How did you initially come up with your band’s name?
The beauty of CMJ is just the astounding amount of bands that end up playing there. The Norwegians from Casiokids were not about to miss the party and we were not about to miss out on the chance of chatting with them while they were here, especially since their newest album, Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen, just came out on Polyvinyl! We spoke to two members of the band, Ketil Kinden Endresen and Omar Johnsen, in a hallway at Pianos last night and here’s how it went!
Modern Mystery: How many times have you been part of the CMJ line-up? How do you like it?
Ketil Kinden Endresen: This is our second time here, we last came in 2008. It was also our first show in New York, at Cake Shop. But we’ve been in New York many times since then. I think this is our 10th mini tour in the U.S. Playing in New York is definitely one of my favourites.
Omar Johnsen: It’s nice when we’re playing things like CMJ or South by South West, you can stay in one town too. It’s so much easier.
KKE: It gives you time to enjoy the city as well.
MM: So where do you like to hang out in New York?
KKE: We spend a lot of time in Williamsburg. We try to go see museums, go to Central Park and roam around Manhattan.
MM: So your songs are in Norwegian, which can’t be easy for everyone to pronounce. Which place had the oddest pronunciation of Norwegian?
KKE: Probably Russia.
OJ: In a way it was the best and the worst [laughs]. They were very into it but it did not sound like Norwegian!
KKE: Still it was pretty special, they were very passionate. But mostly outside of Scandinavia, there is more dancing than singing along. In Scandinavia, they sing more.
MM: What is your biggest musical influence?
OJ: It’s hard to pin down because everyone is from different places. There is some overlap but I think it comes out through our music. It’s like a pot of stew.
KKE: Well, there is this Swedish band called Bobhund that we all like. There’s also electronic pop like New Order, Kraftwerk, Cornelius…
OJ: I guess also krautrock like Neu… Everyone likes these bands at least [laughs].
MM: Anyone you’re excited to see here at CMJ this year?
KKE: I haven’t really looked at the program to be honest but generally I like to rely on luck. Like tonight we got here and then went upstairs and realized our friend was playing!
MM: So your new album, Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen, just came out. How would you describe to someone who’s never heard your music?
KKE: It was inspired by the story of Dr. Tarzan Monsoon and his discovery of a secret rainforest. It’s quite varied and with electro and dance rhythms. Our stories are in Norwegian and we use a lot of harmonies in our vocals.
OJ: It was also made differently from our past albums. Before, the albums were more like compilations of singles. It’s quite diverse but it’s still a sound that sounds like us. It’s also better produced; we have our own studio so over the years, we’ve learned more and got better.
MM: I hear you’re going to Japan next month! What are you most excited about?
KKE: Yes, on November 6th! I’m excited about the food. Japanese food has to be my favourite food in the world.
OJ: I want to discover the culture, I find it very inspiring. Maybe it’s because I’m half-asian so I have a special attraction.
MM: Do you know when you’ll be back in New York after CMJ?
KKE: Not yet. But we’ll definitely be back sometime in the spring.
Catch Casiokids during the rest of CMJ here:
21.10.11: Spike Hill
22.10.11: AAM Inc party 14:30 @ Knitting Factory
If your read Sam Roberts’s Wikipedia page, you’ll see the man has quite a career behind him already, and many connections. It’s obvious then that there was no way we would miss him when he came to New York City this week, to play a gig at the beautiful Bowery Ballroom. Sam was really nice to sit down with us and talk about the genesis of the Sam Roberts Band new album Collider, which came out on May 10th via Zoë/Rounder Records, being on tour again and Justin Bieber. That’s right.
Modern Mystery: It’s been a while since you’ve been on tour in the US. How does it feel to be back on the road again?
Sam Roberts: Really good! Especially being here at the Bowery Ballroom. It’s the perfect setting and scenario for starting off a tour, just to be back in New York City and feel the energy of the place again and hopefully play a good show tonight and set the tone for the rest of the tour.
MM: Which are you favourite cities to play in the US?
SR: It’s hard to say because there are the obvious choices: New York, San Francisco and Chicago… But there are a few other smaller cities. I love playing in Buffalo, NY. I really like playing in Pittsburgh. It didn’t start out that way but after years of thickheadedness and a refusal to take no for an answer, we sort of broke through and found a great, small, loyal following in Pittsburgh. And I love playing in Detroit. I’ve just got a great connection with that city. That’s just to name a few.
MM: What made you decide to record the new album in Chicago rather than at home in Canada?
SR: Aside from choosing Chicago, just the idea of not making the record at home was important to us this time around because I think it allowed us to break free from our day to day routines and not have that be a part of the mindset while making the record. Not having to answer the phone, not having the menial daily chores that suck some of the romance out of it. I feel like making a record should be adventurous, that there should be some sort of romance and strangeness to the process. So going to a place like Chicago and just sort of taking ourselves outside of the familiar and the comfortable, and throwing a bunch of Canadians in a big American city, kind of wide-eyed and having to find their way… We kind of hoped that it would bring some spontaneity and a different perspective to make the record. We’d been practicing these songs for so long too and you have a tendency to sort of get a bit too cemented in terms of your relationship to the music that you are playing and I think that if you go in the recording studio with that in mind, you have the tendency to play to not make mistakes rather than play to perform and to try out some sort of emotion in your playing. So being in Chicago, we tried to feed off of the city and tried to being that into the studio every day.
MM: You worked with Brian Deck on this album, who’s worked with Modest Mouse or Iron and Wine in the past. How did he get involved and how did the recording process for Collider differ from the other people you’ve worked with?
SR: We sent him demos that I’d been working on in my basement at home and he just came back with this extremely enthusiastic, encouraging response to the whole thing, so I was like, “Okay, he’s really excited about this.” And then a day later he sends me this email, 5-page long email, telling me everything that he would change in the songs, if and when he got his hands on them. That scared us off for a few minutes and we kind of went back and retreated to the band, you know, the sanctuary and were thinking, “this isn’t going to work, this guy is crazy! He wants to do what?” And we actually tried to do a few of the things and it made a lot of sense. A producer’s role isn’t to pat you on the back, it’s to bring their own perspective in or bring your vision to a new level or a level you can’t see yourself because you are so close to the music and you’ve been so involved in every step of its life. I think what he helped with most is to help us find simplicity in the songs, to not just try to throw layer after layer after layer in the record. If you listen to the record, it has a more spare, sparse sound to it so that when you do introduce woodwinds and percussion, they have room to make much bigger impact and that was definitely a new approach for us.
MM: You also added two musicians to the line-up for this album, Ben Massarella and Stuart Bogie, who have worked with TV on the Radio and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. How did they work into the band? What did they bring to the tracks they performed on?
SR: Well, great musicianship for one. Their lack of history with the music itself allowed them to think completely out of the box. So they would come in and Stuart specifically, he’d come in and listen to this music for the first time and was already coming up with parts. After his first listen, he’d have something to play for the chorus he’d just heard. So it was an incredibly spontaneous and immediate process. And to watch people who are able to adapt that quickly and to think on their feet like that was inspiring to us and I think it made us want to play differently as well and not be afraid of making a mistake but rather play to get the right feeling on the recording. Also, Ben and Brian had a past relationship of working together. They’re at that point where they don’t even have to really talk to know what the other one means.
MM: How do you translate what you created in the studio to the current live show?
SR: We’re in the thick of figuring it out right now. One of the first dramatic steps was to get a saxophone player to reproduce those parts on a daily basis. Stuart couldn’t be with us on the tour because he’s with Iron and Wine but he recommended a friend of his and we played one gig together in D.C. and it felt really good so hopefully there’s more of that to come. It’s mostly about getting the saxophone so we wouldn’t have to re-invent the songs.
MM: What is the inspiration behind the songs on Collider?
SR: Everything and anything. Life. You know, I have a family, I have three kids… The inspiration is what you live and how you deal with the things you live and what is around you.
MM: What’s your songwriting process? How do you decide how to tell a story?
SR: It’s funny because this is my job and I do need to organize time to write a song. I have to put a lock on the door so the kids don’t come in. I like writing under that kind of pressure, I like deadlines, I like creating with a sort of pressure on my shoulders. It tends to focus my thinking in some way as well. You’re not able to have these meandering ideas that never get checked. I like having structure like that. But then again, so much time goes by between writing that I’ve kind of forgotten whatever method I had for the previous record, but that’s how music evolves for me. If I implemented the same structure for every single song that I ever wrote, I think they’d end up sounding a lot more alike. So in this sense, every time I sit down to write a new record, I’m not chained to the last one necessarily and that’s how I like to make music. One record, I might start with drums and bass and move on from there to add the vocals right at the end; another time I’ll make a more concerted effort to write lyrics right at the beginning and shape the songs around the lyrics. This record was really about shaping the rhythmic patterns of the songs and letting everything feed off of that. So in terms of the lyrics and which words you end up using and how they roll off your tongue to fit into that pattern was important for this record in particular.
MM: How did you get involved with the Young Artists for Haiti benefit? It was quite surprising to see you alongside Justin Bieber and Drake. Did that make you hesitant or apprehensive at all?
SR: Not at all. I didn’t realize the scope of the event before going in there. I really had no idea who I was going to be keeping company with. I know K’naan, who was the mastermind behind the whole thing and who wrote the song. He sent me an e-mail because we were all, a lot of us were heading over to Vancouver to play concerts surrounding the Olympics. So I didn’t know what was going on. I got off the plane, went to the studio, I knew my part that I was supposed to sing. When I first arrived, there was myself and maybe three other people. So I recorded my bit, came out and what had a fairly empty room was now of, like you said, just about everybody: a lot of people I know, Canadian bands that I’m friends with or that I’ve toured with over the years and then a few surprising faces, you know? I think that was the beauty of the whole effort really, how it wasn’t necessarily about one type of musician. It was a very inclusive process and I think it came out really really well and did a lot of good in the end too. It made a big impact in terms of getting Canadians to stay connected to the issue and reminding of the event long after it ceased to be front page news.
MM: How do you feel fans have reacted to Collider so far?
SR: It’s funny because this time around I started looking at our Facebook page whereas during our last record I didn’t even know how to log on [laughs]. And with Twitter as well, there’s so much more immediate response to it and it’s been really great! A lot of people say things that I love to hear like, “I had to listen to this one three or four times before I got it,” and I think this is that kind of record. I don’t think it hits right over the head right away. And I think every record we make is like that in a way, where you just have to sit with it for a bit for it to reveal its true nature. And also then your relationship to the song is allowed to evolve overtime and isn’t just a flash in the pan experience.
MM: Is that kind of response part of the incentive to keep writing complex, powerful songs?
SR: You shouldn’t let your self get too far ahead of yourself that way either and I don’t want to say that it would make me stick to one way of doing things because I think that when you sit down and write, you have to feel that freedom to do whatever comes naturally to you at the time. My favorite songs to write are the simplest songs, it’s just that they’re harder to come by. Strangely enough.
MM: After this tour, what’s next for the Sam Roberts Band?
SR: This tour is just starting so right now that seems SO far away that I can’t even fathom. I want to be on the road for quite while with this record because it feels really good to play and I hope that it brings a new element to our live show that will keep people coming back. At the same time, I’d prefer not to put out records every three years, which is what happens when you’re on tour for a year and a half then all of a sudden, you find yourself with a great deal of time. I want to make more music than I’ve been making in the last few years. I feel the urge to do that. So it’s a bit of a balance and I haven’t quite figured out how to strike that balance yet.
MM: Do you have some recording equipment in the tour bus?
SR: No, nothing. I don’t even bother because I know that’s not going to happen. And that’s what I mean when I say there’s so much time between writing. It’s not just making a record but actually writing. I finished writing this record last summer and I haven’t written a song since. It’s already been almost a year since I wrote a song. I collect ideas, I’ve got a lot of ideas but I still have to do all that work to turn those fragments into a song. So, I just don’t write when we’re on the road. You’ve got to be up for the show and it’s hard enough to stay focused on that one thing. Some people are amazing; you walk in their bus or their van or their hotel room and they’ve set up a studio and they’ve got two hours and they’re working! I have the utmost respect and admiration and envy for those people because they make a lot of music, but I’m just not one of them. I need peace and space and if I don’t have it the ideas just don’t come, you know.
The Sam Roberts Band is touring the US and Canada for the next three months so check out their website HERE for tour information.
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.|
If you’ve been following Interpol news, you know they’ve gone through a lot lately; the Creators’ Project now brings us an intimate documentary about what makes this band work, no matter the line-up. In an insightful long-form interview, guitarist Daniel Kessler and singer Paul Banks reflect on their image, their history, their latest self-titled album and their approach to their art. Interpol will collaborate with The Creators’ Project again during this year’s Coachella festival; keep your eyes and ears open for that.
Meanwhile, you can view the 20-minutes documentary, “Interpol on Interpol” HERE.