Incorporating elements of ambient, dream-pop, shoegaze and a buttload of other genre’s, New York’s Dead Leaf Echo run the gamut of underground aural possibilities to produce blossoming, genre-bending music that has left them at the forefront of NYC’s art-rock scene. Working with famed production heavies like John Fyer (Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil), rubbing elbows with original Psychedelic Furs guitar player John Aston, and playing sold out shows with Chapterhouse, Ulrich Schnauss, and A Place To Bury Strangers, the trio have birthed a shimmering sound that mixes seamlessly with their aesthetic and high-art concepts. Ghettoblaster recently touched base with Lg Galleon to discuss the band’s influences, forthcoming releases and growing fanbase.
How has your career evolved over the last several years? Are you finding it more or less difficult to find a receptive audience?
It’s a full mountain range of many levels and relationships. Artistic levels, financial levels and interpersonal relationships. For me it has to be about a personal fulfillment on an artistic level. If I don’t feel that it’s being pushed or taken to where it should be which is above par with anything else out there then the evolution stops and so does this project. That also plays out as one of many factors into how and why certain things take so long (others being financial, scheduling and placement) I find it less difficult to find an audience as that audience has continued to grow both nationally and internationally over the course of the past few years. The second we stop climbing this mountain is when we let go. Many times you feel like you’re in a holding pattern waiting for life to work through its web but let patience and determination work in your favor. For me very little of this band is playing. Perhaps that’s why we’ve managed to keep it special, so that when we are playing live it’s something other than the normal day to day of booking, scheduling, designing, driving, transporting, networking, auditioning, promoting, curating etc., etc. and even then when dealing with some of the smaller clubs you have to fight against the sound that you want to deliver and the sound that the club ‘thinks’ that you should have. Then you can have a show that doesn’t live up to your expectations or that you felt uncomfortable with. Then you’re not having fun and your asking yourself why am I doing this? Why am I putting up with this day in and day out. I could be at home reading a book expanding my mind or even better at a party and destroying it. Still.
I’ve gotten a chance to work with some of my heroes and people that I really respect in the music. But I feel like with some of them we’ve only really scratched the surface. I’d prefer a situation where we could really open up in the studio and experiment on a more long form platform. Diving down deeper into a working relationship if very tricky but can produce amazing results. Ultimately it’s about you. When at the end of the day you brought something new and creative that had no existence prior can be the most satisfying feeling as long as you can live with your creations.
In the past few years we have had a chance to work with Ulrich Schnauss, Mark Van Hoen, John Fryer but overall we’ve spent very little time with them in the long run of things. You have to move quick and be ready for such things when they go down. It can be quite a change in style and what you find in yourself to bring to the table on a musical level.
Do you think the popularity of other bands that are also reminiscent of 80s and 90s shoegaze and new wave sounds, i.e. M83, and older bands reuniting for new material, i.e. Dead Can Dance, have made audiences more receptive to your artistic direction?
Actually this was the subject of our college thesis. Joking of course we’re all pre-med undergrads. Regarding the 80s, 90s. The musical climate has changed since those days. College and Indie scenes climbed very high ground onto larger platform within the mainstream media then. Bad Pop music and a changing digitized industry is what drove it back underground only now it’s not so much of an underground is it? Not when all you need now is a phone and email. Possible artists aren’t so hidden with every single person that has some semblance of a musical sketch unsolicited across your radar every time you flip on the screen. Having bands like u mentioned above can only help. Whether it’s rising or reuniting it brings a new or revived feeling that hopefully will spread to ears that aren’t so stuck in a mainstream rut.
Who are the modern artists that you follow and appreciate for their brave or exciting work?
We live with one foot in the past and one foot in the future and in the middle there’s the bravest of them all and they are called “The Bravery.” Not the group but the small band of musical foot soldiers around the world that I call friends but have no idea that I refer to them as such because I usually call them Skabba the Hut.
What past artists have had the most profound impact on the band?
I have gone through so many phases. As a kid I wanted to be a Pete Townshend guitar player with a Lennon song style of songwriting. I think that Robin Guthrie has had the most unconscious influence on my guitar playing and a direct influence on my visual constructions. I could make a laundry list as high as Cynthia Stout’s garbage pile of influences. I think you have to ask yourself, “Can I inflect my own personality into this art?”
You had the opportunity to support Psychedelic Furs (one of my favorite bands), right? Who from the band, if anyone, was most stoked about that opportunity? Did you have an opportunity to ask them any questions about their decades+ career or get advice?
We were all very excited to be on a bill with them. Songs like “Imitation of Christ,” “Highwire Days,” and “Ghost in You” ruled my youth and seeing them play those songs on a big stage gets you exciting running your memories of when you first heard it and thought how perfect it could all possibly be. Christo and I have had the fortune of being friends with John Ashton (original guitar player) and talk to him. I also got to pal around with and play in a few projects with their current drummer Paul Garisto about five years ago.
It seems like your production and engineering choices have been extremely deliberate and that you spend studio time wisely perfecting your sound. How much writing do you do in the studio? How much advice do you take from engineers and producers?
It’s true. Sometimes people have come to us and other times we have sought them out. But we’ve only tried to work with people that we feel would bring out the best in our influences and understand where we’re coming from. It doesn’t always work. The idea of producer is becoming more and more outdated as young songwriters today have a chance to be a lot more specific with their influences. They also have a greater chance to work out their sound from home then they use to. A lot of the writing is done in the demo work as well as production choices. I like to try and make a pre-album first if possible where a lot of writing is done on top of the original idea. Still there are always last minute ideas that get thrown on at the last minute. These days you can do any real OD’s from home. Most engineers and producers don’t really listen to what you have to say or make good choices on any artistic level but I feel there not there for that. They’re there to make the levels work, bring you a cup of water and set up mic stands. It’s hard to find good people. Ones that understand where you’re coming from and can make you feel comfortable and relaxed so that you can give the take that you need to keep the process moving. It’s another factor why more and more recordings are done in the bedroom so that you have the leisure and space to track on your own clock instead of a financially ticking one. As opposed to spending as shit ton of money in one of the most expensive cities in the world and having some over-fried “producer” who listens to funk music tell you that you have too much “schmutz” on your guitar.
How seamlessly does your material translate to the live show? What can audiences expect from the live setting?
It’s always better live. Unless the sound guy is an idiot. And chances are… Definitely it’s going to be a lot louder than the records. Expect a backdrop of blissful criminal visuals accompanied by a wall of sound.
What was it like working with John Fryer?
I got to visit Oslo for the first time for the mixing process which was very exciting. He cooks quite well, which kept me off the streets, and more importantly away from the expensive restaurants.
“Act of Truth,” which appears on a split with Slowness is your most recent effort, correct?
There should be a video for “Act of Truth” out by the time that this hits the press. It was shot last summer on Super-8 but was never completed so we re-shot this summer a new idea digitally and have combined both that is being finalized now. As for new releases we have new pressings of the single “Kingmaker” coming out on July 31. The label Custom Made Music had put out the Ltd. Ed. Pressings of “Kingmaker” back in Feburary and Christo hand made all the silk-screen covers. The new pressings will be with the crown artwork covers and on cool blue vinyl. We’ll also be releasing videos for both song on the vinyl.
Do you think 7”s are still relevant as a format? If so, how does it complement what you are doing?
Absolutely vinyl is relevant. We all have tables and just as soon as I put some fresh needles on ‘em it will become relevant in my world. I wouldn’t advocate it and bother with it if I didn’t think it wasn’t. They will survive purely for the desire and need for a physical product and a place for the artwork to live. It complements what we do because we’re not just a band. Our media expands beyond the auditory world. It includes a visual side for one and vinyl is the perfect vessel for that.
You’ve been working on a new LP, correct? Can you give us any of the details of that?
Well, yeah. It’s called Thought & Language Not only new but our first LP ever. I think the fact that it’s taken so long has made us start question it a bit. Wondering if we’ll ever finish it. Maybe it will never come out. It’s probably 75 percent done. But when you try something as ambitious as a Double LP/Concept Album you bound to run into obstacles. When deadlines become lax you can second guess anything twice. It sounded great yesterday. What’s going wrong today? I’m ready to move on.
Is your show in Dayton part of a larger tour? What are you most anxious about related to the travel?
It’s a mini-tour of Ohio. Will be playing on the 21st in Columbus for Big Day In 2 festival. If it’s anxiety it would be dying in a car accident. I was recently in one and I’m still suffering from the complications. It also puts complete doubt in my mind towards the direction of health care in this country. If you don’t have insurance no one wants to even give you a second look. Mainstream medicine is very regimented and controlled by the FDA. Then there’s the battle between doctors and Aetna. But looking on the brighter side of things we’re looking the most forward to reuniting with a lot of our friend’s bands that we haven’t seen or played with since SXSW festival which include Nightmare Air, and the organizers, Love Culture.
What do you do when you aren’t making music? Is there any other pursuits that you are equally passionate about?
There isn’t a day that goes by that isn’t one way or the other related to some aspect of the project. I work a lot in visuals and designing videos for DLE and other bands. It’s an equal hand in the experience. We live in New York City so we spend all of our time hustling. It’s a giant city that has way too many people in it, where everything is ridiculous over priced, space is limited and you can’t breathe the air. What ever were we thinking? To quote the infamous Brooklyn Vegan article (and I’m not gonna mention names) Fap Fap Fap Fap. No we have some really flattering reviews of the new 7″ which have all made allusions to Penis Size and Fast Food Sandwiches. So that always makes you feel good. Make you feel like you matter.
(Here are the band’s forthcoming live dates:
-07/20 Dayton OH. South Park Tavern
-07/21 Columbus OH. Big Day In Festival 2
-07/27 Brooklyn NY. Big Snow (DJ Set)
-08/02 Brooklyn NY. Pete’s Candy Store (Free Acoustic Show)
-08/03 Brooklyn NY. Knitting Factory (7″ Kingmaker 2nd Pressing Party)
-09/08 Brooklyn NY Cameo Gallery
For more information, visit their website at: http://deadleafechonyc.com/.)