"I was trying on my outfit earlier [for the video release party], which is why I have on a crazy outfit right now. This is not my day wear," Kristin Dennis of Née reassures me about her purple one piece jumpsuit with gold buckled belt as we walked into Native Sound Studio. Dennis is lively as her music and speaks with such inflection and theatrics that she takes on different voices and almost, different personalities in order to get her stories across. It's no wonder that she fronts a pop band designed to enrapture you with epic movements, both musically and physically.
Dennis and bandmate David Beeman talked about their upcoming release, Finches and the single "Pretty Girls," which was featured in that video premiere, while studio cat Gray Boy licked everyone's ankles and snatched what attention he could. There's a chemistry between Dennis and Beeman that couldn't be denied though their conversation. They joke with one another in ways that only two people who have known each other for quite sometime could get away with. Finches release date is still uncertain, but that's not slowing down the band at all. Dennis has big pop plans stemming from her Michigan background.
Cassie Kohler: What was the goal on Finches? How did you want it to be different from the Hands of Thieves EP?
Kristin Dennis: So the first record, I made by myself on my computer in our bedroom studio in Oregon. I wanted to make pop music. For the most part, that was just a total solo thing. Then last fall, Mic [Boshans of Humdrum and Union Electric], Lex [Herbert] and David [Beeman of Old Lights] joined the band and we were really able to get rid of the sampler and play everything live. For me personally, that's been an interesting process, and it's been really good for me as a person. The guys have been very patient with me. I want it to be perfect, and I think if I don't do everything then there's no way it could be perfect. Then we do it and it's better than if I was just doing everything on my own. So that's really guided the sound of the record. It's a lot fuller -- there's room for parts that wouldn't have been there because I wouldn't have been able to play them.
Was the final outcome what you expected going into the project?
How did things morph?
What I expected was basically to continue the style and sound platform of what I had done before. Before, I was just making shit and putting it out there. I would have however many tracks on the song because I don't have to play it. I expected it [the new album] to be stripped down in a sense. As we got deeper into the recording process, the songs started turning out like songs I was writing before. All these melodies, those huge epic soaring melodies and the old timey harmonies of gospel music with female choruses actually came through the record way more than I expected. I'm really happy about it.
What were you listening to while you were writing and recording? Audio books, to be perfectly honest. I listen to audio books all the time. I'm listening to the Wheel of Time right now, which is the most epic series ever. I'm twelve books into the series, and I listen to it constantly. There are definitely some echoes and lyrics from these books. Musically, I love Peaches. I'll never be able to do what she does, that's her thing and nobody can do it. But I love listening to her and being like, "Yeah I can be a bad ass, too!" I love LCD Soundsystem, the Bloody Beetroots and MSTRKRFT, these bands that are really putting it out there with party music. Oh, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Howl, which is a very out there [album] to listen to for making a pop album, but man, that record is so good. Oh, YACHT, that's another record that came out recently.
Where did the idea for the single, "Pretty Girls" come from?
[David Beeman joined us at this point in the studio after running to get Jimmy John's. The soda cup is still in his hands, but the sandwich has been demolished at this point.]
KD: I think there are a lot of pieces to that. But the relatable narrative would be you break up with somebody and then all of a sudden they start dating a million people and the pretty girl comes back into their life. I think it's funny because you always want what you can't have and as soon as you don't have it you're like, "Uh, shit."
So, why did you decided to collaborate with Ryan McNeely of Adult Fur on a "Pretty Girls" remix? KD: I've known Ryan for a long time; I think he was probably my first friend in Missouri. He and I did a bunch of weird basement electronic music together. He is awesome at what he does. We were thinking about the single and what we should do on the b-side. We were like, "Let's just go total pop and do a remix for the b-side." Ryan was the first person I thought of. He is so excellent at taking something and making it something else, making it weird. He just has his own particular style.
Did you guys do any new recording techniques with this album? KD: David, did we do any new recording techniques with this album?
David Beeman: No. No, lots of old techniques.
KD: This is now what we recorded it on. [pointing to gear in the studio].
So everything was done in here?
KD: Yeah. So not new, but definitely different from the last record in a major way. Rather than starting on Pro Tools, we started on that machine called an HD24. It isn't a visual interface, which was kind of hard for me to get used to.
DB: Well, we recorded drums to tape, like a rock & roll band.
KD: Recording an electronic pop band to tape, I guess that was pretty novel. Also, we didn't use any computer instruments. We used real synthesizers, real drums, guitars. All the arpeggios are actually triggered. We triggered the synthesizers from a click track coming out of the HG24 so even that duddudduddudu, coming out on "Pretty Girls" is actually a real synthesizer. That's not sequenced at all.
DB: The point of it is so that we can play it live. We don't play with tracks; we play it all live. If you just sequence everything on a computer you can't do that, you're just singing karaoke. Everything that we recorded we can perform as a band.
Kristin was telling me that was really big part of making that album. What do you think that brought to the music?
DB: It just makes it so that it has life: real humans making real performances. That's the main difference.
If someone were going to ask you to give a summary of the new album, what would you say to them? What can people expect when they pick it up? KD: It's definitely still a pop record. I feel like the songs are stronger for me. There's a stronger presence, it's a little bolder and the instrumentation is bolder too, like the gnarly distorted guitars. I think we had a foundation and now we are really moving in a solid direction. I know where we are going, and we know where we are going because we are a band now. It's an evolution into something that I think is more what I've always wanted it to be. Don't you think?
DB: Yeah there's really focused pop hooks both musically and vocally in every song. But the songs are not similar to each other at all. There is slow building stuff that hits really hard and then has a big drop. There's stuff immediately, like super distorted guitars and huge hits that somehow make their way into a dance beat even though they are off time. It's kind of all over the place and every song comes back to this really focused dance-y pop hook, which is kind of cool.
KD: I'm excited about this record and I can't wait to have it done. But I'm even more excited about the next one. We've worked so hard on this. I know where we are going, and I know what kind of songs we are going to write. I'm really looking forward to it.
DB: I don't think we are ever going to make a record after this. [with some slight sarcasm] We are just going to do singles.
KD: Just singles?
DB: Yeah, fuck yeah.
KD: Not another full-length record. We are just going to make a million EPs.
So, just a whole record of singles? Just on the Top 40 charts all the time? [laughs from both]
KD: Just all Top 40, all the time.
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