All too often overlooked, Adam Svec has quietly put together a consistently enjoyable body of music that continues to evolve with each album. Gimme Noise had the pleasure of catching up with the busy singer for a beer at Bryant Lake Bowl in ahead of tonight's release party at Cause.
[jump] Over the past few years, Svec has set himself apart as one of the Twin Cities' more prolific songwriters. Since he released his first solo album in 2008, the former Glad Version member released a follow-up last year, Rarefaction, and now, barely a year later, is a releasing another one tonight: Weaks in the Waves.
If that doesn't seem busy enough, then think about this: Svec is also in the middle of pursuing a (rather complicated sounding) dual clinical doctorate and research doctorate in audiology and speech language hearing sciences at the U of M.
This album has more musicians on it than your previous ones, including No Bird Sing. How'd they all get involved?
It actually started with the same core group as usual--Ben Rengstorf on accordion, Chris Salter on guitar, and Karen Salter on accordion--in my attic. Graham O'Brien was originally going to remix all the tracks, but we ran out of time. Plus they actually lived better in their initial space than we thought.
Graham and [his brother] Casey and I are actually talking about starting this weird as hell other band. It's mostly Graham and Casey hooking me up with samples of drum and bass stuff with vocals on top. Graham is the ax man, so you might play 100 tracks and he says, "No, that's stupid!" We've been trading track ideas, but nothing's been laid down yet. Tentatively, it's called Proofreader.
Did you record everything in your attic then?
We put the basic tracks down in my attic, then No Bird Sing did their stuff at Graham's house. Actually Casey did his parts afterwards; the only time he was available was when we were mixing the tracks at Adam Krinsky's! Unfortunately in some ways time played a major mechanism in the decision making of this album, mostly because Karen is pregnant and due on June 10.
Was it not an option to wait until later?
It was an option, that's just not our style. [laughs]
Do you think the album would have come out differently, or better, if there hadn't been that rush?
You know, we spent a lot of time on the Glad Version records, and I think those sound really good. These [solo records] have been tracked quickly out of necessity, but an interesting piece to that limitation is that it may not be my favorite take, but it's what you did in a limited amount of time. I feel I personally tend to overcook stuff, so there's the danger of allowing myself too much time.
Maybe that's a bit of safeguard then.
For the other two it was deliberate. For this one it was a function of my school schedule.
Svec doing a live performance of the unreleased track, "Thunder on the Harraseeket."
I can see how your graduate work might overlap with your music. Does it have any influence on things?
Maybe lyrically, not so much thematically. It has definitely made me play my guitar amps more quietly! [laughs] Songwriting has always been an escape from whatever my daily routine is, so I still use that as a tool for that now even though I really like what I'm doing.
I do think that my affinity for the science in sound was borne from doing things in the studio. If you look at recording compared to a live show, the mixing is much different, the way that you're trying to segregate sounds. But through headphones you build spaces in a much different fasion, and that's true of hearing aids too; you have to build the sounds in the ear canal rather than extracting them from space.
Getting back to the album, I have to say that as you've done more stuff with other musicians, the music has actually gotten a little more spontaneous feeling.
That's interesting. Honestly, I'm really not that good of a band leader. I'm not very organized, and I'm not very good at knowing what part goes where. If Casey hears something after the fact, maybe picks up on a different melody or something, that's cool with me. So it kind of works out well that way.
Lyrically there's been a progression, too. Weaks in the Waves kind of feels like the natural extension of Rarefaction that way.
In the past I've written things a bit more narrowly, I've had a couple experiences that hit me real hard and inspired most the songs. Each song is a little more individually inspired this time, like I tried to extract myself from a routine. A few songs, like "Weaks in the Waves," were inspired by a Dominican trip I took with some friends a couple years ago. It was an interesting and hard experience, like I didn't know it'd be that quite that poor--running into people with limbs, and eyes, just like, whoa! So I tried to blow up my personal experience into something more connected to the human condition.
So does this album have you feeling like it might you send you in any different directions down the road?
I tend to write by myself so it makes sense that my songs would be intricate and quiet, but I do like the idea of brazening things up a bit, doing something a little more robust. I saw Wye Oak when they played the Turf Club; their loud-quiet-loud makes me feel like a teenager and I can't help listening to it twice a day... Plus Chris is the sickest guitarist I've ever met. I've reigned him in the last two projects, but I want to really let him go balls to the wall.