Saturna is a relatively new band to SkidMark but one that's already made a huge impression on us musically, with their debut CD "...All Night" featuring in our "Best of 2006" list of CD's received at SkidMark in the last year. SkidMcSkidder was lucky enough to catch Ryan Carroll (vocals / guitars / bass) between meetings to hold the first of hopefully many new Virtual Interviews of 2007....
SkidMcSkidder: Hi Ryan! Welcome to the first virtual interview of 2007! How's life treating you on the other side of the pond?
Ryan Carroll: So far so good. We've been really busy as of late, but I'm really excited because last night we finished up tracking our debut full length. You don't even know how many hours we've spent on this, almost two years actually and to be finished is almost surreal. I feel done, but we need to have a party to celebrate or something for me to really feel done.
SkidMcSkidder: Excellent! I didn't realise you were working on another project in parallel to your debut "...All Night", or is the full length an extension of the 1st release?
Ryan Carroll: This is actually the record that we've been working on from the beginning, but half way through the process we decided to put out a few songs on an EP to see what kind of a response we'd get. With "...All Night", we did everything ourselves and with the new record we are working with Tony Lash (Stars of Track and Field, Dandy Warhols) and Brin Adison in Seattle (Smashing Pumpkins, Smashmouth). Some of the songs from the EP will be on the LP, but all the tracks are completely new mixes and believe me we just got the mix of Pop Rocks back from Tony Lash last night and he is amazing. He turned a pretty good song into a top 10 radio hit.
SkidMcSkidder: Awesome! "...All Night" blew me away (it will be featured in SkidMark's forthcoming "Best of 2006"), so I can't wait to hear the new stuff!
Ryan Carroll: The songs are finished now and the whole record flows together so well. I am so excited about this record. I can't wait to give you some tracks as soon as they are mixed. Songs like "Much More" that have a good groove, amazing guitar licks and vocal harmonies to die for. Then songs like "Leader of the Western Stars" that are the epitome of spacey bliss. mm mmm mm its going to be tasty.
SkidMcSkidder: It must have been a bit nerve wracking & almost humbling experience working with producers with such impressive past experience?
Ryan Carroll: It was a new experience for us, but actually we love the work they've done in the past so much that we didn't even bother to give them any ideas. We just handed over the tracks and were amazed at what they were able to do. We've gotten back 4 tracks so far and only had a few changes for them to make. Its amazing working with people that are pro's. Really amazing. Getting to work with people that get what we're doing is really cool as well.
SkidMcSkidder: How do you tend to record? Software or traditional studio?
Ryan Carroll: We built a studio over the last two years. We realized we would spend $1000 dollars in three days in a studio and whatever we left with is what we got. So we decided to put that money into our own studio and over the last two years we've built a pretty impressive studio. We are currently using Cubase to record, but its really all in the mics. The more we spend on mics the better sounds we get.
SkidMcSkidder: Nice... I'm about to convert the spare room upstairs into a home recording studio so keep the tips flowing! (Laughs Out Loud) I must admit from a number of interviews I've performed over the last couple of years, it seems more bands are finding better results using software in home studios than trying to rush stuff out on a budget at the old skool studios.
Ryan Carroll: It depends on a couple of things. If you've pre-produced your stuff and you're ready to lay all the tracks down perfectly, then traditional studios work pretty well, but most bands don't realize the value of pre-production and just come into the studio with some songs and when the engineer hears them, he's like "uh you don't have an ending for the song" and "You can't have a huge rock ending on every song on this record." Then you spend three hours trying to figure out the best way to end the song.
SkidMcSkidder: Heh heh. Let's talk a little about the band... How'd you get together with Steve & Eric?
Ryan Carroll: Well Steve and I met in Seattle back in 1993. He was working at American Music then, the best instrument store in Seattle at the time and I was trying to find a bassist and drummer to complete the lineup for Veer, the band I was in at the time. Steve hooked me up with his roommate and in hanging out decided he should play bass for us. Veer lasted until 1997 and did some amazing things in Seattle. We were a bit more spacey than the average grunge band, so we had a small scene, but many people in Seattle still remember and talk about Veer to us. Eric and I met in 2001 when he was working for the Willamette Week in Portland. He did a story on a band I was in and asked me if he could come over and jam sometime. He had been a drummer in bands before, but said he'd been playing guitar and wanted to show me some tunes. When we jammed, he asked if I liked Blur. I said, of course they are one of my favorites and he proceeded to play any Blur song I could think of, then Built To Spill, ect, ect. The guy is amazingly gifted, just as Steve is. They are both drummers, play amazing guitar and bass and sing. I feel really lucky to work with such great musicians.
SkidMcSkidder: Yes, I'm jealous - I think that's one of the reasons "...All Night" is so damned listenable - it drips with talent! And you're all based in Portland now right?
Ryan Carroll: Actually Steve has always lived in Seattle and our studio is there now, and Eric just moved to Seattle a few months ago. I'm still living in Portland and I'm not moving. I bet they'll both be here within a couple of years. Honestly the distance doesn't really matter. Its a 2.5 hr drive and we put in 20-25 hours a session when we get together, which is at least every other week if not more. In a way, Its almost better, because we get to work two cities instead of just one.
SkidMcSkidder: I asked as another favourite SkidMark-listed band, The High Violets are also from Portland so I was wondering that there must be a really happening music scene in your locality, do you think that's accurate?
Ryan Carroll: Definitely. We just played a Reverb Records Holiday Party with The High Violets, The Upsidedown and an amazing Seattle band called Hypatia Lake. It was a great show that mixed shoegaze, groove rock, and psychedelic space rock. There are a ton of other good bands in both Seattle and Portland and we all play a lot in both cities. The thing about Portland is that there are so many different types of bands here. The scene on the whole is flourishing and being a small town we get to know a lot of people and are influenced by styles that we probably wouldn't normally seek out. Its an exciting place to be right now.
SkidMcSkidder: Again, I'm envious!! The Brit scene has been in a state of entropy foe a long time now with the same, stale sounds of R&B, rap, boy / girl band plastic-packaged, throw away pop filling the charts. Admittedly there has been a significant number of guitar-orientated "indie" bands emerging onto the mainstream stage, but not really to my liking (perhaps I've being listening to to space rock for too many years now!)
Ryan Carroll: I agree with you and I'm a huge fan of britpop/rock, but a lot of the artists haven't put out records that I can really sink my teeth into. I did hear a song by The Orange Lights with the guitarist from Spiritualized and it sounded pretty good, kind of The Churchish. Not bad, but a bit too much like Coldplay for my liking. On the other hand there's been a resurgence of good music coming out of the west coast, bands like Silversun Pickups and Darker My Love are really doing it for me right now.
SkidMcSkidder: Oohh, swearword....! (Laughs Out Loud) Yeah, I'm becoming a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to "modern" music - in fact it's one of the many reasons I love maintaining SkidMark.org - I get to hear a whole spectrum of new, fresh sounds that I never would have heard anywhere else - for instance until I heard a number of the bands listed on SkidMark, the genre "Shoegazer" conjured up images of droning, shuffling bands with size 13 pointy nosed suede boots! (Laughs Out Loud) (coldplay being the swear word! )
Ryan Carroll: So true, the way we categorize music is all wrong most of the time. Saturna definitely has elements that often pigeon whole us into the shoegaze genre, but if you really listen to our music it isn't all shoegaze. its really just beautiful pop music that intertwines psychedelic sounds and fuzz and other ear candy. And we like to rock in a get down and dirty sort of way that is very Sonic Youth or Jesus and Mary Chain and I don't think either of them could be classified as shoegaze, but whatever, we like that fact that people are digging our music and so it doesn't really matter to us what genre people put us in.
SkidMcSkidder: Without sound too much like a hippy - right on I hear ya brother! So, focusing on the music - who takes responsibility for writing the material - or is it a communal thing?
Ryan Carroll: Damn hippies! (Laughs Out Loud).
Ryan Carroll: I actually brought most of the songs to the table, but throughout the process we all contributed not only songs, but ideas that changed the songs from what they originally were. If you heard the original demos you might not even recognize some of the songs. The beauty of working with Eric and Steve is that we didn't bring our ego's with us to the studio. We realized that we wanted to do what was best for the song and that means allowing other's ideas to come into the process. This is a really difficult thing for most people to do and maybe it was just the right time and place and we completely trust each other, but the end result is a beautiful record that I am really proud of and can't wait to share with the world.
SkidMcSkidder: Great stuff. On your last note, i.e. sharing with the world" how do you find the internet has helped get the Saturna vibe "out there"?
Ryan Carroll: The internet is amazing. two years ago it was a completely different world, but with the advent of blogging, it has completely changed the way a band can get its stuff out there. A bunch of bloggers found our stuff a few months ago and since then we've had 45 write ups by bloggers and a handful more that have mentioned us or posted mp3s. These bloggers are from the US, England, Scotland, France, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, the list goes on and on. The most amazing things are happening on the internet right now with Saturna. Podcasters and internet radio stations have been picking up "...All Night." Its almost too hard to believe.
SkidMcSkidder: On the subject of internet radio stations, sometime the end of January SkidMark will be hooking up with www.bumpskey.com to "co-host" a US/UK monthly show. Jerry the webjay @ Bumpskey has been broadcasting 100% independent music for over 7 years now (in fact Bumpskey is directly responsible for inspiring me to produce SkidMark). What's great about the show is the guy broadcasts"live from the living room" 24/7 with a live slot in the evening and it's all about the music - there's not a corporate / sponsorship-orientated bone in the man's body - he does it solely for the music.
Ryan Carroll: That's so cool. technology is at a place where the everyday person can take advantage of it and bands are the winners. Unfortunately for the labels, bands don't really need them anymore, unless of course they're are planning on throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at the band and providing tour support (hint hint to labels reading this). But really indie labels are losing out, because they can't do anything for you that you can't already do for yourself.
SkidMcSkidder: Staying with the net, Your web site is VERY cool with some really intensive graphics - is it "homegrown"?
Ryan Carroll: Justin Dylan Renney of www.photojustin.com did the artwork for it. He is an amazing photographer and is doing all the artwork for our LP too. I did the programming for the site, but the look and feel is all Justin. Check out his site, he is a photo-demi-god.
SkidMcSkidder: I'll definitely drop by for a look afterwards! Touring: with the new album in the wings, are you gearing up for a major tour and WHEN are you coming to the UK?!
Ryan Carroll: We are working with a company to do press and radio promotion and a tour will be coming shortly after the record is released. We can't wait to come to England to play and are tentatively looking at early fall to come over and tour.
SkidMcSkidder: Wonderful! You must make sure you supply me with the details nearer the time as I'd love to hook with you guys and film a gig for some choice viewing on the SkidMark "Vids & Gigs" section!
Ryan Carroll: I will definitely keep you in the loop and of course will ask for some help booking a show in your town :)
SkidMcSkidder: See what I can do - unfortunately Shrewsbury (where I live) is what you Americans would call a "one horse town" (Laughs Out Loud) - it's very rural, like a the UK hill billies! heh heh
Ryan Carroll: Sometimes those towns are the most fun to play in, people are music starved and love to hear new stuff.
SkidMcSkidder: Talking abouts gigs still.... Tell me about what you would class as the weirdest gig you've ever played.
Ryan Carroll: The weirdest gig I ever played was in a town called Walla Walla. I guess we were really cranked up, cause a nearby neighbor called in a bomb threat. The cops shut down the show for a few minutes and then raided the guy's house while we all watched. Unfortunately for him caller-id busted his ass.
SkidMcSkidder: Ha ha! like it! And what about the best / favourite gig of all time?
Ryan Carroll: I think the most fun I've ever had a gig was when we played at the Moles Club in Bath. It is one of the coolest clubs in the world, all underground and cave-like. The green room was covered with graffiti from all my favorite bands and the place was packed. It was the coolest feeling to know you'd shared the stage with so many of our favorites.
SkidMcSkidder: Well Ryan, I'm pretty well spent now - anything particular you'd like to talk about?
Ryan Carroll: Me too. I think that's good for now.
SkidMcSkidder: Okay dude. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you Ryan & I look forward to finally meeting you in the flesh someday soon. Many, many thanks for taking the time out to run this V.I. and I hope to talk to you again real soon.
Ryan Carroll: Excellent. I can't wait to meet you too. Keep in touch
SkidMcSkidder: Will do!
Ryan Carroll: Later
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Virtual Interview conducted using Google Mail Chat™ 08-01-2007
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