White Denim: Progressions from Parque Touch
Your music has a very composed sound. Do you bring that to the table or is it more just through jamming?
I think it’s both. We each write our own parts, more or less, and sometimes that means in the studio jammin’ around but a lot of times James will send us a tune with guitar and vocals and we’ll work on it individually at home and record different parts, whether it’s bass or organ or whatever instrument. Then it becomes sort of like a back and forth type of thing. That’s sort of how D was made. Each song starts getting different as far as that goes. Especially when we have endless amounts of time in the studio, I guess we didn’t really need to email back and forth because we’d just sit there for hours and figure parts out that we thought sounded really good and find sounds that sounded really good to go with it and then sort of arrange it. And we did it all digitally so there could be some toning up involved, so it’s sort of in a way jamming in the box.
When did you guys decide to move into a four piece and what inspired that?
A lot of songs that we had recorded had multiple guitar parts that changed. The closest we came to it was using a loop pedal so James would have a looped part and we’d all play on top of that, so James was covering a great deal of territory. And I guess when we were a trio, Josh had triggers to play other rhythms and organs, which only lasted a couple of shows but we were just like, My God, this is ridiculous. But yeah the need for that, a lot of our new material was going in that direction where there were a lot more layers of guitar. And we’d met Austin and he had played with us previously. We had New Year’s shows where we’d invite some of our friends, so it felt really fun and we really liked Austin and knew he could bring a lot to the table. We sort of gave him our studio mixes and he learned it all and started playing shows with us.
How have you reached the stage that you’re at now, especially with the new EP, Takes Place In Your Workspace, which takes on a completely different sound? A lot of the material has a bit of a prog-leaning sound, especially with the layered-up guitars, and the Zappa-esque sections that you guys put into your music. Is that the progression, towards a more prog-y sound, intentional? Where are you guys headed in the future?
I think as far as our new EP sounding a lot different from our previous stuff, I think even on Explosion there were songs that could fit with our new EP if we took them off that record and produced them similarly. Between the context of the other records and then the new production style that sort of happened on D, this new EP sounds a lot different. Then of course we put in strings and everything, we could never fit a string quartet in Josh’s Airstream for sure. But I think when Josh left the studio—we don’t have the Airstream studio at all anymore—we started exclusively recording in these studios around Austin, mainly Lakeside and 5th Street, which are really nice, professional sounding studios and because we don’t have endless amounts of time in the studio, we have to prepare before we get there. So there’s a lot more rehearsal and the record has more of a live sound because it’s more like a start to finish kind of mentality with the songs, whereas the previous records at Josh’s studio, we might record one section and just think about one section for like four weekends.
Now we’re sort of viewing the songs from start to finish so we’re writing and arranging and playing full songs and then taking them into the studio. Also, being a four-piece has that extra element. I think as far as our influences and what we like, it’s never changed, we’ve always loved prog and Zappa and stuff like that. I think that the way we record our music has informed our sound in a really big way and how we organize it. And I guess I’m pretty surprised as well about how much that really informed our new record. I think it was sort of a surprise to all of us, but we’re definitely still playing music in that way where we’re viewing a full song as opposed to pieces of songs and then we’re playing it and rehearsing it together, so when we do hit the studio for our next record it would be mainly us performing the song from start to finish and trying to get one full take.
In terms of your own personal tastes, did you ever have a period where you were into the Dead? And when I was at Bonnaroo people were comparing the guitar with a modern-day Allman Brothers, so were either of those influences?
I am a fan of both. I never got into them seriously where I just always listened to the Dead. I guess I was too ADD to focus on one band or just one style of music, I kind of always jumped all over the place. I could barely finish listening to a song. I guess I like listening to records more than I like listening to songs, in a way. I like listening to how an entire record sounds as opposed to just singles, and I think the Dead and the Allman Brothers did some great stuff with that idea. I never considered myself a Deadhead or anything like that. I always sort of tried to stay away from anything like that. I was always just a plain music nerd kind of dude.
Would you ever open up a jam onstage and just start improvising or is that not going to happen?
We have done some stuff with that and it’s definitely a possibility. It all kind of depends on stage comfort for us. If we had a stage where we could all hear ourselves exactly how we wanted to hear ourselves and have our own stage guys and stuff like that, it would be a lot easier for us. But night to night, especially in the past, we’ve just used house sound guys and because of our volume level, we would just play and get through the songs—maybe. If we were lucky. Because it was just sort of out of control in a way. But lately, or in the past couple of years, we’ve tried to help ourselves in hearing each other and playing off of one another, so it’s sort of happening more and more where we’ll get on a really good sounding stage and we’ll just feel it and actually be able to do that. And it’s not even a decision that we make prior to the show, it’s just something that we let happen or we realize is happening while we’re on stage. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen enough. I think we all really enjoy doing that, but we want ultimate control over that as well. I think more and more we’ll probably figure out the whole stage thing and maybe with the help of a monitor, like a really bitchin’ monitor guy, we’ll really bust out.
Austin, in a lot of ways, has a great deal of psychedelic history and there continues to be a lot of great psychedelic music being made there. It seems like there are a lot of bands in that realm and you guys have been clumped into the psychedelic world, whether that’s something you agree with or not. What’s your take on the current Austin psychedelic scene…is it still there, or did it ever exist?
I’d say it’s definitely here. My perspective on Austin is sort of a different one than what I’ve heard. I guess I get really annoyed…(laughing) that’s probably a terrible word to throw out there right off the bat, but there are so many great musicians in Austin and none of them really ever stay in bands for very long. There are bands like Black Angels and stuff that have been around forever, but there’s so many more great musicians and I feel like they’ll play and make a really good project for like 3 or 6 months and then they’ll stop playing, or let something get in the way. Or they’ll let one of the other six bands that they’re in take over. It’s really great because occasionally there’ll be a band that will stick together for the long haul and make something really cool happen, but more often than not, it’s just bands starting and breaking up. Since I’m in and out of town so much, it’s hard to keep up with who’s who and so, I don’t know. We’re taking a little recording breather starting in September where we’re just sort of writing and I’m really looking forward to going out in Austin and scoping out how bands are developing and stuff. I haven’t really seen too much in the past 5 years, I’ve just seen the bands that get popular in Austin. So that’s my weird outside-looking-in-but-used-to-be-inside kind of answer for that.
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Crystal Bowersox stops by Relix to perform a song from her new album, All That For This.
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