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- Posted on Sep 23rd 2011 3:30PM by Eric R. Danton
Sacks & Co.
Taylor wrote and recorded the album with George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow, with whom Taylor first collaborated when he produced Twin Shadow's most recent album, 'Forget.' The pair found they shared an affinity for swaths of woozy, synth-laced electro-rock with textured vocals, and what started as just a track grew into an EP, and then a full-length album.
Spinner recent caught up with Taylor about making the record, his roots in the jazz and classical worlds and what it means to have Jay-Z as a fan.
'Dreams Come True' sounds very different than Grizzly Bear's music. What were your influences for this record?
Everybody in Grizzly Bear has pretty different tastes, so when we do an album it's some sort of agreement between the four of us. This was more things that I'm personally into, just different types of music that I wouldn't really be able to do with Grizzly Bear that I felt like it would be really fun to finally do.
Was it good or bad having the freedom to follow your own vision?
I'm pretty happy with the album, personally, so I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a bad thing. But I think it can be. I was aware of some of the pitfalls of being the only sort of creative influence. I feel like if it's just one person going at it, it can sometimes sound uni-dimensional, and I didn't want the record to sound like that, so I got George involved. And I would constantly be really relaxed about playing stuff for my best friend Ethan Silverman, who I also run Terrible Records with, for a non-musician's opinion. I would just say, "Is this cool?" or "Is this lame?" Sometimes he would say it's cool, sometimes he would say it's lame, and I'd be like, cool, and go fix it.
Had you known George before you produced Twin Shadow's record?
No, that's kind of how I met him. He wanted me to hear his music, and when I finally got around to listening to it I was really blown away. We started talking about working on some stuff, and some stuff became a whole album.
Did you have an idea what you wanted 'Dreams Come True' to sound like?
I knew the instruments I wanted to involve, just general sound ingredients or whatever, but other than that, no. We just kind of went at it and just recording stuff, and wrote most of the record rather quickly. As soon as I liked what was going on and it sounded like a song, I would say, "Cool, that's the vibe," and just move on. Of course, everything I came back to after I gained some distance from the initial throwdown sessions where we were just laying stuff down. I just stepped away and took in exactly what had happened, because I was sort of really surprised at what happened. I just kind of did stuff that I liked, and it was unfamiliar territory sometimes. So I had to figure out how I interacted with that.
How did you figure it out?
I had never really done this before, so I kind of tried out a couple different approaches. One approach I found didn't work was sitting and thinking about it. That works with other people's music I work on, like producing records, I can sit there and listen to it and think about it, write down notes and come back at it and have a bunch of stuff to do to it, but because it was my own, thinking about it didn't really do much. When you're in the driver's seat and thinking, you end up not really going anywhere. It's weird: A lot of times what keeps me from stopping writing songs is, when I come up with an idea, I don't have that sort of thing that tickles you when you hear someone else's idea. If you didn't think of it, you're like, "Oh, that's really interesting."
Take for example contemporary art, like minimalism. Very little is effectively happening, but it can be so effective. Like Sol LeWitt, anyone can do that. When you buy a Sol LeWitt work, you actually get a kit sent to your home with instructions for how to draw it on your wall. It wasn't your idea, but it's interesting, it's fascinating. When it's coming from your own brain, how you actually make that into something interesting is, for me, a strange process. You have to at be objective even though you are just totally subjective. It's sort of weird, but it's funny: it's like you're in some sort of play, but you are all the characters.
Your background is jazz and classical. What brought you to pop music?
Mostly the desire to communicate with my own peer group, my friends, you know, on a sort of expressional level. Jazz can be really alienating, and people don't particularly get it, which is fair, I think, because jazz sometimes is not meant for anyone to get. Playing jazz shows for a long time, I just started to realize, like, my parents would always come out and my sister would maybe come out, but she hated it for sure. And friends might come out, but they're only coming out because it's a show and they know it's important to you, but they're not coming out because they're getting much from the music. So I started thinking, "Well then, who is the audience? Who am I trying to express something to, if the audience seems to be just sympathy goers? What am I doing?" So I just quit, full stop, sophomore year of college and changed majors to the audio engineering department, because I knew absolutely nothing about recording and was very much not technically minded. I had always just played the saxophone, I didn't think I could wire things or fix things, so I was like, this sounds really hard and challenging, and I'm guaranteed to learn something, so I'll switch to that and I'll get my money's worth out of college and maybe I'll be able to play some role in music just by recording. I mean, playing saxophone, where do you take that if you're not playing jazz? In my opinion, it's not the coolest move to try and become Clarence Clemons.
So what did you do?
I started playing in a noise trio with horns, just exploring sounds and deconstructing all the intellectualizing you're forced to do in the jazz scene and trying to take it all out so I can think about music on a more human level. It's hard to find a word for what to call that, but just trying to hear music more as a listener and less like a student, and then I started playing in this kind of post-punk no-wave thing with Chris Bear, the drummer from Grizzly Bear. He was playing guitar and singing, and he had done the exact same thing, where he had just dropped out of jazz full stop and gone into the audio engineering department. I just wanted to play music that my friends liked listening to, and we would crash house parties and people would dance and get sweaty and have pillow fights, and I was like, this is way more fun. All in all, I feel I'm personally motivated to express things to people as effectively as possible, and I like the challenge of doing that.
What's it like to express things to people like Jay-Z, who is a fan of Grizzly Bear?
That's full-on a total trip. It's still very weird to me. I'm super excited about people liking the music, especially those that I really, really respect and love their music. That's such a huge compliment, to have those that you admire say, "Yeah, your music is cool." That's very special. I don't know how that happened, but I'm really excited that people are liking it when they do.