Interviews

New album ‘The Third Day’ was produced entirely by yourselves; what drove that decision and how did the experience turn out?

Our sound is heavily layered, and it's always tricky to translate from the abstract plane of what-it-sounds-like-in-our-heads to the concrete one of what-it-actually-sounds-like. Previous collaborators have manfully wrestled with the task, but this time around I wanted to see if it was possible to pull it off without outside help. Doing so robbed us so thoroughly of objectivity that I'm really not sure whether we succeeded or not. If not, there's always show jumping.

Apart from the self-production, what else was different about the recording process this time around?

Because of the self-production, there was no demo stage. The demos effectively became the finished product, after honing and refining. This was good in that we only had to hear each song 50,000 times as opposed to 100,000 times, and so only wanted to maim, not kill, small defenceless animals afterwards. Progress.

Who designed the album cover and how did you decide on the finished design?

The cover was designed by Ross Macrae and Brendan McCarthy of the arts collective Ray. I had worked with them on the giant TR-909 project and also with Brendan on the video for the first single August. Both the video and the artwork were inspired by Codex Seraphinianus, a psychedelic illustrated encyclopaedia created by Italian architect Luigi Serafini in the 1980s.


Links:

http://we-are-ray.tumblr.com/post/96026077684/clips-of-folk-using-the-909-on-its-first-outing-at

http://we-are-ray.tumblr.com/post/97816445239/promo-video-for-north-atlantic-oscillations-third


The band came together in 2005. Do you collectively still have the same dreams and ambitions or have they changes as the years have rolled by?

The music industry is unrecognisable now compared to what it was in the early 2000s. Artists now are forced to be pragmatic, and to learn some non-musical skills in order survive. That's not necessarily a bad thing. How crap most music still is, despite the death of big labeldom's bête noire, is definitely a bad thing.

Do you think that you can categorise the band's music, you have had the tags of prog, post-rock and shoegaze before?

Different listeners hear different things and are free to categorise as they please. We certainly don't have a tag in mind while we're writing music. That way lies samehood.

What is your song writing process and where do you tend to write. Any particular places you draw inspiration from?

The process is to make it as easy as possible for yourself to follow through on an idea. Have the instruments set up and ready to go so that when inspiration does occasionally strike, the constitutionally lazy human brain can't make excuses to do something less taxing instead. I tend to draw inspiration from non-musical sources like books and films rather than other music.

Are there any particular stories you would like to share behind the songs on the record?

Some are quite personal, but I don't like revealing exactly what any song is 'about'. Music is a conversation between the creator and the listener. Lyrics are poetry, not prose. If you declare that a song means this and not that, you're essentially hogging the conversation. When a listener reads into the lyrics a meaning that moves him or her, that meaning is every bit as valid as the one the writer started out with.

Just how difficult is it to earn a living wage from being a musician these days and where would you say are the bands strongest fan base are domiciled at the moment?

Borderline impossible. Our fanbase is very widely spread; I'm not sure I could pick one area where they're concentrated more than any other. It's great to get positive feedback on Monday from Sao Paolo, on Tuesday from Tehran and on Wednesday from Calgary. For some reason we never hear anything on Thursdays.

In fantasyland, if you could play in another band on stage (past or present), who would it be and why?

None. My favourite bands are my favourite bands because they're so good. Why spoil them by adding me?

Finally, what is the one piece of advice you would like to pass on to any new band starting out today?

Don't listen to other bands' advice.

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'New England' is the band's third album; what was different in the studio this time around as against when recording the first two records?

The main difference was Ezra Meredith (producer) joined the band.  Ezra and Joel Meredith (Pedal Steel on all 3 records) would work on the record when I wasn’t there.   I think they were listening to a lot of Spiritualized around the time of the New England sessions.   I’d come over and they’d play tracks for me.  Needless to say, I was blown away.   Also, our live set picks up where this record left off.  Songs have been stretched out and expanded on sonic-ally.  We plan to go back in the studio for the follow up to New England this fall.  I like to think it will continue where Well-Lit Highway left off.

How has your music evolved to reach the songs recorded on 'New England'. Has the style/ subject matters or song writing changed?

I don’t think the root subject matter will ever change.  I seem to write the same song over and over.

Be it place, thing or person I write about that same lonesome feeling.  That feeling could be the loneliness of heartache, getting old.  It’s all plain loneliness when you boil it down.  Even a little happy song can’t escape my sad song filter.  I guess I’ve gotten better at how to express that with more style, but like Neil Y. said, “it’s all one song”.

I also remember Jason Molina describing this and when you listen to his songs you will hear the same lines and subject matter throughout.   Train, Moon and so on…

The album has what I would call a 'widescreen gritty Americana' sound, how would you describe your music?

Not to dodge this one but I’ve always had a hard time labelling our sound.  After one of our live sets earlier this year a guy came up to us and said, “shoegazer country”.  I like the way that sounds, I guess.   I’d compare it to Dylan, in the sense that the sounds from Blonde on Blonde compared to Time Out of Mind are so different, but the songs are the same.   Imagine “Visions of Johanna” going all “Trouble Your Mind” after a few verses.  The space is there to do it.

Does Portland influence your music when writing songs?

It does but not as much as people and their stories.  Those stories really could take place anywhere.  Portland, OR, Portland, ME or Isle of Portland.  I try to write songs that anyone anywhere could relate to.

Back to college days, what were the albums exchanged with fellow students as you went through the education system that you still play today?

I made it halfway through college and then I moved to San Francisco to skateboard.  This would have been ‘93-’97, I guess…  I don’t think I listened to a single thing that would have been “new” then.  List of records, and memories are foggy:

Goats Head Soup - Rolling Stones

Harvest and Harvest Moon – Neil Young

The Phoenix Concerts – John Stewart

Mermaid Ave - Billy Bragg and Wilco

Desire - Bob Dylan

How important is social media in the promotion of your music these days and do you personally use twitter, facebook etc?

I use facebook.  I wish there was one way to speak to your fans or reach a potential audience all at once, but really it all comes back to playing live and radio/internet featuring artists.   

What is your preference for listening to music, Vinyl, CD, Cassette, Download etc and have you heard of the new PONO portable player championed by Neil Young that allows listeners to hear studio quality sound?

I heard Neil Young was divorcing his wife because he caught her with an mp3 player (that’s a joke).  I haven’t heard a PONO, but I do play higher quality audio files rather than mp3s, whenever possible.  I prefer vinyl.  My label offers a ‘High Quality’ download when you buy the vinyl of New England (deerlodgepdx.com).

What are your interests outside music and do you have much time to follow them?

Family and no, there’s never enough time.

Is there any chance of the band playing in the UK anytime soon?

I’ve always felt my music was better received across the pond, but nothing’s planned right now.

How active is the gig circuit around Portland and is it still the case that being on the road is the only way to make an income as a musician these days?"

Everyone in the band holds down a day job.  Playing around Portland has never really paid… so many bands.  On the upside, there are some of the best musicians in the world to play with.  It’s a rewarding community as a music fan, too.

 

Hi Dan,, how's life in sunny Hackney in 2014?

The Hells Angels UK HQ is next door and they're celebrating their 45th year at that address, so the road is closed off and stuffed to the brim with Harley's and leather clad men from another world. Soon they'll all be revving their engines in loud salute to their fellow people. It is exhilarating but I won't be renewing my membership.

What drove the decision to make your new album 'Distance' with a band as against your more recent solo (ish) albums?

Just to keep challenging myself and the songs, looking for new directions and surprises. We wanted to capture gut reactions to the songs rather than long winded, meticulously planned parts. So we just did one rehearsal before the recording session, then tried to capture the spirit of this collection of people. This was definitely the best recording session I've ever been a part of. Focused but wandering through the songs.

A pretty stellar band, how did you all come together?

They are a wonderful bunch, I'm in love with them all. We're all friends and always doing odd bits together here and there... It seemed like a great opportunity to get everyone in one room for a few days.

Do you write songs from real life experiences or do you make up the storyline. Where did you compose the songs on the album?

There's a line of truth in every song and I write a story around it. Or if not truth then a way of expressing an emotion or feeling that rings true to me. Most of the songs were written in an ex-army bunker in Montauk, Long Island. Going to another place is a way of divorcing myself from my everyday life in London... so I don't end up writing songs about my evening in with the laundry, or how upset I am that the sage plant isn't flourishing the way I hoped it would.

Any plans to hit the road solo or with a band for this release?

I'll be doing a few shows here and there... odd dates are popping up in September. Some of them will just be me and Horse, traveling by train, doing Alan Bennett impressions to pass the time. Some shows will be a bigger band. I'll keep you posted.

How hard is it to actually make a living as a musician these days and is it your full time job?

I imagine it’s impossible for most musicians to make a living just from records and touring, a few make it that way of course but a record is not something I've ever expected to make a living from, I do it because I cant stop myself, and it makes me happy. 

How would you describe your songs for people that have not heard your music yet?

I'm relying on you to do that for me! But if forced I’d say my records are their own world and you have to go there, if you don't like it, I'll make sure you get home safely.

Is there any place that you have a burning ambition to play a gig at? When was your first gig and what are your memories of that show?

I'd love to play some of the European amphitheaters and I'd like to go back to End of the Road festival. My first show was with my old band Absentee, we played a Mojo magazine London festival, I was scared and uncertain why I'd made the choice to put myself in front of a group of potentially unreactive strangers . I still feel that way but I've gotten more used to it over the last 10 years. 

What music have you enjoyed listening to so far this year?

I haven't listened to a lot, I've been seeing gigs to make up for it. Broken Twin, Beth Orton, the Nonesuch label birthday shows and a John Cage prepared piano piece were all highlights.

What was the idea behind the photo on the album cover and where was it taken?

The photo was taken by a friend of mine in Morocco. It seemed to evoke all the aspects of the album title without explicitly suggesting one thing... I love that shot.

'Distance' is being released as a digital download, a CD and on vinyl. What is your preference?

I'm old, I still love the romance of vinyl... the warmth of the sound and the physicality of the object. I still try to give the Cd's some aspect of that by screen printing them and making packaging from hand. As for MP3's, what can I wrap those in? A computer I suppose? I have nothing against MP3's, I think they sound fine and they're a lot cheaper to post to a friend.. I'm just a little old fashioned I suppose.

 

 

'Distance is out 18th August and full details are on Dan's website HERE & our review is HERE

You made some of the best new music I saw at the Great Escape festival. How was it playing there?

Great Escape is a good thing to do, there's always people there and most of the time it's people who've never seen you before which is how we like it. It was a bit if a blur cus we did 4 shows in 2 days and drank a lot but we had fun.

I saw you at the Sound Republic party. Did the different gigs vary?

Yeah, every show's different I guess. We enjoyed that courtyard. In those situations everything's pretty rushed but I kinda like the chaos.

It was good to finally hear some strong politics from the stage, just like the old days …. Tell me what you write about, and how that fits with your often delicate and calming music

We tend to write about things relevant to us. Whether it's about politics or just things we find funny, or disturbing, about human behaviour. I think we're really failed social scientists disillusioned with society at heart. It can sound a bit morbid but once you accept how things are and forge your own little space and morals out it's not so bad. I dunno how it fits in with the music but we usually know when something's right.

Many of your songs are very catchy/hypnotic – I am still humming Nite Life - and could become very popular. Is that an aim? How would you cope with success?

I think every artist wants their work to reach and affect as many people as possible and if they say anything different they're talking shit. I like music that has hooks and I like music that conveys an emotion without lyrical content. I think our lyrics might hinder mainstream success but f*ck it, if it happens then great. I dunno how we'd handle being successful, it's funny cus I've honestly never wanted to be "famous", I think I'd like to be respected for our work but I don't think we'd be any good at being spotted in the street etc, we'd probably end up tellin people to f*ck off.

Amazing videos. Tell me about those

Erm... To be honest I'm not a very visual person so the videos are usually left to the label and directors. All I do is turn up, look like a twat and then watch it once when it's finishes, cringe and pretend it doesn't exist.

Also great to see your punk side project Get Hot

Ha yeah, it's good to vent sometimes. Get Hot is ridiculous but it's a great excuse to hang out with people we like.

Any upcoming gigs/festivals?

We're doin Bestival and at the moment that's the only thing in the diary. Keep an eye out though cus we're plannin on doin a fair bit after the summer.

And finally, please recommend one of your own tracks and one by another artist, for our readers pleasure

By us I'd say Utopia. It's angry and we really like it even if other people don't. Someone else I'd say 'Alive in the Septic Tank' by Clarence Clarity. It's ridiculous. 

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Questions from Kevin Hand - @Kevinhand3

Can you tell us how the band was originally formed, and are the ambitions from those early days still alive today?

The band formed officially around 2010 but I had already started the foundations in 2008. Basically when my previous band The On Offs parted ways I had a bunch of demos building up so I uploaded a few to the Internet for the hell of it to see what people thought etc. Immediately I had loads of good feedback and Mojo magazine even wrote about one of my crazy instrumentals called Intermission Rag.

From this I started doing little shows with any friends who could play and fancied getting involved. I'd say I still feel the same as I did back then. When writing I'm always trying to better myself and feel I can do better. I also still buzz with new ideas for songs when they come into my head.

Third album done & dusted and out next week, band happy?

Yeah we are happy and glad the time has finally come as it feels like we've been waiting ages. I'm just looking forward to giving our fans a new bunch of songs to play with. I love delivering new music and am already thinking about other stuff to work on.

Was there anything different about the recording process / studio time together, this time around?

Normally The Moons head into the studio as we record bass and drums live and some guitar etc but this time I had prepared all the tracks at home so that we could take them into the studio and build on them. I quite liked it this way as I felt I could get down to business at home with no pressure and then head to studio with song a for the lads to work on. The song "Sometimes" was written in the studio and completely recorded there. It just came to me whilst playing piano and I just loved its vibe.

How would you describe the sound of the band for people that have not discovered you yet?

The Moons are melodic beat band with well-crafted songs and beautiful arrangements. We have two sides to our sound, a garage psych edge and a whimsy acoustic side.

Who designed the album cover on 'Mindwaves'?

The artwork for the album was by Polaroid artist Andrew Millar. I came across his work on the Internet and just loved what he was doing with the layering of images etc. His images are surreal and dreamlike but keep a modern edge and this appealed to me. Give him a search on google.

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