When AMBY heard Louis XIV frontman Jason Hill had a new project, we instantly had to check it out. Vicky Cryer–featuring the talents of Dominic Howard (Muse), Mark Stoermer (the Killers), Nick Fyffe (Jamiroquai), Dave Elitch (Mars Volta), and Alex Carapetis (Nine Inch Nails, Julian Casablancas)– is an impressive band. Releasing their debut record The Synthetic Love of Emotional Engineering in April, AMBY conjured up a few questions for Vicky Cryer. Have a read as Jason Hill talks about recording in an 100 year-old house, favourite releases, an incredible music video, and inspirations!
AMBY: Hello Vicky Cryer, what’s the band been up to lately?
Vicky Cryer: The album was just released thru my own label that I’ve started called Fancy Animal but I’ve been busy producing and writing with all sorts of people since the release last month and playing a tour with my former band Louis XIV in Europe and Mexico with The Killers. The other guys who were on the record and sort of in the band, although I consider it a revolving cast, have been out on the road with their respective other groups.
AMBY: In April you released your debut album The Synthetic Love of Emotional Engineering! Which tracks are your favourite off it?
Vicky Cryer: I’ve gone back and forth and at any given point they were all my favorites at one time or another. I suppose at the moment I’m loving Touch You.
AMBY: What was one of the best moments you had while recording the album?
Vicky Cryer: Recording two full drummers, Dom Howard and Alex Carapetis, on I’ll take the Pain was a great moment, incredibly difficult because its the most 4 on the floor drumming, straight ahead dance beat on the record and precision is needed that it was very difficult to record and play. I didn’t want to fix things on the record, wanted to keep it live feeling and real people playing together in a small room. They did a great job and the drums sound amazing.
AMBY: The video for The Synthetic Love of Emotional Engineering is great, what was the inspiration behind the video?
Vicky Cryer: The song is about a long time platonic relationship between me and someone that I had known for many years, she was much younger and at a certain point I kind of watched her grow up and when she did she started really kind of trying to get me to fall for her and when I opened myself up to it I realized that she wasn’t in the right place in her life and I was in a completely other place and so it never seemed to feel real to me. It felt synthetic and claustrophobic. The song is about the moment and written in the moment of saying that I have to move on and find something real. There was a feeling of being underwater for me and one day I just thought of the idea about the video and decided to go about filming it. It was a long process as I did so much of it myself, originally just wanting to release a video for a song that wouldn’t be the single(its 9 minutes long) and just wanting to do an art film more than a music video. Basically I was ready after finishing the record to do something creative that wasn’t just music. I had to sort of learn film editing although I had done a few Louis XIV videos myself, but this was a much grander experiment. I did have some great help from several people that really made it pop and come to fruition, without their help it would still be unfinished. Tom Kirk, Joe Rupalcabra, Carlos Pena and Geoff Boynton to name a few that really helped me in one way or another. We lucked out when I was telling a friend about the idea in the beginning and I told him I needed some synchronized swimmers, thinking that would be the hard piece of the puzzle to find, and he immediately said, “Oh my wife used to have a group of girls that does Synchro and I’m sure they would love to do it!” So at that point I had to do the video. It was a Labor of Love in all aspects, and a very cold one at that, being underwater in the winter for such long periods of time.
AMBY: Who influences you as a musician and songwriter?
Vicky Cryer: I find inspiration from all over the place, in films, in books, in people and always in music. It’s to the point that I can’t listen to music in bed or really anywhere if I don’t want to find myself drawn in and wanting to run to the studio to start working on something. There are moments in a songwriters life where they feel huge bursts of creativity and a freedom to just react and make things from nothing. I’m thankfully in one of those periods at the moment and most everyday I walk in the studio and just start making things up. I like when I’m in discovery mode with new and old records, where I find things exciting. Lately I’ve been really getting into Earth Wind and Fire and 70s soul music and for the last two years heavily into Vangelis and his 70-80s synthesizer themes, but I can really find inspiration in everything. Sometimes its when I hear music that I find very uninspiring and it leaves you with a blank feeling, that blank feeling just clears everything like a blank sheet of paper. Silence is often the most inspiring because the first chord or sound you make can really inspire and just takes you into places. I love to follow the music coming from me or react with others and not try to control it. Songwriting is about not looking at the song directly, if you try to define it in any other way or terms except musically it will slip away like the wind.
AMBY: You recorded the album in an 100 year-old house. Any interesting ghost tales to tell us?! (or was it just for the acoustics?)
Vicky Cryer: I love vibe and believe I am someone that loves to live surrounded by the things he loves. I like for things to be inspiring around me. So when I moved to Hollywood 3 years ago I found this great old house, an old hunting lodge in the Hills of Laurel Canyon where in the 60s and 70s so much incredible music was coming from within these hills. Even though it was the most impractical place to build a recording studio, as it has a very narrow and winding 50 steep steps to the house from the driveway. To get the old Neve recording desk, tape machines, pianos, organs, amps, plate reverbs, etc was so difficult but I knew this would be a studio like no other and isolated yet close to all the Hollywood action just a couple miles down the road. It would be a very unique environment and has proved to be incredible as we are really just finally getting it all dialed in. I knew it would be just the vibe I always wanted. And it is, I love it here and so does everyone who comes up. We are just starting to get really busy here again as well. This place really exudes off inspiration as you walk into the front doors. In the beginning, being such an old place with so much history I figured there had to be an energy to the house, ghosts possibly but energy mostly, and they say you should burn sage to get rid of the vibes when moving to a new place. I was about to do that on the first couple of days but I love it here so much and the energy is so good that I didn’t want to change a thing.
AMBY: There are some amazing musicians on the album! What’s an example on the record of all the musical chemistry coming together?
Vicky Cryer: Well I think there’s a lot of misinformation about the album, that we were all in a room and set out to make a record. That wasn’t the case, it was really that I spend most all my days and nights in the studio, it’s the first thing I think about every day and the last. I just love inventing sounds and music, finding new places musically and sonically to go, unchartered territory. So really my friends would come by and see me and recording would happen. Of the cast of characters on the album usually it would be me and one of the other guys at a time. On one of those occasions, I was with Alex Carapetis and I had finished Touch you , even the drums but Alex came by and I thought let’s just have Alex play to my drums and see what happens. So I set up the mics, played him the song once and he walked in and played what is on the record in one take. I didn’t fix any of the drums in anyway. That sort of thing happened a lot, it was an easy record to make in that regard, just like kids playing with legos building things. It was very natural.
AMBY: You have done production for some amazing bands. Who do you plan to work with in the future?
Vicky Cryer: I can tell you who I’ve been working with in the last month, I don’t really know who I will be working with in the future. But lately I’ve been working with Nick Littlemore on possible Empire of the Sun and with Ariel Pink as well. Both people I have tremendous chemistry and we’ve done some incredible music so far. Both work very differently and have very different strengths which is wonderful for me so that I’m challenged in different ways so it keeps me excited. Last month I wrote a song with Brandon Flowers as well in Paris and have been working on a really interesting record with Macy Gray and a guy named Qing Kween as well. A couple of songs I wrote and produced with a young girl on Capital named Sky Ferriera is being released soon as well as a project with Chris Cester and features Luke Steele, Nicks counterpart in Empire of the Sun. And then theres the record that David Johansen ( New York Dolls/ Buster Pointdexter) and I have been talking about starting for the last year. I love David and he’s a good friend, since I produced the last New York Dolls album. It’s just a matter of coordinating it. So busy times but I’m loving the music coming out. I consider myself very blessed at the moment.
AMBY: If you could create a law that everyone would have to follow, what would that be?
Vicky Cryer: That’s a very interesting question and one that involves a lot of thought. Too often things aren’t thought thru when it comes to laws and the administering of them. I do find the drug laws to be proven faulty and know of too many people whose lives have been ruined for doing things that most of us do or have done recreationally yet they got caught. Taxation of drugs would be where things should go and stop imprisoning users and dealers. We need to set up structure for it. As a society we spend far too much tax payer money on putting non violent drug users into prison and just feed the beast, they then come out and can’t have normal productive lives, can’t find jobs, so it’s a viscous cycle and one that is only getting worse and more expensive and ruining lives instead of helping society. As a strictly selfish reason as well it pisses me off that my taxes go to pay things like bullshit wars that aren’t helping us in anyway yet are actually hurting us and all this money spent destroying lives and making corporations in the prison business wealthy as most of our prisons are now heavily outsourced.
AMBY: What’s the best release of 2013, so far?
Vicky Cryer: I like what I’ve heard of the new Empire of the Sun record, but I’m a big fan of the last one as well and the esthetic of the sound. I also like where Daft Punk has gone. If you asked me over the last 10 years who my favorites of all time as far as producers and musicians were Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards from Chic have always been in my tops and Daft Punk mined a lot from them and even worked with Nile on this record. At first I was jealous and even considered pulling my picture of Nile and Bernard I have framed off the studio wall. Never wanting to seem like I was following trends, but that went away quickly and I’ve just embraced that popular music is going my way. In fact back in 2005 when I wrote and produced a song called Rich Girls for a New York band called The Virgins, I said to them right upon the first day of meeting in the studio that I wanted to make a record like a young modern Chic but from white street kids from New York. And they were to be my guinea pigs on that one and Rich Girls came about that night and its brilliant. Daft Punk was late to that party but in all fairness I was reacting to records made in the late 70s and early 80s and so I was coming late in that regard as well. But its not the inspiration that matters, its where you take it.
AMBY: And lastly, what’s something about Vicky Cryer that nobody knows yet?
Vicky Cryer: That it’s not really a band as much as record. We played live a few times but it’s really just a record and who knows what the future has up next.