|Music of Unfamiliar Patterns
Dave Cromwell - July 9, 2012
Brooklyn’s Conveyor presents an
intriguing blend of styles and influences on their sonic palette.
Combining the percussion of afropop with moody electronics and rhythmic
patterned vocal placement, their sound is bouncy and creative.
Many of the songs are the result of a collaborative writing process,
giving the defined sections an air of intricacy. Time signatures
that break out of the 4/4 mold suggest artists not content to rely on
the safety of familiar patterns. The band releases their debut
full-length album on Paper Garden Records.
Your song “Woolgatherer” emphasizes
syncopated vocal rhythms with a variety of percussive elements and
keyboard flourishes. How does a track like this come to take its
musical shape? Does it go through an experimental evolution, or was it
written as we hear it, right from the start?
That track kind of came together all at once in the studio we didn't
really play around with it as a band first. It started with the
percussive vocals and a drumbeat, and then we layered guitars and
synths on top of that. The lyrics were written pretty stream of
consciousness, which explains the different lengths of all the verses.
I think in general “Woolgatherer” is reflective of how we approach
writing songs: sing over a part until it feels like the part should
change, and then go to a new section.
“Mane” comes across a bit more folky,
with emphasis placed on mostly acoustic guitars. The cascading layers
of vocals and precisely placed percussion is still there, however. Do
you see this song being included in the “nu folk” movement that has
been ongoing for a while now?
If it is included in “nu folk,” it's only incidentally. It's definitely
built on rounds and rounds of acoustic guitars, but the arrangement is
very much “Graceland” to us. That being said, Paul Simon is part of the
foundation of contemporary American folk music, and so even if “Mane”
takes more influence from his afro-pop phase, “folk” could be an
appropriate descriptor. However, the song is in a sort of deceptively
smooth 7/4, which isn't found too often in folk music.
"Reach” tones everything way down to
more solemn levels, by way of quiet breathy vocals. Like waves lapping
up against the beach at midnight, the mood is somber and almost
mystical. Talk about what was going through your mind when
conceptualizing and ultimately recording this track.
We were really looking forward to working within the context of an
album because it allows for these softer, more ethereal moments. With
“Reach” we knew we wanted to make something meditative, and so we ended
up taking this pretty simple vocal melody, quadruple-tracking it, and
pitch-shifting each track to a different octave to form this wave of a
melody that's not entirely intelligible. The backing track is just a
couple takes of the four of us in the studio all doing something
different: there's a detuned acoustic guitar playing some really open
chords, a delayed electric guitar that's making textural sounds, the
sound of typing on a computer, and the word “REACH” being spelled in
Morse code on the highest key of a piano. In the end it was very
liberating to depart from a consistent groove and meter and it really
ends up being a track that you feel more than anything.
There are also elements of what one
might call prog-rock in your music. Songs like “Right Sleep,” “All” and
“Anne” feature ambitious or epic construction. Are you a fan of, or
feel any kinship with these progressive, although sometimes maligned
(especially in the indie community) musicians?
The term “prog-rock” has some negative connotations to it, sure, and I
think you can find similarities in our sound if only because we're a
four-piece rock band with electric guitars and distortion pedals. None
of us are particular fans of bands like Yes or Rush, which is “prog”
calls to mind, but the way we write songs is very much a linear,
section-by-section process, and so we end up with some songs with these
drastic changes and “movements,” for lack of a better word. That can be
an element of prog, but it also just reflects us wanting to keep things
Other tracks pull elements from a
number of different sources. I hear found sounds like the distant hum
of insects in “Homes” and trumpets or french horns in “Mukraker.” Did
you bring these elements in towards the finishing phases of the
recording process, or were the songs composed with these sonic touches
"Homes" is a special exception because the textures were conceptualized
as part of the song we wanted it to be a sort of experiment with
musique concrete, and so we tried to plot out this sonic progression
from the underwater feeling that “Reach” has to something terrestrial
or mountainous. As far as horns in our other tracks go, we're lucky
enough to have a number of talented friends who hear our stuff and are
inspired by it. There's a huge distinction between finding horn players
and writing parts for them, and bringing our talented friends into the
studio to feel out the songs themselves.
The aforementioned “Anne” takes your
cascading vocals even further – into “Beach Boys” territory. Is or was
Brian Wilson an inspiration or influence on you?
Definitely it's hard to find modern pop music that doesn't take a
lesson from the Beach Boys. All four of us like to sing, and when
you're looking for inspiration or references for male vocal harmony,
the Beach Boys are such a powerful starting point. Beyond that, though,
the Beach Boys represent a sort of beacon of good times and
happiness-inducing melodies, and that's something that we aim for
"In the end it was very liberating to depart from a consistent groove and meter and it really ends up being a track that you feel more than anything."
Experimental afro-pop emotionalism via acoustic instruments with electronic spines.
For those who like: Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear.