Skip to main content

TAS In-Studio

Jagwar Ma: TAS In Session

In a year of strong debut efforts, Jagwar Ma's Howlin' is not only a superior maiden release, but one of the most exceptional albums of 2013.

This propulsive, psychedelic synth-rock collection arrived via the talented Australian duo of Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield (along with touring bassist Jack Freeman). Back in North America now for one more brief tour, Jagwar Ma are slated for a Rough Trade NYC late show tonight, December 2, and play a sold-out gig at New York's Bowery Ballroom tomorrow night, December 3.

Earlier this autumn, Jagwar Ma came to the Bronx for an FUV Live and TAS in Session set   — watch videos and read highlights below — which airs tonight on FUV Live at 9p on 90.7 WFUV (streaming too) and on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, December 6, at 11am ET, also streaming online.  

Jagwar Ma's Howlin' is out now on Mom + Pop Records.

UPDATE: Listen the to full Jagwar Ma session in the FUV Vault now.

Kara Manning: When did your first single, “Come Save Me,” really come to fruition?

Gabriel Winterfield: Probably a year or a year and a half ago.

Jono Ma: I’ve lost track of time.

Gabriel:  Just about two years now since we first started to doing stuff with “Come Save Me.”

Kara: Gab, were you still in Ghostwood at that point and Jono, you were still in Lost Valentinos?

Jono: Yes, but both of our bands were kind of in hiatus. They were still in existence.

Gab: But we weren’t doing much.

Jono: I guess that’s where the impetus for doing something together came from. That hunger to be creative and make music. I guess that wasn’t being fulfilled.

Gab: Or satisfied.

Jono: Yeah, or satisfied by our separate bands. Before we did “Come Save Me,” we were actually playing together in another band called FLRL which was kind of a collective that I’d started with a couple of other guys. [It was] based on loads of Sydney musicians, improvising and rotating members. No two gigs ever being the same, no two band lineups ever being the same. So Gab and I were playing together in that a bit. We’d already established a bit of creative rapport so when we came to “Come Save Me,” it was quite natural and organic and quick.

Kara: Originally, Jono, the idea was a solo project for you?

Jono: Not really. I was doing remixes as Jaguar Paw and that changed to Jaguar Ma. I was just searching for the next thing, really. It felt like the [Lost] Valentinos had run its course so I was doing remixes, producing other bands and then Gab came to me with a whole bunch of demos that he and Jack [Freeman] had done together. It was quite garage-y, rock and roll stuff and I loved it. I had a whole bunch of instrumentals that I’d been working on, one being the instrumental track for “Come Save Me.” I just played that to Gab as well and he really responded it to it, so much so that he began singing over it as I was playing it to him. It was like, “Oh, that’s what this is missing. It’s missing a voice.”

Kara: How did you began building [the songs] on this record? I know that you traveled from studio to studio.

Jono: Generally we’ll start with a beat, loop or instrumental. With “Come Save Me” I had it on loop and record the whole track so that it would just keep cycling, so Gab wouldn’t have to worry too much about arrangement or fitting into a pop song structure. He can just sing and sing and sing and output loads of improvised ideas over a song or a loop or a beat. We make sense of that later and refine it down. But I think that’s why the album does have an element of improvisation because a lot of the final takes were actually from the first time Gab had sung on something.

Gabriel: When we did “Come Save Me,” it was funny because after we’d done the first demo take, as it were, we went back a few weeks and tried to record it again with a better microphone and a proper studio.

Jono: With more intent …

Gabriel: And the original one ended up sounding better.

Jono: We ended up using the first take that Gab ever did on it before the song was even really written or arranged. If you listen carefully, there’s actually bits where the double track will drop out for a word because Gab didn’t sing that word twice. I was trying to make a double track and looping things back on top of it.

Gabriel: In the second part of the verse, where there’s a harmony, I did on the fly, I didn’t do it twice.

[video:http://youtu.be/o3i1Bx0NxqQ]

Kara: “Uncertainty” is a track that’s really interesting compared to the studio version and hearing you do it live. A song that has expanded in live performance, at least to me. How did that song grow over the course of doing it over a lot of festivals?

Gabriel: “Uncertainty,” when we recorded it, was about five different songs.

Jono: It started with a little loop that I had and then we just looped that and Gab sang over it. We reapproached it and then that loop ended up getting pushed away. I don’t think it’s even there anymore! It evolved so many times and splintered off into different ideas.

Kara: When did Jack step in?

Jono: Jack actually came to France and the studiowhile we were recording and ended up playing bass on a couple of tracks. We did a couple of shows right in the middle of making the record. We wanted to see how [the songs] would work live before we completed the album. We did two shows and Jack came along, we played them together, and it was at that moment that it kind of felt like this was actually becoming a band. Before that, it felt like a studio collaboration side project. It was quite healthy to do that and also see how people responded to the music, the strengths and weaknesses of the arrangements.

Kara: It must have been surprising to see it bouncing off of a live audience for the first time too.

Jono: It was amazing, actually. We played in Nijmegen in Holland, at this festival, and it was the first gig we ever did. The crowd was quite big, a few hundred people deep, and we’d never played before. The band didn’t even exist until a week before that when Jack came down and joined in the festivities in France.

Gabriel: One of the reasons we’re really excited to be playing in the US is hearing what the audience think and thinking what they’re going to compare it too. There was a Pitchfork review and it was the first time that it had ever been compared to Perry Farrell. Jono: The whole Jane’s Addiction thing? No one had said that and obviously we’re fans of Jane’s Addiction and that was a cool thing, that that happened.

Kara: Or Liars too.

Jono: Liars came up too.

Gabriel: Did Liars come up? That’s nice to know. I’m a massive fan of Liars.

Kara: Do you find yourselves listening to other music for production ideas or influences too?

Jono: As musicians we’re constantly listening to musc and part of the reason that this album is being referred to as eclectic, borrowing lots of influences from different eras, is that we’re avid music listeneners. We have really broad tastes as well, so I was listening to loads of old Motown and lots of electronic music as well. Gab was listening to loads of Sinatra and jazz. Jack’s really into hip hop.

Kara: Jack what do you like?

Jack Freeman: I mainly listen to hip hop as modern music goes. As far as my bass influence goes, that’s more Parliament and Bootsy Collins and James Jamerson and stuff like that. As far as modern albums go, I’ve been listening to Doris by Earl Sweatshirt [of Odd Future] which is probably my favorite album at the moment.  

Kara: You reached out to Ewan Pearson to mix the album?

Jono: There were two songs that were mixed by Steve Dub [Jones] who mixed all of the Chemical Brothers albums and I mixed one track. Ewan is a really good friend of mine. I’d worked on a record with him on my old band, the [Lost] Valentinos, and we became friends after that. I spent some time in Berlin when I was in that search for the next project. After Gab and I had done “Come Save Me,” I was in Berlin just to hang out with Ewan and I played it to him and he just loved it. He said, “It’s great to hear you make upbeat music.” Both of our last bands were kind of quite serious and sometimes sinister in a way.

Gabriel: Stern.

Jono: Shoegazey. Which is great! But it was fun to do something that had more of an elated, ecstatic feel to it. Ewan loved it and said, “I want to mix this.”

[video:http://youtu.be/VXKBJ4ifE8Y]

Kara: You’re also three very happy guys onstage.

Gabriel: I remember someone once told me, if you ever get nervous onstage, just smile. I always try harder to have a good time if I’m nervous. I think we were all a bit nervous last night as it was our first show [in the United States] and people were very much like, “Show us what you got.”

Jack: And we hadn’t had any sleep.

Jono: There was one guy at the front who was just standing there with his arms folded, looking directly at me!

Kara: You also did Glastonbury, the John Peel Stage, which must have been pretty mind-blowing.

Gabriel: That was a weird experience, Glastonbury. Obviously it was mind-blowing, but the actual show was really strange. We went on and we really didn’t say much before we went on and we normally talk before we go onstage. We really didn’t say anything. No one communicated to each other while we played live as well, but there was this telekinesis thing going on. We all walked offstage and were like, “That was perfect.”

Jono: It felt almost spiritual, without sounding like a new age hippie! A couple of weeks before, I’d just come out of an illness, I’d been bedridden for a few months. There was a point that it didn’t even look like I’d be able to play Glastonbury.

Kara: You were hospitalized ...

Jono: Yes, hospitalized. We had actually flown someone else over to the UK while I was still in Australia because it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to do it. Last minute, I had a miracle recovery and made it there in time. There was an added elation there for me because it looked like I wasn’t going to make it and there we were. When we were setting up there were a couple of hundred people out there. I didn’t look at the crowd once until the very end of the set and there was just a sea of 10,000 all jumping to “The Throw.” In the back of my head, I was like, wow. Two weeks ago I was in a bed, feeling sorry for myself, wondering if I was ever going to play live music again and here we were … it was quite strange and spiritual. I would say it was probably one of the best weekends of my life.

Jack: What’s also really special about it is that there’s no footage of the show. We play a club show in front of 200 people and it will probably show up on YouTube. But no one filmed it. The BBC didn’t start filming until 3pm and we played at 1. That kind of makes it even better for me.

Jono: The memory is preserved of it.

Kara: How’s your health now?

Jono: I’m fine, I’m great.

Kara: Because you’re about to commence endless touring on this record.

Jono: I make a point of looking after myself on the road. We’re quite civil.

Gabriel: Without going into too much detail, we have a pretty strict diet! As a result, Jack and I end up eating all of this kale and spinach and coconut water! It’s fine.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pP8k6fmxWe4]

 

Chvrches: FUV Live

The Scottish synthpop trio Chvrches played a session for FUV Live recently, selecting songs from their full-length debut album, The Bones of What You Believe.

In a conversation with The Alternate Side's Alisa Ali, the Glaswegian bandmates discussed their music and drifted into topics that ranged from law to journalism to Halloween costumes.

Chvrches are in the midst of a U.S. tour, playing Los Angeles, San Diego and Austin this week. They return to the UK next month and will join Django Django for one of Scotland's annual New Year's Eve traditions, Edinburgh's Hogmanay, on December 31.

Below, watch videos of Chvrches doing stripped-down versions of "The Mother We Share" and "Recover" in Studio A,  listen to the session now in the FUV Vault or catch up with the full session on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, November 22, at 11am EST, also streaming online.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3Aq2J2OZ2o]

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwhKDOW1uPM]

London Grammar: TAS In Session

The fast-rising British trio London Grammar understands the resonant scope of simplicity, silence and space. The trio's graceful debut album, If You Wait, was released in September to enthusiastic critical reviews and sales. It debuted at #2 on the UK album charts, nudged along by the buzz generated by London Grammar's earlier EP, Metal and Dust, and a high-profile collaboration with Disclosure on their slinky single "Help Me Lose My Mind."

When London Grammar — Hannah Reid, Dot Major and Dan Rothman — passed through New York earlier this fall, they dropped by The Alternate Side and FUV Live to talk about their friendship and artistic vision. The band is currently on an extensive tour of Europe and the UK, with a planned Australian festival jaunt in late December supporting MGMT, Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear. London Grammar will return Stateside in late winter for SXSW and other dates.

Below, watch videos of London Grammar in session and read interview highlights. The entire session will air this Friday, November 15, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11am EST, also streaming online.

UPDATE: Listen to London Grammar's session now in the FUV Vault.

Alisa Ali: Do you guys have proper London Grammar? What is the name about?

Hannah Reid: It’s about the place and what it embodies. We were in Nottingham at the time and we missed home, so we knew we wanted to have London in the name. And Grammar just sounded really good next to it. That’s kind of it. Aesthetically, it rolls off the tongue; that’s what I like about it.

Alisa: You all met at university. Were you all studying music?

Hannah: Not at all.

Dot Major: Hannah and I were both doing English. Hannah was doing history of art as well. Dan was doing economics and philosophy.

Alisa: How does that help you with this band?

Dan Rothman: I’m quite good with the business side.

Dot: It helps him with answering emails.

Dan: I’m potentially the most business-minded.

Hannah: I think you’re the most organized.

Dan: Most organized. We had this debate recently about t-shirts. I just knew what would sell the best [using the song title “Wasting My Young Years”] and I was right.

Hannah: That is true. He’s good at other things as well, in terms of business. Knowing what’s a good thing to do and what’s not. I have no idea. Dot doesn’t. Dan makes those decisions.

Alisa: You’re highly involved in all aspects of this music game. You handpicked your team, your producers and the person who mixed the album.

Hannah: Yes and no. We worked with a number of people before finding the right producers, but we were brought together through our management. In terms of knowing whether something works, we knew that it worked with them. In terms of other people, our label picked us.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f31kbzbxnXk]

Alisa: Were you so surprised at the reaction that you got from your [If You Wait]?

Dot: It has been mad, since the album came out. It’s all gone up a level. It’s gone from being a blog thing to having a wider audience which is what we wanted.

Alisa: When you posted “Hey Now,” it got an immense amount of hits.

Hannah: I haven’t looked in a while, so I wouldn’t know.

Dot: I think between Soundcloud and YouTube it’s something like 2.2 million.

Alisa: Facebook was involved in your band’s start?

Hannah: There are two versions of the story.

Alisa: I feel like what happened is that Dan saw Hannah’s picture and was like, “She is so cute. Let’s be in a band.”

Dan: That is absolutely incorrect (laughs).

Hannah: Aw ….

Dan: No, you’re absolutely cute, but that’s not why I wanted to be in a band with you.

Hannah: If anything, I thought he was cute. He walked into the canteen and me and my friends were like, “We’re going to make friends with him.” We said that the next person who came into the canteen, we were going to make friends with — and it was Dan.

Dan: My girlfriend of five years is Hannah’s best friend. So that would be awkward.

Dot: Sometimes at photo shoots people ask if Dan and Hannah are together.

Dan: Which is incorrect.

Hannah: Why do you keep being so harsh about it? We’re like brother and sister.

Alisa: Actually, Dot and Dan are a couple.

Dan: All the rumors are correct (laughs).

Alisa: Were you guys in bands before you started?

Dot: Dan and I were in standard teenage rock bands and stuff. Nothing anything like this, this serious. Mine was unlistenable prog rock, crazy time signatures, stuff like that. Really self-indulgent. Dan, shall I describe your band?

Dan: Probably jazz-infused indie pop?

Alisa: Hannah, you were not in a band before London Grammar?

Hannah: No. I did write songs. I kind of once in a band — I never told you guys this — but it was me and this girl in my school who played guitar. We didn’t have a name. We just played guitar and wrote songs. We’d play a guitar at lunch, we never did a gig, so I don’t think it counts.

Alisa: Did you have any vocal training?

Hannah: From when I was 13 to 16, for three years, quite critical years. I was, later on, told by another vocal coach who does professional singers, that I was trained really well in those years which helped my voice develop later on. It was just this little Welsh lady who didn’t let me sing anything else other than classic Welsh folk songs.

Alisa: What kind of music did you like?

Hannah: I grew up listening to Motown, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston. Really powerful vocalists. I also liked some classical music as well. There are some … I liked Bloc Party. You liked them, Dan.

Alisa: On the record, you’ve got a cover of [Kavinsky's], “Nightcall.”

Hannah: We first heard that song from the film “Drive” — a lot of people first heard it there. We never intended to have it on the record, but we were in the studio, it was really late at night, we had some time to mess around and one of the producers said, why don’t you try to cover it. So we did. It’s one of the few songs where the parts you hear are completed live, whole takes, apart from the beat at the end.

Alisa: Do you do any other covers?

Hannah: There aren’t any other covers on our album, but we do perform “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak.

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

Alisa: What made you chose “Wicked Game” to add to your repertoire?

Dot: I dunno. It’s one of those songs we all really love. It feels like like an obvious choice to us because its sonically not that dissimilar. There’s a lot of space in the record. The best thing about it is the transition from such a male-voiced song to when Hannah sings it.

Dan: It’s kind of funny that it’s become a part of the set and people know us for doing it now. We just did it for a session we did in England for Zane Lowe [on BBC Radio 1] and we had to do a wild card track. And now it’s our thing.

Dot: We we decided to play it in the set, it was so fun to play. A lot of people shout it out. When Dan plays the first note, someone goes, “That’s 'Wicked Game'!"

Dan: And last night I played the bloody wrong note.

Alisa: I read that the primary goal of your band is to keep space in mind within your music. When you were going into the recording studio, was it difficult to make sure there was enough space? Were you stripping away elements or did you not put in that many to begin with?

Dan: On some songs the space was there and remained there and we didn’t add too much, Like “Hey Now,” we maintained the space from the very beginning. But you do have some records or songs that, for whatever reason and you believe they might be potentially singles, you begin to think — or producers think — you should add more, to make the chorus bigger or create a dynamic. Dot would take the files and we’d sit in a room together and go, “Mute this, mute this, delete, delete, delete” and it got to the point that we were deleting stuff so no one could unmute it. The modern-day equivalent of burning tapes.

Dot: That sounds really emo.

Dan: That does sound a bit emo.

Hannah: You both sound really emo in this interview.

Alisa: Don’t you cringe when you hit delete?

Dot: No, it feels really liberating.

Hannah: I was literally like, thank God, get rid of that. When you’ve written a song and you know it so well, producing it for such a long time, you know every song, every part of that song, every sound that’s in there and what it does. If there’s a sound in there that you hate, it drives you insane.

Dot: What is annoying is if you hit delete and then two months later you listen to the song and go, “How did that sound get back there?”

Alisa: Was there any head-butting? You were on same page?

Hannah: Pretty much at the end we were on the same page?

Dan: It took a while for us to get to that page. Before that we were head-butting a little bit. There was a point where we spent time in the studio with producers and we’d argue and it wouldn’t be very pleasant.

Hannah: There was one producer in particular I feel pretty bad for. We never really argued; it was more stony silence.

Dan: It was incredibly unproductive to be in the studio and for that to be happening. But it’s part of the development of a band and we went through the process of understanding that space was the key thing. You learn that’s what you need, you go and delete everything and that’s how you reach that point … to be on the same page.

[video:http://youtu.be/VwWYf383jqw]

The Dismemberment Plan: TAS In Session

The 2010 reunion of the mighty Washington D.C. rockers The Dismemberment Plan was good news, but the 2013 release of the quartet's first album in 12 years, the deliberately misspelled Uncanney Valley, has been cause for celebration for the group's devout fans.

The quartet wrap up a U.S. tour this week and then head to the U.K. later this month for a string of dates, including All Tomorrow's Parties. They return Stateside for jaunt down the West Coast in December.  

While in New York last month for a show at Terminal 5, The Dismemberment Plan — Travis Morrison (vocals), Eric Axelson (bass/keys), Jason Caddell (guitars/vocals), Joseph Easley (drums) — stopped by The Alternate Side for a very amusing session with Alisa Ali — watch the videos and read the highlights below. Listen to The Dismemberment Plan in session this Friday, November 7, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11am EST, also streaming online.

UPDATE: Listen to The Dismemberment Plan's session now in the FUV archives.

Alisa Ali: Are you still D.C. based?

Eric Axelson: Two out of four. Travis is in Brooklyn and I’m in Richmond.

Alisa: You broke up in 2003, but that said, people said you were you on hiatus?

Travis Morrison: What were the other options?

Alisa: Option A is breakup, B stay together or C, hiatus.

Eric: And D is pizzas?

Alisa: So you really broke up?

Travis: I say so yes. We’d officially said we’re not doing anything anymore and we changed our minds.

Eric: We had a discussion about it and a farewell tour.

Alisa: So why did you break up?

Eric: I think we were generally tired. We’d been touring a lot, working on a new record and weren’t feeling all of it. Feeling a little burned out in general.

Alisa: So you decided to go on an extended vacation, sit in the Carribean, do nothing and drink margaritas?

Travis: Why wasn’t vacation a choice? I like this! We went on vacation for 12 years. So good! Eric: We met Gilligan. Travis: It implies we made a lot of money! Which is not true! But I like that illusion.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U6wBuiXmAU]

Travis: You know after we finished the album I went to Jazz Fest, it’s Louisiana, it’s Catholic and there, in the Food Court, eating a bunch of crawfish were five Franciscan nuns drinking itty bitty airplane bottles of wine and eating their crawfish. And I thought, there’s the nun on drugs! They’re real! I almost went over and went, “I need to tell you something!”

Joe Easley: I would have loved to have seen that conversation.

Travis: There were a lot of nuns and priests at Jazz Fest.

Alisa: You’re very busy with your own work, but you see a lot of other shows as well.

Eric: Yeah, sometimes, it comes in waves.

Travis: I saw Superchunk that was good. We play these festivals so the bands come to us. When we went on vacation in 2001, the festival thing wasn’t really going in America. And when we got back from Barbados, the festival thing was totally like England! So we can now go play a show and The Replacements are there! It was so weird!

Alisa: Oh! You played Riot Fest!

Travis: Twice!

Alisa: Did you ever catch the original Replacements?

Eric: They stopped in '90?

Travis: ‘91.

Eric: But they were barely playing at that point.

Travis: In junior high I had tickets to see the Smiths on the Queen is Dead tour but my parents wouldn’t come pick me up from summer camp early enough.

Joe: Wow.

Eric: Dude, that’s terrible.

Alisa: That’s really bad.

Eric: Next time I see Judy, I’m gonna give her a talking to ….

Travis: Not just any Smiths tour.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF2G1BGMtbE]

Alisa: Speaking of parents, you also have a song on the album called “Daddy Was A Real Good Dancer.” You refer to a mystery about your parents, what are their lives like … somebody has kids here.

Joe: I’ve got two of them. I’m really tired.

Alisa: Plus you work for NASA.

Joe: That’s right. Really tired.

Alisa: Did you work on the recent Curiosity Mission?

Joe: No, I work for the Satellite Servicing Capabilities office and they basically repair satellites. I’m a robotics engineer and I get to drive a big industrial robot when we test flight hardware which is awesome. I get to support flight ops and we help develop procedures, refine tools and stuff like that for robots to go fix satellites. Which nobody does yet! So it’s kind of cool.

Travis: So this is a sales plug.

Joe: Hopefully they’ll give us enough money to go fly our own satellite. But we get to do all of these things on the National Space Station with the robot that they have up there.

Alisa: That is amazing. Are you guys jealous?

Eric: I’m super bad at math, so no.

Alisa: It makes sense that you’re a drummer.

Joe: Most people say the opposite actually! Do you know about drummer jokes?

Travis: The drummer of Blur is also an engineer.

Alisa: I don’t know any [drummer jokes].

Joe: How do you know the stage is level? The drummer is drooling out of both sides of his mouth.

Eric: How do you know there’s a drummer at your door?

Joe: Knocks keep speeding up.

Travis: How many drummers does it take to change a lightbulb?

Alisa: How many?

Travis: They have a machine that can do it now!

Joe: I work at NASA! Shut up! 

 

Holy Ghost!: TAS In Session

Holy Ghost! is one of New York's quintessential dance bands, joining LCD Soundsystem, The Roots and The Juan MacLean as a group that boldly that bring live instrumentation to the forefront.

The duo of Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser, friends since childhood, released their ambitious sophomore album, Dynamics, in September, an exuberant collection that at times reveals its wistful, more pensive undertow. The Alternate Side traveled to Brooklyn for a session with Holy Ghost! while the band — which expands to a sextet on tour — rehearsed for their second North American road trip, continuing through early November. Alex and Nick discussed their evolution as a band, the difficulty of surviving as a musician in New York and their summer tour with New Order.

Holy Ghost! plays a hometown headlning gig at Terminal 5 tonight, Halloween, and will be on TAS on 91.5 for a session this Friday, November 1, at 11am EDT, also streaming online.

Plus, you can listen to Holy Ghost! in Session in the FUV archives now.

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

Kara Manning: When I walked into your studio your entire band — there is a sextet that goes out on the road — was arguing about the best bagels in New York.

Nick Millhiser: I was saying that a good bagel is a fresh bagel, which means that it’s warm and it doesn’t need to be toasted. Needing to toast a bagel is usually the mark of a bad bagel.

Kara: The discussion was so detailed about what makes a good bagel, I thought, oh my, how do they ever record an album? It indicated a level of perfectionism. Does that exemplify who the two of you are?

Alex Frankel: I wasn’t involved in that [bagel] conversation! Inevitably, there’s a point where it’s like, whatever, you just go to the corner store and get the bagel that’s nearest.

Kara: You did take your time with [your self-titled] first album. You released a lot of singles first. You both had day jobs. What were those?

Alex: I worked at a record label when I got out of college. I went to Bard in upstate New York, then I started to work at !K7 Records in Brooklyn and then I got a job working for Moby as his assistant. Moby was my last day job. I don’t know if that was my last "day" job — it was a 24 hour job.

Nick: Night and day job. I worked at a wine shop.

Kara: Did you feel that doing all of that impeded what you wanted to do artistically? Or you were at the pace you wanted to be at to do what you needed to do.

Alex: It’s hard to judge it in retrospect but I don’t think a day job hurts someone’s ability to make music. I would just get off work and then run home or run over to Nick’s and we’d work from 7 to 10, but probably get more done from 7 to 10 then …

Nick: In an eight hour day.

Alex: Because you felt the pressure.

Nick: It’s still fun now but it’s definitely quitting day jobs and making this a day job. It’s a job we love, but it’s still a job. There’s something definitely to having a day job. It kept [the music] exciting and doing that inherently kept it a hobby which makes it more exciting and fun. It’s something that you wait all day to do as opposed to the thing you do all day.

Alex: So we’re available.

Kara: [In interviews] you’ve picked your first album apart quite a bit. Was there a disappointment with it or were you fine with what it was?

Nick: I think we were both happy with it. I think it was as good a job as we could do at the time. I’m still very proud of that record. I think we felt the same way finishing this record to a certain extent. The second we finish anything — the process of finishing anything — is a learning process. Whenever we finish anything, whether it’s a remix, an individual song or an album as a whole, there’s always this sort of, “Well, next time we want to do X, Y and Z.”

Alex: Not to play analyst, but it’s a little like when you move on to another relationship, you look back and think, that relationship was really messed up, that’s why this one is so much better. There’s that component of it. It’s also about convincing yourself that what you’re doing, currently, is a step forward. I think that’s the case for any artist in any medium.

Nick: I think some of the problems we had with the first record didn’t necessarily have to do with the music or the production or the songwriting itself. I think a big problem we had with it, at the time, was so much of it had been released already. So as a new album, our first album, it didn’t feel as coherent. Looking back at it now and having as much distance as we have from all of those songs, it feels more cohesive than it did to me at the time.

Alex: Some of the songs on the first album were four years old.

Nick: Now they just all feel old (laughs).

Kara: On Dynamics, your new album, you were not afraid to go in a softer, even darker place both lyrically and sonically. Did this also parallel the transition from your 20s into your 30s? Is there something about this album that reflects that?

Alex: Yeah, I think the album reflected the changes going on. I’m sure what was going on lyrically or in the mood of the music …

Kara: It’s still very much a dance record, but there’s …

Alex: An undercurrent of darkness.

Kara: A New York melancholy, a wistfulness …

Nick: We were born that way.

Alex: We have always been that way! And the truth is that we come from liking moody, melancholy music. All of the rap stuff that we liked growing up, particularly rap, the production was dark.

Nick: Or we gravitated to things that merged the two. Even “Hold On,” the first song. When that song starts, it’s verk dark and minor and then it shifts. We both always like things that occupy both worlds.

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

Kara: When building a song like “Okay,” does [the process always] begin with the the two of you?

Alex: That song started, like many of the songs on the record, as a bad-sounding demo that I made on an iPad. It sounds really bad! But Nick and I have known each other long enough so that I can send him something and he can see that there’s something in there. Nick worked on it, sent it back, redoing the parts. In terms of working with band, at least for the writing and recording, we just keep it as the two of us. That’s usually whether it’s me starting something or Nick, that’s the way it works. One of us does something and sends it to the other who gets excited [about it] and turns it around.

Nick: “Start” can mean very different things. Something like “Okay” was something that Alex sent me. As a song, it was pretty full-formed, but something like “Dumb Disco Ideas,” which I started, was just a bassline and a drum part.

Alex: I demo a lot at home. I’m writing lyrics and when you’re writing lyrics, at least for me with demos, I’m thinking more about the song than the production.There’s less tinkering going on and more output. It only takes 15 minutes to write a song – or it should — so you do a lot more of them. But if I was worrying about the drums, then it could take a lot longer to demo something. Production labor is a lot more intensive than songwriting labor, at least in our case. “Okay”

Kara: So Alex and Nick, you’ve known each other since you were in diapers?

Alex: Not that far back! We were six.

Nick: I wore diapers until very late.

Alex: We were both 13 and still in diapers.

Kara: Did you grow up near each other or did your parents know each other?

Nick: We met in grade school and we did live very close.

Alex: Two blocks away from each other.

Nick: You lived on West End [Avenue] …

Alex: Nick stayed in one place and my family moved around ten blocks on the Upper West Side with Nick as the center.

Kara: Growing up, you must have been influenced by bands like the Beastie Boys. You’re such archivists, there’s always elements of your influences in your music.

Nick: I’ve always liked records that sound, to a certain extent in some subtle way, like someone whose taste you respect is making you a mixtape. The LCD [Soundsystem] records feel that way, Beastie Boys feel that way to me and a lot of rap records that we listened to when we were kids. We learned so much about music obsessing over producers like Pete Rock, [DJ] Premier and [J] Dilla. You’d hear these tracks and then you’d find the record that they sampled. I don’t think we do anything that overt but I have always liked records that do feel like someone showing you their record collection.

Kara: Do you tend to listen to a lot of music while doing an album?

Alex: I kind of obsessively search for something to get going on. I don’t sit and listen to music in the background that much. I’m sitting at my computer or in a record store, flipping through, trying to find something to get going from. I’ve been forcing myself to listen to new music more and more. I bought the new Drake album, the new Haim. I’ve been trying to buy popular music because I feel out of touch. But during the recording of the record, searching through everything.

Nick: We both do that. At some point, early on in making the record, I realized I wasn’t listening to any music and I thought, that can’t be good. It was at a time when we hadn’t been DJing a lot and we were starting to DJ again and I was so sick of everything in my record collection.

Alex: Bill Nelson was something that we found during the making of the record that was a big deal. “In The Red,” on the album, has references to Bill Nelson. He helped a lot.

Kara: You had an extraordinary mentor in James Murphy and you met him when you were ...

Alex: 18.

Kara: How did you connect with him?

Alex: James was pre-LCD.

Nick: He was just James Murphy. He did front of house at Brownie’s.

Alex: He was a little more than that. He had a record label and he was producing The Rapture.

Nick: There were a lot of people with record labels!

Alex: He had an office in the West Village which impressed me.

Nick: That’s true. A very nice studio.

Alex: A lot of toys.

Nick: And he was very funny.

Alex: And he had to cut out of our first meeting to go to therapy. And I thought, I like this already. We were signed to Capitol Records in our first band, a rap group, and we were searching for producers to produce a bunch of 18-year-old kids making rap music.

Kara: It was Automato?

Alex: Yes, Automato. Our manager/A&R person, Laurel Sterns at Capitol and Mia Jones, our manager, connected us both to DFA with James. We went in to meet with James and Tim and they were the first producers that we met that seemed to understand both the hip hop side of stuff and the live side of stuff. James was an amazing audio engineer, acoustic audio like drums, bass and keyboards, and Tim Goldsworthy, his partner at the time, was a programmer. That was the combination we were looking for.

Kara: Did that album ever come out?

Alex: Yes, it eventually came out on Coup de Grâce.

Nick: Which I believe means mercy killing (laughs).

Alex: Basically, Capitol financed a small label just to put out this record. It didn’t turn into anything for us and it was a very different time in the music industry where you put out a record today, you put it up on Soundcloud, you get a few thousand listens, maybe get some DJ gigs and suddenly your career has begun. A lot of musicians are like that. Then, it was like, make a record, it goes to some bigwigs in L.A. who put it out and then you sit around and hope. There was no way to interact with the world; you were separated by these huge machines, whether it was PR or A&R people. So we waited around for it to take off ... and it didn’t.

Nick: It was really interesting, the culture we came from growing up in New York was very DIY. At a very young age, we organized our own shows, we had a bunch of friends who were in bands, quasi-professional bands. But it wasn’t until the time that we met James and Tim [Goldsworthy] [and], coincidentally, I moved into an apartment in Bushwick with a bunch of strangers, that [I met] a kid who was my age and grew up in Brooklyn. Our circles, as kids, didn’t cross. But he grew up playing in a lot of crusty punk bands and they’d all press up 7-inches, arrange their own shows, and make objects to release. It wasn’t until then — and meeting James and Tim — that being DIY occurred to us.

Alex: We were very young when we were approached by major labels. We were 16 years old. We never even got beyond the stage of making flyers ourselves and doing shows in New York. We did go into the studio, some crappy studio in midtown Manhattan for $300 for the day and made a record and CDs out of it, but we never took it [beyond that] before the majors came in and took old of the operation.

Kara: So where did Holy Ghost! come into being?

Alex: The basic chronology was: Automato dissolving in 2004, I go back to school at Bard, Nick, while finishing his degree at NYU, starts playing with The Juan MacLean and both of us continue to help out at DFA, whether that was playing on remixes or playing piano or drums if James needed that. Nick and I continued to get together to make music for Automato even though it was clear that Automato wasn’t happening anymore. We realized that we no longer had a rapper or a band. By necessity, we started to sing over our demos and try to shape them without the help of the rest of the band we were used to working with. We started playing James and Tim at DFA …

Nick: And Juan. Juan [of The Juan MacLean] was very important.

Alex: Yes, around 2005-6 these demos. Basically, James picked “Hold On” out of the batch of crappy demos we sent him and said, “That’s the one. Finish that one.” It was just a beat at that point. We finished it, went in [the studio] with [James], mixed it and put it out. At that point, in 2007, putting out “Hold On” on DFA was already the peak of what we wanted to do. We have our own 12-inch on DFA? This is insane. We’ve been wanting this for four years. From that, friends started [asking us to do remixes].

Nick: We sought them out. As excited as we were to have a record come out on DFA, we were very much looking at James and Tim, James specifically, at the way he was doing things. I remember thinking, that’s really smart. He has a band, he makes his own music, he’s also a producer who remixes stuff. He DJs. He’s able to do all these different things and somehow keep them different. We’d always wanted to do remixes, we tried to do them in Automato, but there were too many cooks in the kitchen. The first remix we did for Panthers — they were our friend’s band and putting out a single ["Goblin City'} on Vice — and we were like, “Can we do it? You don’t have to pay us anything.”

Alex: “Hold On” sounded polished when it came out in some way, but we were really clueless still. That was a fluke that it sounded that good. We didn’t even know what vocal compression was. We wanted to do remixes to learn how to be better producers.

Kara: What was it like touring with New Order this summer?

Alex: When you meet someone that you really look up to, you’re kind of scared that they’re going to be monsters and not live up to what you’ve dreamt them to be. In [New Order’s] case they were total sweethearts and really helpful and encouraging. They knew the music. It was really cool. We took a plane back with them from Atlanta to New York and they were saying that they had “I Will Come Back,” one of the first 12-inches we put out. It was pretty weird to know that they had it this whole time.

Nick: Sometimes, these things come together because some manager or booking agent is like, hey this makes sense.

Kara: But they knew your music.

Alex: Yeah. For “I Will Come Back” we made this video for it that is a replica of their video for “Confusion.” And at the time we put it out, we did it on 16mm and put it up on the internet, never expected to reach them. So Bernard [Sumner] said he had the 12-inch and I was like, “Did you ever see the video?” And he was like, “Yeah, to be honest I was half worried that you guys were going to be stalkers! I’m glad you guys are cool because it freaked me out a little!”

Kara: Speaking of great stories, you made your dads celebrities in the video for “Wait and See.”

Nick: Now they’re out of control.

Alex: My dad recently said to me, I’ve worked as a writer for 25 years and I never thought I’d die being best known for being in my son’s music video.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcehYrGX8TU]

Kara: Holy Ghost! is continuing a tradition of some great New York bands. As New York, over the last 12 years under Mayor Bloomberg, has shifted and changed, have you noticed a change with musicians — people moving away? Has the scene changed?

Nick: Yes, we’ve definitely noticed a change. New York is never as good as it was ten years ago. But it is the first time I’m seeing people move who can’t afford to live here anymore. I think the same thing happened when my parents were 30 as well. People have kids and decide they don’t want to raise kids in the city.

Alex: I think Instagram and Facebook have changed the scene more than Bloomberg has. I think living publicly in New York, the cliquey-ness of the scene.

Nick: The cliquey-ness and if I hear one more DJ or person refer to themselves as a brand and building their brand ...

Alex: I actually don’t mind, I don’t have a yes or no on any it. But I think the music scene has changed a lot in self-promotion and brand promotion in Brooklyn. Connecting yourself to other people visibily. I know what people’s houses look like. I know what people’s studios look like. You know so much about people.

Kara: It takes the mystery out of it.

Alex: In 2007 when we put out "Hold On," I remember meeting Lee Douglas who did “New York Story” which is a 12-inch that came out that we both love and hail. [We] thought, who could this possibly be? I met him at ATP. Normal, 27-year-old dude who lived in Brooklyn. We ended up hanging out that night, but meeting him, I was like, “Sir, what an honor.” It was an honor. But it probably wouldn’t have been such an honor if I’d seen what he’d eaten for breakfast.

Nick: When I look back on my experience of music as a kid, in retrospect I can say that half of what made music so exciting to me at that age or what excited me the most about bands at that time, had very little to do with the bands themselves. It had to do with whatever I imprinted on them. Especially a band like the Beastie Boys. My narrative that I invented about that band had nothing to do with them and was not based in reality at all — all you knew about that band was a few interviews a year and pictures of them apparently living in a bunker with a half-pipe and a recording studio. I thought they lived together in my dream world. I really did! That was my vision of what I was going to be when I was grown up. I’m going to live in some loft with my friends with a recording studio, a basketball court and a half-pipe. And now, I don’t know if it’s better or worse, but the accessibility probably makes music seem more attainable as a profession which is a good thing in some ways. But I think the experience is inherently different.

Alex: I think New York has been affected by it.

Nick: … The city is insanely expensive.

Alex: It’s not doable.

Kara: You don’t see yourselves ever having to leave, do you?

Alex: I am 100 percent thinking about it. If you really want to be an artist, if you want to be away from your city and your home 250 days a year trying to make ends meet on the road, then you can kind of afford to live in New York City. But if you had to take a year off to make an album, how would you survive in the city? We barely did on this record. Where it is now, I don’t see how. It also seems somewhat fake now to claim to be … there’s something pretentious about someone saying they’re making an album in New York or taking a year off. I don’t believe that you can do that anymore. You can’t be working at a diner down the street and making a record. You either have to have backing privately … it kind of makes me want to leave and do something. I look at L.A. and my friends who live upstate who are living more in tune with making art.

Nick: We’re a band that demands a lot of space physically. We have a studio. It’s not a big studio, but we don’t work on a laptop. We need a space to work as a band. [This studio we’re in] is about as small a space as we can practice in. This space is expensive. It’s an empty room with brick walls. That is gone in New York. There’s no cheap, large space in New York.

Alex: So if you’re listening, don’t move to New York!

Holy Ghost!'s Dynamics is available now on DFA Records. Remaining North American tour dates are below:

Oct 30 - Boston, MA at Sinclair
Oct 31 - New York, NY at Terminal 5
Nov 1 - Washington, DC at 9:30 Club
Nov 2 - Philadelphia, PA at TLA
Nov 4 - Burlington, VT at Higher Ground
Nov 5 - Montreal, QC at Belmont
Nov 6 - Toronto, ON at The Hoxton
Nov 7 - Pontiac, MI at The Crofoot
Nov 8 - Columbus, OH at The Basement
Nov 9 - Chicago, IL at Metro

 

 

AlunaGeorge: FUV Live

During The Alternate Side's fall fundraising drive, AlunaGeorge's relentlessly catchy debut album, appropriately titled Body Music, is offered as a thank you gift, along with Live From The Alternate Side, Volume 2, for a contribution of only $30 — yes, that's right! Plus, you'll become a TAS and FUV member. 

Not familiar with AlunaGeorge? Check out the FUV Live session with AlunaGeorge in our archives, watch videos of the charismatic duo of Aluna Francis and George Reid in Studio A below or listen to the session when it airs on TAS on 91.7 WNYE on Friday, October 25, at 11am EDT, also streaming online.

 

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

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDyLq0fRkjk]

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv1lOyX7gJk]

Pure Bathing Culture: TAS In Session

When Pure Bathing Culture's Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille visited WFUV's studios, they observed that it was the second time they'd been to our Bronx studios. Their first time? As touring musicians with Andrew Cabic's Vetiver.

Their work with Cabic  — and a subsequent friendship with musician and producer Richard Swift — led the Brooklyn-based couple to relocate to Portland, Oregon in 2010 where they eventuallly formed Pure Bathing Culture. The pair released their graceful debut, Moon Tides, earlier this summer and will return to New York on November 8, opening for Widowspeak at Bowery Ballroom. On the road, Hindman and Versprille recruit bassist Zach Tillman and drummer Brian Wright to expand Pure Bathing Culture's lineup.

Watch videos of Pure Bathing Culture live in Studio A below, read interview highlights and listen to the full conversation with Hindman and Versprille via TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, October 4, at 11 a.m. EDT, also streaming online.

UPDATE: Listen to Pure Bathing Culture's session in the FUV and TAS archives now.

Kara Manning: You’ve been [to WFUV] in the past as part of the backing band for Andy Cabic and Vetiver. Are you still a part of Andy’s touring crew?

Daniel Hindman: We have been. He hasn’t really done any major tours recently and we both hope that we’ll be a part of it. He just came to Portland and visited some friends. He came over and showed up some new music for the upcoming record that he’s working on which sounded really amazing. Hopefully we’ll be playing with him again soon, whenever he’s ready.

Kara: Moon Tides, your debut album as Pure Bathing Culture, is one of the prettiest records of the year. A lot of it came about because of that hiatus from Vetiver and you met Richard Swift, your producer, through [Vetiver], correct?

Sarah Versprille: Yes, Richard was touring and opening for Vetiver, early on after we joined Vetiver in 2009. We met him on that tour and got along really well. Then we played in his band shortly after, the following summer. We played in his band periodically over the years. He was one of the first people who we showed music to when we started, sporadically, working on it.

Kara: He hooked you up with working with Foxygen and Damien Jurado as well?

Daniel: Yes.

Kara: So you’ve been touring — or backing — musicians for other people. Did you feel that you needed a certain bravery to commence your own band?

Daniel and Sarah (together): Yes!

Daniel: Definitely. I think we still need bravery. Putting a record out has been really frightening for us. Putting something out that people cover in the press and write about, whether they say good things or bad things, it feels really fragile to you. Yeah, we had to get brave to do this.

Sarah: I think when we started doing it we were thinking about making music together ... but at least I wasn’t thinking about how brave one might need to be to push it out into the world.

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

Kara: Sarah, being the frontwoman now, you [have to carry yourself] in a different way. Watching you soundcheck the first song, “Pendulum,” it was interesting to [observe] a certain Stevie Nicks quality to you. And you also sing very close to the mic. How did you adapt your style for live performance?

Sarah: It’s been a work in progress. I think it’s changed a lot for me as we’ve played live. When we recorded the EP we’d never played a show. Then, all of the sudden, we had this music and we [needed to start] playing shows. I feel that I’ve learned most of what I’ve been doing really naturally, just being on the bandstand playing music with the band. Feeling how [it is] to be that person on stage which is very different from being in someone [else’s] band. But it’s really fun for me and I get a total kick out of singing the music.

Kara: Daniel, was there ever a conversation about who would be the singer of Pure Bathing Culture?

Daniel: No! (all laugh). The first song that we ever wrote together was a song off our EP called “Lucky One.” I just came home one day and Sarah had put vocals on top of some music I had written so that was the template of how it works.

Kara: Daniel, [as I watched] you play on “Pendulum,” I thought that there is a real Lindsey Buckingham influence to what you do. You’ve also chatted in the past about Vini Reilly of the Durutti Column being an influence, that latticework [texture] on guitar. Can you talk a bit about your approach to guitar and how that informed Moon Tides?

Daniel: Those are definitely two of my favorite guitar players, probably my most favorite guitar players. Those two guys are at opposite ends of the spectrum too. Lindsey is this very virtuosic player who does solos and Vini Reilly is more latticework, the sound that is the production of the track. With Pure Bathing Culture there’s tons of guitarwork everywhere. The songs usually start on guitar and we love to layer guitars in the studio. So I think Vini Reilly’s approach really influenced me in this band. [It's] something I think about a lot. Also the drum machines in the Durutti Column stuff. How big and vibe-y a track can sound with just a simple drum machine and a guitar. Another person that really influenced me was JJ Cale. Simple, vintage drum machines and guitars can make a really big sound.

[video:http://youtu.be/10RrQjJRi5A]

Daniel: We’re not trying to participate in some zeitgeist moment of dream pop. We wouldn’t be a boy-girl duo if there were more people that we wrote songs with. I think that utilizing those textures and aspects of pop culture history is just a natural progression. We don’t try to define ourselves with that; we might do something completely different for our next record.

Kara: I think you said in an interview, Daniel, that your next album would be totally different.

Daniel: We’re definitely working on it conceptually and just starting to write it. We definitely want to do something a lot more expansive. This recording was very minimal, everything was really fast. We didn’t spend a lot of time on the tracks. There’s a lot of honesty in it, but there wasn’t a ton of thought or production. I think for the next record we’ll try to do something more emotionally expansive. We’ll see what it is. But I know it will be different.

Kara: What was it that your producer Richard Swift brought to the mix? He’s been a tireless advocate of your sound.

Sarah: He is and that’s a huge thing that he brought to the table for us: support and always being there, in the studio, doing something. He always would say, “Yes! That sounds good.” [He] encouraged us to make the sound that we were hearing and making us feel good about doing it.

Daniel: I think we did feel funny at first. This is a band? This is what we would do? Record all of these guitars direct and have these drum machines? Call it this weird name? And Richard was always there to go, “Yeah dude! Yeah! That’s f**king great!”

Kara: Do you think Richard is the one who really pushed you to create this band?

Daniel: For me, definitely.

Sarah: For sure.

Daniel: He was the first person to make me feel valid about it. He was in a community of people that we respected. Yeah, he was at the beginning of things for us.

As soon as we began writing the songs, we knew we were onto something that was honest and representative of what we were going through in our lives.

Pure Bathing Culture's Moon Tides is available now on Partisan Records.

Cloud Control: TAS In Session

Australia's Cloud Control's charismatic debut album, 2010's Bliss Release, won the band a blissful array of awards and nominations, including a 2011 win for the Australian Music Prize, an award which enabled the band to make a career-minded move to London.

Last week, the quartet released its sophomore album, Dream Cave, a progressive leap to new electronic frontiers, produced by Barney Barnicott who has also worked with Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian. The birth of the new album wasn't always an easy road for either band or producer, as Cloud Control revealed when they recently visited The Alternate Side for a session and a conversation.

Cloud Control — Alister Wright, Heidi Lenffer, Ulrich Lenffer and Jeremy Kelshaw — embark on an extensive UK and European tour this week, lasting well into November. Although the band played New York earlier this summer, no additional Stateside tour dates have been announced yet.

Below, watch Cloud Control perform new songs, like the grand gallop of "The Smoke, The Feeling," in Studio A and listen to the full session this Friday, September 27, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11 a.m. EDT, also streaming online.

UPDATE: You can listen to the session now in the FUV archives.

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

Kara Manning: You’re currently living in London because you won the Australian Music Prize. That award carried a nice purse of $30,000 which enabled you to move from the Blue Mountains of Sydney to London. Are you still in London?

Alister “Al” Wright: We’re still in London. We’ve actually lived there for two years now.

Kara: So you used that money to facilitate a move.

Al: I guess so. Pretty much. We moved over there because we had the chance to release our record through Infectious and they kind of helped us out with finding places to live and all that kind of thing.

Kara: Did living in the UK alter how you wanted to record Dream Cave?

Heidi Lenffer: I don’t know. We’ve talked about this and I think we’ve come to the conclusion that this album could have been recorded anywhere really. There’s no UK-specific sound to it or even logistically. We kind of recorded it in a similar way. We holed ourselves away in a house, we live on site. We lived upstairs and recorded downstairs in the countryside in Kent which is an hour south of London. So it wasn’t too dissimilar [from our debut]. The main difference was that we spent two months focused on just doing that whereas the previous album was done in bits and pieces over nine months.

Kara: Because you had day jobs?

Heidi: Yeah, most of us. I think Al was the only one of us who didn’t have a job.

Kara: You worked with a UK producer, Barney Barnicott who is well known, he’s worked with Peace, Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys and bands like that. Was that your choice or something the label suggested?

Al: It actually came about through one of our friends, Davo, who we played basketball with in London. He recommended Barney to us because he worked with Barney before in one of his old bands. They were called Pull Tiger Tail. They really enjoyed working with him and Davo is a really nice guy and he thought we’d worked really well with [Barney]. The main thing is that Barney had expressed interest in us as well, so we were excited to work with someone who would be really enthusiastic about our music and be passionate about the project.

Kara: When I first heard “Dojo Rising," [I was surprised] how different it sounded from Bliss Release. There was very much an organic feel to the first record, which you’ve managed to maintain but bring a grittier, electronic edge to Dream Cave. I would imagine that was a deliberate move on your part.

Heidi: That’s interesting that you chose that track because that was one of the tracks where we had some creative differences with Barney and Al worked really hard to produce that track in a way that we were happy with versus Barney’s opinions.

Kara: What was the conflict?

Heidi: Oh, just what sounds good. The compressed cymbals and stuff.

Al: I don’t really know that much about producing so the way I did it was really unconventional and maybe hard to mix and Barney just didn’t really like it. So it was hard. We had a few times like that on the record where we had clashes and things and we had to stick up for ourselves to get it to sound how we wanted.

Heidi: The flip side of that is that he transformed several other songs with his own creative ideas.

Al: He came up with some really good stuff too. “Dojo Rising”

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

Kara: Heidi, you and Ulrich are brother and sister?

Heidi: That’s correct.

Kara: But you, Heidi, are the person who is responsible for Cloud Control?

Al: Pretty much!

Heidi: I accept full responsibility. There’s a thesis [that you write in university]. I was doing my honors thesis and I needed an escape, something to channel energy into. This band competition came around every year and I thought, oh this would be really fun to enter! Just for laughs! So I pulled these guys together for six weeks. We wrote four songs, entered, got knocked out, but found something special that we then came back and won the next year, 2006.

Kara: And then to turn around in 2010 and have one of the most successful and critically acclaimed albums that came out of Australia is a pretty big deal. Something that probably was beyond your wildest thoughts and surprised your parents as well.

Heidi: They love this whole band rollercoaster! We even made my mother a suggestion box that she can put her ideas in so that we don’t need to filter them! She really feels ownership because her son and daughter [are in the band].

Al: We rehearsed in the Lenffer basement for years as well. They would cook us food.

Kara: You come from the Blue Mountains region of New South Wales which sounds beautiful, but it’s the bush, yes? Can you explain the region?

Al: I think the best way to explain it to someone who has never been there is that it’s all based around one train line that goes up the mountains and then a bunch of suburbs that come off of those that are like regular suburban areas. On either side of that it’s national park and lots of trees and birds.

Heidi: The township follows the ridge so it slopes away from the townships and every suburb has a valley behind it.

Kara: Dream Cave is named because you did part of this recording in a 2000 year old limestone quarry?

Heidi: It was beer stone, and it was handmade. Limestone is carved through water and this was dug out by the Romans.

Kara: There was an amazing photo of all of you recording in this quarry on your Tumblr page. Was this an idea that you had all had?

Al: I guess it came about after we’d finished the song “Dream Cave.” We were always talking about recording in a space that had interesting acoustic properties. Not that there’s anything wrong with using digital reverbs, I love them, but we thought it would be really cool to record in a space that had that kind of thing naturally.

Heidi: We settled on the quarry because of accessibility mainly. You didn’t have to trudge through half a meter high passageways to get to it.

Kara: Dodging bats?

Heidi: There were definitely bats but they were hibernating.

Al: We had to be careful not to wake them. I didn’t see any flying around. They were just hanging about.

Kara: How do you wire something like that?

Al: There was power. Because they run tours in the cave and it was the off-season, we ran power from the start of the cave and we didn’t have to go too very far in before there was an enormous cavern. That part was easy. That was something that we did by ourselves as Barney stayed in the studio. We took a bunch of friends down as well and we only recorded vocals. To get the cave sound onto other instruments we did this thing called re-ampng which is where we played individual tracks out through speakers that we brought into the cave and recorded it at the other end of the cavern. So you’d play the drums through one of the speakers and record it at the other end. The recording sounds like the drums had been played in the cave.

Kara: Did you do this with every song?

Al: Just certain tracks. We didn’t have any rules. It was just whatever we felt needed that kind of sound.

Kara: “The Smoke, The Feeling” was one of those songs?

Heidi: No actually! “Scream Rave,” the opening track.

Al: “Moon Rabbit.” The drums.

Heidi: “Dream Cave.” Maybe just the three?

Al: We tried to sing vocals on “Tombstone” but we didn’t end up using that.

Kara: On “The Smoke, The Feeling,” Heidi, you use vocoder on that track. Do you evenly split the writing of the songs?

Heidi: It was different for both albums. On this album, either Al brings a kernel of a song or a fully-worked song. I brought three of the songs and Al brought five. The rest of them were band-generated and worked on to different degrees. Every song is a different way of writing. Sometimes we write in pairs. This time various people chipped in on the lyrics to different songs, which is interesting.

Kara: “The Smoke, The Feeling?”

Heidi: I wrote that one. I started it on a plane coming home from Ibiza after a show we played there. I was in an upbeat mood. It’s kind of an intense song, but I was quite adament, from the start, that it needed to have a driving dance groove. So the earliest demos have something quite similar sounding to the record now. The vocoder was happenstance; we borrowed a Roland vocoder, a proper one from the ‘70s, from a friend of ours and we just played around with it. I brought this song into our band room and it worked really well with the vocoder. So it stuck!

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsgu-Meqs-A]

Kara: Do you think that this album, Dream Cave, defines where you’ll be going next?

Al: I feel like it’s a bit more us, this album. I definitely feel like that. I feel so comfortable with it. Then again, I felt that way about Bliss Release in 2010 when we finished it.

Heidi: We were different people back then. We’ve evolved with the songs.

Al: This is an update of where we’re at.

Kara: I read that Roy Orbison and the Beastie Boys were influential in the making of this record too.  

Al: I was listening to a lot of Rancid as well because they’re one of my favorite bands when I was in high school and I was getting back ito them. So maybe it was that. I think I was influenced by Roy Orbison as well. But it’s hard to draw lines to everything and figure out where it came from?

Kara: What about different production styles that influenced you?

Al: Definitely. I think I was really happy when you were talking about the production having electronic themes but still fitting in with the way we roll as a live band. That was really important, to incorporate those things in a way that still made sense with everything that we do so it didn’t sound like we’d stuck a backing track on top of a bunch of things.

Franz Ferdinand: FUV Live

Nearly a decade ago, Franz Ferdinand won the prestigious 2004 Mercury Prize for their self-titled debut. Although the Glasgow rockers came close to splitting apart a couple of years ago, they persevered and just released a propulsive new album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. The confident album might well push Franz Ferdinand back onto the 2013 Mercury Prize shortlist when the nominees are announced this Wednesday, September 11.

Their style of mixing rock and dance elements with pure pop hooks was infectious and yielded hits like “Take Me Out,” “The Dark Of the Matinee” and “This Fire.” By 2009 – only 5 years after their debut – they’d released two more strong albums: You Could Have It So Much Better and Tonight. 

The Scottish band begins a North American tour next month, returning to New York on October 22 for a show at Hammerstein Ballroom.

Not long ago, TAS and FUV's Eric Holland caught up with Alex Kapranos, Nick McCarthy, Robert Hardy and Paul Thomson at Avatar Studio's in New York's Hell's Kitchen for a conversation and an acoustic session, focusing on songs from Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. 

Listen to the FUV Live session with Franz Ferdinand now, also airing on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, September 13, at 11 a.m. EDT and streaming online.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ooq23i-QGBM]

Lord Huron: FUV Live

The Alternate Side has been revisiting some of our favorite FUV Live sessions this summer and one of the bands that offered us a memorable performance in Studio A was Lord Huron.

The guys from Lord Huron now call Los Angeles home, but frontman Ben Schneider keeps his Michigan and modern prairie roots alive on the band's beautiful debut album, Lonesome Dreams.

It includes one of session host Alisa Ali's favorite songs of the year, called "Time To Run," and the band performed it (and a few more tunes) during a visit to Studio A late last year. Lord Huron is touring with Alt-J next month and will play a sold-out show at  Central Park's Rumsey Playfield on September 15.

Listen to Alisa's interview with Lord Huron in the FUV archives now or tune into a rebroadcast on TAS on 91.5 WNYE today, August 30, at 11 a.m. EDT, also streaming online.

Below, watch videos of the band live in Studio A.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ9KaAD3kA8]

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bwe1AYYk-i0]

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

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoMiSoA2CqY]

Pages