The L Magazine: How do feel about Ashes Grammar as compared to other things you’ve previously recorded?
Ben Daniels: It was a lot harder to make this record than anything else we’ve made in the past. It’s weird. I guess I kind of have ways of thinking about it, and then seeing what other people think of it is kind of funny. I guess I kind of thought it was a lot darker than our other stuff, but no one else seems to think that.
The L: On the first record it seemed like there were more “rock moments,” with big drum fills, or dramatic bits of guitar, and that this one might be oriented more towards dance or electronic music. Is that something you’d agree with, or were trying for?
BD: That’s one of the things that was sort of different from how I thought about it and how other people have responded. And most of the people I’ve played it for said what you just said. I thought this album was more rocking out. I guess I understand why other people are saying that now. I mean there are real drums on every song on this album, pretty much. It just felt like being in a rock band recording it. But I guess that’s where it sort of went. When we started it came on the heels of a European tour thing, and I always thought that live, we are more of a loud rock band rather than we are on record, which is a sort of ambient thing. We thought we were capturing a little of that, but maybe it didn’t turn out that way.
The L: It rocks out, you know, in the way that Stereolab might rock out, elaborating on a groove, and the vocals will be blown out and swirling around. Was Stereolab a touchpoint for you, actually?
BD: I don’t think it was something we were actually going for, but Stereolab is definitely one of my top three bands of all times, and I have every one of their records and have listened to them ten million times. I’ve seen them live, I don’t know, 15 times? I actually go to meet them too, which was crazy. I really love Stereolab.
The L: Have you been a fan of ambient music for a long time?
BD: Yeah, I guess so. I can’t even remember when…I used to have a roommate back in college who was super into Brian Eno and all that. So, yeah, a while.
The L: The new record is a combination of ambient pieces and more structured songs, do you see it as a sort of dialogue between the two?
BD: I think they work together, maybe sort of complement each other. We set up the album so that things sort of flow into each other, but it wasn’t a grand plan for it. Just as we went along, we’d have these more ambient ideas that we’d be excited about, and decided to put them on there. Sometimes bigger songs grew out of those, and sometimes they didn’t. But it made sense to align them next to the more structured songs, to stitch them together that way.