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Published: 2009/11/16
by Brian Robbins

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

BR: “Complications” is an interesting title for the next cut; to me it feels like one of the least layered, least complicated songs on the album.

DG: You know, the song titles almost always come after the songs. In fact, it would be interesting to have titles going in and see how it affected the process, you know? For me, that’s the point in the album – in the journey – where you need to take a breath, because things have gotten complicated.

BR: It’s an impressive ending … it’s like being in a cathedral with that orchestral swirl all around you and then – wham – the door slams shut.

GK: You’ve got some good ears, man. (laughter)

BR: “Off the Beaten Path” feels like the bass is holding down a foundation – a safe place to come back to, while the rest of the music ventures off.

DG: I think that’s my job in general as bassist in this band; and it’s funny, because that’s not what I tend to do in the other settings that I play music in. I don’t think anyone would ever say, “Oh, that Darin – he can really hold down the fort.” I’m not that kind of a guy. (laughs)

GK: The truth is, Darin’s so good at both styles – and I’m glad he gets to show both of them on this record. You know, he always plays his old upright in On Fillmore, but in the other band settings he plays electric and a lot of times, his bass part is almost like a second lead vocal. In On Fillmore, sometimes he gets to be the foundation; other times he’s a wild card.

DG: Usually, the music has so many different themes going on all on its own that I don’t want someone to be distracted by, say, the bass line. I really don’t even want them to think about that apart from the piece itself.

BR: Yeah, but now I’m going to blow that theory out of the water – (laughter)

DG: Cool!

BR: Because on “Extended Vacation”, my visual for the first minute or so is the old classic 2 AM at the jazz club: bass player with his eyes closed; Chesterfield smoke so thick hanging in the stage lights; hangers-on just nodding to that groove he’s laying down …

GK: Right, right – and then at the end, you realize that there’s this little revolution going on in Southeast Asia or something like that! (laughter)

BR: Exactly – and that weird shit that sounds like crabs scuttling sideways …

GK: (laughs) Oh, that’s great – oh man. Yeah, those are just little no-thinkers – all acoustic. “Sounds like crabs scuttling” – I can totally see that.

BR: Yeah, well, don’t tell me anything different – that’s what I want to have in my head. (laughter) Along with the two of you standing just a few feet apart, making all this music happen: gut reaction to gut reaction to gut reaction. Again, for a project that was spread out over a long period of time, it feels emotional and immediate.

DG: I’m happy to hear that – I’m glad it comes across that way.

GK: But that’s the way a lot of it happened, actually … we don’t put a lot of stock in trying to play things perfectly or accurately. Sometimes sloppiness is all a part of the expression of it all. Just like we don’t intentionally set out to make creepy or spine-stirring music; it’s all about creating a place … or like a movie where sometimes you’re at the edge of your seat and other times you’re relaxed. It’s a rollercoaster and you need to do that to create the place. We’re not intentionally trying to screw with the listener; we’re not trying to challenge the listener. What we’re saying is this is us, come with us, check this out … but you better put your seatbelt on. (laughter)

BR: “Clearing Out” had to be the last track, as far I’m concerned. You have all the industrial sounds and this minor mode that is the underpinnings of the song – and then, right at the very last moment, everything resolves itself with this big major chord. It’s like the sun comes out.

DG: Cool – it’s cool that that’s what you got for a vibe from it.

GK: Yeah, that’s actually a classical technique – there’s a name for that, which I can’t remember right now. That’s the song where Darin plays this beautiful piano … he’s really one of the most underrated musicians around – a real badass. At that point you’ve been through such a trip already – that’s when we said, “We need the piano – we need that resolution.” It allowed the journey to end in a different place from where it began.

DG: Previous to that, you’ve been through a pretty heavy listening experience – there’s a lot going on. And I think we both wanted to end on a lighter note – or on a note of light, as you said: “The sun comes out.”

BR: Oh, yeah – you get to the end and it’s like, “Hey – we made it.”

GK: I’m so glad you like the record, man – that’s great.

DG: I love the visuals … I love hearing people’s gut reactions to the music.

BR: And I don’t think we exposed too many magic secrets …

DG: Secrets? What secrets? (laughter)

*****

Brian Robbins is a steady contributor to the site. His monthly column is “The Maine Line.”

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