By Alan RantaThe third full-length album from the Edmonton, AB-based sextet since forming in 2004, Spanish Moss and Total Loss is by far Shout Out Out Out Out's most evolved record. Stylistically, it's consistent with their catalogue ― it's a synthesis of synths, vocoder, bass guitar, drum machines and drums that forms lengthy pop electronic jams ― but time has been good to their aesthetic. With the influence of disco, techno, classic house and Krautrock taking deeper root, every moment is more informed and developed than anything previously. The songwriting is more refined and consistent yet subtly surprising, and the production is smooth yet punchy. Spanish Moss and Total Loss gives listeners who may be dealing with personal tragedies the perfect inspiration to dance their cares away.
Can you please explain the title of Spanish Moss and Total Loss? Nik Kozub: They're two songs on the record that wound up being title tracks. The title came first. I like the idea of Spanish moss being a beautiful thing; it's a plant that grows on trees in the Southern U.S. and it's really beautiful. It hangs off the trees. One thing I like about it is that it's not actually moss; it's kind of a parasite, lichen thing that leeches off the trees. It's also not Spanish. I like the idea of something that looks beautiful and people like but, at its root, it's a parasite. It's a beautiful thing juxtaposed with the idea of loss ― dealing with hardship ― that's expressed with total loss. The song "Total Loss" deals with me trying to figure out at what point loss becomes total, how many things have to go wrong before you've reached a point where you can say you've lost everything and whether or not I'd be able to deal with that if I encounter it... And it rhymes.
Spanish Moss and Total Loss sounds more musically complex and instrumentally varied than 2009's Reintegration Time. How did your approach differ from album to album? Part of the reason for that is we went into the studio with the idea to just write and see what happens, see how it comes out, and use all the instruments we had available to us. We spent a lot of time on the record and had a lot of ideas. It was a really collaborative process this time around; it's just the way it came out. Part of it also has to do with the music we were listening to and not focusing on making club songs. We weren't trying to make a DJ record, although I hope DJs can play it. It was more the idea of crafting songs. We're all proud of it; it's the first record where everyone in the band have been able to sign off at the end, and are happy with it.
You have an impressive drum machine and synth collection, some pre-dating MIDI, all of which contain their quirks. How different is the analog experience for you and is it worth the struggle? We don't think of it as a struggle. Part of the reason this band formed is because we wanted to play with these instruments, figure out ways to use them. We're all into analog synths. I don't have a problem with anyone using software synths; it's just that those aren't the instruments that we enjoy playing. It's fun just strictly messing with voltage, finding ways to patch things in and synch things up is a huge part of what makes this band enjoyable and makes the writing and recording process fun.
Your lyrics are often quite depressing, yet always sung through a vocoder, which kind of separates them from you personally. Is this an intentional commentary on the increasing isolation of the digital age? I suppose; it's not entirely intentional, maybe on some level it was a metaphor for the band. We do play fun dance music, but the lyrical content is usually a little more dire. In terms of lyricism, it's always been important to me to be singing about things that are actually going on, and difficult for me, but I don't want the band to be a total bummer all the time. I think of our band as being an electronic music act, and think of vocoders as basically another synth. I appreciate it when people do take the time to figure out what I'm singing and decipher the lyrics, but I leave for to the people that want to do that, and the rest can take it as another sonic element.