Post-rock quartet This Will Destroy You has been through a lot in recent years, but now the band has a light at the end of their tunnel…blanket. The entire band sat down for a chat with myself in a foggy backroom at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory last week and we have the textual results ready for you.
The Texas act recently completed recording their sophomore full-length, Tunnel Blanket, and is currently wrapping up a U.S. headlining tour with dates in their home state.
JEREMY: I'm Jeremy, and I hit buttons and play guitar.
DONOVAN: Donovan. I play bass and piano.
ALEX: I'm Alex. I play drums.
CHRIS: I'm Chris. I play guitar…
JEREMY: …and hits buttons.
CHRIS: …and hits buttons… I'm not counting it as a musical instrument, but okay. [Laughter erupts.]
JEREMY: No, dude… Neither of us play guitar, dude. We turn knobs and hit buttons.
CHRIS (deadpanning): Alright. Fair enough. [More laughter.]
DONOVAN: …I turn knobs…
JEREMY: I know you turn some knobs too, man. It's not a knob argument.
So the new record…coming out on Magic Bullet soon… JEREMY: It is not.
It's not…? JEREMY: No. We're still gonna be working with Magic Bullet. We'll be doing a picture disc series with them--
I know you're putting out about a million releases in the next few months… JEREMY: As many as possible, yeah. And we're definitely gonna be working with Magic Bullet, but for full-lengths, we're looking for another label right now.
You're still looking for another label? JEREMY: Yeah. We actually just got the masters for Tunnel Blanket last week, so…
So is there a tentative release date for that? JEREMY: Yeah. Everybody's saying February…
So it's next year now? JEREMY: Possibly.
ALEX: It's just hard to put out a record in the winter, for a lot of reasons.
DONOVAN: It's so cold.
ALEX: Yeah, you can't be on tour, you can't be in a million places, and if you're not like fucking Jay-Z…it's kinda hard to sell records around the Christmas… Which is not really a huge concern, but yeah. It'll probably come out in the new year.
Wasn't it originally slated to come out in the summer or so? JEREMY: That was…a fabrication. Of sorts. [Laughter.]
DONOVAN: Wait. What?
JEREMY [stuttering]: No….it…it was hypothetical.
So the motivation to do all these smaller releases was because the record's now not coming out until… ALEX: And we'll be on tour, so we want to put out interesting physical vinyl records specifically that people can take home and enjoy and… And obviously that's something that's been important to you guys from the beginning. EVERYONE: Definitely.
DONOVAN [playfully]: It's not just about the downloads.
ALEX [after pregnant pause]: There's something too about putting a real record on that sounds good… JEREMY: Naw, I agree with that. Nothing wrong with the downloads, either.
ALEX: Totally. No, I love my iPod.
JEREMY: …I like to keep the lights on at my house with the iPod… Can you do that with an iPod?
ALEX: You can do that with an iPod Touch.
I think with the iPhone apps… ALEX: Yeah, iPhone.
JEREMY: So if I stop paying my electric bill…
EVERYONE ELSE: No, no…
JEREMY: …it's not gonna work?
CHRIS: It doesn't work that way [smirking].
JEREMY: I wish it did.
Was all the material from these releases plus Tunnel Blanket culled from the same session or…?
[ALEX shakes his head, rest say "no" in unison.]
ALEX: Some of them.
DONOVAN: It's from, like, the same couple months.
How did you approach this differently from previous releases, like the self-titled or Young Mountain? ALEX [who wasn't in the band for either of those releases]: I don't know. [Snickers.]
JEREMY: It's a new lineup completely, first of all. I mean, me and Chris have been doing this…I couldn't even tell you how long. Dono's been here for three years now. Alex since November, and we've just fucking…made it happen.
We worked with loops. That was one thing that we did, I guess, that's a little more technical than other ways to approach the way we wrote the album. But it was a whole new style of just working off each other and working off where we were at that time in our life, and doing it how we felt it and how amazingly it all came together in two months. And we've been trying to do it for two years, so…that aspect of it I think is pretty incredible.
How do you think the lineup shift changed the dynamic of the band? ALEX: …completely?
JEREMY (laughing): Completely is a good wor--there was walls. There's a box that was around us before, and that's gone now. And we can kind of all do what we feel we need to do to make the songs complete and it just worked out that when the four of us reached that point where we felt that it was complete, all the parts came together and created a song. Yeah.
When you say there was a box--you mean you were boxed in stylistically and creatively and you weren't able to think outside what you normally do? JEREMY: …In a sense, yeah. There were boundaries due to…
JEREMY: Expectations--definitely. That's the best way to say it…
DONOVAN: I know where you're going. I know where you're going.
JEREMY: It's just how to put it lightly. There was…
CHRIS: There hadn't been an open-mindedness to trying new things…
DONOVAN: And now we just do what the fuck we want.
ALEX: I mean, I recorded the demos for self-titled before I was in the band, and before Donovan was in the band. And it's like, just being there around for that, and seeing how we write songs as this group of people, it's like…I wasn't there when you wrote the songs, but it was like…there were like decisions being made.
ALEX: And the delegation is a lot different, and I think--
JEREMY: Well, there is no delgation now.
ALEX: It's really just free and everyone respects each other, and occasionally there'll be an idea that someone will think that sounds like, "I don't know, man." [Light laughter.] But for the most part, I think we're all on a very--not the same page necessarily, but a very similar page.
So there's less creative tension, essentially. DONOVAN: Well, we're all very creative--[motions with his hands]--in that ocean of creativeness. We don't really bump into each other.
JEREMY: We might bump into a shark, though.
DONOVAN: That's true, that's true.
JEREMY: …and bit by it.
[ALEX, after pause, pretends to bite DONOVAN with hand. Really.]
So how would you compare and contrast Tunnel Blanket stylistically with the self-titled? JEREMY: Doomgaze.
Doomgaze… DONOVAN: It's even more subtle than self-titled--.
ALEX: It's really dark, in my opinion.
DONOVAN: --in like the approach to melody…
CHRIS: It's a lot more personal for me.
JEREMY: I agree with that. I think this album, for all of us, was a lot more personal because we had to go to a level…consciously…that we didn't have to go to for the other albums. And that it was a very rough time for everyone.
So going off that, how do you build a metaphor off your personal experiences for the song? DONOVAN: It just comes out.
CHRIS: I mean, Tunnel Blanket, the theme of the album is death. And there's been a lot of that the last year. So there's a lot of reaction to that and dealing with that. How I did… It was a rough year.
ALEX: Very rough year.
Familes, friends? ALL: Yeah…a lot of it…all over the place. All over.
For all of you? JEREMY: Yeah.
…So what does that involve, then…going into the process of that and trying to pull it out and put it into the song? JEREMY: It was…kinda straining in a lot of ways, the recording process of it. Listening to this material that we'd been writing in the state of mind over and over and over again…you had to find a way to cope with your reality and just make it happen. And once, I think, everybody did that, the parts came out, [and] we all thought there was something different with this album [compared] with the others. There was more of a personal connection.
ALEX: And like, we extensively demoed this album…
More so than the other stuff? ALEX: Oh, fuck yeah. There's multiple versions and multiple multiple versions of certain songs that started as one song and became another…a completely fucking different song. And me being around when they demoed the last record, it was just like, "Demo this song" and they sounded like that but better on the record. You know. Certain things changed, obviously, for the better, because [producer] John [Congleton] did both records--I mean, all the shit. Except for the first EP… He's a great producer, amazing engineer, so he made it sound great.
But I think this record, we extensively demoed and really got into it, man.
DONOVAN: We like recorded the album [demo]…it cost more at [another] studio before we even went in with Congleton.
ALEX: Yeah. And I mean, we weren't doing that with the intention of that being a record… Because I mean, obviously, certain demos, live demos, everything's mic'd up, but that's all it is. We weren't recording with the intention of that being the record, because we all knew we were gonna do it with John again. Because he's, like…I mean…I aspire as an engineer myself and that dude is the shit. He's so fucking good at what he does. So obviously, if he's around, we're gonna do a record with him.
It was just a really personal time for everyone. The whole experience of it.
JEREMY: It's not like a destruction of optimism. There is resolve. Whether it be, depressing or…positive, there's still resolve. So…
CHRIS: Mostly depressing.
JEREMY: Mostly depressing, yeah. [Laughter.] It's not an album out there just saying "fuck you" to everything.
So even though it might be as dark as you guys are trying to tell me, did you find any sort of closure listening to it? JEREMY: Definitely.
ALEX: We thought we finished the record once. And we didn't. So we had to go back and remix a couple songs. We cut one song, and then we recorded a new song. So it like completely flipped it up. Because on the first go-round, I was like, "Okay, this is cool," but I was a little confused by the record. And then, once we went back in the studio for two days--one day to track, one day to mix--it all made sense to me, at least. I was like, "Oh!" It was a fucking record.
JEREMY: Either way, I got the closure I needed with the feelings I was dealing with at the time.
JEREMY: Version one and version two.
ALEX: It was just a long, extended period of "Oh, I think this is good" and I really believed in it, and it is good. But that secondary, like "Man, this is great." We hoped it was great. That's what we aspire it for to be--to feel great to us. And be the best thing we could make, obviously. Trying to. So…
It will lose some people, though.
DONOVAN: It's gonna distance us from some areas…
Meaning… ALEX: It just sounds a lot different.
CHRIS: Not as accessible, I would say.
It's gonna get you out of the pigeon-hole, basically, that you might've been lumped in the past few years…? ALEX: Maybe.
Working with John Congleton…where do you benefit? Where do you find yourselves doing things you might not otherwise? CHRIS: Well, he's a fucking pervert…gullible… [Acknowleding nods and murmurs among the group.]
ALEX (nodding): He drinks like 10 Dr. Peppers a day. No shit.
DONOVAN: He's willing to try anything, or suggest anything.
JEREMY: When it comes time to mixing, you can't be in the room with him. He prefers it that way.
ALEX: I think…what I gather from that is that it's solely so he can concentrate and do the--
JEREMY: Not just that, but he does what he does with that time.
ALEX: All I'm saying--I don't think he's trying to like, keep secret…
JEREMY: No, no, no. Nothing like that.
ALEX: Exactly. That guy, man…when he mixes a song, it's like… He does things that you--he becomes a part of it, to me. Certain tracks on the record, when we tracked them--there's one song that we did, and we did another version of it that was originally gonna be the Amnesty compilation, but then we really liked the other version of it so we put it on the record as like a reprise of the other song. But John took that song and like…I didn't know what the fuck that song was gonna be. Kind of. I sort of did. But he took it to this really cohesive, narrative level that I didn't really know the song was even capable of being. And it ended up being one of my favorite tracks on the record. That's just like my best example of what John does.
JEREMY: I think you put that well.
ALEX: He becomes a part of the project.
If I'm not mistaken, you've had like parts of spoken-word elements on songs here and there… JEREMY: On the new tracks, definitely.
That's what I was gonna ask--if it was more prominent on this album. CHRIS: Yeah, there's some samples. Some spoken-word samples. We haven't done that before, so I don't know… It's more textural.
ALEX: There are vocals on this record. But not in any sort of traditional sense. Maybe you'll…yeah…
Okay. ALEX: They're hard to distinguish.
JEREMY: It's a very textural record. All the parts, it's hard--bass, drum, samples, they all become part of--
ALEX: There's like fucking 40 instruments on it or something. So I mean, it's like…there's a lot of shit.
CHRIS: Yeah, we were digging for sounds on this record.
You guys planning to tour hard the rest of the year? ALL: Yeah, pretty much.
ALEX: We're doing the rest of this tour, do the south a little more, like to Texas. Then we go on another American tour with a band called Autolux, who are fucking amazing, so we're stoked on that. Then we end in New York and fly straight to Europe. So it's pretty non-stop.
So you've just been shopping labels, basically? JEREMY: We haven't started yet.
ALEX: We just got the masters back, like the final…
JEREMY: Yeah. Within the week, it'll start getting shopped.
Are you looking for one of the big names? JEREMY: We're not looking for anything in particular. We're looking for the right--well, we're not looking for a label in particular. We're looking for the right people to work with.
ALEX: Because, I mean, I think, man, that's the only the way this shit can work. We have to have a mutual liking and respect and all that shit. It can't just be some corporate bullshit. It's gotta be personal, because obviously whenever we release the record we want the fucking…we want the vinyl packaging to be sweet. And it's little things like that, that we believe in. We want people--
JEREMY: We want the people involved with, working with us, to be [into] the music.
ALEX: First and foremost. But you know what I mean. We want…the right fit. Whatever that means.
On that note, how do you feel about being labelmates--or pseudo-labelmates--with Charles Manson?
JEREMY: Oh man, dude! That's a whole new story, man.
ALEX: Fucking great.
CHRIS: I love it.
JEREMY: Have you heard it yet?
CHRIS: I have. Brent sent it to me.
JEREMY: I don't have that email. I gotta check it out.
It's like four albums coming out I think? JEREMY: I think he's doing three or four, something like that. It's pretty…the story involved in how he got the rights to do that is absolutely insane. You should find a way to interview him about that. [Laughter.]
Did it have something to do with Dwid? JEREMY: I…don't think I'm at liberty to discuss any of it. [Lots of laughter.] It's that fucking insane. You should talk to him. It's like…
ALEX: Brent's really nice. I bet he would talk to you all about it.
JEREMY: It's some crazy shit. That's all I'm gonna say. Motherfucking crazy shit.
All photos (save band profile promo pic up top) taken by Brian Shultz at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, NY, June 8th, 2010.