Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ Broken Bells

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Broken Bells
With a highly anticipated North American tour ahead and the recent announcement of playing Coachella, Los Angeles’ Broken Bells are taking 2014 by storm. Comprised of Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) and James Mercer (The Shins), the duo are set to release their second record After the Disco on February 4th. Broken Bells have already released the album’s lead single Holding On for Life (November 4th), and its electric space-rock groove can be heard throughout the album’s entirety. Ahead of After the Disco‘s release, we spoke with artist and producer Brian Burton about the production on the album, the recording process with James, favourite touring experiences, and advice for the music industry.

AMBY: I wanted to start off by saying we’re looking forward to the release of your new record After the Disco. I had a sneak-preview of the album and am really enjoying it. What was the experience like recording it?

Broken Bells: It was enjoyable, too. It was good. James and I get along really well so it was fun to just have my friend back to hang around and be in the studio with. It’s always been really fun working with him, so this one wasn’t any different.

AMBY: As far as the production goes on the new record, what were your biggest influences or inspirations?

Broken Bells: Probably… I mean, I was listening to a bunch of Kraftwerk at the time so there was that. Overall, we thought about things that we liked when we were younger, so there is a little bit of that in there. I’ll be a little bit broad about that because I don’t want to go into too much specifics, but stuff happened and had an influence on that.

AMBY: If you were to take us behind the scenes and into the studio or recording process, how did the collaboration work with you and James on the album?

Broken Bells: Normally we go in and sit down and start getting our instruments; I’ll go over to a piano or something, or James will pick up a guitar, and we start messing around with something. I’ll be on a keyboard and just start looking for ideas. If we hear something we like, we start to develop more and then we kind of piggyback off that. We go through ideas and then we start adding things together. By the end of the day, we come up with something and have a rough idea of a song. The next day we try to keep the stuff we like and go forward with it. That’s generally what we do.

AMBY: I wanted to bring up the title of the new album.

Broken Bells: Cool.

AMBY: When I first heard that you had announced a new record with the title After the Disco, the words immediately grabbed me. So, what’s the significance of the new title?

Broken Bells: It was the first song that we finished the actual lyrics for about a year ago, about the beginning of last year. It just came from a line in the song After the Disco, a line in a verse or something like that. It made us think about something that James and I talk about all of the time, or that we have been recently talking about. There could have been a question mark at the end it, at the end of the title, because it was more of a question. “Are we after the party?”, “have we had our fun already?”, “do we need to grow up?”, or “what are we doing?”. I think about that all of the time and it’s still a question that people have. It’s more about that, I guess. It’s basically the first song we did and thought it would be a cool title for the album, too [laughs].

AMBY: [laughs] If you had to pick one track off the LP that you think best summarizes what you were hoping to achieve, which track would you choose and why?

Broken Bells: I guess right now, maybe, Perfect World – the first song on the record. It’s got ups and downs, it’s fast but also slow, it has synthesizers and drums, it’s a little sad but gives a little perspective. That’s my answer, I’m sticking with it.

AMBY: Perfect. I know that in late February you begin a North American tour, and you also just announced that you’ll be performing at Coachella. What would you say is one of your most memorable touring experiences?

Broken Bells: I think I remember Glastonbury being really memorable for Broken Bells because it was the first show I wasn’t really nervous to the point of being sick. I played drums a week before that tour because I was always really nervous. For that show, I realized that people knew who we were, so it became more of a challenge… more than being afraid of anything; we were going to make the show good. That was a good memory for me.

AMBY: We know that outside of Broken Bells you have dabbled into a few other projects. Is there anything new or different you’d like to share that we may not be aware of?

Broken Bells: Noooooo.

AMBY: Nothing at the moment?

Broken Bells: No, none of that stuff. [laughs]. For the most part I’m mainly focusing on Broken Bells.

AMBY: With the forthcoming release, that’s absolutely understandable [laughs]. I wanted to bring up some other artists, who have you been listening to lately?

Broken Bells: That’s a good question. What have I been listening to? I watched a Sex Pistols documentary and have been listening to The Ramones.

AMBY: Many of our readers are in smaller bands just starting up, what advice would you give these artists regarding the music industry?

Broken Bells: I would say don’t be a part of it.

AMBY: [laughs]

Broken Bells: I’d say keep making music and keep putting out music that you like, but don’t really try to get too involved in the actual music industry. Concentrate on making the music and getting it out there but not necessarily getting involved with a bunch of music industry people, if you can do that. I think it takes a long time sometimes and it’s worth the wait. If you want to be a doctor and are in school, it could take more than ten years. Why would a band be any different? I think people want it to happen very quickly, but it doesn’t happen that way.

AMBY: Thanks for sharing that with our readers. For the last question of our chat, what’s the best part of being in Broken Bells?

Broken Bells: For me, I feel like it’s my creative home.

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Thank you Broken Bells, for giving us your answers!

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Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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