Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Spirituals" Interview

I recently conducted an interview with the man behind the Portland-based electronic project, Spirituals. Here's what he had to say:

Full name, age, and hometown?

Tyler Tadlock, 25, born and raised in Pearl, Mississippi, just outside of Jackson.

When did Spirituals start?

About three or four years ago I was playing a lot of improvisational drums with some friends in the south and decided to put a few of those recordings online. At the time I called it Tyler Tadlock & the Spirituals, spirituals just standing for anyone who would have happened to be performing along with me–never with the same configuration of musicians, and sometimes just by myself. That's kind of where the idea of making music on the computer came about. I'd record some free improvisational drum solo and try to ad some weird synth stuff to it in the first take/listen. At the time I was just getting into Four Tet and Manitoba and that sort of stuff.

What instruments do you play and what kinds of equipment do you use?

Drums are my primary instrument when I'm not doing Spirituals stuff. Spirituals was a sort of experiment with producing and composing on the computer so that I could try making music out from behind the drum set. Being a drummer sometimes is limiting when it comes to composing, it not being much of a melodic instrument. I like writing on the computer because I get to visually work out the arrangement. I use Ableton Live mostly, mainly because it is so intuitive. I've never been a tech-head so it's user-friendly nature was perfect for me. I hate getting creatively derailed by having to stop and learn a program. I don't like having another step between my ideas and putting them down. Although, having worked with it for a few years now I'm discovering how much it's capable of. It's a great piece of software.

What role does sampling have in your work?

Sampling makes up a majority of the sounds you hear on the record. I tend to start a song from one sample that catches my ear and either find other samples that compliment it or record some of my own. Then it just sort of evolves into many different things until I'm happy with it. Sometimes a melody idea I have might come first and I'll record that, but a lot of the time it's a sample that gives me ideas.

Does Spirituals plan on performing live anytime soon?

Yes, soon.

Hints of early Manitoba, Four Tet, and even an occasional Battles-type of feel are definitely prevalent in your writing. All of which are extremely dynamic but can be difficult to categorize because of their broad range and constantly evolving sound. You never know what to expect from those kinds of musicians and that makes it hard to have these definitive labels attributed to their brand of electronic music. That said, do you feel that your music can be placed within a specific genre or two? Otherwise, how might you classify Spirituals in five words or less?

I would classify Spirituals as indie-twee-shit-gaze.

No, I try not to think too much about genres in regards to my own stuff. Genres are necessary for communicating a very vague idea of what the music might sound like, but I don't rely on a set description of music. I never really set out to write a minimal techno song or anything like that. I might write a track that sounds more like one genre than other tracks next to it, but I wouldn't pin the whole project down to one sound. I usually just tell people electronic, because I make it on the computer.

What do you hope to achieve with Spirituals? Are there any underlying themes within your music?

I think from the start I wanted Spirituals to focus on different sound textures and how they relate to one another within a composition. I love juxtaposing something like a close-mic studio sounding guitar with sounds from the street. Two things you wouldn't hear together, but somehow they relate in texture. That sort of stuff interests me, and it's a quality that I think is represented in the music.

Tell us a bit more about your record coming out this month. Is this going to be a proper full-length? Will there be a vinyl pressing of it?

The self titled full-length will be coming out on Waaga Records on June 22. Waaga is primarily a digital release label, so there may not be a proper pressed release of this one just yet.

How did you get in touch with Waaga Records?

A friend of a friend of a friend.

So you're a Portland transplant via Jackson, Mississippi. Why'd you leave home and what do you miss most?

I had opportunities here on the west coast and my fiance was here in Portland. Everyone should leave home at some point.

I really miss fried catfish. And boiled peanuts.

What was the music/art scene like there? Anybody you'd like to mention?

The music/art scene in Jackson is small, yet vocal. People get so excited about anything and everything, which is something unique to small cities I think. When not much is happening, what does happen tends to get the attention of everyone. The quality of what goes on in Jackson is up there next to anything here in Portland, although there's a lot more of it here of course. My good friend Johnny Bertram just came out with a record I played drums on. He writes some incredible folk-sounding stuff. Super genuine guy and it shows in his music. He's a big supporter of the local scene.

What's one thing that most people might not know about Jackson, Mississippi?

I don't know if too many people know anything at all about Jackson, Mississippi.

Prior to Spirituals, did you have any serious collaborations and/or solo efforts?

I've always been involved as a drummer with other bands. I played a lot with some friends in Jackson. I used to write music with a good friend Jonathan Scarborough, who currently is pursuing his solo stuff. Also played a lot of free improvisational music with William Thompson and Chris Alford who are currently in New Orleans.

What inspires you outside of music?

Visual art is a big interest of mine. I was doing a lot of mixed media painting in college and still do when I have the time. Another side of that is graphic design, which is my day job. Aesthetics of all sorts have always inspired me. Seeing something that could be turned into or considered art, when it's not necessarily designated as such, is where I tend to draw a lot of inspiration. Those ideas also bleed over into the music I think. It's that kind of interest in turning old things into new things that got me into sampling.

Are there any current trends in music that you just don't understand or can't get into?

I'm not really into a lot of stuff that boasts about shitty production quality. There have been several reverb-ish, effect-heavy bands lately that tend to overdo the effects so much it's distracting to the music. I can see what people like about it though. Sometimes it's an interesting sound, but it's easy to pick out those doing it simply because it's what's getting hot right now.

Oh yea, and autotune should have never been invented.

Which trends do you feel are a bit more justified?

I think it's incredibly easy nowadays to get a hold of new music and/or to make it yourself. Because of that, all of these bedroom recording artists are popping up everywhere and it's fantastic. I don't know if I'd call it a trend, necessarily, but there are more folks performing in each others houses it seems than at clubs and bars. It's like people go for the music and not for the drinks. The whole self-recording thing also can encourage a lot of cool sounds created by folks who may or may not have made them intentionally.

What are five records you've been listening to lately?

Soft cat - Wildspace (label mate Neil Sanzgiri writes some beautiful stuff)
Happy Apple - Happy Apple Back On Top
Talib Kweli and Hi Tek - Revolutions Per Minute
Clutchy Hopkins - The Story Teller
Floating Points - Love Me Like This/Shangrila

What does the rest of 2010 have in store for you, regarding Spirituals and otherwise?

At the moment I'm working on getting a live set together for Spirituals, and will start playing some shows soon. Also I'm working on a project with my fiance, Shelby Sifers, called Peacock Dreams. We hope to crank out a record by the end of the year.

Thanks, Tyler and best of luck with the upcoming record and all of your other future projects. For samples from it, help yourself to the mp3s below:

Spirituals - Wanderings
Spirituals - City With Soul

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