The first taste of electro-rockers Tired Tongues
Photo By Matt Barnes
After the sudden dissolution of Twin Cities electro-rock duo Wiping Out Thousands, guitarist/beatmaker/producer Taylor Nelson didn't remain idle for long. He has partnered up with drummer Adam Szczepaniak (the Phoenix Philosophy) to form another electronic project called Tired Tongues.
They're still working on demos for an eventual debut EP, but have shared some teaser clips and the story of their new partnership. The first Tired Tongues show isn't until November, but here's an introduction and a small, tantalizing glimpse into what they sound like.
Gimme Noise: How did you and Adam first meet up, and how long did it take for you two to start making music together?
Taylor Nelson: I first met Adam at First Avenue during the Best New Bands of 2012 showcase back in January of last year. He approached me and Alaine after our (Wiping Out Thousands) set and asked if we had ever considered adding live drums to our group dynamic. At the time, we were pretty confident with our electronic arrangements, and politely declined.
Adam Szczepaniak: Despite that, I don't think I ever wrote off the possibility of working with Taylor. Wiping Out Thousands really struck a chord with me and I immediately thought, "Yeah, I wanna play with that guy some day." Fast forward to February of this year. When I found out Wiping out Thousands was no more, I started talking to Taylor about the possibility of adding live drums to his music.
Taylor: I sent him some demos, and he recorded video of him playing drums along to the stems I had sent. I really liked the choices he made with his drum arrangements, and felt that his style of drumming matched my songwriting nicely. We continued that dialogue for a month or so, and then finally started rehearsing in late March or early April.
Did you have any musical parameters set when you started to record together to ensure your new band sounds different from your previous work?
Taylor: We actually started rehearsing long before we entered a studio. I had a lot of demos that I had been kicking around. (Tired Tongues was originally intended as a solo electro project.) It started with us playing along to a song that I had been kicking around since the Wiping Out Thousands days, just to see how drums and guitar sounded with it. That evolved into stripping out any unnecessary drum duplication in the electronic stems. It reached its final form shortly after we had built a musical rapport. We then rehearsed for about 3-4 months before stepping into the studio.
I don't think we consciously decided to avoid any parallels to Wiping Out Thousands. There will be obvious similarities between the two since I have been the primary songwriter for both projects, but I think the addition of a live drummer and an added focus to my guitar playing will present Tired Tongues as something unique. All the current Tired Tongues songs have undergone quite an evolution from where I had started, and I am really happy with how they turned out. Adam was a big influence there.
Do you enjoy the challenges -- as well as the sonic possibilities -- of being in a two-piece band?
Taylor: I've only ever been in two-piece bands! It's all I know, really. You could say I've been cheating the whole time because electronic equipment (drum machines, synthesizers, computers) can negate the need for additional band members, but it's hard to cede that control to others sometimes. I've always been a fan of the smaller group dynamic. When I was younger and just starting to learn guitar/experiment with music, I had found myself drawn to three-piece bands. Once I picked up on electronic production, the two-piece dynamic started to make the most sense to me.
With the way I approach songwriting and production, I find myself laboring over the electronic instrumentation far more than any other aspect of the arrangement. Guitars and vocals come pretty naturally, but the electronics take more effort. I want my production to have purpose. If I spend all this time arranging layer after layer of electronic instrumentation, I want that to shine just as much as my singing, guitar playing, and Adam's drumming. Adding a third member (at this time) would distract from that.
Adam: Contrary to Taylor's experience, I have been in three, four, and five-piece bands, so having only one other bandmate is a new thing for me. So far, though, I have enjoyed it. I feel that having only one other person to agree with makes the songwriting process much more fluent, and we have very similar tastes in music.
Initially, I thought it would be tough to create diversity throughout the music with only two live instruments at play, but as Taylor said, the electronic realm opens up so many possibilities. When you play an acoustic guitar, or a bass, it's always going to sound a certain way without the help of effects pedals and whatnot. When you open a soft-synth such as NI Razor, the sky is the limit with the timbres that can be created.
There is a decided NIN-like edge to the Tired Tongues songs you've shared with me. How influential is the industrial, electro-rock sound and aesthetic on you both as a songwriter and as a music fan?
Taylor: I feel that anytime a band marries electronic instrumentation with distorted guitars, the NIN reference is inevitable. I've been given that comparison with almost every album I've put out. I don't even actively listen to industrial music. While I don't mind the comparison, I don't feel I'm purposefully aiming for that sort of coat-tail gratification. Trent Reznor is a highly influential figure in my life. So is Thom Yorke, Richard D. James, Jack Dangers and Garry Cobain. Yet, every time I set out on a new project, or song, none of these people cross my mind.
I guess when I'm writing, I spend most my time experimenting with instrumentation, sampling, and drum production. I'll spend hours on something, only to throw it out. I don't chase after a particular idea until something grabs me. Once that happens, the music leads itself. I don't try to chase after derivatives. I'm certain there is a subconscious influence that will gently guide me in some cases, but I never make an assertive effort to try and sound like someone else.
How are the Tired Tongues recordings going so far? When can fans expect to hear more from you?
Taylor: We plan to release a debut EP soon. No decision on a release date. We have a lot of things we'd like to finish first. But hopefully the wait won't be too long.
How are you and Adam dividing up the instrumentation for Tired Tongues? Are any/all instruments in play on your new songs?
Adam: For this first release, Taylor arranged all of the electronic parts himself. Once an idea was in a complete song form, we would bring it to rehearsal and he would work out guitar and vocals while I wrote a drum part. At that point, we would figure out what needs to change in both our performances and the electronics in order to make the best song possible.
For the future, who knows? Taylor and I are both capable of playing multiple instruments, which could lead to a wide variety of things. The cool thing is that we have the electronics, so if Taylor were to put down his guitar for a song, we can just fill it out with something that takes up that frequency range as opposed to things sounding emptier.
Your first scheduled live performance isn't until November -- what does the band plan on doing in the meantime, and how do you anticipate rolling out your future releases?
Taylor: We have quite a few people involved in our project -- all of them close friends and creative colleagues -- and we treat Tired Tongues as a collective. We aren't looking to just release an album and start playing shows. We have much more we would like to do.
Joshua Bartz is doing our graphic design and album artwork and Matt Barnes is doing our photography and video work. Both of them were greatly involved with Wiping Out Thousands in 2013 and helped produce the "Evening" music video and the "Crossing Wires" video blog. The content they created was astounding, and I really wanted to continue that partnership.
Our recording engineer, Adam Tucker (Signaturetone Recording), has been an invaluable asset to me in my career. He was the original co-founder of Wiping out Thousands back in 2010, and has been involved in every album I have put out since Reaction Machine. He was closely involved with This Came First, and had even greater involvement in the new Tired Tongues record. He's an incredible influence in my production techniques, songwriting, and overall musical decision-making. I don't think I could ever work with another engineer in town.
Finally, my dear friend and co-conspirator Kent Horgan is managing the new project and is helping me direct the ship. He managed Wiping Out Thousands from beginning to end, and made life incredibly easy for Alaine and me. With all involved, we (Tired Tongues) have a lot of work we would like to finish up before releasing anything to the public. It's going to be a very purposeful and intentional release.
Taylor, do you have any Wiping Out Thousands' material still in the vault that you might release some day? And is there anything that you wanted to say to your fans about the dissolution of your beloved former band?
Taylor: Wiping Out Thousands met an impasse, and dissolved. I don't feel there is much more that needs to be said there. Alaine is an incredibly talented individual, and I hope to see her continue writing music and playing shows. It would be a real shame if Minneapolis stages ceased her graces. Do I hope Wiping Out Thousands could return someday? Yes. Preferably with Alaine at the helm. I haven't given much thought to replacing her with another vocalist. However, if I had to leave that project behind, I would find myself content with what it accomplished.
As for your question about Wiping Out Thousands material in the vault: yes, there is a lot of it. A lot of it is sketches of my own. Were they songs written while the group was still together? Yes. But a lot of it never even reached the band. Some of it did, but never got fleshed out. Some of the ideas that I wrote on the side made it to the Tired Tongues record, mainly due to the fact that Adam's drumming breathed new life into otherwise stale arrangements. I hesitate to share much more, but I think fans of Wiping Out Thousands will enjoy what Tired Tongues is doing.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.