Friday, March 14, 2008

Interview: Matt Kretzman of Tapes 'n Tapes

Matt Kretzman of Tapes ‘n Tapes was kind enough to take time away from the band's hectic schedule at SXSW to answer a few questions for us. If The Loon was not one of your favorite albums in 2006, then you probably shouldn’t be coming to this site to begin with. (Ed. Unless you just want to help us with our “hit” count, which by all means, please continue doing). Matt explains how the band approached their upcoming album Walk it Off, his fascination with lakes and the late Kirby Puckett.

nql: You worked with famed producer David Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, Weezer, CYHSY, and more recently, MGMT) on Walk it Off. What, in particular, led you to him? And was it different having someone outside of the band having a say in the production of the album?

Matt Kretzman: I think we’re all fans of various things Dave has worked on (esp. probably the Flaming Lips records and the last Sleater-Kinney record). We really like how he records drums too and that was an important part of the criteria we had. Once Josh got a chance to talk to him about making the record it just became really clear that it would be a natural fit. Dave just wanted to help us make the record we wanted to make and be happy with how it sounds and I think we definitely accomplished that.

It was a bit different having someone outside the band having a say in the production of the album, but really only in the most positive ways. Most of the time this consisted of us bouncing ideas off of Dave and then, in his own zen way, he would say what his opinion was, or offer up other options. This was really invaluable and also kept things moving.

nql: With Walk it Off still weeks away from its official release, how have audiences reacted to the new songs?

MK: Really good I think. I mean it’s probably a bit difficult to digest anything on first listen, especially in a live setting, but overall it’s felt really good and has been fun for us as well.

nql: Blogs and other internet music sites became enamored with the band after The Loon first leaked. This captivation obviously has helped in the promotion of Walk it Off, but it also creates the potential for an album to be obliterated by bloggers before it is even released. Obviously such criticism is inevitable, but how does the band keep such worries out of their mind during the creative processes of making the album?

MK: It’s actually easier than one might think. You can’t get into a game of second-guessing yourself if people are going to like something or not. Really the only pressure that we ever felt was just from ourselves in trying to make a record that we were really happy with and excited about and I think we did that and even exceeded our own expectations.

nql: Who would you rather fondle and/or take home to mom, Topanga Lawrence from or Ashley Banks? (NQL note: We could not decide—if that helps your decision).

MK: Totally inappropriate. But didn’t they replace Ashley Banks at some point during the series?*

nql: Hey, you guys are young! You know about computers. Are you aware that people steal your music every day? What is your stance on such activity? (Please note that a frequent character on NQL, Jimmy Valpo, came up to you all after your show in Louisville in 2006 and begged for you guys to take his $10 because he had burned a copy of The Loon. After much back and forth, you refused to accept his money. Ultimately, you agreed to take his money on the condition that he would get an autographed LP of the The Loon, which he obviously accepted. With that in mind, I guess I just answered my question.)

MK: Yeah, we’re aware of it, but again it’s something totally out of our control. I guess we just hope if people really like our record or anybody’s for that matter, that they will eventually pay for it or go to a show or buy a copy for your friend’s birthday or support the band in some other way.

nql: You guys seemed to be booked pretty solid throughout the United States and Europe thru early June, what are your plans for the rest of 2008?

MK: Probably catch our collective breath after the spring touring, hopefully get a little grillin in, then hopefully play some more shows later in the summer or fall.

nql: Was there any conscious decision on your part to separate yourselves and your sound from The Loon or is the new album an example of you building and capitalizing on something that had worked the first time?

MK: I don’t think there was too much conscious thought or calculation going on between records. We played probably a couple hundred shows on The Loon, so I think once we had wrapped touring on that, we just wanted to start fresh. I think the sound of the record probably reflects that our sound had grown or stretched out in some ways, but mostly we just tried to build the songs the same way we always have. The process really didn’t change. Josh does demos, we listen to them on our own, then get together and start playing together and working it out.

nql: Other than the obvious financial advantages, how has the fact that you were signed to XL during the making of Walk it Off made the recording process different this time?

MK: Yeah, I think the biggest difference was having a budget that allowed us to go to work in a proper studio. We still worked briskly (recorded in about 11 days), but working with a great engineer and producer like Dave made it really sweet. XL really gave us the freedom to do what we chose to do in the studio so that didn’t really change the recording process.

nql: When you are in Chicago, what is your favorite place to hang out? You guys have now played Chicago quite a few times. Is there any show that sticks out?

MK: Chicago is always really fun. We ate at Ginos-East once when we played at Schubas and that was good stuff. Really my favorite place in Chicago though is the Lake. ^ Sometimes the grind of city life can just get you down but when you stand out there in one of those huge parks and feel the breeze and you have the view of the lake and the city, it’s pretty unbeatable. I also like the Green Mill on Broadway and Lawrence, and there’s another place called “the best place to eat” or something like that on Wilson – it’s hilarious and the guys that work there are hilarious, but it’s your basic pizza, burgers, shakes – delicious, but probably not very healthy.

As far as shows that stick out though, it’s hard to pick one, but opening the day at the Pitchfork Music Festival was super fun and then we just enjoyed the rest of the day watching bands and hanging out.

nql: So, who has more Kirby Puckett rookie cards, you or Craig Finn?

MK: He seems like he might have a formidable collection, but I’ve definitely hung on to mine too. Not sure if I have any Puckett rookie cards, but I have some other decent ones.

nql: With such a rich history of rock music in Minneapolis (i.e. the Replacements, Husker Du, Soul Asylum), tell us some bands from your hometown that we should keep our eye on.

MK: There’s definitely lots right now – I think I read that there are 17 Minneapolis bands at SXSW this year. Off the top of my head. . . Fog, Vampire Hands, Dosh, The Blind Shake, Halloween Alaska, Happy Apple, Mystery Palace.

nql: Thanks for your time! Good luck on tour!

--Matt Farra

*Note: Matt must have been confusing Aunt Viv with Ashley. The Mrs. Philip Banks was played first by Janet Hubert-Whitten and then later by Daphne Maxwell Reid. While the writers at NQL are unable to distinguish a vegan from a vegetarian, they are well-acquainted with Monday Night NBC sitcoms from the 1990s, as you will soon find out. Keep hitting refresh! Also, in hindsight, “fondle” might not have been the best of words to use. We just thought “sedate” would be inappropriate on a music site.

^NQL could not pass up the opportunity to note the irony in this answer. The band is from Minneapolis, which happens to be in the state of Minnesota, which happens to be referred to as the Land with a 15,291 lakes. Yet Matt still finds the time to enjoy another state’s lake.

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