Having been on the a label such as Jade Tree Records, Paint It Black have serious credentials. The Philadelphia based band who released their first full album in 2003 decided this year to release two 7″ EPs over two different labels, with Amnesia coming out on Bridge Nine Records and Fat Wreck Chords releasing Surrender.With members that have been involved with the likes of Lifetime and Kid Dynamite, vocalist Dan Yemin spoke to us about the songwriting process as well as their major influences.
Why did you decide to release two EPs through two different labels this year?
The decision to put out 7″ EP’s instead of albums at this point was sort of intended to find a way to release music more frequently with less downtime between records. The process of writing and arranging full-length albums had begun to test our patience. We decided that it would be exciting to experiment with working with different labels, because we’ve been working exclusively with one label for so long, we had no idea what it would be like to work with other people. We’ve always focused on trying to do something substantially new with each release.
How did you go about hooking up with the record labels that you did for these releases?
We’ve been friends with the people at both Bridge Nine and Fat Wreck for a long time, and we knew that people at both labels were supportive , and interested in, what we as a band have been doing. So we just asked…
How has your experience of record labels been throughout your career? How do you think they’re coping with the current state of panic with regards to record sales vs illegal downloading etc?
We’ve generally had positive experiences with labels. For the most part, my experience with labels is that they do their best to support their bands, and leave the bands alone to make the music they want to make. But, make music for long enough and you’ll realize that most people in bands are big babies in a lot of ways (this includes us) and are never happy with anything. No matter how much the label does for a band, and no matter how hard they push a record, bands inevitably want more. So everyone has something negative to say about the label they’re on after they’ve done a record or two with the same people. I’ve seen it a million times.
So many bands have complaints about the label that puts out their records, and labels learn that no matter how hard they work their bands are never satisfied. So there usually ends up being a somewhat adversarial relationship between bands and labels, even though they’re totally dependent on each other. I think there are 3 ways that most labels are dealing with illegal downloading and the drastic decline in record sales: Some people are just giving up and quitting. Some people are dramatically scaling back their operations and going back to the days when pretty much every independent label was someone’s hobby run out of their bedroom or basement. The third category includes labels that have found another way to subsidize their income so that they can still afford to release music. The labels in this last category make most of their money selling t-shirts or running a distro, so that they can afford to lose some money releasing records.
Do you think there will still be a place for record labels in the future?
Depends on how far in the future we’re talking about. There will probably need to be people crazy enough to give a band $5000.00 to record an album until we figure out a really inexpensive way to make hi-quality, organic-sounding recordings, which has not happened yet.
Should the two EP releases be viewed very much as a pair or are they their own separate entities?
I think that they each stand alone as strong releases, but they were obviously written and recorded during the same period of time, so that its also interesting to think of them as a matched set, or as the first two pieces in a longer series of releases.
How long did they take to write and when were the songs written?
The songs were written during the later part of 2008 and the early part of 2009, except for “Bliss,” which was mostly written during 2007. That one took my a long time to finish though, in contrast with “Sacred,” or “Cipher” which were written very quickly.
How about the recording process? How long was it and how did it go in general?
Recording is always really exciting but also really stressful. Once the drums are finished the stress level goes way down though. I was very unhappy with the vocals at first, although now I think that they’re the best performances we’ve ever gotten down. I put myself in a very stupid situation, because I had to fly home for two days to go to work, so that meant that I basically had to do my parts in one afternoon. I was really down on myself and depressed about how bad my throat felt, but I think that as a result of the stress we got very stripped down, visceral vocal takes. We recorded and mixed both EP’s in a week at God City in April 2009.
‘Surrender’ sounds a lot more raw than last year’s full length ‘New Lexicon’. Were the two releases produced under very different circumstances? How did the influences for the full length and the 2 EPs differ?
“New Lexicon” was recorded in two different places and had more people involved in the creative process, because most of the instruments and vocals were recorded by our friend J.Robbins (Jawbox, Government Issue), who produces a lot of indie rock stuff, and then we did sampling, sound manipulations and mixing with Oktopus, who makes all the beats for indie hip hop giants Dalek. In the end was like two different albums: one was a “normal” Paint It Black album, and the other was a total sonic collaboration with Oktopus, where we were learning so much from each other in this really short, intense period of time.
The EP’s we released this year were more stripped down in terms of sound and instrumentation, and I would say that we’re always drawing from new influences as we progress as a band. The influences that I think are more apparent during this recording session include Swans, Discharge, the Pixies, Born Against, Talk Is Poison, Jawbreaker, Ink & Dagger, Dead & Gone and dub-step.
What were the best parts of the UK shows?
Having a short, low-stress tour with our friends in Ceremony, staying out of prison, and visiting Scotland for the first time. As usual, were super-nerds in Manchester and spent the day visiting places pictured on Smiths record covers.
Which live shows are more fun do you think? – Lifetime, Kid Dynamite or Paint It Black shows?
It’s a totally unfair question! I get very different things out of each experience. Playing in Lifetime is like having sex with an ex-lover who you’ve known for a really long time and are still close friends with. Kid Dynamite was like a “rebound relationship,” totally exciting, but maybe for some of the wrong reasons, and Paint It Black is that relationship you have when you’re older and wiser and learned from all your youthful mistakes, and are ready to make a new set of adult mistakes, a totally different kind of thrill.
Lastly, which three records should everyone own?
If you are talking hardcore then Minor Threat, “Out of Step”; Bad Brains “ROIR Cassette”; Black Flag “The First Four Years”. If we’re talking music in general, there’s no way to narrow it down to three records. But I can’t even bear to think about what might be wrong with your world if you don’t own Led Zeppelin “Houses of the Holy”, Tribe Called Quest “Low End Theory”, and a good collections of early Motown singles.
Paint It Black releases can all be found at www.myspace.com/paintitblack