Lovely Dark on nature and Territories' evolving sounds
There's no way to avoid indie rock if you're from the Twin Cities, but delve a little further into the scene, and there are subtleties that separate the sounds. Take Minneapolis' Lovely Dark's organic sound, which originated as a bedroom experiment.
On their new album Territories, the band explores music perfumed with nature: warm, choppy luxurious sounds that shimmer with a resplendent glow.
Travis Even - Guitar, Vocals
Sonia Even - Vocals, Keys, Percussion
Kent Thomson - Bass, Keys, Vocals
Ben Johnston - Drums, Percussion
Max Becker - Drums, Guitar, Percussion
Brian Lake - Guitar, Percussion
Lovely Dark started as a bedroom recording project. What was the pivot point where you realized it was something much more?
Travis: At the beginning of last year, I was finishing tracking the album Fables of the Cloth for a band I play bass for, Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo. I realized the vitality that different inputs can bring to a recording. I originally asked Max to lay down some drum tracks because he played with me previously in Young Brides. My initial idea was to just bring people in over time. He suggested that we just go for it and here we are! It's awesome playing with this group of people.
Kent: Sonia and Travis brought a collection of songs that they had written to me and Max. Once the four of us started jamming on them, it quickly became obvious that there was a certain chemistry among the members, and that the songs would quickly grow to encompass more instrumentation than the four of us could provide. First Ben and then Brian were brought in to provide the additional rhythm and melody that the songs kind of demanded.
Six members makes for a full band. What is everyone's background and what do they bring musically to the table? How do you maintain control on the sound with so many people onstage?
Travis: Max plays in Power of 2, and he brings a lot of the passion to the drumming. He also has great taste of what needs to be in and out of a song. Our other drummer Ben Johnston plays in Self-Evident. He's a human metronome. He eats, breathes, and sleeps drums. The parts where we play with varying time signatures are definitely his influence. Brian Lake is the screamer/shredder in Buildings, and he's got a very lyrical way of guitar playing which is often masked in his loud group. We're what he describes as his "jam band" where he never clicks on distortion. Kent Thomson is our ace in the hole. He sings, plays bass, keyboards and whatever else you throw at him. My wife Sonia Even also plays with me in Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo and has a great ear for harmony and melody. I've played in groups ranging from Tora! Tora! Torrance! to Spaghetti Western String Co.
We all have a great chemistry together. I've played in groups where there is a definite "leader" but I'm proud to say that we're very democratic. The only issue we have is time since everyone has multiple irons in the fire.
We're still learning how to control our sound on stage. Every venue is different and with the sheer amount of equipment and members we have we're often forced to analyze the situation when we get there. Sometimes we literally sketch out a configuration of how we can fit before hand. Honestly a lot of how we sound depends upon the sound person - for whom we are eternally grateful for their patience. Six members with three vocalists sharing lead duties and two drummers is not an easy ship to steer.
Kent: Also, Having two awesome drummers really helps to focus the onstage sound.
Max: When we are writing our songs, I think we are also careful in making sure we're not all always playing at the same time. It can get muddy real quick, so we often remove parts as much as we add them.
As far as the drums go, Ben and I are rarely playing the same beat. We play off of each other a lot without making it sound too much like there are two drummers. I think most people, when listening to the record, won't necessarily notice the separation between the two parts. It's definitely something that's more noticeable live.
Looks like this debut album is a long time coming. What was the decision on the wait?
Travis: With members in different touring groups everything takes a bit longer. We wanted to wait and play enough shows to let the songs evolve naturally. Some of the songs on this album are very old and some are brand new. We're very proud of it but I'm anxious to see how everything will evolve on the follow up.
Travis: The majority of the record was tracked with Neil at the Old Blackberry Way Studio. I worked with him previously on a couple of records and his output always sounds great. The vocals and non-loud instruments were recorded at my house and the piano was tracked at Keys 4/4 Kids.
A lot of the pieces seem to involve nature in the aesthetic. Where did the inspiration come from?
Travis: From the land.
Max: I'm always a little surprised when we finish writing a song and it still holds the original organic, earthy tone that it started with. Travis usually shows us a basic idea for a song, and it's often a bit slow and on acoustic guitar and sounds kind of folky. Then we start layering on all of the drums, keys, more guitars, distortion, three part harmonies, and all of the sudden we have a pop song.
When we started the band, Travis was playing acoustic through an amp, and I was playing with wire brushes. For the first few months I thought I was in a folk band. That quickly changed as we added members. Things got louder and louder. But still, I can hear Travis' original nature inspired ideas as the framework of our finished, now much louder, songs.
Favorite track off the new album?
Travis/Kent: I'd say "Three-Legged Crow."
Max: For me it's probably "The Great Furnace". It's pretty dynamic and has a ton of parts. It's a blast to play too.
What was the story you wanted to tell with Territories?
Travis: The basic concept of the album is that when it is man versus nature: nature always wins. Recently Sonia and I were lucky enough to travel to a couple of volcanoes. It is quite humbling to walk through the remains of a complex civilization being unearthed at Pompeii and to contrast this with new land cracking underfoot in Hawaii. Nature has a way of cycling and returning things to either water or fire. There are so many seriously frightening items happening out there that it really seems like we're testing our own fate. When you get older you realize that life is rather a delicate journey. Man is an invasive species who needs to count his blessings.
Kent: A theme of unwanted transformation runs through Territories. It's the story of how change, in the forms of technology, society, or catastrophe, comes whether we like it or not, and all the different ways that humans choose to embrace or reject it. The last lines of the record say it all: "We came from the sea...and now the sea comes for us".
What are some artists that you are currently listening to? Anyone that you would like to collaborate with?
Travis: The Acorn, Father John Misty, Colour Sun, Shearwater, White Rabbits, Half Moon Run. I'd love to collaborate with Tinariwen, The Mast, or more realistically any number of remixers.
What can we expect at the show at Hell's Kitchen?
Travis: We've got a great line up planned with Speed's the Name, Nice Purse, and Big Lake. This will also be the afterparty of the Northstar Roller Girls who will be celebrating a bout earlier in the evening. So it should be a pretty exciting night!
Lovely Dark will release Territories with Speed's The Name, Hunting Club, and Big Lake at Hell's Kitchen on Saturday, April 28, 2012.
18+, $5, 10 pm
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