The idea of filtering the tunes of our past through our modern experiences is one of the driving forces of modern music. M83 takes the New Wave synth-driven melodies of the 80s and gives them the type of soaring, precisely crafted impact you could only hear today. The Black Keys and Jack White twist the blues with garage rock ferocity, and Charli XCX embraces the bubblegum pop of the 1990s with dark electro-gothic intensity. Brooklyn, NY pop throwback artists Jack + Eliza
are one of the few modern acts looking back to the Mamas & the Papas as a clear inspiration with a hint of the acid-fused guitar rock of the Yardbirds for good measure. They have an exciting new EP, No Wonders
, coming out soon (which you can pre-order on iTunes here
). We were fortunate enough to have a chat with this talented young duo about what it was like working with legendary producer Chris Zane and the other elements that went into making their new EP.
Tell us a little about who you are, how you met, and how you began making music together.
Jack: Eliza and I were both born and raised in New York City. We met through mutual friends when we were eleven or so. We actually played in a band together in ninth grade in which Eliza played drums and I sang, but we both had separate projects going simultaneously, and we were both writing music. After encouragement from people around us, we decided to attempt writing a song together. We wrote said song and performed it at the end of a set Eliza played down at Sullivan Hall. I guess the rest is history.
Talk about the new EP No Wonders. What should fans expect from your latest work?
J: Well, the EP features five songs, was produced by Chris Zane and is scheduled to be released late september.
Eliza: We tried to make the EP a fairly congruous, succinct introduction to our music and our approach to songwriting.
J: Eliza and I both care very much about the gestalt
of our work; we give every song equal attention.
E: Expect a lot of harmonies!
How did growing up in Brooklyn shape the way you sound? And if you lived in Austin, Texas or LA for example, do you think youd be producing similar sounding material? Does the specific location define the bands style?
E: Well we both grew up in Manhattan but I attended school in Brooklyn from when I was five until I graduated high school, so I definitely spent more time there than in any other borough. Im not sure that the specific location defines or effects the bands style directly. Our sound is mostly influenced by a place and time that we weren't alive for... 1960s-70s. The locations of the bands we listened to from back then definitely defined their styles - New York City's effect on the Velvet Underground, California's effect on the Beach Boys, etc. So I suppose we are affected and defined by location indirectly. Our style might be the same if we lived in Austin or LA because the music we listened to and have grown up on is what has primarily influenced this particular project.
Name several of the largest notable changes from the first release to No Wonders.
E: It's actually hard to pinpoint notable changes in our songwriting. Maybe that's because we haven't been writing together for that long.
J: Our first released did not have any production at all, so I suppose that would be the large difference.
Chris Zane has worked with countless notable acts like Mumford and Sons, Passion Pit, and The Walkmen. What's it like having him on your side as a producer?
E: It was a great experience. He's hilarious and lovely and obviously amazing at what he does. It was the first time we've worked with a producer so we don't really know any different!
J: He listened to us and we listened to him. We went in to the studio with the songs written and arranged and we knew we wanted to keep it very stripped down.
E: Hes so talented at creating a dynamic and a cohesive sound.
In a city that seems to encompass nearly every single form and style, what are Jack and Eliza doing to create their own little niche sound? What is the band doing to differentiate itself from all the other struggling indie-pop bands out there?
E: I dont think there are very many bands out that approach male/female harmonies the way that we do. Jack used to do Barbershop Quartet. So, you know, you could say he's well versed in harmony and then there's me... who really has had absolutely no vocal training. Maybe there's something special about that combo?
Who are your biggest musical influences and why?
E: The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Carole King, Mamas and the Papas, The Kinks, The Supremes. . . That list goes on. But as far as new music goes, we're massive Tame Impala fans. Kevin Parker is amazing at taking an old sound/vibe and putting it into a modern context. We're very influenced by the subtlety of XX. They were once likened to an eye exam, taking elements away, bringing them slightly closer, bringing elements further away, creating slight but powerful change though arrangement. Because we are just two guitars and two voices, we have to make the most of each element and use them in different ways to create, rhythm, dynamic, et cetera, and the XX do an amazing job of doing just that.
Were there any problems making this EP, creatively within the studio or outside of the studio?
E: It was all smooooth sailin' !
J: We were both nervous when we entered the studio, because we really wanted to just capture what we had already conceived for our first release, and we know Chris is one that makes music with many parts and instruments. In fact, he even referred to us at times to his Anti-Zane project. Luckily, Chris agreed that we needed to treat the music delicately and recorded only what was there. Chris certainly added his own personal touches too, which we both feel really elevated the overall sound quality and the songs itself.
I read in an earlier interview you did with AudioFemme.com that you had the entire EP written before you entered the studio. What was that like? Upon entering the studio, did you realize there were still many changes to be made, or did it come out exactly like you planned before entering?
J: There were definitely nuances and textures that were added to the music on the EP, but really the songs in their fundamental form did not change. I'd say Chriss interpretations of our songs hit exactly what we wanted for our first EP.
How does sharing creative control reflect on your music? What kind of sacrifices did you have to make for the benefit of the well-rounded sound?
J: Everything we write is really in collaboration, so in some ways, we kind of work as a checks-and-balance system. We're both comfortable telling each other when something just isn't working, and while that can be stressful and painful, in retrospect, it really leads to a better finished product, and one that we can both be satisfied with.
What is your favorite location to write a song?
E: My parents living room is basically where this entire project has come into being.
J: We rehearse and write there.
E: There's lots of sunlight!
If you could collaborate with any band, which band would you choose?
E: If we're talking current bands, we'd probably choose Tame Impala for the very reasons we mentioned earlier. Kevin Parker is a master at putting a new spin on the old, nostalgic sound.
When you have a minute, you should definitely check out the surf rock meets soaring harmonies mix that has made Jack + Eliza a surprise hit on Soundcloud with many new fans.