New York’s coolest garage-rock exponents are back. We chat to the band about their new album and future plans
Did you feel any difficult third-album pressure when making It’s Blitz!? Not especially. We always ask ourselves the question, ‘Are we going to write anything good this time around?’ But the general sentiment was to just try and make music that felt wiser, and was more positive in a fun kind of way. The first album was really positive in a cathartic way. We put ourselves out there and went along with the ride without really knowing what was going on. The second one was us trying to reel it back in. It was a more internal record and there were growing pains involved. The amount of pressure we felt with that record was far greater than with the new one.
Were you anxious about reclaiming your place on the alt-rock scene? Yeah, we did, because we’re a band that puts out a record every three years, so there’s a pressure to deliver something that’s exciting and new. You really can’t sound like the last thing you did, because three years is like a century. Lots of bands do repeat themselves: ‘We found something that works, so we’re going to stick to it.’ But I think it’s far more of a risk to not take a risk.
Did you set out with a different working method in mind, or did that develop naturally? We definitely started out wanting to improvise and be as spontaneous as possible. The idea was to be completely open and have a clean slate but, that said, Nick [Zinner] was more excited about starting with the keyboard than the guitar. He doesn’t normally play it, so that was a way of launching out with new ideas. We knew we wanted to go in a new direction, but weren’t sure how we were going to get there.
By shifting the emphasis from guitars to keyboards did you worry you were throwing out the baby with the bath water? No, not at all, because there were many times during the writing of this record – which took us almost a year – when it felt like we were maybe only 80 per cent there. The songs were really solid, but somehow it wasn’t satisfying yet.
Where’d you find that 20 per cent? I think it was working with the two producers, Nick Launay and David Sitek. With David we had two things going for us: one, familiarity, because he produced our first record; and two, he’s a visionary, who in the last six years has become a real tour de force of a production voice. For me the real deal breaker was [TV On The Radio’s] Dear Science. The balance he struck on that record between the visionary and the accessible was sublime. It’s kind of a milestone record.
It’s Blitz! has a warmth, intimacy and vulnerability we seldom hear you express. Where does it come from? Probably just the nature of the songs, because of where we all are in our lives right now and from how much we’ve learned. It’s hard to know how David’s brain works, but that mystery adds something – magic, essentially. Part of the change in my vocal delivery also has to do with a couple of projects I was involved in leading up to this. One was the soundtrack to Spike [Jonze]’s movie Where The Wild Things Are and the other was [lo-fi, slow rock side project] Native Korean Rock, which was a different style of music I’d written. [Native Korean Rock] only demoed one song and did one performance, but both of them helped soften things up for this record. I think it’s more ecstatic and soulful than rockist. Ecstasy is always the word that springs to my mind when I think about it. It’s Blitz! is available in stores.