Discovery is a pop group comprised of two members, Wes Miles (of Ra Ra Riot) and Rostam Batmanglij (of Vampire Weekend). They recently put out the terrific LP.

Tell me a little bit about the underlying ideas behind Discovery and how the previously released songs came together into an album.
Wes: We’ve been working on it for a long time but we wanted it to be a whole album. It took a long time to get all those ten songs. It just took a long time.

When did you decide you wanted to make it an album?
Rostam: Well, I think we always kinda wanted to make it an album. And we wanted it to be a complete picture.

The percussion on the record’s very different. Why did you decide to do it that way?
Rostam: Like the drum machine?

Yeah, and the handclaps.
Rostam: I don’t think there’s any real handclaps…are there? What started with “Osaka Loop Line” progressed…and from there I was like, what would it be like to make a whole album of handclaps and 808 progressions, an 808 drum machine. So that was like the limitation. And vocal harmonies, that’s what we wanted to do.

A lot of people I’ve interviewed lately have mentioned that their music is heavily influenced by 90’s pop music. Would you also say that? Or is this project just a natural extension of your musical personalities?
Wes: It’s a little bit of both. We definitely wanted…from the beginning we set parameters like, making pop, electronic pop music, sounds that we have on the album and then having harmonies and melodies and stuff that are more R‘n’B music than rock ‘n’ roll.

Did you have anything particular in mind when you were making the record?
Wes: We wanted to be aware of like, modern R‘n’B and stuff like that, but also listening to 90s R‘n’B, pop music, Mariah Carey or something. But also being aware of all kinds of music, not saying, “if it’s on the radio, we don’t listen to it.” You know? That’s definitely not something that we identify with, cutting out radio music, popular music.

Rostam: I think the context is important. There’s limitations that are important. They inspire you. They drive you to be creative.

Is there anything on LP that you’d like to point out as something you really felt like you nailed?
Rostam: I think the way that the vocals are cut up. I’m really proud of the way that we did that. I don’t think anyone else has done anything like that, really.

Wes: And it feels like a thing that definitely helps LP be unique, the chopping up, the stuff like that. And that just kind of goes with the sound and the art in general.

Rostam: We’re really proud of the end of “Orange Shirt”…

Wes: It fits with the parameters we set…

Rostam: And it’s completely by accident too!

Wes: Given the parameters we set for making what we thought was going to be pop…

Do you think any other artists dwell within the same musical space as Discovery?
Rostam: There’s no guitars on the album and there’s nothing really real except for vocals. A lot of real vocals too, not everything is AutoTune. A lot of people think that. A lot of people think it’s AutoTune and it’s very much not. Do I think that there’s other artists that are doing the same thing as us?

Yeah, or do you feel like this is new territory?
Rostam: It would be kind of arrogant to say it that way.

Feel free to be bold!
Rostam: I think we can know what’s a new territory. Only time will tell.

You talk about parameters…
Wes: We talk all the time about how we relied on our instincts. There wasn’t any point that I remember being like, “That’s not “R‘n’B” enough.”

Rostam: (laughs) Yeah, definitely.

Wes: I think we just trusted our instincts and stuck with things that we felt sounded good, cutting up things or making sounds. It was more like, to see what would happen.

Rostam: I would cut up a bunch without knowing what it would sound like, and sometimes I’d be like, how can I make it go “cruh-uh-uh-uh-ush!” A lot of songs are us getting together and trying to come up with stuff, improvise, and then edit things and revise things. Make this an octave lower, you sing this part, I’ll sing that part, whatever.

So would you consider yourself intuitive musicians?
Wes: We kind of surprise ourselves. “It’s Not My Fault” came real fast. And for that to happen you kind of have to trust yourself to improvise.

Rostam: I can’t claim to be that much of an intuitive guy because I majored in music. I think Wes is a terrific sax player and can read music way better than anyone I know. The truth is when we’re doing what we do, making our own music, we think that our knowledge and our skills are in the back of our minds. Like you said, our intuition drives it.

Will you guys continue working together?
Wes: I think we’ll definitely do more.

Any chance you’re going to hit the road with this material?
Rostam: No, we’re not going to tour.

Do you have a favorite song on LP? Do you pick favorites? Do you feel like the press has converged on the record and pointed out the things you wished to emphasize?
Rostam: The album as like this {fruit}, and I don’t think anybody’s peeled back to the edible plant. Over time…the edible layers will be pulled back. (laughs)

Do you worry about LP getting labeled a “summer” album?
Wes: I don’t necessarily think of it as a summer album…

Rostam:  We made sure there was lots of yellow and orange in the album art (laughs).

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© 2009

Discovery Interview

Corban Goble

Photo by: Alex John Beck