Last year, giant peach reached tarantula on Don Giovanni, and since then have gone on to tour with the album and start to think of what comes next. While we anxiously await that second full length, the band took some time to answer a few of our questions through e-mail.
TGE: It's been a year since you released the album! In that time what have you been working on and how does it feel to be a year later from that release?
Frances Chang of giant peach: We actually had already finished tracking a second full-length the summer before Tarantula was released. We've really been taking our time on it, though — Mike and I have been recording home overdubs and vocals on the record, and we recently just went upstate with our friend who runs an awesome studio upstate, Business District Recording. Normally we rush the recording process because we never figured out how to do it efficiently, and relied heavily on the expertise of engineers, but we’ve recently learned how to record and edit in protools ourselves so this latest record has been an exercise in contemplation, and letting the songs complete themselves at a relaxed pace. It’s an entirely different feeling knowing that it's in our control to make the songs sound exactly the way we want them to with no time or financial limits.
This year has gone by so quickly. We take so much time between each release that I think we really evolve in between. Also as a band we were going through some changes this year, so we weren't as active as we might have been. I traveled a lot this summer, everyone was doing their own thing. So it feels like our sound has transformed a lot since Tarantula. And we recorded that album like three years ago, so.
TGE: How did Giant Peach come together and how has the band changed or grown since you first started? Did you ever imagine when you began that you'd be working with Don Giovanni?
GP: Mike and I met in 2008, during our first year of college. Each of us wrote and recorded a lot of guitar music back then under our own solo projects (mike's and mine). We began collaborating casually (recorded relics include a live improvisational loop pedal record and a secret bright eyes cover or two…) but we didn’t form Giant Peach until a year or so later. Really it came together because we had been jamming with our first drummer, Paul, and we all really wanted to go on tour. So we each got some songs together and messaged a bunch of people in a DIY community on myspace and toured up and down the east coast before we even had a solid band. The culmination of that lineup was glow away, ghetto way, a self-released CD featuring ten songs from me and mike’s solo projects, newly arranged as a three-piece band (two guitars and drums).
Mike and I sang vocals on our own songs for the most part, and have continued to do so ever since. So it’s always been a band made up of two primary songwriters, but through collaborating so much over the years I think we've created a new cohesive style.
Since then we’ve gone through a number of lineup changes. First Dave took over on drums and we released two EPs, people don’t believe me and called and strange, and then we finally got a bass player, Luke, who recorded the two most recent full lengths with us. Dave has since left the band to pursue a degree in teaching history, and we’ve been playing with Mike’s brother Ryan from Nude Beach. It’s been a bit of an uphill battle trying to keep a committed lineup over time, as most bands can probably easily sympathize with. I mean we’ve been a band for a while. Each lineup is its own vivid era, with Mike and I as the two consistent members.
Working with Don Giovanni on Tarantula was a surprise, even though they’ve always been on our radar as an awesome local label and we were really lucky to have the chance. We were working to release the record with another label prior to that, but the deal eventually fell through. We were really stoked when DG was interested. Our friends at Shitty Present Records also were a part of it— it was a split release. So the whole thing felt like a a very fortunate, supportive situation with friends pitching in on a release they really believed in.
TGE: What was one of the most surreal or best moments of being a band last year?
GP: I’d say that the most surreal moment for me was the new year’s eve I spent with one arm around Mike and one around Dave like a stuffed monkey, with all three of our heads touching, tripping out on our ecstatic nonverbal emotional-psychic connection. Luke wasn’t there though unfortunately. Also our collaboration in rehearsal was pretty surreal. We were all really incredibly in tune, which strangely I think came from each of us being extremely loyal to ourselves and our own style and taste, and making the effort to communicate that with a ton of energy and determination.
TGE: Could you talk about the song deserted? I love the lyrics and that song feels really emotional. What is it about?
GP: Yeah! I wrote that song in fucking 2012. I was living in Brooklyn for the first time and was in the lowest point of hands-down the worst depression of my life so far. That song captures a time period more than a cohesive subject, like most of my songs. So it’s about a lot of little things. It’s about the nature of intimacy and the fear that sex and love are irrevocably separate, about feeling like everyone else has that fiery spark of life in them and that somehow it’s missing in you, feeling dependent on relationships (both romantic and platonic) for inspiration and motivation, delusion in spirituality, trying to be grateful for what you have, trying to ground yourself in the most basic building blocks of life. I guess it’s about being lost, with no hope or clue of how to find your way again, and how it’s kind of hard to explain what’s wrong sometimes.
TGE: What was the theme of your last album and what was it about? What's the process like for songwriting? Do you draw from personal experiences and what role does each band member play?
GP: I guess if I had to pick a theme for the last album it would be transformation — that’s one of the symbolic meanings of the tarantula — a name Mike and I came up with because we both had a dream about a tarantula curling up into a little ball. The fast-paced and almost joyous arrangement of that record belies the darkness of the subject matter. But I guess it communicates optimism and energy too — the songs are all about depression, trauma and mental prisons, but also finding a way through that and learning something in the process.
Mike and I each write our songs based on personal experiences — Mike mostly draws his lyrics from his journal entries and mine arise pretty simultaneously with the guitar progressions that go along with them. That’s why we almost always sing vocals on our own songs — because they’re so personal and subjective — with the exception of a couple songs where Mike had a guitar part that he wanted me to come up with a vocal melody and lyrics for (an example from Tarantula is “Snake”). Those songs always end up really neat and tidy and succinct, like little nursery rhymes.
Usually for each song either Mike or I will record a demo of just guitar and vocals and send it out so that everyone can think on it before we work it out in rehearsal. Our collaborative process is huge — we clocked hundreds of hours with Dave and Luke, arranging and rearranging the songs on both Tarantula and the new record. They are both immeasurably talented musicians, both technically and in the general sense. If a part wasn’t what I had envisioned for one of my songs, we would fucking hammer it out and change it and workshop it until it did work — the attention to detail was through the roof. I’m really thankful to have been able to work with them. I think we all feel a really personal connection to the songs on the two latest records, also because as I mentioned earlier, we all have very unique styles when it comes to playing our instruments and I think that none of us compromised much on our own vision — and the result was at the very least some really intricate, unique-sounding work.
TGE: What's next for the band and what should people be on the look out from you this year?
GP: The new record. It’s been casually referred to as an “opus drama” — some of the songs are around 8 minutes long. No solid plans on how we’re going to release it yet, but it’s in post-production stages and we’re hoping for it to see the light of day sometime this year. It sees us in some new territory, delving into soundscapes, choral harmonies, insane guitar leads. We also plan to go on a long tour to promote it — something we haven’t been able to do properly because of day-job commitments for a while.
TGE: Is there any band you dream of working with or you'd like to collab with? Is there also any band that you take inspiration from?
GP: From the get-go we’ve been referred to as “90’s throwback” by people who have written about our music, even though Mike and I were really more early-2000s kids by nature of the era we grew up in. But since then the comparisons have inspired us to look more deeply into a certain niche of 90’s guitar driven indie rock, like the Chapel Hill scene. Versus from New York. I’m sure it’s affected our approach to playing guitar. Mike has also always been The Microphones’/Phil Elverum’s number one fan — I can see how that textural recording and songwriting style and even the accompanying art has deeply inspired him on many levels. Conifer tree peaks on a dark blue starry night, blobby ink writing. We all love Hum, Magnolia Electric Company, Red House Painters. Mike and I listen to a lot of Elliott Smith. We're big saps.
I’m always subconsciously looking for female role models and it’s a specific kinda feeling. What I’m most inspired by is a singular conviction, a real sense of inspiration and vision. I love Fiona Apple and by extension the particular role she plays as a well known artist — bringing a super internal yin existence to the public arena. The current culture promotes a mutant kind of extrovert personality. Also, the band Spit-Take from New Haven. They play a type of straight forward, brutal, fun, and at once dissonant and melodic music that just hits me right at the core. It's concisely written. Every note and beat has a purpose. Their music has directly inspired my writing from the very first release. Once I was playing their first EP “Coffee” at the coffee shop I used to work at and my coworker said, “Wow, this sounds like a really depressed little kid.” I was like, that’s what makes them so amazing. There’s this emotion that is almost adolescent in its directness. I mean that as a good thing — nothing penetrates like the raw emotion of youth. I really like this guy named G-Wyll who performs in the subway. He triggered a bunch of little hummed phone recordings of random melodies that later inspired songs. Aye Nako is one of the bands I love on Don Giovanni, been following them since their first demo tape. It's incredible how much their music has transformed -- I like it when bands just let themselves change. The inevitable branding of identity and sound sometimes leaves too little room for experimentation.
I don’t know who I’d like to work with… it’s hard enough to find a handful of people I’m comfortable enough to play music with. I’d rather just watch people do their thing from a dark corner. There are a lot of people making cool stuff these days though. I’m inspired by a lot of it.
TGE: If you were making a crayon color, what color would best fit the band?
GP: Some kind of putrid orange or a toxic green? A maroon-hued grey named “cockroach dragging cigarette”? A shade of purple named "wizard"? A pearlescent white named "question"?? A jet-black crayon that actually writes NOTHING?
TGE: What would the title of your Netflix documentary be?
GP: I feel like anything I come up with will just be too weird. I definitely see it revolving around mental health. I wish we had a band therapist.