The French-American post-punk outfit DTCV is helmed by Guylaine Vivarat on vocals/guitar/bass/keys and novelist/screenwriter Jim Greer on guitar/vocals, with Chicago transplant Chris Dunn in the drum chair. Hilarious Heaven, their recent album for Xemu Records, boasts the contributions of Steve Kille (Dead Meadow) as engineer/producer and Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard’s distinctive album art.
Ghettoblaster up with both Greer and Vivarat to discuss Hilarious Heaven recently. This is what they told us.
When did you begin writing the material for the album? ?
Guylaine: We’re always writing so it’s hard to say when these songs started taking shape. I would say right after we finished our last album However Strange. Some were also written while we were recording, or finished in the studio.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
Guylaine: I don’t think there was one song in particular, although “I Was Where Were You” was a tricky one to record and mix. It took us a while to find the right guitar tone, the right balance between the guitar and the vocals.
Jim: I did like four hundred guitar overdubs for that. I borrowed everyone’s guitar that I could find to try different sounds. We ended up using only the first one I did, pretty much. Oh well.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?? ?
Guylaine: Definitely “Electrostatic, Inc.” In the first batch of songs we recorded, there was one of mine that I didn’t like at all. It just wasn’t coming together. So I asked Steve to send me the isolated drum track of that song, I chopped off the first 30 seconds and decided to write another song around the drum track. I had verses and a chorus, Jim had a riff and a bridge that somehow fit in there so we worked on it and it became “Electrostatic, Inc.”
Jim: And it’s one of my favorite songs on the record. Go figure.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record??
Guylaine: Yes, we had Modeste Cobián play flute on two tracks. He is a really talented multi-instrumentalist who plays with many bands in LA, including one of our favorites, Strangers Family Band, also on Xemu records.
Did anyone produce the album?
Guylaine: We produced it, together with Steve Kille, who recorded the album.
Who engineered and mixed it?
Guylaine: The album was engineered by Steve Kille (Dead Meadow, Pink Mountaintops) and mixed by Jeff Stone at Jungle Room studio.
Jim: Steve has his own studio in a loft in downtown LA. He was recording the new Dead Meadow record in fits and starts at the same time we were making Hilarious Heaven. The process took much longer than we had anticipated in part because we were touring a lot, and Steve was touring, and then we were recording, and then Dead Meadow was recording… in the end that was really beneficial because we had time to really figure out what we wanted the record to sound like and also to add bits and pieces and cut out songs that weren’t working and add songs and even improvise stuff in the studio.
What input did those people have that changed the face of the record?? ?
Guylaine: Steve definitely put his mark on the record. He’s very meticulous and can spend a long time getting the right bass sound or putting all the drum tracks through tape compression. We tend to be the opposite. We like to record very fast, first or second take, and finish the record in a few days. So this was the perfect mix of spontaneity and studio work. The basic tracks were recorded very quickly, in two or three sessions, mostly without practicing the songs before recording. Then we took months to work on the sound, do vocals and overdubs. Jeff complemented that very well when we mixed the record. He was able to keep the sound and the analog elements of our performance.
Is there an overarching concept behind the album that ties the record together?? ?
Guylaine: If there is, it is unintentional. Jim and I write our songs separately and although we actually did write a couple songs together on this one, it’s definitely not a “concept album.” It’s the sound that was going through our head at the time.
Jim: It’s about the constant and comforting presence of death. No, there’s no theme.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
Guylaine: Yes, we have been playing some of them. “Alpha Waves in a Gelatinous Conductor” and “Hyperdoxxing at Dowager Inn” seem to get the strongest response, which is why we made videos for them. Other songs on the album would probably be epic live but they would require adding guest musicians, which we can really only do in Los Angeles. Maybe some time this year, why not.
Jim: I like playing “I Was Where Were You,” I think that and “Alpha Waves” are the two best songs on the album and people seem to dig them.
(Watch the video for “Alpha Waves in a Gelatinous Conductor” here:
Look for DTCV on their nationwide tour this spring including a stop at this year’s SXSW. All confirmed dates appear below.
DTCV 2014 North American Tour Dates:
3/11-3/16 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
3/15 – Dallas, TX @ The Crown and Harp
3/16 – Hot Springs, AR @ Low Key Arts
3/17 – New Orleans, LA @ Circle Bar
3/18 – Pensacola, FL @ Sluggo’s
3/19 – St. Augustine, FL @ Nobby’s
3/21 – Asheville, NC @ Emerald Lounge
3/22 – Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor
3/23 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
3/24 – Baltimore, MD @ Gold Bar
3/25 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Grand Victory
3/26 – New Haven, CT @ BAR
3/28 – Montreal, QC @ Divan Orange
3/30 – Detroit, MI @ Lager House
4/1 – Akron, OH @ Musica
4/2 – Columbus, OH @ Tree Bar
4/4 – Louisville, KY @ Zanzabar
4/5 – Cincinnati, OH @ MOTR Pub
4/6 – Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop
4/8 – St. Louis, MO @ The Demo
4/10 – Champaign, IL @ Mike ’n Molly’s
4/11 – Chicago, IL @ Township
4/13 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
4/16 – Kansas City, MO @ The Riot Room
4/18 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Bar Deluxe)