Heya Renal, Gian, Winston, and Chris! It’s so cool to have this opportunity to ask you all a bunch of questions about your post-punk sound, new EP Drag A City, and how your musical future is shaping up. How is everything going for you right now?
Hey Jen, we’re excited for the opportunity as well. Everything is going well in our camp. We’ve just released our new EP on November 13th and have been getting a lot of positive feedback on our social media sites, especially Twitter and SoundCloud. We’ve also been working with a new drummer, Chris, and are getting in shape to play some live shows in support of Drag a City over the next few months.
Cool! From what I’ve read, you formed this band in October 2012, which is relatively recently. How did you connect? Were you playing in other bands before deciding to join forces as New Politicians?
Gian: Well, Renal and I started our first band when we were kids, pretending to be John & Paul in The Beatles. As brothers, we’ve always connected over music and shared similar taste. Naturally, ever since we both learned to play guitar we’ve been writing together. Winston and I had been jamming on projects together for a few years before New Politicians. When I tracked the demos for some of our first songs, I brought it to them and we decided to form a band around it.
Did you all grow up in Centerville, New Jersey or at least New Jersey? I’m based in the state and of all the artists I’ve interviewed, I think you’re the first ones who are located near me!
Gian: All four of us are from New Jersey originally. We use Centerville as our location because that’s the town we lived in when the idea for New Politicians was formed. At the time I was attending college in Philadelphia and Renal was working in Manhattan. We would share files via email and then come home on the weekend to jam. It was symbolic for us because Centerville is the 1700’s historic landmark coach town, the halfway point between the two cities.
Your sound is at once brooding and invigorating – quite a captivating, and one would think contradictory, combination, but you make it work beautifully. I hope you don’t mind the comparison, but you sound very much like (the best of) Interpol and I’m wondering how you developed your sound and if there’s at least one die-hard Interpol fan in the band.
We don’t mind at all. Interpol has an iconic sound and we are definitely fans, especially Winston. But, our influences as a band are vast and span anywhere from The Doors, to The Beatles, to Pink Floyd, to Nirvana, to Brand New… It’s the combination, especially the blues influence that makes our music distinct to New Politicians.
Let’s backtrack a little – Your debut EP Alpha Decay dropped this past March and your new EP Drag A City is out now. Why did you decide to release a couple of EPs instead of a debut album? Is there an album in the works? I dearly hope so!
We decided to record Alpha Decay shortly after the songs on that EP were written and played as a full group. They felt cohesive and were our newest material so we took them to Manhattan to Mirrortone Studios. We were pressed for cash during the process and we couldn’t spend as much time in the studio as we would have wanted. That lead to taking a DIY approach with Drag a City and producing the new songs at home in our apartment. As far as a debut album goes, we’re hoping to attract some label attention from Drag a City in order to gain access to the resources we feel are necessary for making a quality full length.
Renal, your vocals are similar to Paul Banks’s intonation, but I’m picking up a softer, more heartfelt tone with you, rather than Paul’s sometimes deadpan and sharply ironical delivery. You also slide into and draw out your vocals in melancholic minor tones where you sound at one with the instruments. How did you hit upon this style of vocal delivery? Do the song compositions dictate how you sing or vice versa?
Renal: I really started to hone in on my vocal style over the last few years and that process sped up once we started writing songs as a band. For me, I have always been influenced by meaningful lyrics as well as the overall energy that the vocalist brings to the sound. With that being said, a few of my main influences are Jim Morrison, Jesse Lacey and Kurt Cobain. Although they each are very unique in their own ways, they bring a certain enigmatic energy to every song that they perform on. As lyricists, each one of them has the ability to give you goose bumps at any moment of their songs. When I start to write the lyrics and vocals on a song, I try and bring those qualities to our music. I think the fact that listeners are drawing similarities to my tone with Paul Banks is a huge compliment to me. I can’t really change the way I sound naturally, and it was my band mates that helped me find confidence in the sound that I create for sure.
This band seems to be truly “democratic”, in the sense that each band member is contributing equally to the overall instrumental atmosphere. Winston, your bass guitar playing is a prominent aspect of the New Politicians sound as evidenced by your work on “The Length of Our Love”. You give the track a gravitas that it would otherwise lack. Why did you choose to play bass guitar instead of guitar? Do you have a favorite bass-related song by another artist? Mine is “No One Knows” by Queens Of The Stone Age.
Winston: I actually started playing guitar when I was much younger and just recently started playing bass. My friends and I were always writing music and generally needed a bass player, so I started playing. It’s hard for me to pick a single song, but “No One Knows” is definitely a good one. I tend to listen to a wide variety of music like Interpol, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and The Mars Volta. There are just too many to list, but I really enjoy the bass-related aspects of those bands.
At the very end of “Drag A City” there’s a great guitar motif that I wish would just keep going on and on like the Energizer bunny. Who originated this riff and what sparked its creation? Was it a fortuitous rehearsal result or did it pop into someone’s mind fully formed? What are some of your all-time fave guitar riffs? Right now I’m thinking of the opening salvo of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns ‘N Roses and “Sunburn” by Muse for me…
Gian: I was listening to Abbey Road a lot around the time I wrote “Drag a City.” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Because” are two tracks that I really admire, so I do partly owe the inspiration to The Beatles. The ending guitar riff though was inspired by the album Phrazes For The Young by Julian Casablancas. There is some pretty amazing harmonizing guitar work on that record that made me change the way I was writing riffs at that point. When I came up with the idea for the song and recorded it, that riff came out of a jam during a listen through.
My favorite guitar riffs of all time is a tough question because I have so many, but to name a few I would say “People Are Strange” by The Doors, “Money” by Pink Floyd, “Blue Orchid” by The White Stripes, and “Camaro” by Kings Of Leon.
Speaking of great guitar runs, you play a reverberating, suspended, Muse-like riff at the end of “The Idealist”, the epic number off of Alpha Decay. What guitar are you using for that and what kind of effect or playing method are you using to get that spine-tingling sound?
Gian: The main guitar that I use is my blonde ’72 Fender Tele Thinline, which is featured on all the tracks except “Drag a City.” The tone at the end of the song is a combination of overdrive, reverb, and delay and I played the riff in a “speed” or “flutter” pick technique. The kind of thing you’d hear in an Explosions In The Sky song or one of my all-time favorite bands, Brand New. I think that combined with the minor key it’s in could definitely give it that feel.
How do keyboards fit in to the New Politicians sound? I’m hearing sustained and textured, enveloping sonics that I want to attribute to keyboards, but I’m wondering if some of that is also guitar-driven…
Gian: Keyboards always come as an afterthought during the writing process. I like to use them as an atmospheric layer to the track, especially because our songs feature the guitars. Going forward with our live performance, we are strongly considering adding a keys player to fill out the sound.
Your lyrics are at times steeped in vivid imagery and at others in hazily vague emotions, but all seem bound by the subject of relationships – of lies, betrayal, loss, regret, and occasionally the glimmer of cherished memories. Who is the songwriter of the band?
Renal: I write the lyrics to the songs. The lyrics are inspired by the music that Gian writes and then passes on to me. I started writing poetry when I was 13, way before I ever picked up a guitar. When I write I usually have a scene or mood in my mind that I want to portray, so I let the flow of the music stimulate the right words. I have experienced a lot of failing relationships with family, friends, and lovers, so touching on subjects of betrayal and loss are just scraping the surface for me. I have always been a fan of lyrics first, that is really the main reason I will listen to a band in the first place. For me, I like to feel what that person is going through, or what they experienced. I want to feel happy as fuck or like I want to cry after listening to a song.
It’s always difficult for a listener to interpret the meaning behind a writer’s lyrics, so I ask with hesitant trepidation if “Drag A City” is about an unrequited love, and if, on “Sail Away”, there is a moment of happiness (Or, hey, maybe even longer, since there’s an “eternal kiss” involved – LOL) in the relationship described.
Renal: Well honestly, the title “Drag a City” was one of Evan’s (our previous drummer) throwaway ideas for a band name. I had kept thinking about that being a potential song idea and when Gian came to me with the instrumentals for the song, I said “Drag a City”. He dug it and so that is how it was all started. For me the title makes me think of how far one would go at all costs to accomplish something for love or for happiness. I feel like that song identifies the passion this band has for what we do.
“Sail Away” was sort of a little haiku that I had been working on, and when I was listening to the music I really felt as though I was in a scene from The Old Man and the Sea or Moby Dick. I wanted to portray something along the lines of a resurrection with the chant “Take me home, sail away, away from here”. The relationship described could mean something different to everyone. For me, I was more so tapping into my beliefs of what happens after life. I feel that there is an intimacy we have with death yet I think most people believe we can escape it or ignore it by living too fast. I think at this time I was sort of obsessed with what I was doing in life before I die as well as the question of will it be worth it in the end?
OK, one last lyrics-related question, because I’m really bowled over by the complex thought process of the following lines from “Are We the Dining Dead?”, which you deliver so effortlessly: “Let’s find this place by filling our lonely lives with callous lies / We fill this space by killing the only days we had it right.” How do you even begin to formulate these lyrics?!
Renal: This song is inspired by our favorite Jim Carrey movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. There is the scene where Joel and Clementine are out for dinner and he looks around at all the other miserable couples and says “Are we the dining dead?” I think almost anyone can relate to that point in a relationship, where nothing is going right and you don’t remember why you fell in love at all with the person sitting across from you. So I wanted those lines to describe that point in a relationship. It’s sad, because this scenario seems to happen too often. We tend to build these glass castles based on lies and fallacies and then when something minor goes wrong we tear it all down and end up hurting the only people that actually care about us in the first place.
You’ve played a lot of gigs in New Jersey and New York. Have you performed live outside of this area yet? What’s your most fave NJ venue to play at?
Yes, we’ve played a lot of venues in New York. Most notably Arlene’s Grocery, Spike Hill, Piano’s, Lit Lounge, the Delancey and more. We love playing Court Tavern in New Jersey because it’s in our back yard, but we feel that our scene is definitely in New York.
Lastly, can you please list your official site(s) where we can find out more about you and how to purchase your EPs?
You can find us on:
Official Site: http://www.newpoliticiansmusic.com/