Remember that intro we used last week about passion and genre-defining grandness? Can we copy and paste it here? Because when we sit down to talk about the first album by Blue Chandelier, these are the first words that come to our mind. That all of this music comes from the singular mind of Ravin Chand, boggles our mind. “Crash and Boom” pushes your mind to listen to layers of melody, tempo changes and raw passion while contemplating how this was written and played by one solitary person. What is the c
ommon thread that binds all of the bands we interview? That they write brilliant melodies without a care in the world about playing the game of record company politics.
At the end of this article, we’re pleased to provide you with a free download of the new album. In the meantime, Ravin breaks down the workings of this massive project.
TDOA: Your taste in music covers a pretty wide spectrum. How do you think your recent influences shaped this record?
RC: I like to think that I have broad musical tastes, but recently I’ve been listening to A LOT of big, anthemic rock music. I’m kind of a contrarian in that sense. I always pine for whatever I think is missing in the culture at any given moment. Lately, there’s been an abundance of ultra experimental living room music: 80′s synth-pop, Syd Barrett-inspired psychedelia, “pastoral” rock, chamber-pop, shoe-gaze, noise, lo-fi, etc. I’m not necessarily against this stuff, but there’s a lot of it. So, instinctively, I’ve been gravitating towards the opposite: straight-up, balls-to-the-wall arena-rock.
In terms of how my arena-rock diet has influenced the record… Primarily, it’s made me want to engage the listener directly. On this album, I wanted each song to be up front, nothing passive or hidden behind layers of sound. I wanted honesty, even if it was embarrassing, both lyrically and musically. And I wanted the record to sound big… Big guitars, big vocals, big drums, big themes and emotions… With some decent production value.
TDOA: You play all the instruments on this record. Truth or fiction?
RC: Semi-truth. When I first started recording, there was no real master plan. Initially, I thought I’d just record some rough demos in Garageband, then get a band together and re-record the songs for real. So I programmed all the bass and drums and cut the guitars together from a million different takes. Then, to my surprise, the instrumental tracks turned out to have a really great energy. So rather than re-record them with real musicians (which would have been logistically difficult), I decided to just work with the demo takes I already had for the final recording. So, yeah, I’m doing all the “playing” on the record, but it’s the furthest thing from Dave Grohl you could imagine. That said, the vocals are all me with very few takes. (I always knew that if I got a band together, I’d be doing all the singing, so I wanted to make sure it was 100% real.)
TDOA: I imagine the process of writing songs is easier when you’re the only one playing the music. Nonetheless, you’ve got to be organized to make all the parts fit together in the melodic puzzle. What’s the master plan when writing music?
RC: I’ve played in bands before and there’s positives and negatives to going it alone. Yes, writing a song alone is easier when you know exactly what you want. You just knuckle down and do it. You don’t have to take a group consensus. However, if you don’t know what you want, you’re left with having to figure out everything all by your lonesome, which can take days or weeks sometimes, and drag the process down. Similarly, when you work alone, you don’t have to convince the skeptics that you’re right. You like something, you do it. On the other hand, there’s no one there to tell you when you’re wrong. Maybe overall, after you’ve finished recording, you can ask other people’s opinions, but in the moment while you’re recording, there’s no one to suggest a better way to do x, y, z. Or to say, “Dude, that’s awful.”
Also, boundaries are huge. In a band, musical boundaries are set naturally by the members of the group through their musical likes and dislikes. But when you’re alone, you’re free to do whatever you want and the abundance of options can be intimidating. It’s easy to lose focus and become overwhelmed.
On this record, I had to set some boundaries. Early on, I decided I wanted the set-up to be two guitars, bass, and drums, and I wanted the songs to be vocally driven. I gave myself a two week period in which to record vocal melodies and told myself I had to use those as a starting point. Turns out this worked well, as all of the songs on the record originated from that initial two weeks of singing and recording.
TDOA: I believe you mixed the album in Los Angeles. Can you talk about the process of adding a nice sheen to the record?
RC: My lifelong friend Zack Meyers is a producer out in L.A. who owns his own studio. He’s done a lot of pop and hip-hop stuff out there, but he’s an amazing musician in his own right with deep roots in a wide variety of genres, especially post-rock. Not a bad guy to have in your corner. Anyway, he heard the demos and I asked him to help me spruce them up a bit, and being such a generous fellow, he suggested we bring them into his studio. Through studio wizardry on his end, he took a lot of what I had recorded on the demos and pushed them to the next level. He also replaced all of my keyboard drum samples with samples of real drummers playing actual drum kits. He did an amazing job and the record sounds boss!
TDOA: Some bands consider lyrics to be a vital part of the package and want to tell an epic story. Others are more concerned with the syncopation of the words and making it simple. Where do you stand?
RC: I’m the kind of guy that gets to the lyrics last, after I’ve heard a song a thousand times. That said, I believe good lyrics can change a song from good to great, and great to classic. So, I spent a lot of time on the lyrics for this album… No, really, I did. WHY ARE YOU PEOPLE LAUGHING?!? I’M POURING MY HEART OUT HERE!!!
Generally, I feel like lyrical content should reflect the emotion of the song and vice versa. If the content of the lyrics matches the mood of the song, I feel like both gain power. Generally, I’m not a big fan of nonsense lyrics (although I think lyricists like Beck and Stephen Malkmus are geniuses).
In terms of craft, my general philosophy stems from another interest of mine, screenwriting. Screenwriting is all about saying a lot with a little. Sometimes the smallest gesture can communicate the most complex emotion. So it’s not so much about simplicity for me, as it is efficiency or precision. I want to illustrate precisely how I feel with as little excess as possible.
Also, phrasing has been a huge learning curve for me on this record. As I said before, I started with vocal melodies first. So the lyrics had to fit the emotion and the flow of the melody lines and the syllables I chose had to feel comfortable coming out of my mouth in the register I was singing. It was a challenge sometimes coordinating all these different technical factors, and I’m not sure I always succeeded. Throw in the the fact that I was still discovering what my voice could do and the whole thing becomes a real pickle. But I learned a lot and I can honestly say these are the best songs I’ve ever written.
TDOA: Talk about the video you made for the new record, please!
RC: I don’t want to reveal too much at moment. I want it to be a surprise. All I’ll say is it’s for “Join The Club”, it’s messy, and it was a lot of fun to make. Oh, and it’s directed by my dear friend, Grace Eyre aka @CapseatGrace.
TDOA: You’ve made it clear that you share our belief that music is still exciting and blooming creatively. What do you say to the people who think that music is boring and just rehashing old ideas?
RC: Even though I’m a curmudgeonly old timer who’s annoyed by a lot of the new music coming out of the indie scene lately, I have to acknowledge that there’s definitely a wealth of new ideas in music, the likes of which I have never seen before. I think easy access to new technology and the ability to have your entire record collection at your fingertips has amped up every musician’s creative instincts in some way. Seriously, the other day I noticed I went from Kill ‘Em All to Bill Withers to some early 90′s hardcore techno to The Shawshank Redemption soundtrack in the span of about twenty minutes. In the old days, you had one CD and you listened to it over and over again for days and days.
I think my issue is not that there’s a lack of new ideas, but that there’s such a contempt for old ideas, and it has nothing to do with music and everything to do with snobbery. I don’t necessarily equate old ideas with being boring or trite. For instance, having a chorus with a clearly defined hook. Or a guitar solo. Or speaking openly about politics in your lyrics. Or singing with lots of passion. Or having some funk or groove in the rhythm section. I still like all these things. Yes, you want to bring a fresh angle to them, but to place them entirely off limits for fear of social ridicule from the “cool kids” is absurd.
TDOA: The concept of marketing a record has completely changed in the past ten years. In the past, bands were striving to get picked up by a mid-major label or more. You’ve chosen to release this record as a free download, ala The Boxer Rebellion and several other bands who’ve become big. Can you talk about the challenges of marketing in the new millenium?
RC: It used to be there were a few bands on a few labels that were pushed through a few distribution channels, like MTV and record stores. Now, with the rise of file-sharing, social media and cheap recording software, there’s a million bands, on a million labels (or without a label altogether), with a million means of distribution. So unless you’re Lady Gaga with some major label funding behind you, it’s difficult to hit critical mass and get rich quick making music. And even if you are a Lady Gaga, there are still no guarantees.
I’m of the mindset that, in this day and age, people are buying less music and more culture. Grace works at a place that sell iPads and the other day she saw a customer run in, pick one up, and hug it. That’s how people used to feel about new records! Right now, Steve Jobs is the biggest rock star in the world, and it’s not because he sells gadgets, it’s because he sells Apple and everything it represents… I’m not a jam band guy, but Phish had it right. It’s about cultivating fans over time who believe in what you’re about. Yes, music is at the center of it all, and it’s top priority, but it’s also about the community and the connection that comes with it. I think about the bands I truly love and that’s what it’s always been about.
That’s why I’m giving CRASH AND BOOM away for free. I want as many people to hear it as possible, and maybe out of a thousand people, one person will truly love it, and see fit to help me to continue making more music. Fine by me. I’d rather have a hundred true fans than a million fair-weather fans. Of course, a million true fans would be best.
That said, I don’t think labels are obsolete. Going it alone is a pain in the ass if you’re not business or marketing minded. I’d love to have a label to pick up some of the financial slack so I could have more time to focus on being creative. But only if we share a similar philosophy to what I just mentioned.
RC: Have you considered putting together a band? These songs would sound amazing live.
That’s part of the game plan, and I’m dying to do it, but it’s going to take a while. Like I said, there’s some logistical issues, but I plan on moving out to L.A. next year, and when I do, I’ll definitely put a live act together.
TDOA: What’s next? Writing new music? Plotting global domination?
RC: Right now, I have about 16-20 new songs in the incubator. I’m taking it easy the rest of this year, but next year I plan on recording all these songs, releasing them in some manner, and then, finally, getting a band together and touring. So there is much more Blue Chandelier yet to come! Stay tuned!
For more information about the band, visit their website here.