An Interview with Tears Run Rings
Tears Run Rings is a shoegaze/dream-pop band whose members occupy various cities up the west coast: Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Because of this arrangement and just life in general, it’s been a while for fans to get their hands on a new TRR album, which was released this month on Deep Space Recordings. The new album is called In Surges and it was well worth the wait. Tears Run Rings was kind enough to answer some of our questions about their recording process, gear, their latest release, and much more.
Somewherecold: Hello Tears Run Rings! Please introduce yourselves to our readers and let us know what each of you do in the band.
Dwayne: Hello, I’m Dwayne and I play the drums. Ed plays the guitar. Laura plays the bass and sings. Matthew plays the guitar and sings.
Can you talk about the history of the band? How did Tears Run Rings come to be and what sort of things have happened to and in the band in its decade-plus lifespan?
Laura: Ed, Dwayne, Tim and I were in the LA-area band the Autocollants for many years. Ed moved across the county and I moved to Northern California, which signaled the end of that band. Several years later, Ed ended up moving to San Francisco, where Matthew also lived. Ed, Matthew, and I joined up as part of the Evening Lights. The Evening Lights dissolved right around the time when the Autocollants played a reunion show, and I think that is when Matthew first met Dwayne and Tim. Somehow from that, Tears Run Rings formed.
Ed: That’s not entirely accurate, Laura. I think you and Tim technically started Tears Run Rings when you wrote that one song “Shattered” that we could never record properly to do it justice. Then we all joined up after.
Laura: Oh yeah. As I recall, we would take turns driving and meeting up in either Southern or Northern California, which wasn’t too difficult at the time. Tim ended up having family obligations which took him away from the band, and then both Ed and I moved to Portland. This slowed down our musical production significantly, but we were committed to keep the band going since we loved the music we were making (and it gave us an excuse to get together every so often!). Between our last album and this one, Dwayne and Matthew have both had two children, and Ed and I have had one. Babies definitely slow down the musical process, but I’m sure the joy/frustration/humor they bring will also translate into our future music. I’m sure that will be a good thing.
How did you all get started making music?
Ed: We all share a passion for dreamy pop music and have similar influences, so it was just a natural fit to work together.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard new music from you all. Six years, correct? Over that period of time, has anything changed in how you approach writing and recording since Distance in 2010?
Matthew: Well, it’s gotten a lot easier to trade large files back and forth between Portland, SF and LA now that Dropbox and Google Drive are around. That means we’re able to share recordings and mixes more freely. We’re also experimenting more with sound – slowing down guitars until they sound like ethereal stringed instruments and turning voices into screeching guitars. We had fun with this one.
You have this thread that runs through all your releases with the “Happiness” tracks. What was the inspiration for these tracks and are there plans for a certain number of tracks or do you expect to do them for the life of the band?
Dwayne: I really don’t remember where the idea exactly came from but I guess the happiness tracks became our book-ends to an album. The Happiness tracks provide a soundtrack for us. The Happiness tracks will probably continue as Happiness #5 has yet to be released.
I always like to pick a few tracks of the most recent album to get some specifics about recording, writing, and inspiration from an artist. Can you talk a bit about the tracks “Green Lakes” and “Part of Glass”?
Laura: It is funny that you chose those two songs because they represent opposite ends of the spectrum for our recording process. “Green Lakes” was written during a band get-together, and it was a true live collaboration. The finished song ended up being pretty much the same as what we originally wrote and envisioned. In that respect, it was a pretty fun and simple song to work on. Inspiration-wise, I think “Green Lakes” was also the anchoring track for the perhaps somewhat loose theme of the album. Then there’s “Part of the Glass,” which is the complete opposite. That song started off as a completely different song which we couldn’t really get to work out right. Because we see each other so seldomly, and since we already had the drums recorded for the track, we decided to scrap the song but keep the drums and try writing a new song to the existing drum track. The whole album was done for quite awhile except for that song. We kept at it until we came up with something that we all liked and in fact, I think “Part of the Glass” turned out to be one of our favorite tracks off the album now.
Matthew and Laura, can you talk a bit about your process in writing lyrics? Also, what sort of process do you go through in finding a melody to sing over such ethereal and sometimes unstructured music?
Matthew: I try not to think about lyrics until I’ve hit the record button. I focus solely on melody and the lyrics become stream of conscious. I sometimes surprise myself when I hear meaning or intention in the words. For example, I didn’t realize “Belly Up” was about the birth of my son until I was nearly finished recording.
Laura: The band dynamic and writing vocal melodies/lyrics to existing songs is definitely more difficult for me than coming up with vocals and then writing the song around it, which is how I would typically write songs myself. I come up with all of my vocal parts while walking. I usually listen to the track and hum along until I have something I like. People must think I’m crazy, I’m sure. I think the rhythm of walking helps to bring structure to the songs. In terms of lyrics… I don’t think I have a process. I really can’t say I know what I’m doing with writing lyrics. Sometimes I’ll write something and think, “hey, that’s pretty good!” But most of the time, it’s rubbish. I prefer to stick to “oohs” and “ahhs.”
For the tech heads that read our site, can you all tell us about your rigs and equipment?
Ed: For recording, Matthew and I have similar home studio set-ups so we can exchange files easily. On the last two records, we used Logic Pro with Apogee digital I/Os. The first album was all done in Pro Tools using a highly modded Digi002. As far as our instruments, I play an 80s Rick 360 and a 90s Epi Riviera reissue, Matthew plays a 60s Tele reissue and Laura uses a well-loved 70s Fender P bass. We have a bunch of vintage amps, but we are too lazy to properly mic them. Instead our secret weapon has been a Fender Princeton Recording Amp that we run most of the guitars through direct with some plug ins. We also like to use a lot of rack unit effects (mainly Eventide Eclipse, Roland DEP 5, Roland Space Echo, Hiwatt tape echo, and Ensoniq DP/4). Too many pedals to name them all, but we generally use a mix of vintage boss (OD1, RV-2, DD-3) and boutique overdrive/fuzz/distortion/boosts. Synths we use are a Nord Stage, Sequential Circuits Six-Trak, Roland Juno 60, and Korg Delta. For vocals, we use Purple Biz preamps with ADK and MXL mics.
If you could have any piece of equipment and price was not an issue, what would you want?
Ed: Gosh, probably some better preamps. A couple of Neve 5052s? Oh and a 60s Fender Bass V and Fender XII.
What artists do you all find inspirational or an influence? This could be musicians, visual artists, film makers, etc.
LW: Musically, I’d say for this album I was inspired by Epic45, Benoit Pioulard, Cocteau Twins, Serena Maneesh, Violens, Lush, and lots more but pretty much all in that vein. Aesthetically, the rainy Portland days probably played a large part as well.
Ed: The usual suspects for me… Pale Saints, Moose, Slowdive, Radio Dept, Mahogany, Languis, etc.
Matthew: I few years back I created a mix called “The Dot and the Line” (named after the old Chuck Jones cartoon about love and loss) with tracks from Wire, The Kinks, The Lennon Sisters, Languis, Moose, Radio Dept. – all influences while this album was coming together.
Dwayne: Slowdive, Chapterhouse, Ride, and Flying Saucer Attack
Thanks for doing this! Any other comments for our readers?
Laura: Thank you!! It’s been great to get back into the music world after our “hiatus!”
Order In Surges here.
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