Sunday, July 28, 2013

Libel's Music for Car Commercials, and HBR Showcase #6!

  Greetings dear readers, the August 1st Hearts Bleed Radio showcase is almost upon us! Today we're chatting with Gavin Dunaway from the Brooklyn band Libel. Libel has a new album out, Music For Car Commercials, AND they are closing out the night on 8/1. MFCC retains most characteristics of the band's earlier works, but isn't afraid to wander off in new directions. Dunaway's Bowie-inspired howls coast over the super tight rhythm section of Nick Brzoza (drums) and Julie Rozansky/Brian LaRue (bass, it will be explained in the interview, be patient). Anyway, we're pumped to have them on the bill. Here's the chat transcript: 

Hearts Bleed Radio: For starters, give me a little history of the band.

Gavin: Libel formed pretty soon after I moved to Brooklyn in 2008. I'd kinda broken up my longstanding DC band, The Alphabetical Order, and had the idea of joining an established act when I landed here. Well, while I was looking for that magical established band that was going to rocket me to stardom, I recorded a bunch of demos that I let a drummer friend name Jim Archer listen to. Next thing I know we're jamming on the tracks, his girlfriend Julie is playing bass and we have gigs.

HBR: You knew Jim from VA/DC? And Julie too?

Gavin: Jim was the original drummer of The Alphabetical Order – he's on our first "professional" recording, "The Unimpeachable EP." Julie played in a rival band called Run Silent Run Deep. They were kind of like the bizarro version of Alphabetical Order. Both had tall, skinny singers with moptops, short and cute girls on bass, brawny drummers and traditionally handsome guitarists. They were more... metal than us – we were more into our post-punk, super-mathy DC stuff. Lots of odd time signatures, odd guitar parts, some screaming here and there.

HBR: So you've had some changes at drummer, and bassist, but now you're back with Julie. What does she bring to the table that keeps her coming back? How is she unique among bassists?

Gavin: The girl has groove, among other things. I've always enjoyed playing with Julie, since we did a Smashing Pumpkins cover band together (still do occasionally). She's got a very deft touch, an ability to really make every note hum. When she's playing with her fingers, her tone is low and round, perfectly filling up the low end. However, she's also vicious with a pick – she can be incredibly aggressive when it's called for. Finally, she's a fantastic singer – choir-worthy pipes that have always added an ethereal quality to our vocals.

HBR: Libel has four releases, Julie is on three of them?

Gavin: Julie is on three, though she's not playing bass on Music For Car Commercials. Those duties fell to Brian LaRue, who did a tremendous job (with his backing vocals as well). Brian exhibits raw power through his bass-playing – almost always... 

Libel rocks Muchmore's. I took this picture.

HBR: That's not Julie on Broken Wine Glass?

Gavin: ...killing every note. And yet probably the best bass line on the album is Broken Wine Glass, where Brian put down his pick and composed a haunting yet gentle melody. Really versatile player – you're lucky to have him on The Planes team. Oh, and what a distinct voice! You bet I'll be begging him to come back for future backup vocals.

HBR: Wow, I was certain that was her!

Gavin: Crazy, huh? I didn't know he had it in him either.

HBR: That song is a big departure from most of your earlier work, was your approach different? Or did it just like, fall out that way?

Gavin: That song was jokingly referred to as Softee. I have to admit, we recorded drums for seven of the tracks at once, and as we were filling out the guitar, bass, and vocal tracks, we realized... This is nothing but epic rockers. It was just too much – we needed something to calm things down. So I'd been messing around with that progression for a few months, decided it was time to bring it to the boys. I was a little surprised they jumped on it so quickly. It came together in only a few practices. I write sensitive songs... But you know, you go to band practice after a long day at work and you just want to play loud and brutal. Get all your ARRRRRGH! out.

HBR: Yeah, I know, and like, I also think that I personally, have a tendency to hide behind the loudness.

Gavin: It's quite easy to get lost in there. It's a comforting place, very therapeutic.

HBR: Well, it's harder for the audience to hear the little mistakes. That's why I feel like the rockers are safer.

Gavin: Ha! That too. Sounds sloppy? ADD MORE DISTORTION! Even lyrically I wanted to jump out of my comfort zone with Broken Wine Glass – I went very personal, remembering an encounter with an ex months after we broke up. And try as hard as I could to ignore her, I could not stop thinking about her and how we fell apart. All night.

HBR: One of my favorite parts on MFCC is the incredibly weird guitar solo on Perceptions. What's behind that? Pedal-wise, but also like, what was your inspiration?

Gavin: A little reverse action on my Boss Digital Delay pedal. Ever since I heard the reverse guitar solo on The Beatles I'm Only Sleeping, I have been obsessed. It was such a joy to find a hot spot for one of my own. On top of the reverse pedal setting, the track is reverse echoed and panned across the stereo field to give it a little extra dash of weirdness. Oh, I love me some toys...

HBR: What other pedals play a prominent role on the recording?

Gavin: Well, my Ibanez Tube Screamer 808 with a Keeley mod is all over – it's a fantastic boost for when you want your amp distortion to not just bite, but scream at the same time. I love my Way Huge Aqua Puss, an analog delay with rich, rich tone – it's probably on at least one guitar track per song.
And my Empress tremolo kills any other tremolo I've ever heard. Also, this recording was my first time (but certainly not the last) messing around with a Zvex Fuzz Factory. Be warned, that thing is a monster – it took at least a half hour to tame, which means a half hour of knob twiddling before it would stop screamin' at me.

HBR: That tremolo kicks in towards the end of Filthy Mouth, it's pretty key.

Gavin: Rate at full blast – I couldn't believe the sound when I first heard. I knew that's exactly where it needed to go – nasty tone to end off a nasty song.

The cover of MFCC. Eerily close to dreams I've had.

HBR: I think Old Boy is my favorite song on the album. It's political. What's it about?

Gavin: Yeah, Old Boy is probably the most political song on the album. To an extent, it's about resignation ...

HBR: How so?

Gavin: I saw this great headline on Al-Jazeera (insert snotty liberal joke here) the other day: "The American Dream: Survival Is Not an Aspiration." The Great Recession has illuminated the wealth gap and class divide that's been brewing in this country for at least 30 years. Trying to make the middle class existence feasible gets more and more difficult by the day, while the rich keep getting richer with little-to-no-effort. And what are us unwashed masses supposed to do about it? Vote? Well, there's a line in there... "Old words spew from a fresh face / Yeah, he's just like the guy he replaced / Old boy, ain't such a thing as change."

HBR: Who is Old Boy? Anyone?

Gavin: You, me, everyone we know. Ain't that right, old boy? It was a way for me to express my frustration at being... Stuck. No upward mobility, just running the same race.

HBR: I feel like, though Libel hasn't really been an outright political band, there's always been a kinda running theme of dystopian futurism in your lyrics. Am I on to something there?

Gavin: Ha! Yes, definitely. I guess I get one or two political songs in there on every album, but I really like to mix up themes. But you're right – on this album, I think it's strongest, this sense of being unable to control what happens next. I guess I could be one of those guys who says "We're already in the future dystopia!" Then I'd take a bite out of my soylent green and watch the latest Rollerball match.

HBR: What do you have coming up? Other than the Hearts Bleed Radio show?

Gavin: We're actually taking off a few months – I have to go visit my in-laws in Italy (such a burden, I know) and Julie decided to marry that Jim character. She must be desperate... But then we're hoping to release a 7-inch with a few of the songs. The plan is custom-designed sleeves by our in-house designer, Michela Buttignol, who happens to be my wife. I think you know that, Steve – I remember you being at the wedding... And talking a lot for some reason...

HBR: When I get nervous, I talk. A lot...

Gavin: More shows in the fall, and work on new songs! I've already got a pile of demos stacked up, and we're dying to sink our teeth into them. I'm definitely going to see what kind of attention I can get MFCC – I'm very proud of it and all the sweat poured in by my drummer Nick Brzoza and Brian LaRue. I think it deserves as many listeners as possible. I plan to give them every opportunity. I will have a lot of houses to stand in front of with my boombox raised high.

  So don't be shocked when you see a tall, awkward, Jim Carrey/Doctor Who lookin' mofo standing outside your bedroom window at 7am. He's just spreading the gospel. If you have a complaint, it's not really a 911 thing... more of a 311 thing. Hope to see you at the show!

Listen to Music for Car Commercials ---> here.

Like Libel on Facebook ---> here.

RSVP to Hearts Bleed Radio Showcase #6 ---> here.

Like HBR on Facebook ---> here.

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