Small Black is a pop band based out of Brooklyn, NY.
You’re in Vermont?
Josh: Actually In lovely Delaware. At one of our bandmate’s family’s house in Rehoboth Beach, recording all day, everyday.
What are you working on up there?
Our full-length. We’re trying to finish as many songs as we can and see which ones fit together into a record. Not sure exactly of the release plan, but we’ll be figuring it out over the next few weeks.
The art of any creative project is in the finishing, I feel like. Do you have any trouble with that?
It’s always difficult to commit to a finished piece. You’re constantly looking into the mechanics of a song and figuring out how it works, why you like it, why you don’t, at that exact moment. Certain songs will happen in a day, or two other ones take a year. You never know how it goes.
What’s the process like? What’s it like to be a buzz band? I’m still just fascinated with how fast the Internet makes the hype grow.
Ryan and I sat in the attic at my uncle’s in Long Island and in various apartments in Brooklyn doing this EP last winter and had no idea if anyone was going to listen. We just leaked the tracks into the small world of the Internet, and it happened to go well. It’s very exciting that we have chance to tour and maybe figure out what it is to be a working musician.
What do you make of the modern music-making landscape?
With the rise of digital recording, we sit at home and come up with an idea for a song and put it out tomorrow. There’s no waiting . Media is just so widely out there, it’s being constantly changed and rethought. Over the past couple of years you’ve really seen remixes grow huge, and especially not just dance and hip-hop. It’s everything—everything’s fair game and you can put your own stamp on anything you like..
Do you feel that it’s gotten more competitive? Or is there more amateurism in the music world right now?
It is exciting that a 15-year-old kid can hit the right buttons on GarageBand and make some crazy song that resonates with people, but it creates a glut of material out there. But on the other hand, it’s incredible to have the ability to do everything at home and not have to be on the clock in some space, not on the clock and our band wouldn’t exist without that. As younger musicians, we were kind of scared of the computer and weren’t making music that was necessarily suited for it. But with Small Balck, we definitely love working on ProTools, being able to edit, chop and change anything. It was huge realization that we didn’t want to make a “live” sounding recording.
How are you going about making the full-length?
We have the gist of maybe 20 songs right now that we’re working on, that we’ve been accrued over the past year. They start from various places,whether it’s a beat or a keyboard melody or a sample that we have. We just sit down and see what parts are there and arrange them, if it’s enough to make a full song, or it’s just a snippet, maybe we need to combine it with something else. There’s definitely an element of collage in how we work.
What’s the band’s new arrangement again? I know Jeff Curtin’s involved now.
For this record, Juan is heavily involved and Jeff is definitely going to be involved. Ryan and I did the first EP, the five songs that are round, but going forward it’s going to be a full collaboration. Juan and I had another band called Cool Weed where we developed a great working relationship and Jeff was the drummer in our old band.
What’s reflective of your personality in the music?
The origin of the band is rooted in Ryan and I’s musical friendship, and what we’ve grown up listening. We’re huge fans of dreamy synth music and knew we wanted to go there. Tonally and write songs without have a deliberate intent, but rather through experimentation and play. We’re interested in lyrics being a function of the music and melody. I read an interview with Brian Eno recently and he mentioned that he was very excited when he wrote something he didn’t understand, but was intrigued by it. I guess we’re always looking for that in both the music and lyrics. I’m always interested in reading about other musician’s methods, ttactics, and approach.
What do you make of the Chillwave thing?
It’s pretty hysterical. We joke around about it all the time. Our first review I think we got called chillwave-lo-fi-shitgaze or something (laughs). Any sort of genre name, as much as it seems absurd, seems to help when you’re first starting up by giving writers something to talk about.
All of you should do a Chillewave-Stock or something. Chillapalooza.
We heard about a Chillwave festival in Australia. And our patiently waiting by our beepers for their page.
What did you like from 2009?
It seemed more like a singles than an albums year. Music seems headed that way as we go forward. Great albums will always rise above and but the singles artist definitely is going to thrive on the net. What was another good thing about 2009?…Juan and I just saw “Avatar” and we were pretty obsessed
You know what’s really weird? I was listening to some of the Small Black stuff this morning and I was like, I bet these guys really liked “Avatar.” I don’t know why I thought that. I don’t sleep a lot. Why do you think I thought that?
What is “Avatar”-esque about Small Black?
I love the blue & purple color of the creatures. It fits with a lot of color decisions we make for album art and posters. The graphics have a soft shine to it to that seems relevant to our mix process somehow.
Your music is pretty dense and colorful.
That movie was so epic and insane and overwhelming. I didn’t care about the plot. I just watched all these things fly around, buzzing, and spinning in front of me.
It seemed like Cameron was tugging at these bigger issues that might become a huge thing this century, virtually controlled life, which we are just hinting at with the internet.. “World of Warcraft.” A lot of folks are totally going that direction. It was important concept was the center of movie and even in the title, but it was totally unimportant to the movie when you got down to it.
What would you put on a year-end list?
Pictureplane “Goth Star.” That’s a great song. Washed Out “Feel It All Around.” Definitely Big Boi and Gucci Mane “Shine Blockas.” I love all the “Best Coast” singles. They’re perfect pop gems. That “Sun Was High” I want to bump that on headphones everyday.
When are we going to get another Outkast album?
It seems impossible to get a hip-hop record out. They just sit on the shelf for months and months. That Gucci Mane record kinda just came out one day a few weeks out
Too many skit tracks.
I wanted to get into Freddie Gibbs and I got one of the mixtapes and it was 74 songs. How am I going to do this? (laughs) I don’t know how I’m going to get through it!
I really liked that The-Dream album. The production is just so big and chunky.
Just baller. Did you hear the new R. Kelly song?
Which one? I’m fascinated by R. Kelly. He’s a genius but he’s also insane.
Are you talking about “Pregnant?”
“Echo.” He yodels in it! It’s insanity. I’m forgetting what’s my favorite R. Kelly song right now…
Dude, “Real Talk.”
“Real Talk”! That’s just one of the craziest jams I’ve ever heard in my life. I love the “Real Talk” refrain. He just drops it with no deliberate patternJust whenever shit gets too “real” and he has to let you know.
That prologue is genius. The “YOUTUBE!” part.
Small Black Interview