Any band can tell you, the second album is a bitch; double that if you're a band that produces songs that are abstract seven minute epics. Though getting out new material on bite-sized EPs is a lot easier, albums are what most people will remember, not a few tracks you worked out in the middle of a tour. Sure, The Strokes, Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs can work out material on the road that people will love, but even they have their limits: songs are five minutes collections of loops with lyrics on top. Sure, working on grooves on the fly on stage might work, but we're running into jam band territory, which is a no-no. In (some say, overly) uber-hip Williamsburg , Brooklyn where Black Dice hails from, tastes are a bit more refined. The problem is that requires a lot more work. Compared to their last album Beaches and Canyons, Creatures Comforts dealt out a lot more frustration on their part.
"I think we're the complete opposite of dance music." Brooklyn's answer to post-rock chats about their new album Creature Comforts.
Written by Allan Mendoza ([email protected])
"We were totally flipping out," bassist Aaron Warren explains. "We'd been working on the road for like three months. We did [recording] three weeks straight at [DFA home base] Plantain to jam some things out and ended up using only like one song and little bits and pieces of other jams."
After three weeks of fruitless recording, the band eventually was kicked out for "higher profile stuff" ( Warren claims the band had to make way for Britney Spears). It took a charka realigning of touring around North America with Wolf Eyes along with writing outside of a studio to get things going again.
With the DFA (label and infamous production team consisting of Tim Goldsworthy and James Murphy) releasing the album, you'd wonder if the same kind of studio magic The Rapture and Radio 4 were put though ended up in Black Dice's sound. Electronic blips flutter throughout the record, but the band insists the DFA contributed very little.
"[They] didn't do much as far as what ended up on the record,' Warren explains. "The main jam, "Skeleton" was something we'd written a few months earlier and played out a bunch. They'd basically mic us up and we played it live [with] no overdubs. I mean of course, they got a great sound on that track. It wasn't like they were like, 'let's try a little of this.' They were pretty hands off for the songs we had already."
The DFA were responsible for recording two tracks, "Cloud Pleaser" and "Island," though most production work revolved around Steve Revitte, who mixed the album and acted as the main engineer. Additionally, Nicolas Vernhes from Rare Book Room recorded "Schwip Schwap," a track from the pre-Plantain session. Even with a relatively large cast of collaborators, the band's desire to push their sound was the fuel to keep the album relatively consistent.
"I guess mainly it's a change of attitudes," adds guitarist Eric Copeland. "Not one that we put much work into, but as we rode out the expiration on a body of work, a lot of reactions took place. So while I enjoyed Beaches and Canyons, there was no need to make something like that again. In some ways I guess we tried to make something unlike it."
"When I listen to Beaches and Canyons," says Warren , "some of the stuff sounds pretty straight to me now, like I can hear, oh, 'That's just a voice through some delay, or a tremolo' or what have you. While on Creature Comforts, the sounds are much more cryptic and distinctive."
His comments made sense considering the lack of soaring instrumental crescendos based on a bank of effects or even the lack conventional guitar sounds that marked the band's last album. With a more liberal use of feedback loops, a ton of effects and even drumming duties replaced by a Roland drum machine, their sounds have mutated into something else. It's colder, electronic, but a bit funkier.
Once again, maybe you could say it's the DFA seeping into their sound. It's hard to separate the mythos; there's something about two guys who managed to revamp a mediocre bar band (The Rapture) into a successful musical "experiment." Reasons like this, Goldsworthy and Murphy represent everything right and wrong about the aftermath of the garage rock explosion set off by The Strokes a couple years ago. At the same time, the two were willing to support Black Dice, who consider themselves "the complete opposite of dance music," as Warren quips.
"In a lot of ways, DFA is totally a pop label, which you have to appreciate is an incredibly cool place for us. And [it] allows us access to a lot of cool stuff," says Warren . "But obviously people are onto us now. Like, 'DFA is sweet, but I dunno about Black Dice."
That last point makes it pretty clear being the odd man out makes life a lot more interesting. Their book ending material released between Beaches and Canyons and Creature Comforts is a bit more telling. While stuff like the Cone Toaster EP might raise some suspicions, it was something written prior the DFA's series of dance floor friendly 12". On the other hand, their Miles of Smiles EP, which was original music for a Japanese fashion exhibit. It's getting pretty apparent that anything goes. And Black Dice won't have it any other way.