You know Chris Taylor from Grizzly Bear, and you may have heard about his popular other band CANT. The album Dreams Come True features work with Twin Shadow, and showcases Taylor’s recent blending of rich electronic pop and a more personal approach to songwriting. We talked for a bit about the quandary of the substantive and aesthetics of his music, and the fine art of letting go to find what you really want.
How has your work with Grizzly Bear informed CANT?
I don’t know, it was making music, and it’s another experience of making music, kind of like in the way that you go to school to learn things and get smarter. In the same way you go to college and I don’t know, it’s all a music making experience.
How was the writing and recording process with Twin Shadow’s George Lewis?
We really saw eye to eye in that writing process, so it was pretty cool.
Everyone has been talking about that track “The Edge” and I’m wondering where do you get your own blue eyed soul edge? It’s a very soulful number.
I just kind of sang it like I wanted to, so and it just kind of grew into that rhythm and that’s how it happened.
Very cool. I like how “She Found a Way Out” turns into a scuzz epic right at the 2 minute mark. What went into making a track that is like a song suite?
It’s a hard question to answer. One of those 'How does the song, why does the song…' I don’t really know how to explain that.
Well I know you had an extensive background in classical jazz?
I played in jazz performance for two years in college.
But I have also read that your approach is defiant in the face of any classical learning, taking it outside of that box like with tracks like “She Found a Way Out” where there is a real passion and the song has chapters unto itself. I was wondering what the song was to you?
That song is about this crazy girl in a troubled relationship, you know?
There is a heck of a gripping passion to it that was really fascinating to me. With this current trend of artists of making what would be considered fringe folk back in the day, people like you and Trevor from Youth Lagoon are making wild journal narratives fleshed out to progressive beats and great sequencing. I’m curious to pick your brain about this new yet familiar futuristic frontier that a lot of other people are working in.
Cool, well thank you very much, that’s very generous and awesome and I appreciate that.
I appreciate the music, I know a lot of folks down in the Monterey Peninsula scene are freaking out about this, hearing other people who are taking the folk approach by putting your journal on display as if to be downloaded from iTunes or Amazon.
Exactly, that’s exactly what it is, like a journal where everyone can dig in, you know? After about a year of when I was touring with Grizzly Bear, we would have these pep talks, just talk really about the soul of our personal lives. Bonding and making us think about what we were in the world. Sort of like, 'Whoa, where the fuck am I?' And that is basically what I try to address here. Basically putting myself on the record with what I needed to get off my chest, and in the context of time creating a narrative story out of songs. That was kind of from a personal space in my head, and I need the time to pour that out on a record. It’s personal, so it is in a way like you are reading my journal. I just needed the time.
Well in the first listen I had some company of folk enthusiasts who were excited about hearing the record and it was a welcoming response. Why do you think people are into in writing songs again and not just letting the production stand on its own? It seems like folks like you are coming around to putting the mirror to themselves and shining it outward.
Yeah, I mean I don’t know, I guess I feel like the recording process I mean the set up now is so like everybody is just recording and there is a lot of people out there who don’t really necessarily understand that the song is more than just a cool vibe. You know, it’s like how people out there who, I don’t know who always talk about how cool it is to be in a band and da, da, da, da, that must be really cool and people enjoy fantasizing what is like to be in a band but now everyone has their own home recording setup so now they can decide to be a band and put their stuff out there like everyone else. And all of a sudden it’s not just all like fluff, it’s more like what the hell are you thinking about and drenched in some sort of magical effect, you know, just really obnoxious. There is so much of that stuff and it’s been gaining so much credibility which I really don’t understand, but it is heading toward something that is more than just an aesthetic level which is really awesome. However there is something more substantive and relatable like the heart and soul, so I don’t know; maybe people are realizing that there is something more important than just the aesthetics.
As a multi-instrumentalist and a producer, how do you go about balancing the substantive element of the lyrics and deciding the keyboard or guitar sound you want in the production?
I think I used to really intellectualize things, like what I was doing and how much. At this point I don’t really think about all that. Now I just find a sound that we like and just go with it and I don’t muddle over the production. I find the sound that I want or where I feel that what we have done works. But what I have done is not to let the production on the album be the only thing. I feel like I found what I want from the production, from the aesthetics, but I don’t let the production of the album dictate the songs. It used to be I would sit around, sit there, meditate and stress myself out until I found the sounds that I want, but now I just work with the band to get it how I want. You know, it’s cool. I want to present the songs to stand behind the production itself and I don’t really want it to take away from the personal value of it.
What do Ed and the rest of the Grizzlies think?
Oh they like it, they like it a lot, Ed’s really stoked on the album. I didn’t show it to them until it was totally done but they’re really into it. I felt like if they didn’t like it I would be really worried. But no they really like it and it’s really cool.
Will that 7 minute epic “Be Around” you made with Twin Shadow be around on any 7-inch format any time soon?
That was basically like a drum beat from sort of a house rhythm, like (impersonates the boom, tsh, boom, tsh), that was like the first thing we started working on. We just found no place to put it on Dreams Come True. It was just released as a download but I'm glad you like it!