You had an EP out less than a year ago. How did this full album come together so soon afterwards?
The EP, the mini-record that just kind of happened; it was really weird. I just got this urge to go in and make this more trashy-sounding recording; it was just sort of a fun project. I called up a couple friends, one of them, Kyle Sullivan, who's in the band, we had these songs around and I didn't really know what to do with them. I just wanted to hear how it would sound to record with a whole lot of echo on it. Happily, it turned out really well, so I thought, "Okay, well, might as well put it out." And then I just had a lot of songs laying around and we'd been planning to get together again as a band, the whole band — James McKie, Dan Mock and Kyle — and do a real, proper band record. We've toured and played shows supporting these more songwriter records I've put out, but there wasn't the kind of representation of the live shows or the band arrangement. Some of these songs we've been playing for a while and there were some nice arrangements, so we had a real good idea of how we wanted it to sound when we went in.
Was the mini-record a testing ground for the different sound on this album?
I would say that it was a good in-between thing because the last full-length, Traveling Grey, was sort of half-band, half-acoustic, and the new record does have some trashiness, definitely. I mean, there are some tight arrangements and then there are also songs that lent themselves to a looser feel. I also played electric on the new one. I played all the electric on the mini-record, but before that, the last time was the second record, which was six years ago or something. I think that adds a little more of that real piss and vinegar because I'm not the greatest guitarist, but I can get some sounds out of it that I like.
In what ways did the sound on this album challenge your band?
We've been pretty steady, as far as being a live band. Some of these songs we've been playing for a while and some other songs that were on previous records have evolved into the sound that's on Some Folks Know. When the four of us get together that's what's brought to it: that kind of sound. The songwriting is different. The earlier stuff was very stream-of-consciousness. I was in that part of my songwriting history and now I feel like I've found a certain sound for myself; I have a clearer idea of what I want to do. There've been more actual stories, actual characters and staying with that character for maybe even seven minutes.
So your songwriting has changed?
I guess, with anybody, it doesn't matter what you do, as the years go by you're like a human vacuum, really. You just notice different things; you take more in. And so I think with each album there might be something else that's influencing me and it may not even be musical. I also get a lot of ideas just from everyday life and that's always changing, and meeting different people. You may come across people that have an effect on you. It has evolved; it's hard to say exactly what's changed.
What are the challenges of putting out new music so frequently? Do you still have the energy for it?
Yeah, the energy is still there; it's always been there. I'm all ready to make the next record, really, and I have a lot of new songs I'm excited about. With every album it's almost like starting all over again or there are new goals that you want to reach. It's always this reincarnation, in a way, and I think I get off on that, wondering, "okay, what are people going to think about this batch?" Just cleaning the attic a bit, spring cleaning and getting songs out before I forget about them. The energy's still there and, thankfully, I haven't had any writer's block. Hopefully, I'll be like Woody Allen: I'll just put out a lot of albums that disappoint people, but there'll be some fun in that too, I think. I want to have everybody turn their back on me when I put out an electronic album.
How did the duet with Serena Ryder come about?
We met up to try to work on some songs and we were just sitting on her front lawn playing chords and talking and I remembered that I had this song. It still needed something — it needed some tweaks — and so we ran through it and finished it off. We happened to sing it together and she recorded it, just did a little demo, and she sent it to me and I thought, "wow." I didn't realize how good we sounded together. When we did the record, I thought it would be nice to have a little bit of sweetness on it and I thought of that song and thought we should do it as a duet. I wasn't sure if she wanted to record it, but I don't sing harmony; I can't sing harmony at all. I mean, I can barely sing anything, really. I thought, "well, I might as well put it on my record and we'll do it as a duet, because the other way around, it wouldn't work." So that's sort of how it happened. It turned out beautifully and the band sound phenomenal. I think that's probably the most beautiful recording I've done so far. I think I even hit all the notes, too.