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BYT Interviews: Farewell Republic
January 10, 2013 | 10:40AM

“It was our mantra going into recording, the idea of no going back, of really trying to do something that was new, cohesive, and original,” Sivan Jacobovitz told BYT last February, explaining the title of Farewell Republic’s 2012 debut, Burn the Boats.  “Basically, jump off the cliff and hope we build a plane before we land.”

Less than a year later, the Brooklyn band is set to unleash its sophomore effort, Young Effete Titans of Industry, and discussing the record with Jacobovitz, it sounds as if Farewell Republic has again sought to push itself forward, refusing to rest on its laurels and simply replicate Burn the Boats‘ churning, dense sprawl.   Listening to the two tracks the band offered up thus far – “Lines” and “Bloomberg”, both of which are available to download for free over at Stereogum – confirms this.  “808s and Shoegaze,” the band describes its music on Facebook, and while that certainly hints at the band’s direction, it only tells half the story:  Farewell Republic appear to have streamlined its sound, but it has done so without losing any of the anthemtic quality that distinguished it from the start.

BYT’s conversation with Jacobovitz also revealed a more calculated approach to Young Effete Titans of Industry, however; that, perhaps, the band had decided to begin constructing that plane prior to going airborne this time around.   Jacobovitz didn’t reveal when we would be able to hear the record in full, but in meantime, it has made Burn the Boats available at the cost of “name your price” on Bandcamp.

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Young Effete Titans of Industry follows relatively closely on the heels of Burn the Boats, an album that seemed to have an especially long gestation period. When we spoke to you about that record, you explained, “Sometimes it takes a long time to get things sounding the way you want them to.”  Was the process easier this time around?

The process was easier, but it was also different. With Burn the Boats, we had very different goals, and for the type of record that we wanted to make, given the limited budget, it took a really long time.  That record would have been out in 2010, instead of 2012, if we had a [real] budget.  For the new record, we made basically all the of the production and songwriting decisions before going into the studio by making complex demos and then set hard deadlines for finishing every step of the process along the way.

“Bloomberg” and “Lines” hint at a different direction.  How would you say Young Effete Titans of Industry differs sonically from its predecessor?

I wanted this record to, basically, be more beat driven and have less live drums. It’s mostly 808s and electronic drums.  I’m pretty bored with live drum rock music and, honestly, we didn’t have the budget to spend five days in the studio tracking live drums, like with the last record.  Also, Burn the Boats had almost no artificial reverb on it.  This one is just a different vibe completely.

Have you been listening to anything in particular that drove or partly desired that decision?  

Two winters ago, while we were endlessly mixing our first record, I got obsessed with the last Kanye record, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  Most of the music that I listen to for fun has electronic drums.  It’s just what I’m most interested in.  I have zero desire to be in a rock band in the traditional sense.

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You’ve said the band worked on “countless demos” for the record.  Was it hard whittling it down to just eight songs?  What was driving the decision for such brevity?

We recorded nine songs and mixed eight. For each of those, we recorded a bunch of demos, because I wanted to take a production approach that was very stream-of-conscious.  Throughout the process of the record, we made an effort not to over think any production decisions.  Basically, I would either link up with Brian – our keyboardist – or Jesse  – our drummer- and record a demo in one day.  So, for some of the songs, we had almost ten completely different demos that we then took the best elements of and created the final demos.  I wanted the record to be short because people have short attention spans, and it felt appropriate with the songs I had to leave off a bunch of other songs I’ve written.

You recorded it at Habayit and Blind Spot Studios right here in DC.   What made you want to leave Brooklyn to make this LP?  Aside from being your hometown, what did DC have to offer?

We came to DC because we had places to record for free.  We brought a sick engineer, Alexander Almgren, down from Brooklyn, partially because he’s awesome, partially because he’s a great guy, and primarily because of his British accent.  We then mixed the record in five days in Brooklyn with another amazing engineer, Brian Thorn, who just worked on the new Bowie record.

As a young band, what opportunities has Brooklyn offered you?  What sort of pitfalls – if any – do you experience in the scene?

Way more people write about us online now.  I think being a “Brooklyn band” has a lot to do with that.  Also, there is nothing more motivating than being in a half-empty Brooklyn while all your music friends are at SXSW.

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Did you have an overarching thematic mindset in mind approaching the record?   In other words, was there something you were seeking to address?  The album’s press release cites a “basic approach to songwriting that reflected what was going on in the world.”

In terms of songwriting, I really wanted to get back to basics on this record.  Since I started writing music, I basically have always been trying to write anti-songs with weird structures.  I tried to figure out how I could improve.  I looked at our last record and thought about what the difference was between those songs and Radiohead – not in a hubristic way, but, basically, my attitude was that if I was going to make another record so soon and probably end up self-releasing it again, then I just wanted to focus on how can I improve as as songwriter.  Well, Radiohead’s songs can all be played on solo piano or acoustic guitar and most of the songs on our last record could not.  In the past, I basically wrote all the songs in my head, but on this record I wrote them all on acoustic guitar.

Thematically, much of this record was written as a reaction to the social movements like Occupy Wall Street going on in late 2011.  I had just finished Burn the Boats in July and for a couple months felt like I had nothing to write about. I went to Tel Aviv in August, right at the height of the J14 protests, which was the protest most similar to how Occupy ended up getting organized.  That and subsequently Occupy really inspired me.  I wanted to write songs in a way that would bring the issues going on in the world down to Earth and humanize it.  I tried to imagine how Terrence Malick would shoot a film about OWS or about a soldier in a tent in Afghanistan and write a song that would reflect that vibe, and then combine it with a more stripped down and post-modern approach to production than the last record.

What’s up with the single word titles?

I always feel stupid writing song titles, so I figured I’d just keep them simple.

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Why did the band decide to produce the record on its own again?  Is working with an outside producer something that would be appealing down the road?

I wanted try to get Ben Allen – who produced Merriweather Post Pavilion - to produce Bloomberg, but I emailed him and he never wrote back.   I’m bored of rock production these days anyway and I have this band so I can produce it along with the other guys.  Our keyboardist Brian is an incredible producer and our drummer  Jesse contributed a lot of arrangements and production ideas in the demo process.  Also, we had no budget.

The band was slow to take its music to Spotify.  The service has caught some flack recently, but it’s been reasonably defended.  What was your hesitation in putting your music on Spotify, or any other streaming service?

Frankly, Spotify is bullshit.  It’s a service that will destroy any chance artists have of making a livelihood off of recorded music.  I’m not a saint here and I know everyone gets music illegally.  I am fine with people torrenting my music and I’m fine to have it streaming online for free.  I’m not fine with a service that is essentially a middleman profiting while making it impossible for artists to.

What people don’t realize is that the whole downloading culture has effects and results creatively. Some positive and some negative.  You wonder why there aren’t many great rock records anymore and almost every big indie record is unambitious and boring in its production?  Then you look at electronic music and R&B and rap and see so much more audacity and experimentation.  That’s because those genres cost nothing to produce and you can make those records in your bedroom. Rock music with live drums is expensive to make.  It’s cool to download records, but if you do, don’t complain that rock music is dead.  We will never have an era again where rock bands consistently make great records with live drums and throw their listeners curveballs.  It’s over.  And that’s cool with me, but don’t complain if you’re not supporting these artists, and don’t call them sell-outs for licensing their songs.

That’s why everyone you know was bumping Frank Ocean and The Weeknd this year. Kanye and Drake records are way more ambitious in their production choices than any band in Brooklyn, except Animal Collective, and that’s because they have the time and money to do that.  You can keep waiting for the Arcade Fire to make a curveball record as ambitious as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or Kid A, but it’s not going to happen.  The next great rock record will probably come from The XX if they follow Jamie xx and get weird.  It’s no coincidence that they can make their music at home.

Live photo courtesy of Ben Droz.  Studio photos courtesy of Farewell Republic.

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