MIDDAY VEIL – “THE CURRENT” INTERVIEW

1 Oct

It again seems appropriate that the title above declares this “’The Current’ Interview” with Midday Veil, given that “The Current” is the name of the band’s recently released, singularly spectacular new album. But it’s also our “current” interview, given that nearly three years have passed since the band answered our ridiculous questions for the first time.

At the time, we found ourselves floating somewhere between being impressed and obsessed with the band’s debut album, “Eyes All Around.” And as if to prove that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, today we find ourselves welcoming that very familiar feeling when listening to “The Current.”

If anything, the intervening years have seen only a growth in the obsession side of the equation, growth most directly fueled by the majesty of “The Current.” As albums go, there are almost certainly none in our recent memory that surpass the sturdy sonic-symmetry delivered here by Midday Veil. Like its full-length predecessor, “The Current” is an album that shows the band displaying a transcendent, nearly outlandish level of confidence in their songs. By confidence, we mean that we hear the sound of a band that is fully and completely tuned-in to their strengths, to their individual and collective power. And by extension, we hear a band that sounds completely themselves, completely comfortable in their own skin as they travel the spaceways, the spaceways, from planet to planet.

Let us be clear: “The Current” is an album that is intensely personal and somewhat enigmatic; simply put, we’re never in danger of mistaking Midday Veil’s sound for that of another band. Yet it’s also an album that is immediately palatable and undeniably enjoyable; it’s perhaps the only album you’ll hear this year (or this lifetime) that’s filled with synth-heavy, crushingly cosmic, Gnostic invocations of the great beyond – while also awakening within you the great, irresistible urge to dance and sing-along. It’s a hypnotic and compelling combination, from a hypnotic and compelling band.

We could not recommend any album any more highly than we recommend “The Current,” and we could not be more thrilled to have Midday Veil’s Timm Mason, David Golightly and Emily Pothast once again answer our ridiculous questions below. Enjoy.

What are the most significant ways in which you see an evolution in Midday Veil, from the time you released “Eyes All Around” until now? Which of those evolutions were you consciously trying to accomplish and which – for lack of a better term – just snuck up on you?

Timm Mason: The obvious difference is the addition of Jayson Kochan on bass.  He’s got rock-solid rhythm, and it freed David and I up from having to hold down bass-lines on the synth or bari guitar. He’s also a strong multi-instrumentalist, like everyone in the band.

David Golightly: Adding Jayson really firmed up the grooves and also let us venture into a more adventurous place sonically with the synths and guitars, so the new album has a lot more intense atmospheric parts and a darker overall vibe.

Emily Pothast: There have been a few lineup changes, all of which have come with a certain evolutionary shift. David, Timm and I have all been playing together as Midday Veil since January of 2009. For a while, MV was a 4-piece with our original drummer Chris Pollina, who played on both “Eyes All Around” and “The Current.” We added Jayson on bass in 2011, and we also added Sam Yoder as an auxilliary percussionist. Last summer, Chris left (on friendly terms), and we’ve been playing with Garrett Moore on drums ever since.

Lineup changes are a big deal for us, because so many of our song ideas are dependent on the group dynamic. Lately, we’ve been playing songs that feature more minimal drums, with Garrett on 12-string guitar. New people tend to take things in new directions.

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Speaking strictly musically, was there a single (or perhaps multiple) notable source of inspiration that came into your life over the past couple of years in such a way that you can identify the impact it’s made on the music you make with Midday Veil? How did this inspiration enter your life? How does this inspiration manifest itself in the music of Midday Veil?

DG: Working with producer Randall Dunn was very influential for us. He really pushed us to test our boundaries and explore beyond our comfort zone.

TM: He opened up a broader sound palette in the studio.  We’d wanted to work with him for some time, and I think he came in with a different perspective of what Midday Veil was – it was helpful in finding some new territories to stake out, and thinking about how the pieces might fit together.

EP: Randall has been a big influence for sure. More recently, we’ve been doing some recording with Tim Green at Louder, which is a beautiful studio in the woods near Grass Valley, California. Both Randall and Tim are insanely talented and knowledgeable recording engineers, but their styles and approaches to our sound couldn’t be more different. I like the balance of getting multiple points of view and exploring our dynamic by recording in different contexts with different people.

Speaking of realms outside of music specifically, was there a single (or perhaps multiple) notable source of inspiration that came into your life over the past couple of years in such a way that you can identify the impact it’s made on the music you make with Midday Veil? How did this inspiration enter your life? How does this inspiration manifest itself in your daily life? In the music of Midday Veil?

EP: Hm. David, Timm and I have all spent time working with video art in some capacity, and I think the aesthetics of video feedback have had a big influence on our music and everything else we do. I started out as a visual artist, and I still have a tendency to think of writing songs or melodies as “drawing” or collaging in sound and time.

Your new album, “The Current,” is utterly outstanding and while in many ways very different than “Eyes All Around,” one thing both albums share (to these ears) is a stunning collection of very memorable, very catchy (again, for lack of a better term) melodies and hooks that span outwards from what is (again, to these ears) a very deep, strange and cosmic core. Considering the other releases that Midday Veil has produced outside of your two albums proper, and considering your other artistic outlets, do you have the goal of making the albums more refined, more sculpted toward a larger purpose?

TM: I’d say the ‘proper’ albums are more intentional constructions, whereas the others are more about group interaction in the moment and channeling.  They’re both sculpted towards a larger purpose, but the process is very different. With “The Current” and “Eyes All Around,” there’s an idea that we’re crafting songs and using them to build an experience.  An album like “Integratron” is a meta-sonic experience unfolding in real time.  We’re as surprised by where it leads as any listener is.

EP: In some ways, my favorite albums are the improvised ones. They are more like documents of Happenings than intentional objects. I like Timm’s description of “Integratron” as a meta-sonic experience. It’s a record of the band in a specific architectural-temporal situation having an investigatory sonic experience. But there are limitations to improvisation, too, so we’re always interested in bringing the lessons of that experience into the context of composition with more intentionality.

I’m personally excited by the version of “Choreia” on the new album. The basic idea for “Choreia” was born a long time ago during a Subterranean Ritual. It’s essentially a rhythmic idea that developed into a framework for live improvisation, which over time developed into a highly stylized piece that totally sounds like free improv, with all these unexpected bursts of noise, but is in fact tightly composed. The studio version is crafted out of improvised overdubs that were sculpted and edited as we went along. “Like growing crystals,” as Randall described it.

What does the title “The Current” represent to you? How is that concept represented in the cover art for the album? How is that concept represented in the song “The Current”? Are we hearing the lyrics correctly when the song begins, “A halo of light reflects along the perimeter, round and around, shot through a broken prism on the water, cut off from the Sun”? Is “The Current” later likened to a serpent, or are we mishearing things? Can you tell us a little more about these lyrics? Is there a catchier bass line on all of the earth than the one that anchors the song, “The Current”?

EP:  Haha – the bass line is indeed catchy, and you’re hearing the words correctly. The song “The Current” was built in the studio on a jam originally laid down by Jayson on bass and Chris on drums. I had the task of taking it home and writing a vocal part to go with the basic tracks after they were recorded. Meanwhile, a curator friend commissioned an essay from me for an art exhibition, and my essay ended up serving, in part, as inspiration for the lyrics to “The Current,” which to me are about perception, feedback loops, and how the iterations of transformative snapshots of the same object (or person) through time give rise to narrative patterns of meaning, almost like magic:

a speck of dust

on the mirror’s surface

casts a shadow

that grows with every glance

like a wordless whisper

in a hall of glass

potentiality

reflecting all that you see

as you move through the dream

We were excited to see the inclusion of the song “Remember Child” on “The Current” – a song that we were originally introduced to on your “End of Time” EP. How has the song changed – either musically or metaphysically, or ideally, both – in the intervening years? Why did it make sense to you to include it on “The Current”?

TM: When we recorded “Remember Child” for “The Current,” I don’t think we’d played it live in some time.  Maybe that allowed us to have a fresh perspective and approach it more as a sonic entity and less as a thing that needed to be performed – eluding some of the limitations of a live performance, but hopefully retaining the ceremonial or processional character.

EP:  It’s funny – that old version of “Remember Child” was the very first song we ever recorded as Midday Veil. There was a time when it was the only track on our MySpace page!

A few years ago I was on a plane bound for Texas, to attend the trial of the drunk driver who killed my parents. I was reading a book about sacred geometry and Gnosticism, and came across a quote from Origen:

“Understand that you are a second little world, and that the sun and the moon are within you, and also the stars.”

I found it comforting in that moment of what felt like impossible, endless loss to think of myself as a little universe nested inside the big universe, so I made those words into a mantra that might be intoned to me by the Cosmic Mother, or in my case, my mother, whose voice I happen to share.

David and I just made a video for “Remember Child” that features all this footage of celestial bodies colliding into each other. Each collision represents the destruction of a world, but it’s also how new planets and moons get created. As above, so below …

As far as including “Remember Child” on “The Current,” it’s just one of those songs that we’ve always thought was worthy of a rich, fleshed out studio production. It made sense to bring it into the studio because it seemed right up Randall’s alley.

Would you care to comment on the rumor – the rumor that were are attempting to start right now – that you are in the middle of recording an album-length re-imagining of the mythology of “Gilligan’s Island,” under the working title, “Midday Sail”?

EP: I don’t know anything about that. But have you heard our unreleased concept album about leafy greens, “Midday Kale”?

What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what’s your favorite song by The Master Musicians of Bukkake and why? Please show your work.

TM:  I’ve been listening to Ghédalia Tazartès quite a bit.  I’m also listening to a lot of synthesized sound by the likes of Roland Kayn, Conrad Schnitzler, and Asmus Tietchens. Regarding MMOB – right now, I like “The Cave of Light” from the new album “Far West.”  It’s a song that formed in the studio and really took on a life of its own on the recent European tour.  B.R.A.D. killed it on the lyrics, and I love that guitar melody. I enjoy watching audience reactions when the 7 vs. 4 chorus hits – thought it’s rare that anyone can see anyone in that fog.

EP: I feel blessed to live in the Northwest right now, with so many friends making such wonderful music. Panabrite, A Story of Rats, Swahili, Brain Fruit, Golden Retriever/Matt Carlson, Lumerians, M. Geddes Gengras, Sun Araw, White Manna … if I didn’t live on the West Coast, I’d want to move here.

William James writes the following in his book, “The Varieties of Religious Experience”:

“Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another.”

Your thoughts?

EP: Theory versus praxis. It’s one thing to behold something mentally, or abstractly, and quite another to be it. Playing music, especially with other people, is one surefire way to pull yourself out of the world of abstraction and into the realm of being. Words and ideas are useful for some things, but music slips into places where words can’t fit.

What’s next for Midday Veil?

EP: We’re doing a little bit of touring this fall, but mostly laying low to record and work on new ideas.

DG: We’ve got a ton of new material in the can already. We’ve been recording tracks with Tim Green, and also some new tracks with Randall. We’ve also got a much better home recording situation than we ever had, so expect a lot more material. We also have a ton of video ideas kicking around, so we’ll be doing more of those as well.

The Current is available now.

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