Time Columns will be playing Saturday night at The Faux School with Old Indian, Heavy Lights and Wish List as part of Old Indian’s vinyl release party for their latest set “Mumble.” We recently caught up with the trio to talk about some of their influences, where they’ve been lately and what’s next. We also asked a few questions about what it was like to help produce “Mumble,” which is what the band’s guitarist, Kenny Eaton, did at his Mystery Ton Studios. There’s a lot of really great stuff in here, friends, and these guys are super thoughtful, so hopefully you’ll carve out an extra 10 minutes to catch up with these amazingly talented dudes (ok, that was a corny sentence, but you get it). The show starts at 8 p.m. Saturday. You won’t want to miss it.
You guys don’t play out that often. What made you decide to play on Old Indian’s vinyl release?
Jordan Miller (drums): Well, that’s not really true — we just don’t play Frederick very often. We always have something going on out of town or in Baltimore or D.C. We’ve always got something cookin’ and we’re always planning ahead for something cool.
Kenny Eaton (guitar): Actually, we play in D.C., Baltimore and out of state regularly. We don’t play Frederick very often just because the shows offered to us elsewhere are generally more appealing. That’s not a stab against Frederick at all. We’ve just played around town so many times that it’s more fruitful to play to new ears in new places, while playing here at home only for special events like Old Indian’s vinyl release. We’d rather play a few times a year in Frederick at noteworthy shows like Alive at Five, Artomatic or a particularly kick-ass house party and bring out most of our hometown fan base rather than play at the same bar once a month to the same people.
Stefan Sandman (bass): We’ve been selective about our shows lately. The dates we’ve taken lately have been all out of town. Part of this has to do with wanting our CD release show at home to be massive. It’s also nice to get away and dig on some different bands, too. It gets a little old playing locally and hearing the same four bands every week.
What has Time Columns been up to lately? We’ve had a lot of people tell us how great you guys are live, but we rarely see your name around Frederick. Are you guys still together as full-time thing, or do you just pick it up occasionally?
Eaton: We’ve been spending a lot of time putting the pieces together for our next full-length record, which will be our most ambitious to date in terms of songwriting and production. We’ll also be releasing a music video alongside the record which will be directed by Jordan, as well as guitar and bass tablature/sheet music books and play-through videos of each song for each individual instrument. It’s been crazy as far as time management goes — recording the new Time Columns album while balancing my obligations as an engineer to my clients, so that’s also been a big part of why this record has taken so long to finish. Jordan is about to finish his first feature-length film and Stefan is a student at Berklee up in Boston, so we’re all pretty busy dudes. I’m sure it seems like TC has been laying low publicly, but to me, I’ve never been this deeply involved and invested this much time into the creation of a piece of music before. We’re hoping that it shows when it comes time to release the album. A big part of me doesn’t care about how the album will be received as long as it’s been given the time and effort it deserves in the production process.
Miller: We are definitely a full-time thing, even if it seems like we’ve been underground lately. We take what we do very seriously and couldn’t be more excited about the new album we’re working on. We toured like crazy before and we needed to take a break from shows to really focus on writing and producing a record that feels, to us, like the best thing we could possibly do. Personally, I think we’re on the path to do exactly that.
Kenny, from what I understand, you played a role in producing “Mumble,” right? What was it like to work with Old Indian in the studio and what’s your perception of the record?
Eaton: That’s correct. I recorded, mixed and mastered “Mumble.” Old Indian is a special band to work with in the studio because they’re all such chill and honest dudes. I personally had a lot of fun working on the record because we all were pretty familiar with one another’s goals as far as style and production since we had already recorded a single together and knew what we did and didn’t like. It’s hard for me to really say what my “perception” of the record is just because I was so involved in the process and that kind of prevents me from reaching any real perspective on albums I work on. But it definitely still feels special when I go back and listen to it.
What were some of hardest times recording the album brought?
Eaton: One of the hardest things about recording Old Indian is trying to bottle the chaos and the feel of their live performance in a studio environment without it coming across as sterile and “perfect.” Overall, it was a pretty easy record to make since we all have a mutual respect for one another’s craft. One difficult thing was getting the right bass tone because Mark’s fingering style is pretty unique. And while it sounds awesome live, in a studio setting, it can sometimes create too much bass and not enough definition. We worked around it by experimenting with finger positions and used my SVT to get some more bite and we all ended up happy with the results. The other challenge on this record was getting Corey to stop overthinking his vocal parts in the studio and just let loose like he does at shows. When working with most singers, I’m paying strict attention to pitch, delivery, dynamics and feel, generally in that order of importance when evaluating a take. With Corey, the beauty of his style and this band is in its feel and delivery – pitch and “correctness” isn’t as important. I tried some things to make him as comfortable as possible and turn his brain off when we started recording vocals and I think this translated into a pretty natural vocal performance throughout the record. I also tracked his vocals through a distorted/reverb-ed out PA system while simultaneously tracking through a large diaphragm condenser in the vocal booth just so we could get more of that “crappy punk basement show” feel and less of the “sterile recording studio” feel. It was a lot of fun to work with Corey, Mark and Evan.
What were some of the most satisfying times recording the record brought?
Eaton: Honestly, tracking vocals was probably my favorite part of the whole process. For drum, bass and guitar tracking, I’m very particular about making sure tone selections, tuning, timing, feel, etc., are the best they can be to make sure each layer is as strong as possible. Lots of moving mics an inch or two, slight EQ changes, using different effects pedals/combinations, etc. Even with bands like Old Indian that are essentially playing punk rock, tones and performances are extremely important in the studio. When it came time to track vocals, I found the tones I was looking for from the mic and the distorted/reverb-ed out PA feed, sat back and let Corey do his thing. Like I said earlier, it was less about “correctness” and more about “whoa that take was crazy”. It’s somewhat of a rare experience when I get to sit back and intentionally let the chaos take over a session. Definitely satisfying.
What do you think you, specifically, brought to the recording?
Eaton: I think with a band like Old Indian, I brought perspective and organization to the recording as far as helping to accentuate certain parts that I thought they were going for and trimming some of the fat that I thought might be hiding other, more important parts of their songs. From my understanding, they had been playing these songs for a long time, so I wasn’t going to just step in and pretend to be more familiar with the structures or act like I’m some all-knowing-producer-guy-wiener. Communication and listening are the two most important things I try to bring to every recording I’m a part of. I knew that they wanted a raw, stripped down production on this record, so I tried to make recommendations where I could to help get us there. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. The important thing is that I think everyone felt comfortable enough in the studio to make suggestions, even if they sucked sometimes. Tones are certainly important, but feel and the performers’ energy make up a big part of the final recording.
What can we expect from Time Columns’ set at The Faux School?
Sandman: All new songs. A lack of vocals.
Eaton: New stuff that you haven’t heard before that doesn’t suck.
Do you guys have some local bands that you think aren’t on our radar that we should check out? Who have you been interested in the most locally lately?
Sandman: The Averist from Thurmont. A newer band. Go see them live — they go in! A ton of hard work landed them an opening spot at Mayhem Fest last year. They do their own thing while not kissing anyone’s butt along the way. Team!
Eaton: The Milestones are an amazing local band that I think would appeal to you guys since you cover a lot of indie bands (whatever that means nowadays). I’m recording an EP with them right now and I think they have a ton of potential. There are two local experimental artists named Guillermo Pizarro and Christopher Feltner that are geniuses and deserve more attention. I don’t think you guys have covered Sloth Herder yet either.
Miller: I completely agree with Kenny about those noise artists. I dig on that ugly/beautiful stuff. There’s also an underground scene of hip-hop artists here and it would be cool to see some of them get some love. There’s this kid who goes by Mark B. Flowin Crank Nasty who’s doing some really cool lyrical stuff over old school throwback beats. Definitely worth a listen.
Likewise, which records are the ones nobody can stop listening to on a national scale? I know you guys all like pretty diverse music, so what’s been in your ear lately?
Miller: I’ve been deep into the self-titled album by Crosses as well as “Language” by The Contortionist. Those records have been spinning almost on repeat in my car. I was also blown away by “Inevitable Western,” the new album from The Bad Plus. For my money, The Bad Plus is putting out some of the smartest and most challenging music out there, and that record is absolutely killer. It blurs the line between jazz, classical, rock and masterfully controlled chaos.
Eaton: The new CHON record is sweet. I’ve been listening to a lot of the Japanese band Toe and the French band Totorro lately.
Sandman: “Bilo 3.0” by David Maxim Micic. Anything by Thy Art is Murder because I miss feeling the hatred in music.
Who are some of Time Columns’ influences and why?
Miller: We all listen to a lot of different stuff, but personally, as a drummer, I’ve been getting a lot of influence from the Japanese band Toe (Kenny and I even drove up to Philly to see them on their first U.S. tour) and Danny Carey from Tool. Carey has a great style that is definitely heavy, but is completely primal and other-wordly. I also love the bands Deerhoof and Tera Melos, who blend total chaos and noise with punk and ’90s rock sensibilities. Those bands are always pushing boundaries and putting out some of the freshest stuff I’ve ever heard. I think our music (especially the new stuff) captures a primal, earthy element while taking aspects from jazz, rock, metal and post-rock bands like Caspian and Explosions in the Sky.
Sandman: I agree with Jordan. One of the best examples is the group TOOL. Time Columns’ sound incorporates a lot of odd-time rhythms, unison melodies/riffs, as well as a very particular sense of harmony.
Eaton: Steve Reich has always been my biggest influence as far as melody, harmony and rhythm goes when approaching guitar. Battles and Don Caballero were big influences when I first started Time Columns and they got me into looping and electronic music. The Mars Volta got me into collecting guitar pedals and making records, so they’re a big one for me, too.
What does 2015 hold for Time Columns?
Eaton: A new record! Riffs. Tour.
Sandman: A new album, numerous videos, album transcription books, and good shows.
Miller: Tons and tons of new stuff. Mostly putting everything we’ve got into this new album. You’re gonna hear some of the most aggressive stuff from us yet, as well as some of the chilliest and prettiest stuff, too. You’ll hear a couple songs with vocals and of course the instrumental stuff we’ve been known for. The spectrum of what we write has expanded like crazy for this new stuff, and I personally can’t wait for you guys to hear it! Until then, I’ll see you at the Old Indian show!