Taking Chances // The 405 meets Chromatics
Chromatics had been at work on their follow up to 2007's Night Drive for nearly five years until Kill For Love unexpectedly dropped on iTunes a couple of weeks ago. It has since garnered an intense amount of critical praise, and is, in our opinion, one of the better albums this year has seen thus far.
We were able to trade words with Chromatics' Johnny Jewel and talk about some of the other projects he's involved with, as well as the creative process that spawned such an incredible album as Kill For Love.
It’s been five years since night drive, but you guys have kept busy in the interim. Do you have a favorite thing that you’ve been involved with in the meantime?
It was really stimulating to take time to work on Desire & Symmetry. Those two projects are so conceptually linked with chromatics. After the surprise reception of Night Drive, we had to go back underground, and figure out what to do next. We weren't used to people watching what we were doing, and that kind of incredible explosion can kill a young band. So we unplugged, isolated the project, and regrouped. The incubation of Night Drive had taken a little over four years to fully mature. We had a lot of new material, but we really wanted to protect our slow process. So we blacked out, stopped touring, and just focused on writing again. We wanted to give that respect to the fans and the album. For some groups, it's too tempting to capitalize on a rush of buzz, for us it looked more like the kiss of death. Music is our lives, and we want to create a lasting relationship with our listeners.
You’ve always had a great affinity to film and some of your recent projects (including your involvement with the drive soundtrack and the symmetry album) certainly speak to that. Do films inspire the music for you, or are you just writing with some grand scope in mind?
Films inspire us the same way paintings and novels do, or a good cut of a dress. It's inspiring to see good art. But the parallels between chromatics and film are more of a coincidence. We like alot of space and color in our music. That patience is comparable to the pace of film music. Both leave alot of room for other elements. For film music, the space is there for the picture on the screen. For chromatics, the music allows room for your life and the environment around you to bleed in.
This latest record, and night drive too to a lesser degree, seems to pull directly on that whole film side of things. For one, it’s an hour and a half long. Is there any direct connection there or am i grasping at straws?
Again, it's a coincidence. We write outside of a traditional physical format. Generally albums are 45 minutes these days. That doesn't apply to us. There's nothing stretched for length or abbreviated for punch on the album. Every second is essential. Part of a complete puzzle. After the album is finished, we decide how we are going to translate that to vinyl, cd, digital, etc. Today, most films are around 90 minutes, but some are 10 minutes, and some are 4 hours. The length is irrelevant. The content is what matters to us. Sometimes it takes two hours to make a statement. Sometimes it takes 3 minutes.
Why open kill for love with a cover? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s outstanding and it seems to introduce the album well thematically, but it’s just not a typical move you know?
Nothing about how chromatics or italians do it better works is typical. Not for the sake of being contrary, we just have our own rhythm. 'Into the Black' was the first song we recorded on the new album. For me, the lyrics were like a mantra that summed up what I thought the positionality of the band would be in the world five years later. "rock & roll can never die". It was vital for chromatics to reintroduce the guitar. Synthesized tone and tasteful production have eclipsed alot of artistic content in the last five years. For us, it was important to get back to the root of the band. Which is the reason for the album cover. Night Drive was out of the blue and Kill For Love is into the black. It's a more mature record, and we set the bar incredibly high with that song. It was a challenge to the group to try and be able to back up such a bold move. Every song on the album had to be able to hold its own next to one of the most epic rock songs ever written. You can't touch neil young, but I think we paid respect without too much blasphemy. That's a real song. Alot of underground music today is more about mood, removed in an almost dada sense. Mood is also a huge part of what chromatics do. So the challenge was...Can we write songs too?
The whole 80s fetishism thing seems to have really taken off in the time between your last two albums. Did you have any conscious focus on making the new album a little different, knowing the musical climate had changed?
We are isolated and always changing. So the outside world doesn't play into it too much. You can never predict which way the wind is going to blow, so we don't even try. We just do what we do. And we are lucky that people respond to the kind of frozen in time aspect of italians do it better. We don't belong anywhere, so we just kind of make our own way. It means so much to us that people are interested in what we are trying to do. We take alot of chances in the studio. This opens us up to improvise and just follow our instincts. The genre or tone the song comes wrapped in is secondary to the song itself. Substance reigns supreme.
So we have a bit of a practical question for you. We’ve been looking around and can’t seem to find this info anywhere. If Kill For Love is a double album, where will the first disc end and the second begin? It looks like from the italians do it better website that it’s being released on cd with the “no escape” purged. Care to explain all this a little bit?
I personally don't like double CDs. With the exception of symmetry's "themes for an imaginary film," we have always limited italians' cds to a single disc. The cd is for the car, the digital is for the ipods on the train and the walk through the city, and the vinyl is for the bedroom and the club. The vinyl version of the album is divided between the last song on side two, and the first song on side three. 'Candy' is the halfway mark on the album conceptually. It was challenging to decide what to do with 'No Escape'. The original version of the track was 27 minutes long. Which threw us into a triple LP and a double CD. I decided to keep it digital. It's the first time I did that.
So you’re already at work, or about to be, on more new material from some other projects. Apparently after dark 2 is underway, as well as new albums from glass candy and farah. Anything you want to say about those projects?
We never stop working. After Dark 2 is next. New songs from desire, mirage, farah, glass candy, chromatics, & mike simonetti. It's really really coming together. More eclectic than Kill For Love in some ways. The general angle on it focuses on pop. It's definitely an extension of the first one. Really synth centric and dirty as ever. Right now, everysong shares the same kick drum. The entire compilation is being mixed in montreal on the same mixing board as the first after dark. Glass candy's 'body work' is a monster. Equally difficult to Kill For Love and totally different. Body Work is the rainbow to Kill For Love's cloudy sky. In 2007 the bands were a little more intertwined musically. They are more polar now. Glass candy's new material is more aggressive like the live show. The farah album is called Into Eternity and it's one of the most depressing records you will ever hear. It was recorded in november of 2008. But I can only work on it in stages because it's too upsetting. She really let's you into her world. It's going to be a love hate thing for alot of people. There is no barrier between you and her thoughts as she narrates stream of concious poetry over dying electronics. We love it so much!
Other than that, congratulations on the new album, and good luck the rest of this year with all your endeavors. We hope to catch you live at some point. It seems like the material from kill for love will certainly translate well in that regard.
We can't wait to cross the pond again with the new record. And thanks for taking an active interest in chromatics and the entire family.
Kill For Love by Chromatics is out now.
Purchase and listen
Hear a new track and see a new music video from Johnny Jewel's (of Chromatics) "other" band. [read more]