Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Tree Wave: A Culture Kills Interview

Tree WaveTree Wave is a Dallas-based duo, comprised of Paul Slocum and Lauren Gray, who specialize in the spectacular blend of slowcore/shoegazer sensibilities and the DIY aesthetic. In this case, the do-it-yourself part is based on antiquated gaming systems and computer equipment, something that for a lot of bands may have been a gimmick but Tree Wave's music transcends that label with fine artistry and wonderful composition.

I discovered the band through their excellent music video for their track Sleep, posted on Youtube, and after doing a little more research, I discovered not only a band that had an interesting history and production methods to explore, but also one that had aspirations beyond music. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Paul Slocum electronically (coincidentally enough) to ask him a few questions about the band.

MC: How did you come to the decision that repurposed consumer electronics would best fit your musical vision?

PS: It was a gradual thing. I did it some when I was a kid, and later on with my previous band, we started working some Commodore and Atari stuff in. Eventually I decided to see what it would sound like if I used only 8-bit gear.

MC: Do you feel your equipment and techniques naturally lend themselves to the shoegaze/ambient pop sound?

PS: They all do if you program them and set them up right, although they work especially well together to create a full sound. The piece of gear most conducive to the sound is the OPL3 (DOS sound card FM synth chip). And even more so when run through a BOSS Heavy Metal Pedal.

The existing Commodore software was no good since it was geared for techno sounding stuff. My own C64 synth program works pretty well for the shoegaze sound. It even has a whammy space) bar.

MC: I remember doing a little auditory programming in the early 1980s on a Vic-20 with the old tape drive, and I know how time consuming that process was. Do you find that when you've done your own programming on the C64 for instance, that you had a specific sound in mind, or it was more a process of trial and error to find something interesting from the equipment?

PS: The C64 program I wrote is designed to be played live. So once it was programmed, you could mess around with it and figure out how to get whatever sound you wanted. I like stuff that has a live playable interface rather than all tracked/sequenced/programmed by hand.

MC: So the way you developed your sound allows you to experiment with your sound like other traditional instruments would?

PS: Yeah, that's important to me for composition. I've even sampled some of the Atari and printer stuff to experiment with in real time.

MC: Do you see Tree Wave experimenting with other vintage forms of musical technology/techniques (older synths or organs/tape looping/turntablism) in the future?

PS: No, probably more with more modern stuff. Right now I'm making videos and music with web design mechanisms (animated GIFs, MIDI files, sound loops, etc.)

MC: I see that you have also done some work in installation art and you now run an art gallery in the Dallas area. Do you feel that music and the visual arts should have more of a connection in this modern age of interactivity?

PS: Yeah, definitely. In Europe and New York it seems to have a better connection than it does here (partly because of cool art/music crossover venues). And I've heard it's starting to crossover more in Austin. All the hipsters are starting to go to art openings. That's good, I think.

Almost all my installations involve music in some way. I think about music and art in very similar ways. Part of what opened it all up for me was more conceptual music like Alvin Lucier and Steve Reich.

MC: I've read on your site that you are currently at work on new music. Does that mean that a new album is forthcoming?

PS: I hope so. I've got too many projects going on at once right now, so it's slow going. I'll eventually put out something, although I may have to crossover my installation work and music work. Which would mean the next album would be more challenging and less accessible. And it might be a DVD instead of a CD.

MC: So some of your the work you are doing with videos and other web technologies could conceivably be part of that final project?

PS: Yes. Actually the first time I recorded something and called it "Tree Wave" (the second level of Crystal Castles), my sequencer software disk on my Atari ST had gone bad, and I was using my drum machine to trigger guitar and drum riffs I had recorded into my sampler.

So the idea of Tree Wave to me is using interfaces and musical composition methods that I'm not used -- not necessarily 8-bit. I'm not sure what it'll evolve into.

MC: Are there any artists or groups that you would like to collaborate with in the future either on tour or in the recording studio?

PS: Tours and collaborations would be awesome, but I never seem to find time for either. I need to find some way to make money doing this crap so I can quit my day job first.

MC: Thank you so much for your time.

You can purchase Tree Wave’s Cabana EP at AtariAge and ToneVendor. The band also has an excellent website and a Myspace profile so you can get a little more information about their upcoming tours and other art-related activities.

If you are a band on MySpace or GarageBand and you would like to be interviewed, please read this post and/or drop me a line and we'll discuss the matter further.


Anomie-Atlanta said...

Great interview MC!
If you talk to Paul again will you relay my request that they sample the music from the Strawberry Shortcake Atari game (specifically the Blueberry Pieman music)in one of their songs?

MC said...

For all I know, he may already use it in a song. ;)