Interviewing Tanlines
  • THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2012

  • Posted by: Ilana Kaplan

Tanlines have had quite a year filled with mixed emotions. Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm's debut album (owning the same moniker) has made quite a mark with singles like "All Of Me" and "Not The Same" in 2012. The electro-pop duo has done everything on their own; they don't have a tour manager, so they book all of their gigs themselves. Tanlines's DIY style is seen in their latest video, which debuted yesterday, for one of their personal favorites, "Not The Same." The guys have been on the road for most of the year, with the plan of coming out with a sophomore album in 2013.

Mixed Emotions was a culmination Cohen and Emm's life at the time of recording; the musical duo had been evicted from their Brooklyn studio right before recording. This album was a series of ups and downs for the guys of Tanlines. So, if Mixed Emotions sounds moody at times, then you're hearing it correctly.

We spoke with Jesse Cohen about his love for The Beastie Boys, the "Worst Gig Ever," and making their own music video.

How's it going? You guys have had a whirlwind of a year.

JESSE COHEN: I think so. A slow-moving whirlwind, I'd say.

Your debut album has been super successful. You guys started a fall tour after the album had been out for a while. Do you have any new releases coming out?

COHEN: We did a video that should be out soon, just sort of like a year-end single. We haven't really had a chance to work on a new album just because we are playing shows and traveling. We found that we would go to a city and go back a couple of months later and it would be all new people, which is great. When that keeps happening, you just want to keep doing it. We haven't really had a lot of time to do anything other than play shows or work on this video, which we directed ourselves. It's for a song that's on the album, "Not The Same."

Ah, that's one of my favorite songs on the album.

COHEN: It's one of mine too actually. It's definitely one of my favorite songs to play.

Why is that?

COHEN: Because I think it just naturally became a song that people really liked. We didn't do any promotional stuff. It just sort of jumped out at people in an organic way. I liked playing it. It goes over really well. "All of Me" was a single that we really pushed, you know? It got out there a lot of ways that the album didn't, but this song is really just a song that people who have the album and know the album for the most part. It's sort of a fan-favorite.

How did you and Eric [Em] meet?

COHEN: We met because Eric had a studio in Brooklyn and he recorded my old band. So, we just became friends and we started working on music together. I think it's always better to work on music with friends.

Year-end is coming, what are your plans for 2013? Are you guys going to take a break?

COHEN: No, I really want to have an album out next year. We all do, so we're trying to organize next year around that. It's hard to say because we haven't really started working on it yet. That's the plan, at least. I would really, really like to have one if it's possible. It has to be good, though. We wrote a lot of songs for this album that we didn't end up using. I don't think that we'll end up using them for the next album, but a few ideas here and there.

What's the craziest touring experience that you guys have had? Anything blow your mind while you were touring?

COHEN: The way that we tour, we're very hands-on and DIY. We don't have a tour manager, so we do a lot of stuff ourselves. What were you thinking of? What have you heard from other people?

I mean I've heard of a lot of crazy and random experiences. Anything. Anything you want to share.

COHEN: We actually just did a podcast that's called "Worst Gig Ever," that's all about bad touring experiences. It was pretty good. I thought it turned out pretty good. We played in Hamburg once in a gigantic, former Nazi bunker that was turned into a venue. It was a fortress and no one was there. Literally any day can be anything. It's one of the maddening things about touring. Days when you think it's going to be a great show - they turn out to be crappy. Days where you're playing in a punk club in New Orleans - it turns out to be great. I'll come up with something by the end of this.

What influences have driven Tanlines for you guys?

COHEN: Yeah I don't know. I should have a really good answer for that by now, I don't. I decided at some point that when people ask me what artists or bands influenced me in wanting to become a musician, my answer would be the Beastie Boys. That doesn't have anything to do with Tanlines and the sounds that we have, or the songs that we write. Just when I was a teenager, they were the guys that I thought were the coolest guys. They were the most interesting people. They were huge hits, and they did everything. I thought that was the greatest thing that one band could make all different kinds of songs at once. I feel like that's part of what I believe in, in terms of being a musician.

Are the songs on your album one large story or is each song a different narrative?

COHEN: Each song is different, so there isn't a narrative that goes through the album. We wrote the whole album during six months at our studio in Brooklyn, which is where we started our band. We were being evicted from our studio. Before we even started the album, we were told we had to move out from our studio. That really set off the vibe behind a lot of the songs and a lot of the music was written at a transitional time in our lives. The band was losing its home and the existential anxiety of not knowing where we want to go next. It's also the existential anxiety of getting older. I think that's the mood of writing the album. That's why it's not a purely, joyful album. It's a lot of moods and feelings: different anxieties within the context of music that is upbeat-driven electronic music. When we were done with the album, the label wanted to use "All Of Me" as the lead single. We were like, there aren't a lot of songs like that on the album, is that okay? It's like, of course it's okay. It's interesting. I was worried that the album wouldn't feel cohesive because of that. I think that in a way it does. One of the things we have been working really hard on doing, me and Eric, is putting our personalities at the front of the project. I feel like if people get to know us, and get a sense of who we are, then we can put out whatever kind of songs we feel like. Then, people won't expect a certain kind of sound or song. I hope that's happening. I think it has started to happen.

Thank you so much for doing this with me. I really appreciate it!

COHEN: Is that it? I told you I would have an answer to a touring question, and I don't. Oh, hey, I've got one! We were booked for the Mad Decent Block Party. Do you know what that is?

I do. I remember being jealous that Chicago got you guys, and New York didn't.

COHEN: That's right. At the time, it was a pretty weird show for us to be on because every once in a while, we get put on a really electronic show. We don't fit in. Our music is not aggressive, and a lot of that music is pretty aggressive and it has a younger audience. It was us, Action Bronson and Dubstep DJs. We were like, "this is pretty weird." We were pretty excited to see what would happen and what it would be like. We got there and the whole thing was shut down by the police before we even got on the stage. It was totally overrun by kids trying to get in. It was a pretty crazy scene that we were flocked in the middle of; we had flown out to Chicago just for that. We didn't get to play. I guess the craziest show experience we ever had was the one that didn't happen.

That's pretty unique.

COHEN: We thought people were going to hate us at this thing. That's what we were definitely going in thinking. We were older than everyone there. I think a show like that is a challenge. It's an opportunity to learn about how people see our music.

I feel like every show is an experience like that, especially when youre playing shows to different demographics.

COHEN: There's a video of people trying to get into the show, people running and trying to break down the fence. You can hear one person yelling, "I came here to see Tanlines!" We think that was probably the only person.





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