Published Feb 11, 2013Over the past few years, Drew Lustman (aka FaltyDL) has relied on tightly enveloped stylistic structures to create blurred worlds of acid jazz, microhouse and drum & bass. This is what allows the textural haze of Hardcourage (the third full-length from the Brooklynite) to sound so emotionally boundless and free. In interviews, Lustman says he fell deeply in love during the writing and recording of Hardcourage, allowing his muse to provide his music a level of creative purpose. With Hardcourage, FaltyDL proves that he still has an endless arsenal of tricks up his sleeve; it's just what he chooses to wear on said sleeve that makes all the difference. (Ninja Tune, www.ninjatune.net)
Where am I talking to you from?
I'm home, in Brooklyn, but I'm leaving tomorrow to go to the West coast.
Are you starting to feel the buzz around the new album building?
Yeah. In one sense, I sort of hate that hype thing; it becomes kind of a game and then you get addicted to it and then if you don't get enough hype you're wondering if the album's going to do well. But I sense whether or not people are aware of it pretty quickly. A simple search on Twitter or checking reviews will do.
You've been lucky, in a sense, that the coverage you've received over the past few years has virtually been all positive.
Yeah, most of the press I've been getting is mostly in the UK. The U.S. stuff is just starting to come in now, but there hasn't been a ton.
Was the fact that your previous album received such good attention (2011's You Stand Uncertain) on your mind during the recording of this?
No. When I was making this album, I wasn't really thinking that it was going to be an album. When I'm making music, I'm not really thinking of it in terms of the future or how it'll be received by the press. I don't sit down and say, "Okay, in the next three months I'm going to make 12 songs and it'll be an album," which is nice; it keeps the pressure off myself.
Can you give me a bit of background on yourself?
I'm from New Haven, CT. I live in Brooklyn now; I've been here about eight years and I've been making electronic music for about eight or ten years, I've worked with a lot of British labels like Planet Mu, Swamp 81 and Rush Hour, but now, most recently, I've signed to Ninja Tune. This is my first album for them, but my third album total.
And right now, you work exclusively on a laptop, correct?
I come from a background of playing instruments, but when I play now, I use a laptop and controller with Ableton.
Did you move to Brooklyn to make music?
Yeah, moving to NYC definitely inspired me to be a bit more serious about making music, but it was also the age thing. When I moved here I was 22 or 23; it was about the time when I was thinking about switching careers and all the planets started to align, and being here certainly helped.
Can you talk a bit about the recording of Hardcourage? How was the writing and recording of this album different from your first two efforts?
Absolutely nothing was different, other than the fact that I know a little bit more, production-wise. There was no concerted effort when I was making these tracks to think that they were actually going to be released. What was different this time was that I was doing it with a different label, to be honest — doing it with Ninja Tune people and not the Planet Mu people. So, different people working on it, different people doing promotions and stuff.
Working with Ninja Tune didn't factor into the creative process, I'm assuming?
Not into the actual creative process, but they did play a part in the track listing when it came time to put the album together. It wasn't like a heavy hand, but we definitely went back and forth with the track listing a couple of times and I'm glad we did. I trusted them a lot.
I've read that during the writing of Hardcourage, you fell in love. How did that shape the album?
What that meant for me was that it was a dedication to her and it was very important for me to finish it. The whole reason why the album is called Hardcourage is because there was a moment where I didn't even think that I could be with her or finish this album, and I decided that I needed the courage to do both.
I'm not entirely sure it's not just the power of suggestion, but when I listen to Hardcourage, I hear a very emotional-based album.
It's the music I've made in the last year and I went through a lot of different feelings, so it came out in my music. Everything I'm doing in my music is sort of playing off the existential crisis that is my life — in my art, in my music, whatever it is that I'm going through.
It sounds like this time around, you let the emotions come through your music rather than manufacturing an emotional texture with your equipment.
Well, nothing felt forced. I felt like I was really trying to get it out there; it all felt natural in the writing process. But I sample a lot too, so I try to toe the line between sounding synthetic, because it's electronic music and I'm using synthesizers, and adding a human element, a swing or funk to it. It's a combination of both of those things. I'm not making tech-house, four-to-the-floor, less-emotive, DJ-tool type music; I'm making songs.
As far as recording and touring, what has your equipment taught you?
Well, as far as technical, nerdy terms, I've learned about making better mix-downs and pre-masters and getting clearer sounds. I think this album sounds much clearer than my first two. When I was making my last album, it was apparent that there was no way I could make any songs that sounded like the first album and when I was making this album, it was very clear that I couldn't emulate any of the sounds on the second album. That's good because I really don't like listening to artists who keep repeating the same album over and over again. I like the ones who can do all sorts of things and keep growing and keep doing different things. That's more interesting, to me. And I hope to be around a while making many more albums, so if I can keep changing naturally, then I think that's a good thing.
Did you have to become more technically proficient to get the sounds in your head onto your computer?
Well, half the time I'm successful with that and half the time it's pure luck. I'm still sort of playing when I sit down, experimenting and seeing what sounds good and after a while, hopefully, I get a loop that sounds good. I do get ideas in the middle of the night and I try to write them down, but you'd be surprised at how often I'm not successful at that. It's always a gamble whether I can get exactly what I want to get out. And other people may be good at that; I'm sure Aphex Twin gets out exactly what he wants from his head. But that's really not the way I make music. I'm more like rolling dice and seeing what happens.
That said, do you think you're still finding your sound or do you think that, with this album, you've figured it out?
I think a lot of people have said, "Wow, Drew has found his sound on this," but the truth is that the last three songs I've made since I've finished this album sound completely different, and the next album's going to sound completely different. So, no, I don't think I've found my sound; I don't ever think I'll find my sound. If I've found my sound, I think it would be over. I'm trying to find my sound, but I don't want to. The minute I find my sound and I'm really happy with what I've made, I'm done, I'm finished.
You've released two music videos for Hardcourage ("She Sleeps" and "Straight and Arrow"), which feature people engaging in synchronized movements: roller-skating and hand actions, respectively. Was there a plan to feature people connecting through music in these videos?
No, it's all an aesthetic. I think that when Autechre came out with those music videos in the mid-'90s ["Clipper" and "Second Bad Vilbel"], it was cutting-edge; it was really cool. But look at all the Caribou videos that came out over the last year or two, or James Blake, people who have come from an electronic music background that have blown the doors open on the acceptability of it, and it still sounds fresh, exciting and new. You can have this freedom of expression and platform to demonstrate visually with music videos that just aren't blips on a screen and shapes and colours; you can have real people in there.
Visually, what are your interests?
I'm interested in working with people who are better at what they do than me. The director of the roller-skating video [David Kaplan] has made amazing short films and the director of "Straight and Arrow" [Rhizomatiks] is basically a mechanical scientist who I just really respect with the stuff that he's built and the experiments he's done. I'm just really interested in collaborating with people who are really good at what they do and seeing what happens when it comes out. I had a little bit of insight into what I wanted the videos to be, but I'm more interested in seeing what people come up with. I don't like having all of the decisions left up to me because I think I'll let people down if I do that.
Ed Macfarlane from Friendly Fires contributed vocals to "She Sleeps." How did that come about?
I sent him the demo of that track one night, just for fun, because we're musical pals, and he got back to me a couple hours after and said, "Oh, man, I love it, I love it. Mind if I sing over it?" And I was like, "Of course, go for it." I didn't think it would go anywhere, but the next day he sent me back a demo and it was incredible, and I thought, "We should really finish this." He was on tour and I was on tour, but over the next month or two we went back and forth and finished it and it became a strong track on the album.
He really captured your vibe on that. How well do you know each other?
Well, I've DJ'd for him but we've hung out more because we have a couple of mutual friends and every time they come to NYC, I catch up with them. I've known them about three or four years.
You've also played shows with Radiohead and Four Tet. Have you become friends with those guys?
I've known Four Tet for a couple of years; he was living in Brooklyn for a while and he's back in London and we keep in touch. He remixed me ["Straight and Arrow"] and I'll probably do a remix with him.
I know that he keeps a circle of friends, like Caribou and Thom Yorke, that are really not afraid to absorb and incorporate new sounds and trends happening in electronic music and I really see that same M.O. on Hardcourage.
Yeah, I think you have be open-minded and acknowledge what is influential, and if you go out enough you're definitely going to be influenced by what you hear in clubs, whether it's your music or a completely different type of music. I'm open to it all.