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Archive for April, 2011

Interview with Max Lewis of Arms and Sleepers

Photo courtesy of A&S Facebook page

I was planning on attending a live show of Boston based electronic post-rock artists “Arms and Sleepers” in DeKalb, Illinois last week, but my real world work duties got in the way and I was unable to attend.  However, Max Lewis of the group agreed to do a Skype interview with me to discuss AAS’s new album, tour, social media, and many other topics.

If you don’t know Arms and Sleepers yet, I would recommend checking them out immediately.  A couple of years ago, I did a review of  their single “Butterflycatcher” here at ChilloutScene.com if you want to get acquainted a bit more with their work.  You can also download a free sampler of their music on their blog, which includes a couple of tracks from most of their releases.

Now, on to the interview.  I first asked Max about the ongoing Arms and Sleepers tour.  He informed me that he was not accompanying the group on the US tour as he was not able to make the first European portion, so it was more beneficial for everyone involved if he stayed home for this leg of the tour.  I asked him about why they were playing DeKalb as it seemed like an out of the ordinary locale for electronic music where most US shows always seem to be in larger cities.  He said “We like to play in places that have treated us well in the past and The House Cafe in DeKalb was one of those places.”

He added another one of those places was the White Heart Cafe in Lynchburg, Virginia since a band called “The Late Virginia Summers” were gracious hosts to AAS a few times. They also really liked playing in Montreal with a band called “Caspian.”

Relating to the tour was our discussion about performing Arms & Sleepers music in a live setting versus putting it on an album in the studio.  On this tour, they are using a vocalist for the first time who is the very talented Ben Shepard of Uzi & Ari. Max said he was really impressed with Ben’s work ethic and he said he loves Arms and Sleepers’ music, so it’s been a great fit so far.  Another difference between the music on recording and performing live are the beautiful visual scenes they display in the background when on stage. Here’s a sample of the visuals from their live show (includes Black Paris 86 and Butterflycatcher) thanks to Seattleshowgal on YouTube-

Some of the visuals are video taken by the band members themselves and it is all put together by Dado Ramadani, a visual artist also from Boston.  The fact that it seems to flow so nicely with the music they are playing really enhances the total live performance.  Again, wish I could have been in DeKalb to see it!

Since I am also a marketing guy, I was interested in finding out more about how social media has impacted Arms and Sleepers.  I am always seeing updates from them on Facebook and other social media outlets, so I wanted to know how effective they found it to be.  Max mentioned that Mirza handles most of the social media stuff as he said that Mirza really is good at it and really enjoys it.  I emailed Mirza to get some more information from him on the subject and this is what he had to say-

“As far as social media goes—I think it’s been pretty effective.  A lot of our listeners have come from promotion efforts on Facebook, Myspace (back in the day), YouTube and Last.fm.  Now it’s the way we spread news and updates about AAS to our listeners.  It would be easier if there weren’t so many sites around! For example, when I am adding live concerts, there are about 10 different places where I can add shows, and it gets pretty tiring when you have to do it for a 50+ date tour.”

I agree with Mirza…if only there were more consolidation amongst music websites to share where you are playing, it would make things so much easier to get the word out about shows.  I think MySpace was pretty good at this, but now no one really goes there anymore so we need some sort of alternative that everyone can agree upon.

Finally, we discussed their upcoming release “The Organ Hearts.”  Max talked a bit about the process in creating the new album.  “What we’ve found is that when we are writing and creating music, we produce a number of different sounds and then when it comes to putting them on the album, we end up organizing them into separate pieces.”

“The Organ Hearts” is organized this way and that apparently will be also shown through in the artwork.  The first section being upbeat and smooth which he compared a bit to Four Tet.  The second section he compared to their debut release “Black Paris 86″ which was more relaxed and like a motion picture soundtrack.  The last section he said was more like a mix of their last album “Matador” as well as “Black Paris 86.”  I really enjoyed both albums, so if  “The Organ Hearts” is at all like their previous two efforts, I think all AAS fans will be in for a treat!

“The Organ Hearts” drops May 13th and Their 2011 World Tour continues for two more months beginning with some dates in France and tonight (April 17th) a stop in Hull, England.  We have quite a few readers in Europe so please get out and support these great guys and their amazing sounds!

Keep chillin’

-Chris