So I’ve been excited to hear the new Snowy Owls tunes. How excited, you ask? So excited that, a few months ago, I compiled some of the Twitter-based progress reporting the group posted as they were preparing for the recording process. More details have emerged since, and I’m happy to say that the suspense bubble is set to burst tomorrow, when The Snowy Owls release the Within Yr Reach EP — a beautiful, 8-song, impressionistic portrait that showcases the band’s knack for pairing memorable, guitar-driven melodies with hazy arrangements that set a distinctive and mesmerizing mood. I had the chance to catch up with Owls frontman Matt Klimas via email this weekend, and he answered a few questions about the EP, his favorite pedals, Swedish pop music and more.
You Hear That: Where did you record the EP? Did the life preserver you shared a picture of factor into the recording process? Was the plan all along to record an EP and a subsequent full-length?
Matt Klimas: Well, we spent four days tracking in an old studio space in Scott’s Edition we’ve affectionately dubbed “The Yacht,” per the interior decor. We had hoped to finish a full-length this year, but due to various circumstances we shifted gears and focused on a shorter collection of tracks with more of a direct feel. Each song is basically a single live take with little or no overdubbing (vocals being the exception, as they came later). Four of the songs that were going to be on the record ended up on the EP and the other four were more recently written. I think the EP ended up as a good document of how we’ve evolved and solidified as a band. We’re all pretty stoked on it!
YHT: There’s an amazing sense of intimacy to the vocals in the title track. Was that a deliberate choice, or something that took shape as you were recording and mixing?
MK: The song is about getting inside a moment that is often very personal and dizzying so I like the contrast of drifting vocals against more churning guitars. It’s also that I’m not the best singer and this is what comes out most naturally. The chorus melody went through at least three revisions to get it feeling right.
YHT: One of the things I love about your music is the diversity and richness of the guitar effects and the textural relationships they create (I absolutely love the sound of the guitar that comes in at the 2:51 mark of “Josef & Anni”). How do you go about finding the right tone for a particular song and how do you know when you’ve found the right one?
MK: Thanks! I’m a stompbox junkie for sure and my board has changed quite a bit this year. That particular sound is using an old Boss chorus pedal (CE-2b for nerds) I picked up this spring. It’s an effect I had been wary of for years, but finally mustered up the guts to try and make it work. I’ve tried to open up the sonic palette more this year, adding phaser, chorus, and uni-vibe effects to the fuzz onslaught. We really just keep trying stuff until something feels really right for a part.
YHT: Is there any particular artist or genre that the band typically listens to when you all are together? A while back you tweeted, “Doesn’t get much better than recording all day then seeing amazing Swedish pop music” – which Swedes inspired that?
MK: Even though we all share an affinity for the same core bands, we’re always listening to a variety of stuff. There’s been a lot of Eternal Summers and the St. Vincent & David Byrne record. The Swedes in question were Taken By Tress and Jens Lekman who played at The National. They were both really great. Something about the mix of pop and melancholy that I’m a total sucker for. You can also throw in The Radio Dept. and The Cardigans as longtime favorites. It’s only a matter of time before you hear us do a Cardigans cover.
YHT: In an interview with Style Weekly earlier this year, you talked about the relationship between being a live band and a recording band. Has this project changed your feelings about that dichotomy at all?
MK: I think it still comes from a live band place, but is definitely a step forward for us recording-wise. We’d like the recordings to become more whole pieces than just a collection of songs. That’s were the interlude tracks come in – reinforcing and expanding a certain atmosphere.
YHT: Do you have any sharable news about the full-length? Any other plans you’re excited about?
MK: The only things I’ve established for the album at the moment are the title, Difficult Loves, and about four song ideas. One of them, called “Cyan,” I think is destined to become the next “Yr Eyes.” It’s quite a romp. We’re also planning on expanding the layers and depth to the sound and recording process on the full-length – experimenting more, getting softer and louder. Hopefully the EP is a good set-up for it. Other than that, we’re excited to get back to playing out more often!