Sunday, July 05, 2009
Peaking Lights tap into a familiar landscape with their fuzzy analog wanderings, but their handspun DIY flips those remote pop/folk tropes all over for an oblique take on American mythos. The duo of Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunas channel both noise and more linear songforms into imagestic jams that are as much forest as desert. I'll not have been the only one thrashing their Not Not Fun-released Imaginary Falcons cassette, and naturally it sounds better each time, those circular ballads looping dustier and dustier, lost in reverb and miragey heat wobbles. I interviewed Indra and Aaron a couple of weeks ago for Australian magazine Cyclic Defrost re: that locale, weather, tapes, scenes, skewed pop. It's kinda long/rambley as per my requests.
Is there anything in particular that attracts you to cassettes?
Aaron: I like that I still have cassettes fifteen years old that still play. Unlike a lot of different media that gets lost in the wake of capitalist structure, they're still around. Like, beta or wire recorders, what happened to those? I think that the way history gets lost to the constant attempt to put new things out there for the consumer is a crazy crazy thing. It's like book burning! You have these stories that get lost in the mix, or rather taken to the dump. I think in a real general way it's important for people to understand old technology and preserve it as crazy as it may be it's a lot of information from the past a lot of history, and a lot of it is in landfills!
Indra: Cassettes are totally DIY. you can decide, "I want to be a label!", then you record it at home, design the art, order a few hundred tapes and dub it at home and voila! You have a release! And it's a good quality analog medium, with longevity. Better quality than a CDR. You don't need to spend thousands to put out your music to the world. Although, I have to say my number one favorite medium is vinyl! It's got that extra something special.
Listening to Imaginary Falcons on cassette I kept thinking about how circular it all sounds, not just flipping from, like motifs about travel and journey seem to spring out somehow as well. Is any of that relevant to your thoughts at all?
A: We tried to have the record start where it ends and ends where it starts. Have you tried to play it backwards yet?
I: For sure. nothing in life stays the same and we are constantly moving.
I love the idea of skewed pop music, it seems like you guys are quite into that, ie music with some familiarity in structure or something but totally scuffed up.
A: It's been an attempt to try and pull that off. Like learning to swim or something. It's a familiar substance, but the reality of it is we have no idea what we're doing. Just trying to do something that we haven't really done before.
I: I think we evolved into this F'd pop from our wide interests in different music. Aaron was really into noise and psychedelic stuff when we met, and I was just ending my stint with my old band, Numbers; that was very structured. We started playing in Rahdunes together and that was a total departure from what I had been playing, and I loved it! Then when we started Peaking Lights it naturally evolved into this loose but written song style we like doing. We have parts, but it doesn't always get played exactly the same...and we've also been know to do total improv sets live as well!
Given the wandering nature of a track like that and the gradual venture it makes into noise, I was wondering how improvised your recording process was? And with your live shows as well?
A: With that track, the first half is structured and written out, the second half and the dissintegration into noise was actually fairly planned as well. We set our machine to certain sounds and just kinda go into it when it feels right. Most of our songs are like 75% written and 25% jam, not to say we don't jam, but it's kind of that mystery sometimes when we play songs live for the first time we'll go back and re-write them based on a whole new idea that forms. Once they're finished we try and keep them pretty loose in structure, we have are cues so we can go into harmonies and melodies or change to a certain part but that always is changing but still along the original structure to some degree.
Also, is the process at all similar between what you do and more overt dub music?
A: I think so. The idea of early dub is way appealing to me. I love the idea of taking something that has been around for a long time and making it your own. I love how reggae and dub comes from an initial spark of that influence of soul, but completely owns it and that little island of Jamaica created something completely their own. We build a lot of our own equipment too, and I guess that if we looked at dub as some sort of guiding light towards the process of staying open to new experiences that music offers and not stagnating yeah, I hope that we'll always be changing as a band keep things fresh, not just be some tepid pool of sitting water but be the ocean constantly changing with lots of movement.
You guys run a store too! Can you tell us a bit about The Good Style Shop?
A: We opened the shop in Madison, WI. in March of this year. It's basically vintage clothes, records, cassettes and curio. We kind of expanded on what Nate and Sunny (from Rahdunes) have been doing in San Francisco with their store, Painted Bird, which is all clothes. We just added the other stuff. It's been an adventure here, both Indra and I were living in the Bay Area for a long time we we're getting by, but it was like work work work play way more works than play, but at the same time there's this huge melting of different folks doing incredible things. It's been a struggle to find that here so we just figured to try and bring a little bit of what we learned from living in the bay and other parts of the world here or at least give people a chance to have something new, and if they wanted it, a place that they could hang their art work for free, play with some weirder bands, we wanted a place to have instores and bring bands that may not have had a chance to play here, also a place where local bands that are doing more out there stuff. The best thing has been able to have shows, all the punk and hardcore kids and skate rats cruz out and they have super open minds here. There are a few killer punk bands like SFN and Deep Shit! That makes me smile. We hope with the shop to help there be somewhere new that people who are open to new things can have a voice...everywhere really is the same when you get down to it.
Is there much of a community that you feel a part of in terms of music? The Not Not Fun bros/ladies came through here the other day and I always thought that their whole aesthetic and particular type of DIY seemed quite tight knit.
A: Yeah, Not Not Fun for sure! We met Britt and Amanda on our west coast tour with Wet Hair this last fall they were really incredible folks! Indra and I are really into their positive vibes! Also the Wet hair and Night-People those guys have been really good to us, we hang out a fair amount cuz they're in Iowa city only 2 hours from our house. There's also a lot going on down there. A bunch of really positive people offering a lot of support to each other, really rare way awesome! Jerkwave Tapes who is also Dead Luke from Madison puts out a lot of different types of stuff, he's a really positive dude, we hang a fair bit also play music in a few projects; he's in Absinthe Minds as well. Julian Lynch is another dude that's living here right now, he's from New Jersey and is in school here right now. Patrick Best and Mykel from Pelt live here and those two have been a real blessing to have around, really supportive and positive. Nicky Hummel from here she does Zola Jesus and is super sweet, one of the few ladies here doing rad stuff, I know the Spires in the Sunset Rise ladies live here, but we don't know them. We're still waiting for more of the experimental ladies to pop out of the woodwork! The scene is pretty beefy in Madison, it would be nice to see more ladies involved. Drunjus has been doing some great synth sets the last two shows I've seen them play. I am a West Coast dude so it has alot more influence for me ie Nate and Sunny who are also in Rahdunes, Loach Fillet, that dude is a shredder!!! Social Junk is super sweet!!! Sixes is a total ripper! We met up with Magic Lantern and Sun Araw on the West Coast and they were super sweet too. Some friends from Australia have been really awesome, Sean Bailey from Lakes and Inverted Crux, Pete Hyde from Sweat Lung and William Lemnell of Heard Worse Records, Castings and Spanish Magic. Sam Hamilton from New Zealand is a rad dude. Also, Metal Rouge - Helga and Andrew are some of our favorites, we keep hearing word they may move here which we hope! We really haven't done enough touring though, just met a bunch of awesome people. It's hard to say for myself that I totally align myself with anything really, just really dig on positive vibes and people who are supportive and it seems we've been lucky enough to attract that positive energy to ourselves.
I: Since we lived in the bay area for a long time, we still have ties with the west coast for sure....but actually i feel like the music community for me is pretty extended beyond cities or states, or even this country! We didn't move to wisconsin for the local scene, i think we felt we could go on tour to create that sense of belonging to a bigger community of musicians. but we've met some cool folks here, and are trying to bring bands we know through to help facilitate that wider feeling of community.
What are you working on now/next?
A: A bunch of new smaller tape label releases, and a split with Social Junk on Ecstatic Peace at some point, a split 7" with Wet Hair on Not Not Fun as part of the Bored Fortress 7" club, and a tape for Jerkwave's Summer of Psychedelics Tape Club. AND a new LP is in the works!
[Peaking Lights MySpace]