About a month ago, we reviewed Spacesuit‘s Future Girls and really wanted to know a little bit more about the release, the current state of Spacesuit and the plans of their individual members. A quick email interchange ensued and Clayton Brown was kind enough to answer most of these questions. Enjoy!
Hello! Thank you for taking some time off from your space rock phantasmagoria and answer my questions.
1) So, this whole Spacesuit project is long time coming, right? Exactly how long you’ve worked on these tracks?
Allen and I started working on these off and on back in the mid nineties. We had been playing together in an early version of Shiner called Orchid (I was playing drums, Allen on guitar, and Shawn Sherril on bass), which is the band we formed after our earlier band, The Industry, broke up. We split up to go our separate musical ways, but soon started working on these songs I had written that didn’t really have a home. We recorded them two or three times in his basement studio in Kansas City, both of us playing all the instruments, and fleshed some ideas out, but were never quite satisfied. Then I moved to Chicago to go to film school and it stalled out — we’d get together every year or two and pick it up again, until about three years ago when Allen said we should do it for real. That’s when we did the basic tracks (Christmas, 2010) in Kansas City with Mike and Chris. 2011-2013 we added more guitars and did all the vocals and mixing. Allen engineered and mixed, and added more sounds and loops, filling everything out.
2) Clayton, you mention you are filmmaker and there’s a spot of “film feel” in these tracks? Were you performing while projecting film or was it all a product of jam sessions?
Yes, I am a filmmaker, and I do a lot of documentaries. You can check out my documentary group here: www.137films.org. I also teach filmmaking at Northwestern University, so that’s a big part of my life. I also have done most of The Life and Times videos and one or two for Shiner. But no, there’s really no connection to the filmmaking stuff in these tunes, other than just maybe mental movies going on in my head. I recorded demos years ago, just on my own, so the songs came to the group pretty much intact, and Mike, Chris, and Allen pretty much did whatever they felt worked to make them come alive.
3) Regarding lyrics, any insights we can get about the songs? Specificaly Piltdown man and Heavy sleepers.
The Piltdown Man was a famous scientific hoax in the early 1900s, a skeleton put together that mixed human and ape bones to try to convince everyone the missing link between man and ape had been found. I liked the idea of the Piltdown Man in some alley in the city, shuffling along, digging after Lucy (another famous, but real, skeleton found in Ethiopia) in a garbage dumpster. The song is really about feeling that kind of oppression that city life can give you — the noise and the idea that everyone is moving so fast can weigh on you, make you feel hopeless or helpless, or like things are moving on without you. So I guess it’s about feeling the fakes, and the hoaxes, and figuring out what you can do about it, if anything.
Heavy Sleepers came out of a relationship I had with a girl who wanted to live a lot faster than I could go. That feeling of wondering if you’re slowing someone down, that feeling of guilt and resentment coming from both sides. It’s really different from the original demo, which was really sleepy with electric guitar, brushy drums, and a sample I took from an orchestra record that happened to be in the same key. Allen re-imagined that one, keeping the same dreamy feel but making it a little more droney and discordant.
4) How receptive were the crowds during the tour? Did you get any requests to play songs by your other bands?
Pretty good. Small, but it was our first time to play.
5) Are you planning to continue this project as a side band or will it be a one off?
We’re going to do some more shows in January (In fact we’ll be opening up for The Life and Times, which should be pretty cool). We’re going to head through St. Louis, KC, Milwaukee, and Chicago this time. Obviously The Life and Times will pull a bigger crowd, so that’ll be cool for me to ride on their coattails a little. I think we’d all like to keep it going, kind of picking it up when we can amid all the other things and projects and pursuits.
6) I quite enjoyed the cover of Liz Phair’s ‘Stratford on guy’. Did you consider any other artist to cover or any other song by Ms. Phair?
No, that was the only one. That song is surprisingly hard to play. She’s got some weird chord changes in there. Allen and I thought the album needed a little kick somewhere, so we actually did all the tracking on that song ourselves in Chicago after the rest of the songs were mostly done. First we tried it with me on guitar and Allen playing drums, then we switched it up. I’m playing drums and Allen did all the guitars on that track.
7) Mike, any news regarding the status of In The Pines or The String and Return?
Mike: I’m not an active member of In The Pines anymore, but I know the rest of the guys and gals in that band have been working to finish the 2nd full length album for the past couple years.
The String and Return isn’t writing or recording, but we do play out once or twice a year.
8) Mr. Epley and Mr. Metcalf, any news on the Life and Times front? Heard rumours about new music.
Allen: The Life and Times is about 7 songs onto the new record and hope to have it out somewhere around March 2014. It’ll be on Slimstyle Records.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López