Centro-matic - February 2013

Centro-matic Session
Violitionist Sessions

Session Date: January 31, 2013
Posting Date: February 4, 2013
Artist Hometown: Denton, TX
Links: Centro-matic.com, Facebook
Recorded by: Michael Briggs

Every Mission
Triggers & Trash Heaps
Estimate x 3
ONE: Can you tell us about the new album you’ve been working on?
Will Johnson: We’ve been working on it. We’re not finished with it yet. We’ve got a little bit more tracking to do in March, but we’ve got about ten songs tracked for it. We worked on it back in December, and so, we’ll continue with it in March, and hopefully be able to wrap it up around the summertime.
DJ: How is it coming so far?
Matt Pence: It’s been coming together great. We invited Scott Solter to help us make this record, like the last one. He helped us with Candidate Waltz. Scott has worked with John Vanderslice, the Mountain Goats, tons of other artists. He’s amazing. He’s just an incredibly creative force, like a force of nature. It felt like we…you know, it’s nice to get somebody who’s a strong enough personality to really effect change upon us, because we’ve made a lot of different records— we’ve made a lot of records up to this point, but we’ve also covered a lot of ground. It’s just nice to involve a third party that you really respect, so that we’re all, for a lack of a better word, showing off for Scott. Like, ‘Man, I could really do this cool thing! Check out this thing I do!’ It’s, after you’ve established a relationship over the years, we know each other so well that, I don’t know, it’s kind of nice to have a new personality around to shake things up. It’s been really fun.
Scott Danbom: Yeah, he doesn’t try to reinvent the band. He just tries to bring out the stuff that’s already there in a new, creative way.
Will: Yeah. It’s good to have an extra set of ears and opinions, because we’ve been playing together for 74 years straight. [Laughs] No, it is kind of nice to have somebody come into a room and suggest new ways to arrange the furniture, in a manner of speaking, and Solter embodies exactly that type of personality that we trust.
Matt: We have a lot in common with Scott, but we also have a lot of differences, so it’s really cool. He has some musical common ground with Scott and Mark that he and I don’t share, for sure, and I know he’s got some— he’s got a different relationship to each one of us, so it’s cool to see him work with Scott Danbom and sort of like, emphasize an ambient thing that I wouldn’t try to emphasize, because I just don’t share the same love of certain kinds of music. So, it’s really cool to be able to work on that level, that he shares common ground with each of us that’s unique.
DJ: What sort of new sounds is he pushing you towards? How is this record going to be different from previous releases?
Scott: It’s got different songs.
Will: It’s hard to say, because it’s not fully tracked yet, and it’s not mixed, but, you know, from the first two weeks of tracking in December, I’d say there’s a rawness to it, whereas I think Candidate Waltz had a very catchy, sort of pop-type feel to it. This has a little bit more of a rock thing going on, and it’s got a little more paint splattered on it, so to speak. Yeah…it may have more songs for the dudes than the ladies. It’s hard to say. [Laughs] There’s more guy songs on this record, probably.
Scott: There’s more…the Crazy Horse thing more than it is maybe the Ween. It’s…I don’t know. That’s a bad—
Mark Hedman: Did you say it’s Crazy Horse or Ween?
Scott: Not Ween! Not Ween! I was thinking…yeah, the pop songs on Candidate Waltz can be more ‘70s…
Will: Yeah, things that are more tightly wrapped. This has a more ‘in the room’ feel to it.
Matt: I think this album…on one level, it hearkens back to Redo the Stacks, and on another level, it’s new material that people won’t be expecting to hear. I think there’s a whole part of the band that people haven’t heard yet that’ll be part of this album, but it also refers directly to some of the most spirited recordings we’ve ever made. So, I think it will actually be new to people, but it will be familiar at the same time.
Scott: There’s some new feelings in this album already. It’s new, and so, you kind of have to…Some of the new territory can be kind of…scary, like, ‘What’s going to happen here!?’
Will: It’s scary fun.
Scott: The tension kind of helps you manifest, to try to dig a little deeper.
DJ: How have you managed to keep your creative momentum for so long, when most bands would have fizzled out by now?
Will: I have to say, and this may change, but to this point that hasn’t really been an issue during the writing process. Usually, I have a pretty good idea of, at least, where I’d like to suggest we go sonically with each new record, and as we were stating a while ago, with the last record and with this record, having Scott along is something new for us, and it definitely adds a real spark of energy in the studio. In places where we might get comfortable or fall into old habits, he’s provided a new sense of life, as far as recording goes. But, a lot of the time, some of the new territory I might want to work on, just as far as making notes about what we want to do when we get to the studio, a lot of that starts on the 4-track process. It can be something as simple as just a new effects pedal or something, and me abusing it incessantly on every song, or me singing vocals through the pickup of an acoustic guitar, or whatever. It can inspire certain elements that hopefully we can carry over into the studio, and once everybody kind of gets their hands on it, that’s when the record starts to take its own direction, and become a new thing, and a very exciting thing for us, fortunately.
Scott: I think, the older we get, we all take experiences, not that we’ve learned as a band, but the other stuff we do, all of the other people we play with, and all of the stuff Matt records, and we all kind of grow in this, so even when we’re spaced, we all can take those influenced and put them back. I think what’s interesting now is that we’ve been a band for so long, now we can almost go back to what kind of inspired us, maybe, in the early years, in the first three or four years, and that can kind of reinvent itself, too. You can be like, ‘Oh yeah! Remember that feeling?’ I don’t think we even fully explored what was going on there. I mean, maybe, to the listener, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, yeah, that definitely sounds similar’ or ‘This is definitely Centro-matic’ or ‘This is Will Johnson’ or ‘This is a South San Gabriel thing,’ or whatever. I think it’s always evolving and collating. I think the greatest asset to Will’s songwriting, and thus his bands, is that we can always sound like ourselves, but also invent a bunch of new territory. That’s always been a big strength. That’s what I like.
TWO: You’re embarking on a Will Johnson house show tour through the South soon. What is the appeal of playing in houses rather than in traditional venues?
Will: My friend David Bazan kind of encouraged me to do it about three or four years ago. He has been doing these tours for a handful of years, and I went to a couple of those shows early on and really enjoyed the dynamic that it presents, and that it places everybody on neutral turf, you know, in a private residence. It definitely encourages friendships and connections and conversations, and behavior that you don’t always see at the local rock club, a public space. It definitely breaks down some barriers, obviously sonically, and, you know, you’re strolling into a completely unfamiliar place and unpacking your guitar and playing music, but, in so many ways, I’ve enjoyed that it seems to hearken back to the way that I think that humans entertained each other in the earliest days. So, really, between Bazan kind of encouraging me to try it, and a friend, our former manager Bob Andrews, I tried it a few years ago and I really enjoyed it, and I’ve done a couple since. It’s a fun place to try out comedy material and tell stories, and to fall on your face as far as that goes. Of course, the crowd can sort of participate in some ways that they can’t always at a rock show. So, at any rate, I enjoy it for those reasons.
THREE: What inspired you to start painting baseball players?
Will: I’ve been a baseball fan since I was five or six, I suppose, and as I got older, I really became interested in the history of the game, and how it paralleled with the history of our country, and then I decided five or six years ago that I just— I had just moved to a place on my own, and didn’t have much to hang on the walls, so I started messing around with acrylic paints, just painting players that I personally wanted to pay tribute to, involving a lot of text. Kind of painting out their story. Many of them are pretty under the radar players, not exactly household names. It became a means of paying a modest tribute, and also stuff to hang on the walls. So, that’s kind of how and why I got started a few years ago, and then it morphed into, ‘Well, I want to paint a bunch of players from the 1970s, with sketchy facial hair and drug problems,’ and then ‘Now I want to paint weirder stories,’ and things like that. It just kind of depends. I’m still figuring it out as I go.
– Interview and transcription by Dale Jones.