Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ +/- (Plus/Minus)

Plus Minus
Photo by Philip Leaman

Brooklyn trio +/- (also known as Plus/Minus) released Jumping the Tracks on February 4th, their first album in over five years! In a recent interview, A Music Blog, Yea? had the chance to speak with all three members of +/- (James Baluyut, Chris Deaner, and Patrick Ramos). Dive into our conversation as we discussed releasing new material, the new LP’s artwork, an excellent dream concert, and more.

AMBY: Hello Plus/Minus, thanks for speaking with us today! How would you classify your sound to all of your listeners?

JB: Post-Miley shock pop?

Chris Deaner: Enjoyable.

Patrick Ramos: Enjoyable Post-Miley Shock Pop.

AMBY: Your new record Jumping the Tracks comes out this month. What’s the significance behind the LP’s title?

JB: When I think of “Jumping the Tracks”, I think of a few things: a train derailing disastrously, crossing a dangerous threshold, a sudden change of course.  I’m not sure which one relates most to this LP.

PR: The fourth thing it brings to mind is a very obscure, very early Evel Knievel stunt which he performed on a tricycle in his basement.

AMBY: It’s been almost five years since you’ve released an album. How’s it feel to finally have some new material out there?

JB: It feels great.  We’ve been working on these songs so long, we’re ready to have them be heard.  Writing music… I’m sort of hoping to make a connection with people.  When it goes public, it’s really exciting just to hear what people think and how it affects them.  We’re also publishing the raw drum tracks so that anyone can download them and make their own songs with them.  That’s also very exciting.

CD: The drum tracks are posted using a platform called Blend.io. Here’s our public page: https://blend.io/plusminus. Use those drums and make something!

PR:  It feels like the first time.  It feels like the very first time.  But seriously, it’s like sending out an SOS.  Sending out an SOS.  Sending out an SOS…

AMBY: How do you feel your sound has evolved since the release of your debut LP?

JB: The first record is kind of a bedroom computer record.  It has the blueprints of what the band might become, but really it’s a series of intimate pop experiments.  Immediately after that, we became more of a rock outfit with dynamics and band interplay.  The mission was to write pop songs you could sing along to, but with some bizarreness going on underneath.  We’ve sort of been trying to refine that over the years.  We’ve probably become a bit less crazy over the years… but we’ve probably also become a bit more listenable.  Who knows?

PR: For once I’ll try to give you a serious answer.  I think it’s evolved quite a bit on each album since the debut LP.  We’ve never been interested in sticking to one signature sound.  Most bands have a strict vision of their musical identity and how they should sound.   We’re not really interested in that approach.  Don’t get me wrong, it works really well for a lot of bands.  But for us, before we record a new record, along with the main rule of not repeating ourselves, we set a new rule or rules about what we can or can’t do.   Then when we finish that one, we change the parameters for the next one.  I admit that it probably doesn’t make us the most recognizable band out there, but it’s much more interesting for us.

AMBY: What inspired the cover artwork for the record?

JB:
 Mark Robinson, who designed it, has been in a difficult position regarding our records.  We’ve had him design almost every single one.  The full-length LPs all have this same motif – the plus, the slash, and the minus symbols.  And he’s found a way to make every design amazing. I don’t actually know what inspired this cover – but it’s quite inspiring to look at.

CD: The artwork was fun because Mark asked for our contributions, so both Pat and Myself contributed a fair amount of photos. In one photo, you can see my wife and son on the beach in long island, in another the silhouette of Pat’s son. Also I took a picture of a wall of broccoli at the local supermarket the day after Mark suggested we send him some photos. That made it into the artwork too. Because nothing says ‘rock album artwork’ like a wall of broccoli.

PR: All in all you’re just another brick in the wall… of broccoli.

AMBY: Which other artists from New York should we keep our eyes on?

CD: The usual: John Lindaman. Versus. The Ladybug Transistor. The Great Lakes. The Forms.

JB: Sebastian Blanck.

PR: Sharon Van Etten.  Mascott.

AMBY: Who would be in your ultimate concert line-up?

JB: Off the top of my head, I’d have to say something impossible like Nick Drake, The Clash, Pale Saints, The Kinks, The Smiths, The Zombies, Velvet Underground and The Beatles.  I’m sure I’m leaving a million bands off.  Maybe I should make one of those fake Coachella things.

PR: That’s a great line-up.  Are you selling tickets James?  I would add New Order circa 1987, OMD circa 1982, Midnight Oil circa 1982, The Jam.  There are so many more, and not just from the 80s!

AMBY: What was the best release of 2013?

JB: For me, it was mbv by My Bloody Valentine.  I’m just so happy we got more music out of them!

CD: Well, that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis release really spoke to me. It said, “Listen to the Kendrick Lamar ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ album”. And I’m glad I did! ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ totally blew me away. The production is great, and the content is great. What impressed me the most though was how well the album works in its entirety. There are multiple threads weaving throughout all the songs. He keeps coming back to them, and moving them along with enough twists to make it interesting. The album contains 4 minute songs ready for the club, and 12 minutes excursions that contain 3-4 different ideas, and they all work. Having just finished an album I can really appreciate how difficult that is to do. It’s great.

PR: The best release of 2013 BY FAR was the Chvrches record because it was the only thing my wife, my three kids and I could all agree to listen to during a long summer road trip.  Thank you Chvrches from the bottom of my heart.  Your album works better than extra strength Tylenol.

AMBY:. Lastly, what’s something about Plus/Minus that nobody knows yet?

CD: 2 of the 3 of us are Filipino. I’m not saying who though.

***

Thank you +/-, for giving us your answers!

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Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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