Friday, April 07, 2006

Mini-Interview: Irving

You know that trick where you talk to your pet Golden Retriever in an excited voice – you know, the one usually reserved for questions like "Who wants a treat?" or "Do you want to go for a WALK?!" – but say terrible or misleading things, instead?

You’d realized that you could sneak most comments past him by just saying them in an upbeat, animated voice. ("Who wants to go to the vet and get neutered?!" "You do?!?" "Oh, good boy! Let's go!!")

Local indy pop act Irving pull off the musical equivalent of that routinely, singing sad songs couched within the happiest of melodies.

This time, you're the dog and might miss the line about how "I think I know what they meant when they said you were gone" or "I wish my brain had a map to tell me where my heart should go" because you're too distracted bopping your head back and forth to the music.

The band first perfected this with their debut album Good Morning, Beautiful, then further refined with their I Hope You’re Feeling Better Now EP, and again most recently with their new album Death in the Garden, Blood on the Flowers, which they’re touring in support of right now with the likes of Voxtrot and Essex Green.

And you know what? Like any obedient Golden Retriever, we love them for it.

We recently sent a few questions to three out of the five Irvings – specifically, singer/bassist Alex Church, singer/guitarist Brian Canning, and singer/keyboardist Aaron Burrows – about what brought them to this point and the process of recording their recent album.

When did the band first start? How did it come together at first?

Alex: The band started in 1999. Brian, Steven and I were friends and had been messing around together for a while, making 4-tracks and whatnot. Had aspirations of having a real band someday. A friend asked us to play at her art opening. We had no idea what we were doing, but it came together somehow and the show was so well received it sort of pushed us to continue. Brent came along month later.

And a couple of years later came Aaron, replacing our original keyboard player.

What bands inspired you originally? And more recently?

Alex: I think I'd have to say the biggest early influences were Belle & Sebastian, Pavement, Yo La Tengo, the Beatles, the Kinks, Velvet Underground... But it's a lot more eclectic now. We're a bit older and more experienced so we don't idolize bands so much. I think now we're more inspired by ideas here and there, but not so much any particular band...

How long have you been working on the new album? How is it different from your first album and EP?

It was about a two-year process. I would say that it is similar in the sense that we still write sad songs that are dressed up with a happy melody, but other than that this album is much different. Every album we make will be different from its predecessor. We would never want to make the same album twice.

Aaron: The process we adopted in the making of this record was new for us. Each member of Irving would spend time writing songs on their own and recording them as demos at home. We would then bring all of the material together for a listening session. Typically we would have about ten to fifteen songs contributed by all members of the band.

We would spend a week listening to each other’s work, getting familiar with the sounds and writing. Then we would vote on our favorite tracks that we wanted to work on for the record. This would typically yield four to five songs. At this point we would rehearse and then go in and record the tracks. We did this process three or four times for this new record.

We also adopted the mentality that we weren't going to rush things in the studio. We did a lot of producing and part writing while in the studio. So, while the whole record writing and recording process took about two years, I think we all really enjoyed the new approach and learned a lot from making this record. But just as Irving's song writing evolves, I think our approach to creating music will also evolve. We've already discussed the possibility of making the next Irving record more under a more immediate and spontaneous way.

The sound of this record differs from the earlier material in part because of the process we adopted. There are more intricacies in some of the part and melodic writing and we spent time developing new sounds. Overall, I think it's a little darker and edgier than earlier material. But it still maintains it's pop focus.

I just saw your video for Situation. Nice. Is it your first? How did it come together?

Brian: Yes, this is our first music video. We had this idea to do a black and white contrast video for "Situation", and when Steven started to sing the words would come out of his mouth. Then Josh Forbes contacted us to do a music video and we told him our idea and he liked it and then he had the idea of shooting us playing in front of a green screen and then adding in the artwork of Max Micelli. We were a big fan of Max Micelli, so we agreed. We were very fortunate to work with both Max and Josh, they are very creative and really nice guys.

Alright, last question: What's your favorite band in LA right now?

Alex: Lavender Diamond and Silversun Pickups.

Brian: Sea Wolf and The Movies.

Aaron: Silversun Pickups and Earlimart.

That's it. Thanks for your time, guys.

Irving return to town on May 7th to play with Essex Green at Spaceland, which is located at 1717 Silver Lake Blvd in, um, the Silver Lake neighborhood of LA. Tickets are $10 and the show starts at 9.


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