Felix: Why did you decide to release Ambling Alp for free?
Ira Wolf Tuton: We want as many people to hear the music we’re making as possible. We’re pretty aware of the industry environment that we live and work in and we’re trying to react to it as it changes. So we don’t have the luxury to rely on massive million dollar marketing schemes or young pretty faces. We’re weathered, handsome, musicians that need to give a little to get a little. So we give our singles out and if you like ‘em then maybe we see you at shows or maybe you buy the record - hopefully you wanna help us keep making records. Your money ain’t going to my castle yet. We’re just trying for longevity. I wanna make more records.
F: Is the video about man(and woman)kind’s search for the almighty silver fist?
Ira: It’s whatever you want it to be my man.
F: How did the group harmonies first come about? would you argue that they’re a focal point of your sound?
Ira: They definitely were for the first record. The Strokes and Interpol were the archetype when we we recorded All Hour Cymbals. We probably reacted against that as much as we found common ground with our interests in different choral traditions from around the world whether it was Sacred Harp Singers or Missa Luba. I think vocal and harmonic music was really important for all three of us in our musical upbringing and helped inform all of our musical vocabulary, whether it was being turned on by singing along to something as ubiquitous as the Beatles or trying to understand some more obscure singing styles from around the world. I think we departed from a focus on choral arrangement on Odd Blood but the vocals have remained a core element. We wanted to give a nod to the production techniques of some of the more contemporary popular music that we love and listen to but until now, hadn’t directly engaged. But that was this album. I don’t want to be in a band that casually regurgitates a ‘sound’. We have so many more directions that we can explore. That’s what I get off on.
F: Who’s got the best voice in the group?
Ira: Probably whoever’s giving the interview. But I do think that one of our strengths is that we have three distinct vocal styles and tones to play with. It opens up our ability to play with tambour and arrangement that much more. It’s really the benefit of having three instruments as opposed to one.
F: How did you get involved in the ‘Dark was the Night’ compilation CDs?
Ira: We met the guys from The National when we played back to back at a festival in Sweden. A few months later Bryce and Aaron came to us and asked if we wanted to be involved with the project. We were surprised to be asked, but obviously excited to help with the red hot charity in any way we could. We had played that song live since before the first record was released, so it was a good opportunity to finally get it down.
Are there any plans to get involved in the same sort of HIV awareness
F: Are there any other charities or movements that are close to your heart?
Ira: I would love to be involved with a number of charities. The fact of the matter is that we need to attain a little more success before we can really begin to have the luxury to “give back”. That being said, I think an artist is in a tricky position when it comes to bringing awareness to any number of issues. Good intentions can sometimes be misconstrued and strong egos and personalities can take away from the issue at hand. Other times in the most insidious of instances, some people in the public eye use a tie to a random charity as a chance to wipe their slate clean and clear their conscious only to move on and back to their life. Of course there are exceptions. But at the base level I am a musician. I am not a politician, and I am not an activist. I care deeply about many many issues and I commend those people that devote their entire lives to changing things for the better for all of us. I can only hope that I make enough money in my life to be able to help support those people in their missions.
F: Did you record your new album like your debut (both at home and in the studio over a long period of time) or was it a much quicker process?
Ira: We spent three months living in a home studio in Woodstock, NY. That was where the lion’s share of the work was done. It was a different experience from the recording of the first album primarily because we had no day jobs. Our entire job was to make this record. We had a live work space that was far enough from our loved distractions in Brooklyn, but close enough to them that we could easily get back every week or two. We work pretty slowly and have no real set method but that’s both the enjoyment as well as the challenge of it. We revised, arranged and threw things away and started things over and beat our heads together until we had some good meat. In May we got out of the studio and played some shows while working out some of the songs with our live band. Then we got back to a studio in Manhattan to mix and add some additional recording for a month.
F: Was there a conscious attempt to make your music more accessible?
Ira: We had no idea what we we’re doing on our first record. It was total trial by fire and we’re still learning. That “sound” was the sound of a chinese knock-off blue mic that ‘fell off the back of a truck’ running straight into the computer with no pre-amp. We corrected all our shortcomings with reverb and delay effects and all that translated somehow into a cohesive sound. On the new record we fortunately had the luxury to use a lot more equipment so we made a strong effort to really be aware of what was the best tool to use for each situation. From the outset we knew we wanted to make a record that explored more dance production techniques. When our drums got big, we didn’t want them to sound like a drum circle. We wanted them to sound like a slamming singular intelligent robotic fist pounding a hole through your chest. I love music that does that; music that makes you dance, and we didn’t touch on that on the first record. There’s also something to be said for what we want to play live. I want to be able to sweat and watch people dance for the next year and a half. But hey - if you like that first record, it will always be there to listen to. We don’t have to redo it.
F: I read that you killed a lot of mice when you were recording the album, are you going to dedicate “Odd Blood” to the mice who bravely lost their lives in the pursuit of musical excellence?
Ira: There’s nothing brave about something that waits till you’re sleeping to come and steal your food and spread its diseases. Mice have no place in a house and they need their necks snapped by snap traps. Throw ‘em outside ‘n’ let the cats eat ‘em.