St. Petersburg, Florida based band Set And Setting hit Austin on the 5th date of their very recent full USA/Canada tour. We sat down just after their show at Beerland in Austin, Texas.
The song ‘Spiralling Uncertainties’ from Set And Setting is a classic.
FTY : Can you introduce the members of Set and Setting?
Shane Handal on guitar, Mark Etherington on drums and Stephen Handal on drums and and Eric Hearn on bass
FTY : How did the band members meet?
Shane, Mark and Stephen essentially grew up together in the same town, but we weren’t really good friends during that time. We did start jamming about during the first year out of high school, it was more of a project, a bit of fun really. Shane and Mark and a few other friends continued to play week on week and built on that. There were many band members who came and went, and also we went through various musical changes.
FTY : How big is the instrumental music scene in Florida?
It seems like it is pretty decent, it comes and goes. I mean, we do well in our home town. It is definitely a different kind of scene to what it is here in Austin. We kind of stuck out in Florida because we were loud and instrumental, and were kind of different to the other instrumental bands who tended to be more math-rock. We were always pushing it, so we have built up a decent following, people caught on and we were getting excited to go play music and have people follow us. Some of the first shows we played was in front of 3 people, now we can pack shows out in Florida.
FTY : How would you describe your sound?
Its instrumental, well that the term we use for people who really aren’t in tune with the scene. I hate using the terms post-rock or post-metal but people can relate to those terms. There are also elements of shoegaze, psych, ambient, drone. I always tell people they are long drawn out songs with variations in volume and melody. We coined this term called post-classical music, well maybe we didn’t actually name it first but we did use it to describe our sound to some friends. We started calling our sound post-classical as a joke, it is really only used by us.
FTY : So you have just released your debut full release album, what can you tell me about it?
This album has been written over a whole year, it wasn’t really planned to have a full length release. But it worked out that way, all members of the band had inputs and once we realised that we had something that worked together. I took the idea of a concept album and kind of created it around it. The album is called Equinimity, which is a Bhuddist term, but it’s also an english term (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equanimity) among others. The concept of the album was that of a character that was basically searching for nirvana, self realization. So i took that and built the song titles and what those song titles would actually sound like to me and what I also thought would flow well and tell a story within that. We recorded it and it seemed to work really well, I did some emails and we got a label interested called Science Of Silence records from New York City. They actually put it out on vinyl, then my friend Tim from Force Field records in Richmond put it out on cassette.
FTY : What is the process for writing the songs?
Its normally Shane and Mark who start off with the basic foundation of the song. Shane normally then comes up with some progressive riff. It almost never starts at the beginning of a song, but somewhere in the middle. Once you know where you are at, it seems easier to know where you are coming from and where you are going to. So as the drummer (Mark) , Shane has the melody and progressions, and I add in structure and rhythm and build ups. We work together once, well I will come up with an idea or riff, and the feeling of what we are doing. Sometimes I will come with one riff or maybe 20 riffs, the song will be built form the single riff or the 20 riffs. I get a feeling where riffs should be in a song, I may write a riff that should be at the end of a song and that is where it will go. The song is then crafted around a central idea.
FTY : When you are creating or recording your music, do you consider how difficult it would be to play live?
It definitely is a consideration, as a guitarist and I will come up with many riffs and I always have to keep in mind how am I going to play this live by myself. The album that we have just released was written specifically for only one guitar. The new stuff that we have been writing includes a second guitar, and the bass player who is on tour with us at the moment can move to second guitar. So we now have 30minutes of new material that is written for two guitars.
FTY : This Austin show is day 5 of a 41 day tour. What can you tell me about the tour?
It is a full USA tour, minus the east cost which was done earlier in the year. We really wanted to hit every spot on this tour that we haven’t hit before. We are headed west after Texas, hitting the coast and Pacific northwest and crossing into Canada then head south again and then through the mid west.
FTY : What or who influences you to do what you do?
Some big influences have been Pelican, Explosions In The Sky, Godspeed. We originally didn’t originally set out to be an instrumental band but after ending up playing music that sounded more ambient/drone we decided to go against having a singer and to write progressive songs that allowed us to write longer songs. So all of those bands have helped us out getting started, they kind of laid out the guidelines.
FTY : Would you say that listening to bands in similar genres can influence how you sound?
I think it goes both ways, i listen to folk music and a lot of 60’s and 70’s music and I take a lot of drumming influence from those genres of music, especially the early jazz-rock drummers. I don’t really derive my sound from drummers in our genre but those other genre influences.
I have heard someone say that we sound like a particular band, but it is a band that we have never even listened to before.
FTY : How does the band promote itself, are you finding social media is a good avenue for this?
We tend do do the social media stuff ourselves, and that is all that we have. But our labels have been helping promote and doing PR type stuff and getting us in magazines and blogs.
FTY : If you could collaborate with any artist or band, who would it be and why?
Shane : It would have to be Godspeed. So many dimensions to that band.
Mark : I would love to collaborate with a full orchestra. I would like to write a full percussion section for them to perform.
FTY : Last piece of music you listened to, apart from your own?
While we are touring we listen to all sorts of music, earlier today we were listening to a funeral doom band that Eric was playing and then in various spots in Austin we were also listening to some Elton John, Queens Of The Stone Age.
FTY : What does the future hold for Set And Setting?
We have a new album in the works, we hope to go to Europe on tour. There is also a possibility of touring with some bands who we look up to. We are going to keep pushing it hard. The main goal for us is to be a full time touring band, stay home for a few months then spend the rest of the time on the road. This band is a high priority for us.
I would like to thank the guys for taking the time to do this interview, it was a lot of fun and they played a killer set at Beerland that night.