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INTERVIEW: The Black Drumset

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “For All That Is Yet To Be”?

This is my attempt at optimism for the end of the album… not quite “everything’s going to be alright” but more like, “there’s a future to be made and that future can, perhaps, be made better.” It is the most pop-like song on the album, but of course I made it almost 10 minutes long, so I had to do a shorter radio edit. The underlying song structure is very loose and I wanted the song to have a feeling of floating like a boat rising and falling on waves, or being weightless.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

The last couple of years have been stressful in a political and social sense. America has lost its damn mind. The album has a dark feeling at times but I wanted to maintain some light as well. The song is a companion piece to “For All That is Yet to Be Lost”. In a sense, it is contemplating survival, and even beauty, in the midst of loss.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

I did release a video for the single that can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/lhfPUhFoqyg  It was a great deal of fun to make. I pulled together some friends and it was planned, shot, edited, and uploaded in 24 hours. I made videos for two other songs: “There’s a Shark in the Boat” – https://youtu.be/lhfPUhFoqyg   and “The Last Beat of the Last Elk Heart” – https://youtu.be/z2Jusf4cevA  I’ve really been enjoying making video a central part of the project and will be using video projections at live shows as well.

The single comes off your new album Charged – what’s the story behind the title?

The word “charged” resonated with me because it has a lot of different meanings that all seem to apply to current times – accused of a crime, purchased with debt, filled with energy, filled with tension or meaning, entrusted with responsibility, attacked. I thought it was a good dynamic word to define the whole album.

How was the recording and writing process?

I use the recording studio as a writing tool, exploring sounds and building up parts one layer at a time. I spent a couple of years doing this, and I rejected a lot of material that wasn’t quite right. I wanted to try new things so I brought in a new instrument that I had not previously used (the Moog synthesizer) and tried to stay away from my own easy musical habits. I did struggle during the recording because I ended up rejecting so much because it either sounded too familiar or didn’t have the depth that I wanted. It was like looking for something when you don’t know what the thing is. And I alllwwaayys struggle with recording vocals and lyrics that I don’t think are terrible.

How did you go on marrying together both the digital with the analog?

The drums and the Moog are the heart of the album. I ended up using the Moog to set the time and patterns on many of the songs and built the drums around that. Other times I started with the drums. It felt very organic to do this. I really like to combine analog/human elements like drums and vocals with sounds that come from electronic music and technology, since that reflects the technological world most humans live in.

Having played with different genres – how did you go on balancing them together? 

I listen to a great variety of music – western pop, experimental sound, jazz, West and North African music, electronic and dance, drone and minimal, traditional Indian music. My goal has been to really integrate all of these inspirations in a way that is unified and has its own character. I don’t want to genre hop from song to song or play in a “style”, but rather want it to have its own singular voice.

Did bands such as Mogwai or Maserati influence your writing?

Years ago, I was very much into Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor, and those types of bands. Though I don’t listen to them so much currently, I’m sure the influence runs through certain aspects of the music and I definitely think of this music as some type of rock music.

What role does Austin play in your music?

So far, not that much, simply because I’ve just spent time alone in my studio. Now that I’m playing live shows again for the first time in 8 years, I do want to become part of the Austin music community because there is such a wealth of talent and energy here. I’ve spent a great deal of time in the local art community and now want to do the same with music. Oddly, those two communities (art and music) do not cross that much here, at least in my experience.

What aspect of modern America did you get to explore on this record?

I wanted the record to reflect what this moment feels like, without getting too specific about the details of the politics and social tension. So the lyrics stay fairly abstract and I kept the lyrics to a minimum, trying to use words that will color the interpretation or lead the listener to certain subjects. But the things I’m thinking about on a daily basis are political turmoil, climate change, extremism, these types of things. I think it is hard to address these serious subjects directly with lyrics – it can go badly, very quickly. So instead, I focus on the feeling of existing right now in this environment.

How much did it help to record and writing the album throughout the early days of the presidential campaign to last year? 

For me personally, maintaining a creative life and creative mind has been a valuable way to not become overwhelmed or depressed. We are in a terrible and dangerous political moment and it is hard to see around it. The importance of creating and experiencing human culture and connectedness has become very obvious.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

A lot of inspiration for the songs is musical. I love to explore the formal elements of musical structure and texture, and that drives a lot of my creative process. And on the other hand, I love how music conveys so much human experience abstractly. Another primary inspiration is the natural world – imagery of animals kept coming into my mind throughout the making of the album.

Any plans to hit the road?

I’ve just pulled together a live band with Carlos Orozco and Hyun Moraes and we’ve started playing shows. I do want to do some touring and would love to play some festivals and international shows.

What else is happening next in The Black Drumset’s world?

Mostly just working on the live show. We still need to find one more drummer – the band needs two drummers to play all the drum parts. For the shows we played recently we had to modify songs so we could play with just one drummer. I am also working on visuals/video for live shows. I want the live shows to be powerful sensory experience for the audience, so I’m focusing on getting there.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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