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- Posted on Mar 15th 2010 3:41PM by Dave Jaffer
Brooklyn-based duo Tanlines came into being when Jesse Cohen said to Eric Emm, "Let's write a song." Both Cohen (Professor Murder) and Emm (Don Caballero, Storm & Stress) have been in acts that people have had deep affection for, so it stands to reason that Tanlines, inspired partly by Stock Aitken Waterman-produced songs and fine-tuned by unhealthy amounts of time in front of computers, will win plenty of people over. Nervously anticipating his first trip to SXSW and to Texas, in general, Cohen recently spent some time talking to Spinner about spontaneous songwriting and opening for a fire-breather.
Describe your sound in your own words.
It's our take on a lot of different kinds of rhythm-based music. I don't think that our music necessarily sounds like any one thing, but I think that when you hear the whole record, you get a sense of what our influences are. And I think they're mostly rhythm-based music. There [are] elements of techno and there [are] elements of music from around the world, and it's sort of our take. Which is, I think, a little bit experimental. It sounds like pop music, and studio pop music, because we do all of our work in our own studio. And I think it's pretty digital. We use a lot of software but we also always use live elements on every song -- a lot of guitar, vocals and some live percussion -- so it feels human.
How did your band form?
Our studio is Eric's studio, and he worked here for a while producing different bands, including my old band which was called Professor Murder. I met him that way. That was a few years ago, and we just have been friends ever since. His studio, which is where I'm standing right now, we just kind of hang out here a lot, and we have a group of friends that hang out here a lot, and it's sort of like a club environment. People sit around and we share stuff. One day I was here with him and I was like, "Let's write a song. Let's just write a song and finish it and put it on the Internet tomorrow." And we did that.
What are your musical influences?
One of the things we talked a lot about was this sort of studio pop music from the '90s. Like Stock Aitken Waterman-produced, like, kind of cheesy, British pop music that used a lot of synthesizers and drums that I think maybe didn't get much credit for writing very original-sounding music at the time. And then I like a lot of the music that's being released on the Sincerely Yours record label, which is the Swedish label that the Tough Alliance is on. That's a band that I really like. Them and Air France [are] on that label. And I find their Internet presence kind of inspiring.
How did you come up with your band name?
I think the name was something we saw on the back of a truck that we were driving behind. I think the truck said "Tank Lines," and there were certain things about it we liked. "Lines" is a musical term, like, a keyboard line, and it also references [how] much time we spend indoors making music. The idea is a reflection of our paleness and the amount of time that you have to spend sitting in front of a computer to make the warmest-sounding music. We couldn't work outside if we wanted to.
What's in your festival survival kit?
This is my first time so I don't really know what to expect.
What is your musical guilty pleasure?
I don't really believe in guilty pleasures. I think I've outgrown it a little bit. Where I am now is if I like something I don't want to have space in that to also feel bad about it. I want to feel good about all the things that I like now.
Beatles or Stones?
I read a long essay about this by [Washington, D.C. musician] Ian Svenonius and I'm trying to say whatever he said, but I can't remember. I guess I have to say the Rolling Stones. I don't know. I like the Beatles' pop songs, so maybe I have to say the Beatles. I guess I would say the Beatles only because the Beatles did both the pop phase of their career better and the experimental phase of their career better.
What's the craziest thing you've seen or experienced while on tour?
You were at the show in Montreal where the fire-breather came out afterwards. That was interesting because it kind of felt like we were opening up for a fire-breather.