The Morning Benders’ sophomore album, Big Echo, starts with the crackle of a needle dropping on a vinyl, a vintage aesthetic that is a perfect summation of this Berkeley band’s loping, Technicolor pop. It’s music that captures a hazy sunny essence that can easily morph to thumping beats and jagged, spiky guitar riffs. Their debut, Talking Through Tin Cans, in 2008 was met with critical acclaim, and rousing support from the independent music culture. So after two years The Morning Benders was ready to make a sonic shift, and reach new parts of their musical journeying.
Frontman Chris Chu was kind enough to talk about the creative collaboration with Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, the things he would ask his own pop icons, and the layers of meaning in Big Echo.
Don't miss The Morning Benders' show tomorrow night at the Hi-Dive!
Kathleen Tarrant -So you shared some creative control on your recent release, Big Echo, with Chris Taylor. What did you hope to gain from that collaboration?
Chris Chu - We had tracked the whole album ourselves a few months prior to working with Chris, and it had been a very private, insular experience. We felt like we needed some clarity on the songs, especially as went into the mixing phase. So that was the original reason we wanted to work with Chris, because we trusted him and knew he would understand the vibe we were going for. We ended up doing a lot more than just "mixing" though, and things blossomed from there....
KT -The covers album you did, Bedroom Covers, clearly displays your appreciation for iconic pop artists. What sounds or artists influenced the new album?
CC -Everything. The idea behind BIG ECHO was to use sounds from all eras of pop music, and throw them together and see how they bounced and played off each other.
KT -I hear you own almost everything Dylan and Young have recorded. So if you were to interview Bob Dylan or Neil Young, what would be the one question you would want answered? And then, if you can, answer it for me.
CC -For Dylan, I don't know, dude's a mystery, nothing you can ask him is going to change that. For Neil I'd want to ask him why he won't release any of that stuff from the 70's?!?! Chrome Dreams and such. I'm sure it's amazing, maybe he just needs some convincing.... And yea, I know what he'd answer.
KT -I read that Big Echo was recorded in an abandoned skate park? What drove the choice for recording space? How did it affect the recording process?
CC -I wanted to choose a space that was unique, something that had a lot of character, and I wanted to preserve that space in the recordings.
KT - This album seems to be very free and open in subject matter. Does Big Echo have a specific concept behind it, or a message?
CC -A lot of it deals with the idea of nostalgia, the idea of time passing. I find the concept of nostalgia, and the feeling I associate with it, very interesting, because it's not really happy or sad, it's this strange gray area and has a lot of layers to it.
KT -Are you guys able to write music on the road, or does that process get put on hold while touring?
CC - I can't really write on the road. Sometimes little melodic or lyrical bits, but I never finish anything on the road. When I get back from tour I usually write a bunch of songs in a burst.
KT -How do you feel touring, like the extensive supporting tour you did for Talking Through Tin Cans, affects the progression of the band? Do you get influenced by bands you perform with?
CC -It's hard to say. We listen to a TON of music in the van, driving from show to show, and that definitely gets the juices flowing in my head for new songs and ideas. It's a little too mysterious to pin it on a single band we performed with, or something like that though.
KT -Do you have a vision for where you want The Morning Benders to go from here?
CC -We just want to be constantly moving. If there is a time when I feel like we are retreading, or I am writing songs that aren't something new for me, I won't be happy.
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