TAS In Session: The Depreciation Guild
Brooklyn’s dream-pop trio The Depreciation Guild won’t be releasing their sophomore album Spirit Youth until late spring, but Kurt Feldman and identical twins Chrisoph and Anton Hochheim dropped by The Alternate Side’s studio not long ago to unveil a few brand new songs, like "Crucify You" and "Blue Lily."
Fans of Pains of Being Pure At Heart have likely caught The Depreciation Guild open for that band on many occasions. The affiliation is easy to explain; Feldman is Pains’ drummer (and Kip Berman's roommate) and Christoph Hochheim is their touring guitarist. While back-to-back sets, like their upcoming shows this month in Japan, means that Feldman and Hochheim are often on stage for more than three hours a night, Feldman isn't complaining.
"It’s kind of tiring but we’re propelled by the fact that it’s sort of exciting too," says Feldman, who is The Deprecation Guild's vocalist, guitarist, bassist and programming whiz. "It carries us through the show."
The most surprising quirk defining The Depreciation Guild’s explosively pretty sound is the band's use of a vintage Nintendo video game system, called a Famicom, that slyly embellishes tracks, like their current single “Dream About Me," with an ornately layered, rapturous wash of sound. The soft-spoken Feldman first became attracted to the marriage of music and gaming systems back in 2001 after falling upon a website called Micromusic.
“I grew up playing the games and always humming the tunes," Feldman explains. "A Japanese guy named Halley did a track on a Game Boy which just sounded so awesome and not like a Game Boy at all. I just wanted to do that so I researched on the internet how to program the Famicom.”
Meshing his love for shoegaze, synth-pop and dream-rock bands like My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and Scritti Politti with a slight chiptune aesthetic, Feldman began recording songs in his bedroom on a Mac laptop with then-bandmate Akira Hashizume. The Depreciation Guild released their 2008 debut In Her Gentle Jaws for free via the band’s website, a gamble that Feldman feels paid off, garnering them good reviews.
“We were proud of that record,” explains Feldman, “but we were a relatively unknown band and we didn’t think that charging for a CD, for a band that nobody had ever heard of, would work. We thought it would be far better to get our music spread out over a larger audience [and just gave] it away for free. It made sense. It worked for us.”
Nearly 100,000 people downloaded In Her Gentle Jaws on The Depreciation Guild’s site, not including other blogs and music sites that offered the album gratis as well. Kanine Records took notice and signed the band, rereleasing the debut album last September on CD and vinyl.
Hashizume left The Depreciation Guild to return to graduate school and guitarist Christoph Hochheim joined, followed by his twin Anton on drums. Feldman and the Hochheim brothers began recording their second album, Spirit Youth, this summer in Chicago with producer Josh Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv.
"[John] comes from a strong electronic music background and is into a lot of ambient stuff which is cool," says Feldman. "I don’t ever think that’s been the emphasis of our music but he kind of brings that out when we record with him. He always comes up with new, interesting ways to mold it into something that sounds better than it originally started. It’s kind of ideal when you record and want your producer to leave a stamp on what you’re recording. This record is definitely more polished than the last one."
The Depreciation Guild will be playing SXSW in Austin, Texas on March 17 at Kanine Records' showcase. Days later, they'll kick off a North American tour with Norway's Serena-Maneesh which will bring the trio back to the New York area on April 8 for a show at Le Poisson Rouge. While their single "Dream About Me" has been retooled for Spirit Youth, the current incarnation of the track is still available either as a digital download or as a white vinyl 7-inch.
As for the shy, 25-year-old Feldman, he seems most effusive when discussing the bands that have marked The Depreciation Guild's decidedly retro roots. When asked for their guest DJ pick of any track they'd love to hear on The Alternate Side, Feldman and the Hochheim brothers unanimously chose "Here's My House" from now-defunct Danish band Gangway.
"I’m obsessed with the band, have every record on vinyl and I’ve met Henrik Bolling who is the guitarist and the main songwriter," recalls Feldman with a broad grin. "It was pretty much the greatest day of my life.”