sábado, 26 de março de 2016

The Hurrier We Go, The Behinder We Get with The Star Charts - An Interview

Ej Hagen e Martin Sleeman cometeram um dos discos que mais tem rodado aqui no TBTCI desde seu lançamento, isso em fevereiro desse ano, o nome da preciosidade, The Hurrier We Go, The Behinder We Get, um primor do início ao fim, shoegaze aos moldes do MBV só que não soa uma mera cópia, existem alguns motivos que fazem do álbum um caso a parte, existe uma conexão sem pretensão de ter ocorrido com os noruegueses do Serena Maneesh, algum sonhador e sônico com fortes doses cintilantes de inspiração.

Fica explicando o que o The Star Charts criou soa redundante na verdade, o mais importante é simplesmente dar play, abrir alguma bebida, e ouvir alto, alto mesmo, em todos os sentidos, e preferencialmente de headphones, assim certamente você vai absorver melhor.

O The Star Charts criou um pequena grande preciosidade e eu aconselho não a deixe perdida, pegue-a pra você e desfrute sem moderação.

***** Interview with The Star Charts *****

Q. When did The Star Charts start? Tell us about the history...
The Star Charts didn’t really start until Martin agreed to be the singer otherwise they’d just be songs sitting around my house. I just looked it up and I mention about it in an interview with When the Sun Hits blog in later 2010 so that was probably early 2010. The earliest song was “Belshnickel” which I think I wrote in 2006 and gave me the idea of the Star Charts.

Most the songs are basically just stuff that didn’t fit my other bands because they all use heavy amounts of reverse reverb as a basis or theme for the sound. MBV gets tagged with using reverse reverb, popularizing it in a way, but really they didn’t use it that much at all. Like 4 songs maybe? Anyway, I became really into figuring out that sound in the mid ‘90’s and would spend obscene amounts of time in my University’s computer lab on those little green screen computers trying to figure it all out and other things on the BBS forums.

I did find and acquire the units back then, the Midiverbs and the SPXs. But the technology over the years has gotten way better with high resolution stereo reverse reverb so those units I don’t use anymore. They just sit racked and I use them pretty much only for outboard reverbs for vocals and drums. I just wanted to make a record that more fully explored the capabilities of reverse reverb just because… no one else has that I’ve heard, somebody had to!

Plus I wanted to mix it up in a variety of ways not just “reverse reverb > overdrive > bend Jazzmaster arm > shoegaze song” which has been done so much that it is just boring to me. Like I wanted to write a song that’s maybe a bit more 60’s and popish (stealin’ the sunshine) but have that big swooping reverse reverb guitar carry it. Or something more tribal/world-ish (outen the light). Or in an insane Amish space odyssey dealing with them embracing technology so to travel through a black hole to farm a new world (the hurrier we go, the behinder we get).

The album has some variety to it musically and very much on purpose. But it always sounds like the Star Charts. It's Martin's vocals and the reverse reverb that tie it all together and gives it its identity.

Q: Who are your influences?
There’s so many really. All the usual suspects really: Spacemen 3, JAMC, the Boos, Ride, Slowdive, Lush, Chapterhouse, MBV, Bowery Electric, Stereolab, Adorable, early Verve, etc. Love the Stone Roses and Charlatans and such. All those bands influenced me musically in some way. I listen to a lot of music from the 60’s mostly stuff a bit more obscure like the CA Quintet, the Smoke, the Pretty Things, etc.

Q. Make a list of 5 albums of all time…
Again I go in phases but my classic list would include the Stone Roses, Loveless, Going Blank Again, Rownderbowt, and Against Perfection, but that’s rather boring isn’t it?

I’ll do another 5: the Smoke “It’s Smoke Time”, Rollerskate Skinny “Shoulder Voices”, the Swirlies “They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days”, Bowery Electric ” Bowery Electric”, James Brown “Hell”.

Q. How do you feel playing live?
I like traveling around playing live yeah. It’s really tough though even for bands with a following. Touring with the Morning After Girls, we’d be playing mostly 500 capacity clubs with great turnouts and really only breaking even at the end of the tour. When you’re on the road for 3+months at a time and basically just breaking even/getting by, you need money coming in from somewhere unless you are completely nomadic to begin with. I have a house and a mortgage. That needs to be paid so I’d have to work on the road or save up beforehand, have a job that is super flexible to let me come and go as I please as long as I get my work done, which I do.

The last time I played out live was 2013, took Highspire out on tour for a few weeks. Me and Martin were going to tour as the Star Charts back in 2011-12 but then Martin’s US visa time was up and he hasn’t been back to the US since. Since then it’s been more a visa issue than anything. There are a lot of things (and money) that come into play with visas.

But yeah, I love touring in general. I like playing and at least seeing the scenery of places if nothing else. It’s just really expensive for medium-smaller bands. US/Canada and Europe are great because there are so many cities to play within reasonable proximity that it’s easier to keep your costs down. Australia, for example is much harder as there’s only like 5-6 cities to play really and Melbourne or Brisbane to Sydney is like a 9-10 hour drive. In the Northeast USA (where I live), Boston to DC is like an 8 hour drive and during that you can play Boston, Providence RI, a couple NYC gigs, Philly, Lancaster PA, Baltimore, DC. You can play like 8 cities within less driving time than playing like 2 cities in Australia. Then there’s England where you can probably put together a 2 week tour without even driving for 8 hours..

Q. How do you describe The Star Charts sounds?
I think its more upbeat and just slightly introspective overall. Closer to probably the Boo Radleys and Lush realm in that sense. Not musically or singing wise so much as the vibe. We got a lot of great harmonies and our vocals are very present and to the front compared to most bands. We got nothing to hide and it's a strength!

Most the songs are written based off a 2 guitar system, alt tunings that when played simultaneously produce a dominant 7th chord on crack so to say. One guitar (Jazz/Jag) is the reverse reverb guitar and with the bending the whole piece will basically glide in and out of a major and minor dominant 7th. This was a theory I had on how to accentuate the gliding and give the music a sense that it's always slightly shifting. Probably more work than necessary but I don't like caveman-ing about. These little details, subtleties are why I play music.

The real trick was to make it all musical as this doesn't help the vocals at all haha! Like Adele going out of tune cos a mic hit the piano strings even though she was singing in tune that happen recently? Yeah, our songs do that the whole time on purpose! Martin's a fucking legend though, he learned all these fluctuations and would sing in and out of pitch just so the music overall was dead on. Bloody brilliant!

Other than that I guess some people would call it a bit eclectic, but we've got our own sound, no one sounds like us. All the first wave bands, they all basically had their own sound and journalists lumped them all together cos it was easier for them to describe a group of likeminded bands in that way instead of describing them individually. It's different today. Truly unique bands seem to be frowned on in favor of bands who all sound pretty similar.

Q: Tell us about the process of recording the songs ?
I can’t force myself to write songs. If I force writing it’ll sound forced which equals shite to me. Or at least I hear it and it bothers me. So I just play and whatever comes out comes out. It's gotta flow. If it’s good, I’ll usually loop the bit and start adding the other instruments to see if it’s still good. If it is still good I’ll record a demo of it into ProTools or Cubase.

Then I’ll sit on them for a while, revisit all the demos randomly, see if something starts flowing from the revisit. Usually if nothing comes in the first 5 minutes of tinkering I just move on to the next thing. And repeat.

This process sometimes takes a long time, years even. But this is how the Star Charts album was made. Just songs collected or created over years. It’s just a very organic thing. No time schedule, no pressure.

Once the song and structure is pretty much hashed out I’ll do a full demo skeleton, drums and all except usually for the vocals. Then off that skeleton I retrack the songs piece by piece, all the instruments. Sometimes, once the vocals are figured out some editing to the song structure needs done but at that point it’s gridded out and doesn’t take too much time to redo whole sections depending.

I do a lot of mixing/mixes. The whole album was recorded in my studio in Lancaster Pennsylvania. Basically a glorified home studio that can handle most my needs. It took well over 2000 hours to write, record, edit, mix the album. So it really could only be done there by ourselves. If it was a $50 an hour studio that would be like $100,000! We don't even have a record label (not that most record labels give their artists any money to record these days anyway!)

Q. Which new bands do you recommend?
I go through phases where I might hear very little newer stuff for a year or two because I don’t like to be too influenced by anything. I rely on what’s already in me usually when I’m writing songs. Once I’m in between things I dive in and listen to a lot of what’s been going on. I’m in that “dived in” phase right now.

I must say, I almost don’t have to do this anymore. SO many bands sound the same these days it’s crazy. Seriously, I can’t tell one band from another in some cases. I’ll hear something and be like “yeah that’s alright” then listen to some other bands that are really close over the course of a month or whatever. Then I’ll get something in my head, a bit of melody someone had that I heard and try to find the song. Then get stuck looking for it for ages haha! "Oh it’s this band" (listen through all their stuff), nope not that one, must be this one, nope, next, nope, next, still wrong band! Drives me nuts.

Also, what is truly odd is that 15-20 years ago Skywave, the Emerald Down, Highspire, Malory, Airiel, people would slag these bands off for being derivative. I’m naming these bands specifically because I played shows/toured with these bands and they’re friends of mine. We’d all get slagged off for being derivative. There were like maybe a few hundred shoegaze influenced bands around the world at the turn of the century. And they all took aspects of the sounds of the records they loved and grew up with to help keep the banner alive and waving so to say.

Fast forward 15 years, there are literally 10’s of thousands of shoegaze/psych/dreampop influenced bands now and most of them sound the same to me I can’t lie. Even stranger is that some are finding success being way more derivative than any of the bands I mentioned above AND being praised for it! It’s crazy.

Anyway, newer bands, try some of me mates bands: Chatham Rise, the Lightfoils, uh, I like painting walls in my house to a Welsh band White Noise Sound, I keep meaning to see a band near me from Baltimore called Wildhoney, they’re good. Not really sure how new any of them are. Last 5 years or so which is still new to me.

Q: Which band would you love to made a cover version of?
We (Star Charts) did do a cover of MBV’s “Don’t Ask Why” that I put up on youtube probably 5 years ago. I don’t think it has many hits but it should still be there. There’s like no guitars in it but a bit of acoustic in the end. It’s basically just Martin’s vocals, a homemade Theremin I made, a little piano, some tambourine… and an Orchestra haha!

I don’t really like covering other people’s songs unless I can bring something different to it. Cookie cutting, making a song sound as close to original as possible without bringing something different to it is just pointless to me.

Like I can bust out some crayons and colour inside the lines of a colouring book and make it real pretty following the numbers. Does that make me an artist? No. I just coloured inside lines and followed the numbers. If you do that right OF course its gonna look ok. But that’s just following instructions, not creating something original.

Now toss out the colour palette and make a new one that looks cool, add to the lines, change it up, then ok. Cover away. I guess.

Q: What are your plans for the future?
Drink some beer, watch some Champions League, shake me head in disbelief at the current US and World affairs…

Actually I need to retool my studio a bit and get some music projects I’ve started but been sitting on moving. I’ve been pretty slow on all that of late, need to get moving. They’re all a little more psych influenced at various levels and ideas. Maybe do something derivative ha!

Q: Any parting words?
This record "the hurrier we go, the behinder we get" was finished in 2011. We've been sitting on it for all this time trying to find it a home (maybe not as hard as we could have). We got tired of sitting on it and released the digitals early this year.

You can have it for FREE (or donation) here cos, we cool like that: https://thestarcharts.bandcamp.com/releases

We're still trying to find a home for it to be released on vinyl. I'd do it myself, but am still paying off the debt accrued to make this album... 5 years later... But I'm really proud of it and don't want anyone to not hear it. The last song, the title track, is perhaps my favourite piece I've ever worked on for any band ever. It's an insane space-themed rollercoaster of music.

Cheers all!