TAS Interview: Greg Edwards of Autolux
Fans of the taut, cerebral music of Los Angeles trio Autolux have reason to celebrate. The band, which released their debut, Future Perfect, way back in 2004, finally released their sophomore album, Transit Transit this summer on ATP Recordings and TBD (the Stateside home of Radiohead). Autolux are in the midst of a headlining tour which brings them to the New York area for three gigs this week.
As guitarist and vocalist Greg Edwards explained to The Alternate Side, the six-year gap between Future Perfect and their secon album wasn't quite a hiatus, but an indie label rebirth.
Autolux, the team of Edwards, lead vocalist and bassist Eugene Goreshter and drummer/vocalist Carla Azar, will be playing New York's Bowery Ballroom tonight, August 26, Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday, August 28 and Maxwell's in Hoboken on August 29.
The Alternate Side: Obviously, the question you must be fielding the most - and we have to ask - is what took you so long to release the second album? A need to take your time creatively or non-music issues?
Greg Edwards: Yes, this is always the first question. It's gotten to the point where I find myself tuning out while my voice churns on in the backround. I've also begun to notice an inclination to make things up. So I will try to be as honest and present as possible. Basically the time span was bookended by label related issues. At the outset we realized we no longer had any sympathetic allies at Columbia/ Epic and it seemed pointless and very uninspiring to even try to make another record for them. So the first order of business was to get unentangled from Epic. Then at the end of the process, after the record was finished we spent a while looking for the right home. It would have been pointless to let someone with lukewarm enthusiasm release it after all this time. Luckily between TBD and ATP we found exactly what we were hoping for. In between the label related stuff was the actual creation of the record, and all I can say is that it takes as long as it takes and hopefully next time will be a lot quicker.
TAS: Looking back on Future Perfect, how do you feel that Transit Transit marks the changes you've undergone as a band? What comes to mind when you ponder what you're proudest of achieving on this album?
Greg: Future Perfect was more the result of the three of us playing together in a room, finding a song's foundation, then refining and evolving it through various stages of recording and playing live. Transit Transit used that kind of formula for a few of the songs, but there also are songs which started as pure sound experiments with no real ambition other than being unique and exciting to us. Then, through layering, rearranging, removing layers, etc., we would unfold the experiment out into a complete sonic narrative. Because these were basically built from the ground up in a studio environment, it has been a little more challenging to interpret them live. I think overall we are happiest with the way we were able to integrate a more diverse group of songs into an album that works as a whole and takes the Autolux Mood to the next level.
TAS: Despite its darker proclivities and melancholy air, is it fair to say that this is an intimate, even sexy, record? "Highchair" is an utterly sultry track.
Greg: Yes. I wish more people would pick up on that Autolux is all about sex.
TAS: What momentum, artistic or otherwise, drove you all through the making of Transit Transit? Were there any goals you set for yourself? How do you work in a room together? Argumentative, convivial, freeform jams or constructing a song piece by piece?
Greg: We really have an unspoken understanding of what we are trying to do. It's like we are building a mystery animal from the genetics up and we don't know how big it will be or what it will look like or if it will devour us. But from the start we know everything about its immune system. We know what makes it healthy and we know what will kill it. As long as we don't forget those things, we can be pretty free to experiment while we wait for the whole animal to materialize. When we are working together in room there are really only two moods: we are either completely blissed out at our own brilliance or we are at each other's throats, about to quit.
TAS: The album really began for you in 2006, yes? You've been doing a lot of experimental work, gigs in art museums and outside collaborations, but when did the real songwriting process kick in?
Greg: Really the record took about two years to make, and that began in 2008 right around the time we released "Audience No.2." I guess it's kind of funny to release a single from your record just as you start working on it, but that's what we did. We felt that it was important to put something out there to maintain our own momentum as we finished the record, since it seemed like we had disappeared for so long.
TAS: You've gone through some record label travails, wandering in major label hell for a while. What fueled the choice to go with ATP?
Greg: Barry and Deborah at ATP have always been great supporters of us and good friends and true fans. It really was not a hard decision.
TAS: How do you decide which song is suited, vocally, to each of you? Is it a matter of whoever takes the lead on the songwriting?
Greg: It really is a matter of whos voice has the right texture, emotion, and rhythm and often times that ends up being the person who wrote the lyrics.
TAS: It always seems so peculiar to me that you're a band based in Los Angeles - you seem better suited to Berlin or Manchester. Were you heavily influenced by both Krautrock and Mancunian sounds?
Greg: Yes. Definitely Joy Division and Can.
TAS: What are you most looking forward to discovering about Transit Transit as you bring it on the road on tour and break it down? What do you enjoy about touring and what absolutely sucks?
Greg: I'm on the road right now, driving from Toronto to Montreal. We are about ten shows in and it's been great playing new songs with such different arrangements from anything we've done before. No matter how much you rehearse, you really don't know how a song will feel until you are up on stage in front of an audience. So far everything seems to be working pretty well.The actual shows are always the best part about touring. It's the one time you are forced into the moment. The rest of the time it's very easy to get numbed-out to the non-stop traveling, press, soundchecks and lack of sleep. There's really not a lot of time for fun. But the absolute worst part about being on tour for me is being away from my wife and two year old daughter.
TAS: What music are you all listening to - and any bands that you love that you wish had more
Greg: It's not new, but on this tour we've really been getting knocked out by Funcrusher Plus by Company Flow.
TAS: If you were to choose someone to cover an Autolux song, who would it be and which song would you choose?
Greg: Dylan, "Headless Sky" and Nina Simone, "The Bouncing Wall."
TAS: So, we're a bit nervous that we'll have to wait another six years until your third album. Do you hope to get back to work relatively quickly?
Greg: Yes. As soon as we are done with touring, probably early next year, we will start working on new material and probably release a song or two before the summer.
TAS: The music industry is completely different since the time you released your debut . What do you find most promising? Disconcerting?
Greg: I think it's amazing how easy it is to discover and become educated about music through the internet. The freedom of choice is inspiring and a little overwhelming when it's always a click away. As long as the industry can maintain a structure where artists can make enough money to live and work, i'm not too worried. But I don't have any great predictions to share. One thing that does annoy me is the push for constant content all the time. I really don't think it's necessary for a band to have chronic presence online in order to stay relevant and connected with fans. Obviously you don't have to take it to the Autolux extreme, but I think it's good for bands to disappear and only work on music sometimes. The constant feedback loop with the internet definitely has modulated an artist's God-given right to be a hermit.
Autolux North American Tour Dates:
8/26/10 New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom *
8/27/10 Boston, MA @ The Middle East Downstairs *
8/28/10 Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg *
8/29/10 Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwell’s *
8/31/10 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s *
9/1/10 Washington, DC @ Black Cat +
9/3/10 Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle +
9/4/10 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade +
9/5/10 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
9/7/10 Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live +
9/9/10 Austin, TX @ Emo’s +
9/10/10 Dallas, TX @ The Loft +
9/11/10 Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck +
9/12/10 Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater +
9/13/10 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge +
9/15/10 Tempe, AZ @ The Clubhouse +
9/16/10 Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up Tavern +
9/17/10 Pomona, CA @ Glasshouse +
9/18/10 Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre +
* - with This Will Destroy You
+ - with Gold Panda