Patrick Watson Melds Flesh and Machine on 'Love Songs for Robots'
Published May 21, 2015Patrick Watson's new album may be called Love Songs for Robots, but it was inspired less by science fiction than science fact. The Montreal-based musician — who fronts his own eponymous, Polaris Prize-winning band — frequently leafs through science journals as part of his morning routine, and those publications' strangest passages became his muse.
"I read about scientists that grew a woman's entire reproductive system in a lab, and about a 3D printer that can create miniature livers," Watson tells Exclaim! "Reading those journals made me wonder what technology will be like 10 years from now… and it made me want to try and capture that feeling of curiosity and anxiety on the record."
Watson's opaque lyrics rarely address those themes directly, but the music evokes the increasingly blurred lines between organic and artificial, working as a tribute soundtrack of sorts for the nuanced, palpably realistic sci-fi flicks that Watson has always favoured.
"We wanted to find the romance in sci-fi and technology, and we wanted to make the record sound acoustic, even though there's loads of synths on there," he says, adding that he and the band attained that ambiguous tone by utilizing state-of-the-art drum machines, vintage synthesizers and acoustic instruments.
"We used one Yamaha synth that looks like it's right out of Blade Runner," Watson says of the bulky, aged hardware. "We recorded it all live, with no click track, no overdubs, and if the song didn't hold together without some weird noise, then that means the song didn't work."
That last bit is a reference to the strange sounds that Watson and his band famously added to early albums, often created from common objects like bicycles and spoons. Such quirky experimentation may seem suitable for a sci-fi-themed LP, but Watson disagrees.
"We really just wanted to focus on the songs," he says of the no frills approach they've favoured since their last album, 2012's Adventures in Your Own Backyard, and opted to stick with on Love Songs for Robots. The new record simply involved "all of us sitting around a microphone, working on one song, until we were ready to record it."
In a way, this back to basics approach lets Watson and his bandmates search for soulfulness in their synthesizers' circuitry. Or, as he puts it after describing the record's vintage hardware: "The kind of synthesizer doesn't fuckin' matter, right? We're just trying to make sounds that get us going. Whatever gives you goosebumps, that's what counts."
Patrick Watson have a series of tour dates lined up in support of the new record, and you can see all those over here.