What is your name and role within the band?
Gianni, bass and vocals.
Where are you currently based?
What’s been happening recently and how has your Covid experience been?
It’s been quite strange – we’re in the midst of a bunch of huge transition moments in society right now, including the pandemic’s shift to virtual life as well as a political and social awakening and resistance in the US and beyond. And needless to say for anyone who experiences any level of anxiety, transition moments are super tough! But all in all, us and our families/friends are safe and we’re still able to make music so I’d say we have it pretty good. A recent development has been a big increase in the production quality for live-stream concerts – we’ve played a few virtual shows at venues now, where there are just four people running the whole thing and they’ve turned out amazing, with lights and fancy cameras and great audio and everything. So continuing down that road of creating better virtual material for people to enjoy will be the direction for the rest of this year and most of the next.
Your new album ‘The Shadow’ is out now, what influenced the sound and songwriting?
The Shadow was written over the course of a few years, so a whole lot went into it. Mostly it’s a catalogue of our growth as musicians and as individuals. Our extensive touring over the past few years gave us a new appreciation for pushing ourselves musically, and interacting with so many people who have found a bit of themselves in our music emphasized the responsibility we have to spread positivity and just speak the truth. Other musical inspirations just came from all the music we were able to listen to during the long drives across the country in the tour van. Some artists that have stood out as particularly influential for this album: Talking Heads, Neil Young, Stereloab, Sneaks, U2, The Fall, Devo, and of course, Green Day.
How did you go about writing the music?
It’s really all about chemistry. We each write a lot of songs on our own, and it’s not until we bring them to the rest of the band that the good stuff really shakes out. For example, we must have jammed on millions of riffs in our time as a band, but there’s just this magic alchemical feeling in the air that happened when we played the riffs for Take A Chance or The Shadow that made us keep coming back to them. It’s this kind of “follow your nose” feeling that guides most of the music, and from there we bounce the ideas off of each other as well as our manager Shea and our record label rep Kim, and keep going back and forth until something that feels genuine and exciting pops out.
From there, lyrics usually fall into place pretty naturally. The mood of the music often dictates what the words will say, rather than the other way around. For example, a song like Television has a kind of frantic electricity running through it, and I just channeled that energy until certain words and phrases popped out – “in-formation all the time… cyclic shadows… TELEVISION” and bang, there’s the basis for the song. It’s all about following that idea to its core – for that song in particular, I started ruminating on all the feelings of anxiety, overstimulation, quick cycles and strange contrasts that come from our interaction with technology. It’s a strangely personal/anti-personal thing, because even as we interact with social media and TV and whatnot on a very intimate level, we’re all interacting with the same ominous nebula and it’s categorizing us all and feeding us advertisements based on our interests…
Where and when did you record/produce and who with?
We recorded the album in November of 2019 in Portland, Oregon with Chris Funk and Adam Lee.
How did you approach the recording process?
This was a much more informed process than our first album SLUFF. This time around we had more of an idea of the things we can and can’t (or should and shouldn’t) control about the album – we came in with certain things in mind, like particular guitar and bass tones, really dialed in hooks and choruses, but we also left some space for things to change. The songs Turns Blue and The Ripper, for example, were hugely shaped by Chris and Adam’s input. They even pulled some Brian Eno-esque moves on us by taking away parts of Henry’s drum kit, having us sing with the lights off and sunglasses on, anything that would influence and uplift the mood of the particular song. This kind of collaboration is something that can only happen when all parties are open to seeing the best in each other’s work – it’s something that we didn’t have as much of a clue about for SLUFF, and it makes The Shadow really stick out for me.
What programs/instruments did you use?
It was a classic rock setup – we laid down all the basic guitar/bass/drum tracks live, then overdubbed vocals, keyboards and percussion later on. We were originally going to record the basics to tape (actually we were going to record over the tape Stephen Malkmus used on his last album!) but there ended up being some technical difficulties there, so it was ProTools for us.
For the gearheads:
I played a Guild B301 Bass through my Orange OB1 amp and a whole bunch of pedals.
Grant played a few Gibson SGs and plenty of other guitars through his Fender Hot Rod, some Benson amps and a bunch of pedals.
Henry played his classic Ludwig/WFL/Slingerland kit and a bunch of cymbals.
We also had the pleasure of playing with the awesome gear at the studio including: Chris’s modular synth setup, various drum machines and synths, Nashville-tuned acoustic guitar, a 1963 Jazzmaster in Olympic White, plenty of percussion, and yes a whole bunch of pedals.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Lots of stuff! Recently I’ve been listening to Sneaks’ new album Happy Birthday which is just great. I’ve also been diving deeper into Deerhoof’s classic Milkman and some even more classic classics like Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier and all those Mozart piano sonatas.
What do you like to do away from music?
Music occupies about 90% of my mental space most of the time, but when I’m not actively playing it I like to go for bike rides, play board games, and put together a spiritual philosophy free from reckless idealism and grounded in common truth.
What’s planned for the remainder of 2020 going into 2021?
We’re putting together ideas for the next album right now. It’s the last album in the contract with our record label, so we’re thinking of it as the final piece in a trilogy between itself, SLUFF, and The Shadow. Hopefully it’ll come together soon and we can record it by the end of this year to release at some point next year!
Favourite food and place to hangout?
We each have cozy homes at the moment – so cooking up some fresh veggies and sitting with our loved ones is the best we could imagine.