LOWERCASE NOISES Interview – May 2014

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FTY : Can you introduce yourself?

Sure thing! My name is Andy Othling and I live in the glorious desert of Albuquerque, New Mexico with my wife and three kids. I’ve been making music under the name Lowercase Noises for about 6 years now, and have been a full time artist for about a year and a half. It’s a wonderful thing.

FTY : What is the background to your Lowercase Noises artist name?

Honestly, it’s kind of hard to remember. I always hate coming up with names for things, and when I was starting out I had a list of things I came up with, and Lowercase Noises was the one I hated the least. I’m honestly not too fond of it at this point, but I don’t think it really matters.

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FTY: Can you tell me about your musical background?

I started playing guitar right when I started middle school. For a while I just wanted to shred… Stevie Ray Vaughan and Van Halen were my heroes. In high school and the beginning of college I was in a blues rock band, which was a lot of fun. We started out doing the standard thing but then I kept wanting to shift the sound and actually ended up writing a few post rock-ish songs before I’d even heard of the genre. Eventually I just got burned out on that style, and right about that time I discovered the band dredg, which has been hugely influential in my playing and sound. From there I discovered more standard post-rock stuff, and then eventually the more ambient stuff like Hammock, who is another huge influence.

At that time I was also experimenting with recording. It was fun to be able to lay a sound down and then record something different on top of it. Eventually I realized that I might be able to make an actual song or even an album… so I just went for it. I love recording, and I feel like all the technology now that enables home recording is amazing. Once I dove into that I realized that I wanted to be more than just a guitar player… I actually wanted to create songs that meant something to people. Even now I identify more with being a “composer” than just a guitar player.

FTY : How would you describe your sound?

Well, a lot of times when people hear my stuff they say that it should be in movies… so that’s usually what I tell people when they ask that question! Basically it’s instrumental, kind of cinematic music that would work well as a soundtrack.

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FTY : You have just recently released This Is For Our Sins, can you tell me about it?

Last year I stumbled across the story of the Lykov family, who were discovered living isolated in the Siberian forest for over 40 years. Their story is just incredible, and actually has some parallels to stories I’ve used as inspiration for other albums, so I knew that’s what I wanted this album to be about. I read a bunch of articles and a book on the family, and then I wrote out the song titles. Then I tried to write songs to fit the titles, each of which corresponds to a significant event in the life of the Lykov family.

FTY : How do you relate the story through instrumental music, what is the process. Did you read the whole story then write the music or write it piece by piece?

Yeah, I read a bunch of articles and a book on the family, and then I wrote out the song titles. Then I tried to write songs to fit the titles, each of which corresponds to a significant event in the life of the Lykov family. Mostly I just tried to fit the mood of each event to the mood of the song. I actually included some vocals in a few songs, most of which were taken from the book I read, being things that the Lykovs actually said. There’s a few songs that correspond to the deaths of three children in the family, and each song actually incorporates their last words before they died. As you can imagine, those songs are a little darker feeling than the other songs on the album.

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FTY : I note that you have mastered some of your own music, and also had mastering done by other people. But this time it was Taylor Deupree, why did you choose Taylor over yourself for that process and what has he brought to the recording that you feel you couldn’t achieve yourself?

I knew I wanted to have an actual professional master this release… I mean I can kind of master, but a GOOD mastering guy is well worth the money. I chose Taylor because of his previous work, namely most of the Hammock releases and because of some work he’s done for friends of mine, and also simply because he was affordable! I’ve worked with a few different mastering guys in the past who were all good, but Taylor just blew me away. He took the songs and worked some sort of magic that made them sound better than I could imagine. It was really great working with him.

FTY : You have a host of guests on this release, were those all remote guests and how hard is it to record music with people in different places, does the music go back and forth until you are happy with it?

Actually most everything was done at my house, the only exceptions being the drums and some bass guitar. I brought in a couple different cello players, and the vocals were actually all done by family members. My sister did all the female singing, and her husband is featured a few times, as well as another brother-in-law of mine. They’re all awesome singers and I’m lucky to have them in the family!

For drums I actually drove out to Houston, TX to work with Matt Kidd (from Aural Method). He engineered the drums at Redtree Studio (which is an amazing studio) and his friend Tank played the parts I wrote. It was a great experience and well worth the cost, I think the drums sound amazing.

And finally, my friend Andrew Tasselmyer from The Sound of Rescue and Hotel Neon played bass on 6 tracks. I knew he was a solid player from his other releases, so I just sent him some mixes and really had him do whatever he wanted. He recorded them at his place and sent them back. It was really a painless process and he was great to work with as well. He really took some of the tracks to another level! We went back and forth a few times, but for the most part I loved the first thing he sent me.

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FTY : Can you give a brief overview of the instruments/pedals/effects that you used on This Is For Our Sins?

Actually two of the things I used a lot on this album were software plugins. The first is a piano sample library from a company called Imperfect Samples which I think sounds incredible… a lot of the songs were actually written on piano because I was so inspired by how it sounded. The second plugin was the G-Force M-Tron Pro, which is basically a digital mellotron plugin. I used all kinds of sounds from it like bells, piano, and old cello samples. One of the sounds I loved the most from it was an old St. Peters choir, which I used in a few songs.

In terms of guitar stuff I used a few different guitars… a couple Telecasters and a Les Paul more than anything else. I used both the Eventide Space and Strymon BigSky reverb pedals, both are pretty amazing. As always I used my El Capistan pedal for some weird, lo-fi tape loop sounds. I love that thing.

I also heavily used the VintageVerb plugin from Valhalla for some spacious software reverbs. I love that company too.

FTY : So thinking back to the first album that you released, is it now easier to record the music, and what is the biggest thing you have learned about the music and yourself from release to release

Personally I wouldn’t say it’s easier. I’ve definitely learned a ton since then, but I also keep raising my standards and I’m always trying to learn things to make my recordings and mixes better. I’ve also learned that there’s so much left to learn, which is both exciting and a little frustrating at the same time.

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FTY : If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

I’d love to have the opportunity to work with the Hammock guys or the guys from Sigur Ros!

FTY : How do you promote yourself, are you finding social media is a good avenue for this?

Most of my promotion happens through YouTube, which is where I got my start. It’s such a great service and has done me well. Other social media, like Facebook and Twitter is great just for staying connected with listeners and talking to them directly. That’s great fun.

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FTY : What advice would you give to any artist playing instrumental music starting out today?

It’s going to take time. I never had one of those “breakout moments”, it’s just been a slow burn the whole time. I just keep making the music I want to make and things are slowly snowballing. I think people get frustrated that their first album or whatever didn’t get the response they wanted, and that’s because it’s going to take time. You’ve got to keep making the music you want to make.

FTY : Who or what has been your biggest musical influence?

dredg is definitely the biggest one. Hammock kind of sent me in the more ambient direction. Lately I’ve been super influenced by Olafur Arnalds, Gem Club and J. Tillman.

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FTY : What music did you listen to when growing up?

Ha, I listened to all kinds of stuff, and still do. I have fond memories of my parents listening to Depeche Mode when I was real little. My dad also listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin. When I started listening for myself I just wanted to listen to super heavy stuff. I would fall asleep listening to Master of Puppets, which was a good time. In high school I was into blues and nu-metal, neither of which I am ashamed about in the least. The Deftones are still one of my favorite bands from that time. White Pony had some great ambient elements which I think may have inspired me indirectly.

FTY : Would you say that artists like yourself are turning the music industry on its head. You write, record and release your own music. That was never done without some form of record deal. How difficult is it to do everything yourselves?

I don’t know if we’re “turning the industry on it’s head” as much as we’re just completely ignoring it. You’re right, I don’t have to rely on anyone else, other than a few internet services, to do all the things I want. And it’s incredibly hard! That’s the trade off I think. I’m not really participating in an industry that has the potential to take a lot of the burden off my shoulders. I’m choosing to do it myself, which is harder, but I get to retain complete control over my music, how it sounds, and what I do with it.

Everyone is complaining about how bad the industry is, but it doesn’t really bother me because it feels like I’m largely outside of it.

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FTY : Last piece of music you listened to, apart from your own?

For some reason I’ve been going back and listening to some old favorites. Currently I’m on a Circa Survive kick. I love those guys, and On Letting Go is probably one of my favorite albums.

FTY : What does the future hold for Lowercase Noises?

It’s hard to say. Of course there will be more music, once I recover from this album and get the bug again. I’m also really wanting to go on tour. I don’t know exactly what that will look like, but I’m hoping it will happen this year!

I would like to thank Andy for taking the time to reply to the questions that I sent him.

 

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