Madison, Wisconsin’s Sleeping in the Aviary first album “Oh, This Thing?” was a refreshing blast of poppy up-beat low-fi indie rock so it was quite a surprise to hear their new album “Expensive Vomit in A Cheap Motel” taking such a decidedly more folky and weighty approach. That’s not to say that there aren’t rousing moments like “Things Look Good” which swaggers in the room like a joyous drunken Dylan or the driving kiss-off of “Write off” that rolls like your best summer road trip but, along with those, lay sad sweet little songs like “Calm me Down” or grittier songs like the bluesy “Gas Mask Blues” that give the band a bit more range than you’d have expected from their first release. That seems to be the point as Guitarist/Singer Elliott Kozel said “I think it would be boring to make the same record over and over again, I want to surprise people with each album that I make.” Amen, to that.
Well, Sleeping in the Aviary are playing with Dizzy Pilot and Hearts of Animals on Saturday at Walter’s and we figured we hit them up with our five questions for shits and giggles and Kozel was kind enough to play along.
1) Your recordings have an off-the-cuff low-fi charm. How much of that is necessity and how much of that is by design?
It definitely varies. A song like Windshield was recorded that way because I was in Colorado without any of my equipment and the only thing i could use to record was a laptop computer and a video game headset microphone. One of the few places I could hole up and hide was the bathroom in the basement, so the hissy, reverby recording came from that environment. To try to make the rest of the album fit together as a whole, we decided to record the other songs we had purposely lo-fi on a tape machine i bought to make a creamy sauce album where a song like “Windshield” or “Everybody’s Different, Everybody Dies” wouldn’t seem completely out of place. A lot of times I feel that the “demo” versions of songs are way better and more honest than slicked and spiced “studio” versions of songs, so we tried to avoid losing that demo-y flavor throughout the project.
2) The songwriting one the new album has improved greatly and seems more folky than the last album be it the rousing and uplifting Things Look Good and the darker more gritty Gas Mask Blues. How do you feel this album differed from the previous album?
I don’t see the songwriting as being better, but the songs are definitely longer and less in-your-face. EVIACH is a bit more depressing and personal than the last one and probably less “fun” to listen to. I think the production is more interesting this time around but maybe that’s because I had a more specific idea of what I wanted it to sound like. We all had improved as far as getting specific sounds we wanted in the studio. It’s less catchy, but more gritty. Oh, This Old Thing? was best to listen to when extremely drunk riding in the back seat of a fast car. Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel is best enjoyed while making a large batch of soup by yourself early in the evening.
3) You guys have played quite a few times here in the last year to where it seems you guys are just constantly touring. How does that seemingly constant touring affected your music.
I don’t know about this one… I’m not sure it does. It definitely gives us interesting experiences to write about later, though. Writing songs on the road can be difficult sometimes, but it helps to be out of your comfort zone and when you are around cactus and armadillos it makes you look at the world a little different.
4) You added a new member this go around – Celeste. Her bowed saw on Gas Mask Blues has this lovely creepy and ghostly quality while her accordion on the sassy Write On is just the perfect festive touch. I’ve seen these instruments often dismissed as kitchy or limited in use. What do you think she and her instruments bring to the table that the band didn’t have before and how would you address people whose only exposure to the accordion is Weird Al Yankovic?
Funnily enough: Celeste’s first concert ever was a Weird Al performance! Phil’s nickname is Weird Phil!
I would congratulate anyone who has only heard accordion whilst listening to Weird Al. We are all fans of his work and are very proud to be carrying his tradition forward. When we are driving around on tour, we like to listen to the radio and try to come up with our own Weird Al-esque parodies of popular song!
5) You’ve got some side projects, can you elaborate on those and what they add directly or indirectly to SITA? Also explain “spacey-folk!”
She is so beautiful/She is so blonde is my solo album and it’s very calm and creamed out. It would be good for listening to in headphones on a long train ride to Mexico. Whatfor is our drummer Michael’s side project in which he writes all the songs. It’s Kinks-y 60’s pop-rock that’s great to listen to at the Metropolitan Opera house with your mother.
Spacey-Folk? It’s Kevin Spacey straight outta K-PAX with a gut-bass and a bad case of the gut rot.
Bonus ZZ Top Quiz:
In the 1970’s ZZ Top’s Worldwide Texas Tour featured a stage set with a live animals. Can you name any of the four types of animals that were used on this tour? Super Awesome Texas Power Up Points if you can name all four.
Hmm animals, huh? I would have to guess pigs, alligators, snakes and horses.
[YUSSSS! The judges will accept snakes as ZZ Top brought along two large Rattlesnakes as well as a Longhorn Steer, a Black Buffalo, and Two Trained Black Buzzards. Thank you for playing.]
Sleeping in The Aviary on Myspace (Link)