01st Mar2009

Interview: The Soft Pack

by Todd

Here at TDOA we’re fortunate because we only talk about music that we like.  Getting an opportunity to talk to a member of one of our favorite new bands was a special treat.  We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of bands that have agreed to put up with our interview questions.  More to come in the next couple of weeks prior to SXSW and beyond, just as soon as we finish editing some that we did this past week.

As discussed in our preview of The Soft Pack hail from San Diego and have an incredible amount of buzz following them currently.  After appearing as The Muslims at the CMJ Showcase in 2008, labels were frothing at the mouth to sign the band.  They recently signed with Kemado Records and will release their first album as The Soft Pack in 2009.  They’ve opened for Franz Ferdinand, The Raveonettes, Darker My Love, The Breeders, White Lies and a host of bands who are helping to increase their exposure.  The Soft Pack is Matt Lamkin (vocals), Matty McLoughlin (guitars), Brian Hill (drums) and David Lantzman (bass).  Matty was kind enough to answer a few questions for TDOA:

TDOA:  In an interview I read recently, you were heading into the studio.  How’s it going thusfar?

Matty: Well, we were in the studio for like 4 days before we left for the UK. It went well, tracked about 5 songs. We are headed back into the studio when we get back and then again in June. We are recording in a studio in east Los Angeles. It’s a cool place, not a weird sterile environment.  Rockin’ sounding.

TDOA: You’ve said that you didn’t feel like The Muslim’s album captured your live sound very well.  How do you aim to change that on the new album?  Everything about the songs on The Muslim’s album was great, so are we talking about production and mixing concepts?  If so, can you geek out on us for a minute and talk about the technical side of what you’re doing?


Matty: On our first EP I feel like the production didn’t capture the more aggressive traits that come through live. We did the best we could with what we had.   We were trying to make it more “hi-fi”, but it came out lo-fi. I am proud of it because it captured what the band was at the time but I think we can do much better. Better tunes, more exciting sounding. Get weird maybe. Who knows. I have zero knowledge of anything technical. In any capacity. In life.

TDOA: 2009 seems destined to have you touring endlessly and hopefully with your popularity continuing to grow.  What do you guys do on the road to keep yourselves entertained during those long van rides?

Matty: We listen to comedy records when we can find them. We have a Rodney Dangerfield’s “Greatest Bits” cd, Steve Martin’s “Get Small”. Some other things that are escaping me right now. I read sports biographies. Read, laugh, listen to music, make fun of each other. Keep your mind right.

TDOA: Can you talk about the songwriting process for The Soft Pack?  Do the songs usually build from guitar parts you’ve written?  What comes first, the lyrics or the music?

Matty: Someone normally comes to practice with a riff or a chord progression and then we kind of go from there. We always jam and screw around for the first 45 minutes or so at practice and stuff often comes out of that. Music comes first and then Matt comes up with lyrics.

TDOA: You’ve opened for some pretty big bands.  Do you guys ever solicit them for advice and if so, who’s given you the most help?

Matty: Opening for bands like the Breeders, Nightmarchers, Walkmen, etc has probably been the best part so far. I learn a ton by watching how those bands go about their business. Even really small details, like watching how they set up their amps, pedals, levels etc.  How they carry themselves as well. Being in a band for a small amount of time is easy, being in a band for the long haul is something entirely different. I try to soak up as much as I can…….And then I slam beers and watch them rip it up. Fun.

TDOA: You get an amazing guitar sound on stage.  Can you satisfy the guitar geeks out there by telling us about your setup?

Matty: Hahah, thanks. I am the furthest thing from a gearhead and my guitar sound is super basic. I use fender twin reverb amplifier (i turn it up loud) and have a Gibson Les Paul Special guitar. Like the Bob Marley guitar. That’s kind of it….Oh, and I play that guitar like a 13 year old boy masturbating 5 minutes before the school bus arrives.

TDOA: You changed the band name to avoid answering questions about the name.  So….let me ask a question about it.  Any interest in talking about what it says about American society that your name was such a big deal?  Has 9/11 bred a society who focuses their racist feelings on Arabs and Muslims?

Matty: Yeah, people can’t get over it. Also, I think the majority of people have no clue as to what the values and goals of the religion are, myself included. When the majority of people don’t understand what something is and rely on speculation to shape their views, stupidity ensues (sick rhyme). It was really just a band name for us that we thought was in the same vein as Frank Black and the Catholics, the Silver Jews, etc.

TDOA:  Fave albums of 2008?

Matty:  Women-  LP, Abe Vigoda- Skeleton, Kurt Vile- Constant Hitmaker Ep, The Breeders- Mountain Battles, Lil’ Wayne- Carter III

TDOA: If you could “eliminate” any current artist or band, who would it be?

Matty: Neil Sedaka (ed. note- Gadzooks! Is he still alive?!)

TDOA: You started generating a lot of interest after your appearance at CMJ.  What advice would you give to band’s playing SXSW who are still looking for their “break”?

Matty: Have fun, don’t take it seriously. It’s a joke. Eat barbeque.

TDOA: Any bands that you’re excited to see at SXSW?

Matty: I know we are playing a Gigotron mexican summer thing with Abe Vigoda, Crystal Antlers, and a bunch of bands. That should be cool. In terms of bands that I have not seen yet, I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head. I am just going to cruise around and discover some new favorites. I think that’s what your supposed to do. Channel your drunk uncle and roam where you want to.

Keep your eye out for The Soft Pack at SXSW and on the NME Tour this summer.

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