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Track-By-Track

Autolux: Greg Edwards' Track By Track Preview Of Transit Transit
Laura Snapes , July 13th, 2010 13:01

Greg from Autolux takes us on a track by track guide through his band's second album...

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‘Transit Transit’

The first song was actually the last thing that was recorded. It was also the first thing that had any influence on the record overall, thematically. There were two words that I sung at one point, which were ‘transit transit’. That hit me immediately, that that was the title of the record. Carla conceptually re-imagined the arrangement and how it would work and how she wanted it to be, like some sort of loop or strange rhythmic thing and piano instead of guitar for the chords. She emailed me the original sketch idea, and I completely agreed with her.

I was out in the Danish countryside on a farm, and I was getting something out of the freezer in the basement, and when I closed the freezer door, it made this incredible booming sound. I got a mic and recorded it, thinking it could be useful somewhere down the line. Then when I went and listened to it, I noticed that the hinges on the freezer were actually clicking in this strange way after it actually closed. So I looped that together, putting hit after hit, and manipulated it a little bit. That became the loop that starts the record. Immediately, I thought that could work for what Carla was talking about, for re-imagining the song. Then in a barn, there was this completely out of tune piano that basically only played three chords that were in tune enough to even listen to, so they became the three chords that are in the song, and I just recorded them to that loop with those chords, and we went from there.

I use field recordings as much as possible.

I think we generally look at wherever we are that we’re working as a staging area for accidents, we set it up like that. So the more things that you hear that just catch your interest in whatever way, that you record and archive, they can always come back and be used in some way you never would have imagined.

‘Census’

This is just a chordal arrangement that was around for a while. This is an example of a song on the record when what was integral to the song coming together was us playing as a band, and finding the idea in the room, playing at loud volume. It really is pretty incredible how much the music industry has changed since our last album came out. From when we did the first record, the industry was really still intact in that old school way, it worked, and even though people were predicting all the changes that the internet would bring about, that hadn’t really taken effect yet, when we did the first record. Then in those years in between, it felt like complete insanity in the industry, nobody knew what was happening, and there was a lot of fear in the industry and amongst people who worked at labels. Probably in the last two years, it feels like people are starting to get a hold on what the future might look like with what’s happening with the internet. I don’t have any firm ideas on what it will be like, five years from now. It seems like we’re maybe floating closer to the shallow end where there’s something beneath our feet.

‘Highchair’

This was really a central track. The basic idea for this song came about pretty early on, and a lot of the things are on the final version are from the very early idea of it, the actual recordings of them – the drums, vocals and some of the ambient stuff. This is one of those songs that gave us definite direction. There were a lot of ideas, like I was talking about, that were confusing us at first, that didn’t pan out, but this was one of the ideas that existed among those that gave us a firm direction. This was written way before I became a father. It had nothing to do with that! In terms of meanings for this song, and almost all the songs on the record, but definitely this song in particular, you just have to listen. The meaning of the lyrics is just in listening to them. If you’re listening and being affected by the music and the lyrics, then you’ve got the meaning.

‘Supertoys’

When we worked the basic chord progression out, I remember that we had no doubt that it would be on the record. It was also a song like ‘Census’ that was absolutely dependent on the band playing in the room together and working it out. More so than a lot of songs, it was like a live song that was really just the band playing together. Especially in the writing process of the song, discovering all the writing parts of the song through writing it. We were playing this live a lot before we recorded it, so it had a few different permutations. This is actually Eugene singing the verse on this one. We can tell our voices apart instantly, they sound totally different for us, but I imagine for a lot of people it might take a while to get familiar with the differences. So it’s Eugene on the verse and Carla on the chorus, and as far as who sings what, Eugene sang the majority of stuff on the first record, and that was just because he was the most willing to do it.

‘Spots’

GE: ‘Spots’ really came out of listening to Neil Young a lot. I’ve always loved Neil Young, but then there was specific period where I was listening to his more ballady stuff, and I think I wanted to try to do something like that that didn’t make me cringe, so that was the experiment. I use acoustic a lot in writing, and then sometimes there’ll be acoustic underneath as a shadow of another instrument, but in terms of being able to hear acoustic guitar, I think there was one song on the first record that had it. It probably is peculiar to this song. People would be surprised that I don’t think we listen to much music that sounds anything like Autolux. We listen to probably everything around it. I really like Liars a lot, I was really happy to discover them a few years ago. I just recently gave in to all the press and hype and listened to Joanna Newsom. I’d listened to her a bit before, but I was callous to really listening to her with an open mind, for some reason, and I just recently did so and I was completely astounded. It’s completely… there’s no doubt that it’s absolutely breathtaking on a genius level, what she’s doing with everything, within the music and the songs, but especially the lyrics. Really, we listen to anything that’s really good. We can appreciate anything that’s truly authentic and good, and get excited about it. In a way, the more different it is from Autolux, the more willing we are to be excited about it. I don’t think when people compare us to My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive it's completely unfounded, but I definitely think it’s lazily over emphasized by every journalist out there. There’s definitely songs where I can see that there’s pointers to all that stuff, more so on the first record than on this one, but when I go back to the first one, that’s something I think about, the perception of it. Is that really true? I don’t hear it really, I don’t totally get it. I’m curious to see what people compare this record to.

‘The Bouncing Wall’

This was just a strange guitar loop that I had recorded, and Carla’s really just turned it into a song. I definitely can’t talk about anything to do with the lyrics. All the songs on the album are directed to a faceless 'you'. I remember Bob Dylan talking about this at some point earlier in his career, that he noticed that it was almost the easy way out, to write ‘you’, because it detaches it a little bit. I haven’t really thought about it that much, but I know that the pronouns do go back and forth. That’s one of the more simplistic things that gets played around with when we’re working on lyrics, and they always do default to the more detached pronoun, the one that leads with the less direct path back to us. I think that then there is a ‘you’, that’s definitely pointed at a person.

‘Audience No.2’

The lyric to this is: ‘I’ve always been your vegetable, and you my Swedenborg’? It's talking about Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish scientist. ‘Audience No.2’ has quite a few references to Orson Welles and that’s really a William Blake reference, and there’s a reference to the movie Five Easy Pieces, so that was a song where I was sort of playing around with all sorts of different things. I'm a big James Joyce fan. Yeah, I am. I could spend the rest of my life just reading James Joyce and I still would barely have gotten my head around it. He’s someone that I keep going back to. I think that this comes out in my lyrics, but I’m always amazed by the sort of coding of language that someone like Joyce uses. He’s writing about incredibly simple things, very general, simple things in life, but he’s writing about them with an incredibly complex technique, in an incredibly difficult way. There’s something strange in humans where it somehow will have more meaning if it’s not direct. Even something very simple, if it’s coded in a certain way and it forces you to approach it from a different angle, when you finally come up to the surface and there’s something clear and distinctive there, if you’ve come at it from a strange angle then that clarity will actually hit you, and you’ll really understand it, whereas if someone just said this simple idea to you without going through this slalom course, it would mean nothing to you or it would seem trite.

‘Kissproof’

It started out as a jam session, and then it was really a combination, but it was definitely finished with overdubbing and finding it that way. It was actually the second to last song that was done for the record. The first song that was completed was definitely ‘Audience No.2’ – we actually released that in 2008, it’s been around for ages.

‘Headless Sky’

‘Headless Sky’ was actually the first song idea that was written after Future Perfect, and in my mind, it was really a counterpart to ‘Capital Kind of Strain’ from that record. I remember thinking that from the initial idea, thinking that it was some way connected to that song.

‘Science Of Imaginary Solutions’

I feel like this is a test and I’m failing! So the last song, this was the song that was actually one of the first that really existed as a complete idea, and we actually demo’d it a few times before the actual recording of it. Carla sings it, and it’s the perfect song to end the record with. It’s pretty bleak – ‘It’s all over now for you, it’s all over now.’ But not just for that reason. It feels right. We all really like this song, and there was an impulse to out it earlier on just to get to it quicker, but in the end, the only place for it was last. Anyway, everyone’s going to put it on their iPod and the order gets scrambled around, so you don’t have so much control of the sequence in the end.

Atom
Jul 13, 2010 11:44pm

Really good stuff here. I love hearing/reading artist's accounts of how songs came about and evolved.

Thanks for covering a REALLY great band. Hope to see more Autolux articles in the future.

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Josh
Jul 14, 2010 10:39am

The first time I'd heard "Science of Imaginary Solutions" was the start of their NoisePop set...I'd always thought of it as the perfect way to start an album.

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Jim
Jul 17, 2010 9:20pm

Great article! Can't wait to re-read this after I've listened to the album.

On a side-note I find it pretty sad, as Greg mentions at the end, how album order and intended sequence are kind of obliterated in 2010. When I first hear an album, I'm always very particular about hearing it in order and uninterrupted. If 'Transit Transit' is anything like 'Future Perfect' in terms of flow from track to track, it should be an exceptional listening experience. Super excited to finally hear this album!

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Jameson
Jul 19, 2010 10:36am

Wow... I have been absorbing this album over the last month everyday on my to work on the Metro. I very much appreciate this insight. I found myself at times wondering what the sounds were from, or what the song title or lyrics were referencing. "Audience No. 2" especially made me google a few things and I have found it to be my favorite song. I wish I would have heard it 2 years ago when I was going through a messed up episode in my life because it says things that I was thinking, and knowing artists who I respect were thinking about similar things would have been good comfort, alas it still makes me smile. Greg you're a badass, thanks for this piece.

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Conrad
Jul 25, 2010 7:10am

I just listened to the bootleg of the entire album while reading this. First, I must say that I am finally glad that this record came out. I agree with Greg that Future Perfect is not My Bloody Valentine. Future Perfect is a masterpiece and you can't perfect perfection unless you are Chuck Norris. Anyhow, it was interesting to see Greg reveal how piano replaced much of guitar. Props to Autolux going in a different direction, but like the single Future Perfect, I feel that there should have been two versions of this album because Autolux has really honed their live performances. ATTN: GREG, CARLA, and Eugene...Please record Autolux live on Bluray and CD. Until then, I will try not to miss any LA shows. We are spoiled here in LA. We are lucky to have Autolux

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