posted on February 22, 2009 18:00
Oppenheimer are possibly one of the best natured and refreshingly enthusiastic bands in Ireland at the moment. The Belfast-based electro-pop duo's second album Take the Whole Mid-Range and Boost It, an infinitely fun piece of work, has brought them not only a Choice Music Prize nomination but deserved recognition in this Dublin-oriented music scene. They answered a few questions for Cluas.
Tell us about the album. How long you worked on it? What snags you hit along the way, and how you overcame them? Looking back now, is there anything you'd change?
We recorded the album over the course of about four months, mostly in the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast. We moved into the shell of the studio in June and spent two and half months pushing drums around this huge building and turning everything up really loud. The Oh Yeah project was just getting off it's feet so we basically had the run of the building, we could record anywhere, in bathrooms, elevators, stairwells. We recorded as many different sounds as we possibly could, while layering as much as possible. We had some friends play guitar, bass, violins, brass and also sing on the album over that summer. It was nice to expand on the sounds by involving other people, some of those relationships have developed really well, as we're now frequently expanding to a four piece live with amazing finger tapping guitars and extra synths and vocals.
We also recorded some drums and pianos in New Jersey while on tour and we finished the album up by recording vocals and mixing the last song in Portland, Oregon at the start of a three month tour.
It's without a doubt the most rewarding, exciting and fulfilling thing we've ever done, every single day we'd think of something ridiculous to try and then we'd do it!
We only hit one snag, recording a tricky vocoder part, it was five in the morning, Shaun was asleep on two office chairs and I finally managed to get it down. Those tears have been mostly forgotten. I do remember franticly still mixing the second last track at 4a.m. when Shaun knocked on my door to go to the airport to start that three month tour, it was a close call!
Award nominations aside, were you happy with the response the album received?
We're both really happy that a lot of people really appreciated how hard we worked on expanding our ideas and sounds. To be honest though, this nomination has come at a time when we've been feeling pretty bad about a lot of what being in a band is all about. We had a terrible time around the album release, car crashes and nearly bankrupting ourselves through tours. Our label was really disappointed with sales and press and I'm not sure what else, this had a huge knock-on effect on our enthusiasm and confidence both in ourselves and what we were doing with our ideas and shows and attitude to music. Somewhere recently we realised that we both need to be really happy in order to make the band work, so we've taken the steps to be happy and we've come back to the band with an unrivalled sense of excitement and joy.
Truly though this nomination was a really big confidence boost, it's been the first word of praise we've heard for Take The Whole Midrange... in I don't know how long!
How do you feel about the idea of music awards in general?
They can be so wide ranging it's hard to say. I think generally acknowledging music that means something to people is a good thing, be it an award nomination or a person from Salt Lake City, Utah telling you that your songs helped them through a really tough time, it's nice to know that someones listening.
Do you think the idea of the album is a little antiquated in these days of single track downloading and plummeting CD sales?
Not really, not to me. I think it makes it easier for people who otherwise never would buy any music to get the songs they like. Kids listen to i-pods all day, so people are listening to more music than ever. It may be in a different way, but I think there's still more people than ever who love the art of listening to an album from start to finish, through a good pair of speakers or headphones. I think generally the people who complain about it should instead be doing what they claim to love, making albums, listening to albums, releasing albums and helping people create music that means something to them.
Do you feel the Irish music scene is in a healthy state at the moment?
I can only really speak for Northern Ireland, but I think it's better than ever. There are so many exciting bands and great songwriters around and we're for the most part all helping each other out up here. Bands like In Case Of Fire, Fighting With Wire, And So I Watch You From Afar, Tom McShane, General Fiasco, Cutaways, Panama Kings and Mojo Fury to name but a few are all out on tour, recording albums, doing their thing and helping each other out.
There are a bunch of bands from all over Ireland that I love who are making exciting and interesting music like Fight Like Apes, The Dudley Corporation, Ham Sandwich and Adebisi Shank.
Any artists who weren't nominated for the Choice Award, who you feel should have been?
Fighting With Wire, Ham Sandwich.
Your favourite album from those also nominated for the Prize?
It is Fight Like Apes. From the moment I heard a scratchy demo of Jake Summers on myspace I loved them! It's been amazing watching them grow into the monster that they now are and a joy to hear their amazing record. Getting to play shows with them is always a pleasure too. I had them play at my wedding reception last month, it was beautiful watching them destroy a venue while our families looked on, half in horror, half in joy.
Best gig you went to in 2008?
Headlights in Belfast. Genghis Tron in Belfast. They Might Be Giants on our last night of tour with them in Florida was pretty special too!
Plans for 2009?
We're recording a new album, which we'll take out on tour and then complete after the summer. We're heading off to America for our tenth tour, this time with OK Go. All we're hoping for is to record loads of music, make fun videos and play shows that are fun.
Any recommendations for the coming year (music or otherwise) you have to offer Cluas readers?
I just got back from two weeks in Iceland. I was there on honeymoon - If you haven't been, you should go! You'll find loads of music there too, it's amazing that they sell albums in their tourist shops that you'll struggle to find in the coolest indie record shops in London or New York. Ireland should catch on!
Musically, if you haven't heard Edgar "Jones" Jones, Mates Of State, The Bronx, Headlights, Cursive, DJ Scotch Egg, It's A Musical, Matt Pond PA or David & The Citizens go find them and you'll hear so many good songs this year!