Reggie: It ranges from spontaneous creations or someone may bring a basic idea. Alex may bring chord structure; Kevin may bring bass lines or some samples. I might bring in a melodic line of some sort. Davis might have a drum beat that he's working on or vice versa. Other people's mediums. Someone may have an idea for someone else's medium. In general, it's built off spontaneity or an idea that is introduced formally and brought into the rehearsal space.
Davis: Most of it's done by jamming and recording the jams and going back and re-arranging it.
Reggie: Like brainstorming.
And as it applies to the new release?
Kevin: Well, it's been interesting cuz we wanted to do a lot of pre-production before we went into the studio. We kinda wanted to take our songs as we play them live and really look at the arrangements of them and really tweak them out for the record. But right when we started to do that, our van got stolen...lost.
Alex: It turns out it was a cop that impounded it and didn't turn in his paperwork. Three weeks later, we were filing an insurance claim for our equipment; we got a call from a detective who found it up at a towing lot. I called Vehicle Records, hotlines and stuff and it wasn't there.
Kevin: We didn't have much preparation for the studio.
Alex: We spent most of our time scrambling to find instruments to record with and at the last minute we got it all back. It was emotionally stressful but it turned out to be okay in the end.
Wasn't there a benefit held in your behalf?
Reggie: Our friends threw it for us.
Davis: It was really embarrassing for us. It was nice seeing people reach out, but when we got our stuff back, we were like, "aagh."
Alex: We bought a lot of beer and kinda ate some of the costs. There was a water main that broke open at the party. So we had to give a lot of the money to them cuz they had a soaked up carpet that need to dry out.
Davis: Back to the question. We were going to do a lot of pre-production for it but we didn't get a chance to. And the record is what it is. It happened for a reason, so we got into the studio and we recorded a couple of jams that we had done at The Owl and Thistle and Kevin went over the jam tapes and picked out "Subtle Ways," "Believe," "Intuition" off those jam tapes. We basically arranged those while we were in the studio. Or in "Subtle Ways" case we just pressed "record" and went over it. Reggie improvised most of the lyrics. I think that represents us the way we play live. It's got the most soul in it.
Reggie: I agree.
Kevin: "Twilight" does too. There's one song that was just an instrumental that was recorded to DAT and we ended up putting on the record which was an improvised sound check which again, as Davis was saying, closely represents what we do live. It has that type of feel, really fresh.
Reggie: Very communicative.
Kevin: No overdubs.
Alex: And some songs have zillions of overdubs just because we wanted to know what we would sound like if we had string quartets, an acoustic piano.
Kevin: We tried to do as many overdubs that we could do in a day.
Alex: Yeah, it was basically a two-week record. We did about one song a day. One of the songs took a couple of days cuz it's about 14 minutes long. It's a big song. It has 3 parts in it. It's kind of a suite. That was one of the cool things about knowing we were going to release this on our own. We weren't going to have some label representative telling us to cut the song, make it smaller. We just experimented.
Kevin: There are 3 songs on the record that we did almost a year beforehand with Brad Smith [of Luma].
Reggie: Half a year--six months.
Kevin: Six months beforehand and he helped out a lot. He actually produced those songs. To me that was like, "We can do this on our own..."
Alex: [laughs] We can make a record y'know.
Kevin: Y'know cuz it was basically recorded in Brad's basement and it sounds great and it was a lot of fun. It didn't need a $100,000 budget and we didn't need a month. We did 3 songs in a week and that was "Oh man, we can do this [ourselves]."
Any interesting anecdotes about the new songs?
Alex: Some of the songs on that record we've been playing for years and some of them, we basically wrote in the studio based on the live improvisation. We went back and made a concrete form for it and replayed it and layered some other parts on top of it and came up with a pretty unique thing. A couple of the songs we haven't performed live yet because they were so studio-based. And some of the other songs are favorite live jams that we always groove on.
Reggie: Some songs we tried to record in the studio.
Alex: And it didn't come out right [laughs].
Reggie: We've been playing them for years.
Davis: I used to keep track of these different writing periods that we went through and I think it was the second one that we wrote "Little by Little" in and it was just an amazing song but we just couldn't get it down [in the studio].
Reggie: It sounded wacked!
Davis: That's the type of song where you want it to sound really good.
Alex: Maybe it wasn't time for it.
Reggie: Exactly...it's weird because the first record was, for me...you put all these songs and you commit it to a record. And I've been listening to the record a lot to get different points of view...but if we had just had better technology, it would sound a little bit cleaner; it's almost as if that's all the songs we have; and this is how they are going to be preserved. That was a realization for me. We're going to make more songs and the way we put down the songs have a history and they sound the way they do and they sound great.
Davis: And the great thing about doing it yourself, you get to make your mistakes too. You'd rather learn from it than have somebody else make them for you--responsibility for everything which is empowering. The other interesting thing about the record is that it took three and a half years of material which is a lot different than a year; obviously; you go through a bunch of different phases and a bunch of different emotions in that time. It's very eclectic in that sense; we have R&B and disco, funk, slow jams and experimental type stuff.
Alex: It's the kind of record that would be better on the second or third listen which is a nice thing. For me, it kinda feels like that; it's a record that you'll come back to and you won't just hear it and forget about it.
How did you guys say this is what you wanted to do?
Davis: We never did.
Kevin: It didn't happen like that...
Davis: It would've been impossible with the egos involved in this band to say, "we're going to do things like this." Especially the way we write music. Everybody would be like, "No." Because everybody in this band is capable of doing everything themselves. We joined together to get away from that. I think that's one of the main reasons why it sounds the way it does because it's not one particular vision coming from one particular person.
Alex: Everybody gets equal responsibility for the music, so it's empowering. It's not like you're sitting in the corner in somebody else's band while the singer is up front. I mean everybody's gotta work really hard to play their thing.
Alex: Yeah, it's so integral [to what we do] and it has a lot to do with chemistry. We're only four players and I think we sound like a lot more than that. You hear a live tape of this band and most people would think we had a guitar player and maybe a second keyboard player.
Kevin: I always felt that I could play my thing but when somebody is playing their thing, how can I still play my thing while supporting theirs? And that was new for me in this band. I think that's what is different in terms of how the sound developed. I think part of it came from allowing people to go off into their world and to support that but still feel you're playing your own.
Davis: Especially for Kevin and I. If Kevin starts off a jam on the bass with a definite feeling of where the one is and I come in and start it on the three, that would dramatically change how it works.
[rest of the band concurs]
Kevin: That happens with Kaya a lot. And at that point, I'm like, "Oh shit, do I change it to hear what Davis is doing?" A lot of times, I don't make a decision, it kinda just happens.
Alex: Just go there, whatever is needed.
Reggie: Sometimes Alex may start off on a chord structure, chord pattern and Kevin comes in playing everything but the root. He's playing and if I'm ready to sing, I just chill out awhile and see what happens and I will be listening and Kevin comes in and wow!
Alex [finishing up what Reggie was saying]: that's a different idea...
Reggie: Then I listen for awhile and I realize that I have more melody options because it's not the expected grooves.