This is an action packed post, kiddos. Brace yourselves!
The Morning Benders (myspace) release their debut album, Talking Through Tin Cans today on Plus One Records. They’ve got a pretty kickin’ deal going that if you buy their digital album, you get it, plus some b-sides, and a ticket to their CD release show either in SF or LA. The LA release show is at the Echo on Thursday (May 8th) and the SF show is at 330 Ritch on Friday (May 9th). More about the deal here. You can also get more info about the shows here.
You can also check out a free in-store at Virgin Megastore downtown (2 Stockton St) tomorrow evening at 7pm. Be sure to get there early so you can get a spot close.
All the songs I’ve heard from Talking are really good. I’m pretty excited to hear the whole thing.
I sat down at a recording studio and music offices in the Mission with Chris Chu, the Morning Benders’ songwriter, singer and guitarist, last week to catch up and ask him a few questions as the album release approached.
Adrian Bischoff of ipickmynose: Are you excited that the album’s finally coming out?
Chris Chu of the Morning Benders: Quite. Quite.
A: It’s been a while since you recorded it, right?
C: Yeah, it’s been a while. I think that’s sort of what happens.
A: It’s been … eight months or something… last August.
C: Yeah. August. So it’s been a while.
A: Have your opinions of the album changed since then? Or the songs?
C: Um, yeah, definitely. I guess I haven’t listened to it in a while. That’s what happens, you know. You obsess over it for so long, you don’t want to ever listen to it again. You get over that after a while and you can put it on again and be more objective about it. It’s cool. I mean, everything we’ve gone through is a learning process. I’m the sort of person who’ll look back and think about all the things I would do differently or want to change for the next time and that sort of thing…
A: Is that what happened with the EPs? Because you recorded some of those songs again.
C: Yeah, the EPs were definitely a learning process because I was recording them and that was my first time ever recording, so I was just learning that for the first time. I sort of knew going into them that those weren’t going to be what I had intended them to be because we were really limited. We were really limited, obviously. What we had was just whatever was around my house.
When we got into the studio that was what was so cool about it. We got to flesh out the songs how I wanted in the first place.
A: I read somewhere that one of the EPs–I forget which song–but the second song you ever recorded was on one of the EPs.
C: The first song I ever recorded was “Grain of Salt”. And it took me like three times. I have a bunch of versions of it. We’ve actually been talking about–because that song’s not on the record, but we still like to play it. So we’re thinking about putting out an EP of just “Grain of Salt” recordings because there are so many different versions of it.
A: That’d be awesome. You should get some other bands to cover it as well.
C: Yeah. That’d be cool. I didn’t think of that. That’s a good idea.
A: I’ll expect a royalty check.
C: [laughing] Yeah…
I recorded acoustic demos but that was just like putting a mic up and hitting record. But the first time I tried to record a band or a song was “Grain of Salt” and I did it piece-by-piece.
A: I mean, historically, that’s not, like, how bands work. People sit in their basements for 10 years and record on a four-track and then finally release an album. Do you feel like you’re–I don’t know–bursting onto the scene quickly?
C: I don’t really think about it that way. I think try to not think about it too much or deliberate too much and just let it happen like it needs to happen. I don’t feel you need to be tinkering away on songs for years and years before you put them out. Because it takes away a lot– I think, some of the spontaneity, some of the early creative hit or whatever–or energy.
So I kind of like the spirit of recording things haphazardly and putting them out. I started writing songs a few years ago, so that was sort of a new thing. Most of these songs are some of the first songs I’ve ever written.
A: Do you think that–obviously it’s a lot easier to record a song and get it out there [now] with the internet, so do you think ten years ago that you’d have been releasing songs as quickly?
C: That’s a good question. I think we probably would. We would have found some way to do it. People have been recording things for themselves for a good amount of time, like you were saying, on a four track. We probably would have done that or whatever was cheaper. It just so happens that recording on your computer or something is the cheapest way, because you don’t have to really buy anything else. Yeah, the internet is obviously a good tool for getting your music out there. That would have been a lot harder or a lot different.
(Find the rest of the interview, a new video and the flyer after the jump.)
A: You got a lot of blog press right off the bat. How’d that come about and was that surprising at all?
C: Yeah, it was. I hadn’t really heard about the music blogs that much. I sort of knew about it vaguely: the idea of these things popping up and stuff. I started searching around and found this huge network of them. It’s pretty cool when you first come across that because there’s so much music and so many different people’s tastes and stuff. It’s kind of a crazy world.
But, uh, the music, we wanted to put stuff up for free from the beginning. That was kind of the idea behind it. We had two or three mp3s that we just put up and I sent them to some of the blogs that we liked. Blogs just find [the mp3s] when you put them [online] and it just goes from there.
It was kind of a mysterious thing. We didn’t know a lot of it. I mean, people were telling us, check out this blog that posted something about you and we didn’t see it for a while.
A: Yeah, “viral” is the word everyone’s using these days.
C: [whispering] Viral.
A: With this new album there are all sorts of things that you’re doing, like the ticket giveaway. If you buy the album you get a ticket to the release show and the b-sides and things like that. It seems like you’re embracing this new business model where you don’t just assume that people will buy your records.
A: Is that–
C: Well, yes, since we’re talking about the internet. People are buying music less and less since you can get it for free. Or, they get bored of music because there’s so much music that they don’t want to invest the time in an album or a band. They just put together mixtapes of a couple mp3s here and there.
So, yeah, that’s what we wanted to do with Plus One which was so great, which was to try to get–well, first of all have CDs that are nice and collectible. We obviously put a lot of time into the idea of a record being cohesive. We like the idea of it having two sides, like vinyl. Not just a bunch of songs thrown together. Something that’s sort of cohesive. We want people to take it as such and enjoy it as a full album.
Things like the giveaway that encourage people to buy the album–it’s good. That’s what we’re trying to do.
A: Is this going to get a vinyl release?
C: Yeah, hopefully. The first thing we did was the 7″ from the beginning with a couple new songs. And that’s really cool. We still have some of those. But yeah, we want to do it on vinyl. It’s just really expensive.
A: I don’t know if people make any money off of vinyl.
C: Or 7″s. That’s even worse.
A: I got one…but then again you gave it to me. You didn’t make any money off of me on that one.
Does songwriting come naturally to you?
C: Um, yeah, I think so. I haven’t really thought about it, so yeah probably, [laughing] because it does come naturally…
Yeah, I write songs a lot. I’ve actually been doing these demos recently for the next album. I refused to do demos for a long time because–like I was talking about–I wanted to do them in the studio for the first time and make them as spontaneous as possible but everyone keeps nagging me for them so I’ve been starting doing them. I’ve been doing one a day to get them done–this back catalog of songs–and now I just keep writing one a day because–
A: You were recording one a day and–
C: I was recording one everyday so I got the juices flowing or something so now I’m writing them and now I can’t catch up to myself. I’ve been trying to finish them but I keep writing a new one and recording it that day, putting myself behind.
C: Yeah, I’ve been writing a lot.
A: I mean, sort of the romantic ideal of a songwriter is someone who can just sit down and write a song [at will]. Paul McCartney was like that but not many other people. I think you’ve got a skill there.
Another thing is that you guys are pretty young and pretty much every article mentions this. Do you find it weird that there’s this fascination with your age?
C: It’s kind of strange at this point of the game. You’d think people would be kind of passed it. The funny thing is people are older now than they were in the sixties when they were coming up. The Beatles were getting–George Harrison was 25 or something when the Beatles broke up , so he was like 15 or 16 when they were starting out. That’s super young.
A: Yeah, all those girl groups were–
C: Exactly. It’s kind of strange that now, 40 or 50 years later, people are still harping on it. I guess it’s interesting for some reason.
A: I think rock n roll is still a young man’s game but you see all these established acts now that are 35 or…
C: And the industry seems to have gotten slower, which is something we’re trying to fight against.
Yeah, that’s probably part of it. It probably takes longer to put out records so when you see a young band doing it seems to be interesting for some reason.
A: You’ve opened for a lot of big acts. What’s your favorite of those? What’s your favorite show among those?
A: I don’t think so.
C: You’d like them.
A: I should check them out.
C: They’re from Brooklyn or something. We were touring and we got offered a show with them and I saw them for the first time and thought they were just so great, which is rare [when] seeing a band for the first time. It’s awesome They have two drummers. It’s a really cool live set up. That was probably the most surprising one.
We just played with MGMT who we’ve been listening to a lot. I don’t know. There’s a bunch.
A: Would it be bad to ask if you have a favorite Bay Area band? Would you make too many enemies?
C: My favorite one which I’ve said in every interview–they should be paying me! We’ve given them so much press [laughing]–is the Mumlers. Do you know them?
A: Yeah, yeah. They’re good.
C: They are. They’ve just put out a record which is really good. They’re my favorite band around.
A: What’s the plan for the next album after this? Is that on the books or are you just–?
C: It’s vaguely on the books. [talking louder] We’d like it to be on the books as much as possible.
Steve from Plus One [whose been working in the same room]: Thanks for that.
C: We’re thinking about it obviously. That’s one of the things we’d like to do: keep putting out music a lot–as much as we can–and keep making new music. So I think we’ll record, if we’re lucky, this year and maybe put out a record again next year if possible.
We also have a bunch of stuff that we haven’t put out yet from these last sessions. Hopefully we’ll have new stuff every month or two.
C: We did a bunch of covers which you’ll like.
A: Oh sweet.
C: We’re thinking how to put those out.
A: You did a bunch of them on your blog.
A: So is there a new set [of covers] beyond that?
C: Yeah. Four or five that I did that we’ll put out somehow. We want to do that “Grain of Salt” thing and we have the b-sides.
A: Did you purposefully show your influences with the covers? Because it seems like they [show] obvious influences like Roy Orbison and all those people.
C: I mean, those are–it’s really hard to pick cover songs. And usually I feel like new songs shouldn’t be covered that much so it’s sort of necessary to go back into the older stuff. Some of the songs we picked for the newer ones perhaps aren’t as direct or obvious influences. But all of the songs we picked are just songs we really liked. So they are influences in one way or another.
A: That makes sense.
Do you worry about hearing your influences too much in your music?
C: Um…Not really. We’re never–when we’re making music or when I’m writing a song we’re never thinking about an exact song or an exact band that we’re thinking, let’s emulate this–let’s do a feel like this song. We never do that. I feel like we can–so long as we’re not being so cerebral about it in that fashion, it’ll be synthesized with our own take on it. I guess we just trust ourselves in that regard.
A: Do you find that having studied music–you have a degree, right?
C: uh huh
A: –that you’re ever cerebral about it? Or do you try to avoid that?
C: The main thing was, when I was studying music–I was actually afraid of that when I was getting into it. So I was really conscious of that fact and trying not to get too caught up in the rules. Because that’s what you pretty much study when you study composition. You just study the rules over and over. The rules of different eras. But the interesting thing you find is that they get broken every different movement. These rules that are the holiest of the holy, they’re bending them and then later they’re not even following them at all. If you think of it like that, you have a kind of cool–you can recognize the different elements but you don’t have to stick to any kind of form or any kind of harmony or anything like that, you know?
C: Yeah, I feel like it’s not too cerebral. If I ever am feeling like I’m feeling too cerebral I just try to put something down and stop. It’s better to just do it impulsively.
A: Cool. Thanks.
The band released a new video yesterday for “Boarded Doors”. It just demonstrates what we already know: ladies love Chris Chu.