Friday, August 24, 2012

All Around Sound-Off No. 2: Lands & Peoples

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A little more than a year ago, I stumbled upon Baltimore experimental pop rockers Lands & Peoples in a fit of ARMS-lust. Scouring Youtube for as many live videos I could find to tide me over until the release of their much anticipated sophomore record Summer Skills, I was intrigued by a Big Ugly Yellow Couch Session live from SXSW featuring an interestingly named band performing a cappella with a set of ginormous windchimes.

As I resolved to write about them, I ran into a snag: Their FB page had little to no information for the feature I intended to write about them. From a simple getting to know you email, an unexpected friendship between the band and I formed as I conspired all ways and forms to actually see them live (and most times failing), it wasn't until last year's CMJ when I finally succeeded in my goal and actual meet the band properly and the rest is somewhat history.

The road towards the interview between Lands & Peoples and I was an adventurous one as the out of town band and I, unfamiliar with Brooklyn in any helpful regard, set out to meet each other in a more or less noteworthy location but turned out to be Bushwick's small Maria Hernandez park not on any map of note as Caleb Moore directed me to them via brief telephone conversations and purely informative texts messages. The rather intrepid and ridiculous nature of our meeting set the tone for our chat as we found ourselves distracted by all number of things from a squirrel with a watermelon, a dog with a very large branch, and random passerbys trying to bum cigarettes, it gave a look into the fun-loving guys who form the intricate well-run machine of Lands & Peoples.



Dante (All Around Sound): I’m here with Lands & Peoples so tell me, who are you? When’d you form, how’d you form? All of that good stuff.
Caleb: I’m Caleb.
Beau: I’m Beau.
Charlie: I’m Charlie.
Caleb: So the question was how did we form – like all the way back?
That’d be nice.
Caleb: It was originally…I put up two or three…two songs on MySpace as Lands & Peoples and one of them was like really ambient and I was just getting into doing production stuff. I got compliments from my friends so I figured I should keep doing it. Then Amanda started playing with me for a brief spell – Actually it was like 6 months. It was just me and her as a two-piece and then Beau was living in New York when that was happening and ended up moving down to join the band basically. I don’t know if we were like – well actually it was like “You’re coming to play music, you’re going to be in the band.”
Beau: Remember when we had that show at home in Oxford over Christmas –
Caleb: It was like a little house show in an apartment.
Beau: Yeah and pretty much after that I decided to move down. I was unhappy in New York and wasn’t doing what I wanted to do and wasn’t happy in general. Had a sort of crappy living situation and was making a lot of music too which was a completely different thing from what we’re doing – what Caleb was doing. I just moved to Baltimore on a whim basically.
Caleb: And Beau – we had a history playing music because we lived together in college. He was one of the first people I played music with so it just kind of made sense.  We’re best friends. So then it was the three of us. We did that tour as a three piece – our first tour ever. And then, I don’t know, I guess some people said that we could use bass and I probably got really offended when they said that but then it made a lot of sense actually. So we found Brian and he was really nice – he was really into the music, pretty eager, and came up with some awesome shit. So then for a while there were four of us. That was probably the longest incarnation so far. We did another tour with that and recorded that whole album Pop Guilt with the four of us. And after the last tour we did with them which was to South By, right?
Beau: Yeah. That one was to Austin.
Caleb: It was our second time going down to South By and we got back and I think things weren’t really gelling that well with Amanda creatively. Like we’d kind of always been on different planes a little bit.  We ended up talking to her and kind of deciding that we should go our separate ways and Brian actually ended up leaving the bands with her sort of because he didn’t feel like it’d be the same vibe. That was his main reason.  So then for a while it was the two of us…I don’t know if you wanted all this history.

It’s all good.
Caleb: Well, that was really fun.
That was right about the time I discovered you guys.
Caleb: Yeah! Yeah, it was cool ‘cause we were just like “Fuck it! We don’t have to worry about ‘Oh I don’t know if Amanda would be into this’”. Like none of that. All that went away. And then we just got really weird and tried a bunch of new ideas and it was pretty fruitful in little time. We probably wrote like – this was like over a year ago but we probably wrote half the songs that’ll probably end up being on the next record. Like in that time. Maybe a third of them or a fourth.
Beau: Yeah. A lot of the time having more people in a band allows you to do more things but for us for whatever reason feeling like we needed to make everybody happy or making sure that everyone was into it. It just put restraints on I think Caleb and I mentally. Most of it in our own heads.
Caleb: Yeah. They were great.    
Beau: Yeah, they were totally great but like, you know –
Caleb: Me and him, I think we had developed a lot but we had never like us two really got together and puked out a bunch of crazy ideas. It was a pretty thrilling time for us.  As far as our creative process and writing goes.
Beau: Yeah and we did that for about 8 months and then we decided that…
Caleb (jokingly): All the fire just dissipated!
Beau: Well, you know, the same thing with having multiple people allows you to do different and more things is totally true because when you have two people and each person is in charge of their own instrument and singing you only have a limited number of limbs. You can only use a loop pedal so much.
Caleb: Yeah, we really didn’t want to be like an all the time looping or like every song is a loop song. We’re trying to figure out how to do that tastefully. It’s been done really horribly. It’s been done really amazing too. I think we’re just trying to figure how to do that subtly.

Beau: We were kind of playing with a few people. We tried to get a buddy of ours, Micky, to come in and play. We got this guy Mike from Sri Aurobindo, which is another Baltimore band
Caleb: Like psychedelic rock.
Beau: Yeah. He played bass with us one time and I had been playing in another band with Charlie in Charlie’s main project Raindeer. Just kind of was a guitar player for a little while and we asked to come in and play with us and we totally mixed really well and it was awesome. And that’s how Charlie came into the fold.
Caleb: How long has he been with us now?
Beau: Since this winter. It’s been like 7 months, I think.
Caleb: That’s crazy.
Beau: I mean, we’re in the 8th month of 2012…
Caleb: It’s been really gradual. ‘Cause he has been…well at first I think you were focused more on doing Raindeer shows and stuff. I feel like just now he’s starting to sink into the fold a little bit better. It’s becoming more…good. For all of us. More satisfying. And that’s where we are.
Beau: That’s where we stand.

So you all have side projects and other bands – is it difficult to juggle them? Are there ever Lands & Peoples songs that started out as songs for Dead Drums or Zu Shapes or vice versa or do you have a very distinctive idea of what is what?
Caleb: When I make music I try – like at home when I’m messing around with the computer or whatever or at the space, I’m try to at least not think about that at all and just somehow get something good. And then we bring it to the table. There haven’t actually been any songs that have ended up sticking… I’ve tried that with a couple songs that were sort of just mine or felt like Dead Drums. Probably you saw one of the sets where we played a couple that were like ukulele based and more fluttery, maybe had some more ambience to it. But it didn’t quite sink in. I don’t know, I think it didn’t. It felt weird; didn’t feel as collaborative as it should’ve been. Even though Beau has been really open to trying ideas out. We got them pretty far along and it sounded cool but it just felt a lot better when we were writing songs completely together and like doing it that way. Also, Dead Drums is so much about sound design and the feel of the recording that it’s – Like, I’m much happier writing songs and songwriting, that’s what I get out of this.
 Beau: And I think that like the sound designing aspect and the feel of the recording is what all of us – all three of us in our own separate ways are really into. It’s true. I guess it’s true that Dead Drums is kind of… (to Caleb) I mean would you say that  Dead Drums is a recording project more than a performance project?

Caleb: Yeah. I mean right now all I do is improvise some synth stuff and it’s like really awkward and I’m just like thumbing through presets. It’s fun. When you do it every now and then it’s like exhilarating.
Beau: It’s not awkward at all. It’s very great. It’s really good! Don’t down-talk yourself.

Caleb: It’s weird. I don’t know…

Beau: I mean we’ve had this conversation recently because when I do Zu Shapes stuff, which hasn’t been all that much. I haven’t really been focusing on it a lot but I am working on it –
Caleb: We both kind of decided to make this our thing at least for a while. Until we need to get a break.
Beau: I have really crazy hours for work like Caleb has a regular job, you know? The hours in my job I could be there anywhere from 8 in the morning til midnight. Just my hours are really crazy so I end up having these weird, free spans of time where I just go and sit and be in our practice space and start recording stuff on the loop pedal and transferring it to a computer and messing around with it. I am currently trying to work on some Zu Shapes stuff. But everything I try to share with Caleb. We had this conversation recently about how anything that we make let’s at least share with the other person. So that if the other person’s into it – and not to call you out on record here Caleb but Caleb’s opinions, his tastes, tend to be a lot more hit or miss; it’s like “I don’t like that at all” or “I really do like that”.
Caleb: Yeah, that’s pretty true.
Beau: Whereas I –
Caleb: Beau’s just like much more open to trying anything.
Beau: I think that it may be coming from a theater background and having to exist in an art form with other people like there’s no choice you have to be with other people and no one likes just somebody standing up there doing monologues, you know? Although it can be great, it can be compelling and emotional. But at the end of the day when you’re in a theatrical group you’re a group of people so you learn to collaborate and commiserate and to compromise. That’s 3 C’s. Off the top of my head.
 *laughter*
I think that’s just something that I out of habit do, just like “Ok, how can we make this work so that we’re both satisfied?”

Caleb:  I think it’s going to be really interesting to see – I want Charlie to eventually if he has a song idea and for whatever reason it doesn’t feel like Raindeer, that’d be fun to do.
Charlie: Right now I’m just kind of feeling out their vibes and trying to get on board.
Beau: And he’s doing a great job.
Caleb: Totally. But I think me and Beau are just in the mindset right now whereas whatever we make if it feels like it would work we’re totally into trying it out as Lands & Peoples. Because that’s really ultimately what we’re going for is Lands & Peoples. The most. The hardest. We’re both going to record some new solo stuff eventually in like a year or two.

This year you released your debut full length which is actually a collection of old songs. I wrote about it twice and kind of never ever addressed the fact that I actually had no idea why you choose to release it now.
Caleb: When should’ve we? That’s my question. We couldn’t really figure out a better option. Well, Jimmy – we were talking to this label and our friend Jimmy was like “You know, maybe you should just wait on it and release some new stuff and then release that as a retrospective like ‘This is what we used to sound like’” and that felt really weird to me. Maybe it would’ve made sense but I don’t know.
Beau: I think that for us it felt like we needed to get it out there, you know? Because it had taken us so long in the first place to get it to a point where we were ready to release it and all four of us were ready for it to happen and ready for it to be out there.
Caleb: We were already sick of the songs. Like we’d been playing them for like a year and a half or a year at least. Not sick of them in a bad way.
Beau: We were just ready for them to be out. Out from our heads and our computers and our own personal computers. We just wanted them to be out and take legs and hopefully walk and have people listen to them and whatever. It just needed to happen.
Caleb: To move on.
Beau: It might not have been the smartest idea in terms of what we’re doing now and if anybody comes and sees the shows and are like “Oh, you guys don’t play anything from the record.” Well, we didn’t. I mean, we’ll play like one song from the record or whatever but I don’t know, it’s going to sound different from the record anyway. The record it’s so much about the space where the notes aren’t falling, the quiet times. So much of the record is about that. It feels about that and it wouldn’t sound the same if we were playing it anyway.
Caleb: I imagine…like the way I see it is if they came to our show and really liked us and then bought the vinyl, I think that’d just be a really nice treat. But also, it’d  be nice to have both.
Beau: Records cost money, man!
Caleb: It’s just as interesting and as good as what we’re doing it’s just a little different and more chill. And I think they like this stuff they’d like that too.
I did. So, when you released Pop Guilt you got the opportunity to kind of revisit all of these old songs, did you have a particular favorite? Did you have any tracks that you wish you could incorporate into your live set?

Caleb: I think we talked about doing “Kalimba” er not “Kalimba” but “Stiff and Crooked” because that one was the most just me and Beau out of the whole record. So it would make sense in our set maybe to try that. We haven’t gotten around to it. We’re just so excited about working on new songs. My answer to the other question is: I like “Don’t” a lot because for me, it felt like the most fully collaborative song. I feel like everyone brought something really nice to the table. I mean “In Living Color” too in the same way but that one was like a hit. And “Don’t” was –
Beau: *laughs* A “hit”.
Caleb: A “hit”. Whatever. People liked it.  And “Don’t” is sort of our little thing. No one’s even written about it or whatever.
Beau: I think in terms of like song layout and the way everything just kind of came together I think “In Living Color” is probably quote unquote the best song on the record. For me, I personally like “Stiff and Crooked” or “Sexting” those are the big ones that appeal to me. If I would’ve bought that record and had I not played the songs, those would be the ones that I like kept to myself. Those are the songs that I take away from the record. You know, you’ll get a record and put songs on a mix cd and someone’ll be like “Who’s this?” and you’ll be like “It’s actually this person. You should go out and get that album”. Those are the songs that I would put on a mixtape.

(To Charlie) Do you have any favorites from the record?
Charlie: I like “Ghosts” a lot.
Caleb (jokingly): He’s never listened to it.
*laughter*
Charlie: I haven’t heard it ever. I’ve been meaning to get around to it…
Caleb: I’ve been meaning to send it to you, send me your mediafire and maybe I’ll get to it.

Charlie: But like “Ghosts”, I like “Ukulele” a lot. I think “Don’t” was another one I brought up that we should play.
Caleb: It’s fun. Beau challenged me a lot of drums on that song which was cool. In a good way.
Beau: Yeah, that’s true. “Don’t” definitely has a lot of connections to kind of some stuff we’re doing now. Mostly in terms of the rhythm ‘cause it has these like “1,2,3, 1,2,3, 1,2,3,4, 1,2,3” and we do a lot of that with our songs now. We don’t have like standard “1,2,3,4, 1,2,3,4” rhythms. We’ll mix up the rhythms a lot. I never really thought about it that way.
Charlie: I actually always remembered “Ghosts” kind of standing out the most when I used to watch you guys.
Caleb: Yeah?
Charlie: It’s the one I would remember. Like I knew you played that song.
Beau: And that’s a good point because that’s the one that we play now and I think that still –
Caleb: We still get good reactions to that one.
Beau: Yeah, we get good reactions from it and it feels powerful to play because…maybe because it’s just so simple and so straightforward. It’s like two chords the whole song.
Just from my point of view I think it comes from it being an opportunity to really display your vocal chops and that impresses people.
Caleb: Like constant harmony and not trying to belt it out. Yeah, I think you’re right on that. And it’s rocky and has a groove. Pretty easy groove.

You guys have played music for a while together, did you have any bands that you guys got really excited about that made you want to play together?
 Caleb: Good question. (To Beau) Let’s think back to our college when you were showing me music and stuff like that.
Beau: You remember Elbow?
Caleb: I really liked Elbow. We both really liked the first Arcade Fire LP.
Beau: Oh. My. God.
Caleb: Like a lot.  Like as far as emotionally it was powerful music.
Beau: I remember sitting in the Square, ‘cause remember Hot Dog Records was still around? And Becky used to work there and I used to hang out with Becky all the time; Becky was this girl that I had a relationship with and we were really good friends but we broke up but it was a really emotional time for me.  She gave me that record or I bought that record, I can’t remember but I just sat in this place called the Square in Oxford and I listened to that record in a parking space in its entirety sitting in my car just looking at our town square and then started it over like immediately. That record was really big in my eyes.
Caleb: Another person I know that we both really connect with was Andrew Bird. You can hear that sort of on the record, I think, at times. We saw him together. I saw him for the first time, and I think it was your first time too, in Memphis?
Beau: Yeah at the Hi-Tone.
Caleb: And that was cool. It was like one of our earlier hangouts and he was definitely inspirational.
Beau: We took a picture with him!
Caleb: Yes! We have this really nerdy, amazing, painful to look at ‘cause it’s so uncomfortable-
Beau: It’s a really weird picture. I asked him if he’d take a picture with us and he’s like “Yeah, sure”. He’s like really soft-spoken and like frail man even though he’s not. He’s like tall and whatever but…So I was like “Can we take a picture like we just conquered the word and this is the picture that we have to commemorate the fact that we just conquered the entire world”. He was like “Uh…” and I was like “Yeah!” so we’re all doing this, we all have our fists raised to the sky. It’s so funny to go down the faces because it’s like my face which is like super –
Caleb: Into it.
Beau: Yeah!
Caleb: There might be a hint of like “This is a little weird”.
Beau: Caleb’s face is like “Yeah, okay, I’m into this but this is a little strange”, kind of even peeking at Andrew Bird out of the corner of his eye. And Andrew Bird’s just kind of like “What?” It’s just kind of funny. Really good picture though.
Caleb: Yeah Andrew Bird probably more than Arcade Fire. I just know that we both really liked that record. And then we had a bunch of friends that played music in Oxford, in our hometown, and I think at a certain point we were like “We do this all the time why the fuck aren’t we just doing this? We’re not that bad”. Then that’s how we started playing- through friends.
Beau: We just kind of threw together a band. Me and Caleb and our friend Chad and our friend James. I think in like two weeks we wrote six songs and we got really good feedback and we played another show a couple weeks or a month later. I think we played one more where Crystal Fever came and played.
Caleb: Oh, yeah.
Beau: Oh man…but then you know we both moved to different places. He moved to Baltimore and I moved to New York and then that was about the time that Baltimore was blowing up as a music scene and I think that that’s been our inspiration from then until now. Just like having friends in Baltimore who are incredibly amazing musicians. Like Lower Dens, Wye Oak –
Caleb: Wye Oak especially. Like watching them onstage and just like her presence and how super confident they are that was an influence. They’re sort of role models. Lower Dens too, we love them so much.
Beau: I don’t mean for it ever to sound like “Oh, these are my friends” because they’re not my friends like that in any means but I have the opportunity to not only enjoy their music but I get to see them and I get to talk to them about it and they’re the nicest people in the world. That’s been such an inspiration for me as a musician. Having moved from a small town in Mississippi where you know everybody to a bigger city like Baltimore, even though it’s small in terms of big cities –
Caleb: Yeah like Weather Systems by Andrew Bird is like one of the most amazing records ever. So good. If you haven’t heard it, it’s really good.
*laughter*
Beau: I’m sorry were you cutting me off? Was my answer too long?
Charlie: It wasn’t a short answer…
Caleb: Nice and short. 
Beau: Well, that was a good question!

Funny that you mention Lower Dens and Wye Oak because that’s kind of my last question. You guys have had the opportunity to play with some pretty awesome bands and do multiple shows with pretty great bands like Secret Mountains. You guys are like band bffs forever; you’ve played a lot of shows them. But you played shows with Nat Baldwin from the Dirty Projectors and Lower Dens and Wye Oak, was there any particular show that was your favorite to play?
Beau (to Caleb): I know what you’re going to say. If you say this one I just want to remind you of how tense it was at the time.
Caleb: I’m not saying anything yet. Thinking about it. Do you mean like favorite show out of bigger people that we’ve played with or just in general?
Just like favorite show.
Caleb: We played this one, this one at a place called Grandville House on our first tour ever and first stop on the first tour ever and it was like in front of a trailer out in the woods in Pennsylvania and made a pretty decent recording of it and that was back when it was just the three of us. That one’s one of my favorites just because I can listen to it and I feel like I’m there almost. There were cicadas chirping in the background, we were outside.
Beau: I thought you were going to say the blackout show.
Caleb: That’s just the biggest, most intense show we’ve ever played.
Beau: But I was going to remind you of – remember how we had that whole fight while Lower Dens were playing? Not fight but – sometimes when you’re onstage and you say things to try to make the show keep going but they’re completely misinterpreted.
Caleb:…Are you answering the question? Or are you digging up old wounds?
*Laughter*
Beau: My favorite show – that’s what I do man, I remind you of where we came from. Can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re from! But, my favorite show would probably be that one we played with Celebration before Charlie came into the band. It just felt –
Caleb: The vibes were perfect.
Charlie (jokingly): And then it went all downhill from there?
Beau: No, no. We’re going to play more amazing shows than we’ve ever played.
Caleb: It was just a really nice crowd in Baltimore and everyone loved Celebration and everyone was amped up and just really receptive.
Beau: The way the show started and ended was like perfect. It started up on this slope and it like, it started with “Based Jam” and came up on this slope and we just like rode it all the way to the end. We played perfectly, it was awesome. Probably my most favorite show ever.

Was there any band that you wanted to play with next?
Caleb: Yeah, a bunch probably. I’m obsessed with John Maus but I don’t know if that’d ever happen. Our music’s different. I’d like to play a show with some of these Baltimore people that we’ve just never –like that we’re kind of friends with. It’d be cool to play a show with Dan Deacon somehow, someway.
Beau:  It’d be cool to play a show with Dope Body.
Caleb: Ed Schrader. I like that guy a lot. I’ve been wanting to play with Twin Sister for a while but I don’t really know how to work that out. I really like them, they’ve influenced me a lot just like production-wise. I think they’re pretty amazing. Elvis Costello…No, now I’m just naming names.
Beau: I think I would like to go on tour with one of our friends again. I really like that. I’d love to go on tour with like Lower Dens or something. That’s more important to me than just playing this awesome show with this awesome band one time. It would be going on tour with a band that we really respect and love and we’re already kind of good friends with. Get to know them even better. 

Much thanks to Lands & Peoples for providing not only an entertaining chat in Maria Hernandez Park but also a pretty exceptional concert later that night at DelinquencyNYC. Make sure you catch them on tour.

If you haven't already, make sure you check out the band's exceptional debut Pop Guilt as well as other recordings on Lands & Peoples' Bandcamp.




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