Auburn Lull has been creating and releasing dense, atmospheric music all decade, gaining along the way a steadily increasing fan base and a reputation for creating gorgeous shoegaze/dreampop. The band recently took some time out right before the release of their latest CD, Begin Civil Twilight, to answer some questions about the music world, and how their beautiful contribution to the music world comes to be.
How did Auburn Lull form? How did you decide, as a band, to create your “sound”? What prompts you to play the kind of music you do?
Jason Kolb – I don’t think there was really a concrete decision, we just wanted to sound like the stuff we were listening to and mainly just do weird things with guitar. We knew more what we didn’t want to sound like than what we wanted to sound like. We just covered songs we liked for a long time, which sounded horrible, then started actually making some of our own. The initial goal was just to make the guitars sound huge and the songs to sound dynamic.
What kind of process do you go through to write your songs?
JK – It always changes. It usually starts with one person having a guitar loop or Jason W. having a drum beat and then we all play around with it and put some structure to it. Sometimes one person will have an almost finished song and then it goes through the filtering process of the band…tweaking, adding, subtracting things. There are also weird rare “immaculate conception” moments where a song just happens…like almost out of thin air. “Arc of an Outsider” from the new record is one of those.
Sean Heenan – A lot of experimenting took place during the mixing of Begin Civil Twilight. Since we really didn’t know what we were doing, we didn’t feel restricted by any rules of production. Much of what we did after everything was recorded actually changed the overall sound and sometimes structure of the original songs. Geographical separation also affects how our songs develop. Part of the band lives in Michigan and the other members live in Pennsylvania. A seven hour drive prevents us from being together as much as we would like. Someone may discuss an idea for a song that may either be forgotten or entirely different by the time we get together to record.
For the gearheads: how in the world do you come up with those amazing guitar and atmospheric sounds??
JK – We have some secret weaponry! I’m not so sure if the make of processor or pedals matters as much as how you set them up. We primarily use plate reverbs with very very slight modulation as the last thing in our effect chains. Each person has his own settings and own pedals that go before the reverb, but the main goal is mostly about getting rid of “attack” and also being able to quickly shift tonality from soft and muted to very bright and back again. We use a lot of volume and tone control on the guitar itself to feed and manipulate signal before it goes through processing. It’s not uncommon to see us constantly flipping pickup switches and turning knobs on our guitars as we play.
What inspires you to make music? Anything in particular?
JK – Fear of doing nothing productive or creative in my life is a pretty major inspiration. I think we all draw a lot of inspiration from visual stimuli (nature, cities, factories, highways, etc.). It’s generic, but our biggest sources of inspiration tend to be other music and things going on in our lives, both good and bad.
Perhaps related to the last question: what are you trying to achieve as a band?
JK – We’re just trying to make new songs that we’re still happy with when we’re old, you know, pieces that stand the test of time and push boundaries.
SH – I know it sounds lame, but we mostly just try to have fun. If we weren’t such good friends, the music wouldn’t happen.
Describe for us the process of creating “Begin Civil Twlight”? What was the writing/recording like? Are you happy with the outcome?
JK – The songs just came really naturally for the most part…one after the other. The hardest part was the production. This was the first record we produced on our own, so we had kind of a steep learning curve and had a lot of stupid technical setbacks that could have been avoided in hindsight. It just seemed to be taking forever to get anything done. Our friend Kirk (of Kiln) came over to the studio one day and basically told us our set-up was overly complicated, so once we took his advice and pared down, it was relatively smooth-sailing. In addition to his advice and input, Kirk also mastered the record. We also enlisted the help of Ulrich Schnauss to mix a difficult song (Coasts), who did a great job getting it up to par. We had some good help when we needed it. Overall, this record was probably the most fun I’ve ever had working on a project, with lots of experimentation, like recording outdoors or mounting amps to skateboards and moving them around as we recorded for natural panning…just having fun and not worrying about if something worked or not. I’m extremely happy with it, plus we didn’t kill each other (which we predicted to happen during mixing).
How has your music been received in the live setting? How difficult is it to recapture in concert what makes your band so special in the studio?
Eli Wekenman – Pretty well, I think. We can sound close to the albums at times, though we tend to “rock” a bit more live.
Who are some artists that you as a band admire, and what are some of your favorite CD’s?
EW – Oh you know, the usual suspects. Early OMD, early Verve, Seefeel, Slowdive, dirty 60s, heavy dub, etc….
Our recent heavy rotation…
SH – Panda Bear, Kiln, Beach Boys, Northern
JK – Kiln, Atlas Sound, Pole, King Tubby
JW – Atlas Sound, Guitar, Caribou, Peter Bjorn & John
EW – Black Tambourine, Caribou, Vivaldi, The Animals, Hi Tek
What do you think of the state of music these days(and in particular, the state of dreampop/ambient/post rock music)?
EW – I’m happy that there’s a lot more that I’m actually interested in now, because it seemed pretty dry for a long while. It seems like there’s a lot of good bands and good ideas happening at moment.
JK – I’ve heard more albums in the past five years that have blown me away than in the five prior combined. I think the state of dreampop/post rock/fringe music is healthy, though I almost think there are starting to be a lot of things that sound the same. My only gripe with the state of music in general is that there is far less “mystique” involved now, with digital downloads just making things so damn easy to find and own.
What’s in the future for Auburn Lull?
SH – We just finished a compilation track for Self Storage Records and we’re currently working on a split EP with Elika which should be out later this year on Thisquietarmy Records. Plans are in motion for a remix album also. Details are a little top secret at the moment but we’re very excited to be working with a lot of our friends and heroes. We’re (slowly) working with Manual on a project that revolves around long, cinematic pieces too. Also, we recently gained a new bassist/guitarist, Ron Gibbs. He’s the perfect match for us. He’s brought completion to our live sound and lots of great ideas to our new songs.
The songs on Begin Civil Twilight are almost exclusively guitar based. We are now starting to explore more electronic elements and layered percussion while trying to maintain an organic feel. It was a personal challenge to limit ourselves to guitar and create interesting sounds and songs that have lots of distinction between them. I’m very satisfied with the finished record and now feel comfortable branching out into some new territory.
Any other comments?
Begin Civil Twilight comes out officially on April 8th. Spring/Summer shows will be announced soon.