Concert preview: Quilt stitches together a psych-folk sound on Held in Splendor

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From the January 30, 2014 edition

Quilt bandmates Anna Rochinski and Shane Butler first met while attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which helps explain why the two approach music-making the same way they might approach a blank canvas.

Reached at home in Boston for a recent phone interview, Rochinski described her time at the school as freeform and nontraditional (the visual arts college doesn’t have majors) — two words that could readily be applied to the band’s music, which incorporates elements of pop-rock, hazy psychedelia and ’60s-leaning folk. The lyrics are similarly untethered and difficult to pin down, sometimes coming on like hallucinations jotted down amid some kind of fever-induced madness.

“All my heavy dreams are simply a luxury,” she sighs on “Arctic Shark,” the sitar-spiked opening track from the trio’s sophomore album, Held in Splendor. “The horses in the pepper tree/And the lighthouse floating in the sea.”

“I like songs to be malleable, and to be open to different kinds of interpretations,” said Rochinski, 26, who was born in Boston and grew up in a heavily musical family (her father is a jazz guitarist and professor at Berklee College of Music, and the singer’s earliest memories involve strumming a badminton racquet as though it were a guitar). “Having been really into poetry at times in my life, I think I can’t really help it. There are intentions behind each song, but a lot of it is meditative and open.”

While Quilt approached its debut in more piecemeal fashion, gradually patching the album together while holed up in a basement studio over the course of a long, cold Boston winter, the bandmates opted to work in a more professional setting this time around — a decision that limited time for experimentation and forced the musicians to act more decisively.

Though this is something Rochinski has struggled mightily with in the past (“I have to force myself to walk away from things a lot of the time,” she said), a recent change in painting mediums actually helped prepare her mentally for the quickened pace.

“I originally studied as an oil painter, but now that I’m working in water-based mediums, which dry much faster, I’ve gotten a lot better at knowing when something is done,” she said. “Oil painting can go on forever. Putting down a mark on paper with watercolor, it’s more permanent and you can’t just paint layers and layers and layers to create new worlds. It’s definitely something that has helped me to let go in the songwriting process.”

Photo by Allison Pharmakis