Through years of arranging music, the album sets the listener on a journey of music featuring slivers of folk, psychedelia, rock, acoustic and electronic sounds.
There are so many unique sounds and instrumental layers in your songs. Can you walk me through your music making process?
I’m interested in so many things. I am a producer and a songwriter. I come from an acoustic music background because in Woodstock, where I grew up upstate, I took lessons when I was a kid and learned a bunch of instruments from different people in the folk and bluegrass style. Now, when I have ideas, I call people up and usually there’s someone to work with. It’s also a good excuse to meet new musicians.
They come to my place, where I have a very simple, portable recording setup and equipment. I just record them and edit it later. For this album, it’s really a collection of music that I have been working on for a few years. It ranges from songs that I record directly onto my iPhone — like ‘Slow Mourning’ which is just me sitting on the edge of my bed late at night playing to the iPhone.
Other songs are in the proper studio with an ensemble of people that I rehearsed with for just three songs. We rehearsed for a couple of months every Sunday and then we went into the studio and did a live band tracking to tape ‘Insect Express’ and ‘Synthax Static.’
Later I produced all of that. I just love to layer real instruments. I use very few electronic instruments, it’s mostly acoustic instruments with electric guitars.
In the editing process, it’s taking a piece of metal and warping it and seeing if I could get interesting percussion, noises. On 'Synthax Static,’ I played in a barn in Connecticut and there were anvils laying around and so I got the sound of the anvils as real hammering on iron.
All those things are basically me developing a vocabulary of different real instrument sounds that I then blend and produce in post. It’s a good mix. I didn’t intend for it to be this way but there’s six songs with voice lyrics and six songs that are more electro-acoustic.
That’s all due to enhance the arc of the album. There's a journey through ‘Guilt Vacation’ [the title song] which is a sampler of the whole album. I try to demonstrate the range lyrically to going lo fi and trying to explode back and to hear more of the glam rock of that song. There’s psychedelia but never enough to engulf the whole song.
I don’t have one specific style of music which is difficult but that will probably never change.
So if someone asked you what is your genre, what would you say?
It depends how much time they have. I feel like this album is more music for the brain than music for the body. So much of music is about giving a good beat and people feeling simulated.
But I feel this is like variety music. I totally don’t embrace the term singer songwriter, so I’m totally welcome to new definitions like “post singer songwriter.” Or maybe it’s something like “post psychedelia."
When I perform live, I perform with a guitar so it definitely has a rock or folk rock tie to it.
Are you planning any upcoming shows?
They next one will be on February 17 at Manhattan Inn, 632 Manhattan Avenue. I’m actually booking a European tour in the Spring and that will be in late March and April. I think London will be the home base and I’ll branch out from there.
Are you working on any new music before heading out there?
I’m collaborating with Joakim, who is a French electronic musician and DJ. He just moved here from Paris and he has a label called Tiger Sushi. They put out a lot of electronic and dance music. We took my song ‘Google Portrait’ and recorded a new version of it. We’re in the process of mixing it. I don’t know what’s destined for its future but I would anticipate him putting it on Tiger Sushi.
So you’re also an art curator, that’s a unique pairing of professions. Yeah, it’s true. I’m doing a show in September that features artists and sculptors and the desert in West Texas. That’s a big show that I’ve been working on. I think of it, just for my own reference point, as like my album because it’s also very diverse. There are drawings, films, sculptors, sound artworks. It’s about different ideas on our relationship with nature and technology.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
We haven’t put out any music videos as yet for the album but I’m working on a music video for ‘Insect Express’ which will be out in a couple of days. Then the next one will be for ‘Google Portrait.’ I’m super excited. There’s a children choir in the song and in the video they are singing along with a sign language interpreter. And Dean Wareham from Galaxie 500 is playing lead guitar. I’m really excited for the release.