Last week I went to see Maps & Atlas headline show at Brudenell (Supported by Tall Ship and Richard Parker – review to follow). Before the gig I got a chance to speak to Dave (vocals/guitar) and Erin (guitar) about their new record, touring, Prince, and fresh, local produce…
You’ve just released your new album, Beware and Be Careful, it’s quite ambitious with how eclectic the songs are, what inspired such a stylistic change?
I think it wasn’t a decision to change direction, when we first started the band when we were in college we were exposed to more avant garde ideas and experimental music – and we were interested in experimenting with those ideas -but we had all grown up with classic rock and pop music, stuff that was on the radio; that format of concise and direct songs that were enjoyable and not necessarily trying to be over peoples’ heads. That’s been a thread throughout a lot of our releases; even though the ideas we’ve thought possible in the context of a band have expanded – especially with this record – we’ve been trying to do things that we’ve never done before, be it use a guitar solo or using 808 drum samples. Basically we want to challenge ourselves to do something new for us, and something new, interesting and expressive. That combination brings a lot of different results every time.
Your earlier EPs and your first album Perch Patchwork were more technical, and more experimental, the EPs especially…
I think the first release was the most obviously that way, but I think with every release it’s kind of seemed like it’s getting a lot less overtly technical, but after our first EP we realized we have certain something that we do where we have interlocking parts, and we wanted to focus on layering these parts in a way where they would be less spasmodic and more tightly interlocking and layered, and serving in an eventual larger purpose – making something more potent. It’s fun to play technical music like that, but we’re making music that’s more danceable and more fun in that way. It’s not about constantly changing; it’s building on things and bringing people in. Incorporating elements of technicality to make the things people are enjoying more interesting and into a structure that’s more potent and less jarring.
We’re trying to make songs more fluid and subtle in their technicality, when Perch Patchwork came out, musically it was way more complex than we’d ever done, with crazy key changes and time signature changes.
Did you go into the album with a theme in mind? I saw that you released a trailer for it…
Erin made that trailer, it was written and the idea came up after we were done with the record. The narrative of the trailer is really nothing to do with the album, but we wanted to make something with the same themes and something that matched the tones of the record. We like the idea of when you’re bringing out a record “How are you going to introduce this?” and presenting a place that we can imagine the album existing.
Going into the album there wasn’t an apparent theme – the songs seem like they fit together in some way, but some themes of the album emerged once you could actually listen to it and see threads between the songs.
What were your influences for the vast variety of new sounds you’ve introduced?
A lot of chance elements came up that influenced that, one thing that was definitely a chance occurrence was around this time last year, myself and the producer of the album Jason Cutt were walking down the street in Chicago and this guy had a big sack of little old Casio keyboards – SK1’s and stuff like that – and we just got all of them for really cheap. We were demoing initial ideas on these keyboards, with no particular aim, and those ended up being the demos for the album. We didn’t necessarily use the keyboard sounds on the album, but going into it with these bizarre sounds as the blueprint and then building on that changed the way that we thought about the initial ideas of the record, it made it feel more free. Another element that added a lot of new sounds was this was the first thing we’ve done in an actual recording studio. On Perch Patchwork we did drums in a day or two, but never really went into a recording studio and made an album in that space. For Beware and be Careful we recorded the demos and early tracks in my parents basement pretty much, then we moved to a studio called ARC in Omaha and it was a really cool space and had tons of interesting equipment and pedals and instruments and it expanded the pallet of what we had to work with for this album. We’d never used any kind of effects on the other releases so it took us to new places and taught us a lot.
There’s a really dancey feel to the new album, and I read in an interview somewhere that you’d been influenced by Prince, which I enjoyed because of the contrast to comparisons you receive to Don Cab and similar “cold” Math bands…
Yeah we definitely respect and are all for musicianship and making things that are different and technical and expand the way people think about music and this and that, but we don’t want to make cold music, we want to make music which is fun. One thing I like about this album is that people we’re friends with who don’t necessarily listen to our music have said “It’s like what you guys have always done, but it’s so…fun” and I hope it is that way, I want our music to be welcoming.
It’s always been the goal, making music challenging that people can also be relatable on an emotional level. Going back to the Prince influence, an artist like him doesn’t have reservations about what sounds he’s going to put on his record, so that was exciting to take a prince approach “Y’know lets put a blistering guitar solo and a wah effect and a clavichord”.
Who do you listen to when you’re on tour?
We’ve exhausted everyone’s entire music collection. It’s all over the place, everyone has their own tastes, and then there’s the stuff that we share – our influences…I dunno
One of the things we always cite because they’re artists – aside from Prince – that we’ve been fans of and have informed our bands for the entirety are Talking Heads, David Bowie as we said earlier. I still feel as if I discover new Bowie songs and my perspective on his music grows over time.
That’s interesting; personally I can’t hear a direct influence of those artists on your music, so I suppose it’s more a philosophical influence – taking their open, uninhibited approach?
That’s interesting because we’ve always had that perspective of it being a somewhat philosophical influence. This album was the most where we approached it not like “Let’s do something like Talking Heads of Bowie”, but the approach, the philosophy of the album was to do something new and do something that exists sort of out of time.
What sort of more contemporary bands do you listen to?
I like M83, Beach House…I want to see M83 as soon as we get back. There are tons of bands – There’s the most overwhelmingly huge library of unbelievable good music out there at the moment, I’ve been listening to Future Islands a lot more recently, Wild Beasts are very good too.
It’s world record store day tomorrow, have you guys planned on picking anything up?
I’m not sure what we’re doing tomorrow…Oh we’re driving to Belgium tomorrow (laughs) so I don’t know if we’re going to get chance. Maybe in the morning we’ll pick up some stuff, definitely in need of some new music. I’m not sure what’s coming out though; we’re in the most disconnected sort of tour bubble. It’s always really cool and exciting though, and we definitely back it. Timing-wise we wish we had something that we had ready to release.
I’ve got a few questions from fans now; firstly I’d like to address your beards. How long have you been growing your Dave?
Since about the first time we came to this country, so I think about three years now was the last time I shaved and cut my hair properly. As for tips, take lots of vitamins and slather butter into it, just let it go! (Laughs)
I’m looking around the room and I can’t see anything out of the ordinary, what sort of things do you have on your rider?
(Looking around the modestly furnished dressing room) Empty cups…silverware, a ladder…
A noisy air-conditioning unit to interfere with interviewers dictaphones…
Exactly! (Laughs) We have a pretty simple rider, just fruit and vegetables…we ask for local produce, that way we get different things all the time. Sometimes it’s weird, we’ll just get a package of babycorn. In the US we get Kombucha which is a fermented tea, it’s pretty crazy, you should try it.
This one’s tapping into the zeitgeist; not sure if you’ve heard about it while on tour but Tupac was resurrected via hologram at Coachella last weekend. Who would you like to see given similar treatment?
I didn’t see it but it sounds pretty magical. I’m kind of afraid of the hologram I don’t think I’d like anybody to come back. I’d rather see someone who was still alive have their alter ego hologram on stage. Or somebody that never existed, like a mythological beast…the first time ever an esquilax has been on stage.
Finally – I can feel my journalistic integrity going out the window but it was the most popular question – how many of you guys are single?
We’re actually all in a relationship together! No…(Pause)…Shiraz is definitely the bad boy of the group, he’s like a greaser…But uhhh, yeah we don’t know…
I think I’ve made things awkward enough now. Thanks so much for talking to us!
Gavin Watson is one of the country’s most revered photographers; achieving his success through documenting the fashions of subversive cliques such as skins, mods, and late 80s rave kids. He also shoots for Farah Vintage and is part of their new Citizens of Farah project – Farah are looking for a face for their next campaign, and if you help over on their Facebook (clicky) then you could win the chance to assist him on the set for the shoot. Doesn’t really get much better than that if you’re into that sort of thing, eh?
In a move nobody saw coming, Death Grips have signed to major label Epic Recordings. The Californian punk-rap outfit – known for their visceral live performances – have previously self-released all of their material via their website Third Worlds. The deal outlines two albums for release in 2012; the first one – The Money Store – will be released in April and contains singles Blackjack and Get Got. You can see the video for Get Got after the link…
The official video for Do Ya Thing by Gorillaz featuring Andre 3000 (Outkast) and James Murphy (DFA Records/LCD Soundsystem) has just been released; following the song’s first radio airing by Zane Lowe some time early last week. I’m not a huge fan of Gorrilaz; they’ve had a few good songs; mostly confined to their first album over ten years ago (Yeah, really, that long), but they just seem like an overindulgent kooky experimental project granted far too much credence due to Albarn’s involvement. They annoy me to the extent that even when they made this track featuring two of my favourite artists, I still found it impossible to get excited about it. Since then I’ve given it a chance and found it to be a grower…
Who?: Los Angeles rapper and part of the Black Hippy collective, with Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock. First came to our attention featuring on Kendrick Lamar’s 2010 track Michael Jordan. His second album Habits & Contradictions was released not long ago with features from his Black Hippy pals; as well as letter-S boycotters Curren$y and A$AP Rocky.
Sounds like: Your average mixtape rapper. His flow is pretty basic – in places you’d struggle to tell him apart from Obie Trice – but that hasn’t hindered the success of average rappers in the past. Where Q shines is in his executive decisions; the production on the album ranges from Trap bangers (Niggahs Already Know), Chopped & Screwed odes to pharmaceuticals (Oxy Music), Flute-laced R&B (My Hatin Joint), Spank Rock style Ghetto Bass (Druggys Wit Hoes Again) and Hudson Mohawke esque rolling melodies (Sex Drive). It’s a welcome change from the slew of Odd Future/A$AP clones we’ve seen recently.
Standout track: Hit the jump to listen to the whole album on Soundcloud, be sure to check out all the tracks mentioned above
Story: Four fringes from Birmingham(ish) with the lowest work-rate since Late of the Pier. Around this time last year they released the demo for their single “BBLOOD”, and now they’ve uploaded their first official single “Follow Baby”, released this April.
Sounds like: Finally outgrowing the lazy comparisons to Foals, Follow Baby starts off on some 1991 Manchester shit, then there’s Harry’s drawled vocals, and a hook which wouldn’t be out of place on Klaxons‘ first album. There’s also a bongo in there somewhere, which was a brilliant decision. BBLOOD sounds a lot like a lo-fi Fool’s Gold, with less annoying vocals.
Standout track: Gonna go with Follow Baby, but if you haven’t heard BBLOOD then I’ve posted it after the jump, go and listen to it afterwards.
Follow Baby by PEACE
Story: PONCHOS is…Well, we don’t know. Whoever’s behind is is pretty secretive, the only information I’ve been able to gather is from their Facebook page, which surrenders the information that they’re from Boston. Or Chicago. And they make songs in their bedroom. Or bedrooms? Who knows. Their EP was uploaded to Soundcloud just before the weekend and it’s been slowly gathering interest since.
Sounds like: Equal parts Gold Panda, Grimes, and Clams Casino, with hints of a Battles influence in parts.
Standout Track: For me it’s Chatter, which you can listen to below: