Sunday, 21 February 2016

Interview: With New York's Stereo Off

Stereo Off - Automated

Info: New York electro-indie rock (now) three-piece Stereo Off first appeared here on the blog back in August, 2014 following the release of their debut E.P., simply named after their home city. The band's last E.P., the five-track The Long Hot Winter, retained all of the successful elements of their debut whilst clearly moving on and serving up an entirely new listening experience. Less indie and more electronic experimentation is the order of the day, most notably on above track 'Automated', and the 80's lavished 'Hotel Mirror'. I caught up with lead-singer Sebastian and guitarist Niall to fill in the intervening period since our last chat, and also find out the background on their newest E.P. which is due for release shortly, plus discussing a topic of mutual love, film!

Remy: Well guys it's almost a year and a half since we last spoke shortly after you released New York, how have you been since then?!

Sebastian: We've been good, mostly writing and recording new songs, and rehearsing while we finish off the third EP. We reformulated the band a couple of times since, and for the 3rd EP, it is now based more around the three of us, Niall, Bridget and Sebastian, so even before we drop the next record the sound has a new feel to it. 

Remy: I've noticed a slight change in sound on your last EP, The Long Hot Winter, it has a bit more of a pensive and less pop sound than your previous release. What would you say is the most obvious difference between the two from your perspective?

Sebastian: The Long Hot Winter is a little more experimental with more synths, but it's generally just more of everything. The first record was inspired by move riff-driven guitar cuts, and we kept it simple while we learned about each other and polished up our favorite choices. On the latest EP, we knew more about what we wanted out of it, so as long as we had that there was more room for experimentation.

Niall: That continues more with our 3rd EP which is almost ready. 

Remy: I loved your video for 'Bullet Time' from your first EP, a lovely homage to short-filmaking, have you any plans to accompany any of the new tracks with a video also?

Niall: We have a video for 'The Things We Do' that is 99% ready. That said, it is a much rawer video, one with perhaps a vaguer storyline, less a direct homage, but still very influenced by our styles, the night and the city. We also have some plans for a video for another song from this EP ('Automated'), which will take a completely different angle.  

Stereo Off - Hotel Mirror

Remy: Film has always played a big role in what you do musically with some of your songs featuring on soundtracks for short films. As a big film fan myself you might allow me to digress briefly and ask what your favourite movies of the last 12 months are?

Sebastian: Of the few films I had time to see last year, Ex Machina and Mad Max: Fury Road were the winners. For someone bred on the films that inspired these two, different as they are, they not only payed homage to their genres but looked at the subject matter from fresh angles.  

Niall: Regarding full length 2015 movies, I did like The Big Short & Dope. Otherwise, the viewing had been more on short films. With other work from the short film team and various festivals prior, I feel like I've been skimming through piles of short movies.

Remy: How vibrant is the music scene in New York right now? Would it be as dynamic as places such as California for example where there seems to be a massive output of great music over the last 2 years?

Niall: It is a little concerning that several NY venues (including many we played in) have closed recently, often because they can't afford to keep open. Neighborhoods that used to have run down hidden venues are now too expensive for such things. There are some new venues too, but I feel there are more closures than openings.  

Remy: In between EP's did any of the band delve into any particular period of music or artists you hadn't previously listened to, or was The Long Hot Winter a straight up natural progression in your sound?

Sebastian: A lot of the ideas and that drove the songwriting on the first record are still big influences on The Long Hot Winter EP, so it feels like a progression. But the playing styles, effects and engineering sounds we discover keep evolving and making it new. 
Stereo Off The Long Hot Winter

Remy: Do musicians in the U.S. receive any state / government support in terms of grants or are you entirely left to provide for yourselves? And while I'm on the topic, there's a lot of interest in Ireland regarding the U.S. presidential elections as there always has been, do you think the position has become token with the President acting merely as a face whilst others are pulling the strings, does it matter who wins?

Sebastian: Here in the U.S. you can get some grants and funding but it's usually just on the individual. Money counters have devalued a well-rounded education and in turn the overall funding of the arts here, missing the clear benefits that these programs create in other countries.

Niall: Maybe the role of President doesn't matter as much as it should, as indeed the corporate powers are the ones truly in the driver’s seat. And I don’t think any president-to-be wants to take the hit for having to correct what is wrong with the current split of society that is becoming more and more like centuries ago where the middle doesn't exist. 

Remy: You've always gone for quite minimalistic cover art on your releases, with the new one reminiscent of Kraftwerk's Autobahn, is this deliberate? (the minimalism that is!)

Sebastian: Niall's idea for the first three records was that they would be EPs and have minimalistic covers. Niall designed the first and I did TLHW, and we're working on the new upcoming disc right now.

Niall: What he said. I also feel that as a relatively new band, we had to be clear with our brand, our name. No one needs to see something that looks great, yet not know who the hell they are. Perhaps it’s from seeing loads of cover art where that was the case for me.

Remy: Finally, I just wanted to mention that I think TLHW is a notable advance on New York, I'm particularly enjoying 'Supercooler' and 'Redesign', so what's the next step in the Stereo Off voyage?

ALL: Thanks! And good to hear from you as well!

Niall: Funny that you mention 'Supercooler' though. It was actually one of the first songs we ever had, maybe even the first song in our first set.  And we always liked playing it live, but the original recording didn't have that energy, so it never made the first EP.

Sebastian: So after leaving it for a while, we gave it another go, revamping it to match the energy and it took us more toward post-punk, just by nature of making it feel at home on this disc. Currently we're working on the new EP due out in late spring, and dropping a video for "Things We Do" in a couple of weeks. We have a whole new live sound now and we're pretty amped.

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