Palm

REVIEW: Palm - Rock Island

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Phillipe Roberts

In the race to classify the formidable sounds devised by Philadelphia-via-Hudson quartet Palm, genres are constantly tossed in and out of the running. Owing to their use of odd-metered melodies, math rock is most common, but universally rejected by the band themselves. Art rock comes in close second, a solid attempt at capturing the constant friction between the barbed abstractions etching their way across the songs. On past releases like last year’s Shadow Expert EP, where those jagged edges were a little more pronounced, that might’ve done the trick.

Less than a year later, sitting atop the treasure trove of marvelous tunes that is Rock Island, the problem presents itself again. Allow me to suggest a solution: Rock Island is Palm’s dream pop record. But beyond the typical sense of reverb-soaked vocals and extensive reliance on atmosphere, Palm returns with songs that speak the erratic language of dreams. Far from the disorienting structures that dominated their earlier work, the world of Rock Island is almost instantly familiar. Give your ears a few bars to adjust to the surroundings and each track begins to operate on an inviting and singular internal logic that only peels apart as its component parts fade into memory.

Question how those guitars are dancing impossible steps around the drums, how the dimensions of the songs shrink and expand so freely, or why steel drums of all things are just about everywhere, and you’ll scratch your head all day long. Sink into it, let it sweep you away, take in the hazy tropical scenery. The more you surrender, the more vibrant and addicting it becomes. Spend a day on Rock Island and you might end up pleasantly marooned.

In contrast to previous efforts, there’s an invigorating sense of conceptual wholeness to the proceedings this time around. Even as dual vocalist/guitarists Eve Alpert and Kasra Kurt develop further into their own unique styles, the grab-bag approach of yesteryear falls by the wayside. It’s almost a shame that Palm have moved in the direction of prominent vocals; the twin instrumental tracks “Theme From Rock Island,” a sprightly bossa nova jam, and “20664,” a taste of subterranean footwork, would make phenomenal soundtrack pieces if they weren’t busy populating Rock Island with strange flora and fauna.

But it's not much of a shame, as the vocal work on this record is razor sharp, with clearer presentation and direction than ever. “Dog Milk” is far and away the poppiest cut Palm has produced, with Kasra taking point on a rollercoaster of sunny Beach Boys harmonies surrounded by a glittering panorama of MIDI steel drums that’ll have you grinning ear to ear, and his turn on the lumbering 8-bit sunbather “Swimmer” adds a dreary touch to the Cluster-attempts-reggae backing. Eve Alpert is no slouch, outdoing her beautiful work on Shadow Expert’s title track with a few R&B vocal slides on prog-pop opener “Pearly” and taking lead on shoegaze fantasy closer “Didn’t What You Want Happen,” bookending the record with two takes on surrealist crooning. Drummer Hugo Stanley and bassist Gerasimos Livitsanos round out the band with locked-in, yet highly embellished grooves that propel a constantly undulating wall of sound through arrangements that, despite massive sonic shifts, never feel too busy or haphazard.

Rock Island is the first record where Palm truly settles into a consensus of sound, owning their position at the vanguard of a psychedelic renaissance, tapping into the subconscious for a futuristic vision that dwells on the boundary between inner and outer space. Catch a glimpse before they dissolve it entirely.

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2015

Here we are again, folks. Another year has come and gone, and quite a lot of phenomenal music fell into our laps along the way. Everything from hip-hop to shoegaze revival made its way onto the indie (and not-so-indie) charts, and we wanted to take the time to reminisce a bit before continuing our inexorable march into the brave new world that 2016 promises to herald.

We put this list together as a team. Each one of our writers, editors, photographers, fat-cat executives, and the barely-sentient AIs that run our social media submitted a list of their top picks of 2015, and we whittled them down through a grueling process of passive-aggressive email arguments. What remained is what you see here.

While we wanted to include the bigger-name albums that really lived up to their hype, this list focuses on a good number of smaller artists that might not have gotten much recognition when they were released. This isn't an act of charity or anything—all of these records are excellent—we simply got tired of seeing the same twenty things on every year-end roundup.

So without further ado, ThrdCoast is excited to present you with the best albums of 2015. We hope you dig 'em as much as we did.
 

Son Lux - Bones

In an emphatic followup to 2014's Lanterns, Son Lux hit us with another inventive, experimental, and occasionally batshit insane album this year in the form of Bones. Like everything else they've put out over the years, the only thing predictable about it was its unpredictability, and with standouts like the angular "You Don't Know Me" and slow-building "Your Day Will Come," this is one we'll be coming back to for years.

Turnover - Peripheral Vision

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Virginia-based Turnover's latest effort, Peripheral Vision, is an absolute heartbreaker. Their unique style of post-punk has an almost indescribable smoothness to it—each track feels like all the elements have melted together, like crayons you left out in the sun. Plus, if you're in the right mood, "I Would Hate You If I Could" will straight up make you sob like an adolescent.

Jamie xx - In Colour

Punchy, eclectic, and hugely fun, Jamie xx's sophomore solo LP In Colour shows a much more vibrant and, quite frankly, interesting side than his recent work with The xx. You've all probably heard plenty about this on other sites, but we think it deserves some serious year-end recognition.

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly

What can we say that hasn't already been said? To Pimp a Butterfly is a friggin' masterpiece, and it deserves the accolades with which it's been showered all year.

Sports - Naked All The Time

In a scene that's more or less overflowing with dream pop, it's an impressive feat when a band can set themselves apart with an album as elegantly smooth and well written as Sports' Naked All The Time. Awash in hazy synths and reverb-drenched guitars, this one can bring you to a midsummer afternoon even in the dead of winter.

Jaakko Eino Kalevi - Jaakko Eino Kalevi

Finnish electro-pop musician Jaakko Eino Kalevi is, first and foremost, a character. His self-titled album opens with a track titled "JEK," in which the chorus is simply a repetition of his name (in case you were curious about how to pronounce it). Singing in both English and Finnish throughout, Jaakko Eino Kalevi ranges from mopey and contemplative on tracks like "Double Talk" to almost absurdly funky on "Hush Down," and nails every mood in between.

Vinyl Williams - Into

Experimental pop darlings Vinyl Williams dropped their second full-length release this year to wild acclaim, and for good reason. Into is a cosmic trip right down to the album art (which looks like an Escher sketch put through Google's Deep Dream), and meanders its way through fourteen dreamy tracks that perfectly balance ambiance and pop sensibilities.

Mild High Club - Timeline

Sometimes a band's name sums up its sound more artfully than our notes ever could. That's certainly the case with Timeline, Mild High Club's latest lackadaisical, marginally psychedelic project on Stones Throw Records. Like a half-assed hit on an idyllic summer day, it's hard to tell if the bliss is coming from the drugs or the weather—but it's certainly there.

Lightning Bug - Floaters

NYC four-piece Lightning Bug produced an impressively creative hybrid of dream pop and shoegaze with their debut LP Floaters. It's an album that isn't afraid to let its mind wander, but the band manages to bring things back to earth with walls of fuzzed-out guitar before it ever starts to feel aimless. This was one of the more pleasant surprises we came across this year, and we're looking forward to seeing what they do going forward.

Ava Luna - Infinite House

Ava Luna delivered once again with this year's Infinite House, a confident, expressive album that blurs the lines of R&B, soul, art rock, and indie pop to fantastic effect. The vocals are vibrant and the songwriting is as tight as ever, proving that these guys are absolutely at the top of their game.

Rick Alvin - Doing Melting

A relative latecomer (just released in early December), Rick Alvin's Doing Melting is a bold experiment in sound collage that pretty drastically challenges what it means to make an indie pop album. Elements of trip-hop, samples of classical greats like Holst, and references to The Sound of Music come together to make this one of the more bizzare, yet intriguing records of 2015—and all this from a member of super-twee pop group Miniature Tigers.

Palm - Trading Basics

On their full-length debut Trading Basics, noisy New York (now Philadelphia) math rockers Palm put together a collection of explosive, surreal music that manages to be both elusive and completely mesmerizing. They're happy to pull the rug out from under the listener at any point, but there's a certain beauty to having your expectations flipped on their head more times than you can count.

Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear

Squarely in the "duh" column of this list is I Love You, Honeybear, Father John Misty's latest opus. The album is a soul-bearing, contradictory exploration of true love and how it changes you (or doesn't), replete with all the showmanship and cleverness that has defined J. Tillman's songwriting since his debut. Plus, we figured if we didn't include it, somebody would call the Indie Police on us.

The Japanese House - Pools To Bathe In

Someone once described The Japanese House's most recent album, Pools to Bathe In, as "Imogen Heap for people with taste." We don't want to throw shade at Heap, but they certainly have their similarities: lots of vocal modulation, understated beats, and an absolutely gorgeous—if melancholy—aesthetic.

Guerilla Toss - Flood Dosed

Psych-punk is a fairly under-served genre, and Guerilla Toss' short EP Flood Dosed made us wish that wasn't the case. Their matter-of-fact vocal delivery and erratic, funky instrumentation is refreshingly weird and raw, and the songwriting is incredibly inventive throughout.

Tei Shi - Verde

Ever since we first heard "Bassically" last year, we've been anticipating great things from Tei Shi. Lo and behold, Verde is just as fantastic as we'd hoped, and our only complaint is that it's too damn short.

Krill - A Distant Fist Unclenching

Krill is high-energy and rough around the edges, and always manages to feel just a hair shy of coming completely unhinged. There's an art to finding that sweet spot, and 2015's A Distant Fist Unclenching does so magnificently.

L'Impératrice - Odyssée

France seems to be the international capitol of synth pop these days, and L'Impératrice has produced a beautiful addition to the pantheon with their latest EP Odyssée. It's easy to get lost in their shimmering synths and airy vocals, but you could just as easily dance your ass off to them.

Attacrobat - Howl

Irish duo Attacrobat are pretty hard to categorize. Their Howl EP is soulful, experimental, and clearly world influenced—not unlike Yeasayer—and they effortlessly blend vocal-forward pieces with dynamic beats to make a seamless, genre-transcending whole.

Incredible Polo - AGES

Nancy, France-based producer Incredible Polo (aka Paul Malburet) is a master of engrossing synth pop, and AGES is him at his best. Spacey, hypnotic, but nonetheless plenty substantial, this is an EP that punches well above its runtime.

Cloud - Zen Summer

A bright, fuzzy wall of joy, LA-based Cloud's debut album Zen Summer is as exuberant as it is thoughtful. Never glossing over the fact that most of its celebratory vibe comes from overcoming some pretty dark emotions, though, moments like the triumphant shouts of "I'm all right! I'm all right!" on "Sunshine Psych" reliably put smiles on our faces.

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

Yeah, yeah. Everyone says Sufjan is irrelevant and uncool these days, and they're all going to put him on their year-end lists anyway. Because he's really, really good at writing records that quite literally make us cry. Mission accomplished, Sufs.

Miya Folick - Strange Darling

Miya Folick's Strange Darling is a stunningly beautiful EP. It's intimate, confessional, a little bit self-loathing, and holy hell does Miya have a great voice. This is how you do singer-songwriter folk-rock with some chutzpah.

Michael Hix - Aeon

If you like ambient music, Michael Hix's Aeon is a must-listen. It's artfully paced, and despite having a bit of that sameiness that ambient music tends to fall prey to, Hix sustains a subtle dynamism throughout the record that keeps things moving. It didn't get much attention when it came out, and it probably won't because it isn't the sexiest genre out there, but we wanted to give this one its due.

Superhuman Happiness - Escape Velocity

We don't even know where to start with this album. Is it an EP? An LP? A new category entirely? Whatever it is, it's phenomenal. We have no idea what genre to call it, other than experimental indie pop, but it jumps so far all over the place in any given thirty seconds—let alone in a song—that any attempt to do so would necessitate a big, fat asterisk. It's weird, but it's not inaccessible, and super catchy from time to time. It's tightly recorded and fascinating as far as structure goes, and "Middle Ground" is one of our favorite songs of the whole year.

Land Lines - The Natural World

Land Lines' latest record, The Natural World, does minimalist chamber pop really, really well (we're not even sure you can call it chamber pop, but they use a double bass so we figured we'd roll with it). Lead singer Martina Grbac has one of the most powerful voices we've heard all year, too, which doesn't hurt.

Busdriver - Thumbs

LA indie rapper Busdriver's Thumbs is simply phenomenal. As packed with biting social commentary as it is with nerdy pop-culture references ("I remember when Vegeta stomped Bardock's neck in"), this LP ranges in tone from down-tempo grooves to heavy-duty bangers like "Hyperbolic 2." Plus, it has some great guest appearances, like Del the Funky Homosapien, Kool A.D., and milo to round it all out.

Squiggly Lines - Astronaut Jumps, Nobody Misses the Landing

This quaint little EP seems to have flown under most radars, but we love it. It's quirky, the track names are clever (each one is a single word from the title, in order), and utterly approachable. It's lackadaisical and self-deprecating, but in a way that seems unique among semi-bedroom projects. There are some fun Greek mythological themes peppered throughout, and humorously enough, "the" is probably the best and most expansive track on the album. Definitely worth a listen if you missed it.

No Joy - More Faithful

Shoegaze is back (real, actual, 100% shoegaze, guys!). No Joy's More Faithful does it better than pretty much anyone else we heard this year. 'Nuff said.

Happy Fangs - Capricorn

We're suckers for riot grrrl rock bands, and San Francisco's Happy Fangs do it with such gleeful, irreverent energy on Capricorn that we couldn't help but fall in love. They wrote a song about a vulture that can do karate called "Hiya Kaw Kaw." They had a guy in a werewolf costume chase them around on stage in the middle of the concert we attended. And their guitarist's name is literally, on his birth certificate, Michael Cobra. What more do you need?

Torres - Sprinter

Torres' Sprinter is an intense, strong-willed, artful album. Putting PJ Harvey and Portishead alums on this was a masterstroke; the atmosphere is dark, but still enjoyable to dive into. It simmers and pulsates in a way that feels very different from the rest of this year's indie rock, and we can't get enough of it.

Vince Staples - Summertime '06

In a year that was dominated by so much fantastic hip-hop, it was hard to stand out. Vince Staples' Summertime '06 was one that managed to pull it off with a bleak, ominous vibe and some really impressive beats, and if you get the chance to see him live, do it. He wears himself out completely on stage—no reservations, no posing like he's too cool, just a guy putting on an explosive performance until he's damn near completely exhausted. It's a sight to behold.

Girl Band - Holding Hands With Jamie

We're still sort of reeling from this one. Girl Band's Holding Hands With Jamie is completely manic, psychotic, and explosively cathartic, but there's a level of detailed experimentation here that deserves a lot of respect. There's not really a good way to ease into it, so you might as well put on your crazy-glasses and dive right in.

Frog - Kind of Blah

Texturally, Frog's full-length debut Kind of Blah is cozy, comforting, and absolutely lovable. It's a bit of an emo-esque take on bluegrass, which has set it apart from many other ostensibly similar acts and makes it a definite standout for the year.

Nao - February 15

Funky, infectious, and just downright cool as hell, Nao's February 15 EP is really exceptional. The blend of experimental electronics and throwback vocals create an intriguing stylistic harmony that made this one of our favorites of the year.

Sandy's - Prom

San Francisco-based solo act Sandy's (aka Alexi Glickman) put out a warm, enchanting, endearing little collection of songs earlier this year called Prom, and it was something of a sleeper hit in our office. Unpretentious and approachable, these tracks have a tendency to worm their way into your brain and pop up when you least expect them.

Chastity Belt - Time To Go Home

There's something fantastic about a no-bullshit, all-girl punk band, and Chastity Belt are the ones to beat. 2015's Time to Go Home tackles sexist double standards without ever losing sight of the raucous, hard-partying attitude that makes punk great, and does so with such nuance that it's pretty easy to look up and find you haven't listened to anything else for over a month. We know from experience.

Julia Holter - Have You In My Wilderness

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Julia Holter's vulnerable, almost hymnal chamber pop is as stunning as ever on Have You In My Wilderness. We were more or less enraptured by every track, and it's probably safe to say that there are few artists with as distinctive a vocal style (remember that great, matter-of-fact "I can swim / It's lucidity / So clear" from "Sea Calls Me Home"?).

Grimes - Art Angels

We mostly know what to expect from Grimes by now, but Art Angels found new ways to surprise us regardless. This is an indie-pop masterclass, and we're just happy that Grimes is still doing her part to make weird cool again.

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett is one of those authentic, affable artists it's difficult not to fall in love with. Her latest album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, has been the butt of god-awful puns on every music site worth its salt this year, and the attention is well deserved. 

Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment - Surf

Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment's Surf takes some time to grow on you, but once it does it's there for good. Spanning everything from R&B and hip-hop to jazz, this is a wildly creative album that only gets better with time.

Gemma - As Ever

Featuring Ava Luna's Felicia Douglass front-and-center, Gemma is another excellent addition to New York's burgeoning alt-R&B scene. Accompanied by Erik Gundel's masterful beats, Douglass' voice shines as an absolute revelation, even for those of us familiar with her other work.

Tame Impala - Currents

Of course, what self-respecting year-end list would be complete without Tame Impala's latest LP? Currents was a phenomenon this year, and while we think the hyperbole surrounding it is mostly just that, it's still a great record that we've unapologetically enjoyed through and through.

FIELD REPORT: Palm // Palberta // The Cradle

All Photos:  Dylan Johnston

All Photos: Dylan Johnston

Gerard Marcus

History was made last Friday at Palisades. A lucky few fans got the chance to witness the sold-out release show for what might already be one of my personal favorite albums of the year, Palm's Trading Basics. To say I was incredibly, ridiculously excited for this show would be an understatement. Unfortunately, a surprise ten-hour stay in an ER in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn (comically close to the venue) prevented me from going to the show. C'est la vie. But thankfully, our wonderful photographer Dylan Johnston was still able to make it and take some killer photos. It's almost like I was there. Almost.

The Cradle

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Palberta

Palm

REVIEW: Palm - Trading Basics

Laura Kerry

There’s a famous quote by Lou Reed, “One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.” Not many have stuck to that—Lou Reed included—but it still gets to the heart of the kind of music he made with the Velvet Underground and their successors. Relying on few chords, they use noisiness, tension-mounting repetitions, and other unusual means of building complexity to produce music that is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Palm’s debut full-length, Trading Basics, feels like a weird descendant of that. Though the end product is quite different, it is similarly the kind of music that uses simplicity as a foundation for experimentation, not varying anything too wildly in a single voice (even if they often use more than three chords), but intertwining all of the voices to create explosive, surreal music that manages to be both elusive and completely mesmerizing. And it sounds anything but simple.

Starting with the all-instrumental “Time Times Three," Palm sets the tone for fuzzed-out rock that starts small and builds, laying down one repetitive line on a distorted guitar and adding layers of noise on top of it. “Crank,” a more energetic song, demonstrates the way they harness those repetitions and their disruptions to gently poke the nervous system. The guitars swing between screeching lines based off of two notes, switching only after we’ve become a little comfortable. When the swing oscillates at weird frequencies, Eve Alpert’s voice—an out-of-focus, low chant—holds the wonderful cacophony together.

It’s hard to believe, then, that all the members of Palm are relatively untrained. Alpert and Kasra Kurt played together in high school in London, but never pursued formal training or bothered to play more than a few songs. At Bard College, they enlisted Kurt’s roommate to play bass, even though he had never picked it up before. (The fourth member, drummer Hugo Stanley, played in the band Big Neck Police). Usually such risks—wonky and shifting time signatures, odd intervals, dissonance—require studied calculation, but their unstudied approach apparently benefits from raw talent and creative (perhaps somewhat twisted) minds —and a history of listening to Sonic Youth in high school. 

There’s a moment in the penultimate song, “Garden,” at around 1:11, after a long, warm intro of a single guitar riff and singing, after the bass and drums have dropped, when the bright guitar sound switches the beat that it falls on. It’s the smallest touch, but it packs a punch. So much of Trading Basics is like this: the repeated feeling of getting the rug pulled out from under you, only to discover that you love that sensation.

INTERVIEW: Palm

Eve (All Photos: Dylan Johnston)

Eve (All Photos: Dylan Johnston)

Gerard Marcus

A little while back, I had the chance to sit down for a quick bite with Eve Alpert, vocalist and guitarist for one of our absolute favorite bands, Palm (for the locals, we were at Skytown Diner in Bushwick just before this show at Palisades). We talked about the origins of the band, playing music without formal training, moving to Philly, how they got to work with Exploding in Sound and Inflated Records, and a bunch of other stuff while wolfing down some chicken sandwiches.

Palm's new album, Trading Basics, comes out next Friday and is already easily one of my favorite records of the year. Check out the interview below, along with some old photos we have of the band from this other, equally awesome show at Palisades. And if you're in NYC next Friday, make sure to check them out at their album release show at, you guessed it, Palisades. Palisades Palisades Palisades.

Eve Alpert: Big Neck Police

ThrdCoast: Big Neck Police? That’s a great name for a band.

EA: Really good.

TC: Awesome. Well I guess we should start the interview. Can you tell me a little about the origins of Palm?

EA:  I meet the other guitar player, Kasra, in London, and we became really good friends and started playing together right towards the end of our senior year of high school. We were always sharing music and stuff and going to shows together before that. Then we both went to Bard and would just play in his dorm room every day. Just the two songs that we had. We eventually met Hugo, our drummer, when Kasra took a class with him and we showed him our two songs in this practice space and he was like, “Yeah! I like it” [laughs].

TC: So you all went to Bard?

EA: Yeah, he’s the grade beneath us though. But yeah, we just started being a band from there. The three of us. An instrumental band where we’d play the two or three songs that we had. Hugo and Kasra I think became friends just from both of them knowing and liking this band that was really obscure at the time called This Heat. That’s how they connected and how we started playing. Then a year later, maybe six months, we realized that a bass would be really good maybe even integral. At first we were like, “Oh! It’d be cool to have just two guitars...”

TC: But then you added a bass and thought, “Oh wow!”

EA: No, we were more like, “It needs bass” [laughs]. You can't just have low-end guitars. So Gerry was already living with Kasra, but he had never played bass before.

TC: Never?

EA: Not really, no [laughs].

TC: Was he a guitar player?

EA: No. Piano, actually.

TC: Oh, wow. Was there a major learning curve or did he just pick it up in a snap?

EA: There was a learning curve for all of us at the same time, pretty much.

TC: All in it together.

EA: Yeah. Well, we kind of grew together. The band didn’t really start in London, it started with the addition of Hugo and Gerry. Before that we never had more than like three songs. And we didn’t know what it meant to have the songs we made until we meet them.

Kasra

Kasra

TC: So in those early days it was just straight-up experimentation?

EA: Pretty much, yeah. At the end of high school Kasra and I were really into Sonic Youth and stuff, so pretty much everything we wrote was in some obscure tuning or pretty heavy, like Slint-influenced I would say. And yeah, a lot of experimentation because Kasra and I weren’t guitar players, we just started playing guitar together. So the reason we were going into different tunings and stuff was because we didn’t really know how to make a song in standard tuning [laughs].

TC: I love that. There's a certain genuineness to it, you know?

EA: [Laughs] Yeah, I see what you're saying. We would only play like four songs at a show early on, because it would take us so long to tune in-between songs.

TC: I don’t remember you guys tuning that much the last time I saw you.

EA: Well, we started using standard tuning. Actually, now I guess we use like two different tunings. Two or three including standard. We don’t really play any of that early stuff anymore.

TC: Listening to your back catalog was really interesting because it's obviously the same group, but this new album you guys have coming out is just way more refined.

EA: Yeah, for sure.

TC: How long did you guys work on it?

EA: Well... We wrote and recorded an album last summer that was sort of in the vein of the previous stuff. Which I think was more of us trying to figure out how to play together. I mean, we're still doing that now, but that album was less of a distinct sound that we were comfortable playing. So we scrapped the album and just wrote a bunch of songs that felt a lot better than what we had just recorded. We decided to keep working on new songs, and it all happened kind of naturally and abruptly that we just got tighter together as a group.

TC: You had your "ah-ha" moment?

EA: Yeah, it was just easier to write songs for some reason. It had always taken us so long to write a single song. We’d wait until the last minute to write vocals and stuff, but it all got easier after we recorded that album that we weren’t that happy with. Then we recorded this album the following December, after we came off tour with a band from Hudson called Buke and Gase. They’re a bigger band and asked us to be one of there supporting acts for like ten or twelve dates.

TC: How did you guys know each other?

EA: They were friends of ours in Hudson. I had been going there a lot while I was in college and worked at Basilica, which is this venue in Hudson, and I just met them there and we became friends. We started rehearsing in the same building, so when it was time for them to go they just asked us. Out of the kindness of their hearts, maybe? I don’t know [laughs]. At the time we were trying to decide whether we wanted to keep that first album we recorded or not, and then this engineer came up to us a at Buke and Gase show and offered to record what became Trading Basics. So yeah, we decided to record it. The guy's name is Eli Crews, he just started a studio in Prospect Heights with a guy named Shahzad Ismaily.

TC: Another awesome name.

EA: Yeah, The studio is called Figure 8. Eli had previously recorded Deer Hoof and Tune-Yards and a bunch of other people. He was really hyped on us, so we took the offer to record with him in a really good studio. When we went it was brand new. I think we were one of the first to try it out.

TC: Christening the studio.

EA: [Laughs] Yeah.

Hugo

Hugo

TC: So after you guys had that revelation and songwriting became easier, how has that changed how you guys work together?

EA: I don’t know if it’s really changed that much, but it usually starts with a seed and then everybody brings something in. And by the end, its usually completely different from what the seed was. It’s changed a little more recently. We all grew up playing different instruments and none of us are musically trained—like, Hugo was a guitarist originally. Kasra’s a drummer. And Gerry was originally a really good piano player. I just dabbled [laughs]. But I think that has informed our approach to how we work now. Kasra has a very rhythmic approach to things, so I'd say a lot of the guitar playing is very percussive.

TC: Yeah, I’d definitely agree with that, and as a corollary it seems like Hugo’s drumming is kind of melodic.

EA: Yeah, totally. It’s an interesting idea to think of how the bass and drums can take a more forward role than the guitars, and carry the melody while the guitars are more of a rhythmic tool. We’ve thought about that a lot with songs we’ve written.

TC: Where do lyrics come in?

EA: That’s usually the last thing and we pretty much split them up. Whoever sings them writes them, for the most part. But, you know, each thing is different.

TC: So there’s no central influence for the lyrical material?

EA: A lot of it is very abstract. Vocals are the hardest thing to feel comfortable with for us. It’s always left to the last minute because Kasra and I aren't that confident of singers. Now we’re trying to make it more like a tool and less like a traditional vocal part.

TC: I really like how you guys use your vocals as an effect.

EA: Yeah! Totally. And it’s really helped getting the vocal effect pedal.

TC: Yeah, it sounds great live. What is it?

EA: It’s a doubler, basically. A TC Helicon. We just put it on a fixed setting and depending on how wet or dry you make it, it distorts itself.

TC: How long have you guys been using that?

EA: Since about November. After we went on tour with Buke and Gase, who use a lot of vocal processing—it’s such a part of their set.

TC: You know who else has great vocal effects?

EA: Who?

TC: Laser Background.

EA: Oh yeah, definitely. Andy’s great.

TC: I just saw him the other day with Mild High Club, and was amazed at how lush his vocals were. Especially in Silent Barn. He’s in Philly too, right?

EA: Yeah, that’s not where I know him from but I've seen him since moving there.

TC: How did the move go?

EA: Great! We’re living with a band we love called Banned Books in two different houses. We went on tour with them in May, and also met them on that Buke and Gase tour in October. They played the Philly show. We became really good friends after that, and decided to move to Philly and live together.

Gerry

Gerry

TC: Nice. Like a musical co-op.

EA: Yeah. It’s really good because we both have basements, so we can practice a lot.

TC: What's it like living with all musicians?

EA: It’s not, like, as crazy as it sounds [laughs].

TC: I could see it being very creative, though.

EA: I hope so. It’s still very new, so we’ll see. That’s the dream [laughs]. We want to record another album soon, like in December. It was so long ago that we recorded this coming record, and now we don’t even play more than, like, two of the songs from the album.

TC: Already moved on to new material?

EA: Yeah, we kind of get antsy. We like to play new stuff.

TC: Well, that’s not a bad thing. So how did you guys get involved with Exploding in Sound?

EA: Dan Goldin just asked us if we wanted to before he had even heard the record.

TC: I’m starting to see a trend here.

EA: [Laughs] Yeah, I don’t know how that happened. Maybe somebody had told him that we had just recorded? But regardless, he was just like “I want to put it out!” Another guy also wanted to put it out at the same time, Dan Donnelly of Inflated Records. So they split it. Dan Donnelly fronted the LP cost and is doing physical distribution, and Dan Goldin is doing the tapes and the PR. But yeah, I don’t know how it happened [laughs].