September 16, 2009
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
It’s always exciting when babes have brains to boot. So it was fun for me to sit down with the members of In, and realize that, after a few beers, we weren’t going to get carried away, but rather, carried inward to a palpable thought-swap on the modern state of music in Brooklyn. And on a Monday night, there are few places states of mind I’d rather visit. Mike, Nick, and Frank’s show last week at Public Assembly piqued my interest for both its experimental merits and its visibly mixed reviews among the crowd; I was curious to hear more, and glad I had a chance to hear it from the source:
JM.com: Let’s get started… where are you guys from?
Frank: I’m from Minnesota.
Nick: We [Mike and I] grew up together in Boston. Arlington, it’s right outside of Boston. It’s funny, it’s never had any claim to fame except that Uncle Sam was born there and Paul Revere rode through there. But in a recent report based on census figures, it’s one of the best places to live as a single person.
Mike: Arlington’s for lovers.
Nick: It’s totally erroneous, because people on the census said they were single and then had a high income. There’s a certain bracket of people who are single and make a lot of money in Arlington, Massachusetts but none of them are ever going to meet and a lot of them are like, widowed.
JM.com: So you met at a singles mixer in high school?
Nick: We met in 5th grade actually when we were making these plastic lizard toys.
Mike: Let’s not get into it.
JM.com: You’ve been playing music together for a long time then.
Mike: Nick and I, on and off, we used to noodle back in the day. And then we played at our high school’s “Battle of the Bands.” We won that.
JM.com: It was in the bag.
Mike: Won that. That’s out of the way, next thing. Arsenio Hall, got that out of the way. But then we took a break for four years, and started again.
Nick: We didn’t do anything during college, which is where I met Frank.
JM.com: Did you two play music together in college?
Frank: We didn’t. I was a few years older. Nick and I met at Wesleyan, but we were playing in a couple of other bands. I came back with a band I was playing with, from San Francisco, and we played a show together. His band Balloon and my band Snowblink played together.
Nick: After college I moved to SF, and we started playing together. We’re still babies, we just started playing in November, nine months ago.
Frank: So why are we so good?
JM.com: So what does everyone need to know about In?
Nick: I don’t know if there are any disclaimers.
Frank: That we’re trying.
Nick: We’re interested in the future and the nature of reality… we want them to know our music, that’s what we want them to know.
Mike: You know what though, maybe I just want people to know who I am, because that’s what people in general want. People just want other people to know who they are.
Frank: Even more than that, I think you want to be understood. Because the worst thing is to be misunderstood.
Nick: We want to use our band as a vehicle for understanding love on a broader scale.
Frank: I agree with that.
JM.com: I enjoyed the elements of physically active live drumming in conjunction with electronic music. Talk about your electronic influence.
Mike: I’ve been doing electronic music since Nick started playing guitar, more or less. I had played in an orchestra before that and I think that’s how I just started getting into non-linear production; having time in my room to work on a little tiny chunk for a while. I think that one of the reasons I like being in this band is because that’s where a lot of electronic musicians start – in their bedrooms working on very minute passes of a song or working on tiny details, and most of the time, not affecting, not really doing the music live. So playing with these guys has been quite challenging and fun, because I’ve gotten to have this feedback loop more with other people. As far as the electronic drums and the live drums go, I think it’s going to get interesting soon. I’ve been playing a lot of drums, but most of it’s sequenced, and we all have a drive to get away from the sequencer a little bit. And the only reason we use it now is because we don’t have enough hands to do everything. We want to compose digitally, but recreate it using our hands.
Frank: What Mike just got at, very lightly, some interaction between digital and live/analog – if there was one thing I want people to know about this band, it would probably be that there’s some indescribable relationship right now between analog music and digital music as they’ve developed in coincidence, or co-incidence, over the last 30 years that we’re trying to understand. That’s what the goal of this band is. We’re trying to mend something about what we’ve learned from the digital age, and something about acoustic production, or analog production, and sort out exactly what our vocabulary is in between those two. And I think, for me, right now a lot of that has to do with understanding the ’80s. I don’t think I really understand them. And I spent probably the raddest eight years of my life in the ’80s.
JM.com: At the ends of songs, I notice you really let the electronic loops go. Does that have to do with the little kid in you?
Mike: That’s what it’s always been for me, being a little boy, and someone saying “hey, don’t look in there, hey, shut that” and that’s kind of what In speaks to… going somewhere you shouldn’t go maybe. Electronic music is this rip we started a while ago, and it’s going to keep ripping, and people have mixed feelings about it. We’re just trying to rip it in a way that feels human.
Nick: You could write an algorithm to make the shape of a tree out of blue, yellow, and green squares, and it would look really cool, but it wouldn’t look like a tree. But we value both for different reasons.
JM.com: I notice your live performance and your recorded tracks are very different.
Frank: Right now, we have five tracks recorded that we will release in the next few months, depending on how long it takes to mix and master them.
Nick: We’re coming out with an EP soon, it’s going to be a lot different from those earlier recordings.
Mike: Those represent a kind of gestation period, and we’ve been pretty sure from the beginning that we didn’t want to just jam out for a year and not have anything to show for it. A big goal for us was to come up with some composed songs. But the ones we just recorded aren’t really in the format that the music is going to take eventually.
Nick: We feel very much like we’re laying a lot of stepping stones right now and the set you saw the other night is pretty indicative of phase two. I would say, phase one being the songs on MySpace. Phase three we don’t have a lot of stuff recorded from.
Mike: We’re in phase three now.
Nick: We’ll have new tracks on MySpace in the next few days…
JM.com: Are you taking anything on tour?
Nick: We might play some shows in the Midwest next month.
Frank: We got offered a show in California, in ten months, in Ukiah. Those are possibilities. All of it’s unconfirmed right now.
JM.com: Talk about the singing. And the lyrics, is it a new addition to the music?
Frank: Nick how do you feel about your vocals?
Nick: I feel good about my singing.
Mike: I’ve never sung before this band.
Nick: Frank and I have done a lot of singing.
Frank: There’s a really interesting balance going on in this band in that I’m playing drums and not singing as much, but in all of my old bands I’ve been centrally a singer. Singing is by far my most confident instrument. This band is about my left hand, it’s about learning to play drums and become balanced. Maybe, Mike, your vocals are what you’re doing for the first time. The newest thing in the band is all of us interacting, especially because New York is a crazy place to live, it’s so competitive in the way time operates here. You’re always pressured to use your time well. And we all have particular challenges in our lives and there’s something wild about spending this much time with people on these projects. That you don’t even know exactly what it’s for, just the enjoyment of the act. The feeling of newness or rawness that comes from being in a band in New York that has only been playing for nine months…the rawness comes more from being in an insane place than it comes from being new.
JM.com: That’s interesting that you say the rawness, because I was watching your show at Public Assembly, wishing that I was watching it in someone’s garage.
Nick: We’ve played some more fun and sweaty, darker, dancier shows…
Mike: We played at the Cakeshop. That was sweaty.
Frank: Also the shows at the Silent Barn, those have been pretty good.
Mike: That was one of our best shows, in the basement.
Frank: How much of it is garage, and how much is “Public Assembly?” We’re interested in both.
Nick: I think Brooklyn is in a weird state right now where it’s very much after a boom. We’re a bit beyond a creative boom, wherein the reason any of us live here, or we’re out at this bar, is that ten years ago there was so much energy and really attractive things being made, and I think that although there’s still a lot of that, there’s also a lot more crowdedness and a little less vitality, so that a place on North 6th St. is even akin to Public Assembly… North 6, the club, used to be kind of a grody thing, but now, the small, dirty club next to it is trying to be swank on its own. So we’re tying to figure out how we fit at the end of this legacy, or at the beginning of a new stage in it, where we’re feeding off of the edges of this feast that is sort of dying down…
Frank: The ebb and flow of New York is a mystery. I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re at the end…
Nick: You can’t go to a fun punk rock show anymore because it’s diluted somehow. But that’s why we’re here, it’s still very palpable and useful, invigorating and exciting, and easy to play out.
Frank: Yeah. I mean, it’s a totally intense act to try to reflect on trends in New York. At any moment there’s so much that you don’t know about that’s happening in this city. I think there is a musical boom that happened in Brooklyn, and it has in some ways been at its wane, but at the same time, I’m so confident that there’s so much I don’t know about here that is totally brilliant. And you see shades of it all the time, you see bands that make you excited to see them again, and then you get busy for two months and don’t.
JM.com: I was excited about your band. Why is it called In?
Mike: Top secret.
by Drew Citron