KAT VINTER catches up with David and Sascha from German analogue synth-pop band WYOMING, during their support tour with GLASS ANIMALS to ask them about their new record, unique remix techniques, and changing perspectives on the live circuit.
KAT VINTER: You’re currently working on your second album. How is the process different this time around? And how is it working with your producer Oliver Zülch?
WYOMING: Last time we didn’t have too much space or time. We re-recorded our pre-productions again and it was a lot more work for us because we didn’t have as much musical common ground with our producer, who was a friend. On the first record we had to convince our producer to record things the way we heard it. Working with friends can get complicated. But still, from the first album we gained a lot of experience and knowledge on how to produce the sounds and atmospheres we like which helped us figure out where we wanted to go.
The process has also developed in the way that our minds were much more open in the songwriting process and how we put things together. We started to work in groups within the band, and also brought ideas in individually. The whole album was written before we got into the studio, and we had a preproduction period with Oliver, where we changed some sounds or bass lines, and sometimes the structure of a song. Oliver isn’t forcing us into any direction; he’s just proposing ideas that we then decide upon.
KV: It can be helpful good to get an objective opinion during the album process. There’s always a risk you might not see eye to eye with your producer and perhaps they want to change things you don’t want to touch. Yet they can also help take your songs to the next level.
W: It works well that way. We told ourselves to be really open and never say no. We listen to everything he has to say. He has good taste and a lot of experience and we’ve recognised that we have a lot of common ground with him and that our opinions are often aligned. It’s very relaxed working with him.
KV: Last time I saw you play, I got a mean case of gear envy because you have so many great pedals and synths. For the geek inside all of us what piece of gear would you save from a burning studio?
W: Definitely can’t do without the Prophet or the Roland sampler. If these are missing we can’t play live at all. Live, everything is connected through these pieces, so we always worry about what would happen if one broke on tour!
KV: So you have these key pieces of gear that are definitive of your sound live, but when you’re in the studio are you adding sounds in the production that your not totally sure how to translate back into a live context?
W: Yes, especially this time around because last time we could play pretty much everything live. This time we have two or three synths in the studio that we borrow or that our producer owns. For example we’re using a Memory Moog from the 80s, its really heavy and really expensive, maybe worth 10 000 euros. It takes an hour to warm up if we want to use it, so we obviously can’t take that on tour and play it live.
Still were trying not to go too crazy and to add too many sounds, because we don’t want to fill the production with sounds that distract from the song. The sounds have to underline the idea. There’s a lot of space in this production, a lot of very present drums and the rest are elements needed to make the song work. We’re careful to be content with every sound because our style is very minimal and you can really hear every element.
KV: I think that’s a sign of having more experience when you are able to recognise when less is more. So how is your tour with Glass animals going? Is it motivating to tour with a band as established as they are?
W: One of the most interesting things playing with bands that are bigger is to see what happens over time. We toured with them last November, and the shows weren’t sold out, and now we’re touring again and all the shows are sold out. It’s cool to see how they got bigger and have still been able to keep their feet on the ground. It’s so refreshing to meet other people trying to make a life out of music, you have the same struggles, maybe the same dreams, and its interesting to see how they deal with being on tour for a year or longer. I think last time we talked to them in November they had four days off in London and then flew to Australia and the US.
You do start to realize that music is a profession. They are ordinary people with a schedule to follow. In this way the ‘magic’ does become a bit diminished.
KV: Well I thought your show in Berlin was great, as was Glass Animals. The Berlin crowd seemed really appreciative and excitable, which is can be somewhat unusual for a Berlin crowd.
So you recently remixed one of my songs ‘Downtime,’ tell me about the process you used. I’ve read that producers like Sohn never listen to the track he’s remixing, he just takes the vocals and builds a new track around them. How did you approach this remix?
W: This time we did it a bit differently. First we chose the sounds we liked the most from the existing work, and we put these sounds on a sampler, sent them through analogue effects and recorded them again. It was a really fun process. Some sounds got new functions as we achieved new sounds out of the old ones. All sounds except the bass synth is from the original work. For example we made one of the sounds out of your voice by pitching it and putting into a step sequencer.
KV: Wow! It really feels like you created a whole new context, I actually never would have guessed that you were actually manipulating original sounds. Interesting too that you put them through analogue processes considering the original work is quite digital.
I want to ask you about how important it is to think about all the other aspects outside of the actual music you create, the essential visual components of being an artist for example. You’ve got two designers among you so that must be an advantage.
W: We put a lot of focus on every detail around the music but of course the music always comes first. It’s our project and it’s the only project we do. It’s easier for us that there are two designers in the band because all the visuals are considered in direct reference to the songs. We made almost every video that we have, and we have a black and white photo blog on Flikr as well. We always have our cameras with us to capture people and places we come across. It’s a photo blog from people in a band but not portraying the actual band. The one thing we don’t design ourselves is the album cover.
KV: Is it just too much pressure to design the potentially most iconic visual representation of your work?
W: Not that much, its just that we like to involve other designers, photographers, and artists. It’s just more refreshing. It’s the same as the producer being the objective opinion in the studio. We like to have a designer or artist being objective in the visual sense as well.
KV: A few weeks ago I asked Asbjørn that annoying question. What’s your ultimate goal with this project or what’s the biggest ‘dream’ you wish to fulfil?
W: The biggest thing that can happen is that we can live from our music. We don’t need the hotel room with the Jacuzzi.
KV: No Jacuzzi, just want to pay the rent?
W: I think the Glass Animals thing is pretty much it; having a nice tour, playing to 500 people every night. What more can you want out of music? Also, the possibility to combine this job with some kind of private life would be an important goal. There aren’t really any childish dreams anymore. If we could focus solely on music, that would be just great.