An Interview with Autodrone
Autodrone is a Brooklyn-based shoegaze/dark-wave band made up of Katherine Kennedy, Jeremy Alisauskas, Angel Lorelei, Terrance Taylor, and Markus Persson. They have recently recorded their newest LP, This Sea is Killing Me, and hope to have a full release of the album soon. You can listen to the album below and see one of the videos from the album. Members of Autodrone answer my questions about their beginnings in music, writing music, and their new album.
Hello Autodrone. Could you all introduce the band members by way of what you do in the band both in the studio and live?
Jeremy – Hi, I’m Jeremy. I play the guitar and come up with many of the melodies that you’ll hear on our recordings. I’m fairly confident that I have the easiest job in the band. Angel handles all of the low-end bass that you hear plus some of the most abrasive noises and interesting textures. With myself, she handles much of the composition that you hear. Katherine writes all of the lyrics and vocal melodies which often dictate the arrangements of the songs. Terry plays the drums, handles all auxiliary percussion, and is a compositional force in his own right in terms of arrangements. We have been fortunate as of late to have the addition of Markus. He is an extremely gifted multi-instrumentalist playing organ, guitar, and analog synths and backing vocals both live and on our album.
Angel Lorelei- Bass and noises. We all do the same things in the studio and live, btw.
How did you all get involved in making music? Have there been other bands you’ve been in your past?
Angel: I’ve been making music since I was a small child.
I grew up obsessed with all music.
For a time I was in an electronic band called Umbrella Brigade concurrent with Autodrone.
Katherine: I’m a classically-trained vocalist & have been writing poetry and music since I can remember, but Autodrone is the only band I’ve been in.Terrance: I came from a musical background, so I’ve always done it. I’ve been kicking around with like any sorta purpose in music since the late 90’s/early2000’s. I’m sort of a rogue, but
Terrance: I came from a musical background, so I’ve always done it. I’ve been kicking around with like any sorta purpose in music since the late 90’s/early2000’s. I’m sort of a rogue, but notably, I played with the dead stars on Hollywood, loved and hated and (e)motion picture.
Jeremy: In the past, I’ve played and recorded with many bands in the past including Unto Ashes (projekt). Autodrone is the first band I’ve ever played in where I felt a true connection to the music though and wasn’t just playing along.
Markus, our organ player was a member of Psychic TV for many years. In addition to Autodrone he is in a band called mr eps who play throughout the city as well.
Can you talk a little bit about line-up changes since Strike (if you haven’t already in a prior question)?
Angel: We don’t like to talk about “Them.”
Jeremy: I’d prefer not to go into too much detail because, in some ways, I do value our ex-band members contributions. That being said, you can hear our ex-drummer, Dennis, playing in Unicycle Loves You. They’re a fantastic band and we have done shows with them. Dennis is a great drummer and I still consider him to be a good friend. I don’t have much to say about anybody else though.
Terrance: Well I can’t really comment on that. I’m one of said new guns (as to say I wasn’t in the band for ‘strike a match’) but I’ve been in the band for several years at this point. So if that helps…
So, it’s been eight years since Autodrone released an album with new music. Why the long down period and why This Sea is Killing Me now?
Angel – We didn’t realize that much time had passed.
It wasn’t a down period for us! We were writing and recording the entire time!
Do you see any comparison between writing and recording Strike a Match and This Sea is Killing Me? How has the writing and recording process changed or stayed the same?
Angel: Strike a Match is our Fire album. This is Water.
Both the writing and recording processes have stayed the same. Everyone writes all their own parts. We try to record in a way where we capture as close to our live sound as possible. Everything we write had been performed live before we record it.
Jeremy: well both records were collaborations, but this time around we were collaborating with different people. That being said, my guitar stuff was recorded pretty much the same way.. I just did more this time in terms of using layers… layering different guitars, effects, acoustics… and doing many (almost) identical tracks and just stacking them up.
So far as the actual recording goes, Strike A Match was done very very quickly, all at once inside of a handful of weeks. TSIKM was mainly recorded one person at a time to a click in a much smaller studio. So far as capturing our “live sound” goes, it’s been much more of a challenge.
Katherine, can you talk a bit about how you approach writing lyrics and what influences/inspires you in writing what you write?
Katherine: I don’t really have a systematic approach to writing lyrics and vocal melodies. It happens in various ways: Sometimes I am inspired by the music we create to write about something specific,
sometimes a cascade of lyrics just spews out after I write one line, sometimes I know the music we’ve composed will work well with lyrics I have been keeping in cold storage, sometimes I come in with something I’ve written that I want to turn into a fully-formed song. Occasionally I’ll start writing something in our studio during practice, but most often after we’ve come up with something new I have to go home or to a bar and sit with it for a while, listen to a (usually cell phone) recording of it, and eventually get to writing.
In terms of influences, one of my biggest things is that, though I’m not a fundamentally happy person, I have a large capacity for wonder and for seeing and appreciating the beauty in the world. I try to turn that, lyrically, into expressing what was probably a shitty or painful incident/time with beautiful (or at least interesting) language, imagery, and melodies. My influences vocalist-wise include Siouxsie Sioux, PJ Harvey, Diamanda Galas, Dave Gahan, Tori Amos, Nick Cave, and Billie Holiday.
In terms of inspiration, I occasionally just pull things out of the ether (you know, that whole Muses thing), but more often than not I will start out thinking of a particular person, place, incident, piece of art, feeling, image, experience, etc., and try to flesh out in words how that makes me feel and the images it evokes for me. Connections get made, tangents taken, and eventually the editing process begins. I read a lot, so many of my references are literary or inspired by fiction or poetry. I also like to play with language, use double entendres and cryptic metaphors. I tend to write lyrics that are oblique and vague, yet pointed—I think that’s because I want to both reveal and conceal, to simultaneously expunge a person, incident, or thing form my memory and also keep some of them/it for myself.
How do you go about choosing of sounds and sonics in your compositions? What draws you to particular tones and textures in making music?
Angel – I try to recreate organic sounds that have moved me in life. Growing up on the beach, the sound of the ocean and foghorns. Sirens, the wind coming through the window of a car driving fast.
As a more specific question, can you talk about the writing and recording of “Lay of the Land” (the longest track on This Sea is Killing Me) and “The Way Way Down”?
Jeremy: The Way Way down started with that major c arpeggio you hear in the beginning of the track. I had just gotten a new looper pedal and I was messing around with it. Once I had that arpeggio looped I started playing a surfy sounding a minor and G major over a c major arpeggio with lots of reverb and tremolo. Angel quickly added the perfect bass sounds which lead to the drum part. The organ solos were 100% created and improvised by Markus.
Fitting the lyrics in took a lot more work, I don’t think that we even had those finalized until the song was tracked and mixed. We play it live now all the time. Considering that it is such a pop(Ish) song we perform it as aggressively as possible.
Angel – Lay of the Land is the sound of an ambulance not coming.
You can hear the sirens in the distance at the end, but it is already too late.
I find the order of the tracks on This Sea is Killing Me fascinating, especially given their length and how they are arranged in relation to one another. Can you talk a bit about the track order and why you decided on the one you have now for the album?
Jeremy: Well, I don’t want to just give everything away, what’s the fun in that?! I’ll tell you this much. We don’t waste a note in any of our songs, nothing is extraneous, and nothing is accidental. Every single thing you see and hear is on purpose, including the concept for the album right down to the track order.
What sort of equipment does each of you use in the studio and also live? If there was a piece of equipment you could own with money not being an option, what would it be?
Jeremy: It’s actually a really simple setup. Jazzmaster going into an overdrive, an analog delay, a digital reverb, then a fuzz, then a sampler/looper split into two different amps: a vintage Fender deluxe reverb and a Roland cube. That’s what I prefer to use live as well. I’m more into small amps now because I can really drive them without necessarily deafening myself. So far as the synths go, it’s a mix of vintage and new analog and digital synths. Nothing is on “backing track” we are 100% live.
Angel: In the studio, I use an Arp Explorer and Moog Rogue.
For practical purposes, I use the Nord Wave live.
I think space is the real issue! I would love a harpsichord.
Terrance: I use an old pearl kit with a mish-mosh of cymbals and whatnot..
So, what is next for Autodrone?
Jeremy: We are going to continue doing what we do best; self-destruction.
Beyond that, A show in NYC on November 2nd at Cake Shop with our pals Those Creatures and this spring a tour of Iceland and hopefully the UK. (UK booking agents, please hit us up!)
Any other comments for our readers?
Jeremy: Thank you for listening and for your continued support
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