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TAS In-Studio

The Tallest Man On Earth: TAS In Session

The prolific Kristian Matsson, better known as the Tallest Man on Earth, released his third full-length album, There's No Leaving Now, earlier this year.

He's currently touring Europe in support of the record, but earlier this summer he stopped by WFUV and The Alternate Side for an intimate session.

Listen to that interview on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, October 26 at 11 a.m. EDT or catch up to it right now in the WFUV archives. Below, check out videos of the Tallest Man on Earth's live performance of his three-song set.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHR-KP3PBxI]

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P1cJ-W4mWQ]

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCjG_KdCtZ0]

TAS In Session: Wintersleep

Wintersleep's amusingly named Hello Hum, the Canadian band's fifth album, finds the quintet at its most expansive, incisive and brooding.

The Juno-winning group chose to work with co-producers Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, MGMT) and Tony Doogan (Belle and Sebastian, Mogwai) on the new album, the followup to 2010's New Inheritors. It's a decision they discussed with The Alternate Side's Alisa Ali when the members of Wintersleep — singer/guitarist Paul Murphy, guitarist Tim D'eon, drummer Loel Campbell, keyboardist Jon Samuel and bassist Mike Bigelow — visited The Alternate Side studios for a four-song session.

The band launches its North American tour tomorrow, October 16 with a Brooklyn date, October 30, set for the Knitting Factory. In addition, Wintersleep is giving away a free song that's not on Hello Hum, called "Martyr," on their website. Hello Hum is available now via Lab Work/EMI Canada.

Read interview highlights and watch videos from Wintersleep's session below and listen to the interview and performance on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, October 19, at 11 a.m. and streaming on The Alternate Side.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gk_0nwdTfhc]

Alisa Ali: Talk to me about the writing for this record. I know [you wrote your last album] while you were still touring for the previous record. Did you have to do that again for this one?

Paul Murphy: No, this one we kind of set up shop in the city where we’re living right now, Montreal. It just took a lot of time to work on the songwriting. We went to upstate New York and recorded there, so it was the home-iest recording so far.

Alisa: I didn’t think all of you lived in the same city.

Paul: Four of us live in Montreal and Jon lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Alisa: Jon, you come on over a month before?

Jon Samuel: Maybe not a month before. Maybe a week or so before a tour we’ll get together to rehearse.

Alisa: Is it Mount Zoomer that you hang out at?

Paul: Yes, that’s the studio name, dubbed by the band Wolf Parade. It was their old space and Arlen [Thompson] and Loel are buds. Arlen kind of gave the lease over to Loel after he left that spot.

Alisa: Was it easy to put this record together?

Paul: I think it usually takes a lot of work either way. It was definitely a different, fun experience.

Jon: It was comfortable.

Loel Campbell: It was nice to have a place to facilitate making music for once. When we moved to Montreal we ended up renting rehearsal spaces hourly before we’d go out on tour.

Alisa: What was one of the hardest or most challenging compositions?

Loel: The next song we’re going to do, “Nothing is Anything,” probably went through the most incarnations before we finalized on it. That one definitely took a little bit. Paul had the song pretty much all ready to go and then we worked on the arrangement.

Alisa: So you had the lyrics done and then you worked on the arrangement?

Paul: Initially it was a really soft song, an airy, breezy weird song, and then it became a lot more pop-y and upbeat. [During the] different recordings of it, we’d add things and do things to make it smoother every time.

Loel: Paul was away when we mixed that song. He was out East and we sent it to him. He was definitely surprised with the final result. And then, of course, handing it to Dave Fridmann who gave it the [Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots] kind of treatment. We sent it to Paul [and said], “Now it’s a banger! Weird!”

Paul: These were definitely the weirdest mixes that we were sent, but it was really welcome. We were really excited about it sounding different and he’s totally an artist. We grew up listening to [his] records and being very inspired by that type of music. It was a huge honor.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DABzq_C2F4]

Alisa: When you were working with [Fridmann], the one thing he told you over and over again was, “That’s great, but can you do it faster?”

Loel: He did do that for a bit. He knows what he’s doing and we listened.

Alisa: When you write lyrics, do you write with a pen or are you a computer guy?

Paul: Kind of both, I think. I like writing with pen. The physical act of writing with a pencil is nice.

Alisa: With a pen, if you make a mistake, you have to cross it out.

Jon: That looks cool.

Paul: On a computer, you just end up checking your email when you’re supposed to be writing lyrics. You end up talking to people.

Alisa: Maybe you start sending poetic emails.

Paul: That’s true. My emails have gotten a lot more poetic.

Alisa: What about online social networking? Do you get down with that?

Paul: We try to. We’re not good at it. We’re getting better at it. I only really learned how to do twittering. Tweetering? Just recently. But I try to do it. Take pictures.

Alisa: What has been the weirdest experience on tour? Tim: We saw a man in Cleveland being led around by dogs. He had a chain on his neck and he was being led around by dogs.

Alisa: Was he on all fours?

Tim D'eon: At points! He got on all fours and was talking to his dogs.

Jon: He had four dogs and they were all chained to his neck.

Tim: He had no shirt. One shoe. It was really strange.

Paul: Mike met a philosopher in Albany. I think he just asked Mike’s perception of Albany.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwWS8WPL07Q]

Alisa: Did you spend a lot of time laboring over the sequencing of this record?

Paul: Yes. We had a lot of trouble with the record sequencing, I think. There’s so many options and you want the record to flow as one cohesive thing. We laid it out as you would vinyl; we sometimes try to do that when it’s difficult. It’s an easier way to think about it, in groups of five or six songs as opposed to eleven. Sequencing is really difficult to do.

Alisa: Do you ever look back on your older albums and think you’d change anything about it?

Paul: I think of them as documents. For that reason, you wouldn’t change it. There’s obviously things you listen to and you’re like, “Oh, my voice is weird on that track. I wish I would do that again.” Little things like that. But as a whole, it’s a period of your musical life that you’re documenting for that time. It’s nice not to get too overattached to things you can’t change anyway.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPmAb-Ws09U]

WFUV And TAS In Session: Bob Mould

From his early punk tenure in Hüsker Dü to the power-rock propulsion of Sugar to a long solo career, Bob Mould remains a vital figure in the American indie rock scene.

His new album, Silver Age, is his first for Merge Records, a suitable home for the storied songwriter, and it returns Mould to the hazy, explosive, wall-of-guitar that sweetened his Sugar days.

Listen to WFUV's Darren DeVivo's interview and watch Mould's live performance, below, of two songs from Silver Age, the rousing new single, "The Descent" and "Keep Believing," plus an oldie,  "If I Can't Change Your Mind," from Sugar's 1992 debut, Copper Blue.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDJdKNZTIVM]

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-aet7QXYCI]

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhkgMvYX-YU]

TAS In Session: Matthew E. White

The hirsute composer, arranger and songwriter Matthew E. White, who opens for the Mountain Goats on that band's North American autumn tour, self-released his low-key solo debut, Big Inner, this summer.

The soulful White, who counts Randy Newman as a major influence, thought himself more of an arranger than a vocalist for years until he recorded Big Inner. Smartly assessing the mercurial state of the music industry, he started his own label, Space Bomb, and recruited many of his musician friends from the Richmond, Virginia area as his own house band.

The Mountain Goats' four shows in New York — October 13-14 at Music Hall of Williamsburg and October 15-16 at Bowery Ballroom — are sold out, but White also plays, sans the Mountain Goats, at Club Helsinki in Hudson, New York on October 12 and at Union Pool during the CMJ Music Festival on October 17.

White and his bandmates recently visited Studio A for a fascinating, insightful interview and session. Listen to it on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, October 12 at 11 a.m. EDT, streaming on The Alternate Side.  

UPDATE: Listen to the Mattthew E. White session now in the WFUV archives.

Alisa Ali: Matt, [you’re here with the] Space Bomb house band. You have your own record label and you started your own studio.

Matthew E. White: It’s in my attic. When we moved in it was just a wreck; an unfinished second floor. Now it’s not much more than that, but we can record music in there.

Alisa: Your idea was to get a house band going. Although this is your debut record, you’ve been making music for a long time.

Matt: It came about pretty organically. I was in a band called Fight the Big Bull which was an avant-garde jazz band and it has a lot of horns. I went to school for jazz arranging and so I was doing a lot of horn writing. Fight the Big Bull was based around arrangements. Slowly I was asked to do arranging on other people’s records and Fight the Big Bull did a collaboration with a guy named David Karsten Daniels and I did all the arrangements for that. We did it in three days. I wrote all of the arrangements, we practiced for a few days, and then we recorded it in three days.

The next summer I did a lot of the arrangements for a project called "Sounds of the South" [with] Megafaun, Justin Vernon, Sharon Van Etten at Duke University. That was a musical director-heavy-on-the-arrangements things for me. I really enjoy that. I enjoy the idea and the efficiency of getting people together, planning out what you’re going to make and then making it. Instead of letting projects come to me I wanted something where I could have an umbrella where I could build a lot of projects on my own or curate the projects I wanted to work on. There’s such an amazing community of musicians in Richmond that we can do that. All these things were coming onto my path. As a solo artist you can only make a record a year, at the most.

Alisa: Why is that?

Matt: With the album cycle it’s hard.

Alisa: So you’re a true believer of an album cycle as opposed to EPs or single songs?

Matt: I think there is, right now, still an album cycle sort of thing in the way people are receiving you. I think it’s changing a lot. It is similar to how the house band is a '60s or '70s thing; that’s how people were consuming music then. Even if I could make more, I wanted to put on more hats and this is one hat — my solo record. I made a lot of decisions on this record and directed its growth into what it is. I enjoy working with people in a lot of different ways, whether it’s as a horn arranger or producing. Space Bomb was a way I could do all of that and a way I could make music with my friends and people I feel are extraordinarily gifted. We could make something together, over and over again, that was bigger than what each of us could make on our own. We could throw our skills together into a pool and do some special stuff.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FxG5KeqYxo]

Alisa: I didn’t know of your previous work so I was blown away by [this album]. There’s so many different players — I know there are four core players, but you must have brought in tons of others.

Matt: There’s a community in Richmond that’s kind of grown. When I came to Richmond and was going to school at [Virginia Commonwealth University], there were a lot of horn players, string players and a lot of talented people going to music school there. There’s been a shift in the industry, in New York or L.A., where there’s not as many jobs for instrumentalists. Music school probably isn’t a great career choice. It’s tough. You end up with a lot of people who are excited to make original music and it’s an exciting community.

Alisa: So when you take these songs on the road, do you have to change up the arrangements?

Matt: Yes. I think that’s necessary. One of the important things for me is treating an album, a recorded piece of music, as one piece of art and a live piece of music as a different art. It’s a different things. You might let songs go a little longer live and I just wouldn’t do that on a record.

Alisa: There’s a 10 minute song on this record!

Matt: That’s true! There’s just specific things in the way we’re delivering the song. Some are practical. From a practical point of view we can’t bring all of those people — cost. Even if we did, it’s tough unless we were playing in Radio City Music Hall every night. I’m excited about the band because I think it’s a great representation of the record. It’s not the record or trying to be the record. I really try to view them as seperate things. I spent a lot of energy making the record; I don’t think about the live performance for two seconds while I’m making the record. What do I want people to hear long after I’m gone? It will be around forever. A live show is not around forever. And that’s very different. I make decisions based on that.

Alisa: It used to be a lot more common for musicians to get work as session players, but it doesn’t seem that these days there’s much work for them at all. If you’re a musician or going to music schools, you’ve got to start your own band.

Matt: Well, there’s still those jobs. Not as many. I was listening to rehearsal audio of Bugs Bunny cartoons and it’s crazy; it’s basically an orchestra. You’re listening to all of those people being paid to make this music; it’s insane. Old movies, cartoons and radio shows — that job of going to a studio and working 9 to 5 is almost extinct. It’s there; there are people in New York and L.A. who have that job. But it’s certainly going away. That paints a dire picture of things and you can get down about the industry, but my record? I couldn’t have made it 25 years ago. Not in a million years could a kid in his attic with college kids get in a studio, make a record like this and then get it out. It wouldn’t have happened. There’s some exciting things about the industry in which things are opening up. You can experiment, really go for things and utilize resources in a way you wouldn’t have been able to when things were more codified in the way they had to work. That’s exciting.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXPjf3HJdc8]

Alisa: This is your first solo record … and first time singing? That’s surprising.

Matt: I sang in high school, but for some reason, going into college, I’d stopped doing that. I was in a band called The Great White Jenkins and we had another singer and songwriter. I was the music guy and he was the singer/songwriter guy and that worked well. I was learning so much about another side of the musical world and I was really taking that in and enjoying that process. Fight the Big Bull is an instrumental thing and it wasn’t time for that to happen. When [Big Inner] came around, I [wanted to sing]. It was fun. I sort of think of my singing as the alter ego of my writing. My writing is very put together and I know what I’m doing. With my singing, I don’t really know what I’m doing; it’s what comes out. Because that’s what it is!

Alisa: With lyric writing had you been writing all along?

Matt: No, I wrote for that record. That was fun too. That’s another thing where I don’t feel I know what I’m doing; I feel very untrained and that’s fun. I’m really lazy, so I put a date on the calendar and said, “Well, that’s when I’m going to record the record,” so I’d better write some songs and arrangements! That’s the way I have to work. I went to work writing. A lot of times I feel that I listen to arranger’s records and they’re light on the song depth and lyrical material. I didn’t want to do that; I didn’t want the songs to be bad! But I also didn’t want to do so much with the songs that they got in the way of my strength in arranging. I wanted them to say something, but also left room so I could say something with the arrangements. Randy Newman does this a lot. He’s a singer/songwriter and an arranger and he lets his arrangements add to the narrative where his lyrics can’t or he chooses not to let them. It adds a three dimensional nature to the songs which I really enjoy.

There’s only so much I can say because of my skill level as a lyric writer. And there’s only so much that words can say, period. There’s a certain amount that music to say and then that ends too. With this record, I really tried to leave room for both of those and let them work together in a way that made something greater than what I could have either of them do on their own.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oyj9YG8heWc]

Horse Feathers: TAS In Session

Oregon folk collective Horse Feathers released a fourth, exquisitely crafted album earlier this year, the wryly christened Cynic's New Year. Despite the title, there's far more optimisim that makes its way into singer and songwriter Justin Ringle's thoughtful and often tender lyrics.

Horse Feathers embarks on a fall tour next month and a stop at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory is set for November 14. Over the summer the band — Ringle, violinist Nathan Crockett, cellist Lauren Vidal, second violinist Angie Kuzma and drummer/pianist Dustin Dybvi — dropped by Studio A. Read the interview and watch the three-song set of "Bird On a Leash," "Fit Against the Country" and "Where I'll Be" below.

Cynic's New Year is out now on Kill Rock Stars.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xaym1tRsgo4]

Alisa Ali: What an interesting image you conjure up with “Bird on a Leash.” Where did you come up with that?

Justin Ringle: Free association. I think I was drunk, maybe! It was one of those things that kind of came up one night. I just thought it was something I’d work on and a song came out of it.

Alisa: I understand when you first began recording this record, you built a studio in your attic?

Justin: That’s true. We recorded the majority of this record in the house that Nathan and I live in.

Alisa: Did you build it from scratch?

Justin: We didn’t build too much, but it was basically rearranging what was an attic space, almost a studio apartment, and then my bedroom became the control room. Privacy was gone.

Alisa: Are you going to keep it like that?

Justin: Actually, I’m moving from that place. It’s cool. Part of the problem was that it’s in southeastern Portland, pretty close to Hawthorne. You’ve probably seen it in “Portlandia.” It’s probably a block from that and it’s really loud so it was actually a pain to record there. We might find a different spot.

Alisa: Did you guys get into building your own little space?

Justin: We did out of necessity. We normally record in a studio that’s in Washington State but I wanted to have more people come and play on this record. I decided to do that pretty early in the process and that way it would facilitate people just dropping by.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4Haynrr8Hw]

Alisa: You picked up tons of local musicians. Eleven of them. Did you know all of them?

Justin: Pretty much. Skylar Norwood, who worked on the record with us and has done tons of records, he recommended a number of people. A lot of them were just people I know, just playing in Portland for a long time. We just called people and told them to come over. If they were available they could come over and record at a drop of a hat. Me and Skylar and Nate would sit down and figure out what kind of stuff we wanted and say, “Oh, this needs clarinet! Let’s call Scott! I just saw him walking to get coffee!”

Alisa: What was it like when these guys were coming in? Had you written their parts?

Justin: No, that was the beauty of it. We would collaborate. There were all different things that we’d do in that scenario; we’d have them come in and play. Sometimes it was fast and furious, do whatever you want and keep it really casual and fun. They’d get attached to something and then [ask them] to articulate it differently. We’d sit back later and curate it and take the best parts. That was one method we had when it was fast. But a lot of the string arrangements were me starting with a song and Nate and I working on a basic string part. His part was the template for us to expand into the other harmonies.

Alisa: So you spent a lot of time listening to tapes and pulling out parts? Or was it a bunch of musicians in a room with long jam sessions?

Justin: It was kind of both. Sometimes it was just playing [and tracking it live]. Dustin did a lot of that in which we’d have him come over and do the drums or piano we’d play the song live. We’d practice it for a few hours and then track it. There’s a number of songs like that, that weren’t as crazy with the arrangements. That’s was recording at home lends itself to; it’s more casual. There’s not 10 dollars a second going out the door.

Alisa: Did you pay all of these people?

Justin: It varied. Most of them got paid. There was one guy - Nate recorded on his band’s record and it was a trade. I’d pay [musicians] for as much time as they put into it. It wasn’t about the money, thankfully.

Alisa: When you have 11 musicians, that could get out of hand. You’ve got five [as your touring crew]. Wouldn’t you want to bring everyone?

Justin: Yes and no. There were never 11 people in the room. It’s a pretty subdued 11-piece band. There are some songs that are really minimal. But it was us pretty much cherry-picking people’s instrumental talents on some of the arrangements. [For the arrangements] it’s a question of the importance of the parts. The core of most of the songs is guitar, so it’s a question of what is the other instrumentation doing to add to the core? The song “Where I’ll Be” has a very prominent French horn part in it. But because we have two violinists, the string section can allude to what the French horn or viola part does. We try to pick out the most essential elements and see if we can translate.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWritH3DDoI]

 

Alt-J: TAS In Session

Clever move on the part of Alt-J to name its debut album An Awesome Wave; the title also neatly sums up the young, Leeds-born band's amazing trajectory for the year.

On top of praise from critics and sold-out gigs, last week the quartet was named one of this year's nominees for the Mercury Prize, the most prestigious music award for UK and Ireland musicians. An Awesome Wave has been out in the UK since May, but it will finally, at long last, be released in the States tomorrow, September 18, on Canvasback.

Alt-J play Allston, Massachusetts tonight and continue touring North America until October 14 when they'll wrap things up at Austin City Limits Festival. Dates in Australia, the UK and Europe follow; it seems unlikely Alt-J will be home much until later in 2013.

Not long ago, Joe Newman, Gwil Sainsbury, Thom Green and Gus Unger-Hamilton made their way to Studio A for a live session and interview in which they chatted about nerves, their process and the Leeds music scene. The Alternate Side will broadcast the session this Friday, September 21, on TAS on WNYE at 11 a.m. EDT, also streaming on the TAS site.

Check out interview highlights and performances of songs like "Tessellate" and "Fitzpleasure" below and read Alt-J's tour diary for The Alternate Side too.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrkNERNrDZ4]

Russ Borris: We're at a time now where it’s really hard to come up with something that feels really fresh and different. When it comes to music, everything comes from someplace. But it does feel that there are a lot of unique sounds on [An Awesome Wave]. Was this challenging for you guys as a group?

Gwil Sainsbury: We sort of make music that we want to listen to as a group and that pleases all of us. If we’re making a track, usually Joe’s written most of it himself and then we add our parts, mix it up, maybe put it with another track. It’s kind of more intuitive, cut and past, collage based than anything else, I think.

Joe Newman: I think we were friends first before we were musicians, so we’ve got this bond that we kind of developed before we were playing music together. We’ve translated that connection and the fact that we were on the same wavelength through our instruments. I think that’s a really good grounding for us, a starting point. That we were friends who played together in a bedroom. The fact that you can’t categorize us is to do, maybe, with the fact that we’re just mates. I dunno.

Russ: That has to make it easy when one guy brings something to the table and you can be a little more honest and say that’s not going to work.

Gwil: We met at university where you’re taught to think quite critically and so when you’re together, making music, it’s easy if someone is doing something you don’t like, for you to be like “I don’t really like that.” And if you have that process continuously, you have some sort of compromise between the four of you with quite different musical taste that produces whatever our sound is. So maybe that’s why people think it’s this uncategorizable [thing].

Russ: The first song I heard on this was “Fitzpleasure” and I got a couple of minutes into the song … and there were about six different songs in that. So many changes and things going on. It kind of floored me. How did that one start?

Gus: It was a song we had floating around for a really long time. This bass hook going on. We knew we really liked it and we didn’t know what to do with it and we worked on it, shelved it for a few months, then we got some lyrics into it. I think that probably helped develop the song. From there.

Gwil: It was still very schizophrenic before we took it into the studio. I didn’t even know what it was. Joe: It was all over the place and I think we weren’t satisfied because it didn’t have a conventional structure to it, so we thought, because it didn’t have that kind of textbook narrative, it was not very good. Or I was like, “Is it any good?” But you kind of get addicted to it; it’s got this really dirty quality. It’s not how songs are meant to be put together really. It’s got this really weird vibe which we kept coming back to. We kept collaging all of these ideas together.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFaAidlQiIM]

Russ: I like the sequencing of the record because you have a few interludes that really accent the song. Joe, when you’re writing, we were talking before about how everyone brings the songs together. When the songs come together in your head lyrically, do you have any melodies worked out?

Joe: Every song is really different. Sometimes when I come up with the lyrics, yeah, it has a melody to it because it’s quite rhythmic. I really take advantage of the syllables of words. Immediately, a melody comes to mind. Sometimes that happens. Other times I have a melody that I really like and I find a word or a sentence to fit that melody. The best thing to do when you’re writing is to be patient. Log everything when you have a creative moment.

Russ: Do the other guys come in and nurse you through if you’re struggling with lyrics? Do you bring it to the other guys?

Joe: Normally, I come with the lyrics. It’s with music actually; if I’m playing something on the guitar, that’s when people are more critical, in a good way. With my lyrics, it’s got quite a good success rate within the ban.

Gwil: There was like one lyric on the album that we took out.

Joe: Oh, yeah. That one.

Gwil: Your success rate is like 99 percent.

Gus: Was it “The Midas Touch?”

Joe: Yeah. I didn’t realize that Razorlight had done a song where they talk about the Midas touch.

Russ: So you voted out the Midas touch?

Joe: It’s kind of a cliche. I thought it was me being clever … but no.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxcfUoCqBgk]

Russ: You guys got together at Leeds University. Did you plan on forming a band?

Joe: It was a mixture of both. One of the main reasons I went to university was to meet musicians and people who wanted to be in a band. I had some songs I’d been writing for years and years and I didn’t want to play to anyone. I thought that going to university might be a good opportunity to get [myself] out there and meet people. Everyone says that university is exciting so I thought that would give me a real kick out of the comfort zone, singing in front of them and stuff. I was going to university to find a band, really. I met Gwil and pretty straightaway we hit it off, but we didn’t really want to be in a band, did we?

Gwil: No, we were interested in just garage band recordings. And then putting them on Myspace. We were quite into that.

Joe: We were. That’s all I wanted. I was cooked after that. Happy.

Gwil: We weren’t interested in being a live band or anything like that. It was just a side project that we were doing.

Gus: It was only when Thom brough on his impressive skills that we started playing live.

Gwil: To do anything in public.

Joe: That’s why we play live; so people can experience Thom’s [drumming]. As we developed we realized that we should play live. We’d been writing these songs and we really liked what we were writing and we wanted our friends to see it and hear it. We then staged a gig that was in our front room in 2008. It was one of the best gigs we ever played because it was the first gig. We were really nervous and it was horrible in a weird way because we’d never played to crowd.

Gwil: It was exactly like, in “8 Mile” when [Eminem] goes to toilet and he’s sick. Exactly like that. I was so scared.

Gus: We’ve never been that nervous before a gig. Ever.

Joe: I think what was amazing is that people were really surprised. They were saying that it was the first university band that they’d heard — well, not first — but a style of sound that they hadn’t heard before from a university band. They were really complimentary.

Gus: I think people were pleasantly surprised to come to the gig and enjoy it and support us rather than go, “Good one, mate, that’s cool.”

Russ: What’s the local scene like?

Gwil: We all met in Leeds and it’s quite well known.

Gus: Right now it’s hardcore. Bands like Pulled Apart By Horses and Chickenhawk. Leeds hardcore bans. So we didn’t fit in that well, that scene.

Joe: We kept to ourselves and just focused on writing music that we liked to hear. That was our main concern. Not worrying about what other people were doing. Apart from Thom, who has been in bands all his life, the rest of us aren’t used to that band lifestyle of meeting and greeting everyone, getting on the scene. We were just focused on the music.

Russ: You did a tour blog for us, The Alternate Side, and you were talking about some of the shows you’d done in Spain or Japan. It’s interesting to read and see how you’re going to these countries you hadn’t necessarily been to before and people know you. Which has to be an interesting experience.

Gwil: It’s completely bizarre. Turning up in a country where you have no idea if your record’s even been released there, somewhere like Portugal, and you find out that you’ve got quite a few fans there and they know the words to all the songs. It’s amazing. Same in Japan. There’s nothing that can prepare you for that. It’s completely surreal. [In New York] every single show has been mad. The crowd has been so good. Joe: We were in Chicago, a city that none of us have ever been to, and just the support from people we don’t know … people having their eyes shut when they listen to the music. Saying lovely things after the gig. Singing the lyrics. We couldn’t believe it. Fantastic and long may it continue because we’re just buzzing. We’re still on a high and can’t wait to come back to America.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G10kL2gqvfo]

Russ: Are these songs still evolving?

Joe: I think we’re focused on making our live performances sound like the album. I think we’re close to that. Once we’ve hit that stage, I think then we’ll think about developing the songs for a live arena.

Gus: It’s sometimes tempting. You might come up with a little thing you want to put in and you probably have to resist the urge, normally, I’d say because you have to respect the song as it is up to a point. You have to go, “It’s finished, the album’s out, people like the album the way it is.”

Gwil: Someone gave us the biggest compliment in Brooklyn, [saying], that it was amazing to hear a band play live exactly as they did on the record. I really don’t think we’ve achieved that yet.

Gus: We don’t use any laptops or sequencers or anything like that.

Gwil: The only thing we have which is a click, a metronome, that keeps us on it.

Joe: Thom and I do improvise a bit; I don’t improvise with my guitar because I’d be too scared I’d mess everything up and in tears, so I sometimes sing and do little flourishes.

Gwil: Little Mariah Carey bits.

Joe: Yeah, little Mariah Carey bits. Apparently she has a voice that can open garage doors. It’s the same signal frequency.

Gwil: As a beeper that opens a garage door?

Joe: That’s what I was told. This is something that someone has told me! A random, blurry-faced guy from my past!

 

 

 

Yeasayer: TAS in Session

Those irreverent jesters Yeasayer are back with a trippy third album, Fragrant World, which pushes the trio — whose members dipped a bit into the indie rock "mainstream" with 2010's Odd Blood — back into a more experimental zone.

They're bringing that same shape-shifting aesthetic to their stage visuals and lighting on their current world tour and they play a special hometown gig, joined by Tanlines and Daedelus, at Central Park's Rumsey Playfield this Wednesday, September 12. The band had to cancel a handful of shows in Atlanta, Chapel Hill and Boston over the weekend but for good reason; Anand Wilder and his wife are now the parents of a baby daughter.

Recently, Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton and Wilder visited TAS's Studio A for a conversation with TAS' Russ Borris and a live session. Listen to Yeasayer's musings on Ikea's meatballs, Bruce Springsteen and GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, plus a generous set of songs, this Friday, September 14 on TAS in Session on WNYE at 11 a.m. EDT and streaming on The Alternate Side.

Fragrant World is out now via Secretly Canadian (North America) and Mute (UK/EU). 

UPDATE: Listen to the TAS session with Yeasayer in our achives now.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BD9IiAftQSQ]

Russ Borris: How did you approach [Fragrant World], any differently?

Ira Wolf Tuton: We stayed in New York this time to record it.

Chris Keating: In Brooklyn.

Ira: Different physical space. Different tools. All of that informs [it].

Chris: The slow corruption of being jaded from the road sets in so there’s a darker, more negative tone.

Russ: There is a darker element to it. I also read that it’s less pop, there’s something that feels different musically. There’s so much going on, but it’s the nature of how you guys construct song.

Ira: A little less going on.

Chris: One less track. A lot of layers. I think we were trying to work with different textures and different sounds. Maybe thematically it’s less of a love album.

Ira: Doesn’t mean we’re in any less love with anyone in the world.

Anand Wilder: We still like love.

Russ: Was that a conscious thing? Did you have any kind of clear picture of where you were going to go when you started out?

Chris: You have a vague idea, I think, but you can’t perfectly map it out. I had some songs conceptually that I wanted to talk about, like the song “Henrietta” and finding a world in which that song could live. I think that’s also a Paul McCartney line.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_lHLhpUabs]

Russ: [“Longevity”] is a song [that has the line] “Live in the moment and never count on longevity.”

Chris: Probably the worst line in the song. This guy was interviewing me the other day, [and said] “this lyric is dumb.” And I was like, what about all the other smart things?

Ira: He said that to you?

Chris: No, but I said, “you’re dumb!”

Russ: So he hinted that the lyric was dumb.

Chris: I don’t know. Maybe.

Russ: Is this a completely embellished story?

Chris: No, it’s not.

Ira: It’s more of an anecdote. I was waiting for a bigger climax.

Chris: Then, he went over to Paul Ryan’s house and Paul Ryan went, “let me show you something in my basement ….”

Russ: And [we] thought we had Yeasayer in today. We were totally wrong. Back to the line about longevity. Later in the record there’s “No Bones” which says, “We’re older now than I’d like to admit.” I’m trying to put together the pieces — is there anything here about getting older or aging? Are you guys feeling that in any way?

Ira: I actually like to say that I’m older than I am. Therefore people think I look great.

Chris: I haven’t found that about you at all. Ira, I always think, damn you look old. Wow.

Ira: It’s because I smile so much. Crow’s feet. I have early onset crow’s feet.

Chris: I’m paranoid of getting old. Not dying so much, but getting old. I’m not talking old like my 40s or 50s, but 70s, 80s, 90s and today. The greatest hits. S**t in your pants, forgetting your family.

Russ: If you get to 100 do they call it "the aughts?"  

Ira: You get to start over. You’re a centurion. [Ed. note: a centenarian, actually, although centurion is nice too]

Chris: I like older musicians who carry themselves well. I’d like to be that. But older musicians who embarrass themselves, not cool.

Ira: I think we’re there.

Russ: Do you have anybody in mind right now?

Chris: Older musicians who carry themselves well, sure. Like Nick Cave or Springsteen. I mean Springsteen! 62?

Russ: He’s in ridiculous shape.

Chris: Ridiculous. And just going hard. And making music that’s still interesting. It’s not him covering Christmas songs or something. Although maybe, Springsteen, if you’re listening, that might be a good idea.

Anand: Christmas collaboration record?

Russ: You guys have aspirations of Christmas music?

Ira: Totally. Who doesn’t in this business.

Chris: We’ve got a couple of Jews here, but we can make some Christmas music.

Ira: We can make it work. I think the best Christmas songs of all time were written by Jews.

Russ: You know, we’ve talked in the past how the songs come together and it sounds at times as if it’s assembling parts, like Ikea furniture. Part A goes into part B. Is that how it works? “I came up with this guitar part, I came up with this synth part and see how they all come together?”

Anand: It can.

Chris: Pretty much exactly like Ikea.

Ira: We were going to have our album come with a little Allen wrench.

Russ: What about the meatballs?

Chris: This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I’ve gone to Ikea just for lunch before.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnZzmItRv4M]

Russ: Before the record came out, you did something a little different. Records leak now and it’s hard to keep the album under wraps, but you forcefully leaked it, piece by piece, with these scavanger hunt videos. Whose idea was that?

Chris: We had these collaborations we’d been doing with Yoshi Sodeoka who is an awesome video artist and we wanted to have him make visual elements precisely for the reason [that we] recognized that people were going to make their own YouTube videos for your songs unless you make them. We had all this great content and we thought this would be an interesting way to put it out there. We have an excited fan base and I think people like doing stuff like that. I think about stuff that we’d like to do. I’d rather do that than get a ripped, bad version.

Anand: Our fans our very demanding. They demand a lot of creativity from us. We always have to stay on our toes.

Chris: They’re like, "Can next time this album come with an Allen wrench?"

Russ: There’s so many synths, vibes and varying sounds through the record, but there’s one particular sound on the entire album that stands out to me because it’s nothing like anything else. There’s this guitar riff in “Folk Hero Schtick” that sounds like [you’re] goofing on the Byrds for ten second.

Anand: Very good! You got a good ear, man.

Ira: The magic of the 12-string guitar.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfpLuZF1T08]

 

 

Exitmusic: TAS In Session

Exitmusic's Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church have forged a profound partnership. The couple came together in a romantic, cinematic way, first meeting on a transcontinental train, and over the course of two albums, the most recent being Passage, they've created an artistic identity which is beautifully beguiling and darkly unsettling.

The band — which also includes drummer Dru Prentiss and Nicholas Shelestak on assorted electronics — launches a full North American tour on September 30 in Montréal, but they will play Hoboken's Maxwell's on September 26 (rescheduled from Saturday, September 8). A European tour follows in November, including a stop at Iceland's Airwaves Festival.

In addition, the Exitmusic recently did a remix of Polça's "Amongster," available here. Passage is out now via Secretly Canadian.

Exitmusic recently journeyed to the Bronx (not by train) for a live session in Studio A. Listen to the session this Friday, September 7 at 11 a.m. EDT on TAS on 91.5 WNYE and streaming on the TAS site. Watch Exitmusic's performance and read interview highlights below:

UPDATE: Listen to the archived session with Exitmusic here.

Kara Manning: I always describe you as being a bit like the Brooklyn Sigur Rós. Whereas Sigur Rós write about nature and Iceland and whatever the fjords and ponies are feeling, I feel that there’s an urban aspect — very New York, at 4 a.m. and a little anxious — [about your music].

Devon Church: There’s also a tug-of-war between urban and natural.

Aleksa Palladino: Probably us. I grew up in Manhattan and he grew up in Canada.

Devon: I’m from Winnipeg so I spent a lot of time in semi-Scandinavian conditions.

Aleksa: Also what that means internally in the person. That tug-of-war between what’s left of your natural instincts and what you have to do in the world.

Devon: Or what’s in the rest of the natural world and the encroachments of the city too. I feel there’s embattled nature involved. Not bucolic nature.

Kara: There’s something deeply emotive and primal about your music too.

Aleksa: I feel for me, the impetus to write comes from much deeper than my experience. There’s a place that you tape into and it is purely yours; it’s a human experience that transcends your situation or experience of the world into something that’s steeped in human history. That’s where I like to pull from, but it’s still personal.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaJgIzIWKZg]

Kara: What is the genesis of a track for you? Does it begin with a sample? What is the initial spark?

Aleksa: They start differently. Some songs I’ve written on guitar and piano. And then we produce them together. Some start with loops that Devon has made that we work on. But a lot of us start with us just wanting to write and we start with the sound. One of the things that I think is different about the way we write, then maybe most bands, is that we record as we write so it really, part by part, gets really fleshed out. We’ll fully flesh out a verse before we move to a chorus. It informs you of where it wants to go before you do it and it’s my favorite way to write although sometimes we’ll write a song totally before recording it. But I don’t like it as much.

Kara: There’s something very cinematic about each song. Do you have a strong visual idea of what the song is and what it means to you?

Devon: Not usually to begin with, right?

Aleksa: No, but as we start to put sounds down, I think we start talking to each other in visuals. I get glimpses of not really stories, but visuals. I feel that the whole process of writing a song is that there are these moments where you get these glimpses of it and you have to write it. As you write it, that glimpse gets further and further away. It’s this whole protective thing of never trying to step on the toes of what that initial spark was.

Kara: Aleksa, you’re also an actress. You’ve been in “Boardwalk Empire” and for those who follow the show — a spoiler alert — but your character,["Angela Darmody"], died. Quite terribly. You’ve been acting for a long time; you were in "Manny & Lo” about fifteen years ago. Do you find that you assume a character in the way you construct and idea behind each song?

Aleksa: I don’t know. It’s this vague thing. I feel that we assume characters anyway, even if we’re not writing from them. I think most people live as a character of themselves. My characters are definitely very close to me. Even in acting, there’s always a lot of myself in it, so it’s hard for me to know who I am sometimes! (laughs). Definitely when I was writing and still on “Boardwalk [Empire]” a lot of what I was making myself sit in to play her — a lot of vulnerability and pain and frustration — that definitely carried through with writing.

Kara: It must have been devastating when [Angela was killed off]. I assume you found out from the writers that she wasn’t going to make it.  

Aleksa: It’s funny. TV is a funny thing because you don’t know where it’s going ever. If you have a film, you’ve read it and you know what’s going to happen before you start shooting. But with TV you never know so when you get it, it’s a shock to you. I loved her. I thought she was beautiful and really easy skin for me to live in. So it was sad that she died.

Kara: Devon, what did you think about your wife’s character getting killed?

Devon: Am I allowed to swear? It was a tragedy.

Kara: Did you watch it together when it aired?

Devon: We did.

Aleksa: We didn’t watch it for a long time though.

Devon: I put off watching that episode for months. But I’m glad to have her all to myself — well, not all to myself. I’m glad that we have the time to tour now.

Kara: On “White Noise” you speak of a “self-sick solitude” on that track. Was that something that was purely your lyric, Aleksa?

Aleksa: Yeah, that was mine. Anytime there’s loneliness or solitude (laughs).

Devon: We worked on that song together, though, a lot. I have like five pages of rejected lyrics for that song.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5Rh2dp-Lxc]

Kara: Now not only did you meet cute, but you met profoundly. You met in a way that people write movies about. So I’ll have to ask you as two 18-year-olds, smoking on a train …

Devon: I just think it’s because it’s an antiquated mode of transportation. I think if we met on a bus, nobody would be talking about it.

Kara: Which of you will have to explain, for the umpteenth time, the absolutely gorgeous way you met?

Aleksa: Go ahead, babe.

Devon: We met on a bus.

Aleksa: I was a bus driver.

Devon: We met in Canada — that’s where I’m from — and I was trying to get out of my hometown of Winnipeg and visit a friend in Montréal which I did by bumming a train pass off of an Australian guy who had his girlfriend’s pass. So I got on the train with his girlfriend’s name. Tammy. They let me on in Winnipeg but eventually kicked me off [in Toronto]. But that was fortuitous because Aleksa and I spent two or three days in Toronto hanging out.

Kara: Now Aleksa, where were you at that time? You’d already done some acting, like “Manny and Lo.”

Aleksa: I’d finished high school and me and my best friend just wanted to travel by train. It was a great experience. We rarely got off the train. We stayed on it and owned it — or we felt like we owned it. I was already acting and writing music.

Kara: You then separated for four years. And Devon, you wrote a letter.

Devon: I’d written a letter almost immediately after the first meeting, when we were still 18. But it took almost three years to get a response, but it did come. At that point I was living in Taiwan. After another year I came to New York and moved in.

Kara: Aleksa, what took you three years to answer and what compelled you to answer when you did?

Aleksa: I don’t know. I really liked being alone when I was a kid. I grew up an only child so I was used to it and comfortable with it. I definitely didn’t want boyfriends for some reason (laughs). I just wanted to be who I was and not have anyone else’s input in that. I avoided guys a lot. But there was such a familiarity between us. I remember being so struck; I literally had a visual image of us, when we were hanging out once, and it doesn’t makes sense, but it was an iron rod coming out of my ribs and going into his. A metal, steel connection. And I resented him so much for that (laughs)! I was like, no, I don’t want to like him! I went back to New York and it was the kind of thing where I thought, like a million other people you meet, that was that. But I’d just keep thinking about him. Not often, but when I did, I’d think about him all night. I’d never really reacted that way to a boy. Three years of that (laughs) and then I was like, I should write back and just see. And I did. It took two weeks. I mailed the letter. I remember kissing the envelope and putting it in the mailbox and just being like, whatever. I didn’t hear anything for two weeks and I was like, okay, at least I threw the ball back. But then he called me from a pay phone.

Devon: In Taiwan. The letter went to my family’s house in Winnipeg and I had my little brother open it and transcribe it to email and send it to me.

Aleksa. Because these were letters.

Devon: Aleksa didn’t get an email address until we were together.

Aleksa: So the whole year while he was in Taiwan and India, he was just writing me letters and I was writing him a couple of letters.

Devon: She still wasn’t very good at corresponding.

Aleksa: I’m not. I’m not good with mailing things.

Kara: You’ve been married how many years now?

Aleksa: Seven and a half. But together for ten.

Kara: Why did the song “The Modern Age” make the transition from the EP to the album [the only song that did]?

Devon: We thought we could make it better. We put out two singles from the EP and that wasn’t one of them. We thought it deserved a second chance.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQiK5ZGSkgc]

Kara: Aleksa, your mom is an opera singer. Did she train you or did you take voice lessons?

Aleksa: No, I’m stubborn. I’d much rather mess things up for years than be told how to do them, sadly. I didn’t train at all. She wouldn’t have trained me anyway; she’s not like that. I’ve asked her for tips and she doesn’t want to tell me anything. She just tells me, “Don’t talk.”

Devon: Before a show (laughs).

Kara: You have such an unique voice. When you discovered that was your voice, did you go through a period of accepting that’s what your voice could do? Did you emulate anyone?

Aleksa: I started writing really young. I was emulating a lot of people at that point. But I didn’t think I could sing. I didn’t start writing to sing. I just wrote to write and sang … because I thought I coudl a little bit. I [was shy]. All of my first recordings were whisper-sing. That was my style for a long time; I was intimidated by being loud. My mother’s voice is really, really amazing and that was her thing.

Kara: What is her name?

Aleksa: Sabrina Palladino.

Kara: Classical music primarily in your house?

Aleksa: No. A lot of opera, but my mom was huge into the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen. Music was a huge bond for us when I was growing up. We’d sing songs together all of the time. But a lot of Italian music, because my family is Italian. I pull a lot from it.

Kara: You produced this album yourselves, but you worked with Nicolas Vernhes to work on the mixing of it with you. How did he uplift or heighten these tracks for you?

Devon: He just has vastly more expertise in that department.

Kara: He’s worked with Dirty Projectors ….

Devon: Deerhunter, Spoon, a bunch of great artists.

Kara: Would you ever work with an outside producer down the line?

Aleksa: It’s this weird thing. Because we record when we write, it kind of just happens. I feel for us production is just as much a part of writing as lyric-writing, as melody-writing. It would really have to be something special and not just the obvious next step to do. It would have to be this person that you want to write with.

Devon: And we’d still want to go in with tracks that we’d worked on. To re-record guitars and vocals in a good studio, that would be great.

Aleksa: I think the whole point for us is to make it. To make it yourself.

Kara: [Does your song] “The City” relate more to L.A. or New York or Winnipeg or nothing at all?

Aleksa: No, the city is just a metaphor for man, basically.

Kara: You’re very simplistic in your titles. You take an umbrella term and expand upon it within the music.

Aleksa: They’re these abtract impressions.

Devon: Archetypes. Whatever that means (laughs).

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxrQeVNs0Qs]

 

Niki And The Dove: TAS In Session

The mysterious world spun by the Swedish trio Niki and The Dove is buoyed by a dreamy brew of ebullient, delectable synthpop, winning songwriters Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf plenty of breathless critical accolades for their debut album Instinct, out now on Sub Pop.

The band — which includes drummer Magnus Böqvist — just played the Reading and Leeds Festival this past weekend and they'll be back Stateside this week for gigs in Los Angeles on August 31 and Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival on September 2. Niki and The Dove embark on a tour with Twin Shadow next week with stops that include Manhattan's Webster Hall on September 27 and Music Hall of Williamsburg on September 28.

Niki and The Dove have also released their next single, "Somebody," today, August 27,  along with a remix by Clock Opera.

Listen to Niki and The Dove's wonderful session in Studio A, taped earlier this summer, on Friday, August 31 on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11 a.m. EDT, also  streaming on the TAS site:

Alisa Ali: What’s the story behind the name Niki and The Dove?

Malin Dahlström: You know, that’s a secret!

Alisa: That in itself is a story.

Gustaf Karlöf: We live in a society where we have so much information about everything. Every second. We think it’s healthy not knowing everything.

Malin: It’s good that you can make up your own [story].

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX-SRkbk3fs]

Alisa: There’s so much going on in ["Mother Protect"]. At first you’re talking about being in the sky and then falling. But then it gets all futuristic and crazy and I feel it scales back even higher.

Malin: It’s beautiful that you get those images.

Alisa: There’s a lot of crazy imagery going on in your songs. On the record, this song is a little bit different; you have a chorus on the studio version.

Malin: Sort of. We have a lot of vocals on that track, but we also have a choir on “The Gentle Roar.” We asked all of our friends to come. We had a good time when we were recording that. Twelve girls who came.

Alisa: Were these musician friends of yours?

Malin: No, they were just friends who like to sing. Some of them are musicians, some are actresses and some are artists in other forms.

Alisa: You mainly focus on music, though. You don’t have any side gigs, do you?

Gustaf: No! We’re focused on this.

Alisa: I had interviewed Shout-Out Louds and they have side jobs. One of the guys is a baker.

Malin: Really? Wow.

Alisa: And Bevan, she writes technical manuals.

Malin: That’s really cool.

Alisa: You must have an interest in visuals because you have a lot of videos on your website.

Malin: Yes, I’m interested in that.

Gustaf: Malin did some of those videos.

Malin: I did the first one we had, the single for Moshi Moshi for “DJ, Ease My Mind” and “Under The Bridges.” I also did for “Hot Summer,” a new track.

Alisa: That’s the one with the surfing. Gustaf, was that you on the board? 

Gustaf: Absolutely.

Alisa: The [video for “DJ, Ease My Mind”] features two people doing a crazy acrobatic routine.

Malin: I found them online. I searched for footage and then I found these trapeze artists and we asked a friend to cut that particular one. That clip is from ‘84 I think.

Gustaf: “DJ, Ease My Mind” is one of the oldest songs on the record.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agim5yf1kD0]

Alisa: You had also released “DJ, Ease My Mind” on an EP, correct? A few of the songs from that EP are on this full-length album. What was the thinking in including those rather than having them separate on the EP?

Malin:That’s a good questions. It would have felt wrong to leave them out of our debut album because they have played such an important part in our band. We made that decision to put all of the songs together [on the album]. Like the people that have followed us from the beginning, maybe they are disappointed with that! It would have felt wrong [to leave the songs] out.

Gustaf: Also, when the EP was out, there was no plan for doing a full-length album. The plans came along as the reactions to the songs came along. So when we did the EP there were no plans.

Alisa: Did you think at that point that you’d just put together a bunch of EPs.

Gustaf: We took one step at a time. We made songs and we didn’t see longer than that. But then we got good reactions on the songs that we made an eventually we took the decision to make a full-length. The full-length is more like a conclusion of these two years.

Alisa: You got a very good reaction to your music. You were included in the BBC Sound of 2012. That’s a big deal. Were you shocked?

Malin: We were shocked (laughs). Everybody was very surprised.

Alisa: Did you find yourself in the UK a lot after that happened?

Malin: We had actually already moved there then. It was all very surprising and we were very happy for it. We couldn’t believe it could happen. We had moved to London already. All the people that we were working with, that liked Niki and The Dove, were in London.

Alisa: I understand that the recording process for this record took a fair amount of time.

Gustaf: It was really one step at a time at that point. We made songs in the beginning for the fun of it.

Alisa: But you still makes songs for the fun of it!

Gustaf: Yes we are! Hopefully.

Malin: No, now it’s just boring. (laughs).

Gustaf: Work all the time. No play. Of course, the fun is there but one bit difference is that at that point, we didn’t have a record deal or a plan of a full album.

Alisa: So where did you record the EPs?

Gustaf: In Stockholm. The whole album is recorded in Sweden.

Alisa: Did you produce it yourselves?

Malin: We produced it together with Elof Loelv. Back then he was in Stockholm and we spent a lot of time in his cellar studio.

Gustaf: The three of us produced it together.

Alisa: [It sounded] like a labor intensive process, trying to organized all of the different sounds [on the record].

Gustaf: There were a lot of fights though! Most of the time we have the same vision of the end result of a song, but we can argue about how we can get there, how we can reach the top of the mountain. But we think the same way about the aim or goal of a song. You have to make so many decisions along the way. I think it’s healthy to have discussions about it.

Alisa: This next song you’re going to play, [“Tomorrow”], what were the differences?

Malin: That was actually a song that we wrote by the piano. It took some time to translate it into the world that it’s in now. I don’t remember — did we have any big fights about “Tomorrow?”

Gustaf: Yes. Well, not fight, but we did have some really big discussion about a key change in the song. There were versions with the key change and versions without.

Alisa: And that’s when the producer would come in an referee?

Gustaf: We were on the same level.

Mallin: Yeah, it wasn’t like that. We were fighting, all the three of us (laughs). He wasn’t the grownup or anything! But it was good.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcPKfeSa1l4]

Alisa: Do the songs change when you play live? Or do you always try to get this exact pattern.

Gustof: No, we try to keep it alive in that we have the beginnings and ends open and have some kind of improvisational aspect. Sometimes it happens more and sometimes less. It keeps things alive. It depends on the situation and sound.  

Alisa: How does [the lyric writing process] work? Do you collaborate?

Malin: We write the music together most of the time, but on this album I’ve written the lyrics.

Alisa: But you’ve collaborated in the past?

Malin: Never on lyrics. I’ve always written my own lyrics.

Alisa: Is that something you’re interested in or intimidated by?

Gustof: Yes, it would be nice to try. I’ve done it a bit in the past in other situations. But I think Malin is doing a great job.

Malin: We’ll see in the future.

Alisa: It sounds like you want him ….

Malin: No, no, we’ve been kidding about this in other interviews. Gustof has been saying that he’s not ALLOWED to do it (laughs). So for the future we have to change that.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRnhEotE9l4]

Niki and The Dove Tour Dates:

Aug. 31 - Los Angeles, CA - The Echo
Sep. 01 - Vancouver, BC - Electric Owl
Sep. 02 - Seattle, WA - Bumbershoot
Sep. 05 - El Paso, TX - Tricky Falls*
Sep. 07 - Denver, CO - Bluebird Theatre*
Sep. 08 - Omaha, NE - Waiting Room*
Sep. 09 - Lawrence, KS - The Granada Theatre*
Sep. 11 - Norman, OK - Opolis*
Sep. 13 - Dallas, TX - Trees*
Sep. 14 - Austin, TX - The Mohawk*
Sep. 16 - Houston, TX - Fitzgeralds*
Sep. 17 - McAllen, TX - Cine El Rey*
Sep. 18 - Birmingham, AL - Bottletree*
Sep. 19 - Atlanta, GA - The Earl*
Sep. 21 - Asheville, NC - Orange Peel*
Sep. 23 - Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle
Sep. 24 - Washington, DC - Black Cat*
Sep. 25 - Philadelphia, PA - Union Transfer*
Sep. 27 - New York, NY - Webster Hall*
Sep. 29 - Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall
Oct. 02 - Toronto, ON - The Drake Hotel
Oct. 03 - Chicago, IL - Schubas
Oct. 04 - San Francisco, CA – Popscene
Oct. 06 – Los Angeles CA – Taix
Oct. 07 – Los Angeles, CA – Culture Collide Festival Block Party

*w/ Twin Shadow

 

 

Here We Go Magic: TAS In Session

Here We Go Magic, which evolved from being Luke Temple's solo project to a full-fledged band, has lately undergone more significant shifts.

Work with Radiohead and Beck producer Nigel Godrich on A Different Ship, the group's third album, changed the band's own perception of its artistic promise and direction. Bassist Jen Turner recently departed the group, leaving Temple, guitarist Michael Bloch and drummer Peter Hale to continue as a trio, collaborating on the road with touring members Eliot Krimsky of Glass Ghost and bassist Brian Bettancourt of Hospitality. Despite an August spent, as Hale puts it, focusing on "barbecues and swimming" following a cancellation of some European gigs, Here We Go Magic launch a fall tour with Andrew Bird on September 26 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Several weeks ago the Brooklyn band, which opened for the Afghan Whigs in Australia late last month, headed north to the Bronx for a session at Studio A. Watch the videos of their strong four-song set of tracks like "I Believe In Action" and "Make Up Your Mind" and listen to the interview on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, August 24 at 11 a.m. EDT, also streaming on The Alternate Side's site.

A Different Ship is available now via Secretly Canadian:

Kara Manning: Luke, when did you Michael and Peter come together. It was really for Pigeons, correct?

Luke Temple: Pigeons, yeah.

Pete Hale: Well, we came together in the beginning.

Luke: But [Pigeons] was the first documentation of our union.

Kara: This third album, A Different Ship, has come out this year and has probably gotten you some of the most amazing reviews and feedback that you’ve had so far. It marks a real change for you as a band as well. The first you worked with a producer — and not a shabby producer, I might add.

Luke: Nigel Godrich.

Kara: Who has worked with Radiohead, Beck and Air.

Luke: And Paul McCartney, Sparks, a bunch of people.

Kara: We’ll talk more about Nigel, but I had to start off by asking you … you picked up John Waters hitchhiking? Back in May?

Luke: We were leaving a hotel or a motel [to drive to a gig] and we were getting on the on-ramp to get on the highway, about nine in the morning, and we see a guy holding a sign. Jen, who was playing bass with us, used to hitchike so she’s really sympathetic towards hitchhikers. She was like “Pick him up! Pick him up!” And we’re like, “No …” Everyone was tired and it was a full van. So we drove past him and we’re going down the highway. First our sound guy, who was driving, looks over and says, “That was John Waters.” I looked at the same time, as we were going by, and was like, “That was absolutely John Waters.” Everyone is like, “No way.” Pete is like, “Man, he wouldn’t wear that hat!”

Kara: And he was holding a sign? What did it say?

Michael: It said “To the end of 70 West.”

Pete: His hat said “Scum of the earth.”

Luke: We googled “John Waters hitchhiking” and all this stuff came up. He enjoys hitchhiking. So we thought the odds are that it might actually be him so we swung back around, pulled up and it was him. He got in the car and went, “Hi! I’m John Waters!”

Kara: Had he heard of you guys?

Luke: No. He didn’t know.

Kara: How long were you in the van together?

Luke: Like six hours.

Pete: From eastern Ohio to Indianapolis.

Kara: Did you talk about movies and things?

Luke: Lots of stuff. Iggy Pop a little bit. He talked about hanging out at Max’s Kansas City in the back room. Stories that we want to hear. We were asking him questions. Little inside scoop about Divine eating dog excrement and how they got the dog to do it.

Kara: Are you still in touch? Are you going to coax him into directing one of your videos?

Pete: We had dinner with him in San Francisco and that was really nice. Haven’t been in touch with him recently but I have a feeling we’ll keep in contact. He’s a very, very nice guy.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAGwcn1CZUs]

Kara: I’ve read that A Different Ship is not acquatic, but  [in terms of a] spaceship.

Luke: Yes. I kept picturing in [Kubrick’s] 2001 when you have those long, slow scenes of ships docking, with classical music playing and space, I kept getting that image. Especially with a lot of the ambient stuff, like the in-between sections. That movie in particular, there’s a lot of ambient, in-between parts and then it switches to a narrative. Then more ambience. I kept having that image. So when I say “ship” I think of “spaceship.” There’s a song called “Over the Ocean” so I’m sure everyone just thinks it’s a sea vessel. That’s okay, though. They can think whatever they want.

Kara: Was this an image that came after the album was completed or did it inform the songwriting?

Luke: You kind of have your head so deep in it that you’re just dealing with nuance and trying to get that take. You can’t really see the big picture. I didn’t realize what the record was until it was mastered and I listened to it back in my apartment, three thousand miles away from the studio that we recorded it.

Kara: Taking a loop back, you were all at Glastonbury in 2010 and you’d gotten there late and slept outside ….

Luke: On a hill.

Kara: You had an 11 a.m. set which at Glastonbury equals hungover people.

Luke: We’d gotten there the night before to pick up our credentials and then we were going to go back to the hotel, which was a 45 minute drive. It was a beautiful day and our first major festival like that so we were excited. We were like, “Let’s hang out.” One hour led to the next and we [decided] to stay and see what happens. So we all split off and me and Pete ended up sleeping on a hill and Mike slept under the car. I don’t know where the girls stayed. But miraculously the next day we all happened to wake up, 15 minutes before we had to be at the stage, and we showed up at the same time. We played the show, felt kind of bummed. It was this big festival so you want it to be so great, but it was so early and we were all hungover. It was either people who were still up from the night before — so they weren’t much help — or people who had just gotten up with their kids. Everyone is swaying on their feet staring at us but there were two guys, up front, who were really enjoying themselves, it seemed. So you play for those people, whoever they are. On closer inspection, one of the guys I recognized as Thom Yorke. That got me really excited. I didn’t say anything to anyone else because I didn’t want to spook anyone, but I think other people noticed him. He was standing with another guy, but I didn’t recognize who that was. It was Nigel, but he doesn’t have a “public face.”

Kara: Were they dancing a lot?

Luke: Yeah. Feverishly. Thom Yorke just dances the way he dances. He had a top hat on or something. They came backstage and we met Thom and Nigel. We just really hit it off. [Nigel] kept coming to our shows and came to one in Paris which meant there was some effort involved. He has a house there, but it was kind of interesting that he showed up to a show in Paris. After that, he loosely talked about working with us.

Kara: Did you have any hesitation about it?

Luke: No hesitation about working with him. Nerves for sure, but no hesitation. Something like that … you have to grab onto.

Pete: I think there might have been some if we hadn’t had a chance to get to know him a little bit before that was talked about. I think we got a good sense of how he navigates interpersonally. It felt really comfortable.

Kara: Did he give you some kind of deadline?

Pete: No. He’s a really busy guy. We were on tour that fall and came back to New York in November and didn’t know what was going to happen next, but knew that he’d decided to work with us and it was going to be based on his schedule. What was going to be kind of in the middle ended up being May. We hadn’t really put much thought in how we were going to prepare for that. It was a cold, hard winter trying to get ready for Nigel. Make the dress, make the cake, put the roast in the oven and he comes over and he’s a vegetarian or whatever. We were going to go to L.A. on short notice; we got out there and it quickly became clear, because he’s a mellow guy, that he wanted to continue the sessions in his own studio in London. So we got a month of getting to know each other, working on stuff, trying out material, and then doing the lion’s share of the record in London, on his home turf.

Luke: It took me a minute to sort of knock him off the pedestal I’d put him on. We’d written lots of songs the winter before; we had over a record’s worth. When we went into the studio in L.A. it was pretty clear that there was an anxiety embedded in all of it. You could tell. So we ended up scratching most of that. He was sympathetic; he knew we were nervous. We were the small fry little band and it was a total coup to be working with someone like that. He understood. [By the time we got back to London] we had a rapport with him. We were in his studio which he really understood and its an intuitive space to make music in. In that kind of environment, it starts flowing. “I Believe in Action” was originally another song [and] we had tracked the rhythm section. The song wasn’t working so we put a different guitar part over it and it sent it in this completely new direction.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6NL7TWtXXY]

Kara: The first [Here We Go Magic] album reminded me so much of desert blues and bands like Tinariwen. Pigeons went somewhere else that was equally fantastic and this third album, working with Nigel, is different again, with more clarity and simplification. Is that true?

Luke: Yeah. I think it was serendipitous that we were working with Nigel because that’s his [modus operandi]. To work with a lot of space. And that’s something that I wanted to work with on this record, irregardless of who we made it with. I wanted to strip away. With Pigeons, it was this exercise in a wall of sound, completely pregnant, every square inch with sound. It’s very two dimensional; you can’t really penetrate it. I was interested in making something more three-dimensional, where you could be inside of it. That’s how [Nigel] works so it was a perfect convergence.

Kara: Do you remember when he might have pulled you away from overcomplicating a particular track?

Luke: All the time. He would let us do our thing; we’d go crazy with overdubs or whatever. A lot of the tracks are recorded live. A lot of the vocal takes, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals — most — are live. And then we’d just go to town doing overdubs and he let us do our thing. Most of that stuff was, in the end, thrown away. We came back to what we did orginally. We’d have all of this ambient stuff laying around in between tracks, people noodling and not even knowing he was recording, intentional ambient sessions we’d do and he’d take that stuff from all over the place and weave it into songs. He’s a real master at that.

Kara: Did he do that with “Over the Ocean” at all?

Luke: He did. We did a different version of [that song]. It wasn’t working and then we decided to cut the tempo in half and do it the way it is on the record. We recorded that live and then he took stuff from the previous take and just fused it into the new one. He did that all over the record with lots of stuff. Some of the sounds; I don’t even know where he got them from.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nU4VChVKqQY]

Kara: Luke, you began writing songs quite late, you were about 25. You were a visual artist, on a fine art trajectory. What was the catalyst that took you from art to music?

Luke: It happened so naturally. Part of it was for finanical reasons. I moved to New York and I was working more than full-time and I was saving up to get a studio, some supplies and it was this inaccessible mountain of financial things you had to deal with to be an artist. I was waiting for that stuff to come together and in the meantime, you always have your guitar. I wrote a few songs and I went to this open mic night at the Sidewalk Cafe. People seemed to enjoy it and it went from there.

Kara: But you weren’t an anti-folk guy. You strayed from that scene.

Luke: Yes, that was the Moldy Peaches and Jeffrey Lewis and all those folks, part of that group of people. There were tons of people who would go there every Monday and try to play. The guy who ran it kind of had his favorites though. It was supposed to be a random lottery but it didn’t end up that way.

Kara: What songwriters inspired you?

Luke: I liked instrumental music for a long time and I think the first music that really affected me, with vocals, was Stevie Wonder. But it’s very unrelatable for me to try to do something like that. The first music that got me interested in writing songs was the David Bowie record Hunky Dory. “Life on Mars” blew me away. And then I retroactively started to get into the Beatles, Neil Young, Dylan and all of these people that I’d taken for granted.

Kara: Is there a particular band that you’ve toured with that’s helped you coalesce as a band in a live setting?

Michael: I think there’s been a couple of really good experiences. The first big tour that we did was with Grizzly Bear and that was trial by fire. We didn’t know anything about playing [those kind of venues]. We didn’t have a sound guy with us. We weren’t really prepared, so that whipped us into shape as a live band really quickly. Our experience with Broken Social Scene was probably the most special. Their camaraderie and their energy night after night on stage, their love for their audiences and what they do was really inspiring.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hd1dS10yIZ0]

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