Ebb and Flow

geotic and christopher willits

This summer, Will Wiesenfeld, the artist widely known for recording edgy electronic pop as Baths, released Morning Shore, the first in a new series of full-length albums under his Geotic moniker. Each release in the series, collectively known as Eon Isle, will be sourced entirely from a single instrument, and the music showcases Wiesenfeld’s more mellow, ambient style. Morning Shore is a warm bath of guitar loops that gently ebb and flow, perhaps reflecting the Malibu setting in which they were recorded.

Christopher Willits is not only an accomplished musician, but also a multimedia artist whose interests in film and photography were a strong influence on his new Opening album, released on Ghostly International. The tracks for the album and the accompanying visuals were recorded over four years in multiple countries. Like Wiesenfeld’s Morning Shore album, swaths of guitar sounds illuminate a path for reflective and imaginative listening.

We thought it would be an interesting exercise to bring these two artists together and have them ask each other questions about their music and process. By the end of just 10 questions, the possibility of a collaborative recording was born…

Questions for Christopher Willits posed by Geotic

christopher willits photo by tomo saito
Christopher Willits, Photo by Tomo Saito

Geotic: How does your studio environment inspire you during recording?
Christopher Willits: Having my own mixing and mastering space is a serious luxury. I usually have access to studios to properly hear mixes, but now that the Overlap Studio is happening, I can set my own speed and take as much time as I need to finish things.

G: Do you have a fantasy studio setup beyond what you have now, and what would that include? Or if not, what is one of your favorite studio assets or pieces of gear that you currently use?
CW: I’m really happy with what we have for mixing and mastering right now. I’d like to add a DW Fern VT-7 for some extra compression options or some older tube compression to contrast the Neve MBP and SSL compressors we use. But man, I would love to have a Neve console, not too picky which one really. Right now, if I need a console I have access to an SSL Duality and a drum room, but to have my own full console and room to track would be so amazing.

G: How important are visual aesthetics to your music, and how are you involved in that process?
CW: I’m realizing that my music is all visual. I approach music more like painting and graphic design — taking colors and shapes of sounds, chords, notes, texture, bass, and connecting and overlapping them until it feels right. I just hear it and do it. I’m not thinking about music as a thing, just sound as a feeling and images in the imagination.

My work now is more visual also in a literal sense. I’m making these audiovisual pieces from the ground up — shooting, editing, and adjusting color. It feels good, like the sounds and images have created a home together.

G: Can you talk separately about two of the most positive experiences you’ve had with listening to music and creating music?
CW: When I was 13, the music of Jimi Hendrix was the most amazing thing I had ever heard. It was like hearing someone make the music you had been listening to in you dreams. I knew I was going to play guitar for the rest of my life after listening to Hendrix, especially “Machine Gun” from Band of Gypsys Live at the Fillmore East.

I love John Coltrane. He’s another artist that I feel a very deep connection with. And I love his work with McCoy Tyner. The way he voices chords is just so beautiful. I can’t see Coltrane since he’s passed, but being able to see McCoy Tyner at Yoshi’s was so incredible. When I’m old, maybe I’ll just play some far-out jazz.

Creating Ocean Fire with Ryuichi Sakamoto was pretty surreal. It was the first time we ever met, and we recorded in his New York studio for hours. Pure sound communication. No speaking, only listening and responding with sound.

Playing my first show in Tokyo was a really amazing experience. Every show teaches you something, but this one really stood out. In the middle of my set, I looked up and felt this incredible feeling, like a validation of everything I wanted to do in my life. I could feel the audience connecting to the sound, and it was just so clear to me that I’m here to create and bring people together in this way.

G: What differences or similarities do you experience when collaborating versus recording by yourself? Do you prefer one to the other?
CW: I love collaboration because it always shows me something new about my own practice and how I communicate and relate to others. But I also love working solo, because it always shows me new things about myself that I would not discover outside of a creative process that is solely my responsibility. For me, it’s about setting an intention and designing a process around that. If the project calls for collaboration, I’ll do that. One thought that often goes through my mind that’s related to this is that, really, everything is a collaboration. You are always in collaboration with the universe around you. It’s all consciousness and I am one part of this incredible whole.

Questions for Geotic posed by Christopher Willits

baths photo by david michael cortes
Geotic, Photo by David Michael Cortes

Christopher Willits: What was the intention behind the looping guitar pieces?
Geotic: I really enjoy meditative and ambient music, and when I set out to make a guitar record I wanted to try and write in that style. It’s kind of a comfort zone for me. I like to take my time with the pieces and slowly shape them into a comfortable loop.

CW: Do you remember what was on the Geotic CD-R you gave me in 2008 after my show with Stars of the Lid?
G: I don’t! I completely forgot that I gave you something, although I definitely remember meeting you at that show! So curious what was on it.

CW: What is your all-time favorite album?
G: Probably Alligator by The National. I still find it very resonant and emotional after so many years of listening to it.

CW: Have you ever been attacked by a wild animal?
G: Almost! My brother and I went out to record stone samples for my last record and decided to venture into the woods at night. We were sure (but have no proof) that a mountain lion started to pursue us. We backed out of the area extremely slowly and then raced back to our car, afraid that we would be attacked at any second!

CW: Do you want to come up to San Francisco and make an album in a day with me?
G: That sounds rad! I’d love to. I’ve gotta find the time, since I’m just about to start school in a few weeks. But definitely down. Thanks for the questions!

Breakin’ the Law

Ryan Pollie is Los Angeles Police Department

On a new self-titled album, Ryan Pollie’s Los Angeles Police Department project takes the bedroom pop tag to heart. We talked with Pollie about recording on his own terms, nostalgia, Philly cheesesteaks, and that band name.

Bandcamp: On Los Angeles Police Department, you take the bedroom pop tag very literally. Did the comfort and convenience of being at home help the recording process? And do you think that there is a sound or vibe from a small personal space that you can’t replicate in a studio?
Los Angeles Police Department: There’s a massive difference for me between going into the studio and recording at home. I think recording at home can never sound as “quality” as something that’s done professionally, but I tend to get super anxious when I’m doing takes in the studio. At home, I’m never worried about fucking up while experimenting or how long it’s taking to get a drum part right. Also, engineers and producers would probably hate working with me, because I’m often writing the song as I’m recording it. So they’d have to sit there while I figure out a chorus or sing gibberish. It would probably be a really uncomfortable experience for everyone involved.

BC: On Facebook, you refer to Los Angeles Police Department as “we.” Who else is in the band and who plays what on the album?
LAPD: I think when people are talking about Los Angeles Police Department recordings, they’re talking about just me. All the instruments and vocals and everything on the record are me, except two bass tracks were done by Justin, who lives with me and has been writing and playing music with me since I was 14. The live band is like the other side of the same coin and I’m really proud of it for different reasons. It’s way more energetic and fun, partially because our drummer Brendan is an animal and loves Keith Moon, and because our guitarist Will is super shreddy.

Ryan Pollie is Los Angeles Police Department

BC: Can you please spill the beans on why you chose the name Los Angeles Police Department for the band name and album title? (We did giggle at your Facebook page, which lists you as working at the LAPD.)
LAPD: I think that giggle factor is definitely the main reason I chose that name. It cracked me up. As far as the album being self-titled, it was always my intention to have sesos design the artwork as a kind of busy, micro mural thing that would stand alone without a band name interfering with it. So it didn’t allow for any album title brainstorming. I got the records the other day and the artwork is incredible.

BC: How did you arrive at the idea of recording each song in a day, and how many days did you do this? Were there any 11:59 p.m. “not gonna’ make this deadline” emergencies?
LAPD: I write a song pretty much every time I’m by myself and pick up an instrument. When it came to recording, I would just get in the practice of opening up my computer and setting everything up as soon as I would write the skeleton for the song. In my head they weren’t going to be released and be talked about, so it allowed me to just get something down and mess about without thinking too hard about getting the right take. It was never like, “oh I have to finish this one by tonight or fuck it.” It was more that I wanted to get everything down while the energy was there. I have a much tougher time writing a song and recording it a month later. The more I play a tune and think about it and practice it, the more I doubt how good it is; I get insecure about it. So it’s just easier for me to try to finish everything at once. Then I can just look back and think, “that was that song that I did that day.” If I had a vocal or something left to do, often times I’d never do it.

I’d say when I decided on the final track list, I had probably around 30 or so that all had dates as names. I narrowed it down to 20 and asked Brendan, Justin, and our friend Jake to create their ideal album out of those, but it was so confusing. I’d say “guys, what do you think about 8/31?” and they would reply “which one is that again?” And we’d have to listen to it, and be like, “oh yeah that one, but then which one is 8/30?” And then we’d have to play that.

I was working a shitty retail job that sometimes would give me four shifts out of seven days, so when the album was being made I’d record multiple times a week. Now I have less time and just try to record once every weekend, unless I go to Disneyland. Then fuck that, I’d rather go to Disneyland.

BC: Your press release says the album is “the perfect distillation of where the project is currently at and where it could be taken in the future.” Where do you see taking the project in the future and do you envision using the same song-in-a-day routine again?
LAPD: I think my buddy Matt, who runs Forged Artifacts, came up with that. And he totally cheated because he has a bunch of my newer demos. I don’t want to say too much about the direction we’re going in, but I think it’s safe to say it’ll be a little more rockin’ and less chill. I’ve been recording the same way I always have and probably have about 15–20 new songs since the record. I’m not sure if any of them will make the next album, because maybe I’m going to hire a blind orchestra, and a South African a cappella group, and I just haven’t signed with Usher yet to get that Bieber money.

BC: According to reviews and comments from fans, you seem to have struck a nostalgic chord with some listeners. Your music reminds people of something, which I think is often a mark of something great. What were you listening to leading up to the recording of LAPD?
LAPD: I never really make conscious decisions to try to write or sound like anybody else. Granted, it definitely happens sometimes. I’ll write something and be like, “why is that so familiar?” And then I realize it’s a melody from a Raffi song. But for me, it’s the biggest bummer when someone says, “yo, check this song out; it sounds like the song you thought you wrote.”

BC: You were previously in a band called Cereal Heroes. How does the sound of Los Angeles Police Department differ?
LAPD: Wow, how did you know that I was in a band called Cereal Heroes? Damn. Justin and I were in that band with our friends Eric and Anthony from eighth grade until senior year of high school. It went from pop punk to classic rock and everywhere in between. As a songwriter, it was probably the best possible thing for me. I wrote so many different types of songs and probably wouldn’t have found my own voice without that band. Los Angeles Police Department definitely sounds a lot different. There are some Cereal Heroes records I have where my voice hadn’t changed; they sound like a punk band fronted by a small child.

BC: Philadelphia and LA are obviously very different places, each with its own music scene. How do you feel the West Coast shift affected your sound, and are you digging LA?
LAPD: Before Los Angeles, I was actually writing most of my music in Maine, where I went to school. I did an album called Snow Day, and it was all electronic with a lot of orchestral instrumentation. I did it all on Reason 4 with Vienna Instruments in Pro Tools, and did all the vocals in this little closet in the music building of my college. I think environment definitely influences art. When I’m back in Philly, I’ll write different music than when I’m here, for sure. I need to change my surroundings more, actually. I think it’s healthy for a writer to not stay in the same place. I like LA, though. I have a lot of friends here.

Ryan Pollie is Los Angeles Police Department

BC: Philly cheesesteak or Korean-Mexican taco?
LAPD: The Philly cheesesteak probably makes it in my top 5 meals ever.

BC: What is next for you and for Los Angeles Police Department?
LAPD: I really want to fix this tape machine I bought off eBay. I want to find Village Green on vinyl. I need to set up my guitar because it sounds really bad up the neck. I should probably clean my room and drink less beer. I want to try smoking pot again soon; it’s been since Christmas. I want to get into more bands that I always thought I hated. I always thought I hated Hall and Oates and I’ve been listening to Abandoned Luncheonette a lot recently. My mom would be so upset at me if she knew this. Maybe I’ll start liking other bands I’ve always hated, like Billy Joel or U2, and it’ll wildly change my writing. Then I’ll time-travel and give my younger self my new record. Young me will hate it, but then he’ll go back to it later in life and really like it. I think I’ve just created a paradox.

Psychedelic Journey

Moodoïd
Photo by Fiona Torre

“It’s a pornographic episode of Teletubbies mixed with Lord of the Rings.”

“Moodoïd is a laboratory project,” wrote songwriter and bandleader Pablo Padovani in a recent email. “I want to have fun and make music just like my eclectic tastes. The EP [a dazed and festive four tracks released last year] was a presentation. Now this is the first trip. We discover the different facets of Moodoïd.”

It’s a trip in both senses of the word—an omnivorous journey, moving outward from Paris to embrace a global cross-section of sounds; and a psychedelic experience, with outlandish imagery and uncanny music. Moodoïd’s first full-length, Le monde Möö, embodies its title. For nearly fifty minutes, we are brought into Padovani’s weird world, a sonic and visual wonderland. Perhaps one of the band’s music videos from the EP gives some indication of that vision:

In the album’s opening track, “Les garçons veulent de la magi” (The boys want magic), we get a tour of Möö, as Padovani whispers incantations atop an electronic shimmer. The music is at once laidback and tightly constructed, but consistently gregarious.

“I think you may like it if you like childhood, sex, dreams and surrealism,” Padovani told me. “It’s a pornographic episode of Teletubbies mixed with Lord of the Rings.” That perspective is audible on the wide-eyed “La Lune,” in which his female bandmates coo an ode to the moon. The album’s soundscape, however, is broad; prog-rock riffs flit in and out, adding an edge to the luminescence (the ’70s French prog band Gong was a major inspiration).

Where did this bizarre world originate? Though Padovani is only 24, his artistic voice feels fully developed. He is best known as the guitarist in Melody’s Echo Chamber, another psychedelic French pop band; and he draws inspiration from his father, the established saxophonist Jean-Marc Padovani, who can be heard on the album. He studied cinema and has a day job directing short films and music videos, and that visual acuity informs the iconography of his music. “Moodoïd arose from the need to express a lot of emotions,” he wrote. “It was a lonely time, I started writing full songs, and I told myself that I had to sing those every day if necessary. I wanted to share this experience with girls. So I looked for musicians all over Paris.”

Moodoïd
Photo by Fiona Torre

Padovani cited influences as wide as the Brecker Brothers and the Dirty Projectors. Inspired by the writing process of Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen, he wrote out instrumental parts for all of his bandmates. “I was able to invite people I greatly admire and the studio was a thoroughfare where we took the time to choose the right sounds. All the songs were ready, we just had to sublimate.” Nicholas Vernhes, who has worked with indie bigwigs like Animal Collective and Deerhunter, produced and mixed the album, except for “Yes & You.” This track marks the return of Kevin Parker, who shaped the original Moodoïd sound on the first EP. “Yes & You” begins as a straightforward but heartfelt love anthem, closely whispered atop strumming guitars. Halfway through it takes on a punkish roar, with Padovani’s bandmates snarling in the background. It makes a perfect transition to the rapid-fire hits of “Bongo Bongo Club.”

Then there are the album’s fantastical and jazzy moments, like the opening of “Les chemins de traverse,” a thoroughly Sun Ra minute of wordless, meandering vocals and rustling saxophones. “I am very inspired by the surrealist movement,” Padovani said. And “Heavy Metal Be Bop 2”—the track title speaks volumes—begins with a classic free jazz freak-out before settling into a thick groove.

The Moodoïd world might be best represented in “Les oiseaux,” with its sinewy instrumentals, chanting voices atop tricky meters, and straight-ahead blues sung by Padovani.

“The disc is a walk in the world Möö. This is a soft world made of cream hills and Turkish delight mountains. There are also Camembert mattresses and waterfalls of wine. This is a great, epic adventure,” Padovani wrote. “Les oiseaux” is richly textured and concludes with a guitar fade-out that is best described as, well, trippy.

Humble Pie

Michael Cera

“I just wanted people to know that I don’t expect anyone to consider this anything more than a humble effort. None of the songs were born of any particular ambitions. They’re just sketches I’ve made that I felt I wanted to share with anyone who’d want to listen.”

Earlier this week, someone called Michael Cera posted an album to Bandcamp. Confirming this was the Michael Cera, the amiably awkward, witty, and dapper dude from Arrested Development, Youth in Revolt, Superbad, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Juno, was no easy feat. But thanks to Cera’s persuasive emails, a call from his management, and a Jonah Hill tweet, we established that this was not the work of an attention-seeking crackpot.

True That is a lo-fi and eccentric outing of 21 tracks – many of which are instrumental guitar and piano doodles. There are some sweet, folksy-leaning songs, too. It sounds exactly like the reflective, occasionally melancholic, and introspective music that would accompany a movie like Juno. This is not Cera’s musical debut. He has previously played and collaborated with Weezer, The Long Goodbye, and Mister Heavenly, and has had a hand in creating and curating the soundtracks to his films.

Cera was kind enough to eek out some time for a quick interview between day-long rehearsals for his Broadway debut in This Is Our Youth, which starts this September.

Bandcamp: Where and when did you find time to record this album?
Michael Cera: Basically, hanging out at home over the years and goofing around.

BC: Do you ever see yourself performing this music live?
MC: I don’t think so, the makeup of much of it is in the spontaneity of the moment I made it, and most of the tracks are not something that I would call real songs.

BC: The piano pieces remind me of being a kid, listening to the sound of piano drifting through the house as my dad tried to lull my brother and me to sleep (thanks for the memory). What inspired you to record those?
MC: Just sitting at the piano and trying to see something through. There were hardly any sleepless children involved in the origin of those songs.

BC: You tagged the album “modest music.” Can you explain what this means – did I miss a sub-genre?
MC: I just wanted people to know that I don’t expect anyone to consider this anything more than a humble effort. None of the songs were born of any particular ambitions. They’re just sketches I’ve made that I felt I wanted to share with anyone who’d want to listen.

BC: Most people, I think it is fairly safe to say, “know” you through your films. Is it important to you that recording music gives you a different way to express who you are?
MC: That’s not important to me. I just enjoy having music in my life.

BC: Who have you been listening to recently and do you get to see much live music?
MC: I hardly see any live music, and I’ve been listening mostly to the Kinks for the last 4 months.

BC: Did any artists in particular influence the album?
MC: Alden Penner, Paul McCartney, and KMD.

Michael Cera

BC: Kudos to you for doing so, but why did you DIY this release?
MC: There wasn’t much thought put into it other than wanting to share these songs I’ve been working on.

BC: Will there be more?
MC: I’m sure I’ll keep making songs, I enjoy it so much.

BC: I want to apologize for the hoops we had you jump through to prove you were the real you. Does this happen much?
MC: No, mostly when I tell people who I am they just say “ok, that’s great.”

BC: Can we ask what is happening on the album cover?
MC: I’m laughing with my friend.

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