Conversion Party only just released their “proper debut EP” (as they refer to it on their bandcamp page), but they have quite a bit of history behind them. Although split between New London, CT, and Brooklyn, NY, the five members of this band still managed to out out a self-released first LP, More No More, in 2008, but their musical style needed some focusing. When it came time to write new material, they set out to “bring the different stylistic strands together into something that was cohesive,” as their guitarist Alex Waxman explains. From the new sessions came a whole new LP, produced by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Sean Greenhalgh. No label came forward to release it, but that wasn’t going to stop them. Out of the ten songs they recorded, they chose four and that is how we got the EP Favors, which was released on April 19th. The songs on the EP have a real pop flair but maintain just enough off-kilter elements in the vocals and arrangements to keep our attention. Hopefully the rest of the recordings will make their way into our music libraries soon.
To honor the release of Favors, Conversion Party will be playing two shows as part of the EP Release Weekend: they will be at Bruar Falls TONIGHT, Friday May 6th, with Hsi Chang Li, In Buenos Aires and Natural Fathers, and at Cakeshop tomorrow night, Saturday May 7th, for the venue’s 6th Anniversary Party, where they will share the stage with Surf City and the Beets. But most importantly, two members of Conversion Party took some time to speak to Modern Mystery about music, Favors and the band’s history in a slightly unusual way… I asked Ben and Alex the same questions, and they answered them according to what they thought the other would answer. How well do these answers match up with what their own answers and opinions are? We’re not counting points, of course, this is a friendly game.
Full name, Birthday and Place of Birth
|Alex’s guess: Benjamin Brock Johnson, I believe is Colorado somewhere… A hippie town… Boulder? But I don’t think that’s right. I’m really bad at remembering people’s birthdays I think his is sometime in September? Say September 12th.The real answer was: Benjamin Brock Johnson. My birth place is Montpelier, VT and my birth date is July 28th, 1980.
||Ben’s guess: Alexander Isaac Waxman. This is going to be hard… He was born somewhere in Massachusetts… In the Boston area, I’m going to guess. And his birthday… [laughs] I’m pretty sure his birthday is somewhere in May, I’m going to guess May 8th.The real answer was: Alexander Isaac Waxman. My birth date is May 11th 1982 and Boston, MA is my birth town or city.
When did the two of you first met?
|Ben’s memory: I was definitely during college and I want to say we both were in search or some sort of trouble and found each other as we were trying to find it. I feel like the first time we met was near a bench… But we might have also have met in his roommate’s dorm room
||Alex’s memory: That would be in college, in my dorm room, after this orientation thing where Ben stood up and talked in front of the whole school. And then he came over and we smoked pot in my dorm room with my pot dealer roommate.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure we have the technology to have an objective and definitive answer on this one, although Ben did say he thought Alex would say their first meeting would involve pot in Alex’s dorm room… However they met, it led to good things. That’s all that matters, right?
Since the band’s time has been split between New London, CT and Brooklyn, NY, I wanted to know, what are each other’s biggest driving faults?
|Alex’s guess: Ah, Everything! [chuckles] I would say getting distracted. Ben’s answer: Everything? [chuckles] I’m actually a very good driver but none of my friends would admit that. I’m probably the scariest driver, I drive too fast and seem like I’m out of control and I follow people too closely and I slam the breaks too much and come too close to hitting people. But I never actually hit people.
||Ben’s guess: Inconsistency of speed. Alex’s answer: I’m pretty flawless [smiles].
Drink of Choice during the recording of Favors?
|Alex’s guess: We sort of drink the same thing. I would have to say beer. Budweiser as well. Ben’s answer: Do smoothies count? I would say smoothies and/or whisky, like Maker’s Mark.
||Ben’s guess Either Jim Beam or tall boy Budweisers or a combination of both. Alex’s answer: It was pretty much beer down the line… Budweiser.
Biggest Musical Inspiration?
|Alex’s guess: Radiohead. Ben’s answer: Thelonious Monk.
||Ben’s guess: He’s going to try to say something so cool… His answer might be Neutral Milk Hotel, or Jeff Mangum. Alex’s answer: Our drummer’s other band Fatal Film.
Oddest songwriting ritual or routine?
|Alex’s guess: We all do our songwriting separately so I always picture Ben in his slippers at home… He has this pair of Himalayan slippers that he brings with him whenever we do these bad getaways. They’re blue and have thread… He knows what slippers they are. Ben’s answer: I don’t know if this is the strangest thing but when I write and record demos, I play things and work on things incessantly, and I’m very exacting so if I’m demoing something by myself, I’ll play it more times than anyone in their right mind would play something in order to get it exactly right.
||Ben’s guess: I want to say it’s something physical. He would be trying to get the strangest sound out of what he was doing. Whatever he would be playing with, he would be trying to get the absolutely weirdest sound that could not be duplicated. Alex’s answer: I make really messy demos that sort of fall apart because I’m just trying to get the idea down. So sometimes they’re kind of indecipherable. The other guys have to listen to them with faith… They sort of know that there’s the grain of a good idea there and they listen for that. It’s not necessarily a song when I first present it.
Favorite song on Favors and Why?
|Alex’s guess: I think he’ll say “Let Us All” because he wrote it. Ben’s answer: I would say “Let Us All” because I wrote it. Ha, no, I think that song is an incomplete spot in some ways: it never developed really specific lyrics and it’s not like the rest of our material in a lot of ways. But I think that it has a wild quality to it that I really like. And it’s a bit more experimental than our stuff so it’s ambitious in that way. It reminds me of long, drawn-out noisy guitar rock that we all listen to but don’t necessarily always sound like.
||Ben’s guess: “Birds of Paradise Lost” because he would really like Matt Potter’s vocal. Alex’s answer: My favorite track on Favors is “Let Us All” because it’s the last track on the record and I love the way it came together. We were really unsure of what it was going to be and during the last couple of weeks of recording, it turned into an awesome song. It’s cool and points for more stuff for us that we can do.
Which producer/musician would he like to work with in the future?
|Alex’s guess: I’m sure it would be Radiohead related, like Nigel Godrich or Thom Yorke. Ben’s answer: I’d like to work with somebody who has really interesting drum programming and rhythmic ideas and is also willing to spend a lot of time getting weird sounds and trying really weird things. I think Scott Walker is somebody whose recordings are… I’m in awe of the ideas that he has about making sounds physically and recording them. My impression is that someone like Nigel Godrich spends a lot of time doing interesting things with sound and also really stripping songs down and re-imagining them in new ways. I’d like to work with somebody who is very free-thinking in that way.
||Ben’s guess: Maybe Panda Bear? Or Jay Reatard or No Age. Alex’s answer: I would like to see what would happen if we didn’t have a producer, if we recorded ourselves and let the process sprawl in a way that it doesn’t with a producer. But I like James Murphy a lot so… I think we would get along really well with him. I feel there’s a similar sensibility there.
Most embarrassing moment on stage?
|Alex’s guess: I really wouldn’t be able to guess… I don’t know… I mean he’s been on stage a lot more than I have with many other bands. I would assume it’s not Conversion Party-related.Ben’s answer: I’m never embarrassed, because I always do what I’m supposed to do [laughs]. Usually my most embarrassing moments on stage are when my bandmates announce songs that I’ve written and how they’re about my girlfriend. Which is totally fine, I’m not embarrassed about writing songs about my girlfriend, but I always feel it’s a betrayal of the mystery of the art form being presented purely.
||Ben’s guess: Alex’s most embarrassing stage moment I think was a show we played at Lit lounge earlier this year. During the second to last song, Matt Potter fell into a wall during a really intense solo and somehow inadvertently killed the power on the whole bottom floor of the club–sparks flew and there was a huge loud sound and the lights went out. It was on the last chord of our fastest loudest song “Awake,” and it was kind of perfect how it ended, but everyone was like “whaaaa?” Alex got pretty mad about that I think because it was this sort of epic example of a performance blowing up in our faces, literally.Alex’s answer: I have two off the top of my head. Once we played an all ages show on a Wednesday in Hamden, CT and there was just one person there and I don’t even think they were there to see us and it was just the worse night. The other was almost prior to this band, the college had offered us a hundred bucks to play on a tennis court. Nobody else could do it except for me and Matt Allen, who is in the band now. It was just the two of us on drums and guitar and it was kind of disaster. But it didn’t really matter; we still got a hundred bucks.
First CD/Record/Tape you bought?
|Alex’s guess: It would probably Nirvana or Pearl Jam or something like that.Ben’s Answer: The first one that I was given (my preferred answer) was a tape. My father is a jazz pianist and he gave me a tape that was one side the soundtrack of the movie Top Gun and on the other side it was greatest hits Beach Boys mix. And then the first record I bought, either it was Nirvana’s Nevermind or Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream.
||Ben’s guess: I’m going to guess an Otis Redding tape. But it could be A Tribe Called Quest, or G-Love and Special Sauce? I’m going to say A Tribe Called Quest.Alex’s answer: That’s an embarrassing question. I’m pretty sure I bought a couple CDs at once: one was Aerosmith, and the other one was Jimi Hendrix’s Greatest Hits. But I was listening to much worse shit, I’m sure.