Prog-pop modern underground rockers 31 Knots are well-known for the technicality and care in their music. Buzz Music metaphorically sat down on the phone with lead singer/guitarist Joe Haege and chatted.
buzz: How did you all meet?
joe haege: Well, Jay and I, the bass player, we’ve been playing together for about 10 years. We went to high school together and we grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago. Then, we started a band with a couple of different drummers. I think Jay and I just wanted to do something different. But Pellicci, our new drummer, he did recording on our last record and he was playing in this band, Dilute. We were recording with him and really got along with him, so now he’s in the band. He’s great.
buzz: What did you listen to as a high school kid? How did you want to know that you want to be in a band?
joe: I listened to Minor Threat and Living Color. I had kind of eclectic tastes. I started singing because I was in a band, playing bass, but I really love writing words and songs, and I just started four-tracking and singing. But I had a horrible voice. It was
atrocious. I was a pretty average kid, but I guess I be-friended the skater kids, and I came into my own that way. I think that’s when I became more extroverted, socially feeling comfortable. But there was that other side of me where I’d stay home after school and smoke a lot of cigarettes and play guitar.
buzz: Where does the band name come from?
joe: God, being land-locked Midwestern kids … for me, it was just a name that I had for a long time, and I think it was a nickname of an admiral in the Navy and it had no other significance other that I found it sounded neat. And then I didn’t really realize it until I was older that it was a nautical mile reference.
buzz: How do you get album titles?
joe: I guess I try to find what I think is creative, like A Word is Also a Picture of a Word. That’s actually a quote from a book. I guess
I just have a fascination with just finding certain little snippets that I think are genius and kind of underrated. Like, our last album was called It Was High Time to Escape and supposedly, the first person to say that in that context was Napoleon, on the verge of defeat.
buzz: Speaking of little snippets, the string parts on Talk like Blood
and Impromptu Disproving — how did you come to put those in?
joe: When I was around like 20, all I pretty much listened to was classical. There was an era when I was very much in my own little esoteric trip of Jay and I pretty much only listening to insane classical symphonies. I listened to a lot of jazz guitar. I kind of just really got into it. And if I had the money, I would love to be able to hire an orchestra. I was going to try and get some strings, as well. I have a ton of friends out here who play strings as well.
For Impromptu, I kind of wanted a synthetic sound.
buzz: I heard Polyvinyl signed you within two weeks after you sent them the “Curse of the Longest Day.” What’s it like working with Polyvinyl?
joe: They’re really just so organized, so on top of it, nothing goes unattended. I’ve never felt like they view us as dollar signs or loss of dollar signs.
buzz: Do you do any projects on your own?
joe: We all have a lot of down time, due to being in different cities. We don’t all have to focus so much on practicing and playing the songs over and over and over. But I have a solo piano project that I do. I kind of have faked my way into playing pseudo-classical piano. It’s called “A Very Dead Horse.” Jay has got this black metal band called Otum Rectepulent. It’s pretty amazing, like his composition is classical meets Nintendo black metal. But yeah, I like it a lot. Pellici also plays in a band called Okay.
buzz: It’s cool to see that you
guys incorporate the jazz and
joe: It’s probably been seven years since I’ve consciously tried to fake a jazz chord or something. I have no formal training, so I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. I’ve actually never put too much thought into it, I just try to find a sound I like and go with it.
buzz: How did the production process go on Talk like Blood? Anything you’ve done differently?
joe: I think I would have liked for it to take a lot longer. We were really rushed. We had a couple of days in San Francisco with another engineer, and we did the basic tracks with him. That was ideal. But then we had to track three more songs in Portland, and we did all the guitars and vocals in three days. We can’t internally handle having the drummer being the engineer, but I think we finally achieved a fullness and a separation with the instruments that I’ve always wanted.
buzz: How have you guys changed with the switch of your record label?
joe: I think that’s what the new album has, what the old ones don’t. We’re a lot more accessible. I think in the past, we were just younger, and we would noodle around a lot more. We were just more wankery.
buzz: What expectations did you have for Talk Like Blood?
joe: I’m really hard on myself when things are done and there’s a little time to sit on it. Ah, I don’t know. I wanted it to be amazing. Just, I don’t know. I wanted it to be unattainable, that’s what
I wanted. I’m really proud of it – I just wish we would have had more time to sit on it. That’s the hardest thing about being in two different cities. We don’t have the luxury of time. As far as songs, we did achieve something more concise than in the past.
buzz: What are your favorite tracks on the album?
Joe:I feel like I like each song for its own reason. I really love “Chain Reaction.”
buzz: What inspired Talk Like Blood? Was it a collective, “Oh, it’s time to make another album?”
joe: We didn’t have a label when we started recording. I just write a lot of songs, so we never have a shortage. Right now, we have about three-fourths of our next record written. I probably have
five new songs beyond that that I wish I could fit into the record. I think I have this disease where I need to keep moving forward to feel as though I’m doing okay in life. And I think for me, it was just that I wanted to record another record.
buzz: What’s been your favorite place on tour?
joe: Hmm … one would be Ghent, Belgium. We just had that
surreal experience there a couple of times, and some really good coffee. They’re just good, all around, and the show went so well. The other would definitely be Tokyo. And we toured with Balloons, they’re just such great guys and hosts. To be able to stay at one of their parents’ houses and see the average Japanese lifestyle was just so nice. I think I had so much more fun being inside a Japanese living room and walking along a Japanese street – because clubs are kind of all the same. To see the culture, it’s really neat.
buzz: What’s it like being an band on Polyvinyl and touring Europe?
joe: Europe as a whole is a different experience. You’re treated much more as an artist, you’re doing something, you’re not in just some stupid punk band and wanting to get drunk. They’re just very hospitable. It’s very unlike the U.S. It was just hard touring in the U.S. with our old label. They were fairly small and really new and I think that was a huge factor in our touring experience. And I think we don’t play immediately gratifying music like Franz Ferdinand, you know.
buzz: Anything you’d like an audience to know?
joe: I think the main thing off the top of my head would be to not vote Republican in the next election.
31 Knots will showcase their fourth full-length album Talk Like Blood at the Canopy Club on Wednesday, Oct. 19.