MM: Yeah‚ you guys had a good slot. Weren't you headlining one night?
DL: We were doing 11 to 1:30 at night on the main stage. So it was definitely a prime time to be playing‚ when people are out and watching. They have music going on all day and night; I think the last band plays at 3 in the morning and plays until sunrise and then there's a couple-hour break and bands start again. So it sucks that it got canceled. We are out the cash and we were going to hang out all weekend and have a good time. So instead we're home for the weekend and not going anywhere because we're broke. (laughter) So we received that news earlier this week‚ and then Phish breaks up and that's crap‚ and now it's like‚ what else that's bad is going to happen this week ? What's next? (laughter)
MM: Right. Well‚ let's talk about the new album‚ Zedonk.
DL: We did it over quite a while. We started at the end of September...and since the fall is always such a busy time for us with shows‚ we couldn't take a lot of time off to record‚ so we did ten days and then went on tour‚ then did four more days and then went back on tour and so forth. But doing it that way afforded us a lot of time in between recording sessions to listen to what we had so far and assess where things would go on the album. It was tough to even imagine doing a studio record because so many of our compositions have these wide open sections and the song ends up being 25 minutes long. You don't want to have a studio album with a few 25 minute songs I definitely wanted to scale it down and get the message across in a concise manner so people get the essence of the song. So that was tough for us‚ but I think we did a good job with it and we're really happy with it.
MM: I think a lot of the compositions are strong on Zedonk - and some of them do open up a bit. One of the things I love about your sound is that there is a lot of space. It's an interesting sound; I really like the open space and wash of sound feeling. It feels like underneath everything there's a real power trio feeling‚ but it's much more ambient on top. I think the sound is really open to dive into different territory.
DL: I really like the more ambient sound. I started using looping stuff in about 2000 and that really changed the whole way I play. At first my approach was to lay down a rhythm and a background texture and then play over that. But soon it got to the point where I realized you can't really do that because the loops aren't always going to line up exactly all the time. So what I started doing with the looping was creating the washes and the real ethereal sounding stuff which would really fill out the sound of a trio well...and that does lead to a different sound. Some of our music is really aggressive‚ but it does have that opposite end of being really ethereal - which I think makes us interesting.
MM: Yeah‚ I think so. And I think it's a great avenue to take for improvising. When I caught your show here recently (at Nectar's in Burlington) you played‚ I think the title track "Zedonk"…
DL: Yeah‚ that's one we open up on.
MM: Well‚ that jam was great - a lot of space and sound. I think that's important as a guitarist - how you're going to place the sound and how to be patient with it‚ and to let things develop.
DL: (laughs) That's a tough lesson to learn. It's been a long time coming and something that definitely needs more work. There's a fine line there‚ where you want to be patient and let things develop‚ but you don't want to take it to the extent that it's boring. You can definitely take things out so far that it becomes boring. It's about finding that fine balance between letting things sail and grooving on it‚ but at the right time we're going to change where we can spin you off into a different direction.
MM: always want to avoid the noodle. (laughter)
DL: Yeah‚ totally.
MM: I'm okay with it though...I guess I'm okay with the risk‚ you know? If you're going to take a lot of risks in your playing then you're going to play crap and it's not going to work.
DL: Yeah‚ the nature of the beast.
MM: I'm willing to listen to that to hear something incredible‚ and to hear a band really gel make the room come alive because of it.
DL: The only way you're going to get there is by having bad moments. If you're going to have those magical moments‚ then you're going to have ones that are crap as well. It's a risk that we're all willing to take because we believe in that ethic of improvisation. We're not going to tell you we're jamming just because it sounds like it - when we're jamming we have no idea what's going to happen. We might have something to bring it back to - to get out of it - but when we're in that space we're going to honestly try to be fresh and try something we haven't tried before.
MM: Do you have any particular moments or time periods where you knew it was really happening and you had some serious breakthroughs with group improvisation?
DL: I think you go through those stages every so often‚ where you feel like you stepped it up a notch and you feel like you hit a plateau. As a band‚ you really feel like you made a breakthrough. There have been a couple of times that we've hit that...we have an album called Soon which is a live recording‚ with four tracks and it's about 60 minutes long‚ which we recorded in April of 2003. When we discussed doing this with an engineer‚ we were very casual about it and didn't stress about it. He came on the road with us for three nights in Ontario and we taped those shows and that was a high point for the band without us even realizing it. So that was a real breakthrough for us and a real high point for the band. I think we made another breakthrough at the end of our tour in February. We were on the road with The Breakfast for like 18 shows‚ and the last few shows we felt like our improvisation was getting to a new level. We were making the same moves at the same time without stressing about it. Everything was sliding into place. Our shows that followed in March and April‚ we felt were really good. It's just a matter of playing all the time; when we're playing a lot we break new ground. The year at moe.down was an awesome night for that‚ for getting lost in what was going on...
MM: (laughs) Yeah‚ tell me about it - that was the first I really heard you. I was really impressed with that performance.
DL: The whole know...the weather that day pushed everything back‚ so we played later and we had three sets. It was a great time slot; it was the first night and all the people underneath that tent were ready to go. We really fed off of that energy. It was a real magic night where every set felt like a minute long. The energy was super intense to the point where you forget about where you are and then someone is like‚ "Hey‚ five minutes left." (laughs) So that couldn't have gone better for us. And also the whole intimacy factor as well‚ where everyone is close together underneath that tent and people are right in your face there to enjoy the show. You really feel it‚ and you really interact with people - they give it to you and you give it right back to them. Yeah‚ I had such a good time that night.
MM: Yeah‚ I love moe.down. I love the set up of that festival because it really allows...
DL: There's no overlap. It's a nice‚ small‚ intimate vibe at that festival. They are a bunch of great guys and I really like their attitude toward things. They really like having a good time and certainly their festival shows that. That was the first time I've been at moe.down...but then again I don't get to see a lot of the shows I want to see. (laughs)