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Escape Velocity

Travelling To The Future By Hover Car: Tweak Bird Interviewed
Ben Hewitt , August 24th, 2010 06:25

Ben Hewitt discusses the past, the future, the Wright brothers and the hover car with sibling duo Ashton and Caleb Bird

The Good Old Days: we can never completely shake them off, even if, on reflection, they weren't all that good to begin with. There will always be a cultural hankering for the nuggets of old, whether it's the remakes of The Karate Kid and The A-Team currently storming the Box Office Top Ten, or the retro-charms of some of this year's biggest musical trends. As Charles Ubaghs and Ross Pounds have already eloquently argued in their pieces on the revival of smooth and the spread of glo-fi respectively, the past is always a part of the present, and a re-hash of 70s and 80s aesthetics is currently in vogue. The great TS Eliot once said: "No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone", and while he may not have had a copy of Relayted by Gayngs playing in the background for inspiration, his message remains undiluted - delving into the annals of history has always been a cornerstone of artistic experimentation.

It was only a matter of time, then, until a band would capture the gloriously sweaty and sun-drenched rock & bliss of the 70s and 80s with as much enjoyable fuzz as American duo Tweak Bird. Comprised of siblings Ashton and Caleb Bird, their self-titled debut will be released on August 30. But we do the brothers Bird a grave disservice to dismiss them as mere copyists; they're not The Datsuns or, heaven forbid, Jet. Tweak Bird seems them meld heavy pop melodies with squalling bursts of saxophone, and marry dusty snapshots of sprawling American highways with futuristic visions of light-speed travel. The Quietus caught up with Ashton and Caleb to discuss influences, inspirations and sibling rivalry...

Hello Tweak Bird. How are you both?

Ashton Bird: Hello. Things are good here, we are ripping it across the States right now. We're leaving Chicago soon - we've been on the road for about two weeks.

Most people will be aware of Tweak Bird by now, but for the uninitiated, how would you describe yourselves and your sound?

AB: We are nice people - incredibly intellectual and, contrary to popular belief, we play decent experimental heavy-pop music.

Your album, Future is released on August 30. On the opening track you tell us "Don't look back/ The future is coming". Rather than ask you about the future of Tweak Bird, I'm going to ask you about the future in general. What do you think the world will be like in 50 years?

Caleb Bird: We'll all be piloting flying cars and I'll probably ride a hover board to work.

Ashton Bird: I'm afraid the future seems a bit gloomy at times...however, I think science will continue to amaze us with things like flying cars, and more gadgets than anyone needs. But I wonder if people will continue to separate themselves from real culture and settle even more into the un-reality of social networking?

Growing up, what were the first bands you played in? And when was the first time you played together?

AB: We've played together since I was born, mostly G.I Joes and Army Men. The first band I played in though was this band (or an unrecognised early form of it) about 12 years ago.

I read that Tweak Bird was a long time in the making - that you experimented with numerous different lines up and members before you finally found your niche as a sibling duo. Why was it such a lengthy process? And what were some of the more unsuccessful permeations?

AB: For us, music is an outlet for who we are... that said, we are cursed with ever changing visions, new ideas and a severe impatience. Looking back, all of the line-ups helped us grow immensely as musicians and people.

How hard is it to co-exist as brothers in the same band? Is there any ever sibling rivalry? And with Oasis no more, are you the new rock & roll siblings to help out for? Although, I harbour hopes that the next great musical siblings will be more akin to the Wright brothers than the Gallagher brothers...

AB: I would like to think of us more like Huck and Jim, of Mark Twain fame. Although they are not actually blood related, like we are, they are really into trying things out - exploring the limits and challenging any rules we can.

Could you please give us three musical influences?

AB: Silverchair, White Zombie and Arlo Guthrie... in absolutely no particular order.

And three non-musical influences?

AB: Friendly competition, trees and the concept of travel.

Super. Let's talk about your debut album, which I think has a really interesting heavy/pop divide. Which 'genre', or 'label', would you identify with more?

AB: We both really enjoy writing pop melodies, but heavy and weird music appeals more to us. Again, we are impatient and nothing breaks up a long doom riff like some pretty vocals.

How do you think the album differs to your Reservations EP? Old favourites like 'Whoreses' have been left off the album - why was that?

AB: We wanted the release to be all new material, with some level of congruence... which, if you asked me, lacked on the EP. All our releases to date have been compilations of songs. We tried to make an "album"...

There are a lot of unconventional flourishes on the album that you don't hear from many rock & roll bands - snatches of flute, saxophone and theremin. What's the experimentation process behind choosing these instruments?

AB: Saxophones and flute run ramped on some of our favourite records, from Pink Floyd to Huey Lewis. It doesn't seem that foreign to us, although honestly, we did know we were stepping outside the box with it. I think people are intrigued by things they don't understand or see often - at least, we are.

I've seen a few comparisons made between your sound and Black Sabbath; the sax inclusion, meanwhile, has led a few people to label you as jazz metal. Are those comparisons and labels compatible with one another, and which do you think sums you up more accurately?

AB: I'd say we are less jazz and more weirdo-grunge kids that can't play our instruments. I think jazz metal sounds nerdy or something - my brother would probably disagree - but anyway, the jazz aspects are nothing that major for us. They're just an experiment; just a short sequence in the greater vision of our music. We will continue experimenting. Who know's what you'll hear with the next album...

You recorded Tweak Bird in less than a week. Why are you possessed with such a fearsome work ethic?

AB: Six days is the longest we've ever spent in a recording studio. So to us, it was a rather tame pace - the EP was recorded in two weeks if I remember correctly. Anyway, we've been paying for our own recordings for a long time which, for two part-time job-working musicians, means: Do it right, and don't beat yourself up if you don't... it probably sounds better than what you were trying to do.

That fast and furious mentality leaks into your aesthetic, too; most of the songs on the album clock in at three minutes, and you make reference on 'Ride' to travelling at the "speed of light".

CB: Yes.

AB: Yeah, the length of our songs is a pretty relative thing though... we've played ten minute versions of two minute songs and jammed three minute songs into a minute and a half. The album is full of recordings of our songs, but we've only captured one form of them - they'll take on many.

So with all the references to flying and space, then, have people pegging you as sweaty rock & roll made a mistake?

CB: Although we are sweaty rock & roll, we are into the future. We like progress and improvement.

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