Black Dice: Interview
A Big Fucking Joke
Members of my fan club are probably asking themselves "Why is a good old Arizona
boy doing a face to face interview with Gotham denizens Black Dice?" Which their
elders firmly rebuke by reminding them your low-bowing favorite writer is from
Washington (State!). But the point is that the fates, and beneficent family and
friends, smiled down upon me and whisked me away to the Welcoming Apple. On an
unseasonably warm February day, I spryly hopped subway to subway from my
friend's SoHo 6-story walk-up to DFA's Chelsea offices. Upon my arrival, I was
informed by notably friendly DFA honcho Jonathan Galkin that the band would be a
little late, and is very sorry, but they're busy being pegged and photographed
as The Next Hot Thing by some trendy mag. In the meantime, Galkin put on their
upcoming album, Creature Comforts, and I was thrown for a complete loop.
My questions were no longer relevant... the place the Dice were at was nothing
like I'd heard. So, I cooked some new questions up on the spot about Wolf Eyes,
Lightning Bolt, and the Bible. I give all my thanks to the ridiculously humble
and friendly Copeland brothers, Eric and Bjorn, who were nice enough to sit down
with me and nearly fill a 90-minute tape with our ramblings. Here they are,
uncut for your pleasure.
How did you guys meet Animal Collective?
Eric: I went to school with Dave. I think we needed
someone to record a record before that, and the guy who was gonna put the record
out worked with Dave, and then we recorded a month later, and a month that after
that I had class with him. And I've known him ever since.
Bjorn: Yeah, he used to live across the street from my
Where did you go to school?
Bjorn: I went to the RI school of design.
TMT: I've heard good things about it.
Bjorn: There are lots of nice things about it. I
enjoyed the time there, and we essentially started playing there. There were
different people in the band at that point. Eric was still in HS but would come
for practices every weekend. If anything, there was just a very supportive and
exciting group of people there, really into doing things. It was a very easy way
to start playing music. For me, this is the only band I've been in. Everyone
else in the band has played in a lot of other stuff, high school bands or
whatever. It was a nice place to live for a while.
TMT: I've heard a lot of exciting things about
Bjorn: I don't know how much is actually going on
there right now. I mean, Lightning Bolt is there and I'm sure there's a slough
of bands there I don't know about. There are definitely a lot of people doing
things, but it's not as active a scene as when we were in school, which seemed
to be the height of it. When Landed was still playing, Arab on Radar, Six Finger
Satellite, Lightning Bolt... there were just a lot of bands like that who were
doing the stuff at the same time. I'm happy that everyone who started doing
stuff there is still being productive and people are receptive to it.
TMT: Your drummer, Hisham, used to be in Lightning
Bjorn: Yeah, it was pretty funny, cuz when he started,
Brian and Brian had been playing for a year. They were a year ahead of us in
school, and so they had been playing for a while, and Hisham arrived in school
the same year I did. They had the shittiest equipment: real small practice amps
that people would lend to them.
TMT: Yeah, and now they have 8 foot tall stacks of
Bjorn: When they started, I think Brian had one of
those 4x10s and Hisham had a...
Eric: A PA.
Bjorn: No, he didn't even have a PA. He used to sing
through this Yamaha 2x12 that was our first bass player's.
TMT: When you first started, was your style similar
to what we heard on your first release on Troubleman?
Bjorn: Our first release on Troubleman was our third
Eric: We were given free reign, and Mike from
Troubleman was like "I want to do a record, no matter what you guys want to do."
We were still playing those kind of thrash songs, but we were also playing a lot
of freer stuff in between, which we developed into kind of progressions. There's
one long song that I think is actually cut up, and a couple thrashy ones.
"I feel like we're just a bunch of guys who show up and
hang out. It sounds really stupid, but it seems we hang out, and then play, and
then we hang out some more. I can't imagine anyone thinking anything different."
TMT: Yeah, there are three
thrashy songs, and one that's more indicating where you were going, that you
really culminated with Beaches and Canyons.
Bjorn: For us, it's been a very gradual progression.
When we started playing, it was exactly what we wanted to play and it was super
fun, and then the more we played and the more we started discovering new sounds,
it was still a very gradual change. But it took a little while to stop playing
the thrash. It was weird because those were the kids that were coming to see us,
even though that wasn't necessarily our soul musical interest, playing that kind
of stuff. So it was nice that it evolved, but it was tricky. Once it got kind of
weird, the kids that were into hardcore really didn't like it. To be honest, I
think we've been in this weird in-between space the entire length of the band.
There will be these moments where people can identify really strongly to this
TMT: One sound?
Eric: Yeah. Once we lost -- not lost -- but once it
stopped being thrashy and started being more sounds instead of songs. We
definitely have eras; we have records that feel like they indicate all the songs
we were playing at that time. After that, it turned into a period where we were
like heavy noise dudes, and it got a lot of industrial people would ask "Oh, you
guys to listen to White House?" And we'd be like "No, but it'd be cool to check
that shit out." But, even now a lot of those guys don't like the albums.
TMT: They don't come along with you?
Eric: Some of them do. In New York especially it's
really nice because everyone is...
TMT: Open minded?
Eric: Definitely open minded. But, some people are
really coming to check out a couple bands who every time you go see them its not
about going to see any song.
TMT: But more to see where they're going.
Eric: Yeah, and that they've moved past where they
were to give you something new.
Bjorn: That's really what's special about being here
right now. Not necessarily having to do with the bands that are on MTV, you
know, the bands from New York. A lot of those people are really great and their
bands are doing well. But, it's really nice that there's a community of people
here that are just constantly trying to do new stuff.
Eric: Not all of it's experimental. There are more
rock bands like Blood on the Water or White Magic that you go and its more like
a real show and you're doing something...
Bjorn: It's like how you felt
in high school when you were finding out about music and going to see any band
you that you heard about. And you can tell that these people are the same way.
They're into so much music it's not worth discriminating. That's how I feel when
I go to these shows.
Eric: It feels like what they make, because they know
so much, is so aware of the history that what they do doesn't sound like "We're
going to sound disco because that's cool right now and its we're hearing."
There's nothing wrong with that, but I feel like this comes from a real
TMT: An honest approach. Everyone describes your
"genre" as no-irony, and that kind of sounds like what you're saying.
Bjorn: We're certainly aware that our music is pushing
our personal boundaries of what we consider good taste at times, because
there're things that we do that are almost cheesy. Certain guitar parts or some
sound that you think is cartoon-y. But, it's a nice challenge to be working with
TMT: You're saying you have hesitations because it
might sound cheesy, but in the end you actually like it.
Bjorn: All of us have grown to like all this music
that 5 or 10 years ago there's no way I would've thought I like it. As long as
you're trying to be as open as you can with what you're doing, even if you do
flounder or fail a couple of times, it really doesn't matter. At least you took
your chances, even if the end result is really shitty, at least it's a place
further ahead to start from.
TMT: And it's something that you believe in.
Bjorn: It's sort of weird. I can see it being
considered no-irony, but it's funny because all of us are pretty goofy or funny
people. At least we make each other laugh. For the longest time, and even
probably now, still have this misconception...
TMT: Super serious!
Bjorn: Yeah, just fucked up guys. We show up at shows
in Europe where people thought we were going to be a bunch of 40 year old guys.
Old dudes who were just into obscure...
TMT: With your heads down,
Bjorn: Yeah, it's funny contrasting that with when we
were playing shows that were more chaotic and violent, and people thought we
were thugs. I feel like we've been really lucky to be allowed to exist in our
own kind of way, which is really nice, and people continue to be more and more
supportive. It's sort of the same for all our friends, too. There are all these
other people that come to see our shows and invite our friend's bands and our
band to play with them.
TMT: It really seems like its coming together as a
community, your whole sound.
Bjorn: I never see why it seems that way. I guess if
you take a step back, there's definitely some truth to it. Among all our
friends, there's definitely some overlap as far as tastes.
Eric: It's also really strange, not only strange, but
interesting to think about -- I hate that word interesting -- but all these
people who are playing music with now and we're friends with, its strange to
think that they've all developed in the same way where they started in their own
community, but with a similar idea of why you started playing and what you
wanted to do. It seems like everyone's grown at the same pace, which is nice,
and I feel like that makes a lot more of a community. A lot of these people I
feel like if I haven't known for 10 years, I could have probably known for 10
years. It would've been as easy to meet them then as now.
TMT: You have that familiarity.
Eric: Just doing punk tours and shit, it's a similar
experience. It's funny to be like "You know so and so in City B?" and they're
like "Yeah, we stayed with him," and had the same funny experiences. It's that
there are a lot of shared experiences.
Bjorn: You brought this up when we were at home last
night, but we have almost similar values in a way. I feel like a lot of our
friends are really down to earth, small town people, but whose interests and
past experience allow and make sense for them to be here living in New York as a
TMT: And all those
backgrounds congeal and make a new beast.
Bjorn: Yeah. Plus, everyone we know who's playing
music here is essentially here for that reason, it's the main thing in their
life. It's really hard to do it in New York; it's expensive, and I think that
adds an element of necessity to what everyone's doing. It's not worth doing it
TMT: You're half-assing it.
Bjorn: Yeah, exactly. Not being able to afford food
and not having money for rent. It's not worth it if you're not...
TMT: Doing exactly what you want.
Bjorn: I think that's very...
Eric: Honest with yourself.
Bjorn: That's definitely a trait I feel like most of
our friends, or certainly all of the bands, that's definitely a factor with all
of them. Everyone is completely broke, the only time we go to shows is to see
our friends. Besides them all being in really great bands, the only shows you
can afford to go to because you can get in for free. Right now, we've got a very
tight little community of totally broke friends who only go to each others
TMT:How did you guys get together with Wolf Eyes?
Eric: It's a funny story. We were on tour and no one
would book our show in Detroit. Everyone was afraid, I think.
TMT: And the guy from Wolf Eyes was the only guy
who would host you?
Bjorn: Yeah. We had tried to book shows there in the
past, and never had any luck. And Brian Chippendale from Lightning Bolt said
"You should contact the Wolf Eyes guys. They're totally big fans of your band."
They seemed so underground and so gnarly. I'd never heard them, but the concept
of all of that Detroit, Michigan stuff seemed so much gnarlier than what we were
doing and so much more extreme. It was kind of flattering. We called them and
they were just like "Yeah!" They were totally excited. We basically did a show
that was in John's basement in the suburbs.
Eric: While his wife was having a birthday party... but
we didn't know it was a separate party, so there'd be all this food and we were
like "Rad! They made us all this food!" And then like 17 hours later they
Bjorn: It was a really fun show, though. It was us,
Wolf Eyes, Pleasurehorse...
Eric: And Maximum Cloud.
Bjorn: Yeah, and someone else, I feel bad that I can't
remember the name because everyone who played in this basement was really good,
a super fun show. They were another group of people that once you met them, it
felt like you'd been friends for a really long time.
Eric: Yeah, and I think it was that night everyone was
drinking and smoking and it was just like "We gotta do a record!" And then I was
just like "We should probably do one." And we've toured with them. We're playing
a bunch of shows this spring with them.
Bjorn: They were fantastic, really great people.
"I think a lot of people don't realize that playing clubs sucks, especially if
they're places that are used to dealing with a certain type of music. It can be
a pain in the ass to explain why we need all this stuff on stage." -Bjorn
TMT: How was it working with them?
Eric: It was barely working.
Bjorn: The room we were recording in was about the
size of this, smaller than this -- it was really tiny and we were all basically
sitting this close with amps everywhere. We probably burned through like $100
worth of grass...
Eric: On the first day!
Bjorn: Everyone was essentially in a coma, and someone
would be like "Let's do something that's kind of rhythmic, not too long, that
builds like this." And everyone would be like "Alright." 1-2-3 and we would
TMT: What were you guys
playing on the album?
Bjorn: I was playing a
guitar and you were playing essentially the same thing, it was all mic stuff.
Eric: I had a microphone and I think I had the
Bjorn: Yeah, you did do some oscilloscope. Hisham was
playing drums. And XXXX was doing vocal stuff.
Eric: It was just an 8-track, so everyone had one
track, and two people had stereo stuff, so they got two. I think Hisham probably
Bjorn: It was really fun, though.
TMT: It's a really great record.
Eric: A great edit. Wolf Eyes edited it. We had all
these progressions, and that was like the fourth one.
Bjorn: They trimmed the fat the whole time.
TMT: You're saying it was really disparate and free
form, the way you recorded it.
Bjorn: There was a lot of junk. There'd be a lot
songs, or things we recorded where there might be a really fantastic 30 second
chunk, but a lot of it wasn't that great.
Eric: Some parts got recycled later. Somebody had some
parts that were just obvious that we used it on a recording later.
Bjorn: Yeah, it was maybe something that someone had
been toying around with and later it got worked into one of our songs. But,
yeah, it was a really fun record.
TMT: And it came together as a cohesive record.
Eric: I feel like I like it, and I don't have any idea
what I played on it.
Bjorn: It was a while ago, too.
Eric: That was two years ago.
Bjorn: It came together nicely, but it took so long
because everyone was so out to lunch. Getting the artwork so that everyone
agreed on it, and getting the right mixes.
TMT: That's what it's all about, right?
Bjorn: Eventually, it came together. Not as timely as
Chris [Freeman, at Fusetron] would've appreciated, but yeah, I'm glad it's out.
TMT: So you recorded that two years ago? You were
making that in what relation to Beaches and Canyons?
Eric: It was before that.
Bjorn: Right before Beaches
Eric: It was right after we recorded the 7" with a
book on 31G and we did this 3" on Tigerbeat6. And then we did the Wolf Eyes
thing, and like four months later we did Beaches and Canyons.
TMT: Did working with Wolf Eyes influence where you
Bjorn: Not really. I think there was definitely a lot
of overlap as far as what we liked about live performances, bands we liked. At
that point, it was actually kind of weird because what we were doing starting to
become less like...
TMT: Straight ahead songs?
Eric: Well, the sounds were just getting a lot more in
Bjorn: It's a lot more varied, the guitar parts
started to become a little more spacy, but it wasn't all feedback driven stuff
at this point. And, in a way, it was probably the last time that... the record
wouldn't have come out the same if we'd have recorded any later. Wolf Eyes and
us are both kind of moving in very opposite directions at the same time. Both
are really great directions, but...
TMT: You really came together, and were in a
Bjorn: Yeah. We were both down to play something that
was completely abrasive, but also interested in doing some more precise jumbled
electronic sounding things. It worked out pretty well. We played a tour with
them recently, and it was really funny. They were amazing but so opposite of
what we were doing. The first show we played with them was all these other rock
style noise bands, and we were doing stuff that was gonna be on this album
that's coming out. It was pretty funny because it took Wolf Eyes...
Eric: 4 shows...
Bjorn: Before they understood what we were doing. And
what they were doing was the most violent white noise performance stuff. Really
TMT: How do your live
shows go? Do you play songs?
Eric: Yeah, we usually have sets at certain times that
we work out. We try to drop as much old stuff to get new stuff in as possible,
so right now everything we're playing is on that record [Creature Comforts].
But after this tour, hopefully we'll be able to drop some of it. It'll be
strange because by the time the album comes out, we can't play a lot of it now,
but by then, we probably won't be able to play a lot more of it.
Bjorn: We can play most of it. But there are some
things that are just... The main thing is we change our equipment a lot, and it
just gets boring to do the same thing over and over. But, it makes it hard,
that's what takes us so long to make transitions, to leave this body of work
behind and move on to a totally new one, takes a really long time, because there
really is no period of time where we have five months just to play and write all
TMT: It's a constant process.
Bjorn: Yeah, it's a constant evolution. Which is good
in some ways, but I also think that in other ways musically we could probably
make huge departures really easily if we just pushed all the gear aside and
picked out some new stuff we wanted to do; which is happening, but it's just
weeding out what we don't need.
TMT: So there's a definite lag between the live
show and what's on the album. People come out expecting to hear what's on the
Bjorn: And we never can do it.
TMT: How do people react
Eric: It's been a strange year, actually, because in
New York it's not that big of a deal; people don't mind. And most of the shows
we played last year were in Europe where not many had even heard of us. Most of
the shows, we were playing to an audience much bigger than we could pull on our
own. It was no sweat, you know, it was with either you like it or you didn't.
Bjorn: And we didn't hear about it anyway! They were
big festival shows.
Eric: A lot of the country it never goes well,
regardless. I feel like unless you're on Touch and Go, unless you're a touring
band that can tour all the fucking time...
Bjorn: Act sort of like a sap...
TMT: Definitely. You hear about people going to
shows, like the Locust, and they get pissed off when what they hear isn't what
Bjorn: Yeah, I can understand that, when I went to see
the Clean or something like that, I was waiting to hear the songs that I knew.
With a band that's active all the time, I guess it's a little bit different; it
seems a little bit foolish to have those expectations. A lot of times when we
tour, it really is a tough sell, and after the tour those people start to have
the pieces come together because they can hear the record and they've seen the
live show. But, usually, I think it takes almost a year for people to...
TMT: Catch up to where you are.
Bjorn: Yeah, and it can be extremely disheartening.
Especially when friends of yours, people who used to be huge fans...
TMT: Have a hard time being where you are.
Bjorn: It's really hard not to... It's a strange
experience, and this year I think has been...
Eric: The strangest.
Bjorn: We'll have to see what happens. But it's
definitely a point where we aren't really doing anything rock and the record has
almost nothing rock about it. There are a lot of sounds, but I think it's a very
awkward combination of sounds and textures, in a way that's engaging to us. It's
a tough record in some ways; we'll just have to see how it goes live.
TMT: There's a lot more rhythmic stuff on it, from
what I heard, especially on "Skeleton" which might be called the centerpiece,
and that was more rhythmic than a lot of the more recent stuff you've done.
Bjorn: A lot of the way we started working on the
stuff for this album was we just looked at what we liked off of Beaches and
Canyons and recognized where we were falling into patterns, how we tended to
use sounds a lot. We really just tried to work on disregarding everything we'd
done on other records, just keeping little... nuggets.
Eric: I don't know if this is a good way to think
about it, but a lot of the live songs we played, people obviously responded. And
we'd have parts where people would definitely not be engaged. Some parts were a
really easy sell. For some reason at the time, we were like "Fuck the easy
sell!" I feel like all the easy sell things were really recognizable rock
sounds... there'd be like a guitar part that people would get stoked about or a
Bjorn: There's nothing wrong
with those songs or parts, but if you're playing it, those are the ones you get
sick of the fastest.
TMT: There's nowhere to go with them.
Bjorn: And your brain just turns off on them. We
certainly have a fantastic time performing everything we've done. But, after a
while... it's kind of like when you buy an album and the first song is really
amazing, and that's the one you keep playing. And that's the one you can't stand
to hear after two months. So, that's how our evolution process goes, survival of
the fittest... fittest jams.
TMT: Do you consciously try to move away from what
the audience is enjoying?
Eric: I think that's a strange thought process,
because I think that was somewhere deep down. But, at the end of the day, the
only thing that matters is our tastes. Because we don't have any musical
knowledge to say that sounds good for these musical reasons, and I don't know if
they matter. It's just, this is how we like things to sound, and I feel like on
this record we listened to it super closely, like it was under a magnifying
glass the whole time.
Bjorn: All of our stuff is sort of like that now.
Everything is really scrutinized. It doesn't sound like it, but...
Eric: But I think that record we just finished is our
taste at the time. Everyone's on there exactly the amount they should be on
there, and it's a very...
Eric: It's very personal, I feel like it's very about
how you're relating musically.
Bjorn: For me, it's kind of the most satisfying record
we've done. Everything is essentially just how we played it... most of our records
there's very little overdub, just tiny additional sounds. But this one was just,
really, really easy, and I felt like it had a human feel to it. Which I think
ties into what Eric was saying... it really is a record that illustrates four
people communicating together. Things don't feel like they're faded in and out
perfectly like on a computer, there's some roughness that's nice to leave that
Eric: It's weird, whether or not that's going to be
something anyone else picks up on. For me, I like the songs, but that's the real
strength when I listen to it. People who know us well will listen to it and that
will be really obvious. I'm sure I've listened to a Pavement record that I
thought was crap, which they thought "Oh man! This is our swan song."
TMT: But, that's mostly
how you feel about this record?
Bjorn: Yeah, I'm really excited for it to come out,
completely happy. I'm also really excited to start writing new stuff, though.
How do you write songs? Is it
intentional, or does it just come to you?
Bjorn: It's varied throughout different points in the
Eric: It starts really simply with either a sound or
an idea. A lot of it is reacting to what we've been playing. We've had a mellow
song, and the next one we play through to feel a bit more upbeat. Right now,
what we're working from is so awkward that we're almost just starting. Bjorn has
a new piece of equipment he wants to bring in, and I feel like everyone is, at
least Aaron and myself are, a little bit exhausted with our setups because it's
been the same for a couple years now. It's a really basic setup for both of us,
and I think it's hard to make it do something different for every song.
Bjorn: The problem is that it's hard to get a variety
of sounds out of the equipment. But, it's not really that simple. There are so
many fucking cords and knobs; if things are a little bit off, things don't work.
Everything's being generated live for the most part; it's gotten to a point
where everything is so cerebral. For me, it doesn't have to be like this,
because my parts are specifically designed to not be headache inducing, not
entirely, but lately when we've been practicing, we've been talking about
getting rid of some extra stuff and simplifying some things.
TMT: John was telling me about the suitcase that
you have with like 25 pedals in it.
Bjorn: The piece of equipment Eric just mentioned is
what he was referring to. It's like a filter box with a sequencer built into it.
It's a little bit more involved than the stuff I'm using now, so I'm just slowly
Eric: It's like an instrument in itself.
TMT: It's not an effect, it's a source?
Eric: No, it's an effect, but it's just capable of
doing so much you can't just throw in and turn on.
Bjorn: It's not like a pedal you can just... there are
so many parameters you can adjust. We sat and designed where all the knobs are
going to go, so it's probably set up in the most simple, straight-ahead way. But
those sorts of things, unfortunately, become issues in where we're at musically.
"It's nice to think we're
responding to everything that happens to us in this way, paying attention to the
fact that it's happening to us and not ignoring it or make believe its not."
TMT: How much does your equipment define what you
want to do, and what you do actually do?
Bjorn: I was thinking about this last night. I think a
lot of times the concepts aren't based in technology, at all, but a lot of times
the execution is sort of...
TMT: Abstracting what you want to what you can do.
Bjorn: It sort of comes about through the limitations
of our equipment. I don't think we're dependent on technology. I feel like we
could be making music that would be satisfying to us with any combination of
things; it's just right now this is where our interests lie. We all enjoy trying
to find new sounds we haven't heard and that other people maybe haven't heard or
TMT: With this new piece of equipment, did you
design it to make sounds you hear in your head but you can't make with what you
Bjorn: It was more a combination of things I wish
certain pedals I had were capable of doing, but couldn't for certain reasons. I
was also interested in being able to play as little guitar as possible, but be
able to have as much control as possible over whatever sound I'm making. So,
it's actually set up so I can almost make a melody off of one sound. There are
actually a lot of things my brain isn't able to grasp yet, but since Gavin has
such an understanding of how all this stuff works...
TMT: You'll be finding new sounds in it?
Bjorn: Yeah. Lately one of the things that's been
interesting is we've been able to do shows in both music venues and also more
art related ones.
TMT: Yeah, wasn't Miles of Smiles done for an
exhibit in Japan?
Bjorn: We did that over in Japan this summer for a
gallery show. We played at the Cartier Foundation, a museum in Paris, this
summer. We did a couple fine art festivals in Europe. Various gallery shows in
New York. I think those opportunities wouldn't have been available to us if we
weren't in New York, or it seems unlikely a lot of those opportunities would
have presented themselves had we not been here.
Eric: And it's cool because they're all over, like we
played at a gallery in Kansas City which was really fun. It seems like we're
supposed to tour at the end of the summer, and it seems like we should
investigate those kind of offers to play other museums.
Bjorn: It's nice because it gives you an opportunity
to put what you're doing in a slightly different context. Certainly more
controlled environments, in some ways.
TMT: And different expectations.
Bjorn: Yeah. People go with a completely different
mindset as far as how they're supposed to take it in. I don't think we'd ever
want to be viewed as super high brow. It's not that I really care if people
think that or not, but those shows are fun and a lot more laid back than doing
club shows. I think a lot of people don't realize that playing clubs sucks,
especially if they're places that are used to dealing with a certain type of
music. It can be a pain in the ass to explain why we need all this stuff on
TMT: And you don't have an opportunity to explain
to the audience that you're not there to entertain the audience. How much is
your music to entertain your audience and how much is it to be a piece of art?
Eric: I guess it's a little bit of both. I feel like
we make something that's offered and meant to be engaging, as much as for them
as for us. Right now, it's really engaging for me, but at the same time I hope
the sounds I'm making are engaging and I hope that's entertaining.
TMT: But you don't worry about entertaining the
Eric: No, I don't worry about purely entertaining
them. But, I feel like if it's engaging, and you put any involvement in, there's
something to get out of it. Entertainment feels like one type of...
TMT: Right, like different levels of enjoyment...
TMT: ...at what level are you engaging the audience?
Bjorn: We were talking about this yesterday, and one
of the things that for me is personally interesting is that the whole time we've
been doing a band there's always been this confusing aspect of the music is
either when we were playing songs it was just so fucking sloppy and so distorted
sounding it didn't sound like music, it didn't sound like other things. The
whole time we've been a band I feel like all the music and the sets always have
this very transitional feel, like things are constantly evolving. I like how
that feels as an observer or a participant. I think your mind goes into a
certain mode when you're confused and trying to figure this out. To me that's an
interesting idea to experiment with; if you can keep people in that suspended
state for an hour, and still have them be with you. When we write songs we try
to make things as concise and articulated as possible. If Eric is going to swell
up some sounds, everybody else knows they need to drop this down a second, not
make another sound until this thing has fully come up, otherwise there's no
point in that sound having happened. Like Eric said, it is designed to be
engaging, and thought-provoking, and fun at the same time, because there are
really tangible qualities to it. That's why the volume and range of frequencies
are so important; it adds a physical element almost holding people, physically
holding people, in place.
Eric: When I think of entertainment, I feel like to us
it's really fun music. We all listen to a lot of pop songs, everyone has a real
appreciation for that, and I don't think anyone's trying to steer away from what
that can achieve. The way we relate all our sounds now it's usually really fun
to hear in our heads, and we make sure it remains as fun as we can make it.
Sometimes, unfortunately, well, not unfortunately, but we'll have a fun part
that's a little bit challenging to some opinions. But, to me, that's fun, too.
You feel like 10 minutes went by and it's been 20. If you're paying attention,
our music is full of trickery, and that's cool and very much how we all are.
Bjorn: One thing I've been noticing with the newer
stuff we've been playing is there's always -- I don't want to say a power
struggle -- but there's always a give and take between someone performing and
the audience. There have been certain periods in the band where the entire idea
was that we were completely in control of the situation the entire time and that
other people had no idea what was going on and were forced to confront and deal
with it at those shows. And now it's completely changed. Some of the stuff we're
doing now puts us in the most vulnerable states. Some of the stuff is so not
what people want to hear or are expecting to hear. It's been interesting,
because it definitely changes how you think about the show. There's certain
shows now that we I don't feel like we could accept doing, just because of the
nature of what we're doing. Playing with Lightning Bolt would be extremely
challenging right now. They've always been good friends of ours and always do a
really great show. At this point, what they're doing is so high-energy that what
we're doing doesn't have any place in that world, unless the other we were
playing with was...
Eric: There's sort of an obvious comparison to be
Bjorn: Yeah. Can you ask someone to go from 10 to
practically catatonic? I guess you can, but...
Eric: The point is it's one of those things it makes
us feel a little bit "People love them" and we get a different reaction. For us,
it's nice to just do our own thing.
Bjorn: We have lots of friends who do fantastic music,
but in a way you don't want to feel like a downer... you wouldn't want to go to a
dance party and drop on a Leonard Cohen record. I hope it's not quite that
Eric: Such a nerd joke!
Bjorn: You know, like the most depressing crap you can
put on when people are having fun. I don't think of us as that type of music. We
had a listening party, we just finished our album, and Animal Collective just
finished their album at the same time, so we had our third listening party when
we just get together and play it for each other. When ours was playing, we were
laughing in parts, not because it's funny like we made a goofy record, but there
are some sounds that are so absurd that you feel like you're getting your ass
kicked when you listen, even though it's a mellow record in a lot of ways. Some
of the sounds in the way it's mixed just really feel like you're getting knocked
around. There is a sense of humor to all of this.
TMT: Have you seen the Lightning Bolt DVD?
Bjorn: I have seen that. I saw part of it. We never
saw it initially, when everyone was saying "They talk so much shit about you,"
but other people would be like they're not talking shit about you.
TMT: They were talking
shit about themselves.
Bjorn: Yeah, but I heard totally different things
about it. I was just like, "That's totally going to depress me if I see that."
But then we saw it and felt like the comments were actually quite flattering.
TMT: It's tying into what you're saying that
playing with them would be difficult, because they play straight ahead music
that people can really get into, almost no matter who they are.
Bjorn: Yeah, it's really primal.
TMT: How they call it "Classic Rock." And you guys
are going out there, and they felt jealous of you, and it seems you guys feel
jealous of them.
Bjorn: Well I guess the grass is always greener on the
other side. It's just two totally different ideas. They're a band that's
completely perfected this one very specific idea, and they've been doing it for
so long, it's taken the world forever to catch onto this shit. We've seen them
like 500 times, I saw their first show. Eric saw them...
Eric: I saw them with Hisham.
Bjorn: They're still doing something that's
essentially rooted in the same idea, even though they keep getting better and
better. They're a band that I'm always psyched when I see the people. Musically,
it's not where my interests are right now, so I don't always feel the need to
check it out. But as people, I'm always happy and anxious to check up on them.
Early on, they had a huge influence on what we were doing. Brian Gibson was our
old drummer before Hisham joined.
"I don't think
we're dependent on technology. I feel like we could be making music that would
be satisfying to us with any combination of things; it's just right now this is
where our interests lie."
TMT: The bassist?
Bjorn: Both those guys are phenomenal drummers, and
there were a ton of really amazing drummers in Providence at the time. They were
the most exciting thing... there's this fucked up band that came into the crowd.
Normally, it'd just be a bunch of scruffy dudes hanging out in some basement and
all of a sudden it's a party with all these girls that didn't seem like they'd
be into that. Everybody was there to check it out.
Eric: The first time I saw them, I was probably 16 or
17, and I went to visit Bjorn. We went to a party that was on the 6th floor of downtown, and I was like "Bjorn we should go up close," and when I saw
it, I was like "Holy shit!" I thought it was like Thunder Dome or something, it
was so much different. Not that we're trying to replicate, but I really liked
how there was something that was in all those bands, this really scary element.
Bjorn: Uncompromising is the other thing.
Eric: Yeah. It was just going on, and if you were into
it, it was really exciting. I feel like that was in all of those Providence
bands. Like Bjorn was saying, there were so many good drummers there, they all
hit so fucking hard and it was so loud. And they'd just be doing these twisted,
really loose heavy rock beats.
Bjorn: It was a neat thing because dark things were
coming out of this old industrial city that had a lot of derelict spaces and the
city was pretty run down for a long time. All of that helped contribute to the
types of stuff people got into there. Certainly long before Hisham or any of us
moved to Providence, there's always been a lot of fucked up type bands. There's
a lot of stuff that none of us knew about, but then you showed up then and there
was a lot of really eccentric, maybe slightly damaged stuff. Providence was a
good scene for doing whatever you felt like doing. It didn't seem like there was
any other civilization there really. You could do the most ridiculous shit. What
a fun place to live; I kind of miss it, but I don't think I could live there
TMT: New York is where you have to be right now?
Eric: I feel like everybody is rooted here pretty
deep, especially friends...
Bjorn: As much as we hate it!
Eric: I feel like everyone is looking for a way out, I
don't know when it'll happen, but I think it'll be really good. Even little
changes, it's really strange, all the records we've talked about are real
reference points for the way things change. You moved apartments or you moved
practice spaces or you got a new job or you started hanging out with new people.
I feel like if we did something really significant like move somewhere, like
we've always talked about doing a residency somewhere we could just live for a
couple months and play and make a record that way. It seems like really nice
dreams that if it worked out they'd come true.
Bjorn: Yeah. But, we've been provided opportunities I
never would've expected, and I'd like to think the future holds more things even
if they're at completely different scales.
Eric: That's kind of the best thing. I feel like its
nice to have these things, but for the most part we never figured we'd make an
album when we first started. But I feel like everything in this town has been
strange and fun in a lot of ways. It's nice to think we're responding to
everything that happens to us in this way, paying attention to the fact that
it's happening to us and not ignoring it or make believe its not. Like, we
understand that if we play a bigger show, there are things that work better in
those type of audiences. It's a nice way to think that that's the way we work on
things. I feel like it makes us...
TMT: It makes you stretch where you are?
Eric: It makes us stretch, and I feel like it also
lets us do a lot of different things. The first gallery show we played, the song
we wrote for it was just totally fucked -- it was the loudest fucking thing. I
don't remember how it went, but it was so loud. And then the next gallery show
we played was in a greenhouse with practice amps. It was nice to think that
someone thought "That's what they did for that piece and they can do something
different." I don't think if we played CBGB's or the Fez would come asking us
"Can you play something a little quieter?"
TMT: Is that what the residency in a different
Eric: We go places and fall in love with the city. It
sounds stupid, but we'll spend 18 hours somewhere and have a really good time
and think it's beautiful.
Bjorn: Like in Austria, or in some small town.
Eric: And it's just like, if we were here for six
months, not only would we really appreciate it, but I feel like we'd get into a
Bjorn: We'd be healthy.
Eric: Yeah, and we'd be working only on that stuff.
And that would be so different from now, too. Three of us have jobs, and
everyone working all the time. I have a job, but I work nights, so I have all my
days free. The amount of time I have free is kind of astonishing.
Bjorn: You feel like you get a lot of shit done,
though. Eric's in another band with Avey Tare. He finished that album, did all
that sound for that gallery.
Eric: As much as I think I don't do that much... cause a
lot of what I do is watch movies. But, it's kinda nice that what I think about
all the time can be applied to what I do.
Bjorn: It's relevant to your life at that point, and
that's a key, key thing.
Eric: The culmination of the thought: If we were
somewhere else, it'd be really nice because the city is so nice...
TMT: Just how it effects you?
Eric: Yeah. I feel like when we're on tour, its
strange when you go to a city where you can respond totally differently; there
are some small towns where we'll pull out a set that's so overwhelming that
you're just like "That was the right thing to do there." When you're in San
Francisco, where people are expecting something, and you play a little
different... I just like the idea that it's always like our own media for us.
Bjorn: Being flexible is one of the key ideas. That's
how you find new sounds and new points of reference.
Eric: We know everyone we're playing with to a T.
There have been times where I feel like some other people get really strict
about things, "Don't tell me what to do. Let me make my own stuff." It's nice to
think that we've come to a point that's really open and everyone's doing what
they want to do. Everyone feels really comfortable talking about stuff now.
Bjorn: The music's really anonymous in a way.
Everyone's making these contributions that no one...
TMT: Can say, "This is you, and this is you."
Bjorn: Even we can't necessarily do that. I might
recognize one aspect of Eric's sound, but because I'm playing a guitar part at
the same time, I may not hear a high end trailing off of the sound. I like that
we work like a band...
Eric: I feel like we treat them really differently
than a song is treated. In most bands, everyone has a role. There's a bass
player, someone is playing the beat. We are really comfortable being "There is A
beat." It doesn't have to be made with something that makes a beat; it can be
made with something that makes a tone, or something that sounds like a bunch of
water splashing. It's just treated like a piece of music...
TMT: Just a totality.
Eric: Yeah, which made it a weird record. We recorded
it the way we'd written it and then drop out a whole part. And it doesn't really
make a difference because it was part of a song in everyone's head. No one cares
if somebody else thinks there should be drums and there aren't.
TMT: It sounds like you're working as a band, as a
unit, rather than the traditional description of a band.
Eric: Yeah. And I feel like we're working as a unit
with everyone doing what they want.
TMT: Almost like free jazz?
Eric: I dunno, I have some free jazz records, but I
don't really know about jazz.
TMT: There's that same concept, that there's one
beat and groove, but people just do what they want. Everyone else's job is to do
what they want to do, but to also respond to what other people are doing.
Bjorn: That's a logical comparison. But, one thing I
feel like a lot of people don't understand is there's very little improvisation
going on at this point. Songs might be built up out of a series of them, where
we'll extract things that work and use that as a starting point. It changes from
night to night; because certain sounds are generated live people are making
loops off of things that are happening as a person is playing it.
TMT: For the most part it's scripted?
Bjorn: Yeah. It's very organized, as far as a sequence
of events. For me, the easiest way to think of it is that a lot of them seem, in
my head, I can rationalize it as "You're moving from this point through this
type of space to this point through this type of space." And that's a very basic
way of doing it, but a lot of times that's an easy way to talk about it so that
everyone's at least on the same page. We can't say we'll go to the chorus when I
hit G on the downbeat; we can't make those points of reference.
Eric: "I want it to sound like a bunch of bugs." "I
like the bug sound too, I can do that."
Bjorn: It's been interesting. At this point, it's
completely influenced how we've developed as social people. It's been such a
battle to play together for this long. It's been a really great time, but it's
TMT: You take that tension that makes it hard, and
use that for everyone to change with each other.
Eric: Yeah. Not only have Bjorn and I known each other
forever. But using Hisham because he's been in the band the longest, we have
problems and Hisham has problems, and after that long, some of these problems
you don't want to deal with anymore.
Bjorn: Problems like, everyone's got their own
Eric: Inabilities to do things. I'm full of them. I
feel like as we've developed as a band we've dealt with that stuff.
Bjorn: There are still relationships; there are still
personal relationships, like a romantic relationship is. There's stuff you can
sweep under the rug for a while, but eventually things become insurmountable.
It's provided us with a lot of different experiences. It's influenced how
everyone's shaped up as a person. Everybody contributes a lot of different
things to the band. I don't even think of this as a band anymore, to be honest;
its just such a familiar thing. I don't think any of us really give a shit about
the concept of a "band." That used to be part of the attraction, this
subculture. At this point, it's less interesting.
Eric: I feel like we're just a bunch of guys who show up and hang out. It
sounds really stupid, but it seems we hang out, and then play, and then we hang
out some more. I can't imagine anyone thinking anything different.
Bjorn: We think a lot about what we're doing, and we talk a lot about it
when we're making it. But, it's still essentially made in the same campy way
that any band is. I listen to our records in the same way I listen to a Beach
Boys record or Creedence. It's fun for us in the same way, even though to some
people it seems like a huge art project or a science experiment.
Eric: Or a big joke.
Bjorn: Yeah, or a big fucking joke. All of which are probably justifiable
conclusions to come to.