Ben Daniels of A Sunny Day in Glasgow

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Jeremy Krinsley | June 28, 2007

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While I didn't get to watch identical twins execute creepy Kate Bush arpeggios in unison (one of them was out with emergency knee surgery), I fit in two shows while Sunny Day In Glasgow blitzed New York with three, catching one of the twins sharing the stage with her brother, Ben Daniels, the one man Pro Tools project-turned touring band. Three shows in two days was a bit much; no one can blame Daniels for the harried pace we set through our conversation. It seems that a lot is improvised for A Sunny Day In Glasgow beyond impromptu interviews – the lineup enjoys frequent rearrangements and the band's home base has changed hands just as often by virtue of Daniel's penchant for motion, as demonstrated by his quick exit to sound check when I was just getting ready to ask him how to make a mandolin sound like squawking sea gulls.

I bought your new EP at the Union Hall show last night. Was that a separate outing from the LP?

The EP… it was all kind of recorded at the same time. The songs on the EP, either we didn't finish everything in time on the album, or there were a bunch that were totally finished that just didn't feel like they'd work with the album.

I felt it was more poppy than the LP and more …electronic?

Oh. Right. Ok. I kind of think of the EP as either poppier or weirder as the stuff on the album. The first song, two minutes of clapping to open it, I dunno, that's a little strange.

We put it on at [IMPOSE founder] Derek's house and we were like… is this a live album? It took us like a full minute of looping to figure out what was happening. You use Reason on stage and usually your other sister tours with you to trigger stuff and sing?

Usually they [the twin sisters] kind of share duties with the one keyboard, but she just had emergency knee surgery so she couldn't make it on the tour. It's kind of good though for space, we'd all be a lot unhappier in the mini van.

You live all over the place right?

The main band is just me and my sisters I guess. For shows we played in the past, a friend of mind used to come in on the drums and one of my sister's boyfriends played bass but those guys couldn't do a big tour so friends of mine filled in from Canada. I've played in a couple bands before this but not for a couple years. I was sort of doing my own thing for a little bit.

I heard strange inflections of reggae and dissonant guitar on the album… did you have specific influences while making the album?

I was trying to think- I did another interview and they asked me this and I tried to remember… When I started writing it, I'd just got a computer and Pro Tools, and it was the first time I had that and I really wanted to make cut and past music and not worry about human playing… kind of like problematic now. So that's kind of the first thing I was going for. But in the end it just became whatever I was writing.

So it was pretty organic, basically.

Yeah.

What kind of stuff were you listening to at the time?

I'm really… records I really love are like KLF, like Chill Out and White Room, [adding later in an email, "but I havent listened to either in a while. I just love them. Lately I've been listening to the new Ulrich Schnauss record a lot."]

Where does the dissonant stuff comes from? Or would you not even call it that?

Well no I think some of it is pretty dissonant. Part of it is I don't know if I could write a straight up good in-key pop song and if I did, I'd just kind of be like, this is boring. So I'd try to write some strange harmony or something like that. It's more just what I like or don't like. That being said, a lot of the songs on the LP I kind of labored over them a lot, but most of them are first takes. The song “Watery” is a song I spent months and months on, if you go to our website there's a demo version of it you can download, and that's what I had and I was like, 'This sucks', and I just sat down and tried it differently on acoustic guitar and I recorded all the music to the LP version in 20 minutes.

What were you using to record all this?

Pro Tools.

But what kind of mic? Was it all direct in?

Some of it was direct in. I have one mic that's like an AKG… I don't know what it is… It's a condensor mic, it's nice.

Just one mic and then-

Pretty much. All the drums stuff I went to a friend's house and recorded snare hits and put it all back together.

(At Union Hall and, the next night, a house party on Grand Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn)

So there was no live drums or separate musicians – you did everything.

Basically.

How's that working with the translation to live performance?

If people want to come and hear exactly what's on the album, it's nowhere near that. I'm comfortable with it as something that sounds ok, that people can watch.

What were you aiming for when you started rehearsing.

It's funny because for the past year I've been living in Montreal so when we started we'd get asked to play these really great shows, like CMJ in the fall. We played KEXP… So I'd just come back from Montreal and we'd just like practice for two hours before the show and we'd play and it'd just be horrible. And nobody knows- The last show we played in New York in February- it's funny we just have a lot of visual cues for when the songs change and the people who set up that show put more lights on us, so the drummer was completely blinded and he was like “I dunno what's going on!” For these shows [for the June tour] I was like, we're all gonna know the songs we're gonna play them well…

It sounded good last night. I have one more questions. You've lived in different cities…

My girlfriend of several years ago moved to London for a job and I was just like living with my parents and didn't have a job and I was like, this is horrible, but then I lived there for a while just penniless. She'd pay the rent and I'd just walk around the city all day and it was awful for like six months. Then I actually got a job there. And I just went to grad school in Montreal.

There was a period in Glasgow?

No, a friend of mine was in Glasgow. I was down in London and he was up there and it's his name, I just wasn't picky about it when we started making music but then he quit which was strange. I've been there a couple time and every time I've been there it's rained a lot.

I've actually been there once and it was a beautiful day and I saw Belle and Sebastian playing in a park. Obviously ironic…

Actually we went to see one of them DJ that time. There was like no one there.

I can't imagine that being that exciting.

Yeah… I'm in Philly for the long haul now.

In the city?

Just like the suburbs…

Ok, well I guess I should let you go

Ok, thanks, bye!

[And with that Ben ran off for sound check...]

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