Wednesday, 19 August 2009


New York seems to have become a bottomless pit, from which an endless precession of awesome lo-fi bands emerge. The most recent of these to draw my attention is Tonstartssbandht. My ex put me on to them and if you watch this video I think you will agree, they are a bit special.

Tonstartssbandht are based between Montreal and New York. Is it tricky working together over long distances? How do you go about it?

EDWIN: We have to record most of our songs during summer holidays in either mtl or NYC, or when we visit family in Orlando. Most of the rock songs were recorded as a duo in Montreal in the summertime. During the year we are writing stuff by ourselves and emailing developing projects back and forth... we are always sharing ideas and making endless lists of songs to cover that we never get around to. A couple songs were made entirely by one guy, but I won't say which. It's usually a full on collaboration, started form one guy's idea.
ANDY: Lots of emails. Many songs are written and recorded entirely by one of the guys, and only later, when we're visiting each other or at home will we "flesh them out" if at all. Because we've been living away from each other essentially since the band started two years ago, working on music takes a real precedence when we are together (hence alot of our work will come in short bursts during visits (NYC, mtl), at home in Orlando, or on holiday (Toronto, Berlin).

Does the fact you are brothers aid the creative process or can it be a

EDWIN: It's the best thing about the process. I have so much fun with this band because it's almost automatically stress free, and it accomplishes exactly what I hope to get done in music. Andy is one of my favorite musicians. We share so much of the same mental references for music. We grew up listening to almost the exact sounds for 20 years. We share deep bonds to a billion bands, albums, songs and very specific sounds. I can reference something very abstractly, that I might not even be able to articulate well enough for me to understand, and Andy can very often pick up on exactly what I'm going for sonically. We just share an old and familiar connection, which is great for collaboration.
ANDY: I think I know Edwin better than anyone else because he is my brother, and we are very great friends who share an interest in writing music. that in itself should assist any creative process. even beyond that though, i do think there is a closely shared memory of influences from our family life; aural ideas and sonic play with our dad, and a special history of images, media, and environmental experiences from our mom, who does design work.

Why did you choose to leave sunny Florida?

EDWIN: I left Orlando to go to school in NYC. I had been planning to move there since I was 5 so it was inevitable. That was the best decision I've made so far.... but I did love growing up in Florida. And nostalgia for that lost Florida lifestyle has inspired many of our songs. We're very proud to be from the Sunshine State. Florida is a wild place!
ANDY: i enjoyed growing up Orlando a great deal. i still think that its an extremely fascinating place, just like the rest of the Floridian peninsula. but we spent every summer of our lives doing long road trips across the country, cuz our parents dig road tripping, and when we traveled being away, sensing myself in a new space, felt awesome. When i was choosing a school, Quebec seemed a good mix of familiar and foreign. Moving really really fucking far away from Florida has had mad ups and super downs, but its an experience I do not regret. I still get a very deep personal satisfaction from saying to myself "Whoa, what? i live in Canada now?"

The vocal harmonies on songs like Preston “great ass” imfat are incredibly stirring. Where did you learn to make sounds like that?

EDWIN: Andy is the man behind most of that song. It was his demo to begin with.... But I can tell you that the style of that song is more like Andy's old solo recordings from middle school, which are beautiful and intricate and folky. It's probably just stuff he picked up in choir as a kid and from being the musical sponge that he is.
ANDY: The Orlando Deanery Boy Choir. We toured the UK in 1999, and i still trace near-conscious memories, visions and dreams to my experiences from that trip. all those unreal, ornate houses of worship, ancient fortresses, crumbling cemeteries, and the wholly un-Floridian landscape has been a fantastic influence on every creative work I've ever realized.

Is there a conscious decision to balance the weird psychedelic elements of your sound with the more conventional pop or anthemic (in the case of midnight cobras) sounds?

EDWIN:There is a conscious decision to keep our recordings and live shows balanced between the sample and beat based choral pop stuff ("hard pop","psychedelic") and the guitar-and-drums balls out rock. We love both of these sides of our music and performance equally and don't want to have to give up one to appease a specific crowd. The audience has always been open to both sides, which is awesome. thanks guys.
ANDY: Its a conscious practice in so far as
1) "Psychedelic elements" are essentially technical FX and gear that tend to turn sounds into awesome (see Spacemen 3, Blues Control, Angus Maclise, etc)
2) But there is a point, in applying technical psychedelia, where you can't hear the melody that is haunting you and which you want to haunt others, so...
3) You use as much psychedelia as you care to get that "awesome" and then find a ground where awesome exists alongside the melodic vision you have.

Are you concerned that your music could be viewed simply as a part of the already bloated lo-fi music scene, rather than as music in its own

EDWIN: I'm never sure what to call our music either, so I can handle the lo-fi tag to an extent. I wouldn't scold someone for having trouble finding the right term. And it's not an incorrect description either... We've been forced to learn recording as we go for years, so it's not often the highest quality. I can't claim to be a sound engineer.
On the other hand, it would suck if people avoided listening to our stuff cause they heard it's 'lo-fi'. I think it has more to offer than what the label presupposes. "Andy Summers" is on it's own.
ANDY: People as a group will call it whatever's convenient, myself included. I'm okay with that. what I'm interested in is the personal experiences individuals have with our songs and our live shows. "Black Country made me cry...", "Every time I come see you guys play, I get so excited that I have to pee..." "Your music harkens back to a pre-bicameral mind, when memories and ideas were ghosts and gods." It'd be difficult for groups of us to speak easily and quickly about all the bands we love if personal meanings came out like that. So I'll take those as they come and let stylistic labels stick as they will. I really don't follow music news outside of me, my friends, and local gossip anyways, so I've no reason not to be content with being considered part of a lo-fi wave.

Some bloggers have compared your music to science fiction film
soundtracks. Is this a reasonable comparison? If so what sci-fi films
or other things for that matter have inspired you?

EDWIN: That's rad, I like those bloggers then. If any sci-fi film has inspired me it would be Bladerunner. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that Vangelis did the music, and we're big Vangelis fans. L.A. is so fucking big in that movie. "Memories of Green" is a heartbreaker.
ANDY: I have always craved sci-fi depictions of unreal spaces and cities. Bladerunner, Brazil, Stalker, Akira, all present foreign lands where I have been able to replicate that high that still gives me hallucinations from roadtrips across the US, the UK, and Japan. The "I, this person, am somewhere else" drug. The visions of Tokyo in Akira and other, even non-sci-fi, films are present in alot of the work i do with Ed. I think he dreams as often as I do of living in an enormous ocean of contiguous human settlement and awe-inspiring infrastructure with a familiar and foreign culture, to give us that ungrounded, fresh high that contributes so much to creative visions.

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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

New York's Trip Hammer Vitality

"New York has a trip-hammer vitality which drives you insane with restlessness if you have no inner stabilizer." Henry Miller

All photos by Tom Rowsell

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