Russian Circles are poised at this point to be the next big instrumental band. With the addition of bassist Brian Cook to the line-up, and having him take a more active role in working on the band's third release Geneva, the band is on a headlining tour and receiving rave reviews. Drummer Dave Turncrantz took some time to talk about the making of Geneva and how they are taking the praise thus far.
What do you think about the positive response of the album thus far?
It's been great. Station was kind of mixed, because we were trying something new. It seems like we blended the two records together on this one. A lot of people like it. It seems a lot of people that wouldn't normally like us, really are taking to the new record well, which is huge for us.
There's a bold, full sound on Geneva. Is that something you guys were going for?
Absolutely. Station was kind of cut and dry. It was great for the time, but we wanted something, like you said, bold. Big sounding. Super roomy. We definitely went into the studio with that in mind.
Whose idea was it to bring in the strings on the record?
We all pretty much agreed that we wanted to have a string section on this record. We wanted a string section on the other two records too, but we just didn't have enough time. This time around, we knew who we wanted to ask, and we asked them, and it worked out great. We had a whole day of just string and violin. We all really wanted to make it happen, so we finally made it happen. [Laughs]
You guys sat down and wrote parts, went into the studio and constructed and deconstructed and reconstructed the songs on Geneva. Do you feel like this album came out as well as it did, because you guys sat down and really thought about these songs and took them apart?
It's one thing to play a song and think you know how it sounds, and then being in a studio and hearing it back. If there's something weird, and it kind of sucks, it's there forever. [With] Station, the songs were done and ready to go. We recorded them. We didn't have much time to listen back and change things. That's something we're going to do [again] with the next record - being able to sit in the studio and get comfortable. Try something, didn't work, try something else, didn't work and just keep trying. We had Brandon [Curtis] from Secret Machines producing the record, so his input was amazing. He heard stuff that we didn't hear. It's good to have different ears in the studio. We're definitely doing the next record with him as well. [Laughs] That guy rules.
Do you think bands aren't taking that proper step these days when recording?
Nowadays, it's so reliant on ProTools, it's almost like, if you do fuck up, then you can just fix it on the computer, which is a bummer. I'm not saying that we don't do that occasionally, but there are bands out there that just do a basic anything, with fills, totally relying on the computer at this point. It's definitely changed. People that do that route, it always sounds like a computer. It always sounds like a ProTools, and I know that's veering off from the question...
Not necessarily fixing things with a computer, but just going in and sitting down and listening well at what you initially go into the studio with, is that sort of missing today?
It is, but I can relate to people who aren't able to do that. You have a lot of time in the studio, you have a set schedule, and it usually does get pretty hectic. When one of those extra days come, you're like, "Oh shit. We're down to the wire now." Bands like U2, they have months and months and months of time to do that. Granted, some of those bands still have months and months and months to write crappy music, but it's still very huge to have [time in the studio]. Once you do have it, it helps out. I think a lot of bands would do it if they had more time, but time is expensive.
Do you think it's a bigger statement to make music that moves someone without having lyrics to it - the idea of a good instrumental band?
None of us expect us to get paid like a massive band. There's really a nice cult following with instrumental bands. Those people kind of get it. It seems that more people are getting what we are going for, and that's something that we really wanted. To hear a record and make it their own, if something is happening to them, and they can listen to it, and song means something to them in a different way than it means to someone else...It's something we love to do. Some people get it. Some people don't. Again, we're not doing this to get big. If it happens, great. It seems a little bit of a hurdle being in an instrumental band.
What do you think about living in separate areas of the United States? The fact that not everyone has to be in the same room, at the same time creating music? What do you think about this idea going into the next decade?
We came to the realization that when we write, it's always good to have a couple of members there at a time. Usually when we have all three of us there, trying to start a song from scratch, it can get very distracting, because everyone is trying to learn something at the same time. We came to the realization that me and [guitarist] Mike [Sullivan] get together and just write a really basic structure and then have [bassist] Brian Cook come in. It's a really awesome way to write music, and it works. We're not going to stop it. For us it just worked out in the end. I don't know how other bands handle it. I don't know if other bands send MP3 and WAV files back and forth over the Internet, which is awesome. It's good to have that human interaction [for us]. We've always talked about moving to Seattle, and how weird it would be for us to have band practice all the time.
Would that take apart the writing process for Russian Circles?
I don't think so. Brian is such a confident bass player, it's like he understands when not to play. A lot of musicians don't know when to stop playing at some points, especially when they're writing. I'm kind of guilty of it sometimes. Brian's very good at listening and stepping back.
There's a shift from parts that you pick out, to this full painting? Is that what you guys were going for?
Absolutely....With this one we stepped back and let the music speak for itself. The structure is definitely simplified a lot more.
I don't think it's simplified, I just think it sounds more like a whole. You're not picking out parts, you're just listening to the music.
Exactly. You nailed it on the head. That's exactly what we were going for.
Anything else about the record? Anything you would go back and change?
This is probably the first record I'm really happy with everything. I'm happy how it came out. I'm happy with the release and the label and everything.