Continuing our string of interviews with bands that will likely end up on our Top 10 albums of 2010, we bring you Tears Run Rings. While the comparisons to the great shoegaze bands of the past aren’t inaccurate, they do a disservice to the beauty and originality of this band. Like eating the grandest layer cake ever, their music melts away to reveal endless tracks of beauty and melody. The band broke it all down for TDOA writer @aemccarthy.
TDOA: My understanding is that the band doesn’t write or record together in a single studio. Given that, can you talk about the genesis of a typical Tears Run Rings song? It there a typical formula, where you start with a bass or guitar track?
TRR: We’re not your typical band. We write most of our songs as a group, but we live in 3 different cities and we can only meet up 3 or 4 times a year–so we have to make the most of our time together. We wrote most of the songs on Distance over a 5 days period in November, 2008. Well… we wrote the first draft of those songs. The most important thing is to lock down the song structures up front so that Dwayne can record drums. The drum tracks are the only semi-constant in our songs because they’re the hardest to change– the rest evolves over time. Sometimes we’ll end up mashing 2 songs together or changing the chord structures entirely before we’re happy with a song. The biggest changing factor is when Laura and Matthew start recording vocals. When the vocals are in the songs really start to take direction.
TDOA: We’re always interested in the dynamic of married couples who play in bands together. Does the “finish each others sentences” concept every present itself while writing, where you intuitively know what direction the other person is going?
TRR: Ed and Laura were married this year and Dwayne and Matthew were groomsmen in the wedding. It was really cool when it happened because when TRR first started they weren’t even dating yet! We’ve all been friends for a long time and not much has changed since the old days. Yes, Ed and Laura are on the same wavelength musically, but the whole band tends to intuitively merge on a sound. That’s not to say we always agree on the direction to take songs — but we typically know where we’ll disagree, and some of our best parts are born out of those creative differences.
TDOA: I’m always curious about how bands choose their names, and you guys are no exception. How, what, when, why?
TRR: When we were choosing a band name Laura came across an old Mark Almond tape cassette in Dwayne’s garage. We’ve been Tears Run Rings ever since. It suits us… and we like that our album are filed next to Tears for Fears and The Teardrop Explodes. Both are great, moody, pop bands–which is what we consider ourselves to be.
TDOA: I really enjoy the video for Forgotten. Can you tell us who directed it and who came up with the idea of mixing animation with live footage?
TRR: Thank you sir! It’s all edited footage from obscure (some would say “forgotten”) films. And it’s another example of us getting creative with our long-distance band. If we lived closer to one another we might be tempted to shoot something original or maybe create a typical, band-playing-instruments music video. For “Forgotten” Matthew edited together pieces of old, public domain footage and set it to music. The majority of storyline was taken from a 1966 short called “Silent Snow, Secret Snow”. The boy in the film was only slightly less schizo before he starred in our music video. And the animation was taken from the beautiful 1939 Fleischer Studios production of Gulliver’s Travels. It seemed to work well in Forgotten as the boy’s nightmare. Crashing waves are a reoccurring theme on our album.
TDOA: So, Tim Morris plays guitar “sometimes.” On what occasions does he join the band?
TRR: Hah, whenever he shows up to band practice. Tim’s been a part of TRR since the beginning — since before the beginning, because we were in bands with him before Tears Run Rings. He sang and played guitar on our first EP. We see him less frequently nowadays… but even when he’s not around we take turns pretending to be him and playing Timmorris-esque guitar parts. So he’s “sometimes” in our Always, Sometimes, Seldom, Never.
TDOA: I noticed a pretty big gap in your record releases – “Always, Sometimes, Seldom, Never” was released in April of 2008, and your upcoming, “Distance” is set to be released at the end of next month. Why the gap and what can your fans expect from the new record?
TRR: Big gap? Two years is fast for what we did! We literally spent every moment we had together writing and working on music; and in the mean time we were teaching ourselves how to record and self-produce records (not to mention touring). The good news is now that we have 2 albums under our belt we’ve become better and faster at the process. We’ve already started on the next album–with any luck it won’t take quite as long for a 3rd.
TDOA: You’re very open about the bands that’ve influenced you. Although we disagree, some critics seem to feel that shoegaze should have died and not been re-born. Why do you think it seems to be ok for some genres to be endlessly repeated, but shoegaze gets slagged?
TRR: We love bands like Cocteau Twins, Moose, Pale Saints, and MBV so it’s easy to admit that we’re influenced by them. But it’s funny that these bands are lumped in the same category because they all have a completely different sound and a different approach to songwriting. The biggest thing they have in common, and the thing that we shoot for most in our music as well, is that they create songs that are deeply personal and moving. But that feeling wasn’t born with, and didn’t die with whatever shoegaze is–so it makes no matter to us how people want to define it or slag it off. We just hope is that our music moves others as much as it moves us.
TDOA: The cover art that the group has used is brilliant. Who does it?
TRR: We’re pretty DIY. Matthew does our art. The photograph of the ocean on the on the cover of Distance was taken by a photographer/artist from new york named Eric Slayton.
TDOA: We’re intrigued by the four “parts” of Happiness, spanning two records. What’s the story behind it?
TRR: On our first album we were toying around calling a song “The Happiness of Being with People” (which is a Kafka/J.D. Salinger reference, btw) but that title didn’t fit on any song. As the album came together we realized we had 2 songs that would make nice bookends–and we love albums where all the songs flow together and tell a story–so we shortened the title and called them both “Happiness”. In Distance we found ourselves building off of what we had done on our first album. It made sense to keep the tradition going.
TDOA: Your label, Clairecords, has some pretty solid acts. Which would you most like to tour with?
TRR: We toured with Secret Shine after our first album and it was amazing. We’re huge fans of theirs from back when they were on Sarah Records, so it was a big honor. We promised them we’d join forces again and tour the UK.
TDOA: I didn’t see a touring schedule – where are you guys headed to promote the new album?
TRR: Normal bands get to practice once or twice a week and will still spend months and years rehearsing and learning their parts. We get an afternoon (at most) for perfecting a guitar part before we record it on the album. And sometimes when we listen back to an album we can’t even remember who played a particular part, let alone how to play it again. We love playing out –and somehow we pulled it off for our last album–but the time when spend learning how to become a live band is time away from our next album. We’d love to tour again, but for now we’re focusing on album 3.
TDOA: QUICK! Your boat is sinking and you can only take 5 records with you. What do you choose? (Lame, I know, but I always love getting people’s top 5 lists. Maybe Nick Hornby should write a book about me.)
TRR: Wa!! Why is the boat sinking?! We’ll grab the 5 most buoyant albums we know:
“Float On” by The Floaters
“Flesh Ballon” by Pale Saints
“Swim” by Caribou
“Bridge Over Trouble Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Whirlpool” by Chapterhouse
“Last Splash” by The Breeders
For more information about the band, visit http://www.tearsrunrings.com