|BOWMONT’S CRUCIAL GEAR
Bowmont (pictured, photo by Fabrizio Del Rincon) is a Brooklyn based trio that’s been delivering beautifully textural and atmospheric synth-pop since the beginning of the decade. It has the luck of having a GRAMMY award winning engineer among its ranks (Jeremy Loucas), who also happens to be obsessed with synths. The two other members, Danish lead vocalist Emil Bovbjerg, and German guitarist Elias Meister, are accomplished musicians who also share a passion for musical toys. We can’t think of a better band for a Delicious Audio interview about gear and the creative process.
What is your DAW of choice and why do you prefer it to others?
JL – We use different DAW’s to sketch the songs, sometimes Logic, Pro Tools or Ableton, then at some point they end up in Pro Tools where we finalize the songs. I like Pro Tools probably the most because I treat it more as a tape machine than the other DAW’s
Does the songwriting start directly on the DAW or do you sketch ideas with a real instrument first?
JL – I think it depends on the song; a lot of the songs start with a groove, so inevitably we have to track the drums first.
What are the plug ins and “in the box” tools you abuse of?
JL – I try to stay away of that kinda candy, if I have to abuse it it’s because something is not right, so no abuse, although we use them as tools in the mixing process but almost never in a creative situation, they have no soul to me.
Do you like synths (both real and virtual)? If so, which ones do you use in your recordings?EB – Yes very much. Real synths in general are very nice. We use Korg Mono/Poly, Minimoog, Moog Satellite and White Elephant [quirky demo here], Oberheim OBX, Roland SH101 and Jupiter 6, TR-808, and a few others.
Do you use a lot of programming?
EB – No programming at all really, but we often make them sound “unreal” by editing or processing sounds through different mediums, analog and digital. We only use midi sometimes to clock arpeggiators on synths but they are all analog instruments.
What are your favorite guitar pedals?EM – I use a Seymour Duncan Twin Tube for real tube overdrive that I’m really digging. An Electo Harmonix Octave Multiplexer with timed delay can achieve some very cool synth sounds. I’m also using a Cry Baby WhaWha for slow filter effects and a Boss-DD7 and a TC Hall of Fame reverb to wash out certain parts. Are there any real instruments, pieces of equipment or musical toys that lately made you rediscover the playful side of creating?
EB – All the time. Most recently probably the TR-808.
EM – It’s good to spend a lot of time with new pedals to discover all the sounds you can produce. How does it sound when you play harmonics, mute your strings or when you couple certain effects. That process is always very interesting.
RECORDING SET UP AND MIXING
When recording at home, do you rely on just one microphone/mic preamp or more than one?
EB – A few. The “Hovering” EP was mostly tracked with a Telefunken ELAM 251 E. We have one Joemeek large diaphragm for drums overhead, vocals, acoustic guitars, misc. Neuman KMS 105 for snare/hihat, some guitars. the Shure SM58 comes in handy sometimes too. “…recreating demos in the studio can be an impossible endeavor and often has to be abandoned. “
“…recreating demos in the studio can be an impossible endeavor and often has to be abandoned. “
What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your home setup?
What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?
EB – Mixing is very challenging and requires crazy amounts of patience and concentration. Also recreating demos in the studio can be an impossible endeavor and often has to be abandoned.
Many recording musicians find mixing extremely frustrating, what’s your approach to it and do you rely on a “fresh set of ears” (i.e. external mixing engineer) or not?
EB – We try to keep our own ears fresh by switching brands of tequila ever so often but we trust our own ears in the end. It’s always healthy to give every track a breather for a few days or even a week before the final touches. It always brings clarity and reinforces the choices that have been made and gives the oversight and distance to make even harder choices in the final mix.
Did your tracks change a lot when you recorded them in the studio?
EB – The tracks always change a lot from the demo but the initial vibe and core of the songs always stays intact.
What comes first: music or lyrics?
EB – Most of the time music. However, the seeds to both are almost always somehow planted pretty much at the same moment. It is just that the process of writing, recording and producing the music is so much faster and easier than the long and sort of mysterious road to writing lyrics, which can easily take months of completely losing track in conversations with strangers, zoning out on the subway missing entire boroughs of stops, howling at the moon, those kinds of things. When the first musical ideas arise they are usually accompanied by some kind of lyrical framework within the same hour or less, even just a few words, but essential words. Words that, in them, somehow carry the whole mood and setting. They have temperature, more than just the meaning of the words themselves, and eventually shape the rest of the lyrics and the whole process of arranging and soundscaping in the mix at large. The rest of the words feel like they are already there in the back of ones head, like a dream you just woke up from that you can kind of remember but not clearly enough to recount. Then they have to be nurtured into materialization. It is like most other things though. The more you do it and practice it the more fluent and effortless it becomes, especially when you put yourself on the spot and improvise with other people.
How do you guys work together on the band’s songs? How do you share the creative input? ” It’s always healthy to give every track a breather for a few days or even a week before the final touches. “
” It’s always healthy to give every track a breather for a few days or even a week before the final touches. “
JL – The creative input can happen at different stages, sometimes we jam musical ideas out, riffs grooves and sounds that leave space for a melody, or sometimes Emil brings old or new demos out of the drawer that already became songs, then we start shaping them towards something that makes us exited.
What’s been inspiring your music for your latest EP?
JL – During the recording process of Hovering sound was a big part of the inspiration, fooling around with old synths until we had a sound that was talking to us had a lot to do with how the songs would come along.
EM – I’ve gotten really into electronic music over the last year and a half and have been searching for ways to play this kind of music on the guitar. To transform the guitar into a synth or a electronic percussion sounding instrument.
Is inspiration some kind of random blessing, or is it possible to set it in motion?
EB – Inspiration exists. It finds you at a certain moment, but when it finds you it better find you working… Those are Picasso’s words I believe, but I agree with that.
EM – I think it’s possible to get a habit of being inspired or to feel creatively. If you try to do it every day it will come more naturally and frequently. There will be of course always days where you feel less inspired but the more you spend time with music and your instrument, the more likely you are likely to find an inspiring moment.
Where do you look for lyrical inspiration?
EB – Well, looking for inspiration is like looking for a girlfriend. It never happens when you’re looking; when you superimpose a preconceived intention on reality like that it blocks you from actually experiencing it, so we’re not exactly looking. But if the question is where do we steal shit, the answer is anywhere: books, street signs, fortune cookies, ebay sometimes.
Is there something you look for when writing lyrics, like, say, catharsis, personal expression, topicality, or positivity?
EB – Catharsis is one of the great rewards of creativity. To be able, through some kind of expression, to understand yourself and your situation and the world around you a little better and be more and more at peace with it is truly amazing, and I do think that when you go through things that are hard, it pushes you toward creativity because you know subconsciously that it somehow stabilizes you and enables you to move forward. To be honest I think most songwriters have found themselves at some point trying to write something positive at a time when it wasn’t genuinely there. It’s a very sad and empty feeling that can end up fueling a lot of great dark odes. It quickly becomes obvious that trying to reach a certain mood by some sort of formula will always lead to more or less the same place. The result, at best, is sound that performs a certain kind of function but will never take on any sort of life of it’s own. It remains, sterile and disingenuous.
Normally, how long does it take you to realize if a sketch deserves to be developed into a full song or not? Do you have a lot of non-developed sketches in your hard drive at some point you thought were potential hit singles?
EB – Yes, there are a lot of sketches that will never mature. The laws of nature apply everywhere. It sometimes takes a while to realize but if at any point you reopen a draft and you are not excited to work on it anymore then it’s over.
Electronic music opens so many sonic possibilities that some musicians find it hard to know when a sound is “the best it can be.” How do you refrain from constantly trying new options for the various sounds in your arrangements? Is this process more intuition, luck, self-discipline – or a mix of the three?
EB – It’s a mix of a great number of things but in the end the only true guide is musicality and taste. We often do try a lot of things but we almost always find that the solutions we feel the best about are ones that rely on analog signal flows, and once you decide to heavily gravitate towards that realm you also find some very useful limitations.
THE LIVE SHOW
It’s often challenging to translate electronic music to a live setting, what’s your approach to it?
EB – We run a few tracks with Ableton but they are never really essential. We also play gigs without them and it works just fine since there is 5 of us. The framework is always live but our productions contain a lot of detail, so sometimes it adds a little extra to the live set when it is in there on the tracks in the background.
EM – We try to achieve the balance between having the songs sound close to the recording and also infusing the show with live playing energy and some improvisation. There are certain elements that sound very good on a recording but when you play live you have to tweak them in sound and delivery a little to achieve a similar impact.
Do you consider the live show as a faithful translation of your recorded material or simply an opportunity to let your songs free to follow new directions?
EB – We take a lot of freedom in adapting the material to the live situation. The songs are the fundamentals and we’ll play them however feels best on stage and in rehearsal.
What pieces of equipment do you find particularly useful on stage?
EB – We’ve started bringing along the Korg Mono/Poly, which we were reluctant with at first because it weighs so much and it’s from 1982 and fully analog. Those old instruments can be fragile and they loose tuning etc. but in the end it is worth it beyond a doubt. The sound is so unique, warm and beautiful that we just had to do it.
Are there any vintage formats that you’re interested in pursuing for the band, like, say, vinyl or cassette? If so, why?
JL – We have our first EP Euphorian Age [streaming below] available on Vinyl, it is the best format to enjoy music on, from its sound quality to the layout of the music, and of coarse the space for the artwork, it is how music should be materialized.
With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band: fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.?
JL – We like to collaborate with artists on that end, Fabrizio Del Rincon is an amazing photographer, he did some shoots for us, all on polaroid, they where flying in the air as he was shooting! I like to compare him as a visual sound engineer; he also shot the video of Hovering [streaming below].
Any comments about the current state of music and art in NYC?
EB – The music scene is full of amazing talent and great music is being made every day. The coupling of prevalent blogs with major brands and corporations definitely warps the exposure of the scene but beneath all that there is an amazing amount of mind-blowing bands and artists putting out great work.
EM – There are so many talented people that work in different styles and art forms in this city. To be exposed to that and the possibility of working and hearing so many very different artists are very inspiring to me.