Jason Frank Rosenberg The loss of a key member is enough to derail even the…
- Posted on Jun 6th 2011 4:20PM by Joe Tacopino
Gino DePinto, AOL
During the inception of the band's second LP, however, Braxton left the band and the trio decided that they were more comfortable composing songs that revolved around the marauding instrumentals of the three core members. 'Gloss Drop' continues their minimal approach to songwriting and features guest vocals from the likes of Gary Numan, Matias Aguayo and Kazu Makino from Blonde Redhead.
The band recently stopped in to Spinner's New York studios for a blistering Interface performance and to discuss the transition to a three-piece and their distaste for the term "math rock."
You recently went from four members to three. What was the transition like? How did your approach the change?
Ian Williams: For the most part, we were always really a four piece. It wasn't really a frontman vocalist situation for us, and so it was really just a matter of spreading out the instrumentation a bit between three instead of four, so you think a little differently about space.
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The record we just made ['Gloss Drop'] was just a studio record, more than records we made before, so we sort of changed course in the recording process. We just discovered that we were a trio halfway through the process.
The funny thing about making this record was that we recorded the stuff sort of separately. Dave had his own sub station, I had my own sub studio and we made miniature songs and then we sort of brought them all together.
So, when we went from four to three it was actually just a matter of taking his miniature songs and my miniature songs and marrying them, and John working out rhythms to that. So the transition in some ways wasn't as hard as it could have been.
You have a lot of guest vocalists on the album: Gary Numan, Matias Aguayo, Eye from Boredoms and Kazu Makino from Blonde Redhead. What was it like bringing all these people together to work on this project?
John Stanier: Actually, I feel like it was the easiest part of making the record, ironically. I mean Kazu, Eye and Matias Aguayo were pretty obvious choices and they instantly said yes. It was a mere phone call away.
And then Gary Numan was the kind of fantasy sort of artist that we wanted to work with that I certainly didn't think he would be available or he'd be interested in doing it or whatever, and again he just eventually said yes and we met him when he was on tour. We went and saw him in Boston and talked to him afterwards.
He was really nice and he completely delivered musically and lyrically so I feel like all four vocalists and that whole process of getting them involved was literally almost the easiest part of making the record, oddly enough.
Their vocals fit the songs really well. How did the process work? Did they come in and listen first or did you give them ideas about what to do?
Dave Konopka: We were reserving some space for vocals for those songs and we didn't want to be limited to putting out a completely instrumental album. So once we were constructing these songs, we had in the back of our mind that we're eventually going to get a vocalist for this and we'll work things out. It was just kind of like a back and forth.
Each vocalists demoed and just sent us some ideas what they were thinking and for the most part they kind of hit the nail on the head from the get-go, so there wasn't too much that we needed to do from our end to direct them.
Overall, it wasn't too difficult to work with each vocalist. It was like everything came together as a puzzle and a lot of that was with the help of our engineers at Machines With Magnets [studio]. It was kind of like we were making a puzzle for seven months.
We wanted to ask you about basic influences for the sound, because it's pretty unique.
Williams: A lot of ways we utilize repetition and repeating phrases, and that's kind of a universal thing in a lot of music. But it's the thing that comes before. It's sort of a really primary element that people don't really think about, whether it be dance music or you know, really traditional tribal African music or something like more kind of formal modern minimalists like Phillip Glass, Steve Reich. Just like those repeating cycles.
There's a lot of low-brow, high-brow, middle-brow ways that that stuff could be applied and I really don't know what way we do it but I don't really think we necessarily really reference any one of those things. We're not a techno band or some tribal ethnographic trip through Africa or something or a post-minimalist modern classical band, but we do sort of just utilize that impulse of repetition in our own way. I think we sort of connect to a lot of musical traditions that are out there.
What about the term "math rock"? It gets thrown around a lot and people try to put music in a box or certain context. How do you feel about that term in general if someone maybe tried to apply it to you?
Stanier: As a band we say we dislike it immensely, but there's really not much you can do about it. But obviously I would prefer if people don't [use it]. It's kind of a ridiculous term. Not even to mention that fact that it's an old term that's from the early '90s that [Ian's] old band helped basically invent.
For us as Americans, I feel like it's old news for us. It's just sort of boring. And the term itself I think is really boring. it just seems its lazy, like you can't think of anything better than say than math rock. I hated math.
Williams: But I loved rock.
Your performances seem exhausting, like watching someone run on a treadmill for 45 minutes straight. Do you guys get tired?
Williams: You just go home and go to sleep after that? [laughs]
Konopka: We were on treadmills for 45 minutes. We're like hamsters. I think John probably works that hardest because he has the most physical analog instrument. But for Ian and I there's a lot of work involved. It doesn't necessarily translate into sweating, but I think that with this particular show and our live show that we really enjoy the physicality of it and I think that's important to be a visceral live band.
So maybe that translates to making us look like we're working, we're on a treadmill for 45 minutes, but it's really just kind of being entrenched in the process and just like being in your own head and communicating with your band mates and trying to get the most perfect output for the audience that you can accomplish.