Hayes Peebles - Sound In The Signals Interview

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You released a new track “Sunlight” on Loft Session Records can you tell me how the track came to be and what your inspiration was for the song?

Well, Loft Session Records is the brainchild of John Kallen, who brought me in on the project. Basically when John, Nick Rouner (who plays bass on the track) and I were in high school together we were always playing together and tossing out ideas for songs.

Eventually we wanted to record some of the ideas and phrases we were coming up with. When it finally came down to the day of recording none of us felt like recording the things we had hashed out beforehand, so we basically wrote and arranged Sunlight in an hour or so based off of a progression I had come up with a few weeks before.

As far as inspiration, I don't like give too much away, but the lyrics are loosely inspired by Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine." I wrote the words after a week of grey days at the end of the summer following a loved one traveling far away for a extended period of time.

What was the recording process of “Sunlight” and how did you choose which musicians would be involved in the project?

Nick, John and I played a lot before our jazz classes and during free periods at school. We had a nice blend of styles working for us so it was natural for us to go into the studio together at that point. We did all the instrumental tracking live, in a matter of three hours or so. We recorded in a huge room with really bad acoustics, which meant that none of our tracks could be isolated or edited without affecting the other tracks. Basically, we just ran through the song hundreds of times until we got a good, full take.

At that point in time I didn't even have the lyrics or vocal melodies written. It actually took me a few months before it all came together. I recorded the vocal tracks in my room in August. After that John did some extra mixing and mastering and Sunlight was finally complete.

What instrument or part of the recording process were you responsible for during the session?

I played rhythm guitar and solo guitar on the track. I was also the vocalist and lyricist for the song.

Overall how did you feel about doing something spontaneous like this and do you plan to record more tracks like this in the future?

I don't think we have any particular plans to keep recording music together, or at any rate don't consider ourselves to be a full time group. I think part of what makes this song work, and something that I love about our work together in general is that it was so spontaneous. Because we didn't really come together as a band, we didn't have a cohesive sound that we felt obligated to stick to strictly. I think that groups really can become slaves to their sound, which is something we didn't have to deal with.

Also, we had serious time constraints which meant that we didn't have days to reflect and work on the piece. Some of the most charismatic and original parts of a composition often get lost when you start to give them too much thought. We had no reservations about how our song should sound, and it ended up becoming something different that I really enjoy. It feels really great to write a song with no stylistic limits, and I think that comes through in the recording, for better or worse.

You received a lot of attention at a young age for being a big breakout singer songwriter. What was it like having that amount of attention at such a young age and what do you (or did you) think of the comparisons to artists like Bright Eyes and Elliot Smith?

I really tried not to think too much about those things. On one hand, it was pretty flattering to draw comparisons like those. But on the other hand I didn't want to be pigeonholed as being one thing or the other. I love Elliott Smith and Bright Eyes, and I heard the connections, but in the end I think that the comparisons were a bit knee jerk.

Part of the reason I think those comparisons popped up is because the majority of my music has never been heard, which is the most frustrating part of my career up to this point. Because I have no access to proper studios and producers, I haven't been able to provide my listeners with a well rounded sampling of my music. When I did get to record professionally for Condense EP a few years ago, I wanted to record the songs with the most potential for popularity. It seemed that if I wanted a leg to stand on, I should put out the poppier stuff first and wait for people to come around to the deeper tracks. Maybe that was cynical, but it was the choice I made.

I've really only ever had the time and resources to record the poppier more derivative music that I was writing when I was 13 and 14 years old. There's a lot more going on behind the scenes that I'm really yearning for people to hear. Ideally, I will be able to sign and put out full length albums. I think once more of my music is out there, the Elliott Smith and Bright Eyes comparisons from years ago will be much less relevant.

I read that you have been taking piano lessons since you were a kid and it was actually your piano teacher that inspired you to start playing your solo material live. As a kid when did you discover you might have something special about your songwriting ability?

I had always loved music, I knew I had talent instrumentally and at age thirteen was naive enough to think that songwriting ability and musical talent were always paired. I just started writing because I figured I could, and coincidentally it ended up working out for me. I never gave it too much thought though. After my first concert people came up to me and seemed genuinely impressed, so I just ran with it.

Condense is your first EP and it received high praise and It seemed to be really well received, your iTunes reviews are really good and tracks like “Gone Grey” were pretty big breakout tracks for you. Looking back at it now what are your thoughts about the EP and what has changed about you since the release of the EP?

Well, a lot has changed certainly. Even when I was tracking for Condense EP I thought of those songs as being quite old. Gone Grey has always been a bit tricky for me, it was the second song I ever wrote and I definitely was feeling like I had grown out of it years ago.

During pre-production Larry Heinemann (who produced the record) and I talked a lot about how we wanted the record to feel. At that age I really wanted to put out something very hi-fi and relatively straightforward. I wanted the album to highlight the compositions themselves and not depend on the production style. The result, I think, was exactly that. I love the Condense EP, I think it's really honest and was a great way for me to start out. I do think it is somewhat reflective of my age at the time though, and I've always tried to keep my music and my age separate.

I don't necessarily have the same recording and production philosophy now, I think that's been a change for me. A lot of my demos have been produced very differently from those songs on the EP, and in general I think my writing has become a much less straightforward than the writing on Condense EP.

Your EP Condense was released a while ago. I see you have a new EP titled Nothing coming out in 2011. What can fans expect from that EP?

It's in its extreme infancy right now, so it's hard to say what the end product is going to sound like. By no means is it going to be completely unrecognizable or incomparable to the older stuff but I think that fans should expect something much more mature and developed.

Do you have a tentative release date for the EP?

No. I'm still writing for the EP. I'm yet to settle on a final track list. Right now it's a concept to be flushed out. I have a handful of demos, but it may not even end up being called Nothing EP. I took a long hiatus for the past year and a half.

Setting the goal of a new EP by the end of next year has mainly served the purpose of letting my fans know that I'm still alive, and has established a framework for me to work within. I think that's important after such a long time away from recording. I have a lot of thinking to do about how to approach my new material, and about how to organize my old material, which is still the bulk of my repertoire. Nothing EP is the eventual culmination of all these things that will certainly take a decent amount of time to figure out.

Why did you decide to take so much time off between the Condense EP and the EP set to be released next year?

Well, first I took time to play gigs for Condense, and afterwards I was confronted by a few pretty big decisions. Being only seventeen years old last year I had to do a lot of thinking about college, and on top of that was forced to contemplate how or if I could balance college and music. It was a pretty overwhelming and busy period of time, and unfortunately everything sort of got put on the back burner.

Luckily though, I'm past that decision making period and with that perspective I'm back to continue making music.

New York is known for being a having a really big scene and breeding ground for music, newer artists like The Strokes and Vampire Weekend have really been some of the most successful musical acts of the last decade or so. What do you think about the New York music scene? What are some artists you think are up and coming?

I can't claim to be an arbiter of taste, and I'm not sure about up and coming, but my experience playing in New York has been mixed. It is surprisingly easy to get places if what you're doing is considered "good," but it's a double edged sword. There is a lot of opportunity for a lot of people in the city, but the scene tends to get saturated because of that.

The priority in New York right now still is leaning towards fashion rock and fad bands, there's a pretty quick cycle of what's in and out at any point in time. I think to truly succeed can be difficult. It's easy to get popular but it can be even harder coming from NYC to break out of the crazy hype that exists there. For example, I think The Strokes really took a big risk with First Impressions of Earth years ago, but that's what's made the difference between them and every other token New York band. There are tons of New York bands that ride on waves of hype but never really achieve longevity after that dies down.

How has growing up in New York influenced your music?

Well, growing up in New York has made me who I am. A lot of the aesthetic and imagery of my music can be traced back to some occurrence or memory of mine which almost always comes with implications of New York.

As a singer songwriter I was wondering what people should expect when they come to your shows?

I've been playing solo shows for years now and continue to do so. All of the production and arrangement you hear in the recordings is absent live, at least for the time being-- though I'm definitely going to start playing with a band when I find the right personnel.

For now though, it really is just a guitar and voice, sometimes with a harmonica or piano. It's a look at the bare compositions. There are no bells and whistles. I think that playing the songs so stripped down can really shed a different light on them, and in a lot of ways can be more meaningful.

I guess that about wraps it up. Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have any closing comments you’d like to make?

Thanks very much for the questions. And to those people who have listened in the past, I'm back from the dead and am working hard to bring you more music!

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