Your New Favorite Band:
Ten City Nation
From The Dumbing of America
Published: August 31, 2009
|TDOA: The production values on the new record are
amazing. Id have never known you were a three-piece just by listening
to the record. How much multi-tracking did you have to do on the guitars?
SP: Wow, thank you! There are three guitar parts on most songs we generally recorded bass, drums and one guitar track live, and then added two extra parts to each song. We did the whole album in three days, mostly on Mikes farm with our friend Sam Marsh, who used to be in a band called Jacobs Mouse in the early 90s; theyre not well-remembered but John Peel and Kurt Cobain loved them. They recorded all their records in a shed and they always sounded fantastic so we wanted to try and get the same sense of rawness, rather than just going to a run-of-the-mill studio and ending up with just another homogenous, slick FM rock record.
TDOA: How much of the record was written in the studio and how much did you have written ahead of time?
SP: We had everything written and rehearsed before recording, so that we could get it all done as quickly as possible! We have a rule in the band that well spend 6 months of the year playing gigs, and then 6 months writing and recording; generally well stop gigging in October and then record in February, so well have had plenty of time to rehearse before we get anything on tape. Mike (bassist) is the main songwriter and hes constantly writing, so by the time October comes around well have loads of new ideas to play around with.
TDOA: The new album starts out with the pure rock of Flashing Lights and Silent Disco, but then segues nicely into a much mellower second half of the record. As you wrote the new record, did you make a conscious effort to vary the speeds and emotion of the record?
SP: Not really, but we could definitely feel the mood of the album taking on a life of its own, as opposed to with the first album, which to us just sounds like a collection of the songs we happened to have at the time mostly because it was! We dont make a conscious effort to be eclectic, its more that were into loads of different stuff and wed get bored if we were just flogging the same ideas over and over again.
TDOA: Youve released your albums as free downloads thusfar. The marketing of a new band has always been a challenge. Do you think the internet makes it easier for a band to generate publicity or are there so many bands doing it, its still hard to get noticed?
SP: The internets been brilliant for us, simply because we cant afford that much in the way of advertising or publicity we dont really know people who could help us, we dont fit in with whats going on so being able to give free downloads away without necessarily having to sell ourselves is perfect for us. Granted, there are a lot of bands using the internet to try and sell themselves, but for one thing most of them are still clinging to the dream of being signed to a massive corporation and becoming the next Nickelback, which isnt a dream were chasing at all, and for another thing, 99% of the music out there is just crap. The good stuff filters through, one way or another, in the end.
TDOA: In the U.S. it seems that the only bands that get written up in mags and blogs are those that are friends or have made some less than sincere connection. How hard is it to get noticed by the media in Britain and why do you think bands struggle?
SP: Its exactly the same here in the UK. Ill never understand what makes something cool, but thats probably for the best. I do know people who are in with the industry but most of them burn out very quickly and it gets to the point when youre so worried about factors that have nothing to do with the music that you forget why you loved music so much in the first place. It nearly happened to me a few years ago in my old band we got so carried away with chasing this phantom notion of success that we lost our perspective completely and in the end we just couldnt write songs any more. I went completely mad in the end, literally, a full-on mental meltdown by the end of it I never wanted to play guitar in a band ever again. You cant live your life that way if you want to carry on making music; in the end YOU define your own level of success, and other peoples perceptions dont come into it. I feel successful now because Ive made records that Im proud of, and thats more than enough for me.
Pic by Gary Keenan www.cut-out-and-keep.com
TDOA: Weve interviewed The Boxer Rebellion, always loved their music and been amazed at their ability to have so much success with what seems like a homegrown campaign. Recently a few bands weve talked to have insinuated that theres a little more money behind the band than they let on. Are you familiar with the band and do you think its possible for a band to become hugely successful without having someone bankrolling the operation?
SP: I dont know The Boxer Rebellion, which I feel a bit ashamed about, Ive heard theyre really good! I think there probably does come a point when you need a bit of outside help to get really, really big, or at least an enormous joint income from day jobs. But were happy just to keep doing what were doing its almost like an experiment, to see how many people are listening after 5, 6, 7, 8 years of us giving albums away.
TDOA: The promotional video for Silent Disco is tremendous. Was the music recorded live? Tell us whatever you can about making the video and any future plans for doing videos.
SP: Its the album version, and the backing was recorded live, but the video was just taken from a gig we did in London and then painstakingly edited to make them sync up! Its our friend Henry DC Williams, he just comes to gigs with his camera and films you, then two weeks later he posts you a video. Weve got some slightly more high-concept ideas for future videos, which mostly involve blowing stuff up.
TDOA: On stage or in the studio? Where do you prefer to be?
SP: We love both, but you have to strike a balance. Im probably happiest recording guitar parts, it allows me live out my Johnny Marr fantasies. But 6 months of gigs and 6 months of writing and recording pleases all of us, so we never get bored of either.
TDOA: Any plans to apply to SXSW or any of the American showcases? When might we see you in the States?
SP: My next plan is to try and make friends in the States, wed love to come over and tour but trying to finance it completely independently without endangering the next record is a right pain in the arse! Im going to start sending albums to every independent record store and label and radio station I hear about over there, so any helpful advice you or your listeners could give us would be hugely appreciated.
TDOA: Ive read that youre going back into the studio. Prolific writers, eh? Can you give us a preview of what the new music is sounding like?
SP: The plan initially was to make a semi-acoustic mini-album and a full-length, full-on rock album, but the lines have blurred and its more likely just to be the one full-length album. Im not sure how itll sound, but of the three songs weve played most, one sounds like Led Zeppelin and the White Stripes, one sounds like AC Acoustics meets dEUS and the other sounds like more recent Radiohead. So your guess is as good as mine really. Were filming one of our gigs soon as well, so Id like to have a bonus DVD of the live set in with the next album as a cheeky incentive to buy the physical copy, and also because stuff like that rules.