Another fact is that last year they released one of the best American records in a long time, Deserter Songs. Recorded by the hot producer of the day, Dave Fridmann, it was an instant classic. We were lucky enough to talk to Jonathan and Grasshopper on their swank tour bus when they rolled through Cleveland. They were very forthright and honest with their answers and really seemed to enjoy themselves. It was a great show, as expected. Thanks to the boys, Roberta at V2 (for all her help and patience) and Jason for holding the recorder!

First things first: Your record is great. I know everybody has told you that but it's really true. Anyway, you recorded this record at three different places, right?

Mostly at our studio in the Catskills, and Dave's — a lot of the mixing was done at Dave's. A lot of it was just done at our house — the bass and overdubbing.

Dave's place is Tarbox, right?

Yeah.

Is Tarbox sort of a big place — dimension wise? Is it his house or...?

It's a converted house. A really large place — sort of like a barn. Not an old house, a new one. A big vaulted ceiling where the living room used to be. Dave's partner, Greg, sort of re-vamped the house and moved some walls and stuff.

The record has a really big sound to it, like on the drums and I figured you were laying those down in a pretty decent sized space.

Well, the space is large and there's a slate floor. Most of the drums on our record and I know Wayne's [Coyne, of the Flaming Lips, who also did their record at Tarbox with Dave Fridmann] too, we only used two mics.

There are a lot less guitars on this record than on the previous ones and that seems to be happening, lately with you, the [Flaming] Lips, and to a lesser extent, us [the Witch Hazel sound]...

Well, I think most people tend to change a little bit. I don't think anybody would want to be stuck with just orchestral sounds...

Yeah, it just seems to me to be a real zeitgeist. Obviously we aren't calling each other up to find out what the next thing is. It just seems to be happening naturally...

I think it's just laziness, [laughter] you know? I think it's pure laziness on the part of not really wanting to spend 20 hours fiddling with guitar pedals — finding an amp that works...

Yeah, plus it's just plain fun to record strings...

Yeah...

Lets talk about gear.

You know, Dave's studio is relatively basic. He doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles — he just has a great ear. I think that he has gear which he feels comfortable with and not a lot of sirens and foghorns and things like that. Anything of that nature, the band probably brings themselves.

It's more of the environment...

I think so. He has a wonderful big, black mixing desk — Otari I think it is — a big old thing. A lot of it, I think, is from him doing so many records he sort of pares down to what it is he feels comfortable using...

He knows what works.

Yeah, and a lot of the other stuff, he just doesn't feel any charm towards.

Is there anything significantly different about the recording of this record than from the previous ones?

I think on the past records it was actually more helter-skelter. We would just sort of go in at night, when we could get cheap studio time. I think the first two records were probably mixed on an old Peavey board. [laughter] A lot of that, (with ourselves, Dave, Wayne and Michael) we were all cutting our teeth and actually learning how to work within the studio because we never really had the money to have a great studio — where it just came through a great preamp and it sounded good. It was always sort of fudging around. It half worked and half didn't — there were things you didn't know anything about. We've all sort of grown up as our bands have all gotten bigger, but the mindset is still there — that you never really trust equipment. It helps that Dave owns his own studio now, in that he can do whatever he wants. It's all his equipment. He knows what he has and that makes it all the more easier, and quicker, than going to a bigger studio.

You've pretty much worked with Dave exclusively. He's good at what he does, but I assume the comfort level you have with him is appealing too, right?

It just began as him playing bass with us...

The rest of this article is only available with an archive subscription or by purchasing back issue #17. For an upcoming year's free subscription, and our current issue on PDF...

Or Learn More