Imperial China and newcomers Black Clouds are two of DC’s more unique acts. They are both focused on writing music that does not fall onto the ears of mainstream music fans; however, that is not their intentions in writing this music, it’s simply the result they get by writing the music that THEY want to write.
Ross Hurt from Black Clouds and Imperial China’s Brian Porter—both on this Saturday’s heavy bill at the Rock and Roll Hotel—joined us on Tuesday with a bit of background in regard to both band’s writing and performance process, and we pick up the second half of our conversation today.
Enter to win a pair of tickets to Saturday’s R&R show at either Tuesday’s first installment of our two part giveaway, or after the jump below. Now, …where were we?
Ross: Ok, “Space Anthem”/”Redux”—what’s up with this? Seriously… it was a great song first time it appeared on Methods, and it is a great song now. What made you revisit this one? That guitar intro is another one of those signature Imperial China moments for me. On top of that, it is definitely the song that I was listening to during my harmonic breakdown jam that lead to parts of “Divide” on the Black Clouds’ LP. How did this song evolve into what it is now compared to what it was when it started?
Brian: We really loved the first 1/3 of “Space Anthem” from our EP, but just weren’t happy with how the rest of it turned out from a writing perspective. As such, we stopped playing the song live, which was a bummer, because we loved that first part of the song so much. When we were writing many of the songs for the new record, we kind of thought “Space Anthem” fit well within what we were trying to do, which was write raw, but pretty, music.
So we just decided to speed up the tempo of the song and make it more punk than it was. I can definitely hear some similarities with the Black Clouds material in terms of more atmospheric guitar sounds. What can I say, we have good taste, I guess?
First of all, thanks for writing a song name that takes forever to say. ..Part 2. Seriously, this song is great. Jimmy’s drums sound huge, and I love all the various fills he’s doing initially, but then the song turns into this epic and beautiful apex. I noticed that while the guitar and bass parts tend to focus on creating one dynamic harmony, the focal point on many of this record’s songs is on Jimmy’s drums. Was there a specific interest in doing that?
Ross: You’re welcome… it was not our intention to give songs insanely odd names or anything that sounded like a Tolkien book. This is the second part of a three part song (hence the Part 2), which was actually the first part of the song written. This song has not changed very much from the first writing practices on it, with the exception that the end of the song was not Part 3. It was just a big, repetitive, Jesu sounding riff that we could not collectively all fall in love with as the outro.
Jimmy’s an insanely talented drummer and equally as gifted as a writer in the creative sense of drumming. It’s easy to play bass with a guy that plays and writes as well as he does. With this song, Justin and I initially envisioned it as a quiet build up, almost throughout with an intentionally anti-climactic ending, and when Jimmy brought that shuffle in at the beginning with all the ghost notes, it took a different turn.
The busy-ness of the drums during the climax of the song is something that Jimmy came up with on the spot, completely different from what Justin and I had heard in our heads while writing, and FITS WAAAAAY better that anything we would have come up with. Justin and I did not necessarily take the back seat on this one, our parts were always meant to build a tension and climax… Jimmy’s drums are what drives it.
Brian: I think this is the most beautiful song on the record. Definitely has a more subdued, almost melancholy feeling. Again, another monster ending. The keyboard parts really stand out on this song. At what point did you decide to add the keyboard to the line-up? It kind of goes along with the more melodic instruments going in harmony together.
Ross: Thanks dude! This was the second to last song we wrote for the record. It is another one of the songs that Justin and I wrote that took a very different shape when Jimmy began writing his parts. The ending was actually never intended to be something big, but it just naturally flowed in that direction.
It started with just a bass line that I had been dicking around with mindlessly for a couple nights, and Justin gave texture to with guitar and keys. Justin had used his keyboard for a brief period of time in SPSD, and when Black Clouds started practicing, I actually had a keyboard in front of me at one point as well (not sure if we will be re-visiting that).
The pads that he uses on it are less used to bring dynamic or lead to it, but just fill the air… this is one of the rare cases on the record where the keys are almost at the forefront of the song. The end of the song is something that we all really wanted forever, but never locked into it for years, and that is just making something as washy and as “dreamlike” as possible.
Just a big blanket of tones.
Catch those blanket of tones free—on us and the band. Let us know in the comments below why you want to be at Saturday’s show at the Rock and Roll Hotel, and the most inspired answer of the bunch wins a pair of tickets courtesy of the lads on the evening’s bill.
We’ll choose one winner at noon on Friday, 5/11.