FUTURE CARNIVORES are on a tear. Just more than a year ago the seductive rock collective released their debut album, a self-titled affair lifted by tales of love and destruction and an eclectic sound that was impossible to characterize. It seemed like a one-off project, almost more an idea than a band, the latest from vocalist Bo Barringer who had previously crooned for MEandJOANCOLLINS and the Collisions. He teamed up with Reuben Bettsak of Guillermo Sexo, as well as other players from the music scene, members of Cult 45 and Japanese Monster.
Eventually this former bedroom project and jam-session time-occupier crystallized into something with its own identity, one shaped by Britpop (Barringer has a Jarvis-Cocker-quality in his delivery), Kraut-rock, synthpop, glam and loungy, almost folk-ish vibes that provide a consistent sonic structure to the Carnivores’ hypnotic sound.
Now the band is back, damn near immediately, with a new full-length LP, Come Inside, set for release tomorrow night at T.T. The Bear’s Place in Cambridge on an excellent bill with Velah, the Milling Gowns, and Soft Pyramids. To celebrate, Vanyaland if offering standout stack “Twice” for free download.
>> DOWNLOAD: Future Carnivores “Twice” [mp3]
Come Inside sounds like a band confident in its own skin, allowing growth in the Carnivores scope but still retaining a lot of the back-lit charm of the first record. Each song, with their sentence-like titles, feels like its own passage or chapter in Barringer’s narrative. Vanyaland caught up with the front man to discuss the new record, being prolific at a time where short attention spans are juxtaposed against mass internet consumption, and the art of resisting the urge to explode all over the place.
Michael Marotta: Come Inside is your second full-length LP in just more than a year. What gives? Don’t you know we’re living in the Age of the EP?
Bo Barringer: Ah…I’m always so behind the times. I was on cassettes when the world switched to CDs, CDs when everyone went mp3, mp3 when everyone went back to vinyl. For our next release, I think we’ll skip the whole FLAC/lossless/whatever phase and take a bet that everyone is gonna want their music on VHS tape. How much music can you get on a VHS tape?
MM: Was there any specific approach to writing this record so soon after the last? Was it a matter of having a batch of songs already written and re-approaching those, or all these new compositions created since the release of the self-titled?
BB: Well, actually a good half of these songs have been kicking around since before the put out the first album. They just weren’t ready yet. A few of them (“Drugs,” “She Goes Out Dancing,” “Could Be The Start”) I wrote and recorded for a friend’s fashion show a couple years ago.
We saw a lot of potential in them for Future Carnivores and recorded real drums on top of the drum machines and revised/re-sung/remixed them 100 times since then. Around the same time, Swade, our bassist, challenged me to write and record and album’s worth of material in the month of February. It was perfect because it was a brutal winter and I’d just been dumped and so I had the perfect excuse to never leave the house, haha. “Twice” and “Catch” came from that.
But the album really started to take shape when I brought Reuben over to come up with guitar parts. Regardless of our starting point I can always get him to add something that takes it to a whole other level. Ditto for when we brought the tracks for our drummer, Pepe, to lay live drums. And of course, Noell’s vocals are icing on the cake.
But Reuben and I have been writing and recording at a pretty steady pace for two or three years now and there are some newer ones that have been written since the first album came out (“Blame Time,” “Grey House”).
We’ve got a good start on another album and a half, or, have it your way, Micheal, 3 EPs worth of music, haha! I’ve always had a backlog of material that I can never stay ahead of in terms of performing or recording.
MM: Well, Future Carnivores have been quite prolific.
After MEandJOANCOLLINS (and the Collisions before that) I pretty much made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let the pace of the current band/project/vehicle slow down my output. No more three-year gaps between albums. I’m getting too old for that. Sometimes it takes so long to get a whole band up to speed and ready for the studio. Then you spend time recording/overdubbing, then you mix, and remix, and remix, then you almost send it to mastering and someone quits the band and takes their songs with them — haha!
It happens. It’s the nature of working with other people with real-world limitations on time, energy, resources and life changes. It can move so slowly. If you write all the time you’re gonna have all this material and you’re never gonna play or record it. And if you write all the time you’re probably gonna continue to get better at it and so your best shit ends up sitting on the shelf.
No more three-year gaps between albums. I’m getting too old for that.
So one of the goals of Future Carnivores for me was to just be prolific. I’m not worried about the quality dropping off after a couple albums. I think the generation of bands that I’ve been listening to for the last seven, eight years like Spoon and Animal Collective tend to get better with every album, several albums into their career. Which is something you can’t say about previous generations. Probably has a lot to do with not having overwhelming success early on so there’s time to incubate and develop at a more natural pace. But, yeah, I can go back to stuff I made when I was young and stupid and, I may cringe once or twice at certain lyrics, but it holds up OK. So why not keep releasing music?
MM: With another LP so soon after the last, Future Carnivores seems like its own band with a real focus, despite its members being involved in so many other projects [Reuben Bettsak and Noell Dorsey play in Guillermo Sexo, Pepe Anzalone is in Cult 45, TJ Miller plays in Japanese Monster]. Is it safe to not call this a “side project” anymore? Was it ever?
BB: Reuben and I started it as a side project for sure. I was in a movie he was making and we were living in the same house so we said, “Why don’t we record some stuff, see what happens?” Right away we realized for both of us that the music fit right into that sweet spot in between what we were already doing and what we might do if we had a chance to branch out into something new. We did this for a year or so before one of us, can’t remember who, gave in to the other’s constant refrain of, “We should do this stuff live!” Haha!
MM: I’m always amazed at how deliberately paced Future Carnivores’ music is. Every song feels like it can explode into a frenzy at any point, but it always resists. Do you ever just want to rock these songs out? Or do you know right at the onset how reserved these songs can/should be? They almost have a lounge-type of vibe.
BB: That’s a damn good question and you’d probably get a different answer from every member of the band. I think it comes from our approach to the process, which involves one person coming up with a beat on drums or drum machine, another person records a part on top of it, if that part inspires someone to come up with a third part, we know we’re onto something good.
But since, thus far, everything has been to a loop it keeps the music very measured. No spazzy Keith Moon-ness for instance. We were listening to and talking a lot about Can at the time we started this whole thing as I recall. And there’s kind of a grid-like rigidity to their music, where the same chord can roll over and over and over as long as there’s a groove. But both Reuben’s guitar playing and mine and far from uber-precise and I think there’s an inherent tension in recording a guitar part you just wrote along to a very rigid loop. Man vs. Machine. And that tension tends to stay there as we continue to build and layer the song and even into playing live without any loops or electronics. So it keeps us from fully getting our rocks off and exploding, so to speak, haha, it’s tantric.
Besides there are so many bands that do that so well already, like Sonic Youth, or Converge on the other end of the spectrum, and we’re more laid back, we can’t be exploding all over the place. Over the years I’ve noticed that the band Deerhunter have kind of perfected the effect you’re talking about. Where there are moments where it gets bigger and bigger and bigger till you think it can’t get any bigger and then it gets even bigger. But it doesn’t really explode, it kind of falls back to sea, like an undertow. I like to aim for that effect, instead.
MM: Some of the best Future Carnivores songs have really long song titles. What’s up with this?
BB: Haha — not too long ago I noticed when I looked at our set list that 90% of the songs were full sentences. Ridiculous. But the best one-word answer: Morrissey.