love that!
CARMEN: We spent a week working on two or three songs and it was an experience. Working with your uncle about songs you wrote about like getting your heart broken is not the most comfortable atmosphere, but it actually was one of my first times actually recording myself and hearing it back. He made us listen to the mixes in the car together and like in front of people who’d come over and stuff. But yeah, it is a really special experience hearing yourself recorded for the first time.
GSC: I love your family bringing the music out of you in that regard. That must have been comforting in some ways, recording with your uncle like it. There’s some awkwardness there but you know one another.
CARMEN: For sure. My Uncle Oscar has been a really big inspiration to me, even if I don’t always act like it. He comes to all our shows when we play in Austin. He saw us play a college house show when we were at South By. He said to me once, that spring break when I was visiting him, I don’t know the exact wording, but something along the lines of, if you have, like a talent, a talent of like, writing, or singing, or playing music, or whatever it’s selfish to keep it to yourself.
GSC: I love that.
CARMEN: I don’t know if I 100% agree, but I think about that a lot. You know, when thinking about why are we doing this? What is the point of like, going through album cycles and like doing the press and like, stuff like that. I just think it put things in perspective for me. I feel like sharing music is less selfish than my mind will try to convince me it is sometimes.
GSC: I love that your family could help you understand how much you’re giving to the world you’re your music.
CARMEN: Yeah, my family definitely has like a really different perspective on music than I do in some ways. It’s something that is a way for them to spend time together, and it’s a way for them to connect to, you know, our culture, we sing in Spanish. And for me writing music it’s always been like a ‘do this in your room with the door closed and the lights off’ kinda thing. It’s nice to have that different experience of it.
GSC: Jumping ahead in your timeline a little bit, Remember Sports started off as Sports a fun college band for you when you were a Kenyon I believe right?
GSC: How did all of you initially meet in college? When did you decide to be a band?
CARMEN: Yeah. Um, so me and Benji lived next door to each other, we were friends from day one of freshman year. James lived a floor above. Catherine was a grade ahead of us, but I think I actually did meet her my very first night of college. Yeah, we just like became fast friends. We all really liked music and I think we all had sort of a yearning to like play shows and play in a band together. So it just kind of made sense. We didn’t actually start playing together till our sophomore year. And by that point, I had started making my own music and recording it. So Benji was the one who said, “Okay, well, let’s take these songs that you already have, and just turn them into full band songs.” So that is how it started. Yeah, and then after college, Benji and James, they went on to do different things. But Jack, who is in the band now, had started playing with us a little bit before. And so me Jack and Catherine just sort of continued. We’ve we’ve worked with a few drummers, Benji did some touring with us after graduating, but he actually even went to medical school, so he got too busy really quickly. Our friend, Ethan from college, he did a tour with us and some shows. Then we had Connor, who was Jack’s childhood friend from Wellesley, Massachusetts, and we really clicked with him, he turned out to be an amazing person to write with, and to record with. He’s not in the band anymore after this album, but it’s been a really great experience.
GSC: He’s not going to med school too is he?
CARMEN:He’s not, he’s moving to Maine or already did move to Maine.
GSC: I love the picture book you guys put together for your Sunchokes vinyl re-release. I was thumbing through it earlier today. What was it like putting together this picture book and reliving that time in your life? I’m sure you were never expecting to be putting together a book like this that strangers would be thumbing through, reading your college emails.
CARMEN: Yeah, it’s funny. You’re right, I never expected like strangers to have any interest in our history or past like that. But putting it together felt really special. When I was younger, in high school and college, I used to do a lot more crafting and collaging with my hands. I would do stuff like that all the time. Like, I am an extremely sentimental person, and I’m not a scrapbooker but I have a shoebox full of things that one could turn into scrapbooks. So actually putting that all together, it was a fun experience. For me, it was totally trippy, like digging deep into the emails and like the lyric books and everything. Just reliving very good memories, other painful memories, but it just felt good to make a record of something that was important to me and it just is like icing on the cake that other people are interested in it too.
GSC: The way you wrote about the music on Sunchokes in the scrapbook is so blunt, you were like “You know, listening to some of this is painful. This doesn’t all sound very good!” Do you still feel that way? Or is there kind of a charm to the album you feel now?
I feel like with certain music that I’ve made, once it gets old to me, then I hate listening to it and I don’t think it’s good. Then once enough time has passed I’m like, okay, maybe there was something to this. It’s not something I really listened to in my spare time, obviously. But what I love about Sunchokes now is how it feels to listen to the record, it brings me back. All we ever wanted at the time was to have a recording of what we sounded like. Just, you know, so we could have it as a memory, and I think we achieved that, it sounds like exactly how we sounded playing at house shows in college. I still don’t really think it sounds that good, but it’ll always be a really special thing to listen to for sure.
GSC: Shortly after you graduated was when I first found the band back as Sports. I first saw you live in Carboro, North Carolina back in 2016 after you guys had just released your second album All of Something. I’ll never forget you guys joking around on stage and then opening with that riff to “Saturday” and my mind exploding. What was that time for the band like? That in between time, when you just graduated and you were unsure what was happening next? And how do you feel about that record, looking back on it now?
CARMEN: That tour that you saw was just like the best feeling ever. We did it after we put out All of Something. Jack was a year younger than me in college and in life too, so he was still in school. By that time me and Catherine moved to Philly together, so our first year in Philly was kind of just waiting for Jack to graduate so we could actually start playing shows regularly and touring. So right after he graduated we went on that full US tour for two months, which was insane. And it was just the best feeling ever, playing to big audiences every night and like having people sing along. When a year before we couldn’t have imagined that at all, it just was so exciting to be there. Everything felt very good. And it was hard, tour is hard. But that first one, there isn’t a better one than the first tour I think. It was a really fun time. I feel like I poured my heart out every single night. Which is exhausting. But it was so much fun.
GSC: As you were waiting for Jack to move on down to Philly, I imagine you were starting to write your next album Slow Buzz, which was a reinvention in a number of ways for the band. You both had the name change to Remember Sports and you had a lineup change. I feel like your sound also became a lot more complex. Was that in-between stage like, when you were trying to figure out what the next step was? How do you remember that in between period leading up to Slow Buzz?
CARMEN: Yeah, it was, it was a big transition. Going from just writing songs in between classes or whenever I had a spare moment to living in Philly and being like, okay, music is my job now. It’s so weird when you turn your hobby into your job. Not that I make a lot of money doing this, but all of a sudden you have time to do the things you always wished you could do. And that got sort of scary and intimidating to me. I would, instead of writing every day all day, I would hide and watch TV or play games. It was a time of a lot of transitions from living by myself, and finding jobs. I have had some really shitty jobs. Our previous records, we had to record so quickly, because everyone was going to different places and doing different things, and our band wasn’t our life yet. Slow Buzz was the first chance we really got to make an album together and do the things that we like to do. We all have our own solo projects, me, Jack and Katherine. If you listen to those it’s a lot less just like two minute long, heart pumping indie rock songs. We have a lot of different interests as musicians. Slow Buzz was the first time we really got to explore what else we like to do and we had the time to do it. So it’s not my favorite album we’ve made, but I feel proud of it because it was an album we needed to make in order to figure our sound out and figure out what we like to do. When I listened to that album, I can hear the start of new seeds a little bit.
GSC: It definitely felt like a demarcation of, well, you weren’t a totally new band, but it was a reinvention of what the band was in a lot of ways. Going back is there anything that you are particularly proud of with that album or anything you would have done differently?
CARMEN: Yeah, I mean, there’s something I would do differently on, like, every moment of every song, including the album that isn’t out yet. But yeah, I feel proud. We all lived together for two weeks in a household, we were making that up in that house. That got kind of hard interpersonally. And I feel proud that we were able to work together and for this one common goal and made something we’re proud of. I also feel really proud of the song “Pull Through” because that was the first time we sort of wrote together. When we showed up to record I was like, okay, like, I have like half a song. Before that I would only bring the band finished songs and we would record them together. With this one I was like, I have half a song, I’m not finished with the lyrics, and I don’t really want to do anything with it until I’m finished with it. Then Jack and Catherine and Connor were like, no, let’s just work on it together. Working collaboratively was something I had tried a little bit before and it always made me nervous. I don’t think that I had really done it in a way that I felt satisfied with before then, but “Pull Through” we did it together so well. Something clicked for us when we did that song, so we started doing a lot more of that. There’s a lot more of that on this album.
GSC: Working collaboratively you mean?
GSC: I love this new record Like a Stone. I feel like it’s not like a reinvention in the same way that the last one was, but it feels like such a confident record. You feel like you know what you want to do and how to do it. Maybe comfortable is the better word. It seems like each of your albums has a clear defined era to it. What does this album mean for you? What does this demarcate for yourselves as a band?
CARMEN: I feel really pleased that you think we sound more confident and more comfortable together because I think we do, and that’s how we feel about it too. It’s really nice that it comes across. I think music for me, I was so shy as a kid and as a teenager, and I had no self esteem. I think since I started playing music, and sharing it, it’s been the most important thing for me. To be able to open up to people. I feel way more confident now just as a person, let alone as a musician. So it’s really nice to hear the words confidence and comfortable because that’s just like, for so long not words I would use to identify myself by. I feel like we’ve been doing this for a while now, and I think that we don’t want to be a flash in the pan kind of band. We want to do this for a long time. So it feels good to be able to work through different ideas and still have some you know, palatability to an audience.
GSC: With the confidence and comfortability did you feel like anything about the writing process changed for you? Like are you still writing everything on your bed and whatnot?
CARMEN: I mostly am. I turned my room into sort of a home office, even pre pandemic. So I have a desk now, and I write some songs from my desk. Yeah, so in the bedroom. I would love to have a studio one day, or like an actual office. That’s definitely something I feel attracted to. But I think, you know, I’ll always keep my guitar next to my bed, because I feel compelled to play it.
GSC: I read somewhere that you guys traded instruments while you were recording and had this like multi-instrumental approach to this new record. Can you talk about that process at all? How did that affect the output?
CARMEN: Yeah, again, it’s more freedom to do different stuff. Like, on the song “Eggs”, Jack is the bass and Catherine plays the guitar. On that song, I wrote it, and then when presenting it to the band Catherine said, “I feel like I have stuff to add to this.” So she wrote the structure of the song, which was different than how I had written it before. So “Eggs” is one of the most collaborative songs on the album. Catherine had the structures and she had guitar chords that she liked. We somehow decided that she would just play guitar and we played it live and Jack would play the bass. And Jack is great bass, he plays bass in a band Cathrine and Jack are both in called Second Grade, so he came up with a really nice bass part for that and it just absolutely shreds. I think in the past I felt really protective of my songs, and I couldn’t take criticism without taking it personally. Like I didn’t want to share the making of the song itself, but it’s now that I feel more comfortable doing that with them it definitely makes for better songs.
GSC: I love “Pinky Ring”. I think it’s such a kick ass lead single. What’s that song about and why did it feel right as both the lead single and the lead-off song on the album?
CARMEN: That song is about like, hating myself. And wanting… it’s funny that it’s ended up being such a catchy poppy song. Because it is really just about me, like wanting to feel pain. And I don’t know, not to trivialize it for me, but just made it not so scary to deal with, like writing a catchy song about it. What was the second part of the question?
GSC: Why did it made sense as both your lead single and the first song on the album?
CARMEN: It was one of the first songs that we had finished. I think “Easy” was the first one then “Pinky Ring”. So we started playing it on tour pretty early on. And “Pinky Ring” was the first one on the album I wrote where I was galvanized to finish writing it. I was like, Okay, this clicks, this is it, we were writing an album. So it was sort of the catalyst for the record, it just felt fitting for it to be the first song. And it’s a punchy song. So I thought, I don’t know. I like it. We thought other people would like it.
GSC: You guys are so good about album sequencing. This album, in particular, the songs really flow into one another just so pristinely. Do you guys spend a lot of time thinking about sequencing?
CARMEN: Thank you. Yeah, we do. I would say Jack is probably the most particular about it, I think. The last few things we’ve done Jack has had like a suggested track list that he for some reason feels very embarrassed to share with us. He’s like “This doesn’t have to be it, we don’t have to use this, whatever.” And we’re just like no show us! We’ll tell you if we don’t like it, you know? And usually we make changes based on his initial idea. So that’s what happened on this one too, he’s pretty good at it.
GSC: He’s definitely doing something right. I you guys 100% of the time nail the opening to an album and the close to an album.
CARMEN: I feel really protective of how the album closes, that’s my one sequencing thing.
GSC: You have an incredible one two punch that closes out this record. I I love the last song “Odds Are” but I really feel like the second to last song “Out Loud” is one of the best, most ambitious, most rewarding tracks in your discography. That scream at the end of it, like it blows me the fuck away every time. What’s that song about? How did you go about sequencing the end of this record?
CARMEN: We have referred to “Odds Are” as the bonus track or a secret track at the end of the album. I feel like “Out Loud” is the real closer. I was into closing with “Odds Are” because it lets up on the emotional gas pedal to end on an upbeat note. “Out Loud” is just the classic get her back song. I think I wrote it all in an ice cream truck I was working at a few summers ago. It’s just about being in a fight with your partner and not speaking and then like deciding that you should do something about that.
GSC: That scream at the end, it must have been satisfying to record I got to imagine.
CARMEN: Oh, yeah, it was. The really big screams I only like to do a couple of times because it hurts if you do it more than that. Some of the songs on the last album too I’d do two or three takes and we all just sort of hope that I can do it right in one of them. So it feels good when I can.
GSC: So I, the last time I saw you live I was taking a video and in front of me I didn’t realize that there was a mosh pit starting to form. Catherine went and said, “Stop that right now.” And in my head, I’m thinking she’s talking about recording, so I immediately stopped recording, but she was talking about the mosh pit obviously, and I love that dedication to making sure that everybody at your shows are comfortable. Where does that kind of come from? It seemed like it was kind of consistent amongst all band members that you’re anti-mosh.
CARMEN: It’s from growing up going to shows and not feeling comfortable and not feeling safe. Like I’ve been groped at shows as a teenager, I’ve been harassed in other ways, and it just ruins the experience for you. I got my boobs touched at a Joyce Manor show when I was a teenager, so I never really listened to them after that. Then we went on tour with them a couple years ago, I formed some new Joyce Manor memories. But you know, it just ruins music for you and you can’t enjoy the show. And that stuff happens right in front of us, so it feels important for us to curate that space, keep it positive.
GSC: One last closing question for you. with the pandemic what’s really helped you stay sane during this time? Whether it be really getting into movies or getting a new hobby or whatever it may be.
CARMEN: I have a newfound love of the outdoors. Me and Catherine both want to be like granola Birkenstock people. I think like I’ve just made the connection about how much better my day is if I spend a significant amount of time outside moving my body, which I didn’t really know about before before all this. Me and Catherine just started volunteering with the Philadelphia Goat Project.
GSC: Like the animal goat?
CARMEN: Yes! We are very new volunteers, so we don’t actually do any of the work yet. We’re still in training. But they need volunteers to take care of the goats, put them to bed, clean their pens out, wake them up in the morning, feed them, do stuff like that. They do a lot of events with goats, they’re kind of like therapy goats. You can book walks with them. Kids come and it’s a cool place. So it’s basically just taking care of goats for the goat’s sake. It feels awesome.
GSC: Yeah, that rules. I wouldn’t have guessed that Philly was like a hotbed for goats, but that just sounds peaceful.