April 28, 2010 By Matthieu Van Steenkiste (original link (in Dutch))
The years after the release of The Destruction Of Small Ideas have been difficult for 65DaysOfStatic: confidence was gone, the record had ruined their momentum from 2006 completely, and there were questions about which musical direction to go into next. No wonder then, that the band needed some time before a new album could be made. That new album has shruggingly been titled We Were Exploding Anyway and with its focus on dance-elements, it has been a new step forward.
enola: We Were Exploding Anyway is quite the move away from your old sound. Was this the time for change?
Joe Shrewsbury: “When we recorded The Destruction Of Small Ideas, we were very serious about it. And we still take everything very seriously, because it is. With this album, it was also allowed to be a bit of fun; not in a wrong way, but just fun to listen to. Which doesn’t mean that it lacks depth. That depth just doesn’t have to be this thick layer on top of everything.”
Paul Wolinski: “It’s a reaction to a lot of things, for example the post-rock label that was given to us. That cornered us a little in England, which was annoying. We’ve never truly felt a part of that.”
enola: That was a question I had written down: “less post-rock, less despair, let’s dance”?
Wolinski: “Yeah! Despair is an interesting word by the way. We’ve always gone for intensity and urgency, but that can sometimes be triumphant instead of desperate. It’s not that we feel better about things now, but humanity is desperate enough as it is, it doesn’t need us to add to that. There are plenty of people who capture that feeling in their music. The idea for this album was: as long as it’s urgent and triumphant, it’ll hit the same sweet spots concerning the goals for our music.”
enola: I’ve always felt like you managed to capture despair in a triumphant way. Desperate, but with an urgency to fight. Now, it doesn’t feel like despair, but rather resigned: it’s all gone to pieces, let’s just dance as if our lives depend on it and pretend like it isn’t.
(laugh out loud)
Shrewsbury: “That’s perfectly put. We couldn’t have said it any better. And that has nothing to do with giving up, rather: realize it, but don’t fucking whine about it.”
Wolinski: “That was the strength of Motown for example: incredibly optimistic pop tunes, but if you listened to what they were singing about, it was about how horrible life could be. Or take “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen. It’s about the death of the working class, but it’s a song that makes you want to fight that from happening.”
enola: Let’s go back to The Destruction Of Small Ideas. In the documentary 65Doc: A Road Movie on your Escape From New York, Rob (Jones, drummer) tells us that the band were looking forward to leaving that album behind. But you seemed so convinced of that album back then?
Shrewsbury: “We were. I think that now, in 2010, we’re doing well, but after that record we weren’t, not for a long time. We could’ve had more confidence, but a couple of things happened that… (looks for the correct diplomatic phrasing) didn’t help. We’d been in a band for so long by then, and the wrong things became important: what people thought of our music. But if you do something because you believe in it, then you should just have faith. With this record, it doesn’t matter as much to me what people think of it in reviews, because we put so much thinking into it that I believe our audience will react positively to it and will follow us on this path. And that’s what it’s really about.”
“I love what people write about music, sometimes incredible pieces get written, but in the end it’s about the people who are in front of you at a show and what they think about a record. That was our priority this time. So after The Destruction… we had to stop and stay away for a little, to rediscover our reasons for being in a band. And so it proved not to be about this whole divination, making all the internet parlance happy. If you pay attention to that, it becomes so meddlesome that you start to take it in consideration. You should just look at the faces of the kids on the front row, that will tell you enough.”
enola: That’s true, but by now you’ve reached some status and could just keep touring and playing for those kids in the next twenty years, and they’d be happy. I’ve seen it happen with enough bands: the fans are happy, but artistically things take a nosedive.
Shrewsbury: “I’m not so sure about that. You’ve never gone easy on us, have you? Your questions are always pretty tough. That’s how many fans are as well, they come ask us after a show why we did this or that. I don’t think you make people happy by definition, no matter what you do. The new songs seem to succeed on that front though.”
“We’ve never managed to make the same album twice, at least. This time around, we even completely changed the creative process. Whereas we elaborated a couple of ideas completely like on The Destruction… , we took our initial sketches out on the road immediately, to finetune them that way. We discovered that there was some solid stuff among what we’d created so far, but we were repeating ourselves. So we threw those ideas away. Six months of work, thirty songs: all in the bin. It was only at that point that the songs that did end up on the album were starting to shape up. We have a responsibility to stay restless. We’re far more comfortable with what Radiohead does: reinvent yourself every time, and you know they’ll have thought about it long and hard.”
enola: Hadn’t you hired a producer?
Shrewsbury: “No. (cautiously) We started working with someone, and then we stopped. It doesn’t matter anymore who it was. He didn’t make the record, we produced it ourselves. As you can see, we’re not really sure how to talk about it. That he didn’t make the record, is unrelated to how the record eventually ended up, but in the short amount of time that we worked with him, we discovered something meaningful: we spend so much time and so much thinking on our music that we don’t need anyone on the outside to tell us how to write a 65Days song. I don’t think a producer is anything for us. Not this time anyway.”
enola: Not every song that you tried out during last year’s test tour made the album. Sometimes undeservedly so. What happened to the incredible “Memory Dress”?
Shrewsbury: “It’s in the vault. (laughs out loud) It’s a good song, but we didn’t manage to finish the arrangement we had for it the way we wanted to.”
Wolinski: “We entered the studio with eighteen or nineteen songs and “Memory Dress” was dropped pretty quickly. There are some more songs that were finished, but didn’t make the record, yet “Memory Dress” didn’t even make it that far. But we still plan on taking another look at it. We had the feeling that it was a little too halfway between what we used to do and what we wanted to do now: no longer typical 65Days, but not dance enough either.”
Shrewsbury: “I liked it.”
Wolinski: “We’ll see what happens to it. It would be nice to finish it someday.”
enola: “Tiger Girl” is a song that’s a bit stuck separately at the end of the album, but it is important?
Wolinski: “The song could only feature at the end, because it’s so different from the rest, and that long. I don’t think you could really call it techno, even though it flatters me that you call it that. It’s one of the last songs we wrote and it helped to see the cohesion between the other songs. When the album was nearly finished, we still had this sketch that was eight minutes long already, so as to not throw away all that work, we decided to have as much fun with it as possible.”
Shrewsbury: “That thumping 4/4 beat is something completely new for us as well. We used to work with a lot of fast breakbeats and skittery stuff, which we loved back then. But you can start to hide behind that. It’s much more of a challenge to work with such a simple beat instead of writing something in the eleventh step. We did that for years. A thumping beat like this feels much more naked.”
enola: How did you convince Robert Smith to sing on “Come To Me”? Especially after he convinced you never to hire a singer.
Shrewsbury: “He only said that to make sure we don’t hire anyone but him. (laughs) We asked him. We experimented with voices on the album. There’s a choir on “Debutante” and we also did sessions with a female singer we knew and with Youthmovies’ Andy Mears, but that didn’t lead anywhere. On “Come To Me”, we just heard Robert Smith singing and it worked so well. We didn’t want to do it just so his contribution would sell some more albums, it just fit perfectly in this song.”
Wolinski: “I really loved that he trusted us completely with the end result. We could edit it, transform it, … Even though we noticed on tour with The Cure how much he wants to keep control, and how much attention to detail he has.”
enola: I think it’s a shame that the political side to the band seems to have disappeared.
Shrewsbury: “Yes. We’ve been dealing with that for a while. As 25-year-olds we were pretty unhappy with the things we saw happen in this world. And we’re still angry, but we’re clearly not the best equipped people to shout about it. You can push that too much, and I think that music is better as a soundtrack for people who actually deal with those kinds of problems. The best way to solve things is to start with yourself. That’s what this album is about: less despair, more people trying to do good things.”
Wolinski: “We’re not the kind of people like Rage Against the Machine who can fill an entire interview with soundbytes. We like to talk about what’s going wrong, but that doesn’t mean you know the correct phrasing. So we just mumble about how nothing is this black and white. If you then read the edited interview, it doesn’t focus on the music as it should, and our ideas never come across the way we’d want them to. So we just leave it at that.”
enola: I just found it interesting how you never pretended to own the truth, and even admitted that you didn’t know either and were just trying something. Even if you knew that touring, your full time hobby, was completely contradictory to what you were saying.
Wolinski: “That’s true. I still follow everything. But… Well, we’re all hypocrites and we realize that more and more we become part of the problem. Every flight we make is contradictory to what we believe in. It’s tricky. CSS’ bass player quit the band because he couldn’t justify flying around the world to himself. That’s completely admirable. But I can’t imagine anyone doing it. The question is also: if we were to quit, how could we make ourselves more useful than we’re hopefully doing now?”
Shrewsbury: “Godspeed You! Black Emperor also quit touring out of guilt about wasting so much oil that way. It’s problematic for everyone, and the question is at what point you no longer want to do it. But that’s all pretty difficult. You want to continue your life that way. But if I ever hang up my guitar for the final time, it’s to become a farmer. Nothing else.”
“If you reach a level like Radiohead, it’s far easier to arrange your life in a CO2-neutral way. We now have a complete set of instruments in the US and in England, so we never have to fly them over there. You do what you can. Paul and Simon are vegan, I don’t drive a car and refuse to fly when I’m not on tour. I also grow my own vegetables and I walk to the store for everything I need. It’s one way. Or take our sound guy. He tours with big bands all year long, flies all over the world. But to compensate for that, he lives in a CO2-neutral community. That’s his way.”
Wolinski: “The only way things can turn around, is to elect a government that decides that the number of flights per person is limited. We would resign ourselves to it, because it would be the law, and we’d find ways to still tour. It would be harder. But the world is going to hell. It should be bloody hard for everyone.”