The Sun Hits Interviews Thrushes
Interview conducted by Ellie Sleeper
First, let me congratulate you on a very
fast and impressive recording session for the new album! I’d caught whispers
that you all had been at work on new material here and there for a while, but the
sudden mention of a new album was very, very exciting as a fan. Can you give us
any further details on the album yet? Are there any contenders for a title so
Casey – Thanks
so much and we’re very glad that people are still interested in our band! All
of the tracking for the new record is now complete. If all goes well the album
should be by finished in spring 2015. No timetable on the release date yet, but
you guys will be the first to hear about it when we get more details. The
working title is “Exposing Seas.”
As a band, is there a clear favorite track
on the new album? Was there one you particularly enjoyed writing or playing?
Casey – All the
songs are pretty great. Tough to pick favorites right now before we polish them
up. But, the front runners for me are ‘Joan of Arc’, which has turned out to be
our kind of ‘Hounds of Love’ epic moment, and ‘Snowblind’ which is a slow burn
groovy gazer of a tune. Very cool rhythms and gorgeous vocals. A song called ‘Slow Road’ was something that
I think we were probably the least confident of going in to the studio. It had
been kicking around for a while in various forms, fast, slow, loud, quiet and
really never found its identity. We recorded it in 1 take in the studio and
magic happened, it’s our slow jam, very cool. I’ll be interesting to compare
this list to what we like when it’s all finished.
Are there any amusing, behind-the-scenes
stories from the studio for these sessions, or was it fairly straightforward?
Casey – We have
always tended to work pretty quickly in the studio. While I wish there we some
cool stories and studio high jinx we were on a time limit and a budget so we
just banged it out. We were extremely fortunate to work with J Robbins on this
record and his approach was something that certainly had a very strong influence
on how this turned out. I wanted to work with someone just a little outside of
the small Thrushes support group that we’ve been working with for years. J is
certainly a legend through his own music (Jawbox, Burning Airlines, Channels…) and
the awesome work he’s done with other bands. It was important for us to have someone
that wasn’t so close to the band as to indulge our whims (ok, my whims!) to
record tons of massive guitar tracks on every song that while cool weren’t
necessarily in the service of the song or the record.
We all tracked
live in the same (amazing) room at Magpie Cage Studios in Baltimore to 2 inch
tape and that really focused us to think and play in terms of being a real band
in a room playing songs which was awesome. Make no mistake this is definitely a
Thrushes record and there’s lots of that good stuff that we do here, but the
songs are paramount and the sounds serve the songs.
space has a great legacy in terms of stuff that’s been produced here. In the
90’s it was called Oz Studios and tons of awesome bands recorded here (Velocity
Girl, Shudder to Think, Jawbox, Girls v Boys, etc.) so it’s fantastic that J
was able to put the space back on that path again as Magpie Cage. For a time it seemed like if you were an
awesome DC or Baltimore band you either recorded at Oz or Inner Ear.
You mentioned looking to release with a
label other than Birdnote for this album. Did those considerations factor into
the writing and recording processes?
Ideally, I’d like to find a good label that likes what we do and digs the
record and can get it out to a wider audience than we can with Birdnote.
Frankly, we just don’t have the time to put into proper promotion all on our
own anymore. Wasn’t a factor at all in
writing or recording, other than this record will be properly recorded and
produced so a label can take it and run with it.
Have you got any label or group in
particular in mind? Is that under wraps for now?
Obviously there are dream labels like 4AD, Slumberland, Merge, Sup Pop, etc.,
but we’d be happy with a small home that allows us to do what we do. We’re very
low maintenance! Ideally, something like what Sarah, Teenbeat or K were like
back in the day. A small label with good people that are passionate enough (and
silly enough J) to believe in their bands. The reality is
that we’re in our mid to late 30’s and have careers, families, etc., so we’re
not going on tour for 2o+ weeks a year to support our releases. We’re still
very much a live band and that’s what we love to do, but going into debt and
sleeping on dirty floors isn’t really where we’re at right now. If there are any labels that are interested
please get in touch!
No doubt you’ll all be catching your breath
a little during the mixing and release stages for the album, but are there any
other plans in the wings you want to share with fans?
There’s been time since Scott joined the
band and since the last release, Night
Falls. Has your sound changed as a unit during that period? Have there been
any exciting moments where maybe you’ve surprised one another while writing or
Casey – Well, we
still sound like Thrushes, which really is just what Anna, Rachel, Scott and I
sound like when we play songs together. Scott has been a tremendous part of the band.
First and foremost he’s just a plain old great guy and brings a ton of positive
energy to the group. He’s a professional musician so his playing and musical IQ
raise the level of the band as a whole. I’m totally self-taught, Rachel picked
up the bass guitar when we started the band, and Anna had guitar lessons when
she was younger, but overall we’re not exactly “accomplished” musicians. Scott
certainly is and his feel for rhythms and style add another dimension to what
we can do. I think you’ll see that on the new record. There is no question this
is the very best batch of songs we’ve ever written. The lyrics are fantastic,
the melodies are great, and we’re very happy with it! In a lot of ways this record reminds me of
our first record, Sun Come Undone.
It’s better in every way, but there was a moody/romantic sense on that record
that I also get from this new one. Night
Falls was a quantum step up in terms of songwriting, performance, etc., but was in many ways more
of a rock record.
Anna - Scott is
a professional drummer and brings a lot to the table as far as skill level and
perspective. He’s also had prior
experience with recording with his previous band, Avec. So on a technical level Scott brings another
dimension to our sound. But anytime a
new person joins an established group they bring their own lifetime of
experiences with them which can’t help but change a routine. New experiences can only make you stronger
and push harder, and that’s what Scott has brought to our band.
Has your writing process changed any over
Anna – On this
album our process has changed some because all members are not as available as
we used to be. Casey and I had been
playing as a twosome here and there and have been trying some new material out
we’ve written together with a drum machine.
I think that has helped some because it gives the band an idea of where
we’d like the sound to be. Another
difference for me has come with lyric writing.
Weekly practice is not always doable, so we may come up with a riff that
we record and upload to Soundcloud, and then I take it home and play with it
for a while. A lot of the melodies and
lyrics for this album got hatched in my house.
I would then make voice memos on my iPhone of what I’d done, and text
them to Casey.
I have to say recording technology has
really changed the way we’ve been writing and documenting our songs, and for
the better. Certainly the pedal game has changed a lot over the past few years
with groups like EarthQuaker Devices, Malekko, and Strymon rising to new
prominence. I know I saw what looked like a few new acquisitions. Have you had a chance to come across any new
gear or stompboxes you’ve enjoyed?
Casey – I’ve
got more toys than I care to admit, but the core of my sound has remained fairly
steady. I used to play live with a Re-201 space echo, but that just proved to
be too unreliable live so I switched to the Strymon El Capistan and that’s
pretty great. One difference you’ll see on this record is the addition of old
school chorus sounds which is something I had traditionally stayed away from. A
lot of these new songs have a certain gothy Siouxsie, Cure, Chameleons vibe, so
that and an old Japan CE-2 works pretty great for that. The fuzz tones are mainly EQD Sound Shank
(Burns Baldwin buzzaround clone), Op-Amp muff clone and EQD White Light
overdrive. I use a Danelectro Back Talk reverse delay on some tracks and Hardwire
RV-7 too. I play stereo into 2 amps (1973 Rickenbacker B212 & 1970 Fender
Super Reverb blackface mod).
Slightly related to the topic of gear, I
remember first hearing of Death By Audio’s line of effects through you all. Had
you heard about them having to shutter the venue in Brooklyn recently? Any
thoughts on that?
Unfortunately we never played there so I really don’t have much of a personal
connection to the space, but definite bummer as by everything I heard they had
a great thing going on there.
It appears all of the related genres and
subgenres around noise and shoegaze are experiencing a huge renaissance and
resurgence lately. Have
you come across any newer gaze bands you like? Is there new listening outside
of the realm of gaze, too?
Casey – I’ve
been out of the scene for the most part over the past few years with family and
work stuff so feel a bit (a lot) out of the loop. Locally Wild Honey & Free
Electric State are great and there are others, but I’ve been out of the scene
for sure these days and haven’t kept as up to date I’d like! Obviously some of
the bigger local Baltimore bands like Wye Oak, Celebration, Beach House, and
Future Islands we love.
There is a
pretty great group of gazey bands that are friends that we love playing with
when we can. They’re probably all familiar to your readers, but we absolutely
love Screen Vinyl Image, Dead Leaf Echo, 28 Degrees Taurus, The Vandelles, A
Place to Bury Strangers, Brief Candles, Ceremony, Panda Riot, Stargazer Lilies,
etc. I was (half) joking to a friend after we saw Slowdive that we’ll have to
deal with a thousand new crappy shoegaze bands over the next couple of years.
We’re in our mid 30’s -40’s and obviously grew up with this stuff so it is a
little surreal seeing kids right outta school with the Shields Glider sound down
cold, but then you look back at how old Ride was when they made Nowhere. Incredible, the kids are
Has any new listening prompted new
influences or ideas?
Casey – Seeing
Sade a couple of years ago was pretty great. Not sure if it directly influenced
the record, but she is amazing. Slowdive a few months ago was pretty
motivational as well; they just absolutely ripped.
Outside of music, is there anything else
you’re currently into (books, films, art, etc.)?
Anna - Definitely,
and I think books, film, and TV are probably what’s inspired me more for this
album more than anything. I watched the
whole 1st season of “Penny Dreadful” on
a binge a couple of months ago, and that kind of helped get me in the mind
frame to write the song “Night” that will be on our new album. We have another song called “Joan of Arc”
that is of course inspired by that mythos.
I think overall this album is more about storytelling, and art has
really inspired that.
Lastly, is there anything else we haven’t
covered that you’d like to share?
a happy new year, see you again soon!!
again everyone, and best wishes for 2015 and the new album!