Q&A: Lanu

Lanu: Her 12 Faces (Tru Thoughts, 4/19/11)

Lanu: “Beautiful Trash”

Lanu: Beautiful Trash

In order to fulfill his eclectic musical interests, producer/multi-instrumentalist Lance Ferguson created a separate solo image known as Lanu. Vastly divergent from his work with Australian funk/soul band The Bamboos, Lanu’s material combines dreamy pop melodies with hip-hop beats and electronic atmospheres to create a tasteful, lounge-worthy sound.

Lanu’s recently released second album, Her 12 Faces, displays a realized emphasis on songwriting and -crafting. But the 12-track collection also handsomely balances instrumental tunes with lush vocals by Australian pop star Megan Washington and others. Here, Lanu discusses his progression as a solo artist, working with the French language, and collaborating with Washington his newest record.

What couldn’t you achieve with The Bamboos that you’ve done with Lanu?

I try to push [The Bamboos] as far as I can, but at the end of the day, it’s still basically a soul/funk band. I’ve tried to sort of push the boundaries within those genres, but there are things I simply couldn’t do in The Bamboos —  I couldn’t really do a folk song or I couldn’t do stuff that’s too electronic. I guess for a while I was trying to use The Bamboos as a vehicle for all the music I liked, but I realized that there was this stuff that would never really fit. So I went back to my solo project and thought, “This is the best place to do this kind of stuff” — more electronic-based things and pop influences as well.

Q&A: Other Lives

Other Lives: Tamer Animals (TBD, 5/10/11)

Other Lives: “For 12”

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Within the relaxed confines of Stillwater, Oklahoma, indie/chamber quintet Other Lives worked tirelessly for 14 months to craft and perfect its sophomore album. The finished product, Tamer Animals, is a delicate blend that balances orchestrated compositions with indie-folk arrangements. Interpretive vocals carry each track to the next, and minor-key melodies provide a peaceful backdrop throughout. Below, frontman Jesse Tabish elaborates on crafting Tamer Animals, its underlying theme of human relationships with nature, and his classical influences.

You used a more personal/private approach in producing Tamer Animals. How did this process alter the making of the album and, more importantly, the outcome?

The time constraint is the biggest thing that comes to my mind. Laying down a guitar track or vocal or whatever it may be in the studio, you have a limited amount of time to get it right. At home, we really tailored everything to the exact sound that we wanted, and if we didn’t know a sound, we had the luxury to search for it. So we spent a lot of time searching out not only new tones and sounds, but we also needed the time to find new approaches to songwriting. So it was a combination of those two that I felt we needed to take it in this direction.  The fact that we worked on it until we were happy with it…I can relax. And I had my hands in all aspects of it, so I very much enjoyed it.

Can you expound on the specifics of recording the album?

The initial idea for a lot of these songs came really quickly to me, sometimes in a day or a matter of hours, and I would do my own demo of it. Then the actual, proper recording came about, which took loads of time. It was a real process for every song; it was literally piece by piece, track by track. It was a lot of building, rather than a band going into a room and hashing out a tune. So it was building from the ground up.

Unlike the rest of the tracks, “Dark Horse” is devoid of guitar and bass, and it barely features piano. Why open the record this way?

I felt like [“Dark Horse”] was the first song where we were able to really get away from those core instruments, and in some way, it’s my ideal song off the record because it is free from the path. It was one of the earlier songs, and it was the first song that we did. After that, we realized that we could do the record on our own.

Q&A: A Lull

A Lull: Confetti (Mush, 4/12/11)

A Lull: “Some Love”

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Since its formation in 2008, indie electronic quintet A Lull has expanded its lineup and grown into a much louder and more textured unit. After experimentation with a plethora of objects and instruments, the Chicago band has crafted a sonic landscape that’s truly its own. Between thumping rhythms, trance-like vocals, and layers of percussion, A Lull’s debut album, Confetti, pulsates from start to finish.

The band’s live performances are equally infectious in energy. Before Confetti‘s record-release show, two-fifths of A Lull — Nigel Dennis and Todd Miller — discussed making the album and how the music will translate live.

There is definite progression between the Ice Cream Bones EP (2009) and Confetti. What kind of growth did you experience between these releases? Or what did you feel was missing with the EP and the smaller lineup?

TM: [Ice Cream Bones] was pretty early on in the recording process, and those were kind of the first five songs that we got finished, and I think we were just trying to figure out what we sounded like. After that EP, we kept trying to figure out what we sounded like, and I think we all just kind of moved more towards a much louder sound.

ND: I think it also came from playing live together. When we wrote the EP, we hadn’t really played live that much — our first show was December of 2008, and the EP came out in May [of 2009]. But when we were recording that EP, we had the songs already written to play them live in December. We’d extend a song and make it a lot crazier on drums and sort of build on that — so it naturally happened.

Q&A: Spindrift

Spindrift: Classic Soundtracks Vol. 1 (Xemu, 5/10/11)

Spindrift: “Theme From Confusion Range”

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Mixing influences from Italian-western composers like Ennio Morricone with elements of psychedelic rock, Spindrift has pioneered its own brand of western music. Its style is manifested through a diversity of sounds, including guitar, organ, pedal steel, flute, autoharp, sitar, tabla, and bass, but its musical résumé is more than merely instruments.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Spindrift recently recorded an album of unreleased movie themes and new material.  That album, Classic Soundtracks Vol. 1, captures the band’s eclectic nature and cinematic tendencies. Here, founder Kirpatrick Thomas elaborates on the forthcoming album, the impact of the desert environment on the band’s music, and the similarities between western scores and psychedelic rock.

What inspired you to use Kickstarter for Classic Soundtracks‘ fundraising as opposed to other, more traditional means of establishing a budget?

For us, Kickstarter was a great way to raise a recording budget and get friends, fans, and family directly involved in the making of our next album. We realized that we needed $5,000 and had a seven-week US tour ahead of us, so, along with touring and promotion, we created awareness about our upcoming project. At every show, we performed the new songs, then, after seven weeks, we had our goal and jumped into the studio to record. We had the time of our lives recording this record, and we wanted it to translate.

Classic Soundtracks was recorded in Hicksville Trailer Palace, and Spindrift was the first band to record a full-length album there. Can you explain why you chose this particular setting for recording?

Many of the songs that we’ve written for Classic Soundtracks were birthed in the desert. Thus we wanted to lay them to rest (as in the final recorded track) in the desert as well. We actually would write and rehearse for a bit in the Gram Parsons death room at the Joshua Tree Inn. Keeping true to faith, Hicksville is a stupendous facility for being relaxed, isolated, productive, and creative. It’s a beautiful place, and recording in Joshua Tree was a dream come true. Highly recommended!

Wagon Christ

Q&A: Wagon Christ

Wagon Christ Wagon Christ: Toomorrow (Ninja Tune, 3/07/11)

Wagon Christ: “Manalyze This!”

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Electronic producer Luke Vibert is a man of many sounds and aliases. Since the early ’90s, Vibert has recorded under his own name as well as under Wagon Christ, Plug, and several others to accommodate his sheer girth of recorded output.  His brand new release as Wagon Christ, Toomorrow, retraces his funky roots while pasting disparate vocal samples over waving bass lines and hip-hop beats.

Toomorrow is a 15-track collection that demonstrates Vibert’s humorous fusions and reflects the slinky rhythms of his Wagon Christ alias.  Here Vibert discusses the making of his newest record, the truth behind live electronic music, and how technological innovations have affected his material.

Your first record, Phat Lab Nightmare, was based on a lie, but you eventually got your foot in the door with Rising High. Do you think your approach to music would have been different had you not started with an impromptu ambient record?

That’s an interesting question. I don’t think anyone’s ever asked before. Yeah, I’m sure it would have been, probably. I have to recover, in a way, from that album. At the time, I think if I could have made anything, if I could have been totally free and making anything, I would have probably made very similar stuff to now. Like more funky break beats, and not so obviously ambient. But I sort of forced myself to try and make ambient music, and actually really enjoyed it. So then, slowly, that influenced the rest of my tracks. After a few years, I kept coming back to the album and thinking, “Actually, I quite like that.” So yeah, it definitely changed me for some reason, but it’s hard to think of how because it was so long ago.

Wagon Christ came about in the mid-’90s. How has the evolution of house and the abundance of new musical influences changed or affected Wagon Christ’s material?

It’s funny — I think, in a way, that it makes me more try to find my own sound and stick to that. I’ve had lots of people tell me, “Oh, man, your sound is quite dated, and the tracks sound very ’90s, and some people — kind of friends, really, all people I meet in clubs — often say, “Don’t you like dubstep?” (or some new thing), and I say, “Yeah — yeah, I do.” But I don’t really want to make it. I just want to find my own thing that I like doing.

Especially now that I’ve got kids and more work to do — like looking after them, and then more gigs that I have because the records don’t make so much money — I’m always off traveling around, touring. So I think when I do come to make music now, I just kind of really want to be me and forget about all new music. I don’t take much influence, really, from all the millions of new styles that have developed over the years. My stuff still sounds pretty old and basic.

Does It Offend You, Yeah?

Q&A: Does It Offend You, Yeah?

Does It Offend You, Yeah?: Don't Say We Didn't Warn YouDoes It Offend You, Yeah?: Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You (The End / Cooking Vinyl, 3/15/11)

Does It Offend You, Yeah?: “We Are The Dead”

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Following its debut in 2008, Does It Offend You, Yeah? challenged Virgin Records’ ideas for its music, and the frustration caused by demanding executives and mainstream models is evident in the band’s outspoken nature today. Although it took nearly three years to release its second album, the five-piece outfit from Reading, England has ditched its major-label constraints, disregarded boundaries, and comfortably created a musical adventure titled Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You.

The album fuses psychedelic acoustic interludes, electro-pop attacks, dirty-grime raps, and one synth-free ballad into a single collection. One of the band’s founders, synth player Dan Coop, recently took some time while touring the States to answer our questions.

First and foremost, your animosity towards the mass-music media, major record labels, genre tags, etc. is justifiable. But if you believe that mainstream musicians have simply found an obvious “formula,” can you explain how your approach to music is different?

Well, I think we just write tunes that we like and run with them. We’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with the first record. We were getting a lot of pressure from our ex-major label to do stuff we weren’t comfortable with, so in that way, we see it as a quite naïve and pretty disjointed album.  At one end, you’ve got ’80s synth pop, and then at the other, you’ve got produced dance-floor tracks. Luckily, I think it kind of worked out, as we’ve got fans coming at us from lots of different “scenes” so to speak, be it the metal scene who liked “Heavy Heart” and “Let’s Make Out,” the electro crowd who liked “Rockstars” and “Weird Science,” or the indie kids who liked “Dawn of The Dead.”

It’s a bit of a cliché, but it really pains us to be just dumped in a pigeonhole. The UK press really tried to put us into the whole “new rave” debacle, which was pretty funny as there really was no such thing as new rave until some journo thought of it, and, of course, since we use a synth in our songs, it was automatically assumed we were part of it. The only thing we want to do with our band is play sold-out shows and write songs we would like to hear on the radio. Scenes are fine if you want stereotypes; we just want to do our own thing.

True Widow

Q&A: True Widow

True Widow: As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The EarthTrue Widow: As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth (Kemado, 3/29/11)

True Widow: “Skull Eyes”

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Following the dissolution of his punk band Slowride, guitarist and vocalist Dan Phillips could have spent his two years living in Massachusetts solely focusing on his art and woodworking. But his creative expression didn’t limit itself to his small, New England quarters. After returning to Dallas, Texas, Phillips crafted a new brand of heavy, melodic material with the help of bassist and vocalist Nicole Estill and drummer Timothy (Slim) Starks, in the trio known as True Widow.

The stonegaze outfit is set to release its second album, As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth, through Kemado Records at the end of next month. The new album merges heartfelt melodies that drip over distorted guitar chords with heavier rock interludes. Here, Philips explains his passion for visual art, True Widow’s approach to music, and the process of writing and recording deep in the Texan woods.

After the disbandment of your previous band, Slowride, you had a brief stay in Massachusetts where you trained in woodworking and some other forms of art. Can you describe a little about your move and your developments in painting, woods, and drawing?

I moved to Boston to go to the furniture-making program at The North Bennet Street School. It was a two-year program, and during those two years, that was all that I was concerned with. I spent every minute that I could at the school. The curriculum included several visits to museums and American furniture collections in New England. Being a person who draws and paints, I was very interested in the whole gamut of early American decorative arts — not only the furniture that I was there to see.

While immersed in research, I found myself exploring the themes and aesthetics of all of the art forms of colonial America up through the Federal period. Unconsciously, the influence of all of this stuff found its way into my drawings and paintings. My approach is simple: I like that; I want to make one too. The things I make are often based on or rooted in something that has existed before, or a variation of a theme — never a reproduction.

Animals as Leaders

Q&A: Animals as Leaders

Animals as LeadersAnimals as Leaders: s/t (Prosthetic Records, 4/28/09)

Animals as Leaders: “Tempting Time”

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Begun as a solo project that highlighted guitarist Tosin Abasi‘s unmistakable shredding, Animals as Leaders released its debut album via Prosthetic Records in April of 2009, emitting progressive instrumentals with tasteful ambient and electronic undertones.  The project has since evolved into a trio, now including drummer Navene Koperweis and guitarist Javier Reyes after Abasi received recording help from programming engineer Misha Mansoor.

Whether in the studio or on stage, the group dazzles onlookers with intricate eight-string riffs and complex compositions — never losing its head-banging potential.  Here Abasi discusses his approach to music, his transition to the eight-string guitar, and the new beginnings of a band that pushes the limits of progressive metal.

How would you describe your approach to music in general? Can you give a little background behind the making of Animals As Leaders and the debut album?

Animals As Leaders is a progressive / instrumental metal band. My most fundamental approach to writing would be expressing individuality through the guitar. The first album was the result of a few years of song ideas building up. Misha Mansoor (the producer) was integral in gluing everything together to create some well-thought-out songs.

What about Javier and Navene interested you to include them in your project?

Navene is a savage drummer and Javier may actually be an animal….