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05 March 2015

Interview: Jess Labrador of CHASMS.

When The Sun Hits Interviews Jess Labrador of  CHASMS

CHASMS is the San Francisco based duo of 
Jess Labrador and Shannon Sky Madden.

How and when was the band formed?
I stayed home sick from work one day in the winter of 2010-2011 and wrote what would become the first Chasms song, "Darker Outside." It was also the first song I programmed on the Alesis HR-16 drum machine, which still makes up the majority of our percussive palette. Shannon and I are college friends. We had wanted to do something creative together, but at that point we weren't sure if it was going to be music, a screenplay or something else. I showed the demo to her and asked her to play bass. She kept showing up regularly at my practice space and so I had to, too. Then it became a real thing.

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 been writing our next LP for a while now. The process is quite slow but I'm very meticulous. I'm going to start recording it soon. I have personal deadlines for it, but I want to give it the proper time it needs, so I'm not going to say when it's going to be done. We're touring the East Coast later this year, and hopefully other regions we've never been to.

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?
We seem to straddle genres and tend to play with a broad range of bands -- metal, shoegaze, industrial, post-punk, ambient -- and somehow it still makes sense. The influences for this project are all over the place. I don't identify the project with any one genre, but rather a theme, a sense of atmosphere and feeling that transcends genre.

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?
Our drum machine is integral to our sound. If we lost it all, we'd be fucked. It's all very backed up. Right now we're using an Akai MPC1000 loaded with our own samples that I created of the HR16 through effect processing.

My favorite guitar-related pieces are my Jazzmaster, Strymon El Capistan Tape Echo, and Electroharmonix Super Ego.  

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
It's pretty DIY. Everything is captured and mixed in Logic with a Motu 828 MKIII interface on a Macbook Pro. After tracking the drum machine, I record guitar and bass in our practice space, usually early in the morning so no one else is around. I mic amps with an SM57 and a condenser, and record direct if it's an option, too, to get a good blend of tones. For guitar, I usually blend multiple takes captured slightly differently -- maybe with different mic placements or played with a different guitar -- for a more dynamic sound. Most of what I record goes through an Eventide H3000 D/SE in post to give it a warm, extra-dreamy touch. I love my ADAM 5X monitors. Invest in your monitors.

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?  There are a lot of evils and bullshit that exist in any business model, but you can find your place and choose how you operate in it.   

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
It's great that Bandcamp has leveled the playing field, and it's interesting to see artists and labels of very different levels using the same platform. Of course, a consequence is oversaturation and quality control, but the benefits of allowing all artists a means of exposure definitely outweigh that.

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
The films of Ingmar Bergman. Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins from a production and nerdy guitar player standpoint, of course. Slowdive, Tim Hecker, Grouper, Skullflower, Burzum. I love a lot of techno, and think about it a lot, especially in terms of structure, when I'm writing.

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc.)?
I've been obsessed with Black Rain's "Dark Pool" since I first heard it. It covers so many bases so perfectly. I've also been listening to the Function & Vatican Shadow collaboration, Puce Mary, and Basic Channel. I love George Saunders' short stories. They paint such a comically accurate present and future.

Can you tell us a little about the band’s song writing process?
It usually starts as a solo process where I program a drum pattern and write bass, guitar and maybe vocals over it. My goal is usually to create a recording as a jumping off point. I usually bring these usually half-baked demos to practice and Shannon and I will flesh them out together in a live context, which nearly always informs the final version of the song.

We also have songs that have come about organically by playing together. There's not a lot of room for improvisation playing with a drum machine, so in these collaborations I feel like you can hear that organic element in melody and texture. We try to emphasize these nuances in our live performance as much as possible.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?
Work hard. Make it happen. Don't be an asshole.