What was your goal for the sound of this album? I think there’s a lot of different things kind of in the mix. We have our new guitar player, Dann [Gallucci], who’s an old friend. I think the sensibility he brought was very refreshing—adding electro, dancy parts here or there or stripping away other things—we were always asking ourselves, “does it sound like us?” But he has a wider background, and helped us see how certain arrangements and instrumentation choices aren't going to make the song not sound like us. We can expand beyond what we’re doing and still have it very much be us, be our sound still. With the last record (Mine is Yours, 2011), the context was very much wanting to make ourselves uncomfortable, to do something that was outside of the range of what we do with the first two records. In some ways, we were maybe a little too self-conscious about that I think, or maybe didn’t go all the way with it. With this record though, we still have a lot of sides of ourselves to explore and took an approach like 'let’s not worry so much about how it’s going to be perceived as it’s happening.' We just kind of let it go.
What was the recording experience like? Especially with a brand new producer, Lars Stalfors and the addition of Dann on the guitar? I think it was cool in so many ways— just because those guys are both young—and working with our peers felt good. Working with our peers versus other producers that we’ve worked with in the past, who maybe have more experience, but there was just so much peace that came into play with Lars and being on the same page. Also from a technical approach, our studio in San Pedro has no analog, no tape machines, mostly just the new gear that we've bought. We were trying to basically make our sound similar to the analog and rock sound, but doing it all digitally, and it was a really different approach for us. We got to rethink how certain things about recording that we've always done—using tape machines and maintaining a certain devotion to doing it live—we realized that a lot of that stuff we don't need. We don't need to stick to these rules.
That is interesting because I feel like a lot of people are kind of turning back to that instead of away from it. A lot of bands say 'We’re doing it all analog” or 'We’re doing it the old-school way' as some sort of attempt to regain the past, so you totally left that behind? Yeah. I think that it’s not the same now as it was even a couple of years ago just as far as the actual, quality difference. There’s maybe a couple people in the world who can hear the quality of digital recordings that have all the same replicas of all the old analog machines and I think it’s getting more and more much like film and photography and everything. It’s getting harder to justify paying a lot of money for studios—there’s so much history there, and it’s exciting to be a part of making a record that way, but you can do so much more work this way.
We all had a common dislike of the kind of music we grew up listening to, which I think turned us more towards New York music or UK music or bands like The Velvet Underground or The Smiths. Bands with a very dark contrast to the sunnier and undressed stuff that we grew up with.
You're from the suburbs of California, influenced by whole LA/West Coast sound. Do you feel like the internet allowed you to supersede regional influences? Yeah I do, I think kind of even in the way that we first came together. I was a little older even when we first started the band. I was, I think, 24 or something. We all grew up in the world of bands like No Doubt and the Sublime, and so much punk and hardcore music and all that stuff. We all had a common dislike of the kind of music we grew up listening to, which I think turned us more towards New York music or UK music or bands like The Velvet Underground or The Smiths. Bands with a very dark contrast to the sunnier and undressed stuff that we grew up with.
It seems like a lot of bands are trying to do crazy stunts and get outside of their genre, for instance Mumford and Sons saying that they were going to collaborate with Jay-Z. Do you ever see your and doing something like that? Do you think that indie rock needs to bring in outside influences? I didn't even know that about Mumford and Sons! Back to the idea of our band as one at an in-between stage—as far as not being one of the biggest indie rock bands, but not being a small one either, we've definitely desired more collaboration, or a community really. I think that community is really the thing that I wish we had more of, but it’s really hard because bands are weird like that. Like a lot of the bands we toured with early on Dr. Dog and Delta Spirit, in some ways we had early characteristics that were similar but I think that we needed to find a way to separate ourselves and find out what’s kind of weird about us and really amplify that. I think it’s important to work with people and make choices that make you unique. I guess it’s not so much does indie rock needs to 'spread its wings' but that every artist needs to find out how to surprise themselves. The only way Mumford and Sons can go up is through Jay-Z I guess [laughs].
As you're heading out on international tour, is there one city that has stuck with you as a favorite to perform in? Hands down, Paris shows have always been a fun and the most sophisticated audience in terms of the little things. Knowing when to act specific ways. Like there’s so much respect to the show and to the music and knowing when to be rowdy and crazy and knowing when to really be restrained and watchful. I'm sure it's not just our shows that they act like that. It’s the vibe. It’s a really savvy, aware audience. It’s always been so fun.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts will be out on Downtown Records on April 2, 2013.