Catching Up with Jeff Kandefer of The Daysleepers
The Daysleepers has been one of my favorite bands since they hit the scene. Releasing an EP in 2005, the band has released one full-length and a number of EP’s and singles over the years. 2008’s Drowned in the Sea of Sound is arguably one of the best shoegaze albums ever released and the announcement of a follow-up to that brilliant album has finally happened. Jeff Kandefer was kind enough to answer my questions about the 2008 release, the coming of Creation, the making of their new singles and much more.
,Hello Jeff. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.
Thank you! This site & your radio show are very important to the Shoegaze/Dreampop scene so we are thrilled you asked us to do this. I know you have been a longtime supporter of The Daysleepers from our beginning so thanks for staying with us all these years.
Well, The Daysleepers have been gone for some time now with a few signs of life since the release of Drowned in a Sea of Sound. What instigated the return with the last 3 singles and The Smiths cover along with mention of a new, forthcoming album?
One thing was probably the return of many of my favorite shoegaze bands. New albums and singles from Swervedriver, MBV, Ride, Lush & Slowdive were certainly very inspiring. The shoegaze scene seemed sort of reinvigorated. I found myself wondering what our return would sound like and started thinking about an abandoned concept I had years ago. All of the sudden ideas started flooding in.
Some may recall we started the “Creation” project back around 2010. I had this interesting concept and some songs started but the circumstances were not right. I didn’t have the right studio equipment or time to dedicate to make the album what it should be. I’m so glad I didn’t force it back then because we wouldn’t have what “Creation” has become today, which I feel is the greatest artistic achievement of my life!
The Smiths cover was just a fun little thing we started messing with basically to test out our new studio recording equipment. I wanted to work with a cover first before the serious process of writing and recording new material with equipment I was sort of unfamiliar with. For me, that cover marks the end of The Daysleepers 1.0. Everything after that starts a new era for the band. You’ll notice after that I stopped using our original logo that we’ve had since the very beginning. It’s time for some things to change. I believe we have stepped up to the next level.
Can you talk a bit about The Daysleepers’ aesthetic? What I mean by this is your sound and how you shape it and think about it. In the shoegaze scene, it’s unique and I always know when I’m listening to one of your tracks.
That’s great to hear! I think there is definitely a danger in this scene that things can start to sound the same if, as a whole, we don’t add in our own unique elements. If we are just going to do our best Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive impression, it may sound really great, but it doesn’t really advance the scene. Plus, there is already a Slowdive and a MBV…and they are back with new material now. Not that we don’t borrow elements from those bands, they are the very foundations of what we do, but there needs to be more. You’ll see in reviews of our material that people compare us to these classic bands but if you really listen to our music, under the reverb and delay it is very different. Songs like “Release the Kraken” and “Megaton Supernova” don’t sound like Slowdive, Cocteau Twins or My Bloody Valentine but they do have elements in common. If anything, I’d compare us more to The Cure, Disintegration/Wish era, with a bit more reverb & noise. The way I have always viewed shoegaze/dreampop is that underneath the reverb, delay and distortion you should just have a really great song. Those effects pedals give our genre that big, lush, spacey sound that we all love, and underneath all that can be almost anything…but it has to be a good song at its core. It’s why we have such extremes in the genre. Cocteau Twins do not sound like Swervedriver, but they can both be played next to each other on DKFM and it works! That kind of diversity within the genre is great.
Another thing that I think sets us apart is our influences. We are definitely inspired by new and old shoegaze/dreampop bands but I was a fan of The Cure, The Smiths, Talk Talk, Japan, Tears for Fears, New Order & Depeche Mode long before I listened to shoegaze. So I have those influences. I am also heavily influenced by indie rock/alternative bands like The Shins, Sunny Day Real Estate & Interpol, as well as artists like Bjork. We all like post hardcore bands like Circa Survive & Mars Volta. Scott and Mario are big Elliott & Sigur Ros fans. All of these influences live under the layers of reverb, delay and distortion in our music.
I also think my vocals and vocal melodies are a bit different for the genre. I don’t really hear too many singers that sound like me in shoegaze. The most important element to me in any song we write is the melody. It should be pretty and it should get stuck in your head. That’s what I shoot for anyway. In the shoegaze genre you hear a lot of male singers with more droning, goth type voices and females with sweet, heavenly voices. I like both of those styles, but I’d rather be closer to the Elizabeth Fraser side of the vocal spectrum than the Jesus & Mary Chain drone sound. It just seems to work better for our brand of dreampop/shoegaze.
Those are just some of the reasons I feel The Daysleepers are unique…sorry it’s a bit long winded.
Besides The Smith’s cover, “Creation” was your first single back on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the writing and recording of that particular track and why it became the one you released first?
That’s an interesting one. It is one of the best tracks we have ever created but it was definitely not easy. I knew it was going to be our big return and the title track of the next LP so it felt like a lot of pressure. I wanted this track to hit hard and have the most massive sound we were capable of. I definitely think we accomplished it, but it almost drove me insane. I had just bought all this new studio gear and I wasn’t very familiar with it all yet, but here my goal was to make a professionally engineered song that could be played alongside all the heavy hitters. It seemed impossible, but we went to work and I was impressed with our progress. I had to swap distortion, fuzz and overdrive pedals several times because I wasn’t getting the sound I wanted. I spent 3 months mixing and remixing that song until it sounded right. There was, I think about 30 layers of guitars which made mixing very challenging. If you don’t mix that many layers correctly it will all just turn to mush and everything gets lost in the mix. After a while I started to feel crazy from how intensely I was listening to the track. I recut the vocals after not being happy with the first pass. Eventually everything fell into place and we ended up with a perfect title track that seems to be getting universal praise. When it went right to #1 on the DKFM charts for the month it was released that was certainly encouraging. I don’t need that kind of validation to make music but of course it’s nice to know people appreciate the hard work and passion you put into a creative work. It can be motivating. It was also nice to know people still cared about The Daysleepers after being inactive for a while. “Creation” was also voted the #4 track of 2017 on DKFM, so that was more great news for us!
So, is the album still going to be called Creation (if Creation is the title, please elaborate on the concept) and is there a label already attached to its release? If so, is there a timeline for release?
It is still called “Creation”. I have been obsessed with the concept since I first thought of it a few years after “Drowned in a Sea of Sound”. I won’t go too deep into the meaning of it because it’s a pretty personal & spiritual concept for me. To simplify it, it’s just my thoughts and observations of the universe before and after life was created, intelligent design and my place in all of this as one individual in the cosmos. I like the contrast here because that is both a huge spiritual concept and a very personal one. The songs reflect this too. Some are huge abstract concepts and others are very relatable human observations. Like all of our music though, that is just what it means to me. Whatever you think the songs are about when you hear them…that’s also what they are about. I try to keep things fairly open from the listener’s perspective so they can interpret as they see fit.
We have been talking to a few of our favorite record labels. We have offers but we haven’t made any decisions yet. I think we’ll have to soon though. I’ve always liked self-releasing our material, I’m a bit of a control freak, but I feel sometimes it limits the band from the exposure we could get with the help of a label. So we are investigating that.
As far as a timeline, the record will be done before summer, which means a release should come around September/October. Being the writer, producer, mixing all the tracks, programming and recording all the guitars, keys & vocals…it is not a fast process. There is a lot for me to do and I have to make sure it’s all quality, but my deadline is end of spring. Whatever is not ready by then doesn’t go on the album.
I sort of want to go back and talk a bit about Drowned in the Sea of Sound. It’s one of my favorite albums of all time and I’m curious what you think of it looking back. How does the album sit with you now that almost a decade has passed since its release?
I love the album. It marks such a great time in my life and all the feelings that are associated with that time come flooding back when I listen to it. With our circumstances then and with what we were trying to achieve, I think we accomplished exactly what we set out to do. It’s a solid album with a nice variety of songs to keep it interesting. I don’t think it’s perfect though. Now that I produce our music there are production things I would change if “Drowned…” was being recorded now, but I don’t think you can look at past albums like that. There’s always things you would change in hindsight. We had basically a solid week in the studio to record that album and I think for the time given, I am blown away by the quality of it. Especially now when I’ll spend a whole night just tracking one guitar part or recording one verse of vocals to perfect them.
The 10th Anniversary limited edition Vinyl release of this album will be out this year! I’m working with Clairecords/Tonevendor on it. First time on vinyl for this one. Keep up with us on Instagram for the latest news and updates on this and the “Creation” album.
Do you have any favorite tracks from Drowned in the Sea of Sound? Which are they and why?
“Release the Kraken”, “Distant Creatures” & “Summerdreamer” I would say are my top 3 favorites on the album. I think I just like the production and execution of those the best. I also love the cosmic sound of “Space Whale Migration”. Our bass player Scott wrote and programmed the main composition for that song. Here’s a fun fact that some might not know, the one track on the album is named “Megaton Supernova” NOT “Megatron Supernova”. On the CD packaging it is spelled correctly but I think when the information was entered into iTunes there was an error. It’s a big error too because one is a celestial phenomenon and the other is an evil Transformers character. It changes the meaning of the title quite a bit. Also, I was more of a Thundercats fan than Transformers so it’s not even reflective of my childhood.
So, it’s been about a decade since you started releasing music. Has your writing process changed over time and, if so, what is new about how you all go about writing tracks now?
Actually our first EP came out in late 2005, so it’s been well over a decade since we started releasing music. Time really flies! The process has definitely changed for this record. Now I am pretty much the Robert Smith figure in the band. While I don’t wear lipstick, I do write all the songs, record my parts and then kind of direct the band as to what I am looking for with bass and drums. From there they give me what they came up with and any feedback they have. Then I start mixing the tracks. This process is pretty effective because it is a single vision for an entire concept and it seems to be working out great for this album. There is a strong unified theme to it because of this method. In the past it had been more collaborative when we could all be in the same room weekly writing the music live but that’s no longer possible. I have always been the lead songwriter and the sort of director of the band, so that element remains the same, but now I am in control of the production too.
Returning to the singles, can you talk a bit about the writing and recording of “Foreverpeople”?
I think it’s a beautiful song and I love the way it turned out. It is a very personal song for me. I get choked up listening to it sometimes. It’s actually the first track I started writing for the “Creation” album. Before I started seriously writing these songs I knew I needed some new pedals if I wanted to take the guitar sounds to the next level. I tried so many reverbs, delays and distortions until one by one I found the perfect sounds. Once that was set, one of the first guitar parts I wrote was that opening riff in “Foreverpeople”. It just gave me the feeling of floating through space so I knew it was a keeper for this album. The song “Creation” came to me very soon after that. I was working on them simultaneously.
For the gearheads who read Somewherecold, can you talk a bit about your gear? What sort of guitars/bass/drums and FX do you all use?
Most people who know our band know I’m obsessed with Fender Jazzmasters. I have had several of them over the years but now I have 2. I know they have become one of the official guitars of Shoegaze along with the Jaguar but my love for Jazzmasters goes back way before I knew what shoegaze was. I started playing guitar when I was 13 or 14. My first real guitar was a Fender Mustang. I just always loved the look of Fender offset guitars. A lot of the grunge musicians on MTV at that time started playing offset guitars and I just had to have one. That was the sound I wanted. I remember one time seeing the band Bush play on that awesome old MTV show “120 minutes” and the singer had a purple Jazzmaster with a red tortoiseshell pickguard and I was like “What is that thing?” It just looked like the best guitar in the world to me. I got one soon after and fell in love with them! It is without question the perfect guitar for me. For this album I bought a new Fender American Professional Jazzmaster and I am crazy about it! I definitely wanted the Jazzmaster sound but something a little different from our other albums. The American Pro pickups are wound in a way that is different from classic Jazzmaster pickups and they are a bit brighter/hotter sounding. It records beautifully because you can have a wall of guitars but these specific pickups seem to punch through the mix with a bit more clarity for lead guitar lines. The pickups also seem to do a little bit of compression so you still get dynamics, but also a nice even guitar track and I don’t have to do hardly any compression on the software end. In early 2017 I also purchased a Squier Bass VI and made some modifications by adding a Staytrem Bridge and appropriately gauged strings which are at the very least, mods that need to be made to one of these. I recorded many tracks on our Soft Attack EP with a Fender Bass VI I had years ago, but I didn’t use it enough to justify the $2,000 price tag, so I sold it. When Squier came out with this $450 model I knew I had to get one, and I knew I’d have to modify it at that cheap of a price. It is a great Bass for the money especially after the upgrades. And of course I use “Starla” my tried and true 2005 Black Fender American Vintage 62’ Reissue Jazzmaster on this album. She has been on every release from the very beginning. Scott has a gorgeous 70’s Sunburst Fender Jazz Bass that he has used on every Daysleepers track. We are an all Fender guitar band (Please sponsor us). I always say if Fender never made guitars I probably wouldn’t play. I’m not really interested in anything else.
Mario uses a Roland electronic drum kit. This gives us tons of control dialing in the drum sounds and effects we want & eliminates the complications of recording acoustic drums. This is new for this album. “Drowned…” and the EP’s were all acoustic drum kits. I personally like the electronic drum kit sounds much better for the type of music we are making now. We can get those huge arena sounding drums effortlessly and they sound so powerful.
I have a Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue Amp that I think is pretty great. As far as pedals go, my two favorites are my Strymon DIG & BlueSky pedals. They just take reverb and delay to a whole new dimension but they are fairly simple to use. They are really the foundation of my guitar sound on “Creation”. For my drive section I have a Big Muff Tone Wicker Fuzz, Rat II Distortion and Boss OD-3 Overdrive. More than anything, I experimented and tried so many Fuzz and Overdrive pedals. In my opinion nothing compared to these for what I was looking to do. So many drive pedals, especially Fuzz pedals, lose chord definition when you record them. With these I was able to retain some of that and still get those rich low end textures. I also have a BOSS CE-2 Chorus pedal which is the best Chorus pedal I’ve ever played. My goal was to simplify my studio board to 8 pedals, but I wanted them to be the perfect 8 pedals for the album. I wanted a shorter, clean signal path with the highest quality sounds imaginable. I couldn’t be happier with my rig now. It’s simple and perfect.
So what’s next for The Daysleepers? Any live gigs planned? Should we expect another single? If so when?
Right now I can’t see anything beyond finishing this album and everything that goes with that (mixing, mastering, promotion, labels, merchandise, vinyl, and packaging). It is my total focus for the band at the moment, as well as the vinyl reissues of the older material.
There will definitely not be any new singles until maybe right before the album releases. As it is I’m afraid I may have released too many. Creation will be in the 8-10 track range. That being the case you’ve already heard a good portion of it, but I think it was necessary to give our fans something more than one single after waiting so long. So we did it for you! On another note though, when you hear how the album flows in order with the other songs, I think these singles will take on new life as they are all part of this massive, cosmic, audio journey. When you hear it all together it will definitely be a beautiful, noisy experience.
Thanks so much for answer my questions. Cheers!
Anytime Jason! Thanks for the opportunity.
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