|Tunng (photo: tunng.co.uk)|
Rock critics, myself not excused from this group, have an awful habit of defining bands by genres. We do our best to describe a band with the least amount of syllables, no matter how silly the terminology becomes (I’m looking at you, chillwave). For London-based Tunng, the inescapable handle is sure to be "folktronica." Describable enough in a concise manner, but there’s still something missing. The name excludes the subtlety of the electronic side and the intensity of the folk side, most apparent on the track "Don’t Look Back or Down" (mp3) off their latest album, …And Then We Saw Land (Thrill Jockey). By being defined alongside Four Tet and Caribou as the key acts of folktronica, the flashes of Califone or Grizzly Bear get left behind. But again, such pigeon-holes are created to save time in our ever increasingly rushed world. On the off chance that you’ve got a minute, check out our interview below with Tunng vocalist and guitarist Mike Lindsay, in which he discusses the band's ever-evolving sound. On the even more off chance that you have a couple hours, catch Tunng at Schubas tonight (9:00, 21+).
WCR: How has Tunng co-founder Sam Genders leaving affected the band dynamics?
Mike: Well, the main thing it did was bring the five of us together a little more. Before, it was often me and Sam sharing a lot of the writing. That changed with Good Arrows, where we all pitched in ideas...but Sam was responsible for a lot of lyrical loveliness. With this album we really did all get together and pool our ideas, musically and lyrically. Also, the direction toward a bigger sounding record evolved through this process as a reaction to the live shows we have been doing over the last two years.
Since You and Becky share lead vocal duties, do you both helm the ship as far as songwriting and band leadership?
Well, we certainly jump around more at the front of the stage. We own that stage now, man! Me and Becky were in the studio together a lot working on how to present the vocals...obviously there was a large gap to fill with Sam’s voice not being there. However, Becky has been singing on all the records, and in live shows, always had a larger presence. It was time to bring her up front, Sam or no Sam.
The new album seems to get more electronic - or at least less folk - as it progresses. Was this intentional?
I don’t think it’s more electronic in an IDM kinda way, but we used more synths and a Simmons drum kit with more of a classic feel. It is less folk, for sure, although there are songs like "October" which have a definite nod to the folk. It was intentional to not try and recreate previous Tunng records. There would be no point, you have to move forward. Also, in a production sense I really wanted to make a powerful sound. We have a 20-person choir on this record! Well, a drunken gaggle.
What do you feel are the advantages with marrying two genres that on the surface are polar opposites?
It’s not really that black and white or contrived. It’s more about producing new music and drawing from many varying influences and not being afraid to mix genres. It can allow the music to twist and turn underneath more traditional songs and keep things fresh and surprising for whoever is listening.
How do you react to critics calling the new album more 'commercial' (the Guardian) or a 'move toward the middle' (Pitchfork)?
It is a little more commercial. But it’s hardly a commercial record, if it was maybe we would get paid! Does that mean it’s less valid?
Last year you played with some of the members of Tinariwen. Do you have any other plans for collaborations or to step outside the comforts of the indie rock realm?
I’d love to do something with Tom Zé, the Brazilian tropicalia genius. We played in Sao Paulo in July and it was such an inspirational place. No plans as of yet, though...but you have got me thinking.
What's been the best part of the U.S. tour thus far and what are you excited for still to come?
The first show at the Mercury Lounge was really great for us...such a good crowd, and it was the first show that me, Martin and Becky have performed like this. Really excited about Chicago - it's where Thrill Jockey are based and we leave our driver, Mike, so we’re gonna have a mega rave wonk out party. Well, something like that.