London's Trailer Trash Tracys seem to move at the same languid pace as their hazy, ethereal pop songs. Back in 2009, the band posted a few lo-fi singles to their MySpace and instantly attracted attention from fans and labels. But instead of scrambling to perpetuate the buzz, they spent two and a half years crafting their debut album. Ester, the product of trial-and-error self-recording and a dose of newbie jitters, is finally set for a February 7 release in North America via Domino offshoot Double Six.
Guitarist James Lee spoke to SPIN while touring the U.K. about the long wait, their not-so-popular name, and music that moves your, um, bowels.
Why wait so long between releasing your first singles and putting together a full album?
We'd never recorded before. We'd never written songs. We had immediate interests from the labels, but we barely had a band together. Also, we had full-time jobs, so we only had our evenings to finish off recording. We finished it last year, but we needed four months to get the most out of it, re-introducing the band again slowly.
Were you surprised when those first songs instantly got attention?
We knew there were very big riffs in those tracks, ["Candy Girl" and "Strangling Good Guys"] and melodically it was strong. There are references made [to Twin Peaks' theme song] that probably helped us along the way as well. But it wasn't as contrived as that. It wasn't like, "Oh, let's capitalize on Twin Peaks." We just liked the sound of it. We knew it was good. It kind of had more of a universal appeal than we expected.
Were you worried about people losing interest as the years passed?
No, actually. The recordings were home recordings, so they had a lo-fi appeal. At that time there were bands, like Wavves, with that aesthetic. That kind of sound went out of date last year or the year before, so we were a bit afraid. But there's more to our music than lo-fi. There are quality songs. We just hoped that would transcend and we wouldn't be associated with something that was popular in 2009.
So, you guys had never written or recorded music before posting up the singles. How did the band get together?
Suzanne [Aztoria, singer] and I met in another band. That project fell apart. We were learning how to do songwriting and these promoters wanted to book us to play live, but we were only a two-piece at the time. Through mutual friends we found Adam [Jaffrey] and Dayo [James] who joined a bit later as a bass player and drummer and we recorded stuff with them around the end of 2009.
You used non-Western tuning for the guitars on this album. Can you tell me a bit about that?
I read a book by a monk who played a lot of instruments, but was interested in ancient chants, capitalizing on what's called a solfeggio scale. It's a kind of way of tuning that a lot of Eastern musicians use. Apparently it has healing properties. The frequencies that these scales have can actually repair DNA. I was quite interested in the idea.
What appealed to you?
I was looking at the dynamic of music, not just if you should apply effects or interesting chord progressions. I looked at it from a frequency aspect rather than music just being pleasurable or having a certain emotion. The idea that it can have a physical effect kind of appealed to me. There are other frequencies that have the effect that you can actually shit your pants. Like Aphex Twin, there are gigs they played with particularly low frequencies that apparently can have the bodily effect of pooing your pants. I read it somewhere.
Yikes. But your shows will have the opposite effect? A healing effect?
I hope it'll be the opposite, but if they poo their pants that'll be fine. We're still working on [the live show.] Because of the intricacies on the album, the different textures and a lot of weird effects, I have to rely on small guitar peddles and stuff. It's emulating the sound of the record, but it's been challenging live. We're still debating projections and other visuals and just trying to make it as interesting as possible. The dynamics of the songs change a bit live, just to keep it interesting for ourselves.
The album came out a few weeks ago in the UK. What has the reaction been like there?
Pretty good. Some people get it. Some people listen to it once, get over it and don't get the ideas. You can't really hate it. There's something for everyone there.
The Guardian's review sort of poked fun at the band name. It does definitely contrast with what you expect you're going to hear. Is that deliberate?
In a funny way it has become more deliberate because people really hate the band name with a passion. I know it's not a great name. As I said, we put the first track on MySpace with a band name and we did mean to change it. We just never got around to it. We were too scared to change it because people might forget us, you know? So we stuck with it. I remember one magazine I picked up had a whole article about really bad band names and they still liked the album, but thought we had a terrible name. I turned to the next page and they had a band called Big Deal and the next page had First Aid Kit and I thought surely, surely these band names are worse than ours.