Published Oct 31, 2008For three years, Brooklyns caUSE co-MOTION! have dedicated themselves to the art of pop, dropping lo-fi gem after lo-fi gem and collecting a loyal following in the process. Until now, however, the four-piece and their scrappy DIY spazz rock have been a vinyl-only affair, releasing a slew of seven-inch singles on imprints such as Whats Your Rupture?, Cant Cope! and Slumberland, the long-running indie pop stewards also responsible for caUSE co-MOTION!s first CD release, It's Time!. On the freshly pressed retrospective, the band collect all their singles in one convenient package and deliver them at breakneck speed, lathering punked-up pop in high-end tones, screeching fuzz and reverb a lot of it. As the band prepared to hit the road with new label-mates Crystal Stilts, caUSE co-MOTION!s Arno and Liam (its only first names with these guys) took a moment to talk to Exclaim! about their sound, recording, a love for treble and breaking the two-minute song barrier.
So what suddenly spurred you to release this collection of singles?
Singer/guitarist Arno: It's actually not a sudden thing. We've been trying to pull this all together for a while now. But we just wanted to have something that was longer and that a larger buying public could get.
Bassist Liam: Sometimes it's kind of frustrating because it seems like we're trying to sell seven-inches at shows simply as souvenirs. The people buying them often don't have record players and only CD players, so it seems as if a collection like this will work better for everyone involved.
The releases on It's Time span a few years. Do you think the band has changed a lot since you first got together?
Liam: I think there actually has been a pretty big evolution. Maybe not so much on the stuff that's coming out on the Slumberland comp, but we were recording a bunch of new songs this weekend, and they're not really "out there," but it seems as if there is something new and exciting going on with them. We've been playing the new songs live and there is definitely a difference between those and the ones that came before.
Arno: There's some evolution on this compilation, too, but it also does compile all the work we've done with [producer] Tim Barnes [Rogers Sisters, Sonic Youth], who produced all the songs on that CD. But he's since moved away from New York City, so in a sense this is one period of caUSE co-MOTION.
So with your new stuff, what kind of direction are you going with it?
Arno: Well, we actually broke two minutes on a track.
Liam: Yeah, we did. It was, like, 2:10 or something like that it's an epic. I feel like it's not a wholesale change we're doing, but where we're taking the songs in the different directions that they can go in. I feel they don't sound a whole lot like each other, but they're still all our songs, if that makes sense.
Since your producer has taken off, have you changed up the way you are recording?
Arno: With the new stuff we're working on now, we're trying to do it more in a live setting with not so many overdubs. I don't know if anyone can tell on our older stuff, but a lot of painstaking work went it. I know a lot of people hear the songs and they're like, "Oh, it just sounds like a lo-fi record. They must have just recorded it in a day on a four-track in some tin can." But we put a lot of work into those songs, a lot of production stuff. So this time around maybe we're doing what people actually think they're hearing. I guess.
Liam: Yeah, we're not trying to spend eight hours getting the reverb right on a snare hit anymore.
How do you feel about the lo-fi label being used to describe you?
Arno: It can be a little frustrating, but you can kind of see where they're coming from. We do tend to work on the high end of stuff that people associate with the typical lo-fi sound.
Liam: When describing us, I think more than it being a thing about lo-fi, it's about them saying that maybe we don't care about our stuff. But I feel I care a lot about our songs and the way they sound.
What kind of recording space did you record most of your songs in?
Liam: With the songs we did with Tim, we recorded them in studio meant for a lot of post-production stuff, like TV and commercials. So we did it after hours and we sort of went all over the office and recorded a lot of stuff in the stairwell with the mic, like, 30 feet away. And doing as much as we could to make stuff sound distinct.
Arno: Yeah, it wasn't really a recording studio, but more a room just to record voice-over kind of stuff and we just converted it all into our own little studio and used the rest of the space around it as well.
When your name comes up in the press, it's often followed by Crystal Stilts'and Vivian Girls. How do you feel about that?
Arno: I don't mind it so much. I feel it maybe brings us more attention than we would have otherwise. And even though it's a bit artificially constructed, I like that feeling and perception that there is something happening that there are all these bands doing something that is related and there is some kind of community atmosphere about it. I know a lot of that is just people talking, but it's still cool all the same.
So what is it about that really trebly type of sound that you like?
Arno: There's something kind of warm and comforting about it.
Liam: I think a lot of what that comes out of is a lot of the English DIY stuff. For me, it was sort of the first weird, or out-there music that I got into, so that's almost the language I speak. And that's how it comes out, that's how it sounds.
What kind of bands influenced that sound then?
Liam: Bands like Television Personalities or Swell Maps.
Arno: The Raincoats.
Liam: A lot of the early Rough Trade stuff.
Arno: But I think there is a big '60s pop influence in there as well. I listen to a lot of pop 45s and I feel a lot of that stuff had that sort of trebly thing going for it and lots of reverb. It seemed in the old days, they'd put tons of crazy reverb on people's vocals.
What do you think sets you guys and this most recent crop of indie pop bands apart from pervious ones?
Liam: It's funny because I don't think we really think of ourselves in the context of being an indie pop band at all. Now this sounds totally corny, but I think of us as punk band. I think we just try to play loud and fast and have a good time.
Arno: But the punks certainly wouldn't agree with that.