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- Posted on Mar 8th 2010 2:15PM by Chris Hadley
How did you form the band?
Ryan [Heyner] played on a record that my friend did, and I thought his playing was great. I called him out of the blue one day because I knew he wasn't working on a project, and we ended up meeting up for five hours and just talking about music. We've been working together ever since.
Describe your sound in your own words.
Casio dream noise pop.
How did you come up with the name "Small Black"?
I was living in Portland with my friend in a house that didn't have heat. We were very cold one night and there were raccoons running around in the house. We were coming up with band names and for some reason my friend came up with that. It was always going to be the band name once I heard it. The music became like the band name, rather than the reverse: Trying to name something that you've already created.
Who are your major musical influences?
Definitely Brian Eno, Human League, Roxy Music, Bowie, Gary Numan. Public Enemy was from the town next to me so I was surrounded by that stuff when I was a kid. I'm a big Wu-Tang fan, '36 Chambers' changed my life. Old Dirty Bastard...could make an incredible pop song with the most crude language, tone and delivery...he was a master. He's one of my all-time favorites.
Do you have a musical guilty pleasure?
Sure, we're big pop fans. I really like radio stuff. 'Party in the USA' by Miley Cyrus is definitely the jam. I cannot get enough of that one. All the Young Money stuff is really good too.
What is your biggest vice?
I would say sports, I think that's my biggest waste of time. I watch a lot of hoops. I've gone more towards pro because I don't have enough time, but I'm going to get pretty deep in now that the tournament's coming. I'm really excited about John Wall, I want to watch some more Kentucky games.
Last fall you put out an EP that has been getting good reviews. What expectations did you have for the record?
I think we make music because that's what we do. Ryan and I hang out, we're best friends and [recording the EP] just happened. We sent it to blogs and people really liked it. It's hard to predict how anything's going to be received, but I feel really lucky to have gotten the press we've gotten and to be able to go to SXSW and put out a full length this year. It's unbelievable.
What's in your SXSW festival survival kit?
I just got an airbed that has an mp3 player and speaker built into it so I can jam when I go to sleep. That's my first thing. Definitely floss, gotta stay fresh. We want to hit the Tito's vodka distillery in Austin because it's the best vodka ever.
What's the craziest thing you've seen or experienced while on tour?
[For New York's CMJ Music Festival] we played nine shows in four days. That was pretty grueling, but I think we're gonna beat that at SXSW.
In addition to SXSW, you have a big spring tour planned with Washed Out. How's that relationship, specifically with Small Black playing as the backing band?
We're rehearsing it now, it's going pretty well. It's exciting to get to play two sets, and also not to play your own songs. I think it's fun to not have so much emotional attachment to them and just let loose, performing in a different way. I feel like I've always been the lead singer, so it's a nice change for me to be the support. I'm really excited for that role, embracing it and trying to make [the music] that much better.
Are you the primary songwriter as well for Small Black or is it more of a collaboration?
It's all a collaboration. For the EP, Ryan and I did everything. I tend to just do all the lyrics. That's just my one thing, but melodically it's definitely a collaboration. For the full length it'll be more of a full band thing, both Juan [Pieczanski] and Jeff [Curtin] who are in the live band are involved in putting that together too.
How did you meet Juan and Jeff?
We were in a band a couple of years ago called Slowlands and I used to live with Juan and Jeff. They have a house where we practiced and a lot of music stuff happens all the time. They're some of our best friends and two of the people musically I trust most in the world so when we decided to make it a bigger band there was no question who we were going to ask to do it.
Do they help match what you did with the EP, or is it that and beyond?
I think it's much better, it's much fuller. The EP is a specific document, Ryan and [my] experience for a year, recording together. It's a more intimate thing. Then we added Jeff and Juan, who have now beefed it up and made it into a fuller sound. I think that's going to be reflected in the recordings we're doing now, while at the same time hopefully staying true to the original process we had.
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