Dial-Up: I'm into taking pop and smudging it up a bit
Photo by Andrew Jansen
A whole lot has changed for Andrew O'Laughlin Jansen over the past few years. He's transformed from the loveably blissed-out frontman of the basement folk-punk troupe A Paper Cup Band to a father and family man, but his freewheeling charm is still wonderfully intact. Now the primary songwriter for two awesome local groups, a brooding avant-surf band called Crimes, and his tippier solo/family project known as Dial-Up. After last year's stint as full-on rock band featuring his wife Aila O'Laughlin Jansen and Elliot Snyder of Part Mammal, Dial-Up has been dialed-back to fit its mastermind's new schedule.
Ahead of Sunday's release show for Cold Rinse at Icehouse, Gimme Noise caught up with Andrew to discuss balancing fatherhood, his new synth toys, and Nudes.
Gimme Noise: Your band has always had a really unique chemistry, being as you're a husband-and-wife group. Now that you've got a baby in the picture, has that changed how you write songs?
Andrew O'Laughlin Jansen: Yeah, this whole project, Cold Rinse, I would work on basically by myself after 9 p.m. For some stints I would be going downstairs into the basement every night after 9 or 10 p.m. when she's asleep until 2 or until I had to go to sleep, then wake up and go to work. So this one was mostly me, on the record. I played most of the instruments. We're going to have a full band at Icehouse, and it will be slightly re-interpreted, just because it's a different dynamic when you get a full band. I don't necessarily think it has to sound exactly like the record when we do it live, because this record was definitely not a full-band writing process. I needed Elliot to play drums on "Wooden Silo" because it's kind of more of a live drum sound, but other than that, I don't know if anyone really did anything else. I hope! I don't want to offend anyone [laughs].
It's a different approach. I'm moving to California in two weeks because Aila's doing grad school, and I'll be there until the summer, then I'll come back. But I'll probably end up having to do something similar, where it's mostly just me writing stuff out and getting the band together to play it.
So with all the new responsibilities in your life, including the record you put out with your other group Crimes this year, is it tough to find time to for Dial-Up?
I think that's why it's becoming more of a bedroom project. I kind of call it "bedroom pop" because I think out of necessity it's becoming that. Also because it's more synthesizers and more experimentation. If I'm gonna get a bunch of musicians together, I can't really fool around. With Crimes we'll kind of jam and get noisey, but we still know what we're doing. It's fun in Dial-Up to not know and really really go outside of the box. Even though it's still pop, for each song there's about five different versions, each mixed in weird ways with different aspects coming in and out, and what is on the record now is almost a remix of what it was before.
That makes a lot of sense to me, because Dial-Up songs, especially on this record, have always been this really vulnerable but melodic pop material, washed with all sorts of textures and noise. Do you like the idea of obscuring the inherent catchiness of what you write?
Yeah, even like the last four songs or five songs on the record kind of drone in to together, even the beat. Pieces of song five are on song six, so they kind of go into each other. But yeah, I'm really into taking pop, and smudging it up a little bit. Sure, they could be really clean, but I just didn't like they way that sounded. But they could be done really bubblegum-y if you wanted to, or super twee-pop, or they could be done more they way they are, which is a little droney-er and fuzzy.
What's been influencing your process? I've been hearing some more Trip-Hop type sounds on this record. Was there any new gear you were playing with that you got a lot of inspiration from?
Oh totally! I got this analog synthesizer, it's a remake from Korg's first big commercial synthesizer, the MS-20. Basically, I had these songs written, and they were really really trip-hoppy, and the drum machine was the main thing at first. Then I got that MS-20 and I put it literally over everything. I started getting rid of guitars, and getting rid of other things, maybe I'd have like 5 tracks that I could get rid of because I'd add like, one synth line that really poked out a lot more. The MS-20 was the quintessential thing. That came out in February, and I got it in March, and that was when I started working like, every night for a couple of months until it was done.
Some of these songs were written during Landline, so some of these are actually 2 years old, which to me means a lot because it's really hard to be into something that's old that you wrote. Usually musicians just want to move on to the next thing, but what was nice was the structures were all there for me, and technology kind of changed with the MS-20 being available for not back-breaking prices.
I remember you saying when Landline was released that Dial-Up was more of a demo-reel project for you, and during that recording and subsequent shows it became much more about the live-band. Which do feel is kind of truer to the idea of Dial-Up that you have in your head?
I really think the solo, kind of bedroom pop thing is more what I'm going for. I think when we try and play it live, you let some things go, and the you really enjoy those parts that other people write. But it is a different process, and I'm not going to be a control freak, because I actually really like the way other people do things. I really like having it be different live, but I think the core of it is more of a solo, bedroom project.
As a music journalist, I spend a lot of time on Bandcamp, and one of the things that always tickles me is when people use funny "tags" to highlight their record for searching. I really loved your tags for Cold Rinse, so I'd like you to give me a sentence or two about why you chose each one. First up is "Cult."
I dunno, I like to kind of think of this as weird scripture [laughs]. That's what's cool about tags, I'm hoping the kind of person that types in "cult" would be into the record.
What about "Gray?"
Oh, well Gray is the name of our child! But that's what's interesting, is people wouldn't know that, because it's a color, and I feel like the record does have this weird in-between vibe.
Broadcast is a really awesome band! They're like my favorite band.
Finally, "Nudes." Why "Nudes?"
Because I'm hoping whoever is searching for nudes in Bandcamp, I want them to come to our site, you know? [Laughs] I want weirdos looking at it!
So why a release Cold Rinse on Cassette this time, instead of Vinyl like Landline?
I wish it could be on vinyl, but I can't really front that money right now. Also, I really like vinyl, and that's how I listen to music very often, in addition to digital. But I do also listen to a lot of cassettes, and it's not like I drive a new car, the car I drive is from '98 so it definitely has a cassette player.
Actually, Side B of this record is a mixtape of really awesome stuff. So I really feel like it's going to be a really strong cassette . Side B is gonna be like J. Dilla and a lot of swung instrumental hip-hop, to kind of go on that Trip-Hop vibe, even though it's more of the American version of trip-hop. But it's that same cadence. Not R&B, but kind of bob-your-head.
Dial-Up Cold Rinse Release. With Carroll. $5, 9:30 p.m., Sunday, December 15 at Icehouse. Tickets here.
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