Tonstartssbandht, brothers Andy and Edwin White, are back with ‘Sorcerer’, their first full-length studio album in six years. Recorded live in their former Brooklyn apartment, its three expansive noise-rock tracks explore themes of relapse, recovery, and lost relationships through vocal loops, guitars, drums, distortion, and the sounds of the city that infiltrated the recording sessions.
Fresh off a UK tour, and now sitting in the rocking chair in his Orlando, Florida home, Edwin tells us about returning to Tonstartssbandht, making music with his brother, nailing the perfect take, being in Mac DeMarco’s backing band, dancing better and laughing harder, and “a very clean and finely tuned swimming pool of alkalised minerals and yonderness”.
You’ve been busy with many other projects, so how does it feel to be out there playing your own music again?
It feels good to play. Music is a fun activity. Playing music your way is what it’s all about, for a guy like me, for a person like myself, we’re looking at a plethora of mighty fine times here.
It’s been six years since the last full-length LP. How do you think the passage of time is reflected on the new album?
It’s hard to say, or is it hard to know? Perhaps I’d need to ask my friends. We’ve changed as much as six years of passed time will allow. The quality of the change is difficult to pinpoint. I think we’re healthier health-heads, with brimming spirits that the earth hath given us. We dance better and we laugh harder.
Has your approach to writing or recording changed as well?
On the early albums we often wrote and recorded songs separately. ‘Sorcerer’ was written mostly by Andy and then fleshed out with group jamming. Every approach is a great feeling that works so well.
You recorded each of these tracks live, which, considering how long they are, must have been nothing short of daunting. How did you decide which performance of each song you were going to use on the album?
I was definitely bumming on my drumming. When you do like 20 takes it’s a cosmic fact that half the takes will have the guitarist stoked and the opposite half will have the drummer proud as hell. I swallowed my pride and acquiesced to the best guitar takes for ‘Sorcerer’. Time goes by and it’s no big deal really. A good take is just the best feeling version. There’s no sheet music, so a note-perfect form doesn’t really apply here. It’s allowed to fluctuate. Sometimes it’s hard to choose, and sometimes it’s hard to nail. The process is invigorating and worth it all.
Why did you decide to include the ambient noises – the train, the police siren – on the album?
Those sounds just came in through the mics, it’s the environment that we were living and recording in. If you wanna imagine what it was like to be in the room while we recorded, that helps elucidate the environment for ya. The music is geboren, partly, from its environment. The more the merrier.
Do you think you’d be able to create the same music if you weren’t brothers? How do you think the band dynamic would change if you introduced a third person?
I personally wouldn’t expect to find myself making music like this with someone who wasn’t my brother. How could they compare? As for a third person, if they were rad the dynamic would only improve. Fred Savard played bass with us in Montreal at La Brique in June 2008, and that was fun. I think about a third person sometimes only in the context of covering a song. Just dreamin’ and stuff, about a fun idea, that’s all.
When playing live, how aware are you of the audience? Or are you completely locked into the music?I’m sure it’s different for Andy being at the edge of the stage, but for me behind the kit, depending on the song, I often trance in and out of some other headspace, but that’s no revelation in music. The audience is there, and that’s great and important, but you gotta focus on what you’re doing. I hope they can understand. I gotta hit these skins. Be good out there, I’ll chat with you soon when the song’s done and his string breaks. We can figure out where we are right now and how we’re feeling.
And when Tonstartssbandht goes out and supports Mac, how do you deal with having to play two sets back to back? Is there any mindset change that has to happen between the support and main set?
Yo, Andy man is gonna be just fine. All he does is stretch, breath, close his eyes and drink water – all day long, every day. His vessel is like a very clean and finely tuned swimming pool of alkalised minerals and yonderness. If anything Mac band is lucky they’re gonna get that super-charged Andy Boay every night to help those sets shimmy along. I’m starting to wonder who pulls the strings here? Who builds the puppetos and guides the marionetos? If he revealed his mindsets the game would be over. You have to come out and ESP with us to hang.