It was an odd twist of fate that brought me in contact with what might very well be my favorite new bands of this year when I met two of the members of Brooklyn via Gainesville experimental pop quartet Conveyor outside of Pianos during We Listen For You's CMJ day party a little less than a year ago way back in October.
As they told me that living in Brooklyn meant they played most of their shows there, I jokingly told them I'd probably never see them, they mentioned a potential show with ARMS and suddenly I was onboard, and the rest is somewhat history. After falling in love with their Sun Ray EP, I knew the first chance I got I was going to have to see them live and that chance came early this year at a dual release show for Conveyor and Illuminator's split "Mukraker"/"Gulf Hymn" 7" coincidentally also at Pianos, a show that was utterly stacked with talent as fellow Floridians Hundred Waters and Levek shared that same bill. Conveyor's set however was an absolute marvel - instantaneously taken with TJ's quirky stage presence, the band's retro seafoam matching guitars, and their all around knack for playing unpredictable but solid rock pop jams, I was hooked.
It also started this weird habit of running into members of the band outside of their actual shows. Like running into bassist Michael at a Hundred Waters show at Cameo. But it was while attending the final night of Deli Magazine's Best Emerging Artist Fest at Cameo Gallery (for ARMS pretty much exclusively, I should add), I ran into guitarist Alan who nonchalantly revealed an interesting tidbit about their album...
Dante (All Around Sound): So what actually made me realize that I needed to interview you guys was when [Alan] told me that you wrote a lot of the songs while you were recording the album. What made you guys decide to do it like that as opposed to I guess the more standard method of recording an album which is like going in with songs already more or less fully developed?
Alan: I don't think we really decided - it wasn't really a conscious decision like 'Okay we're going to go into the studio and then write', you know? I think it was we knew our next project was going to be a full album, we had some songs ready, and we sort of filled in the gaps around there with the idea being that we wanted to write this album - make this album a sort of cohesive piece of work. That's sort of how it worked out. I don't think we ever thought of it that way.
TJ: Yeah. I think that rings pretty true. For me especially it just feels right to start working on something and then let more ideas come from that rather than try to write an amount of songs and then go record each one of them and I think there's something a little more cohesive than some albums which are just song after song after song. For me our record just feels like one big song from start to finish.
Michael: The process was kind of... it just came about because we had a couple songs that were ready to be recorded and that we wanted to release as singles so we started recording, we got the singles out, and then we kept recording and we kept writing more songs and there's actually a lot of songs that were written during the production of the album that didn't make it onto the album that we play sometimes but might get recorded in the future. But really it was like an ongoing process of writing and recording and then eventually it all just kind of congealed into the album.
I figured it wasn't an actual conceptual decision to do that but...well, I've heard the album... it really works. It makes sure you have to stay put for all of it. As opposed to just being like 'Oh I really like this song. Okay and now I'm just gonna pause and go do my laundry.' It's great. Definitely worked out for you guys which is kind of your thing I guess - just like doing things weird.
Evan: I think one of the first things Michael ever said in this band at our first practice was 'Weirder is better'
Michael: Weirder is always better.
Evan: And we all live by that.
Did you guys shoot for any sort of stylistic changes between the Sun Ray EP and this album or was it kind of an unconscious thing?
Alan: It was relatively unconscious. I think our music developed pretty organically. I think part of the difference in the sound comes from the way we recorded that you were referring to: Just getting into the studio and collaborating on songs in that space inherently it was much more...there was a piece of each of us more so like some of us jumped on at the last minute it was a much more...
Alan: Yeah. There's a big difference too. Sun Ray we had just started playing together and now a year later just that alone we've been playing together for a year so just naturally things are different. We're slightly different people.
Evan: *laughs* We're friends now.
Alan: Yeah. Now we know each other. We weren't like 'We want to sound like this', you know? I think it just very naturally came about that we made the music and we made the sounds that we wanted to make that we thought sounded good.
...You guys weren't friends before you started a band together? I mean, I heard the interview where you guys were like 'Yeah we kind of all just met up in Brooklyn one time at a party.' but I thought you guys were friends and knew each other and we're like let's be in a band.
TJ: Yeah...it's not as cold as it sounds when Alan says it like that. We all knew each other, we all hung out in the same circles in Florida, and that sort of thing. At a party we did decide to get together as a foursome but definitely like playing together and writing together has turned us into... from friends into bandmates, you might say.
Did you feel like there was any sort of direct influence onto this album? Any bands you were listening to that you were maybe not trying to emulate but had a definite influence?
TJ: I'll just say for me I spent a lot of the last Fall listening to music from Africa that I was sourcing from Michael and beyond any one artist in particular just that sort of feel. I don't know when I listen to music from that continent it all just sort of feels very happy to me and very vibrant and moving. So I think last Fall when we were writing a lot of the stuff that was a big influence on me. Music that moves and music that feels like happiness.
We kind of touched on it before but your songwriting process - what's that generally like? Is it just like you normally come into your rehearsal place with ideas or do you kind of just like jam it out?
Alan: It really depends. Some of the first songs we wrote after Sun Ray were more along the lines of a very small idea that we then play over and over and try to develop into something else. The album though is really sort of all over the board. Sometimes it would be something really small - one little hook-line or one little melody other times there's like pretty fully produced demos that TJ would make and send to us and then talk about it together. It's different from song to song. And like we were saying, some of the songs we never really got to the point of jamming and like playing together and trying out. We had only recorded it and tried to make it what we wanted it to be in that sense and then we had to go back sort of and learn how to perform it *laughs*.
If you each had to pick a song to cover - like if you were going to play any song during your set - your normally very small set, what would you choose?
Evan: ...Wasn't there a song, today TJ, that I said we should cover?
Alan: Yeah there was.
TJ: Yeah... Today?
Alan: I guess it wasn't that important to you.
Evan: We were in the car... *pause* You know, a song that I always wanted to cover...shit. "Heart of Glass" by Blondie. I don't if we should cover it straight up but something about that song. I don't know, I've been wanting to incorporate it into at least a part of one of our songs in particular. I've just always wanted to play that song. I heard the band The Bad Plus, I don't know if you've heard of them...
I've heard of them, yeah.
Evan: Well we sound nothing like that band but they do such a badass cover of that song that I want to play it myself. It sounds really fun. So that's what I would love to do.
Michael: The Beatles' "Tommorow Never Knows"
Alan: That's really good.
TJ: Really good!
Michael: Really really drone-y, really catchy but it's the kind of song where it's two or three minutes long on the record but you know live it could be twenty minutes.
TJ: We should...wow...we should totally do that!
Alan: "Morning Bell" would be a good song. It's great.
TJ: I always find myself wanting to cover like something really noisy, really just abrasive and loud. I don't know why I keep thinking about Nirvana. We were talking about Nirvana earlier...
TJ: I could totally go for a Nirvana song.
Alan: I've kind of been on a Fleetwood Mac kick recently. So I'd pretty much like to do pretty much anything of theirs. We could incorporate all of the vocal parts and just...I don't know, I love them. Too many good songs. It'd be tough to choose but I feel like that'd be an interesting project to take on.
Thanks again to Conveyor for sitting down to talk to me about their album and for putting on an absolutely amazing record release show!
The delightful foursome are currently on tour in support of their incredible self-titled debut full length. Scope out the dates as well as pick up a copy of the record on either cd or vinyl (I'd strongly suggest the vinyl- it's gorgeous!) here.
Listen to their album before it's July 17th release:
*Special thanks to Todd Goldstein of ARMS for naming All Around Sound's new interview series.