What are the main differences between your three albums - in case there are any?!?
The answer to this one is related to how our songwriting process has changed as well as to the dramatic difference producers can make. The first album was based on music Brendan (drums) and Henry (guitar) cooked up and I wrote vocals/lyrics. We had not played this material live when it was released, so it was somewhat unrefined in that way (many songs would probably have been shorter or quicker if we had played them live; some of them we have still never performed!) There was also a very happy vibe among us during that recording. We were sort of on honeymoon with this new project. That was a long time ago. By the time we recorded "7=49", we were maybe a little more scattered, having played live together for a few years and having introduced a new element to the songwriting: some tunes were written and arranged competely by Brendan with me writing vocals and lyrics and sometimes contributing to the structures, and most of these had never been performed, so we were just writing at home for the hell of it. With two different songwriting processes (the three person collaboration and the two person collaboration) returning in very different kinds of songs, and with the band being both a studio project and a live band, we really needed one person to bring it all together, wrap it up, and create a unified piece. Brendan took on that task. For "Sunburnt", which in many ways was as naturally as we evolved more toward the two-man songwriting process, we had the great fortune of working with an external producer, Trina Shoemaker, whose vision was to make the instrumentation support the songwriting and not the other way round, so she used only what she felt would enhance each piece. We were able to have out live-show bass player, Don Gerard, on all the the tracks too, in order to capture the live personality we have developed over these seven years.
Was the decision to record nearly all of the new songs acoustically intentional, or was it just the way the songs came about?
Actually none of the songs are totally acoustic! We used electric bass on everything and keyboards on many of the tunes. Maybe it's the piano and the frequent appearance of acoustic guitars that give you the impression. But there are also tons of electric guitars, too. These were largely Trina's choices, vintage keyboards rather than samples of vintage keyboards, certain drum setups that she preferred, etc.
Is there a particular theme/topic in your lyrics?
I used to write about longing and loss because for a while that was all I could think about and later it was all I thought I could write about, but for this album I plumbed the depths of my childhood and even made some stuff up! I really wanted to spread out a little, and now I fear I'm getting preachy. Some of the topics that were on my mind during the course of writing "Sunburnt" were: a pyromaniac kid who burned our house down, the dirt-poor love of my life when I was but a child who burned his house down, quantum physics, the shrinking blodiversity, my partner in sado-masochism (that's over now, thankfully!), old drinking buddies, the strange feeling that the closer I get to someone the less I really understand about him, the funny way that nature has of telling me secrets, etc. - "Montgomery L." is an old drinking buddy, I love him dearly. We both fell apart completely and have had to stop drinking, but we're still buddies. This song is a list of our adventures.
Please describe your fave songs on the album in a few words...
I think "Fat Dog" and "Through The Roses" are my favorites. "Fat Dog" makes me a little sad. I wrote it by myself, and Brendan arranged it. Don altered the rhythm on the bass line I had written to make it less jazzy and more gospel. We had such a beautiful time recording and mixing it. It was like being in love with them and with Trina all at once. She and I lit hundreds of candles the night we mixed it and sat very still as if we'd done something very, very naughty. Don and Brendan seemed a little afraid. "Roses" is just a weird one that I am liking today. It was such a huge pain in the ass to record, but it turned out pretty well. I like the spooky synths. I also like "Thirteen Days" for its spookiness and for the very high note that I hit. "Bug Collection" has the highest trumpet note ever played, and I'm very into the lyrics on that one. Because it's all true.
What kind of artists/music do you listen to at home? Are those bands the main influences on your music?
One of the best (and also the toughest) things about us is our different backgrounds and tastes. I personally listen to almost nothing but Etta James, Nina Simone, Charlie Parker, Art Pepper and Tom Waits, but recently I did fall in love with Big Sugar. I think this stuff does influence my writing a lot. As a child I was most dramatically affected by the Stones, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and later by the great blast of the early eighties (Pere Ubu, Gang Of Four, Magazin, etc.). There are some intersections among us in terms of favorites and influences. I think all of us were kids in the seventies and got into Led Zeppelin, Henry was a big Who-fan, Brendan liked Rush. Don listens to tons of music. Henry and Don are both super into the new Wilco record. Todd (our second guitarist, recently added) is a real pop monster(?) and really into jazz piano and "Peanuts" piano. Currently, I think Brendan is listeing to Tool and Death. We both love Anna Domino and Arto Lindsay, so we were probably influenced by them in some songwriting as well. I think you can't help but be influenced by whatever context you are in, so that's a little idea of our contexts.
Future plans? Tour?
We lack the ability to plan, and because we can't tour without tour support from Roadrunner Records, we are waiting for them to say when and where. We would love to come to Germany and other parts of Europe to play. Henry tells us great stories about Europe, where he has vacationed many times, but the rest of us just sigh and wait for a chance to be there. Maybe this time around!
Would be nice...
[Erstveröffentlichung im Baby Talk-Fanzine #10, Mai 1997]