The Shins, on a month long tour across the country, played to a sold out crowd at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Saturday night. Dave Hernandez, the lead guitarist of The Shins, had the tendency to produce long, drawn out effect-driven solos that did not fit The Shins‘ style at all. Overall the show was nothing special except for a few songs that stood above the rest– “Caring Is Creepy” and a cover of Neil Young’s “Careless” were among them.
May 20, 2009 · No Comments
May 14, 2009 · No Comments
Colin: What are your thoughts on remix artists?
Peter: I’m a remix artist as of last week.
Peter: I’m working on a remix for Mates of State, whose album I actually did but they’re doing a couple of remix EPs, and they asked me to remix one of the songs. So I’m dipping my toe in. I have mixed feelings on remix artists. In a way, I’m really impressed sometimes when I hear remixes because they can be incredibly musical. I’ve even heard remixes that are better than the original song.
Peter: Because the remix artist did all the, actually…
Colin: Played the instruments.
Peter: Right and added really musical things. I don’t know if they necessarily changed the chord progressions but they will add all sorts of things or add loops that add a lot of harmony, more harmony than was there originally. And I think that’s great. But then again it’s always, to me, held back by being sort of cartoony, dancy sounds all the time. But if you’re okay with that, you’re okay with that.
Mike: I’m okay with that.
Mike: Do you know RAC? The Remix Artist Collective.
Peter: I know almost nothing about them. Did he do a Tokyo Police Club mix?
Mike: Yeah, they did a bunch of Tokyo Police Club’s.
Peter: Well, that’s what I… I thought the remix of Sixties is better than Sixties. I thought Sixties was the weakest song on the record. So I thought the remix was more musical than the actual song.
Mike: Yeah, I know they were great.
Peter: And the remix was done before the mix was done, which was kind of weird.
Colin: It is weird.
Mike: Yeah, my friend Andrew, he’s apart of RAC, and he’s the one who actually told me about you. He’s like, “Oh Peter, he’s great you know.”
Peter: Well you can tell him, “Hey man, right back at you!”
Peter: You can’t record tone of voice. But, yeah, like I said to you guys, the remix is better than the song so that’s a tough one sometimes.
Mike: Yeah. So are there any albums out there that are like a reference bible to you as a producer and not as a listener?
Peter: That’s a good question. You know we’ll reference albums. Do you mean like a sonic reference when you’re mixing a record?
Mike: Yeah, yeah totally. You know something where, say there’s an album and you’re like man this album is just solid all around, mixing, recording, and maybe you’re like, something you just listen to as a sonic reference but also as a reference, like I’d like to record or master like that. I mean everybody has their own style respectively.
Peter: Right, right. Well it’s hard to say. I almost don’t want to list any records but it’s… There’s certainly records we like. It’s easy to lose touch with the outside world if you don’t A/B the records in the studio. The one thing I’ve learned in the last couple of years, I definitely used to have certain records that I’d do that with a bunch, but one thing I’ve learned is that it’s really kind of bizarre how different records can sound from one another but still all sound pretty good. So I try not to get to heavy into A/B’ing. But, I don’t know Greg (Peter’s assistant sound engineer). I don’t know if I want to start listing records.
Greg: I wouldn’t. I mean every time we do it, it never applies. You think something is similar and then you’re like let’s check it out. And like, even though the sonics might be technically similar enough to even make a judgment call.
Peter: It helps sometimes.
Greg: Like if seeing if something is bright enough or loud enough.
Peter: Right. But it’s like, how can I even explain it…..what was I going to say? I mean sometimes you think of a certain record and say well that record sounds amazing, but then you’ll A/B it next to something else and you’ll go oh it doesn’t sound that good. But then you’ll A/B it against something else and you’ll go yes it does sound that good. Not because it’s better just things are different you know?
Peter: It’s also weird now because records have gotten louder and louder, technically. Which can be fine, it can be cool. A loud record can be exciting but it can also be a dangerous game. You can end up really beating your music to death in a bad way.
Peter: That’s a game we play all the time. That’s a game we’re playing right now with The Swell Season. This is a largely acoustic record, but some of the songs are almost full on rock songs, too. So how do you make a record without any sonic compromises that still holds up to modern rock records volume wise.
Peter: But that’s the reason I have this giant wall of compressors and stuff. Playing with compression and peak limiting in the right ways is the key to a record that sounds like it was made recently but doesn’t sound ridiculously loud or artificially loud.
Mike: Yeah, so I guess going off that, I had some help with this question because it’s kind of techie. And you know, I know a little bit about recording, done some self recording for some songs, but um, so I’m just going to read this and hopefully you’ll understand what I mean.
Mike: So, how detrimental is a 256 kbps mp3 to a consumer’s interpretation of the audio quality? In actuality, do you agree with the tenacity with which much of the music industry scoffs at mp3?
Peter: Well, it’s a tough call. I mean, I think a 256 mp3 is actually pretty good sound, you know, I mean to be honest. But most mp3’s you get aren’t 256.
Peter: I mean I think a lot of times when you download stuff, I’ve never downloaded anything off of iTunes. That may sound pretty funny but I haven’t. What are they?
Greg: I’ve gotten a lot of 128s and they sound miserable.
Peter: See, right 128, that’s not cool. 256..
Peter: It’s pretty good. See I guess the real objection a lot of people have, that I would have, is it’s kind of depressing that as technology moves forward, the most common way of giving music to the consumers, is that the quality is actually going backwards. Just that in itself even if it’s still pretty good, why would you make it worse? You know, a few years ago everyone talked about oh in a few years everything will be 24bit 96k for the consumer. No. We’re going backwards quality wise.
Peter: Which is a little depressing.
Greg: I also have a thought on the mp3 too. Like, I guess it’s not really the same question.
Mike: No, go ahead.
Greg: Also, I’ve recently gotten into listening to vinyl more often, which is a totally different experience than having the iTunes open where you can jump around to all different things. Like being able to hear something as an album, you know, even something modern, you know, totally brand new record, it’s so much more enjoyable, it’s so much more deliberate, you know, to sit down and actually listen to the whole thing rather than have it on in the background while you’re cleaning or whatever.
Peter: And that’s the reason really honestly I think for the volume wars in music. In the old days, you put on a record and it didn’t matter if the record was quiet or loud. You just adjusted your volume knob to suit it. But with iTunes and everything or even with playlists, if you’re jumping from band to band to band to record to record to record, and if your music is quieter, it doesn’t sound as good. So, yeah, and I don’t even have a functioning turntable right now I’m embarrassed to say. But its something I miss about the days of vinyl because of that. Also, I like active listening, I like sometimes to just sit down and listen to the music instead of having it just be background.
Colin: What are you working on now, The Swell Season? And how is the recording process?
Peter: Uh, Swell Season. Yeah. We’re almost done, well we’re just starting mixing, but the truth is we’ve got a lot of the mixing done already. Recording The Swell Season was in a certain way one of the easiest things I’ve ever done in my life because they’re so good. There’s something about when a singer walks in a room and just sort of… Is someone at the door? It could be Glen…speak of the devil. Speak of the Irish devil!
Peter: Um, but both Glen and Marketa sing so well that it’s almost kind of freaky.
Peter: And the musicians in the band, all the guys from The Frames, they’re so good it was was incredibly easy. They’re all really good musicians, and they’re really fun people. I only have a handful of experiences in my life that were truly miserable, which I won’t talk about.
Mike: Yeah, no we don’t have to go there. So uh, if there were a next step for Peter Katis, what would it be? You know, you’re working with some of the coolest indie acts out there in this beautiful home and studio. Do you see yourself growing old at Tarquin or might you ever entertain relocating or starting a new studio somewhere?
Peter: Well I daydream about that all the time because I have a secret master plan in the back of my head of building a studio (Laughs). Not that far from here but sort of more rural Connecticut…in the woods.
Colin: More isolated.
Peter: Yeah, a piece of land that I actually would have access to. The problem is, if you were to be totally realistic, you would need the kind of money that indie rock producers don’t really make.
Peter: So maybe some day, maybe not. You know, especially now after George Bush has destroyed the world..
Peter: I’m not going to try anything too ambitious right now.
Mike: So secret masterplan studio in the woods.
Peter: Secret master plan. Well one plan is to maybe not work so hard, but that plan never works, it never works. And now I have a seven-month-old baby so I thought I had no time before, who was I kidding?
Mike: So if you could be any kind of professional athlete what would you be? A downhill skier?
Mike: You might switch it up a bit?
Peter: No, I’d probably be a hockey player.
Mike: Hockey player?
Peter: Although, I wouldn’t look forward to getting into fights. Grown men getting into fights to me is a little…
Peter: A little caveman-ish.
Mike: And we’ve asked this question before but I find it pretty interesting. Would you rather, inevitably you’re going to get eaten or you’re going to die, would you rather get eaten by a bear or a shark?
Greg: I feel like we’ve had this conversation before.
Peter: I don’t think so.
Greg: I’ve asked this question to people before. I’ve got an opinion but I want to know what you think.
Peter: Well you know in another world where you’re allowed to try that, I’d love to see what it’d be like to fight a bear.
Peter: So I mean, odds are a bear, is you’re not going to beat the bear. But a shark, sharks are much scarier and grosser, so I might pick the bear. On the other hand, I’ve imagined being attacked by a shark, and I imagined poking its eyes out and maybe getting away.
Peter: But the question is not which one could you get away from but which would you rather be eaten by. That’s a bad question.
Peter: I didn’t mean it’s not a good question, I mean, there’s no fun answer to that. I guess, uh, I don’t know.
Greg: So your answer is I refuse to be eaten. Peter: I would just run. Run faster then the other guy with me right? That’s the old joke right? You don’t have to run faster than the bear, just faster than you.
Greg: I’ve got a thought on it, I’ve always heard that bears are not efficient killers so it’d be a more long drawn out process. He might gnaw on your leg for a while.
Mike: That’s what I’m saying. Shark.
Greg: You know a shark knows what he’s doing.
Mike: At least you’re drowning while you’re being eaten.
Peter: And then if you get away from shark A, I’m sure shark B would be there in a few seconds.
Mike: Oh yeah. Well either way you’re going down so I guess..
Mike: I guess to sort of wrap things up a little bit, is there any sound or technique or audio phenomenon that you still can’t wrap your hands around? Like any sounds on records that boggle your minds? On how they got that?
Peter: That’s a good question. I definitely will hear records sometimes where there is this absolutely massive low end, you know, massive bass. Yet still the bass isn’t too much. Sometimes I just think, wow, how did that just happen, how did they do that? But I mean that’s one of the fun parts of this job: to try to figure out how to do that. But it can be a little unfair too, for example, when you hear some sort of metal or techno type of music where the low end blows away indie rock sounds, but it’s a different game, it’s a different approach. You know if I had that sort of sound on an indie rock record, people might go whoa whoa whoa take it easy. You know?
Peter: But big sounds are very gratifying. And in fact, we’ve been accused of that a lot more recently with bands that have said, hey, take the drum sounds down a notch, you know this isn’t you know…
Peter: Because we love to go for the big heavy kick and snare and a lot of times people may think it’s too much stylistically. But yeah, I think that’s the most impressive thing when people can get a massive low end on a record, and it’s still never muddy or boomy or inappropriate. Or when records achieve a natural loudness…not like a guy just pulled down a slider on a digital limiter. Oh yeah, and good music.
May 13, 2009 · 1 Comment
Michael and Colin traveled from the boros of Philadelphia to the lovely Victorian home-and-studio in Connecticut of indie rock producer Peter Katis(Interpol, Tokyo Police Club, The National). He took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about his current projects with both The Swell Season and Jónsi Birgisson of Sigur Rós and also offered some insight into the role he plays as an indie producer.
Mike: Where’d you go to school?
Peter: I went to the University of Vermont. But I went there as an (Laughs) athlete and after one year, I quit sports and sped into art and being into bands. So that’s the way it normally goes, I think.
Colin: What sport did you play?
Peter: I was a downhill ski racer.
Colin: That’s pretty cool.
Peter: But I used to be a hockey player, too. And bands always think it’s funny that twice a week I leave a little early to go play hockey. It keeps me sane. This job can be incredibly brutal…the hours and just the intensity of it and stressing out over it. So doing something like that helps me avoid going crazy.
Mike: Yeah I hear that.
Peter: But I didn’t study music or engineering in school. I got into four-tracking my own band. In the old days when it was still just a four-track in your dorm room. But right away I was really, really into it, and I was also kind of good at it right away. When I got out of college I took some classes at S.U.N.Y. Purchase, which is a college near where my parents lived.
Colin: Yeah, recording your own stuff probably helped you mess around with it and get familiar with the whole thing.
Peter: Yeah definitely.
Mike: I mean that was sort of like your break into music, you know, just playing your own music and recording yourself. So how did you get into the industry after deciding maybe I have a chance at this?
Peter: Some guy in a band, like all my friends’ bands started asking me to help them record because everyone was just recording themselves. And they said “You’re good at this, you should do this for a living.” I thought “That’s crazy!” who would do that because it sounds like too hard of a thing to get into. But then I thought I do really like it and the next thing I knew I got this assistant teaching job at SUNY Purchase and the guy who taught the class worked in a studio in New York. I asked him if he could get me a job and he said he’d try. And I thought that was the end of that. Then a bunch of months later he said “I got you a job!”, an internship, and so that’s how it started. It was at this really nice studio with three Neve rooms but also the worst place in the world : They just made high-end karaoke songs. But it’s pretty funny that’s where it all started and built from there.
Mike: That’s pretty funny though.
Colin: That’s cool.
Peter: Yeah, it was funny. And that was definitely, that was 1990, you know so that was still in the old days.
Peter: When there was no Pro Tools.
Mike: The good days.
Peter: A lot of old school attitude in the studio you know.
Peter: Not something I think is very cool. That’s what I like about this place. There’s not a lot of cool dude attitude here even though a lot of cool dudes come here.It’s not tolerated.
Mike: That’s Good.
Colin: So when you get work, do the bands come to you or do the record labels come to you?
Peter: It’s both, but it’s usually bands because I think nowadays the kind of bands that I record are mostly bands that care about recording and are on indie labels mostly, who you know, they get to make those decisions. Once in a while I’ll get approached by a band’s manager or something but usually it’s the band. Like I said, in indie rock, the bands make the decisions.
Mike: Right. Are there any bands out there that you find mind-blowing and you find yourself thinking, ‘Wow I’d like to work with them’? Or maybe not mind-blowing but just interesting.
Colin: That you haven’t worked with…
Peter: Sure, I guess so. Yeah. But it’s always a tough call… Be careful what you wish for sometimes. Especially bands that already have really great sounding records that come to you. “Oh, no…”
Peter: One thing that is kind of cool… I think one of the best bands in the last ten years is Sigur Rós. And in a few weeks, I start a record with Jónsi Birgisson from Sigur Rós. It’s sort of his solo record.
Colin: Is it with his partner or? There was a rumor that he and his boyfriend were doing something together?
Peter: Yes, but it’s not the “Riceboy(Sleeps)” thing. That’s a strictly ambient record that they made by themselves and comes out pretty soon.
Colin: That’s pretty cool.
Peter: But the other collaborator on the record is Nico Muhly. Do you know who he is?
Peter: He’s this sort of wunderkind, composer, arranger, conductor guy. He’s more from the world of contemporary classical, but sometimes, he’ll slum it with us indie rockers. So it’s going to be a largely acoustic guitar record but also with a lot of “out there” string arrangements. Strings, woodwinds, brass and double bass, actually.
Colin: Yeah we’re speaking with Sigur Rós’ string band Amiina.
Peter: Oh, right, right, right.
Colin: So that should be pretty cool. We really like their stuff.
Peter: I’ve never heard them and in fact when I saw Sigur Rós in the Fall and went to talk to Jónsi and stuff, it was their first time in seven years where they were touring without the strings. So I saw them as a four-piece rock band. I was pretty impressed how they still pulled off that big sonic landscape, not-bullshit-rock sound with four guys playing guitar, bass and drums.
Mike: The drummer beats on that kit. You know, live, at least when I saw them, he was so impressive to watch.
Peter: You know that’s where I give the sound guy credit at that show. It was at this really cool venue in New York, called The United Palace which is on W 176 St., way, way up town. And it was this beautiful old theatre. It’s like a smaller version of Radio City Music Hall. It sounded great but I think that’s because they didn’t put too much of the drum kit in the mix at all ‘cause it would have just been a mess. If you mixed it big rock-drums style, it would have been a wall of noise. Smart mixing…
Colin: That’s awesome.
Mike: So how did you get involved with Tokyo Police Club Did they approach you?
Peter: That was the very first band that approached me through my manager. I have a manager now.
Peter: I avoided management for years, and well, at first of course, like a band, when you want a manager you can’t possibly get one.
Mike: Of course.
Peter: But I avoided it for a while cause I just never had the right feeling about it, and it’s basically people saying give us part of your money and we’ll make your life better. That said, I think I have a great manager. I actually love it, and it’s been two years now. They get where I’m coming from, how I work and what I’m into. But still, ninety percent of the projects just come straight to me. But that was like the first thing they brought me, and I said “Sure”, that’s right up my alley, I like that band.
Mike: We heard that the noise at the beginning of “Centennial” on Elephant Shell is a door closing in the studio. And the noise seems to be identical in some repeats and we were just wondering if that was natural or if it was just like in the edit in Pro Tools.
Peter: I’m guilty of not remembering now. And a lot of Elephant Shell wasn’t recorded here. That record’s kind of a long story. They recorded here when they weren’t really ready to record it. Then we stopped before we were done, and they went on tour for like a month or two with uh, for a while with, what’s their name?
Michael: Ra Ra Riot?
Colin: Vampire Weekend?
Peter: I’ve almost got it.. Bloc Party! So they played all these songs that they were sort of winging in the studio and got them down much butter.
Peter: And then they re-recorded a lot of it in a studio in Toronto when I was in the middle of another record. Then they came back a couple of months later and we mixed it all. But it worked. Some of the sounds were a little rough, but it gave them that raw edge that they need. Sometimes some of the songs recorded here can feel a little too polished. Not that we tend to make things that are too polished, but they’re the kind of band that has a really raw energy that definitely needs to be recorded a little rough around the edges.
Mike: Yeah, I love it. So when you’re recording or mixing with an artist, how often do you find yourself itching to suggest that the band may be making a poor decision?
Peter: Oh. (laughs) I’m a pretty honest person. I think part of the required skills of being a producer is to know how to say things in a way that doesn’t make you sound like a jerk. And if you’re genuine and just say…you know, you don’t say “This is a bad idea”, but why don’t we try this, why don’t we try that, not in a bullshit kind of way. I find people actually deal with criticism or basic disagreements pretty well if it’s presented the right way.
Mike: Right, yeah I know. Is it more in terms of like, you know, say a tone on a guitar or a synth that you might be like, you know, it might be a little better..
Peter: It all depends. It depends so much from band to band. Some bands will be really in tune to subtle sonic textures and production things, and other bands won’t care at all about those sorts of non-musical details. It’ll be more about the music. It varies a lot. It’s bad when bands don’t care at all about the sound, and it’s bad when bands totally obsess over it.
Colin: Yeah, they need to find that balance I guess.
Peter: Yeah, yeah. And a big thing to me is embracing just what a recording is. Sometimes when you start a recording, you have a plan. It could be a great plan, but who knows what’s going to happen. And then you record something ,and if it’s not good, it’s not good and you’ve got to change it. But if it’s really good, but it’s not what you planned, you should reconsider what you planned because it’s so easy to ruin something that’s good just trying to make it something different, something you thought it might be when you started. If that makes any sense.
Peter: So bands will have a plan, but then we start, and we do something and we stumble onto something really great even if it’s totally different than what we planned. And if they’re open-minded enough to embrace it, that’s really exciting to me.
Peter: It kills me when bands say no we can’t do that: it’s different than the demo. It’s like oh no.
Peter: I mean…I think you do all the best things by accident. Well, not totally by accident, of course. But leaving room for happy accidents is always a good plan.
Colin: Yeah, just let it flow.
Peter: In the old days there was a lot more: write the songs, practice them to death, and then record. But now bands definitely compose stuff in the studio. It’s just the nature of recording to computers versus just tape. I mean I still use a lot of tape, and I live by analog sounds, but because you can do take after take and save dozens and dozens of tracks, I think it just lends itself more to that kind of thing.
Mike: Plus it’s cool, I mean, you have so much stuff here why not experiment in the studio you know rather then just stick to the idea you had before.
Peter: And I find a lot with young bands they do less experimenting and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They just sort of come in with it all together. But the more records a band makes the more they just get bored of writing songs and bored of their instruments and they just want to experiment in the studio. I think it makes a lot of sense.
Colin: So are the guys from Interpol as serious as they look?
Peter: (Laughs) Ah yes and no. But they’re also pretty fun?
Colin: I’ve talked to Sam before in a different interview for Magnetic Morning, and he’s a pretty cool guy.
Peter: Yeah, a great guy. I just spent a bunch of weeks with Paul Banks, the lead singer, doing his solo record. And he’s a hilarious guy. And you know, Daniel is funny and believe it or not, Carlos D. is very funny. Yeah, I don’t know, I guess their public persona is kind of intense.
Colin: Yeah they always have their suits on.
Peter: They do wear their suits regularly. That’s true. But they look good…
Mike: So how often do you go to concerts, and when you do go to concerts, do you find yourself thinking about the mix the whole time instead of passively enjoying?
Peter: (Laughs) No. No. Not really. I wear earplugs. I’ve worn earplugs to every concert I’ve seen for almost twenty years because I’m so paranoid. But any quieter moments I pull them out and stick them right back in. But, no no, I try not to obsess over the sound at shows. But I do try to get out. I mean it’s so easy in this job to get locked in here like a prison. You know?
Peter: I’ll confess I mostly just see bands that I’ve worked with or that I might work with. But that’s still a pretty good bunch of shows I guess.
Peter: But, of course, I get to see other bands, too. For example, the band, The National, I’ve done a whole bunch of records with and they’ve sort of become some of my best friends, and a couple times a year I’ll go see them play. And when I saw them at Madison Square Garden opening for REM and Modest Mouse, I got to see three bands.
Colin: Good bands too.
Peter: And actually the reason I went and saw Sigur Rós was to meet with their managers because I was doing this band, Fanfarlo, who are from London, who I spent the Fall with making their record. A brand new band that is really good. Fanfarlo. And uh, yeah because of them, I got to see Sigur Rós, etc. When I went to see Tokyo Police Club at Madison Square Garden’s The Theater, I saw Bloc Party.
Colin: So it’s all just interconnected.
Peter: Yeah, yeah, it’s fun. I complain about my job a lot because it’s kind of miserable and then also it’s the greatest job in the world, so, I can’t really complain.
Colin: Cool. So you were saying you’ve worn earplugs for a while, are you finicky about your ears like protecting them I guess?
Peter: Yeah! You better be. I mean, I’ve played in bands for so many years and at one point fairly early on my head would just be ringing for hours after shows and I just though I’ve got to do this.
Colin: I’m only 20, I’ve got to last this much longer.
Peter: I’ve tried all different types of earplugs I even went and got fancy $200 earplugs, whatever. I hate them. I like the cheap $1 or $2 30db foam earplugs.
Colin: I’ll keep that in mind.
Peter: To me that’s the sound of “live” music.
Colin: Right, I’ve just started to wear earplugs when I shoot shows up-close.
Peter: Well you should.
Colin: Oh yeah, definitely. Especially like The Black Keys they’re just like *exploding noise.*
Peter: Right. And if you see a band that has long quiet passages you just pop them out, and put them back in.
Colin: Sigur Rós, I guess.
Peter: Exactly. Periodically, my brother Tarquin and I will try and get back and play shows again, do our band called The Philistines Jr. Do you know that band at all? Believe it or not, it sounds so odd to say this, we’re a 90s band. (Laughs) We actually just almost finished a new record. I should give you guys a copy. I’m sort of excited to do it again, but it’s just so hard to take a break from this when I keep getting offered all of these really great bands to work with.
Colin: What kind of music do you play? Like 90s rock I guess?
Peter: I hope not!
Peter: No, we’ve always gotten some pretty good credit for making oddly uncategorizable music I think.
Colin: I’d be interested in hearing that.
Peter: Yeah, I’ll let you be the judge. But like I said, I can’t complain This is my dream job. My favorite part of being in a band wasn’t writing songs or even playing shows. It was getting the song together and then producing it. And recording it in the studio and building it up. In fact, there were many times where we were like, ugh, I wish I didn’t have to write another song. I just want to record one. You know?
Peter: So bands bring their songs, and we record them!
Mike: Great. What do you use to reference check after you’ve been listening back on these studio monitors and everything sounds great you know. What about apple ear buds or do you have anything you usually go to?
Peter: Ear buds are so painful because they have no low end. But I know you have to reference everything. I have a bunch of references. First of all, I have four different sets of monitors in here, which cover the bases pretty well in terms of studio monitors. Um, and it also matters which part of the room you sit in or stand in. And every night even during tracking we usually burn a CD of what we’re working on, and I’ll listen to it in my car, in my wife’s car, in my home stereo in our living room, and then the little stereo in the kitchen. So I’ll listen to it in a lot of places. If it doesn’t pass the car test, it definitely doesn’t count.
Mike: I agree.
Part Two will be posted tomorrow. Come back tomorrow and your car will get nine more miles to the gallon. If you ride a bicycle, you’re already ahead of the game.
May 5, 2009 · 2 Comments
Peter Bjorn and John played a sold out show at the World Cafe Live, a small, intimate venue in Philadelphia on Friday night. They were very active on stage especially Peter Morén, who danced the entire night. The crowd definitely fed off his energy. As Peter would have said, the show was “dope”. Colin had the chance to talk to the band after the show. Their interview will be posted soon so come back and check it out.
April 24, 2009 · 1 Comment
Of Montreal put on one of the most entertaining live performances by any band today, without a doubt. No one can top their theatrics. One cannot afford to look away for a second in fear of missing something that occurred on stage. The Philadelphia crowd appreciated this beyond belief and the band felt their gratitude. “We should have played three nights here,” said lead singer Kevin Barnes after the show. The band rewarded the crowd by playing three encores instead of just the two listed on the setlist. Go see Of Montreal live.
April 22, 2009 · No Comments
Side Note Section
Ummm side note… well, honestly, I haven’t done a wax-painting in a while. I had this super intense dream a few nights ago where I became aware I was dreaming, and in my dream I woke up and my friend, Beth, was in bed and I knew she couldn’t be because she had left for work and I began screaming, “It’s the bizzaro world!!” and I kept screaming and then I explored the weird house I had “woken up” in and it had the strangest mood. I saw many interesting items and then I started seeing all these sketches on paper. Suddenly, it all started to make sense…drawing, I mean. It was figuring out a mathematical formula! Especially shadows. When I woke up I just started drawing. Beth had just introduced me to pencils and a drawing pad, and I discovered I’m totally better at drawing than painting or waxing! I drew the images from my dream and have been drawing since then. I drew all day yesterday and into the night. I didn’t go to bed till 7 am. Now I just want to draw all day.
Who is the Oregon girl?
She is friends with the Forward Motion Girl.
Who is Anna Lee?
Pony and Moody’s scantily clad friend.
What’ll we do?
What is your most memorable moment playing music?
Barktober Fest. A free show we played on a rainy day to raise money for cats and dogs. I looked up during the second song to see if I knew any of the seven people sitting on hay bails but what caught my attention was a dog pulling a chariot with a kid riding on it. I really thought I was about to get electrocuted and was glad that was the last thing I might ever see.
Can you do a kickflip on a skateboard?
Four Top 5’s
Top 5 hobbies
Drawing, riding a bike, writing a story, reading, playing guitar
Top 5 albums
(mostly my friends)
Ham Bullet – Time to Hamlet
Jury Fury – Timed Trials
Flux – The J Factor
Jill Stevens – Basket
Steven Tree – The Clark Fork
Top 5 guitarists
The guy from Dream Theatre, the guy I saw play guitar for Bret Michaels at a casino in Oklahoma, Peter Buck, my sister, Johnny Marr
Top 5 favorite songs to play live
Oregon Girl, Glue Girls, Modern Mystery, Half Awake, Ana Lee
Last time you threw up
Honestly, i can’t even remember. I almost never drink and haven’t been sick enough to do that in a while.
Last time you felt pain
All my life baby.
Last time you felt guilty
I almost did last night but I avoided it. This morning too.
Last time you were happy
In that awesome dream.
Last time you lied
I would never.
April 21, 2009 · No Comments
Will Knauer, of Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin, dropped by The Calcutta a few weeks back to chat. He gave us some very interesting feedback to the questions he was asked. If you’ve never heard their music before, make sure you check them out.
We have to ask…why Boris Yeltsin, the first president of Russia?
We like anything that’s the first of it’s kind with a memorable name.
Was it a 66% honor to play at his funeral? What about the other 44%?
It was only 66% because he was dead. I think we’d rather play at live peoples funerals.
Can you describe what it was like to get signed to the American independent label Polyvinyl Record Co? Your reaction? Your thoughts? How has that helped you with promotion of your music, booking tours, playing shows, etc.?
I remember when we signed I had a hard time taking it seriously. Not Polyvinyl I mean, just the fact that I was signing a contract was really amusing to me. I guess it wasn’t something I ever thought about much. Then it just kind of happened and I began feeling weird. I kept thinking that there are probably thousands of people more qualified than me to be in that position and I felt guilty that I was doing something that some people try so hard to do and never get the chance. It was never really on my agenda.
Polyvinyl are truly great and genuine people. Larger labels can sign ten bands at a time because they know it’s better odds for one of them to be popular, but when the nine other bands don’t do well they just cut them. When Polyvinyl signs a band, it’s a commitment from the start and they want to be your friend and get to know you.
Where did you guys record your first full-length album Broom before you were picked up by Polyvinyl? From our understanding, it was produced in 2005, and later remastered in 2006 with Poly. How long did the album take to record initially? What was your reaction to having it remastered? Did you have to re-record at all?
We recorded it in my mom’s house in Springfield(Missouri) with some really cheap equipment. It took six or so months to complete. I never really thought much about it when we were recording honestly, It was just a fun little thing we did every now and then. Weeks would go by and we would do nothing on it, but when we were really in the mood entire songs would just come to be. I think that’s the reason it came out sounding so genuine. We were under no schedule, budget, or expectations. Most bands have to schedule recording time in a studio and you’re expected to perform then and there. We had the ability to wait until we were really in the mood of a song and then would record it. It came naturally and when we were feeling it, and we were able to capture different moments when they were happening. It wasn’t forced.
Your sophomore album Pershing was released in April of 2008. Can you talk about where the album name came from and also, if there is a story behind the album, could you elaborate on that please?
I don’t think I know the answer to this.
When did you start painting? Does your music or music in general influence your work? What role would you say outer space plays in your paintings?
Uhhhh…..ummmm…..I have this problem with daydreaming, or so I’m told. I guess I’m the worst person to eat lunch with because I don’t interact with the other person, I just stare out the window and go into my own world. Then the other person tells me I’m laughing and I get embarrassed because I didn’t know. I guess I started in December 07 but didn’t really get it figured out until a few months later. I’m kinda surprised why people are interested in my stuff, it doesn’t seem that good to me. It kinda makes me feel like a nerd to make sci-fi stuff, but I really only do it pass the time. It’s the process that I love so much. To just lose myself in another world and stay there the whole day. When it’s finished I just look at it for a minute and then get bored with it. I think Phil(Dickey) is a much better artist than I am, I guess he just doesn’t like Star Trek as much as I do.
What are your current plans for SSLYBY?
Take over the world.
Part two of the interview will be up tomorrow. If you don’t come back tomorrow, you’ll put yourself at risk of getting attacked by a murder of crows.
April 11, 2009 · No Comments
Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s played to a sold out crowd last night at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. Their performance was wonderful. Richard Edwards’ voice was astonishing while the rest of the band was flawless.
Before the show, Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s played an acoustic song in the actual church exclusively for The Calcutta. Needless to say, the performance was amazing. Colin also had the opportunity to interview Richard Edwards prior to the show. Check back within the next couple of days for both the interview and the video of the one song acoustic set.
Death Cab For Cutie, Cold War Kids, and Ra Ra Riot at the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, PA 04/07/2009
April 9, 2009 · 3 Comments
No, you are not dreaming. Ra Ra Riot and Cold War Kids opened for Death Cab For Cutie at the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, PA. Yes, the show was fantastic. Ra Ra Riot started off the night with songs including “Oh La” and “St. Peters Day Festival” from their 2oo8 debut album, The Rhumb Line. Their set was followed by Cold War Kids, who played an intriguing lineup of tunes from their two albums, Robbers & Cowards(2006)and Loyalty to Loyalty(2008). Death Cab For Cutie covered material from their entire catalog, opening with “I Will Following You Into The Dark” and closing with “Transalanticism“. Both Ra Ra Riot and Cold War Kids will be opening for Death Cab For Cutie until the end of April, with the tour coming to an end in La Jolla, CA. There’s some bad news though: more than half the shows are sold out. If you have the chance, get a ticket. Slip the door person some cash if that’s what it’ll take to get in.
April 7, 2009 · 2 Comments
Lenka, a singer/songwriter from Australia, sat down with Michael and Colin on her recent stop in Philadelphia. Her roots showed through her Aussie accent and her down to earth personality. She is most recognized for her hit single, “The Show,” off of her self-titled album, Lenka, which was released this past September. She’ll be touring out west in April and May so don’t miss a chance to see her live.
Mike: So how’s tour treating you so far?
Lenka: You know I used to think that I was this gypsy type person but now I’m really like literally a gypsy and it’s kind of odd. I have fantasies about cooking food and gardening and like putting things in drawers because I haven’t done that for ages.
Mike: That’s cool.
Colin: So you used to be an actor at one point, how’d you get into acting?
Lenka: Um I just always loved stuff like that. Ever since I was a little kid I used to do dancing. I grew up in the countryside just running around performing for trees and whoever would listen. And then when I was about 12 or 13 I started going to acting classes. Like I told my mom that I wanted to be an actor now. So she tried to figure out how I would do that. But very luckily by teacher was Cate Blanchett.
Mike: Oh wow.
Lenka: She was already a fairly established actress for theater in Australia. It was before Elizabeth and actually she was still studying at drama school at the time. So she was at the beginning of her career but she was still quite prominent there and she got me a role in a play. So I started doing professional acting when I was like 14.
Mike: When’d you start to sing and when did you start to write your own songs?
Lenka: Well, officially the first time I sang live was when I was six years old with my dad, because he’s a jazz musician, at some country-jazz festival. But I didn’t really pursue music as a career until about five years ago. Um, and I’ve sort of written a few bad teenage songs and..
Mike: About heartbreak and..
Lenka: Yeah like teen-aches, soul-searching bullshit. But um, actually that’s kind of still what I’m doing now.
Lenka: I guess I just sort of started to make the move into music because I was feeling a bit frustrated with just doing acting and I wanted to be the person that was writing the material and I wanted it to be my project. So this is a much more liberating and empowering way to perform, I find.
Colin: You recorded your album in numerous different places around the country; did you have a particular favorite city that you recorded in?
Lenka: Um, I really loved Montreal, and it was the dead of winter so it was quite an intense place. That’s where I started recording. And then Woodstock was incredible, and I loved it. I kind of want to move out there. But actually the bulk of the record was done in LA, which has its merits as well. I mean the studios are amazing and you’ve got access to incredible musicians and producers and arrangers and all that kind of stuff, so that was definitely cool as well. But I think Montreal was my favorite.
Colin: That’s cool.
Mike: Any plans for the next album? Will you record it the same way?
Lenka: Well, when I was doing the last album and I worked with five different producers I thought I don’t want to do that again. I mean it suited where I was at because I was in a sort of exploratory stage and I wanted to get different people to bring out different styles. So I guess I didn’t know myself as well. If I do have a really clear idea of how I want the album to be next time and there’s a perfect person, I would love to do it with one person. I think that would be really cool. But I’m fairly far away still from going into that. I mean I only released this last September so I’ve got to tour for another year. I’m writing songs at the moment but, I don’t think, yeah I think I’m a good year off. So it depends what I’m feeling at that point you know? I’d love to just run away into a little place in the world and you know, hold down and do the whole thing. But if it doesn’t work out like that then it’s cool. If I had the opportunity to work with a few tracks with this guy a few tracks with this, that’d be cool.
Lenka: Well, I don’t know I guess in general the American-ness. But I think it’s probably more interesting to speak about the similarities because there are actually a lot of similarities. We have a lot of American culture in Australia and grew up watching American TV, American films, and we have all the American junk food and brands, and everything like that. So there wasn’t a lot of culture shock at all. But everything was just a bit more exaggerated. And people are a lot more, like, super-keen and excitable, but in Australia we’re fairly down to earth, which is cool, but it’s also like a little bit frustrating. I find like if you’re trying to get a lot of creative stuff done there’s not that excitement around. I got to LA and people were like, ‘Yeah let’s go into the studio tomorrow and write five songs!’ you know. In Australia it’ll take about six weeks to get someone to call you back because they’re just too busy relaxing. But along with that comes an incredible amount of phoniness and that was a little bit irritating. But I just learned to kind of block it out and wade through it and you know, ended up moving to Silver Lake, and just went okay. That’s cool. I just won’t go to West Hollywood very much.
Mike: What do you miss about Australia?
Lenka: I can’t talk about it too much because I might get a bit teary but um, I miss the nature, the beaches, and the trees, and you know the style of nature we have there. And the smells and the clean air and like bright light, it’s just a bit different. When you go there you feel, I always feel a bit blinded when I get off the plane, I forgot how bright it is I think. Probably because of the hole in the ozone layer, but anyway. Um, and, I miss my family and friends desperately. Yeah, it sucks. You know I’ve got friends that have had babies and they’re all growing up and I can’t see them! I miss summer in Australia, which it is right now, well it’s towards the end of it now, but it’s so hard to be over here in winter.
Mike: It’s pretty shitty, right?
Lenka: I speak to my friends and family on Skype and they’re like wearing bikinis, having barbecues, and going for swims. (laughs) I can’t handle it!
Colin: Why is trouble a friend?
Lenka: I think I’d rather think of him as a friend than an enemy, you know what they say about keep your enemies, what is it? Keep your friends close keep your enemies closer, something like that. It’s you know a metaphor for me stuffing up my life occasionally and seemingly everything’s going fine but then I screw it all up and I guess I was trying to take the responsibility away from my self a little bit. To say oh troubles this character that comes and visits me occasionally and it’s his fault!
Mike: Laughs. What’d you think of RAC’s remix of it?
Lenka: Oh I loved it have you heard it?
Mike: Yeah my friend actually did it. Andrew Maury.
Lenka: Really, he’s your friend?
Mike: Yeah he graduated from Syracuse and I’m there right now.
Lenka: Yeah it’s rad.
Mike: It’s very rad.
Lenka: He did an amazing one for “Don’t Let Me Fall,” have you heard that?
Mike: No I haven’t.
Lenka: It’s another song of mine and he put this filthy baseline under it and turned it into a dance track.
Mike: Yeah he’s dirty with the bass.
Colin: He’s the man, he’s a cool kid.
Lenka: Yeah we loved it.
Mike: Actually he mixed and mastered a couple tracks for my band up at school. He sent me that remix and I was like this is the shit.
Lenka: Yeah I think like we’re going to release it but I didn’t think anything’s happened with it yet unless maybe it might’ve been sent out to djs and stuff like that. I don’t know. If that song is the next single id really like to release like a whole bunch of versions of the songs because I’ve done an acoustic version.
Mike: That’s cool, I like when artists do that.
Mike: Yeah. It’s cool when you can hear an artist’s version of it originally and then maybe how, like, a raw recording of..
Lenka: How it evolved, yeah.
Lenka: Oh yeah, yeah. I’ve heard a bit on his Myspace.
Mike: But yeah his first album was sort of like that. Like he had the whole album and then there was like all B-sides to it, just like raw recordings and acoustic.
Lenka: Cool, very cool.
Colin: So we always ask a random question to the artist. Just imagine life on land with no air, like you can’t live here anymore. If you had to pick between the two, would you rather live on a submarine under the sea or on a spaceship?
Lenka: Definitely a spaceship.
Colin: Why’s that?
Lenka: I’m quite afraid of underwater shenanigans. The whole idea of being trapped, like water with a ceiling is my nightmare. And I love being up in the air. I’ve been skydiving, paragliding, and I love flying in airplanes. So I think I’d dig being in a spaceship. And I could have space odyssey fantasies too.
Colin: You could perform in space.
Lenka: I’d always be wearing like sixties air hostess outfits.
Mike: (laughs) So what’s the funnest thing about being a rock star?
Lenka: Uh, I don’t know if I can really call myself a rock star. But I would definitely say the actual act of playing music is always the best part. And you forget sometimes and then every night for a brief moment of ecstasy when you’re really connecting with your fellow musicians and the audience is really into it.
Mike: And people are singing your songs.
Lenka: You go ah that’s right, that’s why we’re doing this, that’s why we’re slugging it out on the road because this is rad. And the same thing if you’re in the studio and you finally get some song to work and it all just clicks together. That’s the buzz.
Mike: That’s the best.
Lenka: That’s the buzz, that’s the best, that’s why you do it. Yeah, the rest is just kind of career stuff you know. What goes along with if you want to do that for a living, there’s a whole lot of stuff that you need to do. You need to get it out there, you need to travel insane distances between cities, you need to promote yourself, and you need to do all the kind of background work.
Mike: Sometimes people, you know, look at rock stars and it’s just like oh they’re just up playing music but there’s so much back drift that’s going on.
Lenka: Yeah, well some people unfortunately in the world, the most famous people, they’re kind of doing it to be famous.
Mike: Yeah, which sucks.
Lenka: Yeah, and most people think, like fans say to me, oh you’re so famous! And I’m like I’m really not I’m just promoting my project. You know like you’ve only heard of me because we’re trying to get the music out there so that more people can listen to it in their living room and more people will come to the gigs. Like I don’t want to be famous it’s not why I’m doing it. It just kind of comes with the territory of becoming well known for music.
Mike: Hey, if you can get yourself out there doing something you love then why not? You know?
Lenka: Yeah. I kind of understand the way the business of all that works, you know, if I was selling magazines then I would want to put someone famous in it as well. There’s this whole sort of weed industry revolving around everything but I try to not take it on too much because it’s kind of creepy.
Colin: That’s good.
Mike: Is there any song you wish you wrote?
Mike: Like man I wish I wrote that.
Lenka: Jealous Guy.
Mike: I love that song.
Lenka: Probably about half a dozen Nick Drake songs.
Lenka: Heart of Glass – Blondie.
Lenka: Um, the list goes on.
Mike: So when’s the last time you played dress up?
Colin: We read somewhere that you liked to play, or you did like to play dress up.
Lenka: Um about like a half an hour ago. (laughs)
Colin: Cool. So you’re from Australia, can you surf?
Lenka: I can bodysurf. I can swim. But no I never really. My dad got his teeth knocked out by a surf ski when I was little and it was pretty gruesome and like I said I’m kind of afraid of water. Like I love swimming and stuff but um I grew up by the beach and I’m so scared of getting dumped by waves I’ve probably got dumped, in fact, I can remember vividly getting dumped really badly lots of times as a kid so now like as soon as I get out past the white water to where the waves are breaking I’m in like survival mode, like how am I gonna not die right now. It’s really annoying.