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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Falling Up A Down Escalator by Comfort Food (Interview)

You may remember Comfort Food from the review we did of their last album a couple of years ago, Waffle Frolic. The funk-noise-experimental duo released a new one last month on Already Dead Tapes called Falling Up a Down Escalator. You’ll probably notice some stylistic holdovers like the virtuosic drum section, and the weird angular bass grooves that build on themselves with overdubs of trumpet and effect pedal improvisation. The way the duo move in and out of chaotic noise breaks and strange soundscapes (something they explore a bit more on this album) really speaks to the musicianship of this duo, which has only improved in the last two years. Something I’ve always liked about these guys too is that they have a live energy, which is rare in this age of bedroom musicians working with click tracks. I could go on about how much I like them but their aesthetic really seems to speak for itself. Perhaps that's why I resorted to an interview this time around with one half of the band, Daniel (bass, vocals, trumpet), plus a surprise guest.

Album art by Angela Roiniotis

Caliper (C): So, what’s changed since the last album?

Daniel (D): Structurally we are the same, bass and drums with some trumpet and vocals. One fun addition to my set up is a TKOG Mini-Glitch pedal, which is responsible for some of the harsher more machine-like solos on the record, also adding a nice element of unpredictability to our live shows.

Sonically, we wanted to be more ambitious with the textures and soundscapes we explore throughout the album. I feel like these efforts are most apparent on “Mystery Dome 2017” where we try to build a sort-of sci-fi western soundscape and explore more sludgy grooves as opposed to our more funky beats. “Claim the Hair Trophy” is also a departure for us in that we went out of our way to write an upbeat, danceable song then smashed it to bits and rearranged it into something off-kilter and constantly changing. It’s almost like an anti-dance tune with all the elements of a funky groove constantly being interrupted by weird glitchy bass, a trumpet solo, or frenetic vocals.

C: Darko the Super raps on Dollar Legs. How did that collaboration come about?

D: We’ve known Darko the Super for some time through our label, Already Dead Tapes & Records. We see him perform every year at the Already Dead Family Reunion with his partner in crime, Ialive. They put on a killer show and Darko has this incredible stage presence and ability to craft some of the weirdest beats I’ve come across in hip-hop.

Jake and I wanted to collab with him and had been working on the Dollar Legs jam for some time, however I couldn’t find a vocal line that I was happy with, nothing seemed to fit. We realized finally that this was the track where Darko’s help was needed, so we reached out and via the magic of the internet were able to compose the entirety of this song remotely.

C: Dollar legs seems to be the most coherent as far as the lyrics and narrative. What’s it about? Why is it called Dollar Legs?

D: In terms of the song title, outside a closed-down restaurant in Kalamazoo, MI there’s a sign that reads “$1 Legs” and nothing else. Since Jake and I are always on the hunt for non-sequitorial song titles, this one seemed to fit the bill. Kalamazoo is FULL of weirdo signs outside restaurants and shops and we’ve named many of our songs after them, including “Mystery Dome 2017” and “Feel-Good Fridays” off our last album Waffle Frolic.

For the rest of the question I’m passing the mic to Darko the Super himself...

Darko: My verses are my attempt at being positive and uplifting which I rarely do in song. Semi inspired by Mystery Men, the film in which the dialogue is sampled from. Partly written after finding out one of my long time collaborators was finished with making beats and moving onto a different alias and project. “Don’t lose the lightning inside you” is also a reference to my good friends The Difference Machine. I was contemplating a lot of feelings of the community and lack thereof throughout a lot of different scenes I feel I’m a part of. So, this was me channeling the Super Squad, the Mystery Men, a team of wanna-be’s who really banned together and took down evil (spoiler alert).

C: Talk about your recording/writing process for this album.

D: We recorded with our good friend Alex Borozan of Already Dead who has recorded our last two albums. We laid the raw tracks down in a basement studio in Humboldt Park, Chicago over the course of one long weekend, with a lot of junk food and coffee and late nights. Then about a month later we hightailed it to Hamtramck, MI to do vocal dubs, sample work, and mixing out of Alex’s living room. In total the album was recorded and dubbed over the course of just six days, which is much less time than our last album, so working within those constraints was a new kind of challenge for us, one which I think we overcame with positive results.

C: This one is kind of a music nerd question. You have a unique bass sound. Do you have piccolo strings on there or something?

D: No piccolo strings, just crappy equipment! I’ve had the same bass since I was 16 years old, a beat-up Hartke I got from a friend in high school, and I’ve never looked back. I can’t understate the importance of using janky no-name equipment in our music making process. There’s so much emphasis on having the nicest equipment around to define your sound and image as a musician, but there are so many incredible sounds just waiting to be discovered in junk! So the sharp, funky crunch you get from my bass is in the lack of quality, and that’s made all the difference.

C: How do you manage to play these pieces live? Do you hire an orchestra?

D: If only we could hire an orchestra! That would make our jobs so much easier.

All of our songs are written with the intention of being played live. We drill the heck out of them in practice, nailing the loops and time changes and instrument shifts and it can be an exhaustive process. Playing these tunes live is a completely different animal than getting them ready for recording. When there’s an audience the song somehow takes on a life of its own and poses challenges we didn’t anticipate in practice, so it always takes a few shows to really nail down a new song and feel comfortable with it. Maybe that’s why we write intentionally messy music, to keep people thinking we know what we’re doing even when we’re winging it!

C: So, are you guys rich now from all the tapes you’ve sold or is Already Dead paying you in candy corn?

D: Let’s just say we’re rich in candy corn ;)

C: Have you ever fallen up a down escalator?

D: Only every day of my life! In a metaphorical sense of course. All of us are always moving up and up and up towards something greater than ourselves, but gravity is constantly pulling us down, tripping us, reminding us of our vulnerabilities and imperfections, and that “falling” is what makes us human, it’s what makes us artists, and it’s what we hope to remind people of through this album and our music as a whole.


You can grab your copy of Falling Up a Down Escalator on Already Dead Tapes or download via the band's Bandcamp.

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