Interviewed by Corin Syrianoudis
1. Kai, do your parents know that you swore on Brain Dial and Yankee Boy? K: No, it’s been a big weight on my shoulders knowing that my parents could one day know that I swore on the album. Anytime they hear the songs I speak really loudly about something unrelated when the swear word comes up and that has worked for now. I’ll have to break it to them one day, though.
2. Do you guys like Limp Bizkit? D: I’ll take this one. Limp Bizkit has shaped our lives enormously and we definitely want to play some of their stuff live. Please play it live and come to Youngstown, Ohio. K: In a bowling alley, yes!
3. If Brain Dial and My Sore Eyes were people, who would win in a fight? All: Brain Dial! K: I’m trying to think of what characters those would be, but I can definitely say that Brain Dial would be really buff. Ridiculously buff. D: Yeah, and My Sore Eyes is kind of a sad boy bitch boy.
4. What are all your respective roles in the troupe? K: The band has usually worked like someone shares their song, usually mine or Charlie’s, and then the rest of us add instrumentation to it from our homes. Our first albums worked like that completely, all from our separate homes. On this one, we had more songs that we worked on all together in the same room, and a lot of songs that had been written over a really long period of time, starting in someone’s own bedroom recordings and evolving into a band song.
5. I can definitely hear that difference, this album feels like it has a wider influential pool among songs. Especially on Start a House Fire, what inspired you guys to do boots-and-cats-and-boots-and-cats? Like, a dance song? K: Yeah, it’s a dance song, definitely! With this album, we wanted to have each song sort of have its own loose self-contained feel and we definitely focused on making it more of a song-oriented record. A good bit of the songs on here are focused on being catchy and fun to listen to instead of being super conceptual. In contrast to other album, definitely not a concept album. And a lot of this record came out of personal songwriting experiments during alone time and making 4 track demos. This one came out of this song called Styrofoam Disko, which is somewhere on YouTube - I felt like I needed to write a dance song. D: Yeah, if you ever see us live playing this, just go crazy, go mental, go bananas. K: Francis, this is your favorite on the album, right? F: Yeah, it sounds like Old Time Relijun. C: I like it cuz everytime Kai sent the song he added more layers, so there’s a lot to listen for.
6. I’ve Told You Better is a really good track, but why is it so short? I always play it two times. K: Going off what I said earlier, I feel like this album is a reaction to the longform-ness and ambience of To Swallow a Sea and this song just felt like a perfect encapsulation of our headspace during the album, kind of focused on writing catchy songs, more power-poppy. We definitely want to make an album at some point that takes this song’s idea further, just full of really compact catchy songs. Like that Brian Wilson thing, trying to encapsulate this one feeling in a really short amount of time. K: Yeah! Obviously Guided by Voices does it really well, but also like, Times New Viking and stuff like The Nerves, Big Star to some extent, they have some really good short songs that encapsulate certain feelings and thoughts really well.
6. How do you guys feel about using music as a form of political expression, do you feel it can portray a message well? K: Of course! Any form of communication is political, any thing involving more than a single person is political, and music I feel is like the most basic and universal form of communication. So anything you do musically, if you’re putting it out publicly, is naturally political no matter what it’s saying or not saying because you’re putting it out for other people to see and think about. So we wanted everyone to know that we are fucking angry with stuff, especially with Lucky Dog and Yankee Boy, those two being about characterizations of things we hate in the world, lucky dogs being the rich, and yankee boys being the cops and preachers. D: Music is just another form of conversation, it’s a language everyone knows. K: And again, as this album being a counterpoint to To Swallow a Sea, thematically that album is very dreamy and surrealistic in its music and lyrics especially, with Lucky Dog it’s a lot more direct.
7. On a lot of these songs, you use codas a lot. Are you guys influenced by classical music, or were you just like “oh, look I know what a coda is, I’m going throw it in a song”? K: A coda? F: What’s a coda? D: This guy. It’s like a repeated passage of a song, you play through with the coda and then return to it, usually at the end. Like a classical piece. I hear classical writing structures for some of these new songs. K: Are you yanking my chain? D: Yankee Boy has one, yeah. K: Uh, yeah, I watched Amadeus.
8. Are you guys aware of the loosely defined genre known as “penis music”? K: Yes, we are aware of penis music. So, although this not a concept album, there are three main characters in this album, lucky dog, yankee boy, and Mary marionette. I already explained the other two, but mary marionette is basically the characterization of the entertainment industry and notions of ‘beauty’ that are given to children that are inherently capitalistic. So, Mary marionette is this performer who everyone idolizes, especially children, as this is a children’s album. The penis music breakdown in Mary Marionette is Mary marionette performing. The rest of the song is written from the perspective of the children looking up to her and that little part in the middle switches perspectives, it’s Mary performing her little jingle. That’s cool. I love penis music, and I like how Dwaal Troupe has slotted themselves into the “penis music adjacent” genre. K: Slaughtered themselves? Slotted. K: Ok. D: There’s also another part of the album that I believe is penis music, there’s that outro on Shakes the Walls at Night, the doh-doo-duh guitar thing. And Start a House Fire, too. K: Oh, definitely, like boo-boo-bow-bwa-bwaaah. Penis music is just like, any music. If I say it’s penis music, yeah, it’s penis music.
9. What was Lucky Dog recorded on? Like, I know, you’re analog freaks or whatever, but what specifically? K: Tascam Porta One 4 track cassette, Tascam 488 8 track cassette, Tascam 688 8 track cassette. The 488 is kind of the communal Hallogallo deck that everyone borrows and we tracked most of the band on that. The 688 is really nice but it’s too heavy to carry to people’s houses with drum kits and I’ve fixed it so many times it’s starting to get more janky. A lot of the overdubs were digitally in Logic too. Disgusting, I think I might vomit right now. K: And then all of the songs we did live band, we would take all of our phones and throw them around the room to get good room sounds. In fact, the b-side to Yankee Boy, When Will it Be Cold? was only recorded on iPhones spread across the room. I highly recommend using phones to beefen up the sound, because it’s just in your pocket, and you don’t need to set anything fancy up, you just record. If you put an iPhone right up to the bass drum, you get a really good Ringo style drum compression. So a lot of the songs the set up would be, two mics going into the 8 track, a Tascam stereo field recorder, 3 iPhones, and a walkman sometimes going all at the same time.
9. How did you get the chord organ in tune for Yankee Boy? K: If anyone doesn’t know, most chord organs you’ll find are a few cents sharp or flat cuz of the reeds bending over years in basements and shit. You just pitch shift the rest of the song while recording to the chord organ and then put it back up in tune at the end. D: And that whole song is slightly slowed down cuz of how fucked the tape got. There’s a part where everything except the vocals basically drops out and stuff. K: Yeah, we tracked it at Charlie’s and then when I came home the cassette got dropped under the garage door and split the tape like three times. So I spliced it back and it’s a miracle we even saved the song. And I love how it turned out ultimately, really warbly and sludgey and fucked, wall of sound thing. D: Yeah, the wall of sound thing was a big thing we wanted to do on the album, with that song and Some Blood for Luna.
10: What synths did you use for Start a House Fire? It sounds really nice. K: Thank you! Basically the only synth is just an old kids keyboard, Casio PT-80, through my pedalboard. So mostly ring modulator and chorus. That keyboard is a Hallogallo trademark, Post Office Winter uses it a lot too. And then I also used literally some Logic synths to beefen up the whole song, mainly just a really low distorted almost sub bass. D: Isn’t there a GarageBand riser in the buildup for Field for the Lion’s Cage? K: Noo! That’s me on the 4 track pointing a really hot mic closer and closer to the headphones to make it feedback higher and higher in pitch slowly.
11. The guitars on New Fixture are a little Lifeguard-y at times, do you feel like this just naturally happened because of your recent focus with Lifeguard, Kai? K: Yeah, there’s overlap, mainly with the thrashy guitars. D: And there are some new songs we have been working on that are really post-hardcorey. When we started the band, we had like 4 main ideas for albums, Lucky Dog being basically the first, funny enough. And a lot of ideas have been trashed, but we’re gonna keep on expanding different parts of our sound and we definitely are not trying to evolve in any particular way. Yeah, you did a bit of a Ween thing with this album, a lot of directions. K: WEEN??!
12. What physical peculiarities do you have? F: I have ape-sized hands. (Presses hands to TV) For reference, this is an LGTV Flatscreen, my hands are very huge and vascular. That’s crazy, you could be a hand model for someone who’s trying to get a picture of a serial killer’s hands or something. F: Ok… K: My peculiarity is that I have two right ankles. On my right foot, I have two ankles. Do you think that helps you out with your guitar playing? K: Yes. And you know that song by the Decemberists, Red Right Ankle? They wrote it for me. D: (Putting socks on hands) I have sock hands.