“We have always been excited about pop music and having the hookiest songs possible,” Nate Cardaci says of the shared interests between members in his band, Literature. It’s the kind of blanket statement you might expect almost any rock group to make, but if you’ve heard more than thirty seconds of the Philadelphia indiepop outfit’s recently released LP, Chorus, you know that it’s more than hot air: The pursuit of that perfect indiepop rush – jangly and bittersweet and thrusting head first – defines the album, and over the course of its 29 minutes, Literature is exceedingly good at capturing it.
Cardaci and original Literature members Kevin Attics and Seth Whaland met in the Austin, Texas house venue scene, and after releasing the attention-grabbing Arab Spring in 2012, relocated to Philadelphia and recruited drummer Chris Schackerman. Last fall, it started recording its sophomore effort with venerated soundman Gary Olson at Marlborough Farms in Brooklyn, and after working through a harsh winter, found a home on indiepop haven Slumberland Records – perhaps the ultimate stamp of approval in the genre. (It’s worth noting that between Chorus and the latest LPs from Joanna Gruesome and Gold-Bears, the label is on an absolute tear.)
Tomorrow, Literature kicks off a 40+ day U.S. tour that will carry the band through the middle of October. In anticipation, we e-mailed some questions over to the four-piece.
The last people you think in Chorus‘ liner notes are “everyone who works to make the indiepop community so special.” What did you mean by that?
Kevin: There are tons of well-organized, niche musical communities, all of which are fulfilling to the people who participate in them. We’d never really found ourselves a part of any particular one in Austin, so upon moving to the East Coast and the whirlwind that ensued from playing NYC Popfest (as well as meeting like-minded bands like Sapphire Mansions, Hurry, Royal Shoals, Wildhoney, and The Hairs) we really felt like we’d found our home.
Like any community, it’s each according to their ability. Paul Krolian from Expert Alterations has a fantastic knack for organization and that translates into his arranging Baltimore Popfest, something that strengthens that city’s bid as a destination for indiepop bands touring the Northeast. Michael Avishay from Heathers has helped a number of UK bands touring the West Coast find gigs and get from show to show.
I recently revisited a Stuart Murdoch profile in the NY Times from a few years ago, and came across this quote: “(Indie pop is literate, low-fidelity, oft-downbeat music that doesn’t sell very well and is usually distributed by undercapitalized independent record labels.) Even more than in mainstream rock, misunderstood outsiders populate the songs of the indie-pop universe.” What’s your reaction to that characterization?
Seth: Well that’s just, like, his opinion, man. Indie-pop is a place for us “misunderstood outsiders” to get together and feel understood. We’re writing songs for each other and waiting for the rest of the universe to notice.
When you three first met in Austin – and then recruited Chris in Philadelphia – what sort of band did you discuss wanting to form? Were there any shared appreciations or reference points?
Nate: The first record had already come out so Chris had an idea for what were going for. We (Seth,Nate, and Kevin) have always been excited about pop music and having the hookiest songs possible so when we got together it came pretty naturally.
What’s the Philly music scene like generally? How does it compare to Austin?
Seth: Austin shows are much more bar-centric and people drink Lonestar. In Philadelphia, the scene that I see is more DIY and there is no Lonestar. Also, there are basements here, which is a good place to have a dank punk show. When Nate and I moved to Austin (from PA) many years ago, we were all, “Where’s the dank?”
Where did the Literature name originate?
Nate: I was hanging a clock above my toilet and I slipped and fell and hit my head on the sink. When I came to I had the name in my head: Literature.
What kind of record did you hope to make with Chorus? There are some immediate surface level differences: longer songs, higher fidelity, smoother finish.
Kevin: When we began working on the record in Austin, Nathaniel and I were listening to a lot of 60’s production albums Curt Boettcher stuff, Kaleidoscope, Odessey and Oracle… as well as early 80’s artists that drew from similar influences like Robyn Hitchcock, the Dukes of Stratosphear, and the Three O’ Clock. It definitely coded the music we were writing at the time, and we began conceptualizing the production before going into the studio, which we’d never done before.
We went with Gary Olson because we’ve been a huge Elephant Six obsessives since high school, and his style seemed a perfect complement to what we were trying to achieve. I knew we’d made the right choice when he began sending me pictures of his huge collection of vintage chorus pedals!
How would you describe the sessions? Was anything of particular difficulty?
Kevin: Gary and I worked on the pre-production for months leading up to the recordings so there wasn’t much that was stressful. We were trying to really use the studio as an instrument for the first time and wanted to utilize things like analog tape flanging and automatic double tracking, which are difficult to achieve on a technical level. There are plenty of lovely digital approximations of these effects, but we were excited about the prospect of learning how they worked and adding new tools to our kit. This was really made possible by the enthusiasm Gary Olson and (engineering assistant) Bill Wells showed for the project. They knew what we were trying to achieve and were as excited as we were to experiment.
The hardest thing, I’d say, was working on the album in a different city in the midst of such a terrible winter. There was definitely a night where we were almost stranded at a bus station at 1am because no one knew if it’d ever stop snowing.
You’ve mentioned the input and guidance that Mike Schulman provided during when you were actualizing the cover art. What was that guidance? Aside from being generally supportive, how did Slumberland’s experience and interest affect what the record you made (if at all)?
Kevin: Mike guided us through the album art process, allowing us to use the art we’d created while ensuring that it’d be represented in as high definition as possible.
We’d begun a dialogue with Slumberland following the release of Arab Spring and that’d continued throughout the demo-ing and recording of Chorus. In the dregs of winter, when spirits can get low and it’s hard to get any perspective on something you’ve been working on for months, getting a supportive letter from someone you respect and admire that much is like a balm for the soul. As such, I’d say that the experience of working with Slumberland gave us the extra push we needed to finish the album, which was more ambitious than anything we’d tried before.
I’ll start where we began: What the story being the1800themattressstore.com shout-out in the liner notes?
Seth: 1800mattress.com is such a wonderfully all-encompassing name for a store. They told us they would sue us if we used it as our band name though. So I’m glad we asked!
Thumbnail photo by Abi Reimold | Abireimold.22slides.com