[Part 1 of 2] There are thousands of things we would be living without were it not for technology. You can add Autolux to that lengthy list. The Los Angeles-based three-piece pumps out fire-breathing noise pop centered on bass, drums and guitar, but their soon-to-be-signature sound relies heavily on processing the tortured wails of their unfortunate victims — er, instruments.
Like so many engineers, they’ve spent years researching and refining their niche. Vocalist/bassist Eugene Goreshter played guitar in Maids of Gravity, drummer Carla Azar did her thing for Ednaswap, and guitarist Greg Edwards played bass and wrote brilliant tunes for Failure. Goreshter and Azar had always talked about playing music together, and once Azar met Edwards back in 1999, “it just sort of fell in our laps,” Goreshter explains.
Their curious moniker was chosen more deliberately. “We wanted a name that was timeless and placeless, a nonspecific thing,” Goreshter says. It’s a good thing an ageless name was a priority, because a broken elbow for Azar nearly derailed the band in 2002. Thanks once again to technology, this time of the medical variety, she made a full recovery, and the band’s debut, Future Perfect, was released to widespread acclaim in 2004. Prefix caught up with Goreshter during one leg of his band’s relentless tour schedule to discuss songwriting, T Bone Burnett, and Autolux’s game plan.
Prefix Magazine: You guys have been on the road for a while now. How’s the tour going?
Autolux: Eugene Goreshter: For our first tour, I’m very pleasantly surprised. We’re coming up on the end of a six- or seven-week stretch.
PM: That’s a long tour.
Autolux: It really is, especially when you factor in ten to twelve hours on the road. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you commit yourself to doing something, you just have to do it and not complain or whine about it. I like traveling. You get to see really beautiful landscapes. That’s my favorite, even more than the cities. Being out in Big Sky country, soaking it all in.
PM: Do you consider the Autolux live show an important component of the band?
Autolux: Oh, absolutely. It’s as important, if not more, than anything else. We try to create an environment that’s compatible with the music. On this tour, we haven’t always had the time to set everything up. But visually, we do all our own lights with a person who helps us build from scratch. Sonically, I think it’s just a lot more bombastic, more in-your-face. People say it’s more of a sonic experience. We’re a three-piece, and we overcompensate for that by putting out as much sound as possible. The recording and our live thing, they’re definitely compatible with each other, but they’re two completely different experiences.
PM: The record has a very well-developed sound for a debut. Did you get together with Carla and Greg because you realized that you each wanted to pursue similar sounds, or was it a let’s-just-see-what-happens kind of match-up?
Autolux: It was a little bit of both. We definitely talked a lot in the beginning. In some ways that’s good; in some ways it can be a hindrance. If you try to overanalyze or intellectualize what you’re trying to do, it can be counterproductive. You’re talking about something so intangible. Talking helps to make sure that everyone is hearing it the same way, but ultimately, if you over-talk or over-think something it will drain the essence of whatever it is you’re trying to do.
You can be in a situation where everyone hates each other and (have) the most amazing musical chemistry in the world, and people that you like being around, you can get together and play for a few months, and it can be a complete disaster. I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason to how that works out. A lot of it is luck. We found the best method was trial and error, constantly playing and manipulating sounds, and experimenting with different types of songwriting. It’s evolving, and you’re always trying new things. We’ve been fortunate to find a working method to get to where we want to be, sonically and musically. Being on the same page as people and musicians.
PM: That synchronization comes through in a lot of the song structures. A lot of songs have interwoven parts with instruments playing off each other. Is that an explicit result of your songwriting process?
Autolux: Absolutely. All of us love really dense, heavy music, as well as music that has a lot of space. (We focused on) that challenge of trying to incorporate those two opposite approaches and trying to make it work in some sort of cohesive framework. One of the most difficult things (was) trying to flesh out and combine all of our influences and figure out what we feel we want to accomplish with music and trying to synthesize it into something that we want to listen to — and that other people want to listen to. We get bored so easily, so we try to figure out ways to make things interesting for us. That approach (means) you’re constantly trying to figure out different ways of arranging instrumentation, and that makes it interesting to play.
PM: Feedback and noise are used extensively and expressively throughout Future Perfect. How do you harness that sound and make it do what you want it to do?
Autolux: One of the things that came out of us working together is that we all realized early on that we’re all really into sound — trying to find ways to manipulate sounds and making them work within some sort of pop framework of songs. We didn’t want to just be a noise band. We all love the Beatles; we love pop music. But at the same time, we love music (that’s) experimental and not pop-oriented. That was the challenge: trying to figure out a way to make those things work together.
One of those ways was trying to make the parts that we were actually playing inseparable from the sounds that were generating those parts. If we found an effect that we liked and figured out a way to manipulate it so that it sounded like a part, that part wouldn’t be able to be played, or even exist, if it wasn’t for that specific effect that we were using to create that part. The line between the sound and the part are completely blurred.