arciris

Arc Iris was started by Jocie Adams (formerly of The Low Anthem) as a solo project in 2012 before enlisting the help of Zach Tenorio-Miller on keyboards and Ray Belli on drums, and in 2014 they released their genre bending debut that was influenced by everything from folk and country to jazz and cabaret. Their upcoming album Moon Saloon takes on a darker and more mysterious atmosphere, while continuing to use bold classical arrangements that make their sound unique. Their complexly composed songs feature a wide array of instruments and tender vocal harmonies that shape the band’s ethereal sound. In anticipation of Moon Saloon’s release on August 19th via Bella Union, we asked the band’s keyboardist, Zach, about the band’s gear and creative process.

“Moon Saloon” features lush orchestral arrangements and a darker sound that strays from your folkier beginnings. What happened after your 2014 debut that triggered this evolution?

 Synths can certainly scream sparkle, but I think we dug deep into the cooler colors that they have to offer. Those colors called to us and drove some of the musical paths we took.

I think the lush arrangements were always something we had been striving towards. We grew in our ability to write and work together between records one and two, making the part-writing more complex and thoughtful. There are still sparkly numbers on this record, but the darker sounds probably come partially from the inclusion of more electronics and synthesizers. Synths can certainly scream sparkle, but I think we dug deep into the cooler colors that they have to offer. Those colors called to us and drove some of the musical paths we took.

What records, events, feelings inspired the album?

Moon Saloon is the product of the melting pot of influences within the band. I was listening to Brazilian Tropicalia as the record was being written and arranged. The familial aspect of that cultural movement really inspires me in the way that each artist seemed to work together to create a piece of art bigger than themselves. There was also a big emphasis on rhythm in that music, which carried over into the arrangements of our record. Our first record used rhythm as a support, whereas now it’s become a primary color in the shape of the arrangements.

The record’s arrangements are rather complex. How did you come to their final version? Was it a collaborative effort or mostly the product of Jocie’s multi-instrumental talent?

Arc Iris is a true collaboration and a true band. All of the musicians had something to add to the mix. It is special when you get in the same room with seven of some of the best musicians we know who also happen to be your best friends.

Assuming Jocie has a recording set up at home, what are the key tools she uses to capture all the instruments she plays (and her vocals)?

If you can believe it, we don’t have a personal recording setup outside of very basic GarageBand recordings. We did the majority of the recording at Dimension Sound Studios in Boston, Mass. I think the key tool in our arsenal is our dear friend, Dan Cardinal, the engineer over at Dimension. He seems to read our minds when capturing sound.

One new element that was definitely missing from your debut album is the electric guitar, an instrument we are particularly interested in (since we organize the Stompbox Exhibit). Who is playing it and what pedals does he/she like?

Jocie is playing all the electric guitar. She uses literally one pedal on the record, a Line 6 DL-4 for delay, and occasional looping.

Is there an electronic instrument (real or virtual) that left its mark on this record more than others?

To me, the game changer of this record, and the sound of the band, is the Roland Fantom X6. For a while I just used it for keyboard bass. Then one day I decided to take a plunge into its sampling capability. All of a sudden, I was able to take any sound in the world, manipulate it, and then store it on the Fantom. The arrangement of Kaleidoscope sparked from a bank of samples I made of Jocie’s layered clarinets, lo-if drum samples, and my voice pitched down an octave.

Here’s a picture of my current live keyboard rig just for fun!

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The Roland Fantom X6 on the left is dual purpose, keyboard bass (primarily a Roland SH-101 patch) and sampling.  The Boss Dr Sample SP-303 triggers loops, samples, and ambience. The Nord Stage serves primarily as a distorted electric wurlitzer piano. I run it through a Palmer Junction DI and a mic’d Fender Hot Rod Deluxe for extra warmth. My key rig runs to a mixing board which gives me the capability of sending whatever I’d like to a bass amp, the Fender, or a mix of both. The Moog Sub 37 provides a multitude of different sounds ranging from sub bass to lead tones. I have it MIDI’d to a MIDI controller that’s controlled by Jocie so either of us can use it throughout the show.

Was anybody else instrumental in finalizing recording, production and mixing of the album? 

It’s always a challenge to mix us since theres quite a few musicians on the record. Simon Raymonde over at our label, Bella Union recommended that we use David Wrench of FKA Twigs and jamie xx fame. He did an incredible job bringing this record to life.

Photo by Dylan Verner.

Photo by Dylan Verner.

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