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iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
The Chicago-based TIRRA LIRRA are not the first to marry garage rock tendencies with ethereal electronics but the bandís approach puts melody ahead of anything else. TIRRA LIRRAís sound has been tested in front of audiences at such Windy City haunts as THE EMPTY BOTTLE, THE WHISTLER BAR and THE SUBTERRANEAN and was given itís first pressing with the 2006 EP ĎBREATHE BODIESí. Three years later, the band has released their debut LP ĎPINK LIVE FOREVERí and the results are sonically arresting. Despite BRIAN ĎHANKí HENRYís persistent electronic flourishes, JARED SHELDONís tribal drumming and CHRIS MATHISí understated guitar work, there is a certain accessibility to TIRRA LIRRAís sound which recalls early-CURE or THE COCTEAU TWINS. Where would todayís electronic acts be without such eighties influences?

ROCKWIRED spoke with drummer JARED SHELDON of TIRRA LIRRA over the phone. Here is how it went.

How are you this evening?
Weíre doing pretty well. We had a show on Wednesday.

And how did the show go?
It went very well. It was actually our record release show. We released this album on the twelfth of August but I was out of town for about two weeks and then HANK went out of town so this was the first time that we actually got to do a record release party. It was at this place called SUBTERRANEAN in Chicago.

How does the bandís sound come across in a live situation?
You know whatís funny? A lot of the reviews that have been coming out locally are of the consensus that the record is pretty close to what we sound like live. We recorded the album live. That kind of communication was necessary for us. We all needed to be in a central place. It is easier for us to work out of this live environment rather than constructing things piece by piece.

Talk about the genesis of the band. How did everyone get on the same page to want to do this project?
That was actually a pretty long process. We started by jamming out with each other and recording everything onto a four-track. Then, we would listen to those recordings and slowly start to hone things down. It probably took us about a year before we were actually writing songs rather than playing around with structures. For a long time, we were really trying to define and develop something that was really kind of obtuse. We had a ton of disparate influences and we really wanted to make sure that what were doing was fresh but also happening in a way that felt like a solidified whole as opposed to a mere culmination of random interests. After about a year, we had a solid song set and in working on the record, we started to use this visualization technique where we would talk about an atmospheric idea or a fabricated location. For example, we would say ĎHere is us on a deserted islandÖĒ and from there we would start building up a song. The process sounds a lot more abstract than it actually is. Sonically, we were trying to go back to the root of our influences that really helped us to develop as people and musicians. The record took a little over year to develop.

Talk about what drew you to music in the beginning.
I come from a musical family. Both of my parents sing and play different instruments. My dad played guitar and my mom played piano. When I was growing up we were Southern Baptists. I grew up in a very church-based community. The thing that drew me to music was the fact that it was there all of the time. Itís this thing that has an amazing force. It has this amazing ability to evoke emotion and to really affect people in a way that I think is amazing. I was always drawn to percussion and playing drums just has this physicality to it that a lot of other instruments just donít have. When you play drums you are really contending with the entire body. When I was in junior high, my dad found an old LUDWIG kit and Iíve been playing ever since but at times it was on and off. There were times when I wasnít playing at all. Iím formally trained as an artist and the art is just a way to make money. Those are the two things that Iíve always wanted to do Ė make music and make art. Itís great to be on the same page with people the same desire to see this sound come to fruition.

Talk about the other members of the band and what it is that you think each of them brings to the table both musically and personality-wise.
Itís a three-piece band and the other members are CHRIS MATHIS on guitar and BRIAN ĎHANKí HENRY is the singer and keyboard player. Iíve known HANK since 2001. We met at a vintage thrift store that we were both working at in Boystown Chicago. We were both in different punk bands and we started hanging out constantly. This project started coming to fruition and at that point, HANK was just singing. Through the whole record, we had another member who decided about a year ago that he wanted to go on do other types of music. It turned out to be a good decision for all of us. It gave HANK a chance to stretch what he was doing. HE picked up the keyboards very quickly and it is amazing to see him grow musically and to see his integration of lyrics and melody. All three of us are playing samplers at some point. What Iíve learned form both CHRIS and HANK is that they really have a particular thing in mind and they have a really great ear for the sound and the quality that they want in a recording. I think all three of us collectively feel really strong together. We are really clear on how things should sound and the way a song should develop. CHRIS is a really subtle guitar player. He uses some effects but he doesnít overblow them. I really love the fact that you will never hear solos on the record. Itís not something that we do. The music is very cohesive and itís not just three guys making a racket. Itís always sweet. There is never an emphasis on being overly technical. Songs can be big and exuberant but it doesnít mean that we are trying to go for the limelight.

Explain the creative process. How do songs evolve from ideas to something that a listener is going to hear?
Recently, weíve settled on a pretty standardized of writing songs. One of us will come in with a structure and HANK will come in with a keyboard melody and CHRIS will come in with a guitar part and Iíll come in with a particular kind of rhythm. We record almost every time that we practice. Before, there was definitely a lot of playing parts at the same time which we thought was really time consuming and didnít get us from point A to point B very quickly. Very recently, HANK and I have worked almost as a rhythm section and solidifying a rhythmic and melodic structure and CHRIS comes in and works with that. Before we were all trying to create something at the same time and it just became cacophonous and it became harder to pin down something. Now it looks like weíre moving constantly toward a whole solidified way of going about writing songs. That is where I see it going in the near future.

With that being said, what songs off of PINK LIVE FOREVER stand out for you the most and why?
My favorite would have to be WE ARE ALL STRAYS. For me, lyrically and sonically, it was the perfect song for to write at that time. It was kind of a rallying song for me. Itís almost like a national anthem for me. The song has a way of letting individuals know that they are out there and they are not as alone as they think they are and that we are all interconnected. I know it sounds like a sappy notion.

We are all snowflakes.
Yeah. I equate it to buying my first records at thrift stores and taking them home and realizing there was an entire culture of people like me who were out there all over the world. For me, the song has that kind of quality. I really like FEVER DREAM. It doesnít something that a lot of the other songs donít. It actually has a rhythm track. The song is right in the middle of the record and it does something very specific. It also has a weight to it. Where STRAYS has this reverie to it, FEVER DREAM is more contained. The title track PINK LIVE FOREVER is also an extremely reverent song. There is a darkness to it but there is also this underlying presence to it that is very positive. LIGHTNING LUXURY is the other one for me. It actually wasnít going to be on the record. We recorded another song and we had some time left and we had just finished writing it. We played it out a couple of times and then t made sense to put it on the record. We definitely saw that song as the next step. It was the trajectory that we were headed. It also has that sense of reverie and this propulsion to it.

Now that that record is out there and all of the work is behind you in a sense, how do you feel about the finished work?
I had master versions that were on CD for reference when we were shopping the record, then I got the first copy of it on vinyl and I put it on. I hadnít listened to it in probably two months and all of that work and all of that time really shined through. It was really gratifying. To have the physical record in you hand is great. There is a different experience having a record than having some other for of recording. It has a specific object quality that you just donít have otherwise. It was really great moment. I think I probably teared up a little bit.

What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this album?
I think I already hit on that quite a bit. The stuff that weíve written really has an energy of itís own. I would really like for people to come away from it feeling energized. I love idea that this music is the kind of think that people listen to, or got to work to or make breakfast to. Knowing that itís out there and that people can have these individualized moments with it is a really wonderful feeling.