Maybird have all the makings of the next big indie band. They’re certainly on track, teaming up with Danger Mouse’s label, 30th Century Records, and Patrick Carney of The Black Keys, who produced their latest EP, Unraveling.
It’s another blueprint for Maybird’s threshold of psych-rock-ability. Although, it’s a heavier pop dosage since their last EP, Turning Into Water. So less like Tame Impala and more like Broken Bells… Which makes total sense when considering the collaborators.
Speaking of which, I spoke with Maybird’s front man, Josh Netsky, about some of the finer details surrounding the new EP, and a bit about Carney’s involvement with the project. Check out the exclusive Wild Honey Pie stream of Unraveling in piecemeal fashion below.
7/13 – Rochester, NY @ Montage Music Hall w/ Sam Roberts Band
7/14 – Syracuse, NY @ Lost Horizon w/ Sam Roberts Band
9/14 – Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory Residency
9/21 – Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory Residency
9/28 – Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory Residency
WHP: So tell me about Nashville, and what that whole experience was like in terms of working with Patrick Carney behind the curtain…
JN: So I flew up there for a week to just work on songs with Pat, initially—before we brought the band in, just to kind of like write some stuff… preproduction, basically. We got 3 songs in pretty good shape and then brought the band down a few months later. Did a whole new tracking process for those songs, plus like—three more.
WHP: What was the setting like, then?
JN: We never really worked in a studio setting really, ‘cause we worked in Patrick’s home studio. So it was very comfortable and you could go next store and grab some food at the corner store… That kind of thing. We also recorded some in Rochester, NY, but that was at a good friend’s studio, and it also felt the same way… so we could work until 4AM, and nobody’s gonna be, ya know—itching to leave or anything like that. We were really comfortable in all the environments we were recording in, so we spent some time and got the sounds to a place we wanted them to be. We also recorded some of it in this church upstate that we were renting for a little while—where Sam (“Overhand Sam” – Guitarist) was living.
WHP: What kind of stuff would you do at the Church?
JN: Um, not a ton… We just did some last minute tracking. So some backing vocals and some organ here and there, adding 10 tracks to a song that already had about—80, ya know? [Laughs]. They’re all like that. We’ve been thinking lately that it would be good to write something simple, keep it under 30 tracks or something like that, but we always just layer and layer and layer.
WHP: In what ways do you think Carney helped transform the songs over time? What then did the sound become?
I sent Patrick a playlist of about 10 demos that I’d been working on, and he kind of picked the ones that he wanted to work on. “Keep in Line” was the one we both knew, early on, that we wanted to work on. The demo was kind of drowsier, slow, and sad sounding, and he really spoofed that one up and turned it into this kind of upbeat, in your face melody.
JN: With “Grace” I never sent along a demo or anything like that. I just played it for him on acoustic one night, and he started experimenting, changing some of these chords from Major to minor, and rearranging some stuff. That was one of the biggest changes… The bridge to get to the chorus was all minor chords, and then we changed it so the first chord was minor and the three that follow are Major, so it has this different tone to it. And I got really used to it. I actually listened to the demo a while ago and was like—Wow! This sounds super weird now…
WHP: It’s always weird to sit with a new set of songs for so long and you just stop hearing them after a while… At what point do you think you stopped hearing it and had to have Patrick or someone else come in with a fresh set of ears?
JN: Um, we kind of really quickly built the foundations of the tracks, and then it just took a super long time to have them finished. Some of them changed a lot over that like maybe—year or so—that we were continuing to record, rearrange and mix. And some of them hardly changed at all, and it was just mixing stuff that we were doing.
For instance, there’s a song called “To The Stars” that’s on there, that went through like—5 different iterations before what we ended up with. Based on different advice, we tried a bunch of stuff like—we had a lot of noise in the beginning, at one point, before the song even started, and then like 3 minutes of guitar solo added to the end. We also ended up cutting the intro down to like—15 seconds. We took all the drums out of the beginning part as well. As soon as we heard it with out the drums, we were like, wow! So much eerier. Sounded a lot cooler to us.
WHP: What do you think you like most about this record that has changed since the Turning Into Water EP?
JN: One thing that I liked that felt kind of the same, which I mentioned before, was the fact that it was kind of like recording in a friend’s basement all over again. But it was just a way different experience at the same time. We’d produced ourselves, previously. We never had somebody like—telling us what to do, or pushing different ideas as much. So, that whole process of learning to work with a producer and just observing and experiencing being produced was probably the most enjoyable part because we learned a lot and got to see somebody whose work we really like work on our tunes.
WHP: What kind of equipment did you guys have access to?
JN: Yeah, using the gear at his house was great too. He’s got his own collection of keyboards and every Earthquaker pedal known to man. The guy who started Earthquaker actually, I think, was The Black Key’s sound tech like—earlier in their career. And we’re all big fans of those pedals, so we used them a lot on the record. We also used a bunch of Juno and Jupiter synth sounds… Um, his drum kit is obviously [Laughs] pretty fuckin’ great.
He would step in and play some bass and guitar actually, quite a lot too, and come up with these kind of percussive guitar and bass parts that really pushed the songs into a really different atmosphere—these kind of syncopated guitar and bass lines that you can barely even make out in the songs, but they’re definitely there. Adds a lot of texture to the mix.
WHP: So kind of like—felt but not heard, necessarily?
JN: Yeah… um yeah, in some ways. Or just heard like so subtly that you wouldn’t be able to pick it out. It just kind of like—makes you move. Ya know?
WHP: Yeah, most definitely.
WHP: One more thing… Who did the artwork for the cover of this EP, ‘cause I’m really diggin’ it! Reminds me of the Todd Terje album art quite a bit.
JN: Oh, sure… that would be Chris Campbell, who does artwork for Aquarium Drunkard, and he’s involved with their podcast, SIDECAR (TRANSMISSIONS), too… I believe.
WHP: Thanks, Josh.