Friday, April 06, 2007

Mini-Interview: Tandemoro

You know, I just realized I really don't know what the hell the word "Tandemoro" means at all...

I mean, I've seen the upbeat LA indie pop act perform live, listened to their albums, watched their videos, and seen the two Mikes (Griffin -- guitar and vocals, Schanzlin -- vocals and keys) at countless shows here in Silver Lake, but never once wondered where their name came from before.

But since my quick search online on Google and turned up nothing and it didn't come up at all during our recent interview with the guys, I guess it remains a mystery for now.

(For the record, I think they made it up...)

Hey, it's the two Mikes! How are you guys doing? What's new?

Mike S: We're doing really well - just catching up with Los Angeles after being on the road for the past couple weeks.

Mike G: Lot's of music going on. Might have a new video coming, looks like we're doing a few soundtracks to some cool short films, which is something we love to do.

How did you start playing together as Tandemoro?

Mike G: We met in a band back in '98. That was all instrumentals, then we did a few other bands together sort of by chance. After that we started just working together deliberately.

Before we crossed paths, Mike S. was into jazz and hip hop and I was into The Beatles. Somehow we started recording and writing together and things took off.

I think we were doing things that surprised each other. I wasn't used to that level of musicianship and he wasn't used to my level of badass s#*@. (laughs)

What's been the story since then? You have two albums and an EP out, correct?

Mike S: Yeah, more or less two albums and an EP, although the first album we did is now only available to people who know how to hack our web site.

When we started recording together, we'd throw everything we had done on this super ghetto website I had put together and on mix CDs for our friends. Back then we were doing all sorts of different stuff - I was making mash-ups on the side and we were recording some covers as well - so we ended up giving out these mix CDs to our friends with some original stuff, and some not-so-original stuff.

One weekend we decided to do an album and pretty much wrote everything as we recorded it. Friends passed it along, and we started getting emails from all over - New York, Australia, Sweden, etc - asking what our deal was, which at that point (our pre-myspace days) completely freaked us out.

Mike G: It was the most exciting thing, probably because we had no expectations. We were still in other bands then, it took a good 2 years to take the time to record the Lock Your Doors EP after that. We were in a few bands kind of building up to being singers. We did mess-around party bands singing songs everyone knows, then we were in a good hip hop band, doing the music stuff and the hooks.

After the EP was out there, we decided to stop treating Tandemoro like a side-project and dedicate time to it, and put a band together.

Your new album The Movers & The Shakers just came out. Who produced it? What was your experience recording it?

Mike S: Mike and I had been listening to stuff like Midnite Vultures and decided we wanted to record songs that were really dance-ish. We ended up moving into this apartment in the valley for a year and let our instruments take over the place. We recorded and mixed the album ourselves in my bedroom (studio A) and the kitchen (studio B).

Mike G: Yeah, we recorded and wrote our asses off and went through two separate computer meltdowns, so we re-re-recorded stuff a lot. It enabled us to really think about what we wanted for every song. We ended up with completely different songs than the demos we started the sessions with. The songs that ended up on the album were almost all written during recording.

You have your EP available free for download on your site. I think that's very cool, but what's the reason for it?

Mike G: That was our philosophy for a long time, just get it out there for people. The Movers & The Shakers is the first album we really made to be sold.

I think the reason we're selling it is just for legitimacy. The good bands you know sell CD's, so we do too. It's funny because we had everything available for free on the web-site and people would still email saying, "I want to buy your cd, where can I find it in stores?"

Yeah, I think I did that once. What's the story of your pending legal battle? Or can you not talk about that?

Mike G: I don't think we're at liberty to talk about it.

Mike S: (laughs) Yeah, we can only talk about it on myspace.

Mike G: True. (laughs)

So, what's Dane Cook really like? (I still can't get The Onion's "Dane Cook Parlays New Burger King Menu Item Into Hour-Long HBO Special" out of my head.)

Mike G: Our limited experience with Dane Cook was nothing but great stuff. We were super-excited when we got songs on the show. I did get the impression that he hand-picked, well, hand-approved of those songs so we really have a lot to thank him for. The times that we've attempted to thank him, he was very sincere and cool. Now we're on the soundtrack album for that show, so it's really cool. He's awesome.

Who are your influences?

Mike S:
That’s always tough to say – it’s a really long/continuous list. From a production standpoint, I think most of our stuff up to now has been influenced by stuff like Gorillaz, RJD2 (Deadringer), Daft Punk, crazy Beck, Flaming Lips, The Bees (UK)… Mostly pretty straightforward beat-driven stuff. I think the next batch of songs we record will be in a similar vain, but a little bit weirder.

Your video for the song Stars is one of my favorites, partially because it's shot in all these iconic, though off the beaten path spots here in LA, but mainly because you have someone in it doing the funky worm while wearing a space suit. How did that come together?

Mike G: Well, me doing the funky worm came together very methodically. The rest of it was organic and completely the brain-child of Winch and Pulley. Well, we're adoptive parents of it. I love it too.

I remember sitting with Josh Forbes and just brainstorming places in LA we should hit. At each one we were like "Hmm, it'll be hard to shoot there." and then "...whatever, we'll shoot there and see what happens."

Most places were pretty nice. People couldn't always see the cameras, so they would walk by and see us in these dream-like spaceman/alien suits thinking we're just some bizarre performance artists so they walked by all fast and nervous, which was the exact opposite of what we were going for, we wanted to get people going and lead big groups around downtown, but everyone basically ran away when they say us coming and security would come out. It ended being something new, which I like.

OH, and the Asian tourists LOVED us. They were down as hell the whole way through. We were right up their alley (laughs). In one shot outside of the Disney Hall, you can see us taking pictures with a group of Asian tourists, it was fun.

Are you working on any videos for tracks off your latest album?

Mike S: There’s actually already one for the song Patch of Luck. It was done by our buddy Nathan Punwar, who makes all sorts of cool stop-motion animation and shorts. It’s a cool little story about a day in the life of a record and ends with Tandemoro performing on a stage made out of egg cartons.

Mike G: Nathan also did this little promo video for us for the new album. He used some of the extra pictures we gave him for the Patch of Luck video and made this sort of kaleidescope commercial for Tandemoro. He's awesome. That stuff is out on youtube and our myspace.

Three of you are also in the band The Western States Motel. How does that work out?

Mike G: It works out very well, we all share our practice space and it's great. We met Carl (The Western States Motel) through Tandemoro, he used to be our lead guitarist and we had a great time, we all collaborated.

He came in and recorded sweet riffs on The Movers & The Shakers, he had a big affect on that album. He invited us over to his place to check out this album he was working on and we loved it.

He had us play and sing a little on his song I Won't Be Going Back to San Diego and we ended up in that band with him and now it's doing really well… minus the horrible giant rivalry that shall not be mentioned here.

You guys recently had an interview plus performance on Aquarium Drunkard's show on Little Radio. How did that go?

Mike G: Little Radio is awesome. Aquarium Drunkard was one of our first blog supporters and he's a friend now. The setup he's got there at Little Radio kicks ass. You feel cool being there.

We've been lucky with radio, we got to do spots on other radio stations in the past and it's great. good on killradio was awesome, live365 back in the day was scary and fun. We even got something on BBC Radio One, which is weird. Little Radio made us feel the coolest though.

What's next for you guys?

Mike S:
We just put up another free EP on our site. It’s four songs we recorded and mixed in our rehearsal space over a period of about three days.

We're kind of always writing and recording but this group of songs was a focused session in mid-December to give to our close friends and family because we didn't have money for Christmas gifts.

It turned out well and so we just recently decided to put it up with a few extra tracks on our site so everyone can get at it.

Mike G: We're also going to be playing a bunch of shows. On April 14th, we’ll be at Spaceland with The Parson Redheads, The Deadly Syndrome, and The Happy Hollows.

Nice. That's a great line-up. Okay, so last question... What are you listening to these days?

Mike S: I've totally been swooning over The Happy Hollows EP.

Also the new Dr. Dog record, The Switch EP 'Hello Today', Big Search's 'Mysticism vs. Classicism', some late 60s garage-rock mixes from friends, and White Album acoustic bootlegs.

Mike G: The Bees' new album Octopus, which makes me listen to their old stuff, I have this compilation of Romantic Piano stuff from Debussy and Chopin that I listen to in the car... It centers my head, it feels great. Danny "The Blazin" Hazen. Whatever isn't scratched to s#*t in my cd case.

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

Mike S: Our pleasure.

Mike G: Thank you, Joe. You're awesome. See you soon at random shows in Silver Lake, I'm sure.

- MP3: Coloring Dreams (YouSendIt Link - expires in one week)
- MP3: Keep Em Waiting (YouSendIt Link - expires in one week)
- Mini-Interview: The Western States Motel


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