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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Eraas Interview - Foreboding Percussive Synthscapes

"Black House" leads off Brooklyn band Eraas’ self-titled album with an under two-minute instrumental of sustained textures. The track starts out mysteriously pensive, but ultimately transforms to a more dark and foreboding mood. This unsettling feeling is a theme that runs throughout the whole album. Deeper tracks like "A Presence" use metallic klang and deep tom percussion counterpoints against atmospheric synths and guitars. Vocals are delivered in hushed cadences. The rise and ebb of percussive pulses and sustained sound washes create tension and anticipation. "At Heart" begins with (then reprises) mechanical clacks that sound like pumping oil rigs off in the distance. Rolling toms and a dominant bass line create a foundation for falsetto vocals over top. “Ghost” emerges by way of slow, distant buildup.


Sleigh bell percussion shakes over a pulsing, heartbeat pattern as guitars engage in call and response open note structures. Block piano chords and cave-dweller drumming sets the pace for “Skinning” as various sustained melodies weave in and around it. Vocals are more discernible, with the tandem falsetto paired against a lower pitched tenor. “Moon” serves as an ambient interlude into “Briar Path,” which comes on driven by a clearly defined bass progression. The descending vocal melody line in “Fang” pairs nicely against a commanding bass line, while shorter percussion enhanced tracks like the aforementioned “Moon” and “Crosscut” place emphasis on overall ambience.



* * * * *

Q: The sound quality of the entire recording makes for a wonderful headphone listening experience. What did you use to create the sonic textures on the opening track “Black House?” Was it a difficult, labored recording process? Or did the tracks and ideas come together relatively quickly?

A: Thanks. Yeah that track is actually some bits of viola, violin and cello and some other things mixed in. Wind chimes in a strong wind. I think the landscape from Days Of Heaven was in mind for that track. The recording process was fairly labored, though I don't want to sensationalize it as bands often do. Bands love to say "Making this record was a nightmare" or amp up the fact that it was really difficult. We love the process and won't release the result til we're happy with it. A lot of work went into writing and recording ERAAS, but it was quite rewarding actually. A lot of it was about discovery and chance. I think it's important to be as specific as one feels necessary in order to execute something to their intention, but it's also bad to get caught up in analyzing things too much. I feel that more than 50% of the time "first thought - best thought" applies.


Q: What inspires the design of a track like “A Presence?” Do you create it with cinematic thoughts in mind?

A: I think this song has a "repetition as a form of change" vibe in mind, though it's not too repetitive on the whole, more the bass and drums in it that are after that. It was created, as most of this album was, with as you put it "cinematic thoughts in mind" - I think music is really visual for us, so whenever we're working on stuff it's less focused on the machinations of the elements than it is on the overall mood that we're trying to create. When we make music we're really just focused on creating a mood.



Q: There is an impression given at points within your song"At Heart" that sound like oil rigs clanging off in the distance. While rolling tom tom percussion create a feeling not dissimilar to the seminal work of Kate Bush and her groundbreaking "Hounds of Love" album, in particular the track "Running Up That Hill." What is it about the mood created by atmospheric washes and rolling percussion that appeals to you? Do you feel this kind of listening experience creates a time shift in ones perception?

A: Interesting comment on the oil rigs, and arguably more interesting about Kate Bush. We did not have that in mind at all. I'm not really sure we were thinking about a time shift in one's perception. But I will say that the atmospheric washes as you described did inform the rest of the song. It was started by recording chimes on a tape recorder that weighs about 8 lbs - then recording the warbled playback of that through a mic and manipulating it. That set the tone for the song and we built the rest of it around that sample. Vocals were last.



Q: Your track “Ghost” evokes thoughts of spiritual forces that have been with humanity since the very beginning. Who or what are the ghosts that impact your life?

A: I guess memories, nostalgia, romanticizing the past as well as the future - and decidedly *not* romanticizing the past or the future. The song is actually more political/social than anything regarding the direct relationship one has with a ghost or ghosts from their past/present. The first line is "Down the stairs of broken hope while torches light the big wall.." - it resolves into a destructive force that comes to aid in an unjust situation.



Q: The lyrics for “Briar Path” emerge by way of high/low vocal tandem, contributing to a sense of mystery and wonder. It’s more likely that the “briar” referenced is less about tangled plantlife, but instead suggests a difficult place or problem - a prickly situation in life. Would this be a more accurate interpretation? What else can you tell us about this song?

A: For Briar Path the idea was about escape. Someone escaping something adverse to them - not necessarily a person or a force, but a situation. It addresses the idea of not living up to your peers, falling short of rites of passage that are often bullshit anyway, but still you feel a bit of pressure. Trying to sort that out. Or just falling short of one's own expectations, trying to understand why you keep turning up empty no matter how often you try to surpass it.



Q: A number of the shorter, percussion emphasized ambient tracks like “Moon” and “Crosscut” hearken back to Brian Eno ’s seminal recording “Another Green World.” Did that record, or any following that one (which may have been influenced by it) provide inspiration for you to choose this particular path of writing and recording?

A: I'm a pretty big Stars Of The Lid fan but actually Austin did "Moon" on his own. Of course Eno is arguably the pioneer of ambient music and I have great respect for him, but again I think that track is just about something visual, a mood. It's brief and acts as a sort of palette cleanse or moment to step out of things before "Briar Path" begins. Never thought of "Another Green World" in relationship to anything I've done. Perhaps something more like "Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks" that Eno did with Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois . "Crosscut" is more influenced by contemporary electronic music. Simply acts as a hybrid of the drums in "Briar Path" and "Fang" that allows them to go together.

This interview appears in an edited form directly on The Deli Website here:

Blog:

http://nyc.thedelimagazine.com/node/12832

Published Interview Link:

http://www.thedelimagazine.com/band-interview.php?artist=eraas

What You Should Know:

Preferred band Website addresshttp://www.eraasgroup.com

Origins: The Bronx, and southwestern CT.

What it is: Dark, atmospheric, percussive, electronic.

For those who like: The Knife, Glass Ghost, Yvette

Relevant info: Eraas tours the U.S. in February and March supporting TRUST.
Dates can be found here: http://www.undertheradarmag.com/news/trust_announce_headline_tour




Equipment/Recording interview for Delicious Audio

- How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?

We do it all in our own space. Wouldn't call it a studio per se and the location changes.

- If you use a studio, what do you record there and what do you record by yourself and why?

We record everything on our own. We're not fond of the idea of someone else having an influence on production/mixing and thus in effect, the songs. We have to do everything ourselves. Not saying we would absolutely *never* work with a producer, but definitely not in the foreseeable future.

- What are the pieces of equipment that you find particularly inspiring when recording at home? 

I can't reveal this. We have some nice equipment and a lot of shitty equipment. We like spring reverb, tape recorders, drum machines. Typical stuff I guess, but we are into chance. Sometimes we use things very conventionally, often we don't, for better or for worse.

- What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why?

Not sure in terms of recording equipment. But I think we might add a bass VI one of these days. Because they sound beautiful.

- Do you expect your next record to be self-produced, or would you like to work with a producer? If it’s the latter, who would you most like to produce your band, and why?

Self produced.

- Do you use rack effects or guitar pedals to forge your own sound? If you do, please list the ones you use the most and let us know why you love them.

We don't use rack effects really. We do use guitar pedals. Unashamedly we use a decent amount of boss pedals. I guess people think that's uncool, but fuck, they're built like tanks. I've been using the same RV-3 for going on 14 years.

- Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?

As I stated there's always an element of chance in our process. I think we just carry on til we have something we both like. We both know when it's done, or almost done.

- Who determines the direction and style of your recordings?

We both do.

- Is there a person outside the band that's been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?

No.

-What other artists would you say have had the biggest influence in your approach to recording? Why?

Hip Hop. Home recordings of friends. *Some* classical music. Dub.

- Would you say that your live show informs your recording process or that your recording process informs your live show? Both? Neither?

Both. We're always changing our songs. We change them when we write them, when we record them, when we play them live. Sometimes we change the live songs a very long time after they've been recorded, or even a very long time after they've been changed in the live versions themselves. I mean months and years. We're often evaluating how they can be changed, improved, brought more in one direction or another. It just comes about like, "this section has always felt too long to me but I didn't realize till recently, can we try it this way or that?" etc

- Is there a piece of equipment that you find particularly useful on stage?

Not especially to be honest. We liked the SP404 for a while but we've scrapped it for now.

- With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band - fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.? Do you do these things yourself or is there someone that the band works with?

We don't care about fashion. I'm not a flashy dresser, I wear the same things every day. Web design doesn't matter as much to me as it did 7 or 8 years ago. Maybe someday we'll have a big fancy page and all that but I think if you're listening to music in front of the internet it doesn't count for much anyway. I'd rather have people sit in a room and listen to our record front to back not being on the fucking facebook all the time. I realize that's not the way things are going, but still I'd rather not worry about some prestigious artful website right now. At least they can listen to it on a walk with headphones or something to that effect. As long as people can hear the music somewhere online and then if they want, take it elsewhere. However I do think album art is very important to contextualize things, obviously.

- What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?

I think the most challenging was learning how to make something without thinking what anyone is gonna say about it. You should treat everything you do like it's your first project. Also treat everything you do like no one is going to hear it, you're just making it for yourself. You can be yourself that way, and take risks and go to places you wouldn't otherwise. If you're thinking about what people will think a lot of the time, you're not doing it right. Also if you're hinging on your influences too much, that's not a good way to be in either. I find the best things happen when I tune out my influences and let things come more naturally. Might sound pretentious but that's really the way I've made the material I'm most excited about, and that lasts the longest for me without reeking of influences or sounding unsure of itself. I think the challenge in recording/writing is finding your voice and staying true to it. Emulating your influences is not inspiration no matter how well you do it. It should be about taking different things that mean something to you (music and not music) and making something new with that.

12 comments:

Mirror said...

In addition to the great songs featured in the blog, I found this awesome remix of ‘Briar Path’


http://youtu.be/UbXW8mID4Mg


Great stuff!

The Midnite Rambler said...

Thanks Dave I really appreciate your articles because I've learned of a lot of great bands that are generally being ignored by the mainstream. This band has a really interesting sound and is something I will be coming back for. Yes I can hear how this must be a great headphones experience. This band would be perfect for doing a movie soundtrack. The sound is very cinematic.

Patricia said...

Great one Dave. Nice band. The songs are really intense and i am agreed about they would be cool for a movie soundtrack, very very nice.

DaveCromwell said...

Total movie soundtrack soundscapes - without a doubt. And - definitely during some intense scenes too, no doubt.

This band should absolutely look into that kind of work.

Mr Smork said...

sweet.
actually i did checked this via my headphones and it sounded excellent.
an yah, again - was loving tech part of this. :)

DaveCromwell said...

Ah, cool. Yeah these tracks are definitely driven by much of the current sonic technology, Mr. Smork.

Sometimes you want to hear "traditional" (oganic) - sometimes you need a bit of otherworldly robotics to catch that buzz. In the end it's the creativity of the artist that truly shines through.

Anouk vdM said...

Nice Q&A, their music is interesting

DaveCromwell said...

Glad to hear you like, Anouk. I'm sure the band appreciates this feedback as well.

William said...

Very cool band- i do love a good creepy soundscape as you know and I can certainly hear the classical music influence in here- certainly more on the modern end than what is usually associated with classical music (depending on who you ask) as well as that filmic Badalamenti/synth sound world.

Also enjoying the tech talk at the end, being something of a guit-fiddle pedal enthusiast

DaveCromwell said...

Interesting that you mention hearing a "classical music influence" in these works as well, William. I don't usually make those connections myself when it comes to darker synth music. Classical + Rock combined have always been the domain of "Prog Rock" (in my head). But - you are absolutely right. The Angelo Badalamenti influence (and before him - film score icon John Williams) made solid reference points.

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