buzz: How was SXSW?
Alex [frontman for the band]: Well, this was our second year there, and we had a lot of fun. It seems like it’s a big gathering of lots of different types of bands, and some that we don’t know but we like, and it was definitely a lot of fun.
buzz: Did you guys get pretty sunburned?
Alex: Actually, we did pretty badly. The rest of the country in knee deep in winter at that point, so you don’t think to dress and bring sunscreen and do stuff like that. You just get burned to death by the sun; that’s how it goes.
buzz: What was it like working with Steve Albini [who has worked with The Pixies and Nirvana] on your new record?
Alex: We actually did our first record with Steve as well. When we went in we were probably a little intimidated at first, but within five minutes he made us all very comfortable, and then he just felt like any old person. At the same time he’s the type of person who’s really intelligent with a cutting, harsh sense of humor with a thick skin. He’s recorded with thousands of bands and he’s an amazing wealth of experience and has tricks of the trade to draw from. It’s a great experience overall, and I can’t imagine wanting to work with someone else.
buzz: Are you guys planning on making a third album anytime soon?
Alex: We might try to start writing something. We definitely all want to get going as soon as possible. There was a long time between our first one and the second album, so we definitely don’t want that to happen again.
buzz: You were in the studio for 50 consecutive days, right?
Alex: Yeah, we really were. It felt pretty hellish, to be honest. It was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. I read some article in the newspaper recently about the factory workers in New York and Pittsburgh in the late 1800s, and they worked seven days a week for like 18 hours a day. When you get in that routine it almost becomes normal. That’s pretty much what we did. We didn’t work for less than eight hours a day, every single day with no days off, for about 50 days. We realized the whole 1800s immigrant experience. At the same time, we’re glad for every minute that we spent there and we’re proud of the record. It was definitely time worth spending.
buzz: Did you guys take any time off between touring and recording?
Alex: Well, we’re from New York, so we played a few New York shows before the album, and we hit the road in November. We had a month or two off until we started touring. We have had a little bit of time, but it’s been a very busy year since the record came out, for sure.
buzz: You guys have played the The National, Minus the Bear and The Hold Steady. If you had to play the favorites game, who would you pick?
Alex: I think I’d pick The National. They’re pretty much like my favorite band in the world right now, and as far as listening comes, I listen to them all the time.
buzz: How does that feel to play with your favorite band? It sounds like the Make a Wish Foundation.
Alex: It’s exactly how you said; it’s just great to see a band every night. It doesn’t get boring really, it kind of helps you differentiate. You notice little things about songs, and some songs you maybe didn’t like before you start to like. It’s really a great experience to be on tour with a band you like and playing shows with them.
buzz: I read somewhere that you guys don’t feel like you really fit in to New York. Where do you think you’d be better suited?
Alex: I don’t think we’d be a good fit anywhere. Some of the bands we get compared to we’ve never heard of or don’t particularly agree with the comparison. I think we fit in because we don’t fit in. There’s no city that we think we would be perfect for, and I think our music is a little off the beaten path, perhaps.
buzz: How do you think your sound changed from Icarus to your self-titled album?
Alex: Icarus I think was a little bit more of an explosion of inspiration that just kind of came out, and we didn’t try to refine it or perfect it at all. It’s kind of raw and a little bit all over the place because of that. We decided it was kind of a cop out, so with this one we wanted it to be more refined and work from beginning to end in a logical way. We definitely put a lot more effort into this one, and I think it shows. If I might be so bold as to say, I think the music on this record is really good. It’s very different, which is good, because why would you want to make the same album all over again?
buzz: How long have you guys been playing together?
Alex: We started playing in about 2002, and Icarus came out in 2003. It took us a while to come out with a new record because the record label went bankrupt and we also had a side project.
buzz: Are you from Illinois?
Alex: No, but we’ve actually done all of our recordings in Illinois. We’re from New York, but Steve Albini’s studio is in Chicago and then we also recorded a song off of the new album at Great Western Record Recorders which is in Tolono which we did with Matt Talbott who is the singer for the band Hum. Everything in Tolono is pretty much great.
buzz: Is that how you guys decided to come to CU?
Alex: Yeah, we love Matt Talbott and we love coming to your town. He’s one of our favorite people, really.
buzz: Have you guys had any crazy antics happen on your yet?
Alex: Well, we’ve had kind of a lot of bizarre things happen to us. This tour is still pretty early for anything crazy to have happened yet, but not that long ago we played in San Francisco and it was pretty late; we ended up playing last and there was a guy that walked in. He was a tiny little guy that came up to the stage and he started throwing ice at us. It was kind of one of the last songs, so we didn’t really know what was going on, so we just kept on playing. After so many pieces of ice he picked up a beer glass and threw it at our drummer, and it just missed his head and shattered on the wall behind him. Everyone saw that and still wondered what was going on. So, our song ended and the guy was still really furious. Apparently, he lived upstairs and was very upset about the noise and the show going late, and he was really flipping out about that. Then, he told the owner that if it happened again next week he was going to come back and throw knives at the band. I don’t know what happened with the band the following week, but we made it out okay.
buzz: I also noticed your band pictures were taken by Noah Kalina. He’s one of my favorite photographers, so what was it like to have a shoot with him?
Alex: We had some mutual friends and, of course, he had that famous YouTube sensation. It’s funny, because I guess he was well known for that, but I think he is probably just one of my favorite photographers. I just went to his site and I was absolutely blown away by his work. I talked to him immediately after and asked if he could do some band photos for us, and it’s really interesting to watch him work. He really takes so much care with the lighting – he brings his own lighting kit and everything. He’s very ridiculous about the way he works, and at the same time we felt totally comfortable with him. Sometimes you go to a photoshoot and you feel totally on edge, but Noah just felt like one of us. We felt completely natural around him, and I think the pictures somewhat show that. We also talked to him about working with us on a music video, because we want to see if he can somehow bring what he does with a standard camera to a video camera.
buzz: Do you guys always wear black, or did he just doll you up like that for the shoot?
Alex: At the time I think maybe we tended to. At least we’re breaking out of that a little bit, but you know black is a good color too.