November 2, 2009
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
Kalpana has been playing and releasing their music, which they like to refer to as their “boring stories of glory days,” in the city sporadically since 2004. With members split between cities, this four-piece collective has just recently released their second full length Teeth on the Wheel three years after the release of their last EP, This Dead Horse. Their debut LP, Hors de Combat was released in 2004. JM.com’s Gordon Sharp connected with guitarist/singer/designer Aaron Powers to talk about Kalpana’s new record and their development over time.
JM.com: Kalpana’s been playing in NYC for over 5 years. Tell our readers a little a little about the time before Kalpana. I know some of you are from upstate and now spread also to Philly, how did it all come together?
Aaron: The first Kalpana material came from a handful of experimental rock songs that Andrew, Blair and Michael put together for a school project back in 2002. The following winter there was this idea to bring me in, develop the sound further and start up an actual band. We spent a few months rehearsing in a basement outside of Rochester, NY, getting to know each other musically and rehearsing songs that probably made the neighbors wonder if robots were murdering each other next door. Following our first record in 2004, we all moved into an apartment together in Astoria and began life as a New York band where we have made some friends and played a bunch of shows, as you know. We live separately now, with Michael in grad school in Philly and the rest of us in NYC.
JM.com: Redder Records released 2006’s This Dead Horse. You’re now releasing your new album Teeth on the Wheel as a free download through your own label No Funeral. How do you reason with the fact that by making your record free to the public in an attempt to open it up to a wider audience you at the same time contribute to making digital music a worthless commodity?
Aaron: I don’t think we’ve ever viewed our music as a commodity, which is why we didn’t hesitate in making Teeth on the Wheel available on a donation basis (for the time being, anyway). We produced and mixed the album ourselves for very little money. So we consider it a gift to the folks who stood by us for the last few years, with the hope that some new fans might chip in and help recoup our modest costs. There are also plans for a physical version with interesting packaging because we realize the importance of being able to hold something tangible in your hands. And right, the new record was released on Kalpana’s own imprint, No Funeral. Redder hasn’t been as active lately because of key members taking on graduate studies at home and abroad. But there are some interesting things going on behind the scenes that they are excited about.
JM.com: How did you come to start working with Redder?
Aaron: We were all in the same circle of friends in Rochester, NY in early 2003. All at once, some of us decided to make music as a group and some of us decided to release and promote records. Adam from Redder saw some potential at our first few shows, offered to release an EP, and as the material matured, our full-length record Hors de Combat in 2004. Redder also included us on some compilations and helped us out with promoting This Dead Horse, along with putting out records for Saturday Looks Good to Me, Kind of Like Spitting, Bob Nanna’s The City on Film, Summer at Shatter Creek, Love of Everything, and the amazing Rockets and Bluelights from Albany, NY.
JM.com: Tell me about how Teeth on the Wheel came to be? My favorite track from (Horse), “And they we’re dubbed Assassins” is the lone holdover. Did you remaster the track for the record?
Aaron: In mid-2007, we decided to dial back on performing so we could focus on writing a really cohesive album, and take the time to get that big sound we’ve always been going after. With all the time and freedom we wanted, plus a significant software upgrade, we took the opportunity to completely rebuild “Assassins” from scratch. Musically, the entire Teeth record was a group effort with the same system of checks and balances that were always part of the songwriting process. We were more cautious this time around in making sure that the loud parts weren’t written just for the sake of being loud, and that the quiet parts were purposeful as musical passages rather than simply being added for contrast. Conceptually, there are some recurring themes in the lyrics – a narrative of sorts, which may only make sense to us…Of course, listeners can take away whatever meaning resonates with them.
JM.com: What plans do you have for live show to follow the release of your new record?
Aaron: We’re planning some shows around the neighborhood as well as some receptive spots upstate and in New England. Touring nationally is a near-impossibility for us, so we are realistic in our goals to pepper the Northeast, playing shows with our friends in each area. We are still very early in the process of spreading the word about the new record.
JM.com: All your artwork is done by your design company, Cerca de la Tierra. It always has a unique style that gives Kalpana a singular look. What other projects outside of the band has your company been involved in?
Aaron: Cerca de la Tierra is a collection of illustrative design projects that I provide when my friends need a visual to accompany what they’re recording. At first it made sense take on the Kalpana layouts ourselves in order to be self-sufficient, but as you mentioned, a particular look and feel emerged that we continued with on this album. I have also spent much of my free time outside of the band working on projects for groups like Twin Thousands (ex-Cursive, Bright Eyes, A Million Billion), The Art of Shooting, Saxon Shore, Jatun, Kind of Like Spitting, From Monument to Masses, Dead Leaf Echo, Golden Spurs, Red Orange Morning, and providing work for Redder Records and Other Electricities Records. It wasn’t until after college that I found a new excitement in matching ink and pixels to sounds and it’s always exciting to see a thumbnail that was once a quick sketch end up in the iTunes store or at a random record shop across the country.
JM.com: Plans for Kalpana in 2010?
Aaron: In addition to supporting Teeth on the Wheel as Kalpana, we plan to follow through on some side projects that have surfaced throughout Kalpana’s life span. Michael is working on his fourth release as Glass Animal, Andrew has started writing for another Iky Bardist album, and I am continuing the progress on a Good Friends With Sharp Scissors full-length with musicians in Chicago and Rochester. As far as Kalpana, new technology is constantly making it easier to put our contributions in the same place, so despite the fact that we are spread somewhat thin between our personal lives, careers, zip codes, and musical projects, we are as excited as ever about writing and collaborating with each other.
by Gordon Sharp
photo by Jen McManus