I got a chance to talk to Joe D'Agostino from Cymbals Eat Guitars while they were crossing Texas. I'll be catching them when the tour brings them to the Hi-Dive in Denver later this month. I'm excited because their show in 2010 was incredible, with a looser wildness that contrasted with their album at the time (Why There Are Mountains).
Jester: The new album, Lenses Alien, does a great job of capturing your live sound. How did you nail that loudness of your shows?
Joe: We were playing really loud. I had my guitar amp in an isolation room while we were recording together. Anytime anyone needed to walk through that room, I had to stop playing.
You played some of the songs from Lenses Alien during the 2010 tour as I recall.
Yeah, we had Tunguska, Plainclothes, Wavelengths, and Definite Darkness. Plainclothes and Wavelengths were about the same. The other two changed a lot. Especially Tunguska. There was a whole intro that we ended up cutting…this big acoustic intro. So it’s much more direct and poppy. It works better, I think.
That leads me to one of the things I wanted to talk to you about. How did you develop "Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)"? It’s epic, there are so many sections.
That song took forever to finish. We labored over it for many months. There was always some sticking point, some part, some transitions that just didn’t work well. For me the whole thing coalesced when we decide to extend the noise, to really ride that out and make it very confrontational and exploratory. The rest of the song fell into place after that because we had our pop song section for the first minute and a half, then blown out Flaming Lips stuff right before the noise. The flow came after we were less guarded about the whole thing.
I think the first thing that we had for that song was the end section with the Spiritualized style sound. We sort of built it around that.
It reminded me of Trail of Dead, too
That’s a cool comparison. I love Source Tags and Codes and that first one, The Secret of Elena’s Tomb. They're a really good band. Epic, ambitious guitar music.
It's cool how they take psychedelic into a progressive space or vice versa.
We have the same kind of bombast. On our first first record, I guess I really had ambitions. We had a string section and horns -- a lot of orchestration. We kind of dropped that for this album but I think it's equally grand.
Plainclothes stretches out nicely, too.
Yeah. I love the end of that song -- the distorted loud speaker screaming. It's cool. That's one of my favorites on the album. It's kind of the centerpiece, almost.
There's some like a visceral howl kind of feel.
Yeah, definitely. That song has some of my favorite lyrics on the album, too. I'm really glad how it turned out.
I liked it, but I didn't fully understand it all.
I don't think anybody possibly should. It's about a number of different things. It's about a psychedelic drug experience and being scared of police officers and law. That kind of permeates every song.
It's got a stream of consciousness feel like Jack Kerouac.
Now that Lenses Alien is out, have you started thinking at all about new material?
No. We're not really working on anything while we're on the road. After we finish an album, I go into hibernation for 7 or 8 months. I don't pick up a pen or try to write anything on guitar unless it happens accidentally. We'll probably start writing again when we get an extended break from touring.
I know you guys have opened for the Flaming Lips. Who would your dream artist be to share the stage with?
That would have to be either Wilco or Sonic Youth. Getting on Wilco's tour or I would love to get on a Sonic Youth tour. It would also be cool to tour with Deerhunter.
Who's opening for you on this tour?
On this tour it's Hooray for Earth. They're very loud. Guitar heroics, but also really touchy, sugary melodies. They're a great band.