Thursday, July 29, 2010

Interview: ShitSleeper

I recently spoke with Philadelphia-area artist ShitSleeper (formerly Every Bunny Welcome, known outside of music as Alec Gabin) about his self-recorded new album, Sky & A Flag, released 7/23/10. Based in the label/collective Tamur Records, he has been part of numerous projects over the past years, but has largely recorded alone for his past few releases. To hear (and buy!) Sky & A Flag, you can gohere. All the tracks from the Every Bunny Welcome days are also available free on Tamur Records’ online catalog.

God Save the Beat: Could you give some background as to how you initially got started in music? Back in high school and immediately after?

Alec Gabin: Well let’s see. I played the trumpet in elementary school, even though I wanted to play drums. By high school I was taking music theory. Then I met 2 kids on my baseball team who liked music. They were a year older. I spent the entire summer after freshman year of high school in my friend’s garage writing and recording music with him. Duct taping mics to the ceiling. Screaming bloody murder angsty Interpol wannabes at all hours, all summer.

We started a band and I ended up being the singer, which was odd because I had never considered myself much of a singer. I still don’t. We had a band called the Pidgeons. I played Rhodes piano and sang. I bought a cheap drum set. I started screwing around on acoustic guitar. After high school I decided I wanted to not go to college and instead play music. So I moved in with current bandmates in North Jersey and played in New York City with a head full of dreams.

Since I was 15 I have been recording solo music. I started out using free software and one of those white computer mics that comes with most PCs. Until this last project (I am now 21) I have gone by "Every Bunny Welcome". Most Every Bunny Welcome songs were recorded in one night alone and only compiled into albums later. My latest record, Sky & A Flag, was not done this way. (And now I go by ShitSleeper.) This record was done over the period of a month, working on all songs at once.

Anyway, I'm rambling.

GSTB: Who are your greatest musical influences?

AG: Hmmmm. I could take this a lot of ways. A lot. Caustic Resin. Godspeed You Black Emperor. Chopin. Joanna Newsom. The Walkmen. Black Moth Super Rainbow's first album. Lots of soundtracks. Terminator, the Snowman movie. Hardcore techno. The Fall, Joy Division. I am also influenced by bands I don’t like. Bands I try NOT to be like. But I try to try not to be like anyone. I just try to let it all come through me.

Also the Subhumans. Slowdive. Broken Social Scene's first album. Hmm.

GSTB: What does this album mean for you in terms of your evolution as an artist? How was this album different from what you've done in the past? Is there a story behind how it came to be?

AG: This is the first album I've gone about recording as a whole, instead of a song at a time. It’s the first solo album I’ve ever had printed up, and mastered. It took a solid month of 8 or so hours a day. Sometimes more than 24 hours in a row. You get obsessed. I recorded it in my parents’ basement.

GSTB: Why the name change from Every Bunny Welcome to ShitSleeper?

AG: I just feel it’s time for a change. Every Bunny Welcome implies a certain innocence to the whole process that I just don’t feel anymore. I wish I did, I wish I could record without thinking like I did when I was 15, but I can't. I know too much, even though all I know is I know nothing.

GSTB: What inspired the shift in sound? I noticed in particular there's a heavier overall sound here, but there's even some strings as well. Was it a conscious change, or something that came naturally?

AG: I have always wanted strings in my music. I write music on piano, almost as classical music. I like to compose with notes, not set chords I did not make up myself. I have composed some choral and classical music in the past, but to me it's all the same. Music is music. I just got tired of my classical music not having a sweet trip-hop groove. I would have been using violin forever, but I only recently found a violinist for this album.

And as for the heaviness thing, it’s always been heavy. At least in my head. I also figured out in the past year how to make the Rhodes sound like a fucking Stegasaurus eating Catholic school children. That took a while. I figured out eating children fast, but Catholic children took longer.

GSTB: What are you most proud of in terms of your artistic output?

AG: I really like the album I did on GarageBand a while back. Sometimes it’s nice to be limited. I don’t know. This is a tough question. If I was really proud of anything I'd done, I might stop doing it. I've been trying to write the same goddamn song for years. Been trying to paint the same picture for years too. I'm proud more of the fact I got the album done than of the album's content itself. There's a big difference between garage band and logic pro with an interface etc...

GSTB: What's the next step from here? Do you see yourself recording another album as ShitSleeper on Tamur Records? What is your connection/status with Tamur?

AG: As always, I’ve been writing more and more music, absentmindedly on Monday morning pianos while my parents are at work. I’m thinking of doing a more acoustic/folky album. I was on a roadtrip recently and wrote a few acoustic guitar country-esque numbers I wanna do real basic. My next release will certainly sound smaller, if that makes sense. Less overdriven, less process, less cut up. I’m not ready for another one of these yet.

Tamur is a home for me. I really don’t consider myself having a label. But it’s my home. It’s the only sense of musical community I have anymore. Which is my own fault. But yeah.

GSTB: Anything else you'd like to say about the album, the creative process behind it, or you as an artist?

AG: What I really want is to find some musicians that I can click with.People that listen louder than they play. People that realize a member of a band is a part of a whole. The funny thing is... I really don't much like playing music alone, and I especially hate recording music. It’s a painful process. Takes forever, especially alone. I hate click tracks. I just want to have the group be able to play the song live at any time, all at once. Stick a mic in the middle and call it a recording. Recording alone so much begins to feel like literally "playing with yourself" in a basement. I’d like to get the music out of myself. And for this I need other people.

-Juan Carlos

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