interview: Remember Sports
For months I have been listening to Slow Buzz. There is something undeniably special about this latest album from Remember Sports. Whether it's the surprisingly energized and reckless fun of "Temporary Tattoo" or the endearing honesty of "You Can Have Alonetime When You're Dead," the band has a knack for creating some of the most heartfelt and relatable tunes you'll ever hear. Their new album is out today and we're excited to share a brief converesation we shared with the members.
The Grey Estates: Let's start with what you envisioned for this new album. Did you have an idea of what you wanted to try differently from the last or how you wanted this one to sound? Was there anything you learned in between albums that you wanted to incorporate or try?
Jack: Our past records were basically just bare bones documents of exactly what we sounded like live, just like launching into these fast songs without much thought put into arrangement or revision and then playing them for our friends at parties. We hadn't gone on tour at that point, so in the time that's passed we've gotten to know each other a lot better musically and have come to understand how a song can act as a reflection of each of our complementary styles. We all do separate music and art stuff on our own where we can freak out and assert 100% control, so this band is kind of reserved for exploring our chemistry. That meant, for one example, meeting up with our friend Evan (who recorded the album) before we started recording to talk about different sounds we each like and how they might be able to bounce off each other, which is definitely not something I can imagine us doing almost 3 years ago when we made the last album.
What's the recording/writing process like for you? Do you work separately and then come together? is there a place or area that you prefer to write and think in? Are Remember Sports band practices serious?
Catherine: Before making the record we spent a few weeks doing “pre production” stuff, arranging songs, figuring parts out and stuff, which was quite fun. After the record was done, we got in a (kind of bad) habit of only practicing before we had a show, and only practicing once, which doesn’t allow for much creativity. But we are now starting to work on expanding our live capabilities, like hanging bells on our guitars and shit cause we saw Yo La Tengo.
Connor: Other than a couple songs on the new album, the music and lyrics were written by Carmen and we arranged them as a group. On "Pull Through" we tried splitting off into pairs to flesh out some parts, which worked really well. Lately we’ve been loosening up the practice structure more to experiment with new sounds and effects and try out different ways of playing songs that we know pretty well by now.
Carmen: On all of our other albums the songs are mostly written by me, but on the last album my bandmates started sending me chord progressions that they wrote and I would write melodies and lyrics over them. So there's a bit more of that this time around (The 1 Bad Man, Unwell, Temporary Tattoo) and there is also one song (Pull Through) that I started on my own and we finished writing while we were recording up in Valatie.
I write all my songs in my bed or very close to my bed. It's always been a really solitary process for me. But I find that as I get older I have a bit less angst than I used to and being open to collaborating with my friends is making me really happy now so I think we're going to try to do more of that in the future. The songs on this album really feel like there's more of everyone else in them and not just me, which I love. I still like writing lyrics though and I don't see myself giving up control of that part of the process :)
I think a big difference between this album and our others has been the amount of time and energy we've put into arranging these songs as a group. We had never really had the luxury of living in the same place and being able to have regular practices before we all moved to Philly. That made it so that I would come to the group with a fully formed song, they would learn it, and we'd be done. I think that made us a lot more adventurous and made for a way more interesting album that shows growth.
And I would say that ~15% of our practices are spent listening to Jack play the riff from the RHCP song Can't Stop, so idk depends what you mean by "serious."
I want to ask about a few tracks in particular starting with Temporary Tattoo. That song HIT ME the first time I heard it. How was that one created and it sounds kind of different from any other track on the album (at least to me). What inspired that one?
Carmen: Thanks! That's a really old song that we sort of rehabbed and made new again. It's a song that was written by Benji (our original drummer) and then I wrote the lyrics and melody. There's an earlier version of it on our first demo. I guess I was like, trying something new at the time because the verses don't sound like I wrote them at all and it's always embarrassed me. I couldn't even tell you what it was originally about. But I always liked the chorus and Jack liked the song so he bugged me about writing new verses for months and I was so reluctant to because the first version is so cringey. I finally did though and it took me a few tries to get it right because it is really different from any of our other songs, but it feels more like me this way.
The music always felt kinda bratty to me so it felt fitting to write sort of flippant lyrics. Once we had most of the album finished I thought about what I had said already and what I still wanted to say and decided that it needed to have at least one song where everything wasn't my fault. Guilt and regret are huge themes on this album and I like "Temporary Tattoo" and "Pull Through" (which I wrote last) because they represent very fleeting moments where I get to be angry and talk about the ways in which I got hurt and felt betrayed and everything. That felt like an important perspective to include.
Connor: "Temporary Tattoo" was really fun to record. It’s an older Sports song that we overhauled/rearranged. Carmen made some changes to the lyrics and Jack sketched a new arrangement with a crazy fast drum machine. Some of its energy definitely comes from pushing the tempo to match that speed. We did a lot more layering and effects on this record and this song in particular has a lot of that stuff. There are some bass effects from a tiny speaker and the vocals were recorded in a very echo-y bathroom. The banjo and school bell probably make it a bit weirder too…
I also wanted to ask how you approach songwriting and what events inspired this album? Your songs are always so relatable and honest. How far in advance do you begin writing? And what does the process of sharing these feelings with others meant to you?
Carmen: This album is pretty much just about a breakup, which is extremely boring as far as album themes go. I think though that good songs are written from the perspective of "I am the only person in the world that this particular thing has happened to" and that's what makes them feel unique and relatable at the same time, because obviously I'm not and I know it. So I hope I've done that. Half of this album was written pre-break up and the other half post so it's sort of a snapshot of the painful end of what was otherwise a great relationship.
I've always just written about my life as a way to work through things that I didn't understand. Songwriting feels really special to me in that way because you can take every bad feeling you've ever felt and turn it into something that people sing along to or just play as background music when they're doing homework or something, and that feels really cool to me because it's like I'm letting go of everything I worry about and giving it to other people to do whatever they want with.
Since this record was inspired by heartbreak, what advice would you give to someone going through a breakup? And do you use music and the band as your way to cope with those moments?
Carmen: Don't worry you won't feel terrible forever! It feels very sweet to realize that what I thought was the worst thing to ever happen to me romantically when I was 15 seems like such a joke to me now compared to everything else that's happened since. That's not to say that romance gets progressively worse as life goes on I hope, but I do think that time is so cool because you just wake up one day and realize that you feel completely neutral about something that once made you feel so bad. That's a thought I appreciate having when I'm in the thick of something terrible happening.
Is there a song you enjoy playing live?
Catherine: I love playing “Nothing’s Coming Out” live. That was kind of the first new song that felt like a different vibe than ones that came before it. I really like it because it’s just the same two chords the whole time but there are many distinct parts that each have their own groove.
Carmen: I like playing "Calling Out" live because I get to play really fast.
If Remember Sports was a sports team. What sport would you play and what would your team name be? Would you have a sponsor?
Connor: Thinkin’ we’d be The Mice. Not sure what we play though.
Catherine: I like Connor's answer of “The Mice” we would be a hockey team.
Carmen: Agree, The Mice, the hockey team, and Red Lobster would be our sponsor.
Jack: No sponsor, puck is life
In keeping with the theme of your name what's the one thing you hope listeners might take away or remember from this album? And turning it back to you - what's one memory you remember from creating this?
Carmen: I hope people remember this album as something that reminded them that they aren't alone! My fondest memory from making this album is all five of us absolutely losing ourselves while recording all the weird shit we tried on "No Going Back".
Catherine: I played a lot of Zelda (breath of the wild) while we were making this. It is a very beautiful game with a lot of beautiful vistas. We were also in a very beautiful part of upstate New York, similarly with a lot of beautiful vistas. So I associate ~natural beauty~ (both real and simulated) with the creation of this record.
Jack: We watched the movie "Rumor Has It" and I remember literally nothing about it.
Connor: Hanging out in the house where we recorded is a great memory—all the stuff in between recording like running in the morning, trips to the grocery store, cooking together. Catherine made these amazing squash quesadillas one night.