In May, 2010 I sat down with Marshall LaCount, Nona Marie Invie and Jonathan Kaiser of Dark Dark Dark to talk about travel, sound and the (then) upcoming record, Wild Go.
So you guys are touring...
Marshall: First day, actually. We were in New York and then Minneapolis playing shows, but this is our first show of our west coast venture.
Where are you heading from here?
M: Up to Salt Lake and then Portland, Olympia, Seattle and all that.
I'm sure you'll get support in Portland and Seattle, but I don't know about Salt Lake...
M: (laughs) It's on the way.
Out of curiosity, what have you all been listening to these days?
Nona Marie: The new Joanna Newsom record [Have One On Me] has been on heavy rotation.What else, Jonathan?
Jonathan: Rihanna, Usher...(everyone laughs)
M: Arthur Russell is someone I recently got introduced to, that I'm really into right now. Chris Isaak...
M: Kate Bush...
J:We dig deep. (everyone laughs)
Your most recent release is the (fucking fantastic) Bright Bright Bright EP. The piece as a whole presents such a thickening progression from Snow Magic, a movement towards slower, richer compositions and, ultimately, your evolution as songwriters. Can you tell me a little about the writing and recording of the album?
M: I think we stopped in New Orleans and consciously took time to write, because we we were touring so much and thinking along the way that there might be time to write at some point but realizing it would never happen. Nona especially wanted some writing time and wrote most of those songs in New Orleans. Right?
NM: Yeah. And we were in Holland for a month working on a project so I wrote a couple there.
J: Those songs are really part of a larger body of work. Most of the songs from our upcoming LP were written around that same time. It just sorta seemed like those 6 worked together well as an EP, but I don't think either of you started out like "I'm gonna write just 6 songs for an EP", right?
M: I think we wanted to bridge the gap from Snow Magic to our new record. So three songs sound like they came from the Snow Magic period, and the other three that lead into the new one, Wild Go, which will be out later this year.
Have you guys already started recording it?
NM: We actually already finished recording it and it'll be out in October.
That's exciting, are you releasing it through Supply & Demand?
M: Yep. You can actually listen to the single if you go to our website and sign up for the mailing list.
I was actually wondering how you guys hooked up with Tom from S&D?
We actually met him when he still worked for Strange Famous, Sage Francis' label. We had nothing to do in Providence one time and we ended up playing an open-mic that he was hosting. And that pretty much started two years of us keeping in touch and occasionally asking him for advice, or him organizing a show for us when we came through Providence. Then, eventually he left Strange Famous and started Supply & Demand, and we were the first band to go with him and start working with him.
Tom is such a kind and generous person and he really helped me out a lot leading up to this interview (Thank You, Tom). Anyway, before we stray too far, I'm really curious about the new LP; for instance, there are piano-based tracks on BBB, which had never really appeared before that EP. Had you written songs on the piano before this?
NM: I grew up playing the piano but I took a long break from it. And, during Snow Magic I think we used piano as kind of a backing instrument on a couple of songs, and after that I started playing the piano more. It just felt natural to start writing songs on it.
And that continues on Wild Go?
Would you say the majority of songs are piano based?
Most of the piano-based tracks on BBB feature Nona on lead vocals. Does that also continue on Wild Go?
M: Yeah, Nona takes it primarily. I mean, there are a few breaks on the LP where I take lead, but mostly Nona is the boss.
So the record is mixed and ready to go?
M: Yeah, it's mastered.
Where did you record it?
M: We recorded in Minneapolis with the same engineer that we did the EP with, Tom Herbers. For this one we recorded at a place called The Music Box Theater, which is just a theater space; Tom brought in a tape machine and a bunch of equipment. It was just the whole idea of using the natural acoustics in an interesting space and playing live as a band, but then we added additional textures afterward.
So it was recorded analog?
M: Yeah, and it's something I think we'll continue to do. It sounds great. But we did take the liberty of mastering the LP digitally, whereas with the EP we went analog every step of the way, including mastering. We did take some pretty exciting liberties with mixing though. I think it'll be clear when it comes out what is going on. I find it very exciting.
Do you guys have a vision of where you want to go from here musically?
M: (Laughing) It's pretty vast. I don't think we're ready to announce it yet. It should be a surprise.
Well I'm excited to see whats happens.
M: I'm excited as well. As for post-October, after this record, I think we can keep pushing without being in danger of making the same record again... I love making records, I love seeing how they turn out.
Do you prefer writing and recording, or touring and playing what you've created?
M: What do you think Nona?
NM: Both, really. I don't think we could be happy just doing one or the other. It's nice when people have the recordings and are familiar with the songs, but we wouldn't be where we are if we didn't travel.
M: Yeah, I love playing for people. I mean, that's what gives me the energy to go through the technicalities of everything. Would you say that Nona?
NM: Yeah, except I relinquish all my rights to the technicalities.
M: Right, so that's what gives Jonathan and me the energy to take care of Nona...Definitely though, playing live is what inspires us to do it all.
You guys keep up a pretty serious tour schedule. Do you enjoy traveling that much, or do you sometimes think about settling for a little while?
M: We're trying both right now. We all have places that were paying rent for, which is a change from our first three years together. We don't stay at those places much, but at least we don't have to take our stuff in an out of storage every time.
Real fast, not to jump topics, but, what's the story on Flood Tide?
J: It's our bass player Todd Chandler's film. He couldn't make it on this tour.
And you guys are all in it, right? How was the acting experience?
NM: We didn't really act, it was all just improvised dialogue.
J: We all played ourselves, or some version of ourselves.
M: We did a remixed version in New York, and we'll do the official premier at the San Jose Bi-Annual in September. Todd is touching up the final edit right now. We have a few California shows in September and then we'll probably start talking about touring with it, with a live soundtrack or without, by early next year.
So there's a chance you'll do a full tour and score it live?
M: It's definitely an idea.
Is it all new material?
M: Yeah, often instrumental an written specifically for the film.
Do you think you'll release the music as an album?
J: Yeah, there'll be a soundtrack for sure.
Last question: Do you think that music is more powerful to the musician as it's being written and recorded, or to the listener as its being received and interpreted?
M: Maybe hopefully they're equal. The things that I listen to really intensely do the same things for me that playing does; the things that I listen to and love the absolute most anyway.
J: I think though that we try and make music that we can live with and be inspired to play day after day, and hopefully that translates to the listener.
NM: I guess we know we're doing it right when we like our set at the end of the night... I didn't mean to rhyme that.
M: It was cool though.
NM: You know what I mean though? If we play 30 shows and at the end of the tour we still like every song and we're still excited and feel we've put in a good performance. I mean, sometimes I don't expect it, like, "I've played this song 500 times, why am I tearing up tonight?," that's cool.
Recorded by Z. Saint James on July 19th, 2010 at the Hi-Dive in Denver, CO.