Published Jan 26, 2009What's the best way to get heard when you're an up-and-coming band from Brooklyn of all places? Well, giving your music away for free is a good start. And so the story of BK's the Depreciation Guild goes. The trio of Kurt Feldman, Anton Hochheim and Christoph Hochheim decided to fight conventions and traditions and simply just hand over an EP and then their album free of charge to anyone willing to listen. So far it's worked in their favour, but the results are so as much because of the band's ability to achieve harmony through laying down resplendent, dreamy guitar scapes on top of Nintendo-manufactured beats courtesy of their secret weapon and spotlight-stealing member, the Famicom. While on the road with the Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Kurt took some time to field some questions about the price of giving music away, whether they'll ever release an album physically, their shoegaze influences, and why the Famicom gets all the girls (kidding!).
What made you decide to release your album as a free download?
Kurt Feldman: We were a relatively new band at the time and we really had no fanbase other than the few people who had heard us through 8bitpeoples.com (who had put out our first EP Nautilus) so we thought the best way to get our album into as many peoples 'hands' as possible was to build a cool a website and allow them to download it for free.
Was there much of a discussion between the three of you?
At the time, it was just Christoph [Hochheim] and I and our manager John [DeCicco]. we discussed it a lot and pooled together our group of friends from all different walks of the art world. We were able to get a great design team behind us for this release to work basically out of the goodness of their hearts and because they believed in the music. These people designed our website and all of the graphics associated the release alongside Rob Johnson who handled the tech end of the website.
What are some of the pros and cons of doing it that way?
The only real con has been that some people have written to us asking if it's going to be released on vinyl/CD and we haven't been able to provide that for them yet. As an avid CD/vinyl collector i understand this, but it was a decision we made based on the majority's opinion that today, the music medium doesn't mean as much to people as the music itself.
Did you release it in a physical format?
No - maybe someday though.
How did you go about promoting the album?<br /> In Her Gentle Jaws wasn't a traditional release. We had no PR team for the album and we owe most of its existence in people's MP3 collections to word of mouth and blog/internet articles/interviews.
Will you release your next album the same way? Or would you consider
shopping it to a label?
Our next release is a seven-inch single which is coming out on Shelflife Records in early spring. The next album is going to be a traditional CD/vinyl release too, hopefully.
Judging by your sound, I can't help but assume that shoegaze was an influence on your guitar sound.
Shoegaze music was definitely influential on some of the guitar sounds on the album but it's really a fraction of the sound we were going for. In retrospect, with a lot of more material under our belt since that album, I think our newer songs reflect this more. We still love bands like the Cocteau Twins, Catherine Wheel, Pale Saints, etc. but also find inspiration in groups like Section 25, the Wake, Phil Spector, Young Marble Giants, Bill Nelson and Yukihiro Takahashi. If I had to explain why I like the cavernous shimmery guitar sounds often associated with shoegaze, the reason would be that it gives off a feeling of vast epic-ness but in a way that isn't grandiose like arena rock guitars, but rather beautiful, introspective and out of reach. I think we try to convey some of these things in our music.
What made you decide to recruit a Famicom to be a member of the band?
I just wanted to make a band that combined all of the sounds i loved - dreamy, lush, guitar pop and sequenced, simple electronic music. I didn't really know how people were going to react to it, so it's always been an ongoing experiment from the start.
Do you find that it helps define the sound of the Depreciation Guild?
It definitely helps to define our sound but more importantly, it provides a sound that I've always been in love with ever since I was really young which is why I chose to incorporate it into our music. Over time, I've gotten really used to programming music for the famicom and discovering where it sits between the layers of guitar sounds. There's not really one specific approach I employ for all of our songs but it's always been interesting and somewhat of a fun challenge to overcome the technical limitations of the system and still create pleasurable music.
How does it work itself into the band's live shows?
For our live shows, we bring the famicom on stage with us. Our songs, pre-sequenced, are loaded onto a special game we have, which allows us to cue and play music in a live setting.
What is it about using videogame sounds that appeal to the band musically?
There's an inherent simplicity of the sounds that old videogame systems produce which forces the listener to focus on very distinct and raw melodies. So many old videogame themes are memorable/instantly recognizable. My critique of shoegaze music is that oftentimes, it lacks structure and is overpowered by a hazy wash of sound. The famicom element of the band, helps us detach from this expected approach, and leave our own musical imprint.
How did you get involved with the 8-Bit Peoples? Is being part of that niche something you see as helpful for the band?
Before i learned how to program songs for the Famicom in 2003, I used to go see shows in NYC occasionally that showcased some of the 8bitpeoples artists like Nullsleep and Bitshifter. They kind of inspired me to learn how to do it myself. Jeremiah Johnson [Nullsleep and basically the president of 8bitpeoples] was there to help me out a bunch when I had questions about programming so eventually when I had completed a few songs and recorded them as demos I sent them to Jeremiah to get his opinion. He liked them so he put them up on 8bitpeoples. Since then, we've sort of gone our separate ways. 8BP was a great starting point for us and a good venue for us to get our feet wet with the direction we have gone since our first EP, but I don't see us as being part of that niche at all. We don't emphasize the 8-bit aesthetic enough to really associate ourselves with that style of music. The Famicom element of the band is merely a vehicle to carry out certain aspects of our music in a creative way.
I read there were some technical difficulties in recording and finishing In Her Gentle Jaws. Was that something you could have avoided by not using digital means to record?
We basically recorded In Her Gentle Jaws one and a half times but that wasn't really a fault of the digital medium itself. Rather, we aborted the process halfway through the first time since i didn't really have enough knowledge of the methods of transferring the famicom data to a digital recording setup nor the technical know-how of digital recording, to successfully complete the task at hand. Also, we were working at the mercy of close friends letting us use their gear and record at their house for free while they were away at work. It was a learning process, but one that will certainly be easier the next time around.