QRO interviewed Ben Braun of Mackintosh Braun. In the conversation, Braun discussed their new record Arcadia (out June 16th), translating to the live show, being inspired by the backing up beeps from a Prius, and more…
QRO: What’s a major difference in how Arcadia was made in contrast to previous releases?
Ben Braun: I think we went into this album with a bit of a different process in mind. We had a clearer vision of what we wanted to do with this album musically and tried to write as many ideas as possible to build on. A couple songs were actually carried over from the Where We Are (2010) recordings, but most others were either basic idea starts we had or songs we started from scratch on the spot with a specific inspiration. “Another Place” for example we started out of the blue, Ian [Mackintosh] started playing something on the synth and I picked up a bass and it just came together naturally. Songs like that are amazing to be a part of.
QRO: How planned out was Arcadia prior to going into the studio?
BB: Like I said it was planned to an extent, we had some ideas already in place, but most of it was written as we went. We’re always writing so it wasn’t hard to pick and choose tracks we liked to take further and finish. There were a few styles and moods we wanted to achieve with certain songs that we felt could expand on our sound, but mostly we just did what we liked.
QRO: The aspect of being experimental with sound seems to be very essential to the band. When it comes to making new music do you feel it’s important to challenge the listener?
BB: Yes, I think so. It’s very easy to stay in a comfortable place with your music and keep churning out songs that sound the same, but that’s not very fun or fulfilling for us. We choose to try and push ourselves to do things that we haven’t before and inspire ourselves. Hopefully that translates and people join the journey, but we know that you can’t please everyone, you never will.
QRO: Looking back on Arcadia, what’s a track from that album that surprises you? A track that makes you think, ‘I can’t believe this is a Mackintosh Braun song!’
BB: A song like the opener “The City Below” still gives me goosebumps. I’m amazed at the vibe we achieved with that song and it turned out to be exactly what we envisioned. Especially when I hear that song on vinyl it takes me back to being a kid and feeling all gushy inside, love that feeling a good song can make you feel.
QRO: Did inspiration for the new album come from an unexpected place?
BB: I think that always can happen. Sometimes it’s a song that inspires you and sometimes it’s something completely unrelated to music at all. “Never Give In” for example was initially inspired by the beeping that Ian heard while a Prius backed up. He wanted to build a track around that beep, and that’s how we started “Never Give In”. I think that randomness is a piece of the puzzle that gives us the constant creative energy to keep writing new music.
QRO: After a band’s been around for a while they tend to eventually make that album that feels like the best representation of them/the band. Do you feel that Arcadia achieves that it – is it another example of constant evolution for the band?
BB: To answer your question honestly, it’s a little of both. I personally believe this album is our most fully realized LP to date, and working with Lars Stalfors played a nice role in that. But on another note, we probably won’t write another album that sounds like this, so ultimately it’s all part of the bigger story, part of our evolution. I think any band or artist that gets too comfortable in what they do, needs to do change something up a bit.
QRO: Now that Mackintosh Braun has been together for some time, is it easier or more difficult to think of how the new album will influence the live show?
BB: I think it’s definitely easier than it used to be for us. When we work on new material we don’t really let the live implementation of the song effect the writing process, but we definitely think about how we’ll pull certain things off. The live show is such a different animal than recording, no one wants to come to a show and hear the album line for line exactly like the record. So we are always trying to think of how we can make the show it’s own experience and do things a bit differently in that environment.
QRO: I’ve noticed over the years that some acts believe the live show should be bigger and those who don’t want a production in their shows. Do you guys have an idea of what you want from the live show or do you try not to overthink it?
BB: Currently, we lean on the side of putting on the best sounding show we can. Production value is definitely important and more so to some acts than others, but for us we just want fans to see a great show and have it sound awesome too. As a music fan myself, one of the biggest disappointments about going to a show is not the band sucking, but the sound sucking. It’s really a learning process but we do our best to weave through the bullshit and just create something we’re proud of.