You guys recently released Season Dreaming a la Kanine Records. How has the transition to becoming an officially signed band effected your process?
The only thing that has really changed is just a stronger drive to accomplish more than just recording/hanging out on the weekends or after school. We grabbed a couple of friends and reinterpreted some songs from the album as well as from our upcoming “mini-album” EP for a live setting. We hadn’t any motivation to pursue the songs any further, seeing how old they were to us. But playing live was something we hadn’t ever done anyways, so it has been a fun experience in turning these thousand-layered bedroom recordings into stage products. In terms of recording, we’re still keeping everything the same because of the comfort and familiarity of being on our own time at home.
Your song “Jimmy Dove” was featured on Kanye West’s blog this year, and this has been partly credited for your recent success . Do endorsements from celebrities always have a positive effect?
Kanye’s post was undeniably the major spark, though it all started with the blog I Guess I’m Floating. Kanine contacted us the following day. I personally have always loved Kanye as a producer and influence in hip-hop, and think his personality is hilarious. South Park captured it perfectly with his lack of humor being the funniest part about him. A lot of people hate him for certain things he’s done, but I don’t know if anyone would decide their feelings on our music based on Kanye, except for maybe a few die hard Kanye fans who discovered us through him. Especially since his blog is run by a ghost writer.
In the writing and recording stages of making a record, how much do you take into consideration how the songs will translate live? What does the future of live shows look like to you?
Everything coming out on Kanine and everything that we self-released was created as something just for us and friends. These recordings were never made with the idea of anybody really hearing them. We never played live during that time, and never sent stuff off to blogs or anything–it was all just a fun weekend recording project where the songs were usually written and recorded at the same time. We never learned the music, and we never really played any of the instruments all the way through, so it has been a complete rediscovery when we had to start playing live for the release.
So far we have stripped the songs down to one keyboard, one guitar, bass (Ben Goodman), and drum set (Ashton Willard). And sometimes we use pre-recorded backtrack drums. We switch off keys/guitar, and we both sing all of the songs; there isn’t really a lead. We’ve sort of changed how we do things every show, and have tried a lot of different methods to make it more interesting. Our next performances will probably just be SXSW, where it will be slightly different than how it has been… different equipment, maybe synth bass and electronic drum triggers. We will probably keep in mind when writing new material the idea that we will be playing them live as well, but we won’t think too much about that because it really hasn’t been difficult reinterpreting the songs, and is kind of fun to do that.
It must be difficult with you two living in different places during school, right?
We’re actually still pretty close, only an hour apart. The problem has just been variations of workload and being able to work all that out, while still finding time to meet up to practice or write. We take advantage of vacations like winter break right now, where we’re planing on finishing up 2 new songs.
It is often very difficult for new bands to find their own success without being compared in the press to their influences. Is being influenced (musically or otherwise) always a conscious decision?
Not at all. The songwriting process fuses the conscious with the unconscious, the deliberate with the unplanned. It’s pretty hard for us to look back on anything from Season Dreaming as trying to be anything. We were just having fun, finding sounds that worked for and satisfied us. It’s definitely more offensive to have something we’ve made written off as just a rip-off than for someone to simply not like it.
You guys have some really interesting music videos and album art. How do you view the relationship of the visual elements to the music itself?
Some of the stuff we’ve put out so far has been somewhat literal in relation to names or lyrics. But like our new release Wooden Blankets, the cover photos by our friend Frank Traynor are more a representation of the sonic and textural qualities, rather than of blankets made out of wood or something. Visual art can really get someone’s attention and even help someone connect to a song or album that they would have otherwise not liked or understood.
We’re living in a time where fan letters have turned into MySpace comments and “word of mouth” has morphed into overstimulating sites like Twitter. How has this benefited or harmed you?
Obviously the existence of the internet has gotten our name out like nothing else could have. It wasn’t even something where we were pushing for exposure really–it just happened. Things have changed that way, in that any random kid in Missouri’s song can be heard in Japan just minutes after it was recorded. Just as fast and easily, people can anonymously voice their opinions in various forms. But, as long as people are saying something, it can only be positive. You don’t decide if you like something based on the opinion of a website. If someone is saying something about us, that just informs someone else of our existence.
Is your new release Wooden Blankets an EP?
That had been the idea since it was done, only because it’s a little shorter than a full album and that we had two releases recorded at the same time. The longer one made sense to be the LP and the shorter the EP. But recently we’ve decided to not advertise it as an EP because that usually insinuates “leftover” tracks that didn’t make the album, and Wooden Blankets is actually a completely separate project from Season Dreaming. When we were recording, we always knew which of the two releases certain songs would be a part of.
There seems to be common threads of sleepovers and late nights with friends. Did these actively influence the writing process for Wooden Blankets?
Yeah, Season Dreaming was a project between us and another friend, Sheridan Willard. We were all close high school friends and Sheridan played drums and did some production and engineering on some of the tracks. It was always sort of “Orhan and Kyle… and Sheridan”, but we all had great times together–lots of inside jokes and fun nights. Wooden Blankets is the sole project of just Orhan and I. It has more of a personal and youthful friendship quality, seeing as how all of the recordings are from weekend sleepovers at each other’s homes during high school. Some of the lyrics were just little jokes or feelings we would jot down throughout the night after hanging out during the day. It has a very brotherly value and memory to us, being in college now, that really hasn’t gone away with so many listens.
Let’s say Y2K arrives a decade off schedule, how would you as a band survive this coming year?
There is the possibility that the world would explode. But if it doesn’t, we wouldn’t exist anyways, past just being friends making tunes together, just that old band you remember from high school. Unlike bands in the past, we didn’t tour to become known, which makes us feel kind of guilty. But with support from our awesome label and friends around the country, we should be able to at some point in the near future, if we pause on school.