Great to see you back, where have you been?
Well, after we finished our tour opening for Jeff Mangum's comeback--before he put the band back together as Neutral Milk--we took a few few years off, just doing a few festivals here and there. There are kids in the mix these days, and being in New York was important to us.
What's the feeling now the new album is done and dusted, are you both pleased with the end product?
I'm super pleased, and I think Aaron is, too. We got to reconnect with people we've worked with over the years and do a different kind of recording--and of course spend time together, which is a big part of our thing. We're close friends.
What was the main difference this time around with the recording process?
This time around Aaron was super busy, so I wrote the tunes and recorded the barebones stuff myself (guitar and vocals). Then I had all sorts of musicians we know and loves improvise and elaborate on it.
We met Scott Minor on tour with Emily Haines years ago when he was her drummer and I loved his drumming. (He was a member of Sparklehorse, too, which is thematically close to what we do.) Anyway, he's also a great engineer, so he did all his percussion work remotely from Knoxville Tenessy. After he finished we had the structure set up, and everybody else layered on top. Then Aaron and I did all the guitar overdubs and he mixed/ produced it with my help.
How do you go about creating new music, do you have to been in a certain space, mentally and physically or is it, just when the spark strikes?
I think we both write all the time in fits and spurts. Aaron really locks into one song and labours on it until it are perfect. I quickly write a ton of tunes, then throw a bunch away, then go back and fix what I don't like.
What is your opinion as an artist about the shift by the likes of Apple and Amazon into the streaming market, will that be the end of downloads?
Speaking for myself, I think it's just another form of decentralised labour, where amorphous online entities broker decentralised work from all over the place and drive the price down in an attempt to raise profit and defray costs--royalties in this case. It's just like Uber, or Etsy or Amazon or whatever. The upshot is that more folks can participate creatively and make a small amount of cash; the downside is that the number of people who rely on a single profession is shrinking fast.
Split 7" singles are quite trendy at the moment, who you like to share your split 7" record with?
Again, speaking for myself--but I'm guessing Aaron would be stoked, too--I'd love to do one with Bardo Pond.
Are there are particular stories from any song on the new record that you would like to share?
The title track is Ghostlight. When we were doing theatres with Jeff Mangum, I was introduced to the phenomenon of Ghostlights. In some of these old places, the stagehands and actors put out a single standing light in the centre of the stage before they go home. The practical reason is that nobody walks into a darkened theatre and falls into the orchestra pit. But, around that was built a whole mythology, where the light is left out to comfort the ghosts in the theatre. Sometimes the even put out a snack and a cocktail.
I thought it was cool, and it reminded me of my relationship with Aaron. I'll always put the Ghostlight out for him, even if the stage lights go dim for a while.
How was the experience of the ATP festival you played in Iceland recently? Any UK dates planned?
Hopefully we'll hit the UK early next year. Iceland was rad! Packed house, they laughed at our jokes, and the folks we hung with were super smart and fun-loving. It really is like no other place I've ever seen. It's like being on the moon.
Just how difficult is it to earn a living wage from being a musician these days and where would you say is the bands strongest fan base domiciled at the moment?
Honestly, Tall Firs has never paid the rent for either of us for any long stretch of time. We do it because we love it and we think the endeavour has value. We know a lot of folks who make they're living solely as artists, but it is the exception not the rule.
It's pretty hacky, but do this if it enriches your life--and it has enriched mine tremendously. If your first thought is the monetary reward, you're never gonna get all you can out of it.
I dunno where the fans are. If I did I'd be busking on they're street.
Finally, what is the one piece of advice you would like to pass on to any new band starting out today?
Go out and see and meet other people who do what you wanna do. I'm pretty shy, and because of it, I've never done enough of this. That said, when I was able to, the experiences and friendships and creative cross pollination was worth it's weight in gold.
You can download the 'Ghostlight Ensemble’ now via ATP Recordings.