There is a pretty brazen vacuum somewhere in the room next to where two members of Troubadour Dali are conducting a three-way phone interview. It would appear that the shoegaze-y psych-pop band is never far from its noise roots, though this time it's more obnoxious than it is dreamy. For three years now, the local quartet has incorporated that noise into a sound that betrays shallowly buried influences such as Ride, Primal Scream and the almost unavoidable My Bloody Valentine allusion. We tracked down the band's Ben Hinn and Kevin Bachmann to discuss the group's second album, one they co-wrote, and the creative gestation that went into its official release tomorrow night at Off Broadway.
When the interview ended, it was clear both that the band's dynamic can be as cacophonous as its music -- and that the guys really like dinosaurs. And when we finished asking them questions, they turned a rather strange interview back on us. Read on for the sentiments that inspired the darker, wiser new album, but before you do, feel free to answer their questions yourself:
1. What is your favorite dinosaur? 2. Now, your favorite cartoon character? 3. Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz? 4. Favorite flightless bird?
Kelsey Whipple: Tell us a little bit about the new album, Let's Make It Right. How does it depart from your debut?
Ben Hinn: We came into this album in a better space, which allowed us to actually get stuff done. That resulted in a much more focused-sounding album overall. It's tighter and crispier, very pop-y. It sounds weird, but we write the songs that just come out of us. We try to write music that we like to listen to, so as far as being conscious of our sound, we've grown a lot as people and as musicians since the last album. We were a little younger when we first started, and we were definitely into the music but also into having a good time. We've all personally delved into recording on our own, which has helped us get our ideas down better as a band and actually capture the sounds that we hear in our head. Kevin Bachmann: I think the melodies are a lot stronger this time. We didn't make any conscious decisions as far as goals for the new album, but it ended up more focused on melodies in a natural evolution.
What was the recording process like?
Hinn: We tracked the majority of it at Sawhorse Studios, where we came in and recorded bass, guitar and drums together. After that, we added vocals and extra guitars and organs, which we did in our apartments and, you know, bomb shelters. Bachmann: The whole thing was conducted in various secret locations across St. Louis like parking garages and pigeon coops. I wish. We started working on it in the fall with just a couple songs, and that turned into an EP which turned into a decision to just record a full album. It was around September when we started, and we took some breaks. It wasn't just straight recording the entire time. Hinn: With the first album, the songs themselves were already so old. It was just a huge, huge learning process, and we made a lot of mistakes, things like, "This doesn't sound right, so let's redo it with this person instead of that person." In lieu of that, we learned a lot from the last album, things like what to do for the best sound and how to make things more efficient. This time we knew what we were doing, so it was a quicker, less painful experience. That being said, we did still learn a lot of things that we intend to use to improve our next album.
How would you describe the band's internal dynamic?
Bachmann: We're all best friends. Everyone in the group writes songs. This album ended up being Ben's songs and my songs, but that's just kind of the way it fell. We not only play together, but we do everything together. Hinn: It is very dynamic, that's for sure. We spend almost too much time together occasionally. We see each other all the time. Bachmann: We also like dinosaurs. A lot. They're prehistoric. They're extinct, but they used to rule the world. Hinn: They're mighty, and they have fallen. They transcend time.
It sounds like your next album should be a concept album about dinosaurs.
Bachmann: I've actually thought about that, and it would be awesome. Ben, let's make this happen. If you could recruit any famous musician to join the lineup of Troubadour Dali, whom would you choose?
Bachmann: I'd like Johnny Marr to join our group. He's already joined Modest Mouse after The Smiths, so maybe the chances would be greater that he'd join us, too. Hinn: I'd like Thurston Moore, but I'd be pretty intimidated. Beck would be rad, even though he's a Scientologist. He writes amazing songs, and I love his production.