John Carroll ::: Interview

TSOFDs: Hey John, how’s it going? You recently put out two singles complete with videos and now there’s the brand new album these aforementioned singles feature on. You’ve been busy! This new LP is called ‘Addicted to the Flute’ – where does the title come from?

JC: Hey. I’m good thanks. So when I first came up with the main guitar riff I had been reading the news over here and found a link to the Global Times online via the Shanghaiist. In the article it read, ‘Shakespeare once wrote that rumour is like a flute. That guesswork, suspicion, and speculation are the breath that makes it sound. Those foreign forces are addicted to the flute and have turned their illusions into the truth’. It was a fairly political article, but I became fascinated on the idea of how people turn illusion into the truth – how perception, morals, and culture can be manipulated and twisted by any number of external forces for their own gain.

TSOFDs: Thanks for the insight. Seems particularly relevant to the current day. You’ve always striven to change and pursue what interests you rather than what’s deemed commercial or expected of a solo artist, refusing to just slot into that familiar bracket of ballad guy with acoustic guitar. Your mutations have occurred across a broad spectrum from lofi, to folk, to alt rock and much more besides. What can listeners expect from this latest offering?


JC: This album is stylistically more indie pop/rock I suppose, but it’s not really anything new for me as such, more of a revisitation to my younger years playing with Medic in Limerick back in the 90s, so it has a lot more of a full band sound throughout. Aesthetically, songwriting has always been my main focus, and I’m always on the hunt for a great vocal melody and a bassline to compliment it, so anyone who’s into that kind of thing might enjoy it.

TSOFDs: Sounds good to me. I’m hearing a piano influence that’s more pronounced on this record than on previous outings. Was there a conscious attempt to use this as a writing tool instead of acoustic guitar? It’s often the case that switching things up can lead to interesting new directions.

JC:  Growing up we always had a piano close by so it’s no stranger to me. Writing on it was also a fairly natural transition because The Beatles, Billy Joel and Queen were always being played at home while I was a kid, so it was always part of my sonic palette. I hadn’t recorded a piano before this though, so around October/November 2019 when I started demoing new songs I decided to play around with it. It immediately perked my ears up and I knew this was going to be part of the next project.

TSOFDs: Gotcha. You exhibit a lot of talent when it comes to the visual arts, not just music. We’ve witnessed in this in the form of everything from your gig posters, release artwork and album notes, and music videos you’ve created for your own work and that of other artists. This time round however, the album artwork was created by someone else if we’re not mistaken? What led to this decision?

JC: Yea that’s right, actually two acrylic paintings in all by a local Hangzhou artist called Shen Yu Ru are part of the album artwork. He’s been around for a while but doesn’t exhibit that often and I quite like that he doesn’t put his work online either. When we met he talked about preserving the human touch from algorithms and digitisation, which is something that struck a chord with me and I felt it had some relevance to the album title too. Very early on (before we met) I knew I wanted a handmade piece of art. I was sick of digital images, just felt horribly trapped by the flawlessness of them and really wanted to see the textures and imperfections of expressing human emotion. Around the time I saw Yu Ru’s art I had been working on a few collage ideas based on John Heartfield’s work and not really getting anywhere. I was really drawn into these images that had all the sensibilities of an uneasy mutated version of pop art but represented it through local folklore.

Whilst on the subject of collaborating to get this LP over the line, I think it’s also worth mentioning that J Douglas played a massive part in how the album turned out. I originally met him in Hangzhou back in 2015. He has always been a highly prolific musician in his band Big Lucky, and producer with his own solo projects Sentient Circuits, and his more recent synthwave music with Nightonic. I had already mixed the album but didn’t feel that it was up to scratch, and since he and I shared a love for The Beatles’ Revolver era in particular, I knew that he had the creativity and the technical ear holes to put it all together. So I asked, if I give you this can you make it better? And he did!

TSOFDs: It’s certainly a very arresting, very cool album cover and the music sounds great to match. My son is particularly enamored with the track ‘Taikonauts’. He can’t stop singing it and keeps pestering me to watch the video. When I asked him if he knew what a taikonaut is though he didn’t know. Perhaps you can explain that to our readers and tell us a little bit about what the jumping off point was for the song?

JC: Simply, a taikonaut is a Chinese astronaut. The word ‘tai kong’ comes from the Mandarin word for ‘space’. Originally, it was influenced by a song by Bill Callahan called ‘America!’ I liked that he wrote a song about just liking his country, and I was hooked by his use of exclamation marks!! I always wondered why that country has it’s name in the titles of so many films, songs, etc, while other countries don’t. Later on I found a cool website called Go- Taikonauts!, which kinda felt a bit cheerleader-y, and that basically sealed the deal.

TSOFDs: My son will like that as he’s quite the blossoming space cadet. You’re fiercely DIY when it comes to your art and I gather record the bulk of your music at home. What do you find the strengths and weaknesses are of this approach?

JC: I don’t do well in unfamiliar surroundings. It often takes me time to develop relationships with people and places before I open up. I usually make a tit of myself and say stupid things and end up regretting it, so working at home for me cuts out all of that so I can focus on the good stuff. It’s hard to always find the time and head-space because I have a young family that comes first, but I have everything I need at arm’s length whenever I need it while also keeping expenses low.

TSOFDs: I’m sure many artists can relate. Are there any tasty morsels you can give us regarding the writing and recording process for this record? I know creative types and gear nerds are always particularly interested in the nuggets we give them in terms of how songwriters approach their craft and, also, what gear or techniques they employ when it comes to getting their ideas down. It’s always fascinating to hear more about people’s creative processes – it’s inherently mysterious for people wondering how songs begin life and how they come to final fruition.

JC: I spend a lot more time writing than I do recording and tend to write in bulk during the winter months. Dec/Jan are usually my busy creative months and I’d usually pen upwards of 100-120 ideas for new songs during that period. I generally choose my favourite ten of the bunch and then develop those ideas further. I prefer instruments, pedals and amps rather than digital stuff and plugins. I’m a very practical person, and put everything I have to good use. I think it’s very important to limit your options, so I tend not to think too much about tone and colour until the fundamentals of a song are strong first. I have had the same acoustic and electric guitar since 2004. My bass I bought in Shanghai in 2009, drums i got in 2008. I use a kick ass Neumann vocal mic, and a Chinese blue Babybottle through a Tascam US-1800. A good friend lent me his Vox Mini5 guitar amp for recording this album. I love talking about writing songs. It’s my favourite topic.

TSOFDs: You’ve been applying yourself to and honing your craft since your teens. What advice would you give a teenager today that is eager to pursue the artistic life?      

JC: If you’re adamant about being an artist you need to work harder and smarter than anyone else you know, and that’s just to survive. Top priority is not being a dick to anyone. Collaborate and get involved with your community – don’t make it all about yourself. Keep your expectations low, but deliver like a demon out of hell every single time.

TSOFDs: Young artists take note! Thanks so much for your time John. If we could round things off by you giving us some artist recommendations whose music we should also be buying then that would be the icing on the proverbial cake.      

JC:  You’re very welcome. I usually purchase digital music on Bandcamp but also listen to vinyl records, and I’m currently listening to Ariel Pink, Louis Cole, Jinx Lennon, Ty Segall, Blokeacola, Powpig.

TSOFDs: Cheers for the recommends!

Addicted to the Flute is out now on Bandcamp.

Beeef ::: Interview

Beeef promo 2 (courtesy of Andrew Gibson)

TSOFDs: Let’s get the most annoying question out of the way first. Why the name ‘Beeef’?

Perry: It was kind of a mixture of a few different influences. The first was when we first started playing together, there was a trend of indie bands having names with no vowels, so in a way, it was kind of poking fun at that trend by adding an extra vowel. At some point in time, we were toying with the name The Burgers, but it seemed a bit too ordinary—there were probably other bands called that, so somehow the two ideas were combined and we ended up with Beeef (probably with no mind that we’d end up actually recording any music).

TSOFDs: Your output is a fab combo of sharp songwriting and killer arrangements. It’s all really neatly pulled off and you seem to squeeze every interesting possibility out of your songs without them outstaying their welcome. How do you arrive at this point – is it all mapped out by one person when the song is written or does it come from hours of jamming and individual band members adding their own ideas?



Perry: Well thank you, first off, that’s an extremely generous analysis. We’re lucky in that we all have influences that are diverse, but cohesive, so we typically have a common sound in mind, but are always pulled in different directions depending on what we’re listening to. Typically, I will put together the song’s basic structure and lyrics and then as a band we will refine it and put our own individual spins on it. Sometimes a song will go down a very different path once we all start playing it as a band, and that’s when it really gets its dimension. We often overthink things, too, which is a blessing and a curse.

TSOFDs: How does a song typically begin life before all of this? Are there topics you suddenly feel inclined to address in song or is it more the case you get a chord sequence or a melody in your head and then simply search for words you feel are the right fit?

Perry: Most of them either begin in the shower, on my bike, or in the car. Places where I can really space out and just think. Usually it’s led by some kind of hook, either a lyric of the chorus with a melody, or some sort of riff or motif, and then I’ll try to record it on a voice memo somehow and then flesh it out. Topics can be pretty broad, but often take the shape of meditations on getting older or changing or letting go of something. It’s all a bit nostalgic and sentimental in a way that’s certainly not unique in the indie rock realm, so we try to at least make it catchy so it’s not overly wrought.

TSOFDs: You formed in Boston which is a city that’s notable for a number of acts that have gone on to achieve global recognition. Are there any in particular you’d cite as major influences or as inspiration? If not, tell us about any other songwriters/bands that made you want to be a songwriter/in a band.

Perry: We’re very much shaped by the music that has come out of Massachusetts. A few of us actually started a blog here in Boston called Allston Pudding, many years ago, which in many ways brought us closer to the music we were so influenced by. Early on, I grew up right outside of Boston and was listening to bands in high school like Furvis and Drug Rug, both of whom continue to have a huge influence on our sound. Josh and Neil grew up on the North Shore and were listening to bands from up there like Piebald or Apollo Sunshine, who also have probably shaped our approach in some way. In the years since, so many other local bands have inspired us in so many ways—far too many to mention. Dan also grew up in Brooklyn, so he had an entirely different perspective coming in. That said, we’ve found a lot of common ground around the styles and sounds that we all bring to the table and listen to regularly.

TSOFDs: Please tell us about the live music scene in the city – were there any venues that have proven crucial to your development as a band? Is there anything happening to help prevent venues closing down during this challenging time?

Perry: Boston has great venues, but there are fewer and fewer every year. Great Scott and O’Brien’s are two Allston venues that have been extremely kind to Beeef over the years. Lilypad in Cambridge is another one that we’ve played regularly over the years. Unfortunately, Great Scott announced its closure this past spring, and at the time of this interview, the future of O’Brien’s is now up in the air, too. Despite an outpouring of support from folks in the city who have felt a great connection to these places over the years, they’re still succumbing to increasing rents by landlords and an abundance of red tape from the city and its permitting/licensing policies. Boston is a great place for the arts, but sometimes it does feel like it’s a city that doesn’t do enough to financially support its arts community.

TSOFDs: It’s a crazy time right now in a myriad of ways. How have you been finding this pandemic period? Was it frustrating not being able to go out and play gigs or was it good at least in the sense it offered you some extra time to work on songs?

Perry: It has been pretty sad, I’d say. Music is a great means of connection for many people, and its absence is one of the many ways that people are experiencing loss right now. We had some great gigs in the books for the spring and early summer, including one with Polaris, a band that has had a huge influence on Beeef for a really long time. We’ve definitely been writing a great deal of new stuff, but I know that especially in the early stages of the virus, I found it especially difficult to be creatively focused. That said, at some point, we’ll have a stack of new songs that we will be able to do something with.

TSOFDs: I’ve read you are a high school teacher. Whilst, rightly, there is much discussion currently how musicians are unable to make a living from music alone, perhaps the flipside is it’s potentially really rewarding to work a different job. Where do you stand on this question?

Perry: I am, and actually Neil and Josh both work in the field of education as well and Dan is employed full-time by a tech company. We have all had full-time jobs since forming the band, which we all view as a blessing, but it also by default kind of set certain limitations for the band. We’ve never really been able to go on long tours, and we sometimes have to be a bit selective about gigging. That said, not only do I personally love being a teacher, but I think not having to rely on music to make a living is a great advantage. Not only would we basically have no money, but we’d likely feel a lot more pressure and probably would have long since hit burnout. It’s a great privilege to be able to play music and still keep a full-time job, and we have great admiration for bands who are able to dedicate their lives full-time to touring and recording. The music industry these days isn’t quite designed in their favor, and bands like us who don’t rely on it financially probably aren’t doing them any favors, yet they persevere and find creative ways to make it work. But I know for me, I really love both music and teaching and wouldn’t want to give either up. Working with young people is the best, and they have undoubtedly lent inspiration to more than a few Beeef tunes.

TSOFDs: That’s a great way of looking at it. We live in an age where computers offer a lot of artists the chance to make music at home. You appear to eschew this option in favor of going into proper recording studios. Do you think other artists are potentially missing out by doing everything themselves?

Perry: We’ve had great experiences in studios, but if bands and artists have the talent and knowledge to take a DIY approach, I think that’s such a huge advantage. Josh is really well-versed in recording and mixing relative to the rest of the band, so we have actually done a fair deal of home-recording on both albums. We have also worked with a couple of really great producers, Jeremy Lee for our first record and Justin Pizzoferrato for our second album. We would recommend both of them endlessly—they’re super talented and extremely patient. But anyone who can manage to work efficiently at home, I think there’s a huge advantage there if you can get a sound that you’re pleased with.

TSOFDs: We stumbled across your video ‘Airplanes’ on Instagram and as a result felt the urge to tell people about your music. Any bands you’ve stumbled across recently you’d like to do the same for?

Perry: Oh man, too many to mention, to be honest. In terms of folks we have played with, Carinae out in Western Mass put out an excellent album last year and we’ve had the pleasure of gigging with them a handful of times. They’re one of the best live bands out there right now. Pushflowers also played a bunch of fun shows with us the past couple years and they’re really excellent. In New York, a few of the last bands we played with before the virus hit were GIFT and Petite League. We’ve had the chance to collaborate with TJ from GIFT on a couple projects, and they’re an awesome live band, and Petite League basically writes the songs that I wish I was writing. As far as other locals, Sidney Gish, Anjimile, Squirrel Flower, Kid Mountain, Water Cycle, and Squitch are all some really terrific bands we’ve had an eye on.

Beeef Promo 1 (courtesy of Andrew Gibson)

TSOFDs: Some great stuff there to check out. What’s next on the cards for Beeef? Any new material in the pipeline?

Perry: Definitely, just figuring out the best way to put it all together. We’ve experimented with recording each of our pieces from our respective places, to some trial-by-error success. It should all amount to something, either in the age of COVID or post-COVID depending on what that timeframe looks like. In the meantime, we’ve got vinyl available for our second record, Bull in the Shade, and we have a couple other interesting things that we will be releasing over the next couple of months.

TSOFDs: Thanks so much for your time Perry – looking forward to hearing what you come up with next.

Beeef Bull in the Shade

Find Beeef’s music here.

Beeef band photos by Andrew Gibson.

The Industrial Cult Orchestra ::: New Music

When you see a band name you really like, it really helps matters if the music is great too.

Thankfully this is the case with The Industrial Cult Orchestra whose debut track ‘As Long As It Winds You Up’ has shades of Tom Waits.

Lyrically the song takes a sideswipe at the terrifyingly vacuous times we’re living through.

The feeling the author is asking us to question how we’re influenced by what we see and hear is firmly bolstered by the animation created for the music video.

If you’re after a new act to fall in love with then we’d strongly recommend giving this tune your full attention.

It goes slightly against the grain of what’s popular right now and we appreciate originality on this blog.

To keep tabs on The Industrial Cult Orchestra you can give them a follow here and be among the first to check out their next release.

HMS Morris ::: Interview

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TSOFDs: Hello HMS Morris. Thanks for conversing with us today. You’re based in Cardiff – is this your home city or did you grow up somewhere else?

HMS Morris: Hello! Yes we’re Cardiff based but Sam and I are from different parts of the country. I grew up in Carmarthenshire in a town called Llandovery, it’s a pretty picturesque town with a statue in the middle of it of a Welsh hero called Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan – the statue looks a bit like Darth Vader though. Sam was actually born in Cardiff, but when he was 3 he moved up to St Asaph in Denbighshire, North Wales, one of the smallest cities in the UK.

TSOFDs: What were your early experiences of music which set you off on this often challenging path of being musicians? Whose fault is it?

HMS Morris: I (Heledd) have never been able to escape music, it was inevitable my sister or I would follow a career in the business. My dad was my high school music teacher and was a bit of a singing child star in Wales. He’s an excellent classical singer, and also his mum, my gran, was a chapel organist – a very tough skill I never dared to try; watching her at work as a kid was pretty cool. My mum’s also very creative and has written some cracking lyrics for my dad’s compositions. Sam was a little Eisteddfod boy soprano. That’s a kind of traditional singing competition, and we have hundreds of them every year in Wales ranging from little village ones to the big National Eisteddfod. He’s been trying to earn back the cool-points ever since.

TSOFDs: Chinese cities have historically been quite limited music scene wise although it’s been getting better in recent times. How do you find Cardiff as a city for music – is there a vibrant music scene – are there particular venues/promoters/bands you get along with?

HMS Morris: We’re lucky in Cardiff to have Womanby Street, which is a short, narrow alleyway that’s home to 6 music venues. One of those is Clwb Ifor Bach, which is recognized across the UK and beyond as a classic venue – loads of touring bands bring their music here from all over the world. There’s also a lot of support available for new bands starting out; lots of promoters and venues are willing to take a chance on young bands, which means there’s always a fresh crop of talent breaking through.

TSOFDs: Your new single ‘Poetry’ has been attracting a fair bit of attention from music blogs. We normally pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve but we’ve been slow to the punch on this one! The track builds really intriguingly – what would you say the song is about or what inspired its creation?

HMS Morris: Well the song is about obsessive love and the pain of loving someone without it being reciprocated. I’m sure most people have been through this at some point in their lives! I’m going through it with Adam Driver right now. If there wasn’t a travel ban I’d be outside his house. When I first played it for Sam he just said ‘Bolero’. I guess something about the chords and melodic structure reminded him of it, so that ended up being the inspiration for Poetry’s structure.

TSOFDs: The current pandemic is a strange time for artists. Some will react better than others. Those who are extroverts and love to perform will be going stir crazy. The more introverted who perhaps prefer the writing/recording side of things may find it productive being able to simply stay home and focus on their craft. How are you finding it all currently?

HMS Morris: Well, I’ve always described myself – just like Ru Paul does! – as an introvert dressed as an extrovert. I love performing, but after a show I get intimidated by large crowds and would prefer to disappear into a hole. It is a crazy time right now but I’m really enjoying the time to reflect and write without deadlines. We’re always thinking about the next release and getting things finished but we’ve not put pressure on ourselves. I’ve also been challenging myself to write outside my genre to build up some skills, it’s fun and tricky.

TSOFDs: Sonically speaking you’ve got a really rich sound with an interesting combo of elements. How do you approach recording? Do you find you can generate the vast majority of sounds using a computer or do you like to use more traditional/analog approaches? Some artists these days prefer to do a lot of things ‘in the box’ at home then recreate this live with real players if necessary. Others like to go into a studio with a band and try to make a record sound as live as possible. It’s fascinating as a listener to try and understand how people arrive at their end point and whether they take a purely pragmatic approach to getting the sound they want or whether there’s a more rigid, guiding philosophy behind it.

HMS Morris: First of all, thanks! A rich sound is very much what we’re aiming for – and to be honest that probably takes precedence over how ‘live-sounding’ our recordings are. Sam loves staying up all night layering up sounds and working out orchestrations, that’s the bit of the whole lifestyle of being a musician that he enjoys most I think, so that has a big influence on the way we produce our music. At the same time, there are definitely pragmatic considerations too; it costs a lot to hire an orchestra and a big studio and loads of engineers, so it really makes a lot of sense to take advantage of the (frankly insane) advances in production software that have happened over the past 20 years, and do the whole job in-house.

TSOFDs: The BBC have been really supportive of your work. It seems that, for all the criticism of the licence fee, the BBC provides UK musicians with a valuable outlet for their creativity where songs are selected largely on merit as opposed to whether the artists have a lot of reach that will drive traffic, at least on a local BBC Introducing level and with DJs such as Tom Robinson. How important do you think the support of local radio has been for you?

HMS Morris: The BBC have been behind us since our first releases, we’re so grateful for that. We were part of the 2015 BBC Horizons program, which took 12 bands and mentored and promoted them for a year. They picked us up before we’d released our first album so that was a big gamble for them. Through that we got out first plays on BBC 6 music and Radio 1, and played the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury. BBC Radio Cymru, the Welsh-language BBC station, have supported us all through our career. They always play our music and encourage us to write new work – in fact we’ve just completed a ‘Session from Home’ for them. Our music is a mish-mash of genres really so it means a lot that they’ll play us even though we don’t necessarily appeal to the masses.

TSOFDs: The last record ‘Inspirational Talks’ was deservedly well received – is there another LP in the pipeline? If so, do you envisage a radically different approach or sound? It seems to us the fact there is a lot of variation in your songs, allows for a lot of flexibility in terms of the types of songs or records you can make – you avoid the risk of being put in a particular box or category. Is there anything you’re determined to do differently for example?

HMS Morris: This year so far has been about releasing singles, we’re hoping to compile them at the end of the year as a limited edition EP, maybe with a couple of totally new songs on there as well. After that I think it’ll be time to start on another LP. I love the process of putting something big together; it takes a while but it’s so satisfying when you have a collection of songs finished that you’re proud of and that make sense as a complete work. The variation in our songs definitely allows us a lot of flexibility. I don’t listen to one particular genre and I don’t believe I should have to stick to one genre when writing. I don’t think you develop as a songwriter that way, and also I’m sure it gets a bit boring!

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TSOFDs: How does an HMS Morris song normally begin life?

HMS Morris: Most of the songs begin life either as a guitar riff or a synth sound on my little Akai MPK Mini Play keyboard, or a phrase of lyrics I like the sounds of. It varies; recently as we’re stuck at home the MPK Play has been the go-to instrument, it doesn’t take up space and you can use it to easily record into garage band or logic, I (Heledd) tend to build the basic structure/chords and vocals of the song to about 60 percent complete before handing over to Sam to arrange and re-interpret. I’ve learnt not to be too precious with my initial idea as things tend to change quite dramatically once it gets into Sam’s hands – it’s normally better than I’ve imagined to be fair, I’m not throwing shade.

TSOFDs: The psychedelic tag has been pinned on you – would you like to flip this around and recommend any new psych acts to us?

HMS Morris: Absolutely! We have a massive psych heritage in Wales with lots of bands working through the genre, and as Welsh speakers growing up in the 90s we both remember the moment when the Super Furry Animals’ album ‘Mwng’ (which was 100 percent Welsh language) made it to number 11 in the UK charts. In terms of new musicians carrying on that legacy, some favourites at the moment are:

Accü https://accu.bandcamp.com/
Bitwhttps://bitwbitwbitw.bandcamp.com/
Rhodri Brookshttps://www.facebook.com/rhodribrooksmusic/

TSOFDs: Thanks for the ace recommendations – all the best for the future.

 

The ‘Poetry’ single is available across all major streaming platforms, wherever you get your music. To investigate HMS Morris further, check out their Bandcamp.

Mirrors ::: New Music

Mirrors (4)

We first stumbled across Mirrors in November 2017 when we heard their awesome EP ‘Separate Reality’. It was exciting to discover modern psych rock of such immense quality was being conceived of just up the high speed rail track, in nearby Shanghai.

Now, as part of the excellent Beijing-based Ruby Eyes roster, Mirrors are back with new single ‘Within An Endless Dream’, and are sounding no less energized for it. 

As for the music video? Trippy as hell with added cats. What’s not to like, Internet?

Due to the coronavirus, Mirrors have had to postpone their upcoming New Zealand tour. But whilst China is locked down in an attempt to contain this dreaded lurgy, we can still help Chinese acts by spreading their music far and wide.

If you want to listen to yet more rad music Ruby Eyes has to offer, then check out this rather fine Spotify playlist.

Over and out.

 

Follow Ruby Eyes Records on Facebook here.

People Taking Pictures ::: Interview

Luke Parish is part of the formidable Perth-based outfit The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. After hearing the debut release ‘Informative Noise’, from his solo project People Taking Pictures, we were keen to have a chat.

Image result for People Taking Pictures Informative Noise

TSOFDs: Hey Luke, thanks for chatting. So, first of all, why the need for a different psychedelic project?

LP: My taste in music has always been so broad that I kind of wanted something different that could go between genres more and have no limitations. PPC has always been Jack’s (McEwan) primary focus and so I suppose I wanted a secondary outlet that I could write songs for and take what I’ve learned from PPC. There’s also something different about working completely solo as you kind of force yourself to be critical of everything without the input of anyone else, so for me the focus on the project was pretty clear with what I wanted to achieve.

TSOFDs: A lot has been made of the great psych music coming out of Australia, just in Perth alone. Rather than rehash the same old questions regarding why there’s such a strong general scene, I’d prefer to ask you what personally turned you on to making psychedelic music – was it early formative experiences, parents playing music from the 60s and 70s, etc? Or did you go to a gig and a psych band just happened to blow your mind?

LP: I think when PPC first started there was definitely an abundance of psychedelic-esque projects happening in Perth so it was inevitable that we would be heavily influenced. When I first finished high school I was going to watch Tame Impala and Pond do their album launch shows and it was so exiting to see such great music at that point in my life. I grew up with a diverse taste in music too that could be deemed psychedelic. My parents listened to a lot of world music, jazz, lounge and trip hop stuff so I was already primed to get further into psychedelic music. Bands like Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Allman Brothers Band, Steely Dan and John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers were some CDs I had as a kid I loved.

TSOFDs: Reading about your new album it’s striking that you’ve been dipping into music by the likes of Massive Attack and Stereolab. Can you tell us more about what your favorite records are by these two and, just out of interest, ever listen to much Broadcast?

LP: It’s interesting you say that because Broadcast were a massive influence on me particularly towards the end of making the record. When I was touring a lot, my go to albums were Haha Sound and The Noise Made by People, I absolutely loved the production on these records. Another artist I failed to mention was Boards of Canada, I had Geogaddi on repeat too for long car trips. As for Massive Attack probably Mezzanine and some tracks from Blue Lines. I watched Stereolab for the first time last year and it was incredible, my favorite record of theirs is Dots and Loops.

TSOFDs: Hip hop, jazz and soul are also cited as significant influences on this new album – there seems to be a lot which has been thrown into the melting pot. Are there any particular artists you’d recommend our readers listen to within these genres?

LP: I’ll make a small list haha. Badbadnotgood, 30/70, Kamaal Williams, Milo, Jeff Parker, Hiatus Kaiyote, Menahan Street Band, Joe Henderson, Jack Wilkins, Karriem Riggins, Alfa Mist, Django Reinhardt.

TSOFDs: That’s some great listening to be going on with. Let’s discuss writing/recording. With the ‘Crumpets it seems one person records a basic demo starting with guitar, and you build from there, swapping out the computer drums for real ones, and so forth. That seems like a great idea for keeping the original vibe of the track. For this record did you approach it in a similar way – write/record on guitar then replace stuff – or was it more a throw different elements at a blank canvas and see what sticks? Did you have a clear picture of where you were heading or was it a case of just writing and recording and seeing what happened?

LP: This project kind of started as two different projects. I had a lo fi beat tape I was making and then another project with vocals, guitars and other bits and pieces. Rather than do two separate things I decided to actually merge the two and it just kind of worked mashing it together. Nothing was recorded in any particular order, some started from drum breaks I had recorded months before, others started with samples that were then replaced by different live instruments and parts. It was kind of this mad scramble that was eventually polished into resembling an album. I always wanted it to flow though from start to finish, as I love the way albums join songs together and can be listened in one hit. The Avalanches do this really well and take you on a journey without stopping.

TSOFDs: At its worst it could be argued psych music is long wig outs that don’t really go anywhere. The notable thing about Crumpets’ output, and now your new record, is it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Even though Informative Noise is something of a sprawling, disjointed journey, with many odd and intriguing little juxtapositions, you keep things moving along perfectly. Is there a conscious choice to do this that requires a lot of self-editing or have you honed the knack over time so it just comes naturally when you’re composing?

LP: The modern take on psychedelic is quite broad but I also think there’s less and less jam bands because people’s attention spans are shorter and you want a direct injection of an idea that doesn’t drag out. I think this is the way the genre has kind of moved forward into the future. With the production of Informative Noise it relates back to that idea of creating an album rather than a compilation of singles, the album is always at the forefront as being one single piece. By subconsciously having that at the back of your mind, you’re always going to make something that flows well regardless of how much things change song to song.

TSOFDs: As a listening experience there’s a great combo of modern and more retro components going on throughout the LP. Can you spill more beans on the nuts and bolts of how you put this record together or do you prefer to guard your secrets?

LP: The album is mostly real instrumentation, there is kind of a layering thing going on with most tracks, where I will do percussive elements electronically but record traditionally using a drum kit. I always like to use analog equipment before it hits the computer. Then the mixing and editing is done digitally hence some of the more modern effects on tracks.

TSOFDs: Thanks for the insight. You released this record under your own label. Could you ever be tempted to sign for a major?

LP: I don’t think it’s worth signing with any majors as streaming can be a great source of revenue for independent artists and owning the rights to your music is always a plus down the line even though you might not feel like you’re earning much now.

TSOFDs: Is your label looking for other psych acts to release records by or is it just for you and the ‘Crumpets? Should any of our muso readers be sending you demos?

LP: We always love receiving people’s music because it’s exciting to hear what’s going on around the world. I suppose for us, our touring schedule has been so mad that it’s been hard to go beyond our own inner circle of people for now so the label has not expanded yet as such.

TSOFDs: Any plans to visit China in the near future?

LP: We would love to come to China and I have heard it mentioned so hopefully this year! (no promises).

TSOFDs: We’ll keep our fingers crossed. Things are pretty bleak out there in the world right now, particularly in Australia regarding the bushfires. Have you been impacted by it? What’s the best thing for someone to do if they’re reading this and want to support those affected?

LP: Where we are on the west coast is hardly affected compared to Victoria and New South Wales. The country is really shook up at the moment and there is definitely a backlash towards our current political climate and their lack of action towards climate change. Australia is one of the hottest climates in the world and this is clear evidence of a huge shift. The best thing anyone can do from overseas is donate to fire relief. There is a good list here if you’re unsure. The amount of support though, particularly from people in the arts here, has been amazing. Nearly every band or artist in Australia has done something towards the cause and it’s been so incredible to see.

TSOFDs: That’s at least a positive note to end on. Thanks so much for your time Luke. Best wishes to you, your fellow Crumpets and all our readers for the Year of the Rat.



 

Informative Noise is out now on What Reality? Records.

Acid Rooster ::: Interview

Acid Rooster is a band based in Leipzig. After stumbling across their addictive authentic version of psych rock we just had to get them on the blog. Valuing a spirit of improvisation and spontaneity live and in the studio, Acid Rooster’s eponymous record, produced by Jan Werner, is an unmissable treat we recommend you blast your ears with at the earliest available opportunity. If you’re based in Europe, check out their live dates on their Bandcamp page.

ACID ROOSTER Pressefoto 1

TSOFDs: This could be the first time we’ve had a Germany-based group on the blog. Please tell our readers where you come from and what the music scene is like there.

AR: First of all, thank you a lot for your interest in our music. We are really happy that people in China are listening to our record. Most of us live in the city of Leipzig, but originally we come from a small town in the north of Bavaria called Schweinfurt. Germany’s underground music scene is actually pretty lively and diverse. There exists a great network of smaller concert groups and bands that are supporting each other. Leipzig for example has many off spaces and smaller clubs setting up concerts almost every night. But of course it is not like that everywhere. In the countryside or in other towns the situation is totally different. Often the possibilities to set up shows are really bad.

TSOFDs: Thanks for the info. You’re a bona fide psych band if ever we heard one. What inspired you to make this kind of music? Was it to do with the kind of stuff you were listening to when you were growing up or was there a specific psych scene locally that blew your mind and which instantly made you want to participate?

AR: To be honest, we never had a master plan or a certain idea, how we wanted our music to sound. It just comes out of us naturally. Important for our quite spontaneous approach of free thinking music is definitely, that we’ve known each other a very long time and have experienced the same musical socialization. Before starting Acid Rooster we had many different bands from punk to alternative or high energy rock. Besides that, all three of us were going to concerts frequently and collecting vinyl of all kinds of music. We soak up lots of different sounds and the expression of these many influences might be brought out in the sound of Acid Rooster.

TSOFDs: That’s cool that it’s a very organic, natural sound. Your record has a great live feel. Can you give us any kind of insight into the recording process? Was there a concerted effort to make it sound as live as possible or did it just come out this way – from listening we’d presume the core parts were recorded at the same time?

AR: Except for a few overdubs the whole record is recorded live. Before we came to the studio we had just some raw ideas/feels for 3-4 songs, we really wanted to try and the rest was developed quite spontaneously. We were jamming a lot and recorded different ideas. Often we took the first take because these felt the freshest and most authentic for us. Very important for the whole process and the sound was our recording engineer Jan Werner, who plays in the bands Datashock and Yagow. He has lots of experience in recording improvised, free music.

TSOFDs: That approach really paid off. The cliche of course with psychedelic music is that it taps into an alternative state of mind. Those at the forefront of psychedelic music such as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, etc, it is of course well documented that they more than dabbled in certain substances. Without wishing to give too much away or get yourselves into trouble, do you think it has been useful for musicians to change their brain chemistry in order to make this kind of music or is it a mistake to assume this?

AR: This alternative state of mind is really important for our creativity and expression, but it’s not necessary to take drugs to reach this. The music itself has definitely the power to expand your consciousness and to bring you to a completely different state of mind. Of course we had experiences with mind altering substances and maybe these brought us to our current style, but for now we can say that this is not of big importance for our musical process.



TSOFDs: Reminds me of Bjork I think once saying that she doesn’t meditate because she already has music and music is meditation enough for her. How does the creative process begin? Is one member of the band the visionary or is it a case of jamming around a range of ideas until one takes hold?

AR: The creative process often begins with a rough idea/theme. Sebastian, who is playing the guitar comes along with some chords, a riff or a melody and while playing these we develop our songs. Or otherwise we also often just start improvising together and always record our sessions with a Zoom recorder. We listen to these demos afterwards and pick out the most interesting stuff to work on.

TSOFDs: This Zoom recorder strategy seems to really work for a lot of musicians – I’ve heard of other bands doing this. How long do you refine your ideas before you make a definitive recording? Are you the type of group that works hard for a long time to precisely map out structures and parts or do you simply prefer the aforementioned spontaneity?

AR: We always prefer spontaneity.

TSOFDs: With steadily declining sales due to the Internet/Spotify/etc do you make enough from the group to pursue it full time or do you have other ways of making money from music? Perhaps like most musicians these days it is necessary to have a day job that isn’t based around music?

AR: To be honest, we hardly earn money at all with our music and all of us have regular jobs/family.

TSOFDs: This certainly seems the norm these days. Mainstream radio is of course still mostly dominated by short pop songs – have you found any useful outlets for getting your music to a wider audience – perhaps a particular music podcast or radioshow/magazine/blog that’s been supportive? Perhaps gigging is the only real way to stimulate interest?

AR: We were really surprised, how many radio shows, music blogs or fanzines were interested in our record. For example very positive reviews of magazines like Echoes and Dust and Freq helped us to reach a wider audience. After that some bigger festivals like Le Guess Who? and Roadburn invited us. There was also a lot of support from different Facebook groups for psychedelic music, where our music was shared a lot. Besides that the platform Bandcamp made it possible for us to sell our records to music lovers all over the world.

TSOFDs: That’s brilliant that the music is reaching a wide range of people. Obviously the recent album only arrived in the summer but any plans for future releases? Any other projects you are involved in or other psych bands you’d like to give a shout out to?

AR: Right now we are busy playing shows and trying out new stuff on stage and are looking forward to some demo-recording sessions this winter to collect new ideas for our next record. Apart from Acid Rooster, Sebastian (guitar) and Steffen (drums) joined the garage/indie rock band Suzi Cream Cheese, which had some great tunes in the 80s. They are planning to release a reunion album which was originally written in the early 90s and got lost after they split up. Max sometimes plays solo shows with his sitar.
and synthesizers.

TSOFDs: Amazing. Zappa influences we’re presuming, in the name at least. We’ll look out for that. The sitar/synth combo sounds intriguing also. Thanks so much for taking the time to converse with us.

 

Acid Rooster is available now on Bandcamp.

We Are Aerials ::: Maps

Of course, with the giddying amount of new music available every day, and the fact there is such a wide spectrum of genres and styles to choose from, it is arguably foolish to come to any generalized assertions about what’s good and what isn’t as good in terms of the year’s releases thus far. Everyone has their own taste and their own idea about what they are wanting from what they listen to.

As far as my feelings go though, some of the best records of 2019 I have heard are those which have mined, for want of a better way of putting it, personal loss and sadness. First of all Purple Mountains, the final release of David Berman, is one hell of an album. Perhaps not as cohesive but certainly its equal in terms of depth of emotion is ‘Ghosteen’ from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. And now we have ‘Maps’ by We Are Aerials, the work of Derry singer-songwriter Conor McAteer.

The first two albums I’ve mentioned have been reviewed widely by the tastemakers of the day already, so, you’ll forgive me if I dwell upon ‘Maps’ instead, dedicated to the memory of McAteer’s father.  At seven tracks long, the final one being a distinctive cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Streets of Philadelphia’, this album is the most succinct of the three.

I don’t want to waffle on too long about an LP that is so wonderfully concise. I would rather you just listen to it. Suffice to state, opener ‘Disgrace’ sets the tone and presents some key identifiable sonic characteristics of the overall work and, because it encapsulates the record so well as a whole, the following description of this track is all you should hopefully need in order to give the entire album a go.

Beautifully recorded acoustic guitar combines with equally well captured clear vocals front and center, with a neat string arrangement jabbing in and out, as a dutiful, unflashy rhythm section expertly does the necessary propping. The harmonies are precisely and tenderly deployed and you will welcome their reappearance. A curious chord change around the middle of the track followed by swelling reverb and ambient noise, helps add a valuable extra dimension before the track moves gracefully towards its final conclusion.

There are many talented songwriters in the world but when it all comes together is when they find the means to realize their ideas in the right way or alongside the right personnel. This is immediately noticeable on ‘Maps’ which finds a songwriting talent, that has slowly simmered away over the years, matched, once again, with those who are of equal talent in their ability to perform alongside, record, mix or help produce him. It has all come to the boil for Conor McAteer and to hear this gift and graft come to fruition is positively life-affirming and something any father would be proud of.

Follow We Are Aerials here.

Maps was available for a limited time only.

Find other music by We Are Aerials here.

Interview ::: Paul Morricone

PM2


TSOFDs: Hi Paul, thanks for taking the time. We stumbled across your new material via the BBC DJ Tom Robinson. He seems a very supportive guy when it comes to promoting new/alternative music  – is this the case? Are there any other DJs you would pinpoint that are doing a great job of championing independent UK artists nationally? Who do you tune into when you’re on the lookout for something new or different?

PM: Hi there Fighting Dogs. It’s been quite a surprise getting some airplay. I know that most things people get to listen to on any station have generally been placed there in some way. There is often an industry of people meeting up, making plans and scheduling in the artists so to get even a single play is an achievement when you haven’t got someone behind you. Tom Robinson is particularly good at being open and accessible to new artists and goes out of his way to listen to and play the things that float his boat. I’ve got to hear lots of great new stuff on his show that would never have found its way to my ears. These days, everyone can broadcast their music in some way so it’s quite daunting to know where to start looking for something new. The traditional channels will always be full of the things that are being paid for and promoted, so it takes effort to dig deeper. Services like Spotify now have sophisticated ways in marketing and placing new music to appear in front of you so there are less and less coincidences. You would need to explore further to find something genuinely unpromoted. I’ve always loved going to gigs – local ones, random ones in whichever town I’m in, etc. People need to make an effort, be brave and physically buy the record of the band they’ve just seen and liked regardless of whether it’s an ‘established act’ or not.

TSOFDs: Great answer. Anyone just coming across your stuff for the first time should rightly come to the conclusion you’re by no means a newbie when it comes to the business of songwriting. Can you give us a summary of the projects you’ve been involved in prior to or in addition to your work as a solo artist? When and how did you first get started?

PM: I’ve been in The Scaramanga Six since 1995. We’ve never stopped and still regularly write, record and play whenever we can. It’s a proper rock cottage industry that refuses to cease. The thing is that where some people have a go at being in a band then life gets in the way, they tend to stop – I can’t do that. Just because I’ve got a really tight deadline or a stack of bills to sort out, it doesn’t mean I’ve not still got a head full of ideas that keep appearing. I can’t just switch it off and ignore it. The Scaramanga Six have always seemed to find a way to keep existing despite everything and we are about to start on our next album. Me and Steve from The Six have also spent the last couple of decades as part of an educational pop outfit called Being 747 that toured schools and science festivals playing songs all about the history of life on earth and other sciences. Dave Cooke is the main man behind all of that and is a true songwriting genius. The solo album is the same as being in The Scaramanga Six except it is a slightly different musical palette.

TSOFDs: Leeds (and its surrounding areas) is increasingly well known for its progressive, inclusive, rich and varied music scene, and a certain DIY spirit. Does this assessment ring true with your personal experiences?

PM: I’ve gigged in and around the Leeds scene for years and it is always full of weird and wonderful musical activity. There are still lots of small places you can discover where bands are playing. Walk around the Hyde Park area and you’ll hear something coming out of a student’s bedroom. When we created Wrath Records in 2001, there was so much going on that we were probably one of dozens of similar labels putting out stuff at that time. The breadth of the music scene is also pretty astounding – there’s a hell of a lot of urban and homegrown studio acts putting stuff out. Definitely a DIY ethos all round, backed up by audiences still willing to find their way up the stairs of a pub to a back room to hear some sweaty noise on a Tuesday night.

TSOFDs: Do you see any significant challenges on the horizon regarding the health of live music in Leeds or more widely in the UK? Would you say the current environment is hostile towards artists or supportive, and how does this compare to times gone by?

PM: The biggest challenge is not to make live music but to find a way of getting people to notice you. There is always a place to play and if you can’t get a gig in a traditional venue, you can put one on yourself. Or you could broadcast it yourself. More people are making music now than ever. I think the main difference in live music these days is the way it is approached. Groups can often see the live gig as the thing they do to play their studio creations. Perhaps a band didn’t exist, but merely the ideas of one person on a laptop with a lot of plugins. Then a gig happens and the music you hear is a strange concoction of layers played from a Mac and a selection of assembled musicians each with their own ‘set up’. It is all a bit clean. I’d like to walk into a pub, chance upon a group of people who have barely rehearsed, are too drunk to play and can’t even remember how the song ends – that’s much more exciting.

TSOFDs: True. Sometimes it’s more fun when it sounds like the wheels could come off at any moment. Let’s move on to your solo work. We were blown away by your song ‘Estranged’. When it comes to the instrumentation/arrangement/production/engineering did you work completely alone? We’d love to have some backstory on how this track was created.

PM: I sat in front of a 10 year old laptop with a vastly outdated version of Garageband in front of me. It has a small selection of loops you can pick and throw onto a timeline. I figured that I’d have a go at not writing a song but simply pulling looped beats down then randomly writing some musical phrases with a rubbish sounding string sound to see what would stick. Then I started singing over the result and a song was formed. Actually one of the first songs I’ve written not using a guitar. Once this demo was done, I got Mitch and Ant who are a rhythm section to play along to the actual track. We then recorded all of this properly at 2Fly Studios in Sheffield with Alan Smyth, keeping most of the rubbish Garageband demo on it. Then I got in touch with a long-time friend and collaborator Spike Scott who is a composer for TV shows. Spike took the demos and recreated the string arrangements with a lot more whistles and bells on. I effectively produced everything, making tweaks to the arrangements until the dynamics were right. Then I decided to play a sax solo in the middle of it all.


TSOFDs: That’s a really cool insight. Sonically speaking, do you think ‘Estranged’ kind of encapsulates the rest of the material on your new record – all similarly big-sounding?

PM: ‘Estranged’ was one of the last tracks I’d written for this album – this is often the case with a set of songs. You start off in one place then the last few elements seems to be the distillation of everything. ‘The Dissolving Man’ is all very autobiographical and I wanted each track to be a short film in its own right. The whole thing is played as a three-piece – myself, Ant and Mitch. Then I just threw whatever I felt was right over the top. I wanted this to be a sophisticated record, with lots of attention to natural dynamics and arrangement. The sound in my head is big, so things are always going to be big.

TSOFDs: What is your philosophy in terms of taking the new album to the stage? Are you trying to stay true to how the songs are presented on the record or do you strip things down? Who accompanies you?

PM: The plan was to be able to gig easily. We’ve already been playing this material live over the last few months – either as the three-piece band with backing tracks or just me on my own singing karaoke style to the whole recordings. Both seem to work well – it is all about trying to create a vehicle for performance. I’m not interested in stripping things down even if it’s just me – acoustic act I am not.

PM1

TSOFDs: As you’ve stated, the title of the new album is ‘The Dissolving Man’. You’ve already touched on how it’s autobiographical. This title, combined with the title of the aforementioned song ‘Estranged’, more than hints at themes of alienation. Would you say this is something of a lyrical thread running through the LP and, if so, what has prompted this? If not, please tell us what has inspired these titles.

PM: I’m a middle aged man and things are falling off already. As you get older, you carry more baggage and life experiences with you. It is always good to incorporate things you observe from other people’s lives too. I mentioned that a lot of this was autobiographical but only as a reference to creating much more exaggerated stories to listen to. It is all a work of fiction but like any good crime writer, there has to be some element of darkness already in the mind to conceive of things.

TSOFDs: The group you also play in, The Scaramanga Six, recorded with Steve Albini – what was it like to record with one of the greats?

PM: We paid him to do a job. He was very workmanlike and wore a boiler suit.

TSOFDs: Ha – that certainly rings true. For our UK readers, when is the best time to catch you playing songs from the new record live?

PM: I need to arrange some more gigs. Anyone reading this can help by putting us on. Have gig, will travel.

TSOFDs: Promoters, what are you waiting for? Thanks for answering our nosey questions Paul – we wish you the very best for the new album and indeed all your future endeavors.

 

The Dissolving Man is out now.

Interview ::: Willem (Durian)

Durian is a Hangzhou-based fusion band. The group, comprising of members from different countries, take collective responsibility for their songwriting which has now borne fruit in the form of not one but two stupendous debut releases. A veritable force in their live guise and true favorites of the local Hangzhou music scene, we are very grateful to Willem from the band for taking some time out to converse with us.  

Durian

TSOFDs: Hi Willem. Very good of you to answer our questions. Tell us about the group and how you all ended up in China. Why the name Durian?

W(D): Our original line-up was a bunch of us who were hovering around the China Academy of Art all the time in 2012-13. I was actually the only one who wasn’t a student there but I was hanging out there anyway. The name Durian came about in the same way that many other great ideas do: while walking on the street talking about nothing. My conversation partner, now my wife, suggested: why not call yourselves Durian? And indeed, why not? I like random things, and what’s more random than a durian? As it turned out, we are very much like the fruit. Our music and style get people opinionated. It’s somewhat of an acquired taste to like durian, it’s not for everyone, but at least it evokes an instant opinion in everyone, either positive or negative.

TSOFDs: We’ve seen you play over the years in different venues around Hangzhou. Would it be fair to say your line-up has changed quite a lot – there seems now to have been a deliberate decision taken to present your core dynamic as a four-piece?

W(D): Our current line-up is very different from what it was a few years back. We had the standard drums-bass-guitar-singer line-up back then, with occasional additional instruments and guest musicians, like an extra vocalist, a keyboard, and later on more and more often saxophone. Our current line-up is the reason why we sound the way we do, it’s a rather rare combination of instruments for a ‘rock band’ or whatever we are. We don’t have a bass player these days, and there’s a good reason for that. For many years we had a hard time finding a steady bassist. While we were trying to move on as a band and book festivals and so on, we found ourselves often stuck without a bass, so we’d have to cancel. Of course there’s a certain logic to it that musicians would prefer paying gigs like weddings or so over uncertain and weird gigs with no pay (like ours). Anyway, the bass became somewhat of a liability and this spurred Daniel into action: he remodeled his guitar into what he calls a ‘tritar’. I think his obsession with the band Morphine had some influence on that: Mark Sandman played a two-string bass and had a whole musical philosophy about his less-is-more approach. In short, it’s a three-string electric guitar, but with very thick guitar string, and the whole thing is tuned down to C-G-C. It’s an interesting sound, because it really stands in the middle between a bass and something guitar-ish. Daniel plays them in a finger-picking way and has a lot of bossa nova-influences in his rhythmical approach. In our current line-up, I switched the electric guitar for the keys, my first instrument. Our four-piece now is: tritar/vocals, keys, saxophone/clarinet, drums. It’s a combination you don’t often hear.


TSOFDs: Having been a staple of the Hangzhou live scene for a long time, we’ve been aching to hear some recorded output. Now suddenly you have two records released in the same month. It feels like waiting for a bus back in the UK – it takes an age then two arrive at once. What prompted the decision to release two records?

W(D): We are very much a live band. Playing live has been our identity and musical philosophy. A lot of our songs were born during jams in front of a live audience, and if they weren’t, they at least took shape during live performances, when we could test in real-time what works with an audience and what doesn’t. We used to do a lot of improv, and I think even to this day we have never played one of our songs the same way twice (even though I now realize that’s not always a proof of interesting musicianship, it can as well just mean that we forget how to play them). So anyway, recording has always been a painstaking process for us, and we can’t be blamed for lack of trying. We’ve had several sessions and attempts over the years, but it never really seemed to capture the sound of the band. I think at some point we’d already given up on it. Last year we kind of unexpectedly won the Battle of the Bands at 9 Club, and I was supposed to leave China that summer to move back to Europe, so we all had a now-or-never feeling and went along with the momentum we were having. It seemed logical to record all our songs, but divided over two sessions, since our old sound is so different from what we’re doing now. We found some old friends to record to older, funkier stuff, in the ‘Coincidence’ album, and then recorded the newer stuff with our current four-piece, on ‘Kind of Nasty’. It just seemed more logical to separate them in two albums. I also felt it is a cool concept to have two albums as our debut output. All in all, it was the right decision to wait for such a long time. These songs have matured and changed a lot through our concerts. Some of the songs on the album were written six years ago, but I don’t believe we should have recorded them any earlier. They really had to go through some kind of musical puberty first.

TSOFDs: Where did you settle on to record your material? Did you take a lead in producing and engineering it yourself or did you trust someone else to do justice to the Durian sound?

W(D): One of our conditions was that we wanted to record everything live in the studio, and not instrument by instrument. For a while, we played with the idea to rent 9 Club and record there, but we finally decided to record at Nest Audio Studio, the owner of which is our friend Xiao Fei 小飞, who used to play drums in the band Spice. Everything you hear on both albums is recording live in the studio, and overdubs are minimal.
All four of us are pretty much illiterate when it comes to mixing and engineering. We did the production ourselves, in terms of musical decisions, you know, which instruments go where, where to change the dynamics, and so on, but the mixing was done by a Japanese contact of ours. He likes our music, which was the most important condition for us to believe he was going to do justice to our sound. We had to explain some things to him, but he was very communicative and didn’t try to push his own vision too much, which is what we needed.

TSOFDs: Did you find the recording process opened up new avenues to explore in your songs or do you feel you stuck very closely to how you’ve been playing the material live?

W(D): Believe me, even when recording we are still playing ‘live’ so even when we have 2 or 3 good takes of one song, they’re still very different. So maybe we really just don’t know what we’re doing. Recording definitely forced us to be very conscious about the songs, about what comes where, to add the right ingredient at exactly the right time. Actually, the recording itself went very fast: it took us one day per album. The real struggle took place during the approximately 9 months following those sessions. What to change, where to add a tiny detail or layer, what to delete, what to overdub. I learned about Daniel that he’s quite the perfectionist, who would have thought. In no way are our songs very close to how we used to play them live, because they are changing all the time anyway. On the contrary even, now that we have good recordings, when we play live we have been diverting less from the ‘standard track’ as heard on the recording. So recording has kind of had an opposite effect on us. But I think it’s a good thing. It’s made us a better band.


TSOFDs: It might be a difficult question in light of your different backgrounds and influences but can you point us to bands you’d cite as important influences who we should be checking out and listening to?

W(D): Everything is an influence in a way. For Daniel, I know his influences can sometimes more be found in poetry and theatre, or even the visual arts, than in music. He conceives song structures visually, like the song ‘Mandala’ is supposed to be shaped like a mandala. The instrumental section in the middle is the center of the mandala, so to speak, before getting back to the beginning of the round shape.

Sometimes an influence is more a certain state of mind, or energy, than a specific sound. I used to be really into Yunnan, as I’d lived there for over two years, and I loved the local music and musicians. Some of that influence can be heard in the bonus track on the ‘Coincidence’ album (Jekyll) but is harder to pinpoint on other tracks, as it’s more of a state of mind. Sigo, our first song, was written during a trip there.

For Daniel, it’s the band Morphine and their approach to music. We’re both huge fans of Tom Waits, even though I don’t know how this is reflected in our music, apart maybe from in Daniel’s voice. For Lucian, the sax player, it’s everything he listens to. There’s so much paraphrasing in his solos and riffs. If you want to go die-hard music nerd on his solos, you can find echoes of Sonny Rollins, Gilberto Gil, afrobeat, The Skatalites, classical music, and so on.

I’ve heard people compare us to Talking Heads. I liked that comparison, firstly because I’m a huge fan, and also because we (esp. in the older incarnation of Durian) also had something going on with one-chord songs with layer upon layer of sound, using riffs as building blocks. Recently someone said the song ‘The Wave’ reminded him of Weather Report. That’s a flattering one too. Anyhow, if you want recommendations, one can never go wrong with Tom Waits. That man’s oeuvre is like a universe.

TSOFDs: Good recommends. Good chat. Thanks for your time Willem!

 

Durian’s music can be purchased here on Bandcamp.