Saturday, November 7, 2009

Le Loup Interview

Ask Le Loup what they think of the Washington D.C. music scene and they'll tell you it's one of the best in the country. But the fact is, their gorgeous, cheerful, often experimental music is helping to put that scene back on the map. After touring the country in support of their newest album, Family, the band is back in DC for a homecoming show at the Black Cat tonight. I had a chance to catch up with drummer Robby Sahm who, like any self-respecting Washingtonian, takes pride in his organizational skills.

There's clearly a lot going on with Family in terms of all the layers and harmonies. How long did it take to record the album and what was the experience in the studio like for you guys?

The time it took us to get everything recorded was around 6 months. We met on weekends for about 5 months in my parents basement in Bethesda, Maryland on weekends, then molded and tweaked the tracks for a week in Baltimore. The last two weeks or so were recorded in (guitarist) Jim Thomson's family cabin in the Smoky Mountain region of North Carolina. We then mixed down each song to a manageable number of tracks and took them to J. Robbins' Magpie Cage studio in Baltimore. He worked wonders on our somewhat amateur recording and helped us in a huge way to make the songs sound like they did in our heads.

We wanted to engineer and produce the album ourselves, but none of us are experts in either of those departments, so we decided to keep it simple. We used 2 Rhode NT 1 mics to record the entire album. Limiting ourselves to a stereo (2 tracks at once) tracking system allowed us a very nimble and simple engineering process with mics often placed strategically around the rooms we recorded in to get the specific ambiance of the particular space. The streamlining of our technical setup allowed us to be very nimble and simple when capturing fleeting ideas and moments.

You guys have just returned home from touring the country. How do you gear up for something like that and is touring something you enjoy doing?

We all sort of scattered across the country after the album was recorded, so we had barely played the new songs as a band. We decided to meet for two weeks in a central location, my parents house, where we could rehearse all day. Luckily it was enough time, and we were really excited to take it to the stage.

Since then the tour has been smooth sailing. It didn't include as many extreme highs or lows compared to past tours, but I think that's mostly because we all wanted to maintain our sanity and health as much as possible. We planned the whole thing much more carefully and were all around more prepared. As boring as it sounds, our record keeping and overall organization is something I'm proud of this time around. This all between the insane hedonism of the rock n roll lifestyle, of course (wink).

As mentioned earlier, there's a lot of complexity in Le Loup's music. How do you pull that off live?

Some of the sampled layers from the album, like water sounds and huge percussion sections, we simply put into one of two samplers we run on stage, synced all together with a metronome in my ear. The tough part is making sure everything works out naturally onstage and doesn't come off as a band playing while slapping samples on top of the whole show. The idea is to have that stuff almost be a new member of the stage show with a character that's all their own. We've also found that some electro sounding parts just sound way better if a robot plays them. Some of the electronic drums we use as samples could be triggered note by note by us, but the lack of human feel is what ends up giving them more character in the end.

Finally, you guys are often considered part of both the Baltimore and DC music scene. Obviously Baltimore is getting more props these days but how does the DC music scene stack up? Is it hard to get by as a musician in a city where art will always take a back seat to politics or do you find it supportive?

As far as scenes go, it really was in the warmth of the D. C. scene that we incubated in. It's become apparent how kind and cooperative the D. C. Music scene is compared to a lot of other places. We've heard plenty of horror stories of backstabbing, trash-talking and unproductive competition from other bands from other cities that really helped us appreciate all the help and advice we received during our initial stages. Now that we've gained a tiny bit if national attention we try to carry that mentality with us around the country.

Sam lived in Baltimore for 2 years and Christian for a year, but I would hesitate to claim that we're actually part of the Baltimore scene out of respect for the awesomeness that is the Baltimore music scene. We've only actually played Baltimore once, and it was very cool, but D. C. is the place that it all went down. I recently read an article about the Brightest Young Things (a popular DC music and entertainment website) where Jason Bond Pratt said "This city is built on ideas. There's no port, no factories. Everyone comes here to chase their ideas. There's no reason people shouldn't look here for leadership in fashion and art.". I like to believe this captures spirit of the D. C. Scene that allowed us to bloom with our conceptual, strange and somewhat experimental take on pop rock.

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