|Sunglasses Gear: Roland SP-555
Blending the complex harmonies of The Beach Boys with the gritty aesthetics of the new millennium’s bedroom pop, Sunglasses add a new chapter to the Brooklyn DIY scene – which they recently embraced after moving from Savannah, GA. Whereas most current Brooklyn bands have a tendency to flirt with the decadent, self-indulgent atmospheres of the East Coast and European bands of the ’60s and ’70s, the duo’s debut full length “Wildlife” is a collection of sunny and eclectic pop songs whose melodies quite unexpectedly flirt with jazz and lounge without sounding like either. The background is a kaleidoscopic accumulation of sounds that could be described as brilliantly organized chaos – a production style we also appreciated on Foxygen’s latest record, and that can be traced back to the Beck-Animal Collective “influenceology tree” – but a chaos that works with the upbeat songwriting to create a super-fun party atmosphere.
– How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?
Samuel: All home
– If you used a studio, what would you record there and what would you record by yourself and why?
Samuel: If in a studio I would utilize things that I don’t have at home like some sort of piano or organ or track drums. We did all the recording in different bedrooms in something like 5 different states. We didn’t have an option to record anywhere else than at home. Eventually we converted my lake house in the North Georgia woods into a studio and did most there. More freedom and no restrictions… which is not always a good thing. That’s part of the reason why Smile never got released, which was a major influence on this album and that’s funny because Wildlife easily could’ve not been released.
Samuel : Depends. The iPhone is really inspiring because you can get your ideas down really fast. I have a whole series of iPhone recordings that has been fun going back and finding half songs and ideas I completely forgot and finishing them into full ideas. I also have been recording on those Tascam 8-tracks too, I forget the model, it’s the digital new one.
Brady: My DX7, P6, 606 and the guitar, which I just picked up this year.
– What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why?
Brady: I really can’t think of any at the moment. I’m pretty set on what little I have. And still haven’t used the machines to their full potential. It’s easy to get lost when you have a lot of toys.
Samuel: One? That’s hard. I don’t know. I want the Pitchfactor pedal. I want a piano.
– 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?
Samuel: Who knows? If we had a producer it would make my life a lot easier. Jon Brion. But for Sunglasses I don’t know. Brian Eno probably. like I mentioned we both have already self-produced solo albums. Sunglasses really chewed up a lot of our time. I doubt I want to go through that any time soon.
Brady: I’m self-producing my solo project. If I had the opportunity for someone to help produce my music, I would reach out to Daniel Ash.
– 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.
Samuel: We use computer effects and pedals. We have lots of pedals. Depending on what sound you’re talking about. I don’t think we use any effects/pedals others haven’t. For guitar usual reverb, a little delay chorus, maybe tremolo, then certain times distortion which is from the Zvex fuzz factory pedal on the album.
– Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?
Brady: Not particularly any style but my own. Having been experimenting with recording for a while now, I am familiar with how to obtain the sound and style I hear in my head. Employing very many different techniques.
Samuel: I’m a classic psychedelic pop kinda guy. I always start kinda in the process of Brian Wilson and Phil Spector recording-wise…double tracking most if not all instruments. You know then we sprinkle little bit of ATL rap or lounge or noise or jazz or surf, etc. It always starts with a pop song though. Well-produced pop songs have some sort of structure that you can follow then add your own flavor to. The recording and producing follows after I’ve written the song
-Who determines the direction and style of your recordings?
Samuel: It’s a group effort in terms of sound choices but I write the songs and perform most the instruments. Then we add/mix from there.
-Is there a person outside the band that’s been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?
Samuel: Not really. We have very close friends and family we’ve been sharing the album with for years now. They have been overly encouraging and supportive and vocal about the finished product. My older brother, Clay, has always been a great source of brutal honesty. Live, we are still searching for the best way to present these songs.
– What other artists would you say have had the biggest influence in your approach to recording? Why?
Samuel : For Wildlife: The Beatles, Beck, Gorillaz, Beach Boys, Outkast, Brian Eno, and Animal collective. Sunglasses is a project that allowed me to kinda throw it all together. I learned a lot from recording this album and took notes from a lot of people I respect. The kind of album we made can be linked to those people, especially Beck, Gorillaz and Animal Collective.
Brady: Again, our influences have changed drastically from the creation of Wildlife. But those influences opened the doors to other influences, which may or may not have touched us in different ways.
– Would you say that your live show informs your recording process or that your recording process informs your live show? Both? Neither?
Samuel: Sunglasses is a recording project. Live is like hashing it out trying to figure how to translate it with two people. But we did test these songs on the road for a while, so a little bit of both. Also, we have different versions we like to play live ‘cuz we get bored with these songs, ‘cuz to us, they are very old.
– Is there a piece of equipment that you find particularly useful on stage?
Samuel: For Sunglasses, a sampler. Couldn’t do it without it. We used to use a computer, but that sucks. I’d still use a computer, but not how we used to. Latency, anyone? The worst. With a sampler, I can place a grand piano part I recorded in Georgia and still use the sounds…stuff we physically can’t play live. I have the 404 and we also use the 555 which is way better I think. But I always take a new instrument up and fit into an intro or something. Like harmonica or melodica.
– 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?
Brady: Sam mostly takes care of everything and he has friends help us when needed. But I would say there is very little effort put in to the image. I find that kind of shit to be bogus.
Samuel: We have a 24 hour team working around the clock that directly consults our image…kinda but not really. Once again, just friends — roommate takes our photos. We kinda see what works. Sometimes it’s hard with all that stuff and unnatural. I have started my own label, Golden Chow Records which has a Facebook/Tumblr/store/etc. and I got some help w the programming and HTML. In terms of artwork, I do most of it but I have so many talented friends. It’s hard not to always get opinions on whatever we’re making and we definitely collaborate.
– What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?
Samuel: The style we kinda chose or fell into for Wildlife takes a long time to get right, or try to anyway. We were mixing for like a year. So that’s no fun. Getting the idea is always fun. Hearing the idea after a long time away is fun and sometimes not. a creative project can be a burden and a blessing mostly at the same time. The goal is to reach as many people as possible and hopefully be able to listen to it later and not wanna kill yourself.
Brady: The most challenging thing is just getting through it. With all the different takes and production. It takes time. And when you don’t feel inspired, you don’t want to work on it. The only rewarding aspects is learning how to get it done faster, not fucking up and hearing something that’s close to the ever potentially finished product.