Mice Parade was founded as a solo project by Adam Pierce in 1999. Initially an instrumental project, the last two albums have seen Parade become more of a traditional band, featuring semi-regular members, prominent vocals and more traditional arrangements. Each album in Mice Parade’s catalog stands on its own a distinctly unique piece of work, yet there remains some consistency through them. In Pierce’s view the latest outing, Bem-Vinda Vontade is a sister album to its predecessor, Obrigado Saudade both musically and thematically.
PopMatters: In what way is Bem-Vinda Vontade a companion piece or inspired by its predecessor, Obrigado Saudade?
Adam Pierce: It sort of continues the vibe of the last one, which is drastically different than the previous ones. The songwriting in both comes from guitars and, you know, winter-on-the-couch kind of stuff.
|Adam Pierce talks about writing and recording the new Mice Parade album, Bem-Vinda Vontade.|
PM: What does Bem-Vinda Vontade translate to?
AP: Loosely it’s “welcome will.”
PM: How did the music inspire that title?
AP: This is sort of a sister album. The last one [Obrigado Saudade] was nostalgic and heartbroken and sort of quiet. This is sort of songs with a mood ... I don’t know, a new way of facing the world, I guess. It’s all personal. Less focusing on the nostalgia, more “go on and get on with it!” There’s more to life than that one girl.
PM: This album was recorded primarily at home. How does that affect the sounds you get and the songs you end up with?
AP: All of the Obrigado record was at home. This new one was basically half at home and half at my friend’s studio.
We have a ton of instruments in our house. When we record stuff here it’s hard, you start putting stuff on [the record] that you’re not able to pull off live ... instruments you’re not going to be bringing on the road. It allows more options in our particular house just because of what’s around.
There are pros and cons to both [recording at home and a studio]. One of the cons to home recording is: Where I used to love fucking with knobs and trying to get the perfect sound and all this nonsense, I now look at as a super pain in the ass. Twiddling the actual knobs is just doesn’t have the charm that once had for me. I would much prefer to just consistently have somebody else engineering the whole thing. You can just focus on the instruments that you’re playing and what’s going to happen next.
PM: I would imagine it’s a much more patient process, when you’re recording at home.
AP: The good thing is that you care less about what happens. I’m never one to do something again or try to figure out what the right thing to do is. When you’re at home, and it feels more relaxed, you have more relaxed vibes and you’re like, “Hey, maybe we’ll try something ... maybe we’ll fuck around.” It’s a lot less thinking going on, I think. More just playing.
PM: How much collaboration do you enjoy when writing and recording?
AP: That’s a great question. Not a lot, but more and more as time goes on. We’re not a band that tours very much and people in this band live in different places, so it’s not easy to get together. One of the fun things about touring or if you know you’re going to rehearse is that you know there is a time when the whole band will be there. Then it’s always fun to get a new song or a couple of new songs ready. We had a couple of new songs for this tour that I presented to the band when everybody got in the same room and that weren’t recorded yet on any albums so that we can play those and fuck with those more collaboratively. It’s a rush that doesn’t always happen when not everyone’s around and I’m finishing up an album on my own deadline.
PM: Some people have this image of you as a studio mad scientist, locked away, twiddling knobs and experimenting with all these different instruments.
AP: Locked away and twiddling knobs and experimenting with instruments is a fair visual. I wouldn’t claim any mad scientist status, I’m sure there are people much more mad than I am, and much more scientific than I am.
PM: Do you record with analog or digital technology? Is it something you feel strongly about?
AP: I feel ... I would say that I do feel strongly, but I’m not going to hold a torch on either side. There are pros and cons to both. At [my] home the basics are done on old 1/2 inch 16-track. I have this little Fostex machine that’s kind of broken and I have 13 tracks that still record on it. And if bouncing doesn’t give me enough tracks than I have an ADAPS, which is an old dinosaur thing that nobody uses anymore ... I had them back when they weren’t dinosaurs. So yeah, if I run over the 13 tracks on the analog machine than I might bounce that stuff over to the ADAPS and try to keep going if I need more tracks to record. I don’t know how to use a computer to record music. I’ve never done it ... It’s not for me.
There’s a whole analog/digital debate. And I guess analog is dying now. Since analog is dying, I guess the debate dies with it. I never really stood as much on one side. For me it wasn’t about sound, it’s not like this sort of audiophile geek argument about what sounds better. It’s more just about the process and how much your eyes get involved when you start using a computer to do stuff. That’s the only thing that scares me. For me, I don’t think your eyes should have anything to do with music, or decisions in the music recording process. Or how long a part is or what it looks like. You know what I mean?
PM: I had never considered that, but it makes perfect sense.
AP: That’s my only qualm about it. It gets your eyes really involved in the music, and your eyes have no place being there.
PM: Right. Because you begin to see the song in front of you and what looks symmetrical or asymmetrical and you’re not just listening to it anymore.
AP: It’s strange when you see the whole song there with your 30 tracks. And you see this thing comes in there and you can see it proportionally. You can see exactly at what part of the song this comes in and this doesn’t. Half of the song has gone by before this comes in ... I never knew those kinds of things before working at a computer screen; it was always kind of guesswork. And it’s just more fun when it’s guesswork.
PM: I can see how that would take a lot of the feel out the process.
AP: It does. The Indian philosophy is that the ears are the most direct window to your soul, not your eyes.
PM: When recording do you begin experimenting with sounds and pieces of music and let songs grow out of that, or do you begin with the songs?
AP: Before this record it had almost always been the former process. Just fuck around, lay a beat down, fuck around with something else, fuck around with something else. The new one had some songs that were written before they were recorded. They were on the guitar ... .it was: This is how it goes. And then we laid that stuff down and build on top of it. The songs used [to] never be written on the guitar. Before the guitar got really involved they weren’t really written much at all until they were recorded.
PM: As a drummer, do you build the songs from the rhythm up?
AP: Always in the past. Before this record and most of Obrigado and the records before that record, it started with drums, because I don’t like using click tracks. If you’re going to play something, you need something to lay it down to. So you play a beat first to have some sort of tempo. I might later ignore the tempo or later erase the beat, but the melodies work themselves out sort of accidentally.
PM: With this album you found yourself more starting with the melodies?
AP: This album was sitting on the couch, playing the guitar, basically. I guess sometimes singing happens with that. Sometimes singing happens in the car as you hear a song in your head.
PM: That’s a pretty traditional singer/songwriter way to approach the album. Taking that into the studio, do you listen to those initial acoustic tracks and completely try to deconstruct them? There sounds like so much is going on.
AP: I don’t think about it that much. The way there were on the record is pretty much how the were on the couch.
AP: It’s true: I rarely deconstruct my own shit.
PM: Just channel whatever comes and let it grow from there.
AP: Exactly. Let it do its thing and go do something else.
PM: So you don’t begin specifically with a sound in mind? For instance on “Ground as Cold as Common” there is a lot going on stylistically but sounds very precise.
AP: No not at all. That song you are talking about is a good example of a song that wasn’t written before it was recorded. We recorded some pieces and tried to figure out how to put the pieces together. It had this big open dancy part and I thought, “What the hell is this big open dancy part doing here?” Then I thought, “Ah, somebody should sing on it.” And I was in Japan hanging out with this girl Ikuko, and said, “Hey, you want to sing on this?” She said, “Yeah,” took a CD and gave me back a CD the next day. It’s more just like seeing what opportunities present themselves along the way really.
PM: You try to find a balance between being allowing for things to happen and being more calculated in your approach?
AP: If you were to talk to any band member of mine, they would say I should be less calculated. Trying to realize that this part is good for vocals and being next to a singer and saying, what can you sing is just trying to realize what is good for the music and trying to produce it in some other way than I normally would, I guess.
The old stuff is all too precise and too calculated because that’s how I write stuff. I can’t write lazy, drunken melodies like some of these people can. Everything I write is always too exact.
PM: Do you ever find yourself striving for a specific sound or feel for a record?
AP: There’s never a constant sound to a record, of course. Hopefully that’s why they all sound different. I’m really proud of the Mice Parade catalog, from one album to the next sounding really different from each other ... or maybe in pairs. Maybe the first two and the middle two and then these two.
PM: Is that a conscious decision: to not repeat yourself?
AP: It’s not about thinking like that. See, an artist will, or bands will start thinking like that. A band’s records all sound the same and they start thinking like that: “Let’s make this kind of record or this kind of record.” But if you just sort of sit back and respond to where you are in life and things you’re going through in life, it will happen naturall,y I think.
PM: This record reflects that for you, musically and personally?
AP: As a person at least ... Hopefully.
// Notes from the Road
"Philip Glass, the artistic director of the Tibet House benefits, celebrated his 80th birthday at this year's annual benefit with performances from Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Brittany Howard, Sufjan Stevens and more.READ the article