Category Archives: FEATURES

Jason Isbell: Speaking Freely

JasonIsbell

Hope is a dangerous thing, according to Drive-By Truckers expat Jason Isbell

“Still, at the end of every hard-earned day, people find some reason to believe,” Bruce Springsteen once posited on the stark, yet essentially optimistic “Reason To Believe” from minimal 1982 masterpiece Nebraska. An assessment with which Jason Isbell—himself a huge Boss booster—would respectfully disagree. “It’s been a long time since Springsteen said that, and I don’t know if that reason is around anymore,” says the ex-Drive-By Trucker, who was raised in small-town Green Hill, Ala. “Now, at the end of the day for most people, it’s just a whole lot of frustration— there’s no light at the end of the tunnel for a lot of them now. People don’t have any time to … to live.”

Isbell’s last album—Southeastern, his fourth, featuring vocals from wife Amanda Shires—turned the microscope on his own life, lyrically dealing with his lengthy battle with alcoholism and subsequent stint in rehab (“I drank a fifth of Jack Daniels a day for a good two years or more, and I realized at one point that Amanda was going to go— she wasn’t gonna hang around and be with a drunk,” he says). But on its follow-up, the new Something More Than Free, he casts a sober, clinical eye outward on the God-fearing, righteous-valued working-class folks he grew up with. And he’s compiled a set of grainy, rugged Everyman portraits that’s the sonic equivalent of Richard Avedon’s book In The American West.

The disc opens on the deceptively whimsical, toe-tapping acoustic melody of “If It Takes A Lifetime,” and the singer’s whispery down-home drawl: “I’ve been workin’ here/ Monday it’ll be a year/And I can’t recall the day when I didn’t wanna disappear/But I keep on showin’ up/Hell-bent on growin’ up/If it takes a lifetime.” Delicate strummer “Speed Trap Town” paints a less-than-idyllic picture of rural existence: “It’s a Thursday night, but there’s a high-school game/Sneak a bottle o the bleachers and forget my name … Everybody knows you in a speed-trap town.” And on the loping title track, he mournfully confesses, “When I get home from work, I’ll call up all my friends/And we’ll go bust up something beautiful we’ll have to build again.”

While the collection shifts focus—from rundown-hotel-as-relationship metaphor “Flagship” to losing ballad “To A Band That I Loved,” an ode to late-lamented group (and old Drive-By touring comrades) Centro-matic—it remains rooted in family. Isbell’s mother-inspired “Children Of Children,” and its poignant line “all the years I took from her just by being born.” “My wife’s mom was really young when she was born, and my mom was, too,” says the 36-year-old. “And I spent a lot of time thinking about that—how their lives would have been di erent had we not come along.”

Mainly, the various clock-punching laborers on “Metropolis” all stem from one source: Isbell’s own father, who’s 57. “My dad still works really hard; he’s still doing manual labor,” he says. “And he’s not poor by any means. But he gave up a long time ago on building an identity outside of his own home, his own family. So, even the good people—the people who resign themselves to their lot in life and are working hard until they can’t work any longer—once they’re done with that work, they’re not in any shape to enjoy whatever it is they worked for all those years.” Isbell’s grandfather recently passed away after retiring, then buying a swank RV with the wealth he’d accumulated. “But it sat in his yard for a year and a half until he died, because he didn’t really feel up to going anywhere, so he told Amanda, ‘Try to enjoy things while you’re young enough to actually participate in them,’” he says.

Isbell is usually backed by his Muscle Shoals culled band the 400 Unit, and he first flew solo with 2007’s Sirens Of The Ditch. Does he have any Nebraska-vintage hope? He sighs. “I try not to think too hard on the fact that we’re making the planet uninhabitable for ourselves,” he says. “But I come from a place where people make the world very small for themselves, and I think that’s still a big part of who I am. Maybe it’s a little bit isolationist, but as far as controlling my own well-being, my family’s fed. And where I come from, if that’s taken care of, you don’t have a lot to worry about.”

—Tom Lanham

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Stubborn Son: They Call It Rock

StubbornSon

Stubborn Son just wants to speak to its audience—as loudly as possible

Stubborn Son creates powerful, bonerattling music that strips rock down to its basic elements. The trio—guitarist/vocalist Garrett Lamp, drummer Blair Daly and vocalist/bassist Andrew Knapp—makes a fierce, bluesy squall that marries clusters of gritty power chords, pummeling bass lines and blockbuster drumming to the music’s primal roots in the Mississippi Delta.

“We don’t play the blues in a traditional sense,” says Lamp. “We’re just trying to speak of what we know to be true in a way that resonates with who we are. That said, we do draw more influences from the swampy, dirty tones of the Delta, for sure. We gravitate toward the rhythm and overall soul of a song, rather than Chicago-style electric blues.”

The music the band plays on debut Birthright merges Delta, British and West Coast styles into tight, concise nuggets that are long on propulsive grooves and short on lengthy guitar excursions. “You can say a lot with a little in music,” says Lamp. “When we decide to put solos in our songs, we want to make sure they’re to the point and not meandering. Since we were recording on (analog) tape, we didn’t have the option to do unlimited takes and overdubs. Tracking live to tape, you can really capture the energy present in a performance.”

Onstage, the band builds a communal rapport with its fans. “We want to share something unique with our audience,” says Lamp. “What we think and what we feel, in a way that is more like a conversation and less like us talking at them. But we do play rock ‘n’ roll music, so this isn’t a quiet conversation. It’s more like an upbeat, outspoken catharsis, with a few jokes and an overall outlook that everything is going to be all right.”

—j.poet

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Matt Pond PA: The State Of Doubt

MattPondPA

Robbery, member turnover and unresolved paternal issues can’t crush Matt Pond PA’s creative spirit

“I don’t know anything right now. Music is hard these days, but the harder it is, the more I fight, I guess. I don’t know. Or the more I fight, the harder it becomes. One way or another.”

That’s Matt Pond, whose band Matt Pond PA is on a tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of its sixth album, Several Arrows Later, in advance of its ninth, The State Of Gold. Pond says the jaunt is a bit of an experiment within the uncertainties of the music business, a way of reconnecting with an audience before coming back later in the year after the new LP comes out. The tour was going well, but less than two weeks later, after a gig in Chicago, the band members would be robbed of their computers, money and passports—making things even harder and further testing Pond’s resilience.

The first MPPA album, Deer Apartments, came out in 1998, and the band has gone through many incarnations—and many cello players—since. As Pond moved from Philadelphia to Brooklyn to Bearsville, N.Y., the group’s personnel turned over several times. The core is now Pond and guitarist Chris Hansen; the cello player is Shawn Alpay.

“It’s just a fluid thing; it’s life,” says Pond. “You can all swear to some kind of oath, but people die and people get married. All sorts of crazy things happen. I just tried to find a way to accept anything that happens personnel-wise. I like playing with a lot of different people. You get a lot of different feels, and you have amazing experiences.”

The cello, although its prominence has waxed and waned over the years, has been a MPPA signature. On The State Of Gold, it weaves through “There Were Times,” but it takes a backseat to New Order-like sequencers and synthesizers on “Take Me With You.”

“I think on this new album we wanted to expand rhythmically—that was our biggest concern,” says Pond. “There’s something about putting more polyrhythms into the music that makes it more complex, but also loosens it up. There is cello on the album, but it’s not the distinctive element.”

Pond has talked in the past about the influence of the Electric Light Orchestra’s early records on his predilection for cellos, but the source runs even deeper into his childhood growing up in New Hampshire.

“I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this,” says Pond. “My dad really liked classical music. He tried to play cello, and he was terrible at it. I wanted to impress my dad, but he was unimpressable. Adding a cello into our band didn’t impress him. Don’t we live in our parents’ shadows? My father was a really difficult person, too. He was a humanitarian and a minister, but while he did great things, he did terrible things, too. ‘Oedipal’ isn’t the thing, though. There’s got be a thing where your father is probably one of the greatest people you’ve ever known, but probably one of the worst, too. And then there’s ELO.”

There may be more New Order than ELO to The State Of Gold’s blend of guitars, cello and synthesizers, but it’s of a piece with Pond’s previous work in its tension between plaintive longing and earnest affirmations. Paradoxically, it’s a confident album about having doubts; it looks outward as well as inward. “As long as we know, we don’t know anything,” Pond sings at the climax of “The Starting Line.” “I’ve been a friend of doubt/I don’t know doubt anymore,” he sings in the chorus of “No More No.”

“I don’t know anyone who is certain of anything or who doesn’t doubt themselves and vacillate,” says Pond. “For me, it’s a visible, palpable rhythm between everything. Buying a coffee, walking around, everything. I can’t play disaffected; I can’t play confident, completely; but I love what I do, and I love doing it.”

And that love is what keeps Pond fighting through the vicissitudes of the music business, of constant changes in personnel, of the writer’s block that he faced leading up to this album—of robberies, even. And he loves writing songs; that’s one thing Pond does know.

“Playing onstage, sex—those are all great,” he says. “But when you understand what you are actually trying to say in a song, that’s the best feeling. At least I have a purpose for that second.”

—Steve Klinge

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Astronauts, etc.: Luminous Love Songs

Astronauts

Arthritis hasn’t stopped Astronauts, etc. from exploring the heart

Anthony Ferraro was going to be a classical pianist, but he was diagnosed with a rare form of arthritis when he was a child. As he grew older, playing piano became painful. “I was told I’d ‘grow out of it’ by the time I was 20,” says Ferraro, “but it grew worse and began to a ect my hands. It flares up every couple of days. Sometimes it’s manageable; other times I’m immobilized. I was about to start the piano performance program at Baylor University when the arthritis spread to my wrists and hands.”

Ferraro dropped out of school and worked day jobs, but music was in his blood. “I started writing and recording music as a kind of selftherapy, he says. “Eventually, I went back to UC Berkeley and finished school.”

While he was in school, two home recordings he made as Astronauts, etc., “Mystery Colors” and “Coldboy,” created a buzz on the Hype Machine site. Shortly thereafter, Ferraro met Chaz Bundick (Toro y Moi). They hit it off and Bundick asked Ferraro to join his touring band. With Bundick’s encouragement, he began working on the songs that would become his first album, Mind Out Wandering.

The lush, inviting love songs on the album hark back to the sounds of the Philly-soul productions Thom Bell created for the Stylistics. Ferraro’s simmering falsetto perfectly conveys the confused jumble of emotions of falling in love, while his band provides smooth, soulful grooves to support his heartfelt crooning.

“When I listen to this album, it feels like one big daydream,” says Ferraro. “I have trouble staying in the present, and I think that’s something other people can relate to. We made this record to be performed live. I think people will find that the live set resembles the record, but with a little more energy behind it.”

—j. poet

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Eleni Mandell: The Light Also Rises

EleniMandell

Country legends steer Eleni Mandell toward a simpler outcome on Dark Lights Up

After nine albums of sterling folk/pop/rock—and all the extremes along that continuum, including the jaunty Van Dyke Parksian swing of last year’s Let’s Fly A Kite—and reams of critical acclaim, singer/songwriter Eleni Mandell had no need to alter her creative methodology. A chance stroll through the history of country music in the cradle of its development gave Mandell the blazingly clear vision to simplify her process on what would become Dark Lights Up, her 10th album.

“The last time we were in Nashville was the first time I’d ever been to the Country Music Hall of Fame or any of those kinds of attractions,” says Mandell. “And I was really struck by how influential that music has been for me, even though I would always cite Tom Waits and X as my biggest influences because I was wanting to emulate them as a teenager. Seeing Dolly Parton’s notebook with ‘Jolene’ written on it, Buck Owens’ Nudie suits, Marty Robbins’ guitar—which is the same model I play—and Hank Williams’ suit, I was just blown away. People say they don’t like country music, and I think what they mean is they don’t like contemporary country music. To me, country music is so American, and the stories and songs are so great. There’s a simplicity that I love.”

Mandell’s country affection stretches back to the standard childhood exposure, and while the influence has only been tangentially reflected in her previous work, it’s almost directly channeled on Dark Lights Up. She credits her four-year-old twins with that immediate resurgence.

“I’ve been a big fan of classic country music for a very long time; I don’t know when it started, but it’s almost all I listen to anymore, partly because I got my kids into it,” says Mandell. “So, we’re either listening to Buck Owens or Roger Miller in the car, to the point that I’m really hoping I can move them on to some George Jones. We have burned through these records.

“I was just amazed by how big his records sounded, and yet how the instrumentation was so simple. That was really what inspired me.”

Mandell cut Dark Lights Up in a mere four days in Sheldon Gomberg’s Silver Lake studio; her crack band. including Bright Eyes pianist Nate Walcott, utilized nothing but acoustic instruments and played in the same room. Further inspired, Mandell acted as her own producer for the first time, with occasional assistance from Gomberg. And yet, even as she taps into a rich internal vein of country influence, Dark Lights Up remains an identifiable part of Mandell’s brilliant canon.

“I wasn’t trying to write Country Hall of Fame music,” says Mandell. “I was just writing what I write, with the filter of the decision to record it very simply with acoustic instruments, quickly and very live. For me, it felt more organic and intimate.”

—Brian Baker

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Desaparecidos: Reappearing Act

Desaparecidos

The personal is always political for the reignited punkers of Desaparecidos

“When we got back together, we knew we couldn’t write songs about breaking up with your girlfriend or a meal we’ve enjoyed,” says Matt Baum of Desaparecidos. “People are going to expect us to scream and yell, and we still have things to scream and yell about, so let’s do it.”

The Omaha band of singer/guitarist Conor Oberst, lead guitarist Denver Dalley, singer/bassist Landon Hedges, keyboardist Ian McElroy and drummer Baum formed out of a shared love of blunt-force punk rock and loud political activism. The group’s first album, Read Music/Speak Spanish, arrived in February 2002, and it railed against America’s consumer culture and the Bush government’s sense of privilege. The band wasn’t around for long: Bright Eyes’ Lifted, Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground came out in August 2002, and Oberst returned to concentrating on that band full-time, later adding other projects such as Monsters Of Folk and the Mystic Valley Band to his prolific résumé.

But Desaparecidos reconvened for a benefit show in Omaha in 2010, went on a short tour in 2012, and started recording again sporadically, releasing several singles and now a second full-length, Payola, another set of pointed political accusations, propulsive punk-rock anthems and powerful, shouted vocals.

“We spend a great deal of time talking about things, saying, ‘Did you hear about this?’ or sending a link to something,” says Dalley. “A huge part of what makes this band this band is the dynamic of five guys who have grown up together and known each other for 20-plus years. It’s that dynamic both in the music and in the content. It’s stuff that we’re like-minded about and we’re fired up about. We bring it out in each other.”

“These songs came out really rough and loud and raw,” says Baum. “I love them. I don’t know that we could have done them any other way.”

On Payola, the band screams and yells about topical—and often polarizing—issues. “Anonymous” voices the views of the controversial hacker group; “Search The Searches” questions invasions of privacy in the name of national security; “Backsell” attacks the major-label music industry; “Slacktivist” rails against apathy and social media.

“To me, the first album is a concept album sung from the perspective of our backyard,” says Dalley. “This one is a little more further-reaching; it’s a little more specifically targeted track by track.”

While Oberst is the voice at the front of the songs and the writer behind the lyrics, the political vision is collective.

“It is democratic,” says Baum. “We definitely agree that we’re not going to do stuff that we don’t all agree about. We’ve had arguments about stuff. We sat down and really debated lyrics. Denver and I got really heated once.”

While they decline to specify (“Oh, that’s stuff you don’t get access to,” says Dalley), they said they did spend time parsing the lyrics of “MariKKKopa,” which satirizes the principles of Joe Arpaio, the anti-immigrant sheriff on Arizona’s Maricopa County. “These Spics, they’re brave and getting braver,” Oberst sings from the point of view of a racist Arpaio supporter.

“We thought it was an appropriate usage of that word in that context,” says Dalley. “It is an ugly word. But that’s the point of it. It’s supposed to be controversial. It’s supposed to be ugly and make you think. Lyrics used to be like that, before it was all just ‘baby’ and break up with your girlfriend and ‘call me maybe’ and bubblegum shit like that. Protest songs, they used to get stuck in your head, and then maybe you think about what they’re actually saying, and then you look up the lyrics, and you might even learn something and you might even get involved because of it. To me, that’s the ultimate goal, I think.”

Of course, as with much political satire, the audience has to be trusted to recognize the characters in a song like “MariKKKopa.”

“Yeah, but I think that no one in their right mind would look at a singer/songwriter like Conor Oberst and be like, ‘Oh, wow, I didn’t know he was a racist,’” says Baum. “It’s a safe assumption to make. He married a Mexican woman, so it’s unlikely he hates Mexican people.”

While Desaparecidos would love to believe their songs would raise consciousness and challenge their audience’s preconceptions, they recognize that many will already agree with their “the left is right” point of view.

“I think there’s going to be an element of preaching to the choir no matter what,” says Dalley. “At the end of the day, we’re all just hippies preaching peace and love in a different way. But what are we going to do? We’re not going to get played on Christian radio. Are they going to play us on AM Republican talk radio? No. It’s not going to happen. So, we’re just going to have scream a bit louder and maybe they’ll hear us somehow. Even if everyone is like-minded, everyone likes an anthem and likes to sing along to something they can believe in.”

—Steve Klinge

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Ancient Warfare: Pale Riders

AncientWarfare

If it’s the end of the world as we know it, Ancient Warfare doesn’t feel fine

Ancient Warfare makes quietly intense music that grows out of a clash of conflicting sounds and emotions. On The Pale Horse, the band’s debut album, brittle acoustic guitars dance with wailing, distorted violin, thick primal bass lines and mu ed drums pounding out impenetrable rhythms. Lead singer and main songwriter Echo Wilcox delves into the pit of deep emotion, wailing like a banshee one moment and moaning like a lover wallowing in uncontained grief the next. Her commanding lyrics confront the personal, economical and ecological chaos that seems to be approaching.

“The idea of apocalypse was on my mind while creating the record,” says Wilcox. “Whether an apocalypse is small or large, it still exists. The world is constantly evolving, morphing and revealing itself. The songs are fragmented reactions to things around me, responses to specific moments in time and place, to love and loss, to a wondering mind and everything in between.”

The band’s sound is relentless; even its quiet moments are full of barely contained emotions. Its stage shows can be an overwhelming experience, both for the band and audience, with some people still surprised when they see that the primary players—guitarist Wilcox, violinist Rachael Yanarella and multi-instrumentalist Emily Hagihara—are women. (Bass player Derek Rhineheimer is the band’s lone male.)

“The unfortunate truth is that, even in 2015, girls doing the same things boys do continues to shock the public,” says Wilcox. “Women are doing the same jobs as men—on and off stage—but not receiving the same recognition and pay. People are surprised when they see a woman who is not only a band member, but a kick-ass musician as well, someone who can hold her weight and load her gear into the van. This is normal to me, but it’s still a shock to other people.”

—j. poet

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Magnet Feedback With Albert Hammond Jr.

AlbertHammondJr

Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. just released his third album, Momentary Masters (Vagrant/BMG). Now sober, married and living in upstate New York, Hammond has made his finest solo effort to date. We always knew that Hammond has great taste in music, so we sent him a handful of songs to get his feedback.

The Clash, “Clampdown”
from: London Calling
I never knew this song until the Strokes covered it. Such a fun song to cover. I’m a bit of a whiner when it comes to learning something new, but it was fun. It was cool to see that we couldn’t play it like they did. We had our own way, but they were a very special band.

Fountains Of Wayne, “Richie And Ruben”
from: Sky Full Of Holes
I only know “Stacy’s Mom.” Seriously, I only know her mom. I don’t even know the song. What a hot mom.

Julian Casablancas + The Voidz, “Human Sadness”
from: Tyranny
I remember riding my motorcycle when I first got a copy of this record. I was riding along this mountain with sharp corners, and when the bass line came in, I felt a tremendous curiosity and excitement. I couldn’t understand anything vocally, but I knew there was something special in it. I sat at home and read the words as I listened, and I began to pretend to understand my friend more. It made me want to talk to him.

The Velvet Underground, “Beginning To See The Light”
from: The Velvet Underground
My favorite VU album, but not my favorite song on this record. “Pale Blue Eyes” and “I’m Set Free” are classic.

John Lennon, “Jealous Guy”
from: Imagine
I remember when I first heard this, I was a little kid in London. I had stayed up way past my bedtime to finish watching the movie Imagine. Sonically, the song transfixed me. I didn’t understand how he did it, but I wasn’t jealous. I felt connected. I felt a true curiosity.

Guided By Voices, “Yours To Keep”
from: Bee Thousand
GBV was and always will be one of my favorite bands. Their melodies and words shaped my life more than I could ever express. I owe them so much. I wish everyone had a little GBV in them. Their music always brings me back some innocence. I wrote “yours to keep” on my Yours To Keep album demos to friends never realizing that GBV had a song called that.

Frank Black & The Catholics, “If It Takes All Night”
from: Dog In The Sand
I remember seeing FB&TC at the Bowery after only knowing his self-titled debut album, Frank Black. I remember being alone and just wanting to one day be able to be in a room filled like that. He played some amazing covers of Del Shannon and said how much he wished he could be him. I at the time had never heard anyone in modern rock ‘n’ roll say that, and I was ecstatic to hear it.

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PINS: Wild Nights Are Calling

Pins

The prolific Brits of PINS purée shoegaze, psych and pop

“I consciously waited to move away from the post-punk thing; this one is more trippy, noisy pop,” says PINS vocalist/guitarist Faith Holgate with a self-assurance that belies the youth of the Manchester-based quartet. The band originally coalesced around the mandate of making a statement as an all-female group instead of being the token chick who gets mistaken for a girlfriend or groupie. Its brief four-year existence has been productive, producing an EP, full-length and an exhausting tour schedule.

“It’s been a few years for us,” says guitarist Lois McDonald. “We’ve been writing and playing non-stop. We have a really supportive label, Bella Union, and a great manager who works non-stop.”

But …

“It doesn’t feel fast to us at all,” says Holgate. “We always complain about how slow everything is. We want the world on a plate, now! It’s gearing up, though; with the new record coming out, I’m excited.”

Holgate and McDonald are referring to sophomore full-length Wild Nights, which takes definite steps away from the band’s initial approach toward a bigger embrace of its Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Hole influences. It’s more psychedelic swirl and poppy jangle than rudimentary bash ‘n’ clang, and a mature move made during a comparatively truncated window of time that thusly packs a seasoned punch because it screams, shouts, caresses and coos with purpose, while never forgetting its roots.

“Mostly, I think we wanted to do it somewhere we could immerse ourselves in what we were doing,” says McDonald about recording at Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree, Calif. “We wanted to work with a producer to develop the ideas we were having as a band, and try more instruments, different guitars, drums and bigger vocals. I think playing more and more shows made us more confident as musicians, which allowed us to push ourselves more during the recording. We were less concerned about playing every note right and more interested in making something that sounded interesting.”

“Recording Wild Nights felt really good,” says Holgate. “Having (producers) Dave (Catching) and Hayden (Scott) work on it with us helped us be free. We experimented, we left in the mistakes if they sounded good, we drank wine and just added whatever felt good at the time.”

—Kevin Stewart-Panko

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Flying Saucer Attack: Resident Alien

FlyingSaucerAttack

One guitar is all Bristol’s resurrected Flying Saucer Attack needs

The sounds and textures that David Pearce delivers as Flying Saucer Attack are full of contradictions. On Instrumentals 2015, his first album in 15 years, the music is noisy and melodic, dreamily ambient and jarringly aggressive, dense and full of wide-open spaces so vast they could be intergalactic. The 15 songs suggest tolling church bells, ouds, synthesizers, steam locomotives, ocean waves, mournful cellos and twanging country guitars, but they’re all created by Pearce on a single electric guitar in his home studio.

“I may have two, three or four guitar tracks going on, but it’s just one instrument, the same guitar throughout the record,” says Pearce. “I use a basic digital reverb unit, a digital delay foot pedal and a distortion foot pedal. I use some when I’m mixing the tracks, rather than when I’m actually recording the guitar. The question is always, ‘How can I get something interesting-sounding out of this?’”

The last Flying Saucer Attack album came out 15 years ago. Did it take a year to create each track? “Well, it does average out to that,” says Pearce. “I stopped making music for a number of years. I wasn’t even listening to music during that time. When (director) Peter Strickland reached out to me and asked if he could use an old piece in his film The Duke Of Burgundy, it snapped me out of my stupor. I started putting together songs and sequencing the record. I’ve been surprised, intrigued, beguiled and uplifted by the finished sequence of music.

“At some point in the process, I realized stripping things down was the way to go. I needed to get up quite a bit of self-confidence to try and do stuff that was so bare, though. Maybe I was trying to hide behind the noise in the past? Regardless, the stripped-down thing seems to be an accurate reflection of what’s being going on in my life the last 15 years. I was going through a process of returning to basics in the music and in my life. Maybe I’m just less angry these days, so I don’t start by making a big noise, then trying to make some sense of it. It’s more like building up from silence, with a view to carefully put only a few elements into that silence.”

Pearce doesn’t enjoy playing live and won’t be doing any shows to support the album. “The only shows—of the handful I ever did—that I really enjoyed, were the all noise, completely improvisational ones, which were pretty stressful on everyone concerned,” he says. “That would be the only route to go down, if I was ever to play live again, even though that seems a bit old hat now. I remember the first time I ever picked up a guitar. I was more interested in trying to get odd noises out of it, rather than trying to play notes. In some ways, I’m still very much that five-year-old kid. Maybe it’s better that way?”

—j. poet

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