Wake Island talk record production, Google maps, cultural identity before their album release this Saturday
Wake Island are one of very few bands working thoroughly within the rock tradition but producing music that's fully original. Chalk it up to the members' diverse cultural backgrounds, their varying musical styles, their work with famed producer Jace Lasek - there's something fresh and new here. Their new LP, It Takes Time To Be Uncomfortable, presents an even more unified and powerful sound than their older work as Intensive Care. Recently I spoke with Nadim (guitar) and Derek (bass) about their recent work, their upcoming release show, and their plans for the future.
Your music seems to draw from a lot of different rock influences. How do you describe what you play?
Derek: We come from very different backgrounds that include jazz, North American 90s rock, Brit rock, pop and soundtracks. Our first album was a meticulous effort to create complicated, heavily-orchestrated songs that incorporated every disparate idea that came into our heads. But for this new album, we challenged ourselves with simplicity, reducing the complexity of our songs while focusing on more on mastering the sounds of our instruments and a more direct lyrical approach. There are moments of minimalist electro-rock, moments of grittier punk, and still some moments with progressive undertones. But whereas before we were writing music that highlighted our motley differences, now we're writing music that speaks with one voice.
2) How was working with Jace Lasek? Was the recording and production process different in any way from previous albums?
Nadim: Jace has been our long time collaborator, this is our second LP he recorded and produced. He usually plays the "traditional" roles of producer and engineer on our records. As a producer, he got involved at the very early stages of song writing on It Takes Time to be Uncomfortable. We sent him our first sketches of songs which he saw evolve into fleshed out ready-to-put-on-record versions. This process is important because by the time we reached the studio, Jace already knew where we were going with this record and had ideas of how to engineer it, which mics to use to get the right room sound, how to get the right guitar/bass tones and, very importantly, how to mix it, something Jace is really amazing at. The recording and producing process was actually very different from the first LP we did with him (Fairytales from the Island): recording Fairytales was more difficult and complicated given its orchestral nature, as a result, mixing was more difficult and the record sounded a bit too polished. On our new record, tracking was relatively straightforward; we took a "live approach" writing this record, we wanted the songs to sound like we would play them live, so no extra instruments nor layers. Consequently, our recording experience was smoother and gave Jace more time and space (musically) to mix the record.
3) You recently changed your band name from Intensive Care to Wake Island. Why was this? Does it signify any kind of artistic shift in your work?
Derek: We were growing a bit tired of Intensive Care, as it suggested a very heavy sound which we felt didn't quite represent us. Also, as our previous drummer Jon left and was replaced by Evan, we felt a name change would be appropriate. Nadim found the new name on Google Maps. Wake Island, a tiny island in the Pacific halfway between Asia and North America. A good fit for a band with two members from each of these continents. And Wake Island is just West of the international date line, setting it in the future compared to most of the world.
4) You frequently mention your cultural backgrounds when describing your band. How does this play out in the music? How is it important to you
all as players?
Nadim: Yes, the band actually consists of members originating from Lebanon, Canada and the USA. We all come from different cultural backgrounds which we carried along with us as we moved from our native cities to Montreal. The heterogeneity of the band's cultural pool made our early interactions challenging, it was hard to understand and trust each other at first because there was a certain cultural gap that separated us. There was tension and a strong urge for mutual understanding which was a driving force keeping the band together. It wasn't always easy and we feel like the music reflects the discomfort and the sense of urgency that we individually felt. It took us a long time to really get to know each other and to get closer. It's such a rewarding and inspiring experience to share the best things your culture has to offer with people you love and reciprocally absorb the best of their culture. I feel like Wake Island represents a microcosm where this sort of dialogue inspires creation.
5) What's next? Touring? Music videos? More writing?
Nadim: After we release our new album on Feb 16th at Casa Del Popolo, we hope to tour the record a bit in North America and hopefully in Lebanon and Europe. There are plans of us going to Lebanon, France and a few other European countries in the summer, although nothing is confirmed at this point. We're also very excited to be back in writing mode, we've already started writing a 3rd LP. We are very happy and thrilled with the new groovier direction the songs are taking, less rock more roll if you know what I mean... Hopefully, if all goes well and we get proper funding for the record, we might get in the studio again in the second half of 2013, fingers crossed.
6) Who are you listening to these days? Anyone you can recommend to readers?
Derek: I've been listening to a lot of St. Vincent and Brooklyn's Buke and Gase, and I've been playing through the new Beck album that was released as only sheet music. The band has been drinking up the new Tame Impala, and we're looking forward to new albums by locals The Besnard Lakes, Suuns, and Valleys, all due out in April. It'll be an intense month!
photo via the band's facebook page