photo by Denny Schmickle
Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Todayâ€™s featured selection, chosen by Midday Show host Cheryl Waters, is “I’m Sorry, But I’m Beginning to Hate Your Face” by Eagle Seagull from forthcoming album The Year of the How-To Book.
After the Lincoln, Nebraska, band Eagle Seagull released their self-titled debut in the latter part of 2005 on Paper Garden Records, buzz grew, particularly on the internet, earning the album a spot on many a blogger’s end of the year list. Eagle Seagull’s cathartic (even if sometimes depressingly titled) songs quickly earned repeated airplay on KEXP, especially the swelling “Photograph” and the surprisingly bouncy “Your Beauty Is a Knife I Turn on My Throat.” The emotional and compositional complexity of the songs drew critics to compare to one of Montreal’s finest, leading some to call the band Lincoln’s Arcade Fire, for better or worse. This spring, the band journey to the Northwest to record with engineer and producer Ryan Hadlock (Blonde Redhead, The Gossip, The Album Leaf) at Bear Creek studio. Two songs from the album can be heard on the band’s MySpace page, one of which we present to you as our Song of the Day podcast.
Over email, I asked band founder Eli Mardock a few questions and he was kind enough to respond:
photo by Rory O’Connor
|Jim: Ok, first of all, when can we expect the next album?
Eli: i’m going to have to be mysterious about this and say early 2008. i can’t really be more specific.
J: Is there a story behind the album’s title?
E: yeah, there is kind of a story. i don’t want to get too confessional or heavy here but i’ve had some problems with social anxiety, with OCD, blah blah blah. basically, sometimes i can be a little hard to be around. anyway, the title “the year of the how-to book”, which is a song on the album as well, refers to, in kind of a cynically self-aware type of way, my attempt over the past year to really come to terms with my various neurosis, to kind of fix or reform myself, to what I dubbed in my mind as my year in the self-help aisle. and, in contrast to our last album, this album is very fun/upbeat. i think the brooding quality of the last album is still kind of there but it’s not so overpowering. i mean, this next album is really a lot of fun. it’s going to make people happy.
J: Typically, Eagle Seagull songs have been longer than average — a running joke on your MySpace page, which refers to them as being radio unfriendly — and now it seems like your song titles, at least of the two that you have made available (“You Can’t Call Yourself A Secret” and “I’m Sorry, But I’m Beginning To Hate Your Face”), are nearly too long to remember, especially compared to previous titles like “Holy” and “Photograph.” What gives? Are you trying to keep fans from requesting songs during your live shows?
E: ha, yeah, that’s exactly why we did it. it’ll be grand hearing someone shout out at a show, “Play ‘I Don’t Know If People Have Hated Me, But I Have Hated People!'” that’ll definitely make me chuckle. i mean, really, both song length and song title aren’t something we put a lot of thought into. with this album basically i just took a lyric out of the song and that became the title. though, i think there is something aesthetically pleasing about longer titles as well.
J: Do you write out the full song titles on your setlist?
E: no way! i’d get a massive cramp in my arm!
photo by Rory O’Connor
J: What happened to the asterisk in the band name? It seems to be slipping away in recent press materials.
E: ok, yeah, a lot of people have been asking this lately. here’s the deal with the asterisk: it was originally a graphic design thing that our buddy Denny Schmickle did on various posters, on our first album, etc. because it basically looked cool. sometimes it would be a dot in the middle, sometimes a star, sometimes it would be whatever. anyway, the asterisk really stuck with some people and in reviews, etc. people started using it constantly and at the time we were really indifferent to it so we just kind of said, ah whatever. but we have recently started actually letting people know, hey, it’s not with an asterisk, it’s just Eagle Seagull. it doesn’t really matter though. it’s not something we’re really adamant about.
J: After seeing the video on your MySpace page of the seagull pestering the eagle, I had to wonder, should be band really be called Eagle Vs. Seagull?
E: yeah, maybe. turns out, unbeknownst to us at the time we named the band, that they are natural competitors. we didn’t think of that though. we were thinking the other day that it would have been funny to call ourselves “Good vs. Eagle”. maybe we’ll still use that for something, i don’t know.
J: What was it like recording the album with Ryan Hadlock here in the Northwest? Was it your first time recording outside of Nebraska?
E: it was fantastic. ryan recorded to of my very favorite records, both by blonde redhead, and he sought us out actually having heard us on KEXP. so, thanks KEXP! anyway, i was really excited to work with him. and also, our last record was, as you mentioned, recorded in our friends basement/bedroom, so, it was really nice being in a proper studio. and the sound quality – it’s pristine as a result.
J: From what I understand, your first album was pretty much a DIY affair. How did working with a producer change the band’s creative process?
E: it didn’t change it a lot. ryan was really good in letting the band kind of go with things but also at the same time making suggestions of his own, from arrangement, to editing, and so on. really, it was great having a fresh set of ears listen to the songs and make suggestions. we loved working with ryan. i think it was the only time in my life that i’ve actually jumped out of bed in the morning. i was that excited to get started every day.
J: The first album caught some buzz, especially on the internet (on excellent blogs like You Ain’t No Picasso and I Guess I’m Floating), and now people are trying to find reference points for Eagle Seagull with other successful and idiosyncratic bands like Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade. Are these fair comparisons? Who would you like to see the band aligned with instead?
E: it’s not something we put much thought into because it’s just kind of insane thinking about it. it’s kind of unfair only because some people have written us off as a result of those comparisons. otherwise, i’d say it’s flattering to be compared to those bands. but do i think we sound like either of those bands? no, not really. there are a lot of people who have compared us to the cure, pulp, roxy music. i think, if anything, those comparisons are more accurate.
photo by Rory O’Connor
J: It must be tough negotiating with a six person band. What do you all never agree on? What do you all agree with?
E: somehow we’ve all managed to remain friends through all this. we’ve never really had any serious disagreements. if we disagree on anything, it’s been something like whether we should sleep in the van or come up with the cash for a motel. that’s about as serious as it gets.
J: We missed you in Seattle last year, when you had to cancel your show at the Crocodile (with the great Arthur & Yu). Do you plan to return any time soon?
E: yes, we do. we’ve been discussing coming up sometime this fall. we’ll let you know.
Thanks to Eli for taking the time to chat. We’ll keep you updated here on the blog as soon any tour news develops. You can find out more about where Eagle Seagull are currently playing (heads up, Boston and New York!) at their MySpace page and website.