Hailing from Austria, Backwards Charm released the amazing debut LP Far From Heaven in My Mind in October. They are a dreampop quartet that craft gorgeous, earworm laden tracks. Consisting of Daniel Lang, Thomas Hofer, Thomas Bauer, and Martin Teutsch, the band came on the scene back in April with the release of their EP dreamlessly. Daniel Lang was kind enough to answer my questions about the bands origins, gear, recording the new album, and more.
Hello Daniel! Thanks for doing this interview.
Let’s start with the introductions. Who’s in the band and what does each member do in the band?
First of all, thanks for having us and for being interested in what we do! Our band consists of Tommy on drums, Martin on bass guitar, Thomas on guitar and my humble self, Daniel, on vocals and guitar. Thomas and myself both live in Salzburg; Martin and Tommy live in the capital, Vienna.
Ok, origin story. How did the band form?
I guess it’s really just another typical story of how a band gets formed; we’ve all played in bands before and at some point we all just got together to make some music and see what would happen. Both Thomas and Tommy had already known each other from concerts in Vienna and Martin used to be tour driver for one of my previous bands. When Thomas’ old band called it quits he wanted to start something from scratch and was looking for people to form a band with; I reached out to him – I was made aware about his intentions as he was really digging the demo of my other band – and we actually got some tunes done right from the beginning, and that’s that.
Being from Austria, what is the music scene like and how has that environment shaped your own music?
Although Austria might seem like it hasn’t much to offer except for Mozart and the Festspiele, we do in fact have a small scene. Even though many people couldn’t care less about it or aren’t even aware of its existence, I would definitely not want to complain about it. A small sized scene, you see, comes with a lot of intimacy; intimacy, on the other hand, comes with friendship: I’d have to lie if I said that I haven’t made all my long-term friendships and acquaintances through music; with Austria being quite a small place, we as a band have had the pleasure of making friends through music all over the country and beyond, which we are more than grateful for.
Living in Austria definitely has had its impact on our music and lyrics. As welcoming and supportive as our scene can be, it just can’t remedy all that’s going wrong in our society. As harsh as it may sound, the everyday life within the “normal” Austrian society can sometimes feel like a bad dream; unfortunately, this bad dream seems to be pretty damn close to reality: when everyone around you appears to be constantly complaining and ruthlessly scapegoating, at some point you start to wonder why everyone keeps pushing the blame on to somebody else. Trying to break out of this sad-but-true cliché, I guess our music has turned out somewhat calming, thoughtful and self-reflexive. To me personally, writing songs has become a means of dealing with all the shit that’s going on every single day; to be completely honest, it probably just makes me feel less bad when I can put my thoughts into lyrics and compose melodies with people that I like and respect. I wouldn’t say that I am satisfied with who I am and where I am – not at all; Still, I keep trying.
Far from Heaven in My Mind is an incredible debut album. Can you talk about the process of writing and recording it?
Of the utmost importance in the entire process is my best friend Christoph with whom I own a recording studio called Schall & Wahn Productions; quite naturally, we produced and recorded the whole album with him. We as a band are extremely lucky to know a person like Christoph; he was basically around from when we started writing songs up until we received our own music on vinyl and played our release shows in Vienna and Salzburg.
About the process of recording the album, we began with pre-production in late October 2017 and finished recording in January 2018. We started out with tracking drums and rhythm guitar simultaneously so that the songs would get a certain feel of flow and realness; we really wouldn’t want for our music to be quantified and unrealistically on the click. Although we recorded bass, vocals and additional guitars separately, we still tried to stick with unedited takes, in the hope of it giving our songs a more natural and humane feeling.
Since we’re referred to as a dream-pop band, I think it’s kind of obvious that we use a lot of FX pedals for guitars. Nonetheless, both Thomas and I – again of course with the help of Christoph – have tried to find a kind of basic setup for all of our pedals, which we eventually ended up using both in the studio and live; whereas the rhythm section’s chorusy and panned to left and right, the leads come centered and with several spring reverbs and analogue delays, while still leaving enough room for vocals in the mix. Talking about vocals, Christoph and I came up with a personalized methodology over the years: whenever I’m in a good condition, basically track vocals for the entire album in one session; that’s probably the reason, why we sometimes end up spending 24 hours or more in the studio.
I like to ask artists about a few tracks on their most recent release to sort of get more specifics about particular songs and the stories behind them. Could you talk a bit about the writing and recording of “Riverine” and “In My Head”?
I guess the lyrics of Riverine might imply a little bit more than what’s actually there; they deal with the course of human history which seems to repeat itself over and over again, as if it was somehow part of our human nature that we all tend to make each other sad and miserable. Why won’t we learn from past mistakes and why won’t we ever consider that something is our fault? Well, what’s for sure is that we’re all in the same boat, aimlessly floating down the river of life, and we seem to have reached that point where nobody dares to try and paddle upstream anymore; even though the lyrical I in the song appears to be aware of what’s going on, there remains no real choice for the persona but to give in to melancholy and cynicism. From a recording perspective, I believe Riverine has turned out a bit more difficult to perform than expected; with the skeletal structure of the song not changing for as long as three minutes, I guess we all lost track a couple of times of where we’re at in the song.
In My Head is the tenth and final track on our debut album and I’d say that it’s basically what the title says: a sort of impression of how the mind tends to wander and drift off. In the end, the message of the song is that someone doesn’t need to “shine” in order to be a good person; I guess this is probably just a by-product of the meritocracy we live in and how everyone seems to be evaluated by what they earn and by how many people they’re followed; like when did the whole society thing become a monopoly-reality-dating-casting-game-show? Having said that, I feel like its idea also rounds up the album quite smoothly, being left somewhat able to live while not being satisfied with how things are.
What sort of equipment do you all use? Do you use anything different in the studio as opposed to your live set up?
I’d say we really try and stick with the reliable classics when it comes to our equipment of choice, both live and in the studio. Our drummer Tommy swears by Christoph’s Ludwig snare drum made from metal (which I think was used in most alternative music recordings from the 90s until now), whereas we guitarists play a Fender Deluxe Reverb and a Vox AC15, since both these amps seem to complement each other very well. Guitar-wise I feel like we all stuck with classic Fender models as well, with our bassist Martin playing a j-bass, Thomas using a Telecaster and myself continuously having to choose between my Stratocaster and my Mustang.
As a band, who do you see as your influences? This could be a list from individuals in the band or as a whole or both?
Alvvays, Nada Surf, DIIV, The Smiths, Title Fight, Basement, Anna’s Anchor, Nothing, New Native, Sprit Desire, Youth, Tears For Fears, Mac DeMarco, Beach Fossils, Knifelong, Walter etc., The Cure and so on.
Are any of you involved in other music projects or were you in former bands? If so, which ones and where can we hear them?
As far as I know, I’m currently the only one who’s a member in another band as well. I also sing and play guitar in a band called Floralane, and I do hope we will release our album soon.
Have you toured and if so where? Any plans to come to the United States to tour?
We just recently have played our first tour ever through Germany, supporting our friend Marty in Anna’s Anchor from Ireland. Other than that, we have played a number of weekenders and shows in Austria, Germany, Belgium, Italy as well as Switzerland and have even made it to Ireland once. Within the two years we have been a band we had the pleasure of meeting and playing shows together with bands from the US all over Europe, therefore, we’d love to come overseas for a run of gigs; still, we don’t have any concrete plans at the moment.
Do you have anything else you would like the readers to know?
Don’t matter who you think you are, just be nice to each other; if necessary, go hard on yourself.