Buoyant indie pop duo Generationals release their third album Heza this week on Polyvinyl. Heza boasts a colourful and upbeat diversity of the sound spectrum. Bursting with catchy pop hooks and infectious melodies, Generationals return with an album that see the duo break out of their comfort zone for a more experimental layered approach. Filled with organic synths and tropical grooves, the album sees the band move towards a more tentative direction. The Blue Walrus caught up with Ted Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer to find out more album, the meaning behind it’s cryptic title and their essential mix tape song.
1. So it’s been a while since we’ve had a full-length album from you guys, your last album Actor-Caster was released back in 2011 and your EP Lucky Numbers came out in October last year. What have you guys been up to?
We toured for Actor-Caster for all of 2011 and then we went straight back into writing and recording Heza and Lucky Numbers in early 2012. We recorded all over the place. We started in Austin then Washington D.C., and also a lot in our hometown of New Orleans. In the meantime, we have been busy trying to become who we are.
2. The Blue Walrus readers are diverse and eclectic bunch. For readers of blog that may be unfamiliar with Generationals could you in a sentence sum up your sound?
Pop-influenced electronic rock songs about people we know.
3 Your new album is titled Heza, you seem to have a fondness for slightly unusual and curious album titles. What is the meaning of the new album’s name and the inspiration behind it?
The point of the album titles is to be confusing. We like titles that might lead you to an idea of what they’re about, but they’re never the obvious thing. They’re rorschach tests. We also pick out titles that look and sound in a way that we feel fits the record and the art of the record. We wanted a short title for this one and we liked the sound of it. Literally, Heza is a nickname for someone we know, but that’s not why we picked it. We’re more into the vagueness of it, the idea that people will project their own meaning onto it. Or at the very least not forget it immediately.
4. You where originally signed to Park the Van for the release of Con Law and Actor-Caster. Why the label shift to Polyvinyl and how has it been working with them?
We felt like Park the Van was an important chapter for us. We wouldn’t be what we are if we hadn’t worked with them on those records. After Actor-Caster, PTV turned into more of an artist management company than a label. We were looking for a new home for our records and Polyvinyl ended up being the perfect fit for us. Their roster is so strong, they have proven themselves as a great label for many years and we have a ton of respect for what they’ve accomplished. On top of that, they’re excellent people on a personal level and they have been extremely useful and helpful to us in getting this record ready and in helping us realize our vision for this stage in our band. So it was an easy decision for us.
5. You guys have been playing together since you where teenagers and as a duo with Generationals since 2007. Now that you’re 3 albums in how do you think you have grown as a band?
The main thing I always think about is learning about production value from being an opening band on tour. We always learn a lot from the bands we open up for. Now that we’re headlining more tours, we’ve grown a lot in terms of the overall production value of our shows. If you saw us three years ago, our current show would be unrecognizable. We put a lot of effort into our lights now; making sure the stage looks exactly how we want it too. We work a lot to find ways around the limitations of van touring when we’re putting together a stage design. I think a lot of younger bands think “We’ll worry about lights when we’re touring in a bus,” but there are tons of things you can do with small, portable lights to make the shows look good. And I think audiences are expecting more and more from small club shows in terms of production value. It’s not enough to just show up with your guitars and expect it to move people. The standards are higher now for the visual elements of the show, and I think that’s a really good thing.
6. You seem to have mastered the art of creating the perfect catchy pop hook. How does the general process of structure or inspiration for song writing usually come about out for you?
It starts with one phrase and maybe one chord change. We find the right instruments for it, whether it’s a guitar or a synth or whatever, then build it out from there. The general rule is, the faster you can get the song written from when the initial inspiration hits you, the better. We’ve gotten a lot better at that too. It’s a process of letting yourself be a conduit for something that’s coming from a subconscious place, being ready when it happens, and just trusting yourself to copy it down. In that sense it’s a passive process. You don’t decide when the best ideas happen; you just have to be at the ready.
7. How much of your personal life goes into the creative song writing process?
All of it, it’s just coded. Our lyrical style is intentionally vague because we like to leave room for the feeling to apply to other variations of the experience that we’re writing about. But nothing’s off limits. As far as being real as a writer, I think if there’s a part of your life that you’re trying to shield from your writing, obviously that’s the good part. That’s the song.
8. Who where your influence growing up. Where their any particular bands that inspired you to start your own?
I grew up in a house full of music, so there were lots of different phases of wanting to be like certain people, but they were all pop musicians. Michael Jackson was my main early influence, as I got older and learned guitar, I got more into rock. I always loved Dire Straits, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Blondie, The Pretenders, The Beatles obviously. In college I turned back to pop and embraced things I was afraid to own before, like Janet Jackson, Madonna, Bjork. As for me and Ted, the manifestation of our music started in an “indie rock” place. We wanted to be the Pixies in our first band. I was heavily influenced by the book “Our Band Could Be Your Life,” so our ethic was always based on that DIY idea. Now we go for HIY- hire it yourself.
9. You guys played this year’s SXSW. How was it?
Insane! It’s a gauntlet. Bands were not meant to play that much in one area. I think ultimately, it cheapens it when you flood the market with it that much, but it’s important for promoting a new release. Like any convention, it’s the one place where all the most important people in your industry have all decided to go at once, so it’s useful to be able to play for all those people in the same week, but it is physically tolling and I think it’s unsustainable the way it’s going now.Austinis changing fast and it’s not really set up to support that many events at once. It’s mania. Also, great barbecue.
10. “Put a Light On” is my favourite track from the album and it seems like a real crowd energiser and song that is sure to induce some freestyle shape pulling and enthusiastic hand clapping. How have gig audience responded to the new material?
SXSW was the first time we performed that one. We tested out a couple of the other new ones on tour last fall. Everyone’s been very enthusiastic about it so far. Most of the songs we play live are written to be crowd energizers. That’s how we like to design the shows. It’s a very high energy show. So we know that if we arrange them the right way, they’ll work live.
11. Gig and festivals seem to have their own unique atmosphere, audience and experience Do you have a preference over playing gigs to festivals?
No. It’s like ice cream vs. beer. I don’t prefer one to the other, they’re too different. I love the ability to control all the elements, the lights, the sound, that you get in a club with a long soundcheck. But sometimes festivals have a special communal outdoor thing too that you can’t get in a club.
12. Festival season is fast approaching here in the UK. What would be your top festival tip?
Here inLouisiana, the sun is brutal. Hydration and sunscreen are really important, but I understand you guys don’t have the same relationship with the sun, so I don’t know. comfortable shoes.
13. What bands are currently on your radar right now? Who are you listening to?
Right now I’m into Mac DeMarco,FrankOcean, Mikal Cronin, Wampire. Floating Action is a band from North Carolinat hat is one of the best things happening here that almost no one knows about yet. I never stop listening to Floating Action.
14. Final question comes with a little anecdote. I first came across Generationals about 3 years ago after I received a mix tape with “When the Fight, They Fight” as the final track. It was my favourite song on the mix and one that I listened to on repeat for a week. What would your essential mix tape song be and why?
“Naive Melody” by Talking Heads is perfect for mixes. I think it’s one of the greatest songs lyrically, but it works well even in the deep background.
Read our review of Heza here.