27 October 2009

Microfilm Answers 5

A little over two weeks ago, Microfilm (the duo of Matt Mercer and Matt Keppel) reached out to me and shared their latest EP, “Blips Don’t Lie.” Of course I could not pass the opportunity to ask these house geniuses some questions. So, up front, I would like to thank both Mercer and Keppel for taking the time and answering 5.

Microfilm (photograher Tim Gunther)

1. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

Matt Mercer (MM): My personal biggest influences are probably rooted in minimal techno and tech house, as well as industrial music. I also have an interest in avant-garde and experimental music, among other things...I think those things all work their way into our music in various ways; recorded objects and sounds, odd samples, distortion and noise, but within a more functional, pop-tinged framework.

Matt Keppel (MK): A lot! Well, lyrically, I love the smarts of Neil Tennant [of Pet Shop Boys fame] and Morrissey along with the weird imagery of David Bowie and old Robert Smith [of the Cure fame]. Non-musically, we’re both really influenced by movies as an inspiration, both soundtracks and the visual/thematic elements of certain directors/films. Without sounding too pun-like, our band likes making cinematic songs.

2. "Mircofilm" is an ironic name for an electronic band; how did you guys come up with the name?

MK: I think I just thought of it before even making music together as a cool name for a band. I like how it’s vaguely mysterious, kind of dark and loaded with unknown meaning. Plus it’s a nice simple, small, visceral word.

3. I am always curious about equipment - any preference on what you use in the studio and/or live? Digitial versus analogue?

MM: We do most of our music using software. I can appreciate the gearheads out there who buy up a lot of old synths and prefer to work exclusively hands-on...but for me, it started out of sheer necessity when I was crashing on a couch for several months. Having a studio was not an option, so I started using Reason, Recycle and Ableton Live to work on music. I've expanded my toolkit, and I'm sleeping in my own bed these days, but those are still my primary tools of choice.

Microfilm (photographer Tim Gunther)

4. Just as in other genres of music, dance/house is looking back to the 80s for cues; why do you think this is happening?

MK: Well it’s all kind of due to a general revival of 80s culture because the children of that age are now adults and are making art/music/pop culture and are recycling it/their childhood. I also think things are now moving into the 90s too. Early 90s revival is already happening with new shoegazey bands and rave music renaissance. I think we passed over the bad elements of late 80s culture.

MM: I think dance music is constantly looking forward and backward at the same time. It's what makes it exciting to me, that it is able to consistently integrate, retool, iterate and expand upon existing paradigms, sometimes evolving new ones altogether. In our case, we wanted to do something that gave a firm nod to music we've found inspiring but never made an outright tribute to.

5. House music is funny. What is played on the radio and what is played within clubs is usually quite different. Why do you think this disparity exists?

MM: Radio music has to appeal to a very different, much larger spectrum of listeners than club music. Most commercial radio is afraid to take risks because everything hinges either on payola or advertising -- the less you "offend" a listener, the more likely he/she is to stick around for that add for Maalox or whatever. It's the lowest-common-denominator approach to entertainment, which rarely will challenge people's sensibilities. On the other hand, people go to a club to dance, to hear loud, physical music and get lost in it. There's also a distinction you could make between songs and tracks -- songs are more concise, lyrical tunes with a deliberate structure, and tracks are a more vague mix of hook and utility, very broadly speaking. You will probably never hear highly repetitive deep house or minimal techno on a mainstream radio station/channel because it doesn't have the broad appeal that the most basic verse-chorus-verse song has. It all sounds a bit cliché, but the more visceral, physical side of techno and dance music in general can take on a very different appeal when played loud in a setting where the music resonates and people can really move their bodies in time.

MK: I don’t even think US radio would even play house music at all; it’s so conservative and strict on what gets played nowadays. But yeah, super commercial house, like bad gay bar diva house, is just easy to digest, kind of generic “dance music” that a lot of the public think of as far as “house music.” When actually, I think really stripped down late’80s Chicago house would sound really weird to the average listener. I think aficionados and club people are more open to hearing new sounds that take the framework of familiar dance music sounds and tweaking them.

Keep up with Microfilm at their homepage, MySpace, Fairtilizer, and Twitter.

Here is the link for my review of “Blips Don’t Lie” that streams the song “I’ll Sing Like Billy MacKenzie in Heaven.” And if that interests you, head to iTunes and check out their other work.

After Dark” (2007)

Chicago” (Single, 2007)

1 comment:

  1. i think house and dance music is slipping through the backdoor with RnB in the United States radio. From Producers Timbaland to RedOne to The Neptunes, old school ravey synths and sounds have found their way on to urban records the past 3 or 4 years...and of course David Guetta's work with the Black Eyed Peas and Akon.