This Is Thunder grew out of a transatlantic bond and concrete desire to create together in spite of geographical boundaries. It takes a certain unity of vision to make a project work with so much space in between and little to no time spent in one another’s presence. Jen Schande and Nopse were fortunate enough to hash out demos in Nopse’s France apartment and build the stormy, emotional foundation that ultimately culminated in their eager, oft-ominous debut EP, the bulk of which was recorded by Monte Vallier at Ruminator Audio in San Francisco.
Jen Schande cut her teeth with San Francisco queer band Boyskout as well as ‘90s indie act Shove (whose second album was recorded by James Murphy) before a series of impressive releases with a band by the name of Schande. Her most recent effort, 2012’s Songs for and Inspired by Valencia: Chapter 19, earned her comparisons ranging from Cat Power to P.J. Harvey to Marnie Stern.
France-based Nopse was raised on Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine whilst also being influenced by early ‘90s European techno. He created a noisy, experimental electronic project in 2000 and went on to release a solo EP on his SP1 label in 2004, followed by a remix EP with Los Angeles trio Meho Plaza in 2010 on Better Looking Records. Nopse has also contributed remix work to Love Earth Records and is working on an EP that the label will put out in late 2013.
Ghettoblaster caught up with the duo to discuss This Is Thunder’s EP (which will be self-released on May 28), and the collaboration that combines the sum of their parts. This is what they said about their roots, the project, and the joys of making music together…
You recently relocated from San Francisco. Was this project part of what inspired the change of scenery?
My decision to move to London came down to several factors, but music was the main priority. Being able to put more time and effort into this project, as well as see what London had to offer, absolutely played a part. (Jen Schande)
Nopse actually did a release for my friend Paul Fischer’s label, Better Looking Records a few years ago. How did you meet him?
Unfortunately, I never met Paul! For this release I had always been in contact with Mike Trasher, lead singer guitar of the L.A based Meho Plaza. I remixed some of their songs as an EP version of their first album. Mike was very concerned by this EP, that is having two products with the same songs, so he organized all the aspects of its release. In the end, he decided to do the release with Better Looking. I did four remixes for this EP, and it was awesome. Working with this lo-fi surf noise sound was unbelievable. (Nopse)
How did you meet and what was it about your relationship that inspired this project together?
We met the old fashioned way – our songs locked eyes across a crowded room and the rest is history. And by crowded room we mean Myspace when the site was actually relevant (remember that?), and by history we mean Marc remixed a Schande song and then he and I started trading ideas back and forth and eventually decided to collaborate together. (JS)
A few years ago, I fell in love with Schande’s song “Penultimate Panache” (it was on Myspace). I really wanted to make a remix of that song. Jen said yes, so I did a remix and it was really new to me to work with that kind of sound. The guitars sound different in California! Working with Jen was my first approach with a sound that we are used to hearing in France, but not producing or making that kind of sound ourselves. Living with an ocean in the middle of us created an orientation to the project where big spaces, “geographic reflections,” were inspiring factors to the sound the songs, and their composition. (N)
How difficult was this project to undertake since it was a trans-Atlantic collaboration?
The distance wasn’t the difficult part, it was Marc’s addiction to Bonsai tree-trimming that created a road-block and took all of his free time. Just kidding, Marc hates plants. Starting the project was easy, conceptually, as we were both really excited to create together and see what/how the music would sound like. But the distance definitely was a handicap. In particular, I think the main difficulty we faced then and still do, is how to be prolific with this specific project when we are not in each other’s day to day life, let alone each other’s country. How do we stay in the same creative space with each other and maintain the connection? (JS)
We used to see each other every time we could to play in the same room, in the same studio, but that was only for a few days every year. It is difficult because we do not create the kind of music that can exist with just sending files back and forth. (N)
How does this differ from your previous projects?
This is definitely more sensitive, more emotional than electronic music. It’s a good way for me to explore different ways to do music. Jen’s touch gives an atmosphere to the songs which gives me the space to try some harmonics tricks that I cannot do in my other projects. (N)
This is much more collaborative than I have experienced in a long time. Both Marc and I are have very clear ideas, very clear visions for what we like and the songs we want to hear so to be able to create with someone who is equally as bull-headed as I am is something I haven’t done in a very, very long time. Marc is much more thorough and patient than I am, and what he brings to the table is something I could never do on my own – whether it’s a recording style, production or way of playing his instruments, so to create with someone who has his specific talents is very new and very exciting for me. (JS)
Under what circumstances was the effort written and recorded?
When Marc and I were actually able to be in the same room together, we play each other songs we thought would work together. Once we both figured out exactly how both of our parts would go, Marc would record us laying down our basic parts – guitars, vocals, etc. After the initial layers were recorded, Marc would spend a lot of time adding in extra parts & production, then send them to me for input. So basically, bottom line, we would both present blue prints of a song and help the other build it into something solid. Not the most ideal way to create together, but we’ve made it work as best we can. I think because our styles are so different it makes it impossible for us to write parts for each other because we know what the other person does will be an amazing surprise. (JS)
It was always hard on my side, I was always trying to know if Jen would see what I trying to do on a song. But, she was always able to see it so…Recording was good, it was a special experience to record in a real studio songs that you decided their final form the day before. We were focused, though, and Monty Vallier, who recorded and mixed the EP, is just the best! His attitude and his way of understanding what we wanted to do as ambiances was just impressive. (N)
Was there an underlying theme to what you were writing about?
Yes. I don’t know what I am talking about exactly…there is an underlying theme, but I don’t know what it is. I’m not sure I want to know what is hiding behind the songs. (N)
What he said. Our songs to me always are full of spaces, destinations, abyss and desolation, but those vague tangents are as specific as I want to get or know. Sometimes the mystery is best kept as is. (JS)
Are there “take-aways” that you hope the listener will recognize?
I hope listener will have a good impression of the space we’ve created. I always seen this project as “shy and dark”….I’m not sure it makes sense today. We’re trying to do something true, so I hope the listeners will recognize that. (N)
Wanting the listener to recognize something is actually an interesting notion I’ve never thought of…would it be too much if they recognize our pure, unadulterated genius? Sorry, couldn’t help it… I hope anyone that listens to This Is Thunder picks up on the honesty and integrity we are unshakably committed to with anything we produce. Anything else past that is just luxury. (JS)
With four songs you had too much for a 7″ and not enough for an LP. But doing a 10″ is relatively expensive. How difficult was it to come to the decision to release it in that format?
Because we love vinyl! I would sell my soul to make vinyl! 10″ wasn’t too much more expensive than a 12″, so we decided to make the EP special that way. Of course we don’t press vinyl to make money, even if we wanted to it would be difficult. We do vinyl for the same reason that we take planes to make music – passion. On my side it wasn’t hard to take a decision. (N)
Our heart swells for analogue sounds and formats, so if we have the chance to do vinyl we will. (JS)
Do you ever plan to tour in support of the record?
Yes. Come hell or high water, yes. We’re starting to book shows for the Fall in the UK and France and I am hoping we can plan something for the U.S. East Coast next spring. (JS)
What is next for This Is Thunder? Was this a one-off or are more releases on the horizon?
Funny you should ask! We are currently writing new songs and fine-tuning our live show. Ideally we’ll have a new release next year or even more ideally sooner but that might be a bit ambitious. I kind of like the idea of only doing EPs, but who knows what will happen. Regardless, this isn’t a one-off and you will be hearing from us again! (JS)
Write and record new songs in London and Montpellier. Try to play shows in Europe at the end of the year. Hopefully have a new release, as soon as possible. (N)