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Published: 2009/11/16
by Brian Robbins

On Fillmore: Glenn Kotche and Darin Gray’s Extended Vacation

BR: And, at the same time, I’ll share some of the visions I got from listening to the album as we go along, if you’d like.

GK: Oh, absolutely – yeah.

DG: You know, it’s actually cool to hear you say that, because for me … there’s honestly not enough mystery any more. I really think that’s something we’re trying to put in the music so that the listener can have whatever image they want. To me, these things we’re creating musically are places – they’re places you can visit. It’s a tall order these days to have somebody sit down for a 45-minute album – we know that. I mean, for me, if it’s an album I want to listen to, I’ll make time to listen to it from beginning to end.

BR: Oh, man – don’t get me going. I still think of releases as records, you know?

DG: Oh, absolutely.

BR: And I love liner notes and cover art; I’m still naïve enough to think that it matters to each and every artist, rather than being dictated by a PR person somewhere.

DG: Right, right!

BR: And I like the idea that this song was meant to be first … and this song had to end the album, you know.

DG: Well, that’s what we hope people think about listening to Extended Vacation – it’s really meant to be an album, with a definite order of things … a route.

BR: How did you approach the writing for this album? Were there demos that each of you came up with?

GK: Well it was sort of the exact opposite of our last album, Sleeps with Fishes [2004], where I came up with the vibe parts and Darin had all these great bass lines and overdub ideas and sound designs … he really put the songs out into the atmosphere. This time was kind of the opposite where Darin wrote most of the melodies – a lot of the stuff that I’m playing on vibes – and then I’d come up with these counter-melodies and overdub parts and harmonic ideas to go along with that. Since I get to travel so much with Wilco, I make field recordings all over the world. I brought in a lot of those – what I refer to as “extra-musical sounds.”

DG: We’d begin pretty much as anyone would – with a basic chord structure. “I like the way this part goes, and so do you …” (laughs) So there’s that part of it, the nuts and bolts part of it. We don’t have the advantage of band practice, so we’d go ahead and record the basic song and then listen to it, asking ourselves “What are we hearing; what does it need – if anything – from there?” It’s not a matter of throwing in the kitchen sink; it’s a matter of listening to the music and reacting. And sometimes it’s a matter of finding the right sound – we might reject ten before we find the one that hits us – and, hopefully, the listener – on a higher level.

BR: So the actual recording of Extended Vacation took …

DG: Three years – a full three years to do about … two weeks of recording. (laughter) It’s been tough to find time to get together, but, at the same time, we talk a lot on the phone and e-mail; send music files and ideas to each other; so by the time we get to the studio we kind of have an idea of what we’re going to do. Or, let’s say we have a pretty good idea of what we’re not going to do.

BR: And again, it’s built around the friendship the two of you have …

DG: It is … it takes a lot of trust, you know. When you’re putting together some of these songs, they’re pretty involved, but our goal is to make it sound as if there’s not a lot going on. There’s times where there’s like, 90 tracks on this album, but we don’t want it to sound like there’s 90 tracks, so that would be the sort of dilemma we’d be trying to solve.

GK: We’d get together on the sound effects; we wanted to do them live in the studio rather than just use samples that had been created electronically. We wanted to create them acoustically ourselves.

DG: We want it to sound organic.

BR: Oh yeah – it shows. This is not an electronica record –

GK: It’s really pretty acoustic.

BR: And it takes you through a full cycle: sunrise to sunrise … it’s really earthy.

GK: Excellent – thanks; it’s great to hear that.

DG: Even in a live setting, we’d rather have the audience watch us try to battle our way through it and make it all happen, rather than have a bunch of pre-recorded stuff that you just hit a button and there it is.

BR: Me, I’d rather watch the guy juggling the flaming, roaring chainsaws –

DG: Yeah! I like that! (laughs) And then the audience is in on the struggle, wondering “How’s he gonna do this?” For us, I think it’ll mean arranging some of this stuff differently for the live setting, but I believe it’ll be entertaining for the audience.

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