A Chat With: Shadowgraphs
This past weekend, we chatted to Bryan Olson and Charles Glade (aka Wils), who make up one half of the Charlotte, NC band Shadowgraphs. Psychedelic rock bands with heavy 60's influence seem to be popping up all over the scene, and Shadowgraphs is one of the groups that has perfectly honed in on this sweet retro sound. With EPs Return To Zero and Midnight Tea already under their belt, the band have recorded and mixed their first full length, Venomous Blossoms, set to be released in April this year. Prior to the album release, we talked to Bryan and Wils about their start as a band, their recording techniques, album artwork, and some of their favorite bands.
ANCHR Magazine: I read that you were introduced by a mutual friend because you had similar music taste, so can you talk a little bit about how you got into making music and eventually formed the band?
Wils: Bryan used to be in a band called Cement Stars, and I was in a band called Blank Ocean and we kind of, we were just at a point when we were doing our own things. Bryan was really getting into analog gear and starting to collect a bunch of tape machines and mixers and stuff. I was starting, like via the internet, to get into the same kinda shit, but I didn't have it laying around like he did. Then one day one of our friends was like you guys totally need to meet because you both have like a knack for recording styles. So he came over and I think we worked on an art project, Bryan does collage art. We were working in Photoshop together and then kind of hit it off with music.
Bryan: I think Melody's Echo Chamber was the clicking point. We were both like "I love that record" and that was kind of the click right there.
Wils: And it’s funny cause we have a lot of friends that play music and whatnot around here, and listen to a lot of the same stuff, but I felt like...me and Bryan aren’t originally from Charlotte. It’s very rare to find someone who’s into the exact kind of like music you’re into, even that point in a song when you’re like “oh I love that part.”
AM: Yeah, so you guys just had that connection?
Wils: Yeah it was like Stepbrothers when they found out that they were best friends.
AM: [laughs] Nice, that’s a good reference! Cool, so who else would you consider to be some of your musical influences? Who did you hear growing up that made you want to make music?
Bryan: I didn’t pick up an instrument until I was 21 years old. I loved music growing up and my brother’s been drumming since he was 7 years old, so I’d been exposed to music and bands. I definitely think the turning point was obviously getting Beatles records from my stepdad, and just listening to that and loving that. You know, Pink Floyd, all the big bands from the 60s. When I was in junior high, I didn’t know if I wanted to do anything with [music], but I appreciated it. I would say Bjork, The Beatles, of course a bunch of bands that came up around that time...those are some of my big influences.
Wils: I kind of got into music, and I wanna say Bryan was the same way...we used to skateboard all the time before we got into music, and a lot of those old skateboard videos would have sick soundtracks. I remember always waiting til the end for the credits to see what band it was, and there was one point where it kept happening. I was like “who is this fucking band?” and it ended up being The Beatles. I was probably about 16 or 17. I have a lot of thanking to do to the Skateboard community for introducing me to a lot of great bands at an early age.
AM: As far as the recording process, I know you mentioned you both have a knack for that and that’s how you hit it off. I read that you have your full length coming out at some point this year, so what was that process like?
Wils: We started writing...we wrote and recorded an EP two years ago now, and we kinda banged that out really quickly over the course of 6 months. We wrote everything and recorded and had it mastered. I think it was right after we put the EP out, in August of 2015, we really were focusing on writing the full length. We had already been writing songs, and ideas were really tossed around for a couple months. So I’d say the beginning of 2016 was when we said hey we need to start recording, and I just kinda fixed up a 24-track analog tape machine for the studio. We were like we’re gonna record to 2" 24 track tape and do this whole analog thing. And we took some songs, I think we started with “Scarlet Tunic.” It’s a song we had been playing out live and we hadn’t recorded at all. We kinda did a piecemeal thing, where we were writing and recording at the same time. Yeah, probably over a 4 month period. So we were just doing everything as we recorded it. We recorded everything here at my house to tape. And then we went down to Athens, GA and had the record mixed at Chase Park Transduction. The guy that mixes, his name is Drew Vandenberg. He did a bunch of cool records, he did Toro Y Moi Underneath the Pine. He was an assistant engineer for Deerhunter, just a bunch of really cool stuff...Of Montreal. We really like his work and what he contributed to those records and felt like it would be a really good fit. So we went down there for about a week and a half, or a week, and mixed with him. We clicked, and it was a really great experience. We’re super happy with how it all turned out. We kinda did this full analog thing. It was cool this time getting someone else to mix it. We could have mixed it ourselves, but it probably would have taken a lot longer. It’s also cool having someone who we agree with, with other things that they worked on kinda seeing what they can do with it. Also in terms of a deadline. For the third record that we’ve already kind of started writing, we definitely wanna have a little more time, but it was definitely kinda cool. In December I hit up Drew and made an appointment like alright, here’s what’s happening, we’re gonna be mixing in the summer, we have 4 months, the clock is ticking. Once we did that it was like alright, we’ve gotta finish recording these songs and then come up with these songs. I think the last week before we brought it down, we completely wrote and recorded the last song on the album “Bossa Supernova,” which was a really fun experience. We got a bunch of friends to come out and just kind of improvised. We incorporated instrumentation that we’ve never, either of us, have ever recorded. Like a saxophone, clarinet, and a lot of cool percussion instruments on that last track. It was this cool improvised thing, and it turned out really great. It was a great ending for the recording sessions. For the next record, we’re definitely shooting to have a little more space and focus a little bit more.
AM: That sounds really cool though. Then you’re pressing it to vinyl, in Portland right?
Wils: Yeah so we took the tapes and it was mastered in Portland, from tape, at Telegraph Mastering. But then the label we’re on, Golden Brown, they’re handling the vinyl pressing through A&Z. I believe that A&Z is in Portland. I don’t know if they’re pressing in Portland, but I know that the whole set up is there.
AM: So did you collaborate yourselves on the album artwork, and then as far as the vinyl itself, will it just be black vinyl?
Wils: Yeah, well I’m a full time graphic designer at an ad agency, and Bryan does a bunch of commissions and collage art. He actually did the album cover to S U R V I V E, they did the score to Stranger Things. So he’s been blowing up a bunch on the art side, outside of music, with his collages. So when it comes down to like art or making band posters, we usually handle most of that. Then the vinyl is actually gonna be like a cream and orange mixture, if you go to the Bandcamp page, we have a preview of the album cover and what it’s gonna look like.
AM: Cool, definitely will do. So, how is it transitioning your recorded music to the live sense? How do you take what you wrote in the studio and make it translate to the stage?
Wils: So I feel like for the most part, like some of the songs we recorded after we’d been playing them out, so those ones transitioned very well. The other ones, we have taken a little bit of time, like maybe it’s not going to sound exactly like the recording, but we can do something different and make it even better in the live sense. We’ve definitely gotten to a point where we enjoy doing improvisational transitions between songs, and like extending parts. I know that Bryan and I really loved a lot of Tame Impala live stuff, like they put out a live album with Pitchfork. There was almost like a lot of songs in between a song, where the transition kind of takes on this whole new life live. The last thing we wanna do is be on stage playing the same songs how they were recorded.
Bryan: Yeah, I’d get bored. I’ll play around with even different lyrics and you know people haven’t heard the record yet. When they do, they’ll be like wait this sounds a little bit different, but I always thought that was cool when bands did that. You kinda throw people for a loop, not too much, but you know, get them thinking. There’s instruments that are on the record that we can’t really do live. We’re gonna try for our release show, we’re probably gonna get a couple people up there to play. I would say we translate about 75% of the record.
AM: Very cool, so are there any shows you’re looking forward to doing? Any plans to tour in support of the record?
Wils: We’re looking to play as much as we can as soon as this record’s out. Coming up to the record, we have a couple shows here and there. We’re trying to work out a couple more New York shows...Atlanta, Nashville...Hit a couple of cities on the way before the record releases. Hopefully after the record releases, we’ll hit up as many cities as we can go to. We have some friends on the label that are actually in Montreal that wanna play some shows with us, so we might even hit up Canada this summer. It’s just little shows in between right now until we really get momentum with the album release. Getting a booking agent and all that is the next step, but I would say we’re pretty dedicated and are really looking forward to getting out and playing, especially the west coast too.
AM: Try to come to Chicago too, that’s where I’m based!
Bryan: I’m actually from Chicago. I moved here when I was 21. I was just up there this September, and it was like perfect weather. I will definitely not be going back during the winter, but I would love to get up there and play too. We will eventually get up there for sure.
AM: Cool, and then what other bands are you listening to at the moment?
Bryan: I really like this band called Vanishing Twin, I think they’re from London. They’re really cool, I really like their visual side as well. Allah-Las, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them. There’s so many. Broncho, I really got into Broncho last year.
Wils: Definitely Chris Cohen. He’s an amazing songwriter. I remember when me and Bryan listened to that recent record that he put out, on repeat. Just some of his transitions and the way he handles verses and choruses, and kinda spins them around is really cool. Sugar Candy Mountain, they just put out a new record, 666, that’s really cool. I mean, we also find ourselves listening to old records.
Bryan: There’s a really cool website called Office Naps, it’s all rare 45s and 7"s that this guy collects. It’s a lot of really cool 60's and 70's stuff. I’ll get kind of lost on that website, and just get inspired by a lot of this 60's stuff. That too is a big influence as well.