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Welcome back to the continuing saga that is Some Kind Of Muffin’s interview with The Deafening Colors.


They really do exist.

They really do exist.

What are your hopes and dreams for this album and for The Deafening Colors?

John: My hopes for this album are that people cherish it, listen to it, and love it the way that I do my favorite albums. My hope for The Deafening Colors is that we spend the rest of our lives making music as best as we can. If we focus on that—the making of the best music we can make—all the rest will take care of itself.

Cris: Everything John said, and really: I just want more people to hear it. Sure, it’s nice to get recognition or make money or something, but what I REALLY want more than anything is something I’ve gotten a little bit already with Carousel Season. For the first time, people have “gotten it.” They’ll say, “Oh man, this made me think of that time I….” and it’s not the same thing I thought of when we made it, but it’s similar. It’s an aesthetic that people latched onto in the same way we did making it. It gives you this electric feeling of true and literal connection: like this thing that you can capture sonically can make someone feel the same way you’ve felt, even if you’ve never met this person. It’s what keeps me waking up and doing this stuff every day. Trying to get an answer to the question: “Maybe you’ve felt this way, too?”

Listening to Carousel Season I was immediately hit with a wall of emotion. I know that the album is a nostalgic look back, but it also feels immediate. It doesn’t feel wistful or regretful, as so many nostalgic pieces do. Where does that emotion come from and how are you able to convey it so effectively?

John: First, this is a wonderful reaction and I’m overjoyed that you felt this way when listening to the album. I think a lot of the creation of art comes from a mysterious place lurking somewhere between what might be called our conscious and sub-conscious. So answering this question is tough—but my guess is that the emotion comes from the realization that life is fleeting and that looking back on our experiences with anything other than some combination of joy and wonder would be useless.

Cris: YES!!!! That’s so cool! That’s the kind of thing I was talking about above. This is a roundabout answer, but it’s true so bear with me.

Here’s a secret: I’m deeply afraid of localism. This works on a few levels. For one, as a surfer, there is the constant question of local authenticity. Being a guy who grew up near the beach and now living across the river from Manhattan, every time I come home to paddle out, I wonder if someone is eyeing me up because I have a shirt tan or something stupid like that. Or even the way I surf. Or that I’m on a longboard instead of my shortboard because I’m out of practice or whatever.

Also, this is the same thing with where I live. I’ve been living and working in North Jersey for about a decade now. I’ve been home for extended stays in there, but my permanent residence has been in Morristown, Hoboken, Weehawken, and more for years now. For those are not from the area, it may sound stupid (and it probably, truly, is. But…) those places are decidedly more “New York” in accent, attitude, clothes, pace, and more. So even though some of this might be in my head, when I come back for a holiday or something, it’s as though I’m now the “other.” The difference. But where I live and work now, I’m always the other. You know what I mean? And people don’t move around between North and South Jersey often. The cliche is that they ought to be different states, but it’s actually a little more than cliche. It’s not animosity really. It’s, at least in some cases, a different way of life. It’s Philly vs. NYC. Slow vs. Fast. The beach vs. the city. I’m a diehard Philly sports fan but I live three blocks from the Hudson River and drive by MetLife Stadium and Red Bull Arena on the way to work every day. Go figure. John is much the same way I think. We live in this strange in-between world of New Jersey. We have probably lived in 10-15 cities and worked double that number in jobs between the two of us, so I think we have a firm grip on what it means to live in the Garden State.

So now, here’s the conclusion: when we wrote this thing, we were in a cool spot. Since we grew up here, since we have our families and our friends and our high school and our experiences and memories and childhoods here, we’ve been away long enough to write objectively about it. We can criticize and not feel like some jackass outsider or vacationing tourist (as a lot of recent AC-based songs can certainly feel) or some critical voyeuristic journalist looking to say “look at what a disaster this place is!” We can objectively say (and sleep okay at night saying) “this is our home. This is what it feels like for us. It’s messed up. It’s beautiful. We grew up operating carnival rides on the boardwalk and surfing at sunrise, but we also grew up knowing too many kids who died of heroin/opiate overdoses before we were of legal drinking age. We also saw good, hard-working people lose good jobs because of mismanagement and bureaucracy. We saw two island beach resorts with ludicrous socioeconomic disparity. We saw long summers, but we saw longer and more desolate winters. It’s flat here. It’s featureless. Pine trees and sand and pine trees and sand and cattails and bay grass and low tide and the same bar for the same happy hour with the same people…and we (or they?) like it that way. It’s not cool because it’s different from everyone’s experience. It’s cool because it’s our experience and it’s probably yours. It’s 100% not special. That’s why it’s special. We love where we grew up.” It’s everyone’s story of localism and the conflict in your heart when it comes to going away or coming home. In a weird way, I hope there’s something sort of American about it! Do we owe it to those who stayed or to our conscience to dwell where we please? It’s nostalgic, sure. But it’s OBJECTIVE. Or at least we tried to be that way. It’s good and bad like anywhere else is.  Yikes. That was a lot longer than I wanted it to be.

What are the greatest challenges as songwriters?

John: To avoid cliché, and to say something universal as concisely and simply as possible.

Cris: To explain a feeling people have been trying to explain their whole lives, though they didn’t even know they were trying to explain it.

What haven’t you done yet that you want to either with your music or in life?

John: I want The Deafening Colors to make a masterpiece so undeniably great that it holds its own with the greatest albums, or works of art in general, of all time. To aim any lower seems a waste of time.

Cris: I 100% agree with John. I think his answer is perfect. As audacious and naive as it sounds, grandiosity doesn’t happen without foolishness if you ask me. If the worst thing that happens is someone thinks we’re talking out of turn, well, good.

What has been your darkest moment as The Deafening Colors and what has been your brightest?

John: The darkest moment was probably somewhere between our first full-length album, Upstairs, and Carousel Season, when we only practiced sporadically and recorded even less. The brightest was the whole recording process for Carousel Season. Those were some of the most fun days I’ve ever had.

Cris: We’ve had 20 or so people play in our group over the years and not all of them have been the kind of nice, kind, friendly folks you like to have around the family. With that said, many of them have been, too. Also, John has had some remarkable stability with his wife, and I…well…haven’t sometimes? I don’t recall having even a mild disagreement with John really ever, so the dark moments that have influenced a lack of output or less-than-stellar stuff have really been a symptom of personal stuff rather than TDC.

How do you play live? Is it just the two of you? Do you have additional musicians live or prerecorded tracks?

John: We have played many shows with a full band–usually three guitarists, one bassist, and a drummer. Lately we’ve been doing an acoustic duo/trio depending on who is around, and we’ve also been practicing with a full band. We have never used prerecorded tracks live. We’ve also played with dozens of musicians in our various incarnations over the years.

Do you plan to tour? Because I can’t make it to New Jersey, but it’d be great if you made it to Portland.

John: We do. Do we know when? Not necessarily. Part of it depends on finances, and our work/life circumstances. If circumstances and finances allow, I’d like us to tour anywhere that would have us!

Cris: Agree with John here too. I think that the two of us struggle inherently with a simple concept: we spend so much time getting the right sound on our recordings, and that is a discovery process. So there’s a lot of “trial and error, listen, take time, listen some more, try something else” going on that you can’t really have in a live show. So ultimately, we (unfairly, and maybe inaccurately) feel as though our live show seems like it doesn’t measure up to our records. Also, the real rush of it all at least for me (but I think for John too) is that we get to actually make something NEW when we are recording. We’re not treading over something we have worked to perfect, we are making something. We like that.

I know John is married. Do you both have full-time jobs in addition to the band? How do you manage your time?

John: Yes, I am married, and yes, we have full-time jobs. I am a librarian. I manage my time by filling it with all the things I care about–I love my job, and when I am not working I am playing guitar, or writing to bloggers about The Deafening Colors, or driving to Cris’s place to record music. We record late at night, or very early in the morning, or all day on weekends, or all day on holidays, or whenever we get a chance, really. Cris has been doing all of the instruments himself–which means that whenever I get over there he has a track for me to sing over. It’s been a great arrangement and we don’t plan to stop.

Cris: I am not married, but I have a wonderful girlfriend who is infinitely patient and compassionate in addition to being a gorgeous and strong person. I am a full time 10th/11th grade English teacher at a public high school in northern New Jersey. I have been doing that for five years. I absolutely adore my job, my school, and everyone I work with…not to mention the students who are unquestionably awesome. I also coach girls soccer at the high school, play semipro soccer with a local club, cook at The Little Grocery Uptown in Hoboken during the summertime (the owners are lovely people and the food is incredibly good. I know, because I make it!), I surf as often as possible, and I try to see my family, see my friends, read, and write as often as humanly possible. I’m pretty obsessed with recording and listening to music though. I sort of strangely look at it as studying as much as I look at it as doing something for strictly entertainment purposes. The management of all of this time is a bit of an insane juggling act, but it never seems that way. It’s just what we’ve been doing as long as I can remember. It’s strange: since I’m fourteen or so, I always think that whenever I have free time, in my head, it’s always “I should be recording… I should be recording… I should be recording…

Thank you both so much for taking the time to share about your new album, your process, and a bit about your personal lives!

John: Thank you for taking the time to interview us!


Find The Deafening Colors at these fine locations:

http://www.thedeafeningcolors.com/

https://www.facebook.com/deafeningcolors

https://twitter.com/deafeningcolors

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I’ve blogged about Oppenheimer before here and wanted to share another video of theirs, which is below. They will be touring the east coast of the US soon and from what I can tell Shaun has moved from Belfast to New York so maybe we will see more of them on the west coast someday. Anyway here’s the vid and you can check out more of them at http://www.oppenheimermusic.co.uk/.

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DIY before it was cool. U.K. Subs: Punk Can Take It was directed by Julien Temple who you may know better as the director of The Great Rock And Roll Swindle (Sex Pistols, y’all). Resting on the pastiche of World War II films Temple shows the disillusionment and anger that fueled the punk movement in England. This film is messy and vile and not well done. Exactly as it should be. There’s not really a whole lot going on here, but that’s OK. Punk Can Take It is a wonderful little snapshot of a time when punk was no longer in its infancy and you get to see the U.K. Subs live. By 1979 the second wave of punk had already been around for two years, Sid Vicious was dead, Hardcore, Oi! and New Wave were under way. Check out U.K. Subs: Punk Can Take It. Have some laughs, get inspired, learn a little history (or remember it if you were there). At the very least it’s only 18 minutes 59 seconds out of your day.

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Why 7? Because this is filler. Plus, haven’t lists rounded to the nearest 5 or 10 been overdone? In the meantime, if you want a top 10 list, post a comment with 3 more movies to round this list out and you will get my eternal gratitude and a cookie!

Dig!

Wonderful movie about the mutual admiration of The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre and how it all goes wrong, for one band. Best line in a movie EVER, “You fucking broke my sitar, mother fucker!”

The Flaming Lips: Fearless Freaks

Made me really appreciate what they’e about by learning more about their process. It’s all about the process.

Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster

Band loses bass player, band finds bass player, band loses bass player, band loses singer, singer comes back, band finds bass player, and Bob Rock is adorable. I should know. I watch this movie 40 times a year.

Les Paul: Chasing Sound

Just amazing. See why every recording artist, regardless of genre, owes this man just about everything.

Shut Up & Sing

Or Why Country Music Fans Hate America No Matter How Patriotic They Sound. In all seriousness this is a must see. The Dixie Chicks kick ass.

History of Rock ‘N’ Roll

Want to learn how every major genre of rock music started and be entertained? No? Oh. Well watch this anyway.

LoudQUIETloud: A Film About The Pixies

Find out that indie cred doesn’t make you cool in real life. Oh, and Frank Black’s man boobs!

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Twice now I have gone to see specific headlining bands and wound up being blown away by the opening acts. Before I get to the who and how let me make one point. You’ve spent the money, it’s for both bands, why not go? I understand if you know the opening act and think they suck. Sure, don’t go then. But if you’ve never heard of them, go check ’em out.

Now the who etc.

First, we went to see They Might Be Giants. They are all that and a book on math. So good. The opening band was Oppenheimer. They are from Ireland. It’s just two guys, Shaun Robinson and Rocky O’Reilly. They use a prerecorded, preprogrammed portions of songs when performing live. Shaun sings and plays drums while Rocky plays guitar, provides vocoder vocals, and plays the mighty Moog. Oppenheimer has a synth-pop sensibility and et completely rock. From the slow jam of Breakfast in NY to the upbeat and catchy Saturday Looks Bad To Me Oppenheimer has it all.

Second, we wet to see The Go! Team. Best show ever! If you have the means I highly recommend checking them out. The opening band for that concert was Bodies Of Water. Bodies Of Water hail from some part of L.A. They have a decidedly retro feel. Bodies Of Water have clearly done their homework and sound authentic and yet new. They have an infectious energy. Especially from Meredith Metcalf, and especially at the end of These are The Eyes. Bodies Of Water also having a brilliant vocal approach that is both four part harmony and call and response.

Check out the above bands and see if they appeal to you. They both have something different to offer. But most of all go see the opening act. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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Stop Making Sense is, hands down, the best concert film I have ever seen. (Me, hyperbolic? never.)

Released in 1984 it was filmed over 3 nights in 1983 on the Speaking in Tongues tour. The movie opens with a shot of lead singer David Byrne’s shoes walking onto a bare stage. He sets down a boom-box and pushes play, a dramatic conceit, as a drum machine (a Roland TR-808, in point of fact) is actually pumping the beat through the sound system and Byrne performs Psycho Killer. More of the band and more of the set appear onstage with each song. The stage crew deserve big props for their hand in silently positioning risers and placing effects pedals. A descending backdrop completes the stage set about 17 min in.

Director Jonathan Demme uses long camera shots so that the viewer can truly take in all that the band has to offer. The lighting is subdued and straightforward so as not to detract from the band’s performance. One can really tell that Talking Heads and the additional backing band are enjoying themselves.

The sound and performance in Stop Making Sense are incredible. Every band member delivers the goods. Talking Heads are in top form and let the music stand on it’s own while eschewing between song banter. I have to admit I am always a huge fan of a band that gets down to business. The recording is superb. The sound on every song is mixed perfectly and is crystal clear due to the 24 track digital recording.

Stop Making Sense captures a point in time, but is still relevant today. All of the songs are solidly written and impeccably performed. The stage concept and directing mesh perfectly. This movie is a joy from beginning to end. It makes one feel a part of something bigger, something beautiful. Stop Making Sense is more than a concert movie, it is art.

One last thought. If a Talking Heads bio-pic is ever made I want Wil Wheaton to play David Byrne. Seriously. For reals. He would be genius.

Stop Making Sense: directed by Jonathan Demme; director of photography, Jordan Cronenweth; edited by Lisa Day; produced by Gary Goetzman; With: Talking Heads, David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth, Edna Holt, Lynn Mabry, Steve Scales, Alex Weir, Bernie Worrel

Resources:

Wikipedia

New York Times

TROZ

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