Greg Mendez - Sound In The Signals Interview

Veronica Mendez
I recently had the opportunity to interview Greg Mendez. We discussed recording his upcoming album, writing lead single “Goodbye/Trouble”, lyrical inspiration, the song he’s most excited for listeners to hear, the artwork, plans for vinyl and cassettes, and more. Check it out below.

First, thanks for the interview.

My pleasure, thanks for wanting to talk with me.

Your new album comes out May 5th. How long did you work on the album and what was it like recording it?

In terms of the recording process, about a year (it's also been finished for over a year). But in terms of writing it's less definable, some of the songs are really old and some are new and some are in between. I work on things in pieces a lot, sometimes I can't find the right lyrics for something until years after I write the melodies and chords.

I recorded most of it at home, which was actually kind of difficult because at the time we lived in a very busy neighborhood and the room was not soundtreated. Lots of radio interference, lots of sirens and honking and yelling from the street. Some of that ended up in the record, which I don't mind, but sometimes it was so intrusive that I had to redo stuff. Like I'd be in the middle of a great take and a firetruck would blast down the street, sirens blazing. The room would also get very hot and stuffy in the summer. I did the drums last at my friend Evan Bernard's studio, which is now known as Jamtown. I always highly recommend Evan to anyone looking to record in the Philly area. He also just released a great solo record called "For Me" under the band name Provide.

Your new single “Goodbye/Trouble” is out March 7th. Can you tell me about writing that song and why you chose it as the first single?

This one was originally two different songs, but I kept wanting to end "Goodbye" with the exact chords from the beginning of "Trouble", so I combined them. Memories from some time I spent in New York City. A friend whose opinion I trust told me it would make a good lead single so I went with it. I'm not really great at making those decisions. I don't care much for the marketing aspect and to me that's what singles are mostly about. It's a necessary thing, but I just don't really think in that way. I just like to make the albums.

I had the chance to listen to the album and I think it’s your best work to date. What was your lyrical inspiration for it and how did you decide how you wanted the overall album to sound?

Thank you! All I can hope for is that I'm getting better rather than worse. Lyrically, a lot of it is a sort of edited automatic writing. Most of these ended up being informed by experiences from when I was younger, but I wouldn't say all of it is exactly autobiographical. I end up writing from the perspective of other people a lot. 

I don't think I ever really decided how I wanted it to sound, if anything I thought it would sound different when I started making it. I kinda just let it be what it wanted to be, I kept going in the direction where it felt good. I've always been inspired by stuff like Elliott Smith, The Microphones, early Emperor X, etc. That's the kind of stuff that I heard as a teenager and realized that I could make music even though I don't have much in the way of resources or training. It's a ripoff album pretty much, but a good one I hope. I'm also a 60s pop nerd so there's probably some of that in there too. I was listening to a lot of Margo Guryan's "27 Demos" at the time. Some of the best shit I've ever heard.

Which song was the easiest to write and on the other hand which one took the longest to complete?

"Best Behavior" and "Sweetie" definitely came the most quickly, which is funny because the subject matter in those is some of the most difficult on the record. I guess "Clearer Picture (of You) and "Hoping You're Doing Okay" took the longest technically. I wrote those songs in 2011 and 2009 respectively, and reworked the lyrics a little bit more recently.

Do you have a song that you’re most excited for people to hear? Why? 

I'm excited about "Sweetie," even though I think it will most likely be the least played song on the streaming services. But I like how bare it is and how it's not like anything I've done before.

The album artwork is interesting. Who designed it and came up with the concept for it? What is the meaning behind it?

It's based on a painting by my wife, Veronica. She's a really talented artist (and also songwriter and musician) and has made a couple pieces that are these Virgin Mary kinda figures, inspired by medieval art. I originally asked if I could use her painting, to which she said no because she did not like it enough, but she did say I could trace the drawing and recolor it. So that's what the final cover is, V's drawing and my coloring (I still like her painting better tbh, but don't tell her that! I think it has more complexity of feeling than my coloring does.) I think the power of V's drawing is that I see different emotions in the subject's face everytime I look at it. Sometimes she looks sad, sometimes suspicious, sometimes reverent. I hope the songs are like that too.

I wouldn't say it has a tangible meaning, to me at least. I think it just fit the overall feel of the record, it felt right. My dad's extended family is very Catholic, so that imagery and music has always been pretty ingrained in me (along with a deep fear of eternal damnation). Plus my last record had a drawing of a devil-balloon wielding swords, so this felt like a good follow-up.

Do you have plans to release vinyl or cassettes for this album?

Yes, It's coming out on vinyl/cassette through Forged Artifacts and there will also be a UK cassette variant through Devil Town Tapes.

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

Thanks for the thoughtful questions! I want to shoutout Swim Camp's new album, "Steel Country," and Ther's upcoming record, "a horrid whisper echoes in a palace of endless joy." The people who made them are dear to my heart and both albums hit that sweet spot where they are emotionally moving but also interesting and inventive.

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