An Interview with Landing
Landing is an experimental band hailing from New Haven, Connecticut. The band formed in 1998 and have released two brilliant albums this year: Third Sight and Complekt. Landing talked to somewherecold about the recording of their ninth and tenth albums, their recording process, and the amophous nature of their “fit” in genres.
Hello all in Landing. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. Let’s start with introductions. Can each of you introduce yourselves and what your role is in the band?
Adrienne: Hi! I’m Adrienne Chasteen Snow. I play synth and sing.
Aaron: I’m Aaron Snow and I mostly do guitars, synths and vocals.
Daron: I’m Daron Gardner and I play bass and drums.
How did Landing form and how did you end up with the current line-up?
Aaron: Adrienne and I started Landing in the summer of 1998 after playing as a duo for the year previous. We wanted to take what we were doing as a duo and expand it to include drums and synth, so after moving back to Utah (where Adrienne was in school) we enlisted our best friends Dick Baldwin and Daron Gardner to play with us. Dick left the band in 2004 and was replaced briefly by another one of our best friends, Pete Baumann, who played synth. We played as a trio after Pete left in 2006 until meeting John Miller in 2014. John’s just left the group and we’re a little in flux right now.
You are now 10 LPs and a great number of singles and EPs in your discography. Can you talk a bit about how your writing and recording process has changed over the years? What is it about this particular band that keeps bringing you all back to record and play live in this group?
Aaron: Our writing and recording process hasn’t really changed much from when we first started. We still do a mix of home recorded experimental studio recordings and home recorded full band song-ish type things. In the old days, Dick wrote about 1/3rd of our songs, so we definitely miss that input. The biggest change over our last few releases was the addition of John Miller, who is a brilliant recording engineer with an awesome home studio. Our stuff has never sounded better, in my opinion.
Adrienne: Over the years, I’ve become more wrapped up in writing lyrics. The challenge of expressing what I’m going through or seeing through words in a way that works with the feel of the song is such an engaging thing all its own. Also, I love the transfer that happens when we take a song that we’ve recorded and put out on a record and then play it live. It is so exciting to see how it changes and becomes a version all its own. Making and playing music with people that you love is such a perfect way of sharing those feelings.
You’ve done a number of split albums and eps with various artists like Windy & Carl and Füxa Are there any artists you would like to do a split with or collaborate with that you haven’t worked with yet?
Daron Gardner: I would love to do a split release with the band Kinski – I was so thrilled to play a show with them back in the early 2000s, and ever since, we’ve been lucky enough to call them friends and have played multiple shows with them whenever they make it to the east coast. We are all huge fans of their music and they are just some of the best and kindest people. Aaron has recently spent time hanging out and playing with Fred Thomas, and I think it would be great to work on something with him as well.
Aaron: Oh man, yes. There are way too many to mention. Here are a few: Bardo Pond, Seefeel, Auburn Lull, Flying Saucer Attack, Lyonnais, Kinski, The Cure (ha ha)…
Like Daron mentioned, Fred Thomas and I have gotten together a few times, so look for that stuff to come out in the future. Fred’s the BEST.
Adrienne: Slowdive means so much to me. Their music is a part of my heart. Now that they’ve come together again, that would be an honor. The Cure, M83, or Bardo Pond would be way cool! I love them all so much!
Do you have a favorite Landing LP or EP? Why would you pick that one?
Adrienne: Complekt is us at our best so far. I’m proud of our work on it.
Aaron: The new ones are my favorites, hands down. I think everything came together really nicely with both Complekt and Third Sight and there’s nothing on those albums I’d like to change or re-do. That’s a really cliche answer, but I can’t help it. From our back catalog, I’d probably choose Passages Through because it has a lot of songs that Dick wrote, and I freaking love his songwriting.
When I listen to your work, I feel like you work outside the boundaries of convention. Within one composition, you all can explore ambient, shoegaze, dream-pop, and so forth while making the track seem cogent. When writing pieces, how do you approach the forms and the fluidity of genres you use within a particular song?
Aaron: I’m proud that we never set out to be a “shoegaze” band or strictly a “drone” band or whatever. We’ve always been into disparate types of music, so it’d be really boring for us to not explore all sorts of conventions. When writing, I try to do stuff that’s fun and exciting, regardless of whether it’ll fit into one genre or another. Maybe this approach has hurt us from a marketing perspective because it might be off-putting and confusing to people that we do both 20-minute drones and 3-minute pop songs, but we’ve never really cared all that much about that side of things.
You’ve had two LP’s in 2016. First, how did you end up with two full-length albums in one year? Second, can you talk a little bit about the difference between the albums? Both seem to concentrate on different parts of your sound.
Aaron: Complekt is the record we’ve been slaving over for two years and was originally meant to be album 9, but sometimes things take longer than expected. In the meantime, El Paraiso approached us about doing something freeform for their Impetus Series, so we took that as a great opportunity to do something fun and improvisational. I was a huge fan of Darla’s Bliss Out series in the 90’s/00’s, so in my head Third Sight is our Bliss Out. El Paraiso works super fast and has a great relationship with their pressing plant, so that record came out insanely fast while Complekt took a lot of time to sort out, resulting in two LPs being released in 2016.
I like to ask bands about particular tracks on albums they have recently released. Since you have two different albums this year, I thought I would ask about different tracks on Third Sight and Complekt. Can you talk a bit about the writing and recording of “Third Sight” and “Morning Sun” from Third Sight?
Aaron: Third Sight was incredibly fun to make! We spent three weekends in John’s basement with the lights off and had psychedelic projections going while we improvised together for hours. After the sessions were all tracked, we chose our favorite portions and built “songs” from them. The song Third Sight is fairly unadorned (it consists exclusively of tracks chopped, layered, and crossfaded) but with Morning Sun we used that same process and added instrumentation and Adrienne added vocals on top of it. It’s a lot of editing, collage, and additional recording for something that sounds like we recorded it in one take, but we love the work! I could tinker with this stuff for years and never finish anything- the hardest part is deciding when something is “done”.
On Complekt, the tracks “Complekt” and “Clouds II” stuck out to me. Can you talk about the writing and recording process behind both of those tracks? Given their shorter, more structured nature, how is the writing process different on tracks like these compared to something like “Grow”?
Aaron: “Complekt” is based on a bassline idea I was messing around with for a while. We got together and recorded the basic tracks at John’s and it came together really fast. Writing straightforward rock songs is by far the biggest challenge for me, but I really enjoy trying to come up with them and they’re super fun to play.
“Clouds II” was written with a new tuning I’ve been obsessed with lately (“Thither” and “World” off Complekt also use this alternate tuning). We all got together and everyone wrote their parts and we figured out the structure, which originally lacked the third part of the song. After a while, we stumbled onto a cool chord progression to finish with and had it! “Clouds II” was recorded live in John’s basement and I added a few more guitars and a synth part at my home studio. Adrienne finished it off with her vocals (writing and recording vocals is always the last thing we do). For the most part, that’s how our method worked for Complekt and Third Sight- we recorded the skeleton of the song at John’s and then I’d bring it home to add a few textures and flesh it out a bit.
We have a few different modes of songwriting in Landing. “Complekt” and “Clouds II” are pretty conventional in that someone brings in a chord structure or riff and we all set about structuring and writing together. “Grow” results from a totally different way of working. In that scenario, we improvise together (based on a synth loop, guitar drone, or whatever inspires us) and then start whittling it down little by little in Ableton until a “song” appears. Sometimes, like on “Grow”, we’ll augment the original improvisations with added percussion, bass, guitars, synths and vocals and a song will come into focus out of the fog of improvisation.
Your pieces are often a cavalcade of brilliantly assembled layers that work beautifully together. What is it that attracts you to textures or sonics in music? How do you go about finding sounds and textures that work together?
Aaron: Thanks! We’re lucky to have some really cool, unique gear and we’re always on the hunt for new pedals that can add a fresh color to the palette. We try to keep things pretty simple, too. Although it might sound like there are loads of guitars all over Complekt and Third Sight, the truth is that we try to get away with using as few as possible, maybe only 2 or 3 guitar tracks per song in most cases. That aesthetic probably grew out of the fact that we only ever had four or eight tracks to play around with until moving to digital recording in 2011. It’s so easy to drench a song in too much stuff (and I’ve been guilty of doing that), but I think we do an ok job of stripping things back to their core as much as possible, which makes for a more dynamic mix in my opinion.
For the gearheads, what sort of equipment do you all use both in the studio and live?
Aaron: I’ve been collecting gear for the last 20 years, so there’s a lot of stuff at this point. I really like Rickenbacker guitars and Fender offsets. I use a ton of pedals, mostly delays from Catalinbread and Strymon. A few of my other favorite pedals include a Formec Distortion made by my good bud Ned Clayton (he’s a genius), zvex Fuzz Factory, Acid Fuzz Repeater, and DLS Chorus. My main amps are an old ‘66 Fender Deluxe and a Roland Jazz Chorus 77. One thing that might be surprising is that I almost never use reverb for anything other than the occasional vocal (and we use spring reverb for that). In my opinion, reverb makes things sound boring. I prefer tape delay and stacked delays to add depth and modulation. We have some cool synths including a mid 70’s Octave Cat that’s been the backbone of our synth sound since ‘98, a Moog Opus 3 (which has also been on almost all of our albums), a Moog Sub Phatty, an Arp Odyssey, and a Realistic MG-1. Our old stand-by for adding tape delay in post production is my Roland RE-301. I record using Ableton.
Do you have any artists (literary, visual, or musical) that inspire your work?
Adrienne: The books of Sarah Addison Allen always put me in a good place. The Pre-Raphaelites’ poetry and painting are awesome. Art Nouveau anything- from lighting to jewelry is my favorite. Elizabeth Fraser’s voice inspires me and if I could listen to anything, Cocteau Twins would be my pick.
Aaron: I’m not an avid fiction reader (I’m more of a nonfiction guy), but I do enjoy Philip K. Dick. I love Mark Rothko, Morris Louis and lots of color field stuff. Mike Kelly in Los Angeles is an old friend of mine and he’s doing excellent work right now, too. My main musical touchstones are things I grew up on like Cocteau Twins, The Cure, Joy Division, Kraftwerk, Gang of Four, Wire, Kate Bush, R.E.M., Siouxsie and the Banshees, etc. but I’m still in love with the music I discovered in my teens and early 20’s including bands like Auburn Lull, Bardo Pond, Windy & Carl, Transient Waves, Tomorrowland, Labradford, Spacemen 3, Loop, Slowdive, Seefeel, Slint, Low, Jessamine, Yume Bitsu, Stereolab, Harold Budd, Sonic Youth, Harmonia, Bowery Electric, Lush, Fuxa, Pale Saints, My Bloody Valentine, Cluster, The Sea and Cake, The American Analog Set, The Breeders, Mazzy Star, Magnog, Azusa Plane, Bright, Mahogany, Spectrum, the list goes on.
Now that Complekt is finished, what is next for Landing?
Aaron: We’re in the process of figuring it all out again after losing John, who was a huge part of Landing over the past two years. Daron, Adrienne, and I are still totally committed to the band and are looking toward the future with excitement!
We have a few tapes coming out sometime in 2017 and we’re starting to work on our next LP. I’d like to do a little touring next summer if we can.
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