Constantly pondering and searching for meaning in song form can lead to a prolific catalog of music. So it goes for the Persian Leaps and their third album in three years. Their latest record, High & Vibrate, celebrates the indie-rock resonance they perfected on their first two albums, and climbs its way from a rumbling, dense-yet-light sound with bright spikes and sharp edges.
Before their album-release Friday at the 331 Club, City Pages caught up with lead singer Drew Forsberg to chat about his prolific output and how an attractive blonde woman was immortalized in their single.
City Pages: What is it about bands like My Bloody Valentine and Guided By Voices that still influences you to this day?
Drew Forsberg: For me, it's all about the hooks. It's a fault, perhaps, but I don't have much patience for music that doesn't have an immediate pop hook. It can be played on a ukulele, drenched in guitar feedback, or buried under lo-fi hiss, but it needs to be there for me.
What I love about My Bloody Valentine is that underneath the revolutionary tones and textures, there are still some great hooks, and with Guided By Voices, the hooks are incredible, even when they were recorded none-too-carefully on a 4-track. But on top of the hooks, they offer distinctive sonic/songwriting perspectives that are immediately recognizable. That's what ties it all together for me.
CP: The band has consistently put out an album each year for the last few years. Why do you think you are so prolific at writing and putting out new content? Are you ever concerned that it's overload?
DF: Here's the plan. Right now, I have at least a few more EPs worth of material stockpiled that I'd like to put out. But we all have careers, families, mortgages, and so on, so we can't drop everything and record it all at once. I'd rather focus on consistency and repeatable results using a manageable schedule.
Every year, we take the five best songs we have ready that work well together, record them over the winter, and then release them the next fall. It's a more calculated approach than your average band, but so be it. Some songs I write fall by the wayside. They'd make it on a full-length album, if we made one, but I want to focus on quality and not quantity.
Once you get into the pattern, it's easier to put out five songs per year than release a full album, take a few years off, and then somehow lurch back into the process with the pressure of putting together a full album's worth of material. I'd rather keep the process consistent, low-key, and enjoyable. Maybe I'm onto something that will work better in this new music economy, maybe it's a horrible mistake, but it works for us.CP: How do you think your sound has changed since last year's Drive Drive Delay?
DF: Honestly, I'm not convinced it has, and I'm OK with that. It's by design. We didn't arrive at this sound on a whim. It's how I've always wanted to sound, and I don't see it changing radically. The songs aren't necessarily recorded and released in the order they were written, so any given release will have a collection of songs written over several years. If there appears to be a linear progression, it's accidental or in the eye of the beholder.
That said, I feel like we're always improving on how we use the studio as a way to approach our ideal sound. We've worked with Neil Weir in some capacity on all of our releases so far and we're all getting more and more comfortable working with each other at his studio, Old Blackberry Way. I definitely didn't have any prior experience recording in a studio prior to this band, so I had a lot to learn about the process and what works best for us.
Also, this will be the first release with our new bass player, Adam Brunner. He's really brought a dynamic new vibe to the band. Our drummer's brother, Neil McCloskey, joined us in the studio to sing backup on two songs. He played bass in the band for the first year or so, including on the Praise Elephants EP, and it was fun to have him back.
CP: Tell me more about the single "Dottie, Queen of the West." How did you come to write that song?
DF: That's the oldest song on the album. I wrote it about eight years ago. Did you ever have a private, internal nickname for a stranger you saw all the time? Back when I was still an archaeologist, I worked with a crew of land surveyors from Texas on a pipeline project. They were led by this attractive, 50-something blonde woman who always wore a cowboy hat, Western shirts, and a jean jacket.
She had this hard-living, classic country singer look — like Tammy Wynette or Loretta Lynn. Before I learned her name, my internal nickname for her was Dottie, Queen of the West. No idea where that phrase came from, but that's the origin of the song title. It's not specifically about her, just generally about a strong woman who's afraid to show her tender side.
CP: What's the goal with this album?
DF: On a practical level, the same as with the previous releases: get our five best new songs out there. Grow our audience, if incrementally. Enjoy the process and then repeat. But on a higher level, I'm probably trying to achieve what my influences have: write some great hooks but with a style and sound that are distinctively Persian Leaps.
CP: What are you excited to share at the album release show?
DF: We'll be playing most of the songs from the new EP, as well as several new ones that likely will be on the next release. We took the summer off from playing live so this will be our first show since June. It's exciting to be playing again, and I'm looking forward to sharing the stage with our friends in Deleter and Dan Mariska & the Boys Choir.
The Persian Leaps album release for High & Vibrate
With: Dan Mariska and the Boys Choir and Deleter.
When: 9:30 p.m., September 25, 2015.
Where: 331 Club.