you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

28 July 2013

When The Sun Hits Interviews Silver Swans.

When The Sun Hits Interviews 
Ann Yu and Jon Waters of Silver Swans
interviewed by amber crain

The Silver Swans are three fictional characters in the Wonder Woman stories. Each Silver Swan has the ability to create powerful sound waves with her voice. Her "swan song" is capable of devastating a small area of land with its destructive force. By creating a low-level humming, the Silver Swan can form a protective shield around herself that can deflect bullets and projectiles. They also have the telepathic ability to control birds and re-arrange matter with the sound they generate.

Musically, Silver Swans capture the eerie drama of The Knife and the sweet darkness of Ladytron. This electro dream pop project from San Francisco began in 2007 as a song floating between producer and musician, Jon Waters and vocalist Ann Yu, harnessing the energy of electro pop infused with dream-like ethereal vocals – and the songs kept floating, and the project grew.

I was already a fan, but after recently hearing their newest single, Sea of Love, I felt my adoration for them rekindled. Very pleased to present the following interview with the Silver Swans.

Ann Yu || vocals
Jon Waters || sampling, guitar, keys

How and when was the band formed?   
ANN: Silver Swans was formed in 2007.  Jon reached out to me via Myspace to sing on one of his tracks.  I fell in love with the song.  Exchanging emails and working on the track with him drew me in immediately to the world of electronic music. His ability to imagine anything and create what I imagined was a dream come true.

Can you tell us what the band has been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc.)?   
We’ve pretty much been in hiding working on a new album which releases this fall.   I’m looking forward to playing shows and seeing some sun, maybe.

Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense? 
Hmmmm, I hate to be cliché and then also say we aren’t defined by a genre.  But I will say I’m just happy to have our listeners identify and be attracted to us in whichever genre, scene, or style they see us in.  

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?   I do love Still Corners and I Break Horses.  Breathtaking and ethereal.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others? 
We usually start with ideas sketched out in Ableton Live, Ann will pick out her favourites and we'll build on it from there. We keep a running Google doc that we both update with anything new we want to add or fix. At some point it will end up in Logic for what we refer to as "the treatment". For this album we actually kept the drums in Ableton and rewired it to Logic, I love drum racks in Ableton and the ability to swap things on the fly.
Vocals are all recorded by Dave our drummer at his house and then receive the treatment at mine. As for other gear here’s what we relied heavily on for this record:

Juno 60
Pro One
Matrix 6 & 1000
Slim Phatty
Virus Polar

Elektron MD
Oberheim DX
Zildjian hi hats and ride
Ludwig vistalites

Outboard gear
Mics - Cad, Ntec & Sure.
Trident mic pre
UA 6176 mic pre
Eventide H3000
Roland Space Echo
Aphex aural exciter
Panasonic Ramsa mixer
Otari 2-track reel to reel
All connected to RME Fireface 800

As far as recommendations go, get to know the gear you have, you can create music these days on your phone, you don't need a huge arsenal just a few choice weapons.

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway; how do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?  
It is seemingly becoming easier and easier to release material and have people writing about it instantly.  But it’s created an over-saturated and very attention deficit market.  So yes, it’s easier to be noticed but much harder to keep any kind of momentum going.  The way musicians earn income and the way musicians create sustainable platforms to release their music will be ever changing I think.

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
I think a band needs label representation no matter what is out there to self release your music unless you are an experienced music  project manager who can self direct your release campaign and put together a team of people who will be working your album.  If you have the time and resources to do this, then it’s possible to DIY.  Otherwise, I think you really need the expertise of people who have experience working albums.  I’m not speaking of one song viral hits.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?

ANN:  I listen to everything on my laptop with mp3s, and through headphones.   I would like to own a record player and listen to vinyl at home one day, have a nice bossa nova collection and a little bit of old r&b too, that would be nice.
JON: Vinyl is still king and our Otari sounds nice, everything else is second rate compared

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
JON: For me I'd have to say:
Bell (Thom) & (William)
Hardaway Judkins (Stevland)
too many to mention...

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc.)? 
ANN: I just finished reading the Element by Sir Ken Robinson, taking in the current issue of Kinfolk magazine and just discovered Maps at a coffee shop near my place, and finally watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, highly recommend any of the above. 
JON: Currently reading "Mr Cools Dream", it's a day to day account of the band The Style Council. Also read "Everybody Poops", to my niece, very good with great illustrations!

Film - Kubrick

Art - mad about Pollock right now, at first when I saw his paintings in London years ago I didn't get it but now it speaks volumes to me. Also local San Francisco artist Xiaojie Zheng is amazing!

Hairstylist - Mary Quant

Fashion - Ferragamo

Writer /Poet - Oscar Fingal O'Flaherty Wills Wilde

If you had to choose one track that was the ultimate definition of your sound, which would it be and why? 
The ultimate definition of our sound might be Solace?  It has all the elements of what we identify with our new album.  Love, sentimental and sensual, whispering and floating, moody and soft.   

Can you tell us a little about the band’s song writing process? 
Sometimes Jon sends me an instrumental track, sometimes I send Jon a vocal track.  We always finish the song together but the beginning stems from an inspiration by one of us.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by? 
Sleep well and as much as you can.