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Q&A with Dead Leaf Echo of Neon Sigh - Armchair Empire

Q&A with Dead Leaf Echo of Neon Sigh

Brooklyn’s Dead Leaf Echo have become a favorite sound at the SCV headquarters, bringing back a nostalgic reminiscence of the early 4AD bands like nobody else. Instead of rehashing that era, they have gone down a new path with it. The evolution of what that was and where it all can still go. My Bloody Valentine to Sunny Day Real Estate, a very passionate and ethereal approach to rock is amplified to the rawest of levels by Dead Leaf Echo. Every guitar chord shimmers and rises with a confidence that is breathtaking. Every tone is rustic and primal, every emotion all encompassing. It’s like walking off into the night, devoid of fear in surroundings where moments of pure blissful intake is all that matters. The debut full length from Dead Leaf Echo has been released this year, culminating in a very special body of work in 2013 known as Thought & Language. The sonic language of this group is very pure in todays standards of the rock idiom and we have a good feeling they are going to really affect the world in a huge way before they are done. Playing shows non stop over the course of the last few years, they are slowly gaining a reputation as one of the best bands to see live right now. Dead Leaf Echo have made a very large impact on us with Thought & Language and we couldn’t be happier they are as humble as their music is incredible. We were very thrilled to connect with the band this year for an interview after they had sent us words of  appreciation for our review of their debut full length. Dead Leaf Echo are one of the best in rock today and we are very thankful to connect with them through this interview. Check out the full stream of their new album along with the interview project we shared this year.

Erik: Hello Dead Leaf Echo, thank you so very much for taking the time to do this interview with me. I have found a lot of interest in Thought and Language and I am eager to find out as much about the record as possible. You had the honor of recording the album with legendary engineer John Fryer. How was it like recording with him behind the boards and what did he teach you guys during this process?

DLE: It was a very exciting anticipation having him out here in New York and then later to reconvene with him in Oslo to complete the mixing process. It’s always a mixture of feelings all being crammed down your psyche all at once. Excitement, fear, budgetary worries, drummers not showing up day of tracking…etc. etc. I think I’ve learned that today’s environment for musicians is a very different place than it was in 1992.

Erik: Can you give us a little break down of the conceptual meaning of Thought & Language and how that took shape for the basis to the album?

DLE: I was in the apt. of a friend of mine that teaches at Columbia University. He had the Russian Psycologist Lev Vygotsky’s book “Myshlenie i rech” on the shelf. It immediately spoke to me as a cross platform for a conceptual music album. The album is a reflection on that reference book. While being a textbook it often has breaks in the text for poetry and right brain references. Vygotsky was a scientist with a flair for literature. He inspired it and it began to grow an album rooted in his theories.

Erik: I really love the tone that your band has on every track. Very dreamy but still confident and strong. Can you talk a little about the type of gear that has become integral in achieving this sound?

DLE: We really used a variety of gear…some analog, some digital. Some was ours and some was owned by the studios. There is no one piece of gear. When it comes to drum sounds…the room, mic, pre’s, kit, player and parts really do make the difference though.

Erik: Most important records in and right out of high school?

DLE: The Unforgettable Fire, London Calling, Maxinquaye/Pre-Melinium Tension, Days of Future Past, so many more…..

Erik: I’d love to know as much about what’s going down in Brooklyn and those who are creating in your circles? What makes Brooklyn a special place to create music?

DLE: It’s really hard to understand what makes Brooklyn what it is sometimes because of the amount of diversity here is staggering. It’s truly a unique place on Earth. It’s not because of the scenery…I can tell you that, it’s because of the people. Ultimately that’s why people are here to be creative. It’s because of the culture that has been created by the artists. It’s all overrated though. Everything is glamorized through nostalgia and you see that happening already.

Erik: When you are all rehearsing for some of the longer touring, do you guys plan a very strict set or is there a lot of room for different interpretations on the songs?

DLE: We’re a band that now has over 30 songs rehearsed under our belt. We just have a lot of material and personally I can’t stand playing the same set twice. We do play a lot of song sequences the same but mixing it up is key to keeping it interesting and fun for everyone. Some songs don’t work live. They may work in the rehearsal room but don’t go over to a live audience. I always find the slower material very hard to pull off. When we first started off we were very punk, and high energy but no one but a few of our friends saw those shows, then went very sweet and mid-tempo/sludgy. I think that worked to an point but we’re learning to mix up the set to have high’s and lows….a full life experience cyclying before you in 45 minutes. At this point I’m sick to death of playing the songs from Thought & Language live over the past 2 years. As to different interpretations of them we have done that in the past. When we toured behind our Remix EP Verisimilitude in 2011. It was just guitars and laptops with a very electronic landscape behind us.

Erik: What are some of the most important elements about the process of writing music and living the lifestyle of a musician for you?

DLE: The most important element is the invisible factor of inspiration. No way to understand it or tap into it. Hope to reel it in and capture it when it does come….it can be so fleeting.

Erik: In terms of the content on Thought and Language, was there any material that proved to be especially challenging to capture in the studio to your standards?

DLE: Bit off more than I could chew. Ha. The whole thing was really quite a nightmare to maintain and control. “Language of the Waves” was the hardest to mix…I’m still not there with it. It was mixed over and over.

Erik: You also had the special honor of adding artwork contribution by Vaughan Oliver of V23 to the latest LP. I’d love to know how you worked with him on the design. Did you just send him music and let him run with anything he wanted or did you have a specific direction you conveyed?

DLE: Oh yes…quite an honor. I sent him the music. I told him the specific concept of the album. He sent some ideas but there was an obvious thread that we were all attracted too that became the CD and Birth 7″and now announced vinyl LP.

Erik: Can you please tell us a little bit about the bands you have toured with in the past and some of the shows that have really made a huge impact on how you appreciate that medium of expression.

DLE: A lot of bands have moved me. Whether it was a band we looked up too and then later had the privilege of playing a show with (Psychadelic Furs, Chapterhouse, The Ocean Blue) or just some tiny band that you’ve fallen in love with from the middle of nowhere. Getting to play a sold out show at the Echoplex in LA for our debut there was a trip thanks to Part Time Punks, Beach Fossils, Half-String and the rest of the Captured Tracks crew.

Erik: Can you tell us about the fall tour coming up along with any other plans the band has in place for the future?

DLE: We’ve got some great shows happening. First up is the O+ Festival which takes place in Kingston NY and San Francisco. We’ll be performing at the New York location on the weekend of Oct. 12th. The headliner is UK space rock band Spiritualized. Beyond thrilled that we get to share a festival spot with them….it’s just another part of an amazing year that we’ve had so far. After that is CMJ festival here in New York City. We’ll be playing 2 showcases this year with a talent of some of our fave bands. Then up to Boston for the Psych Festival that’s been running up there for years called Deep Heaven Now. Another tremendous lineup of bands. In November we’ll be performing in a Arts/Music video Festival in North Carolina called Cucalorous. Some of our music videos have been selected to be exhibited and we’ll also follow with a live set.