Interview The Mood Is Everything
posted by September 12 at 10:38 AMon
Disconcerting in just the right way for the beginning of autumn, the eponymous new album by Portland’s Pseudosix has been my soundtrack of the past few weeks. The band plays a complex but catchy brand of orchestral indie rock with lyrics that get under your skin and stay there.
I had the chance to talk with lead singer and songwriter Tim Perry about the band’s new album, their menacing reputation, and full-on 8th-grade balls.
CHRIS MCCANN: How would you say the new album differs from [Pseudosix’s first album] Days of Delay?
TIM PERRY: I think the new album is more aggressive. Most of the songs on Days of Delay were written behind a closed bedroom door. I sang quiet so people in my house wouldn’t hear me. But the new album is a lot more confident. The arrangements are more ballsy. That’s what I’m trying to say: Balls. Days of Delay was like 7th grade balls. The new album is like full-on 8th-grade balls. Bigger. More pronounced.
CM: What was the recording process like?
TP: This album took a really long time to record. Mostly because we could only go into the studio as money permitted. We’d lay down the main tracks (at the studio) and then I’d transfer them onto my computer and do all the overdubs and vocals in my basement. This took the better part of a year, during which time I sank deeper and deeper into the darkness. Every once in a while, someone would come over and lay down their parts. Slowly but surely it all came together.
CM: It’s your first release on Sonic Boom Recordings. What kind of support have you received from Sonic Boom and how’d you get connected with them?
TP: Sonic Boom has been great to us! Jonathan [Rothman] from the Long Winters gave them some of our recordings, which is how we got hooked up with them. Jason [Hughes], the guy who owns the label and stores, has been very supportive, honest, and hardworking. He is in it for the love of music.
CM: Do you write as a band or are you the primary songwriter? What’s the process?
TP: The songwriting process generally starts with me. Sometimes I’ll record a demo and present it to the rest of the band so they can get a sense of the cadence or vibe of the song. But from there, anything can happen. We have different styles of writing and playing music. Mine is more crafty and exact. But Jake (drums) and Emil (guitar), for example, are more in the moment. This sort of dynamic creates tension. And tension makes for better music.
CM: Seems like the Portland scene is really producing some fascinating and disparate music these days. Has that community been there all along? I see on the liner notes you send a shout-out to all the bands in Portland. What's it like being a band in Portland?
TP: Portland has always had a pretty vibrant music community. The difference is, now people are starting to notice. At the same time, it's saturated with talent and it can be a pretty hard town for artists and bands to establish themselves. So the shout-out goes to all those who've been in the trenches and keep on doing what they're doing because they like doing it.
CM: People seem to enjoy describing your music with words like "menacing," "creepy," and "scary." Is that a sound you're going for? How would you describe your own sound to someone who's never heard any of your music?
TP: I think that that's an all right description. Probably the harmonies and the minor chords lend themselves to this sort of vibe. But also I think the lyrics often hint at something very dark. Honestly, I've never really known how to describe our music. Anytime somebody asks, I get all clammy. I'm clammy right now.
CM: Some of my favorite tracks on the album have orchestral elements to them—strings, waves of sound, false crescendos. It's almost as if you're teasing your listeners a bit—I love it. Again, is this something you set out to do?
TP: I like builds and triumph and chanting. I like those orchestral elements as well. At the same time, I tend to think that the song should end as soon as it accomplishes whatever it's trying to accomplish. I'm not one to add more verses just to make the song longer or throw a bridge in there just for the sake of having a bridge. And I think that things like restraint and brevity are two more ways of creating tension.
CM: I really like the flow of the album; how did you decide on the order of tracks?
TP: To me, the flow and the songs themselves are one in the same. At least, that's the sort of album format that I appreciate: songs that make sense in the context of all the others. Theme. Coherence. Flow. I think all of us in the band feel that way. We like seamlessness. We play our sets that way too. No inter-song banter. No jokes. The order sets the mood. The mood is everything.
You can hear exactly what that mood is like at the band’s site.
Pseudosix plays at the Sunset tomorrow for the more-than-fair price of six dollars.