Siobhan Kane talks to Nick Weiss & Logan Takahashi of Teengirl Fantasy who played The Workman’s Club this week.
Nick Weiss and Logan Takahashi met at college, and through bonding over a love of classic techno, house, and old R&B, they set about creating their first record 7AM, released in 2010. The record was a dreamy haze of influences and less-obvious R&B samples, with songs like the hazy synthy ‘Cheaters’ and bass-heavy ‘Floor to Floor’ as particular highlights.
Their soon-to-be-released second record Tracer, builds on those influences, but leaves samples aside, instead exploring original vocals, and featuring collaborations from Laurel Halo, Panda Bear, Romanthony, and Kelela. Consequently, this is an even more adventurous electronic record, a quality they hope to recreate live – Siobhán Kane talks to them.
You met in your first year at Oberlin College, had either of you been in any band or project before? Logan: It felt cool meeting and jamming. It was also pretty natural because we’d both been in bands before in high school. I had also been writing and producing solo stuff since I was 15.
Nick: I grew up producing Hip-Hop and R&B since I was 11 or something …
Can you map out the evolution of your sound from 7AM to Tracer [released 21st August]? There seems to be more of an exploration of vocals on Tracer. Logan: A lot of things about the way we work haven’t really changed – a lot of the instruments – we’ve only added gear pretty much – and the way we work has pretty much been consistent. I think the only thing I could say would be just that this time around we’ve had a couple of extra years under our belt, and have naturally gotten even deeper into some aspects of musical production – hardware gear, mixing techniques, editing and such.
Using a vocal in the way you have, lends a certain emotional depth – were you searching for that quality this time around? And did you go through many versions of songs before you settled on a version that felt ‘right’? Logan: We didn’t really go through multiple versions of the vocal tracks, it was all pretty instant, and straight from the vocal source. We did spend a little time doing editing with the Romanthony and Laurel [Halo] tracks, and also did some mixing with the Kelela and Noah [Lennox/Panda Bear] tracks, but nothing that changed their original ideas or sound.
You worked with Panda Bear this time, how did that come about? I believe that his song ‘Pyjama’, which in some ways has an uptempo sound, was actually about a friend of his who had recently passed away. Logan: Yes….working with Noah was great, we just emailed him once a couple months after we toured with Animal Collective in Europe, and he seemed genuinely down to do it from the beginning.
When Animal Collective asked you to go on tour, you were finishing your degrees, how did you manage? Logan: Luckily we had both finished our sort of final senior projects by that week, but I had to switch one final. I spoke to the Dean of the Conservatory, and she was immediately like ‘yes of course you should do this!’.
Do you think you learned a lot from going on tour with them – the way they communicate their ideas? Logan: Yeah they are definitely pros. It was refreshing seeing someone at the level they’re at be so nice and down to earth, that was the biggest thing.
Do you still feel that you are learning from each other, or do you think you have settled into a shorthand, and that the pushing now comes from other outside sources? Logan: I think we both naturally really push ourselves really hard in general, especially when it comes to musical things, so I’m sure that probably coalesces when we work with each other.
Nick: We are both relatively quiet when it comes to making music, we definitely have a kind of shorthand style of communication. We never discuss anything too much when making music, we just listen to the tracks.
You have fallen down the rabbit hole of digital synthesizers – what musical possibilities do you feel it opens up to you that you didn’t realise existed? Logan: Digital Rackmount gear is great because when you use them with analog sequencers and drum machines via Midi, you basically double the amount of voices and also they sound cool.
Nick: Yeah, a lot of the sound of this record comes from a combination of digital and analog synthesis.
Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys has said that for him, synthesizers and equipment have become a worryingly huge obsession. Do you have a particular piece of equipment that you love, or covet? Logan: Obviously it would be great to own a 303. Maybe one day. We used a lot of real 909 on this past album, and it was such a pleasure. You just can’t recreate the natural swing and compression of a real 909 like with a VST or something.
Sometimes a sense of place can deeply affect music. I was reading an old interview with Juan Atkins who was reminiscing about his early days of making music in Detroit, when, quite literally, the place was depressed, houses were burnt out, old industries were dying, and people were desperate – that despair is wrapped up in the sound of Detroit techno, and that music has influenced you greatly – particularly your most recent record – what is your own take on place influencing music? Logan: I think the most interesting musical ideas often come from very specific geographical breeding grounds. Specific local contexts can act as really good incubators for ideas.
It must be difficult to develop the live aspect of your recorded sound? Logan: Yes this is true, the live version of a song is usually a pretty different listening experience that the recorded version of a song. Also, there’s a lot of room for the live versions to change each time.
House is a huge influence on you, who do you find yourself going back to, and that constantly inspires you? Logan: Too many…..as of recently, people like Larry Heard, Todd Edwards, Chez Damier, and I am constantly inspired by Theo Parrish, Moodyman,and Patrice Scott.
Nick: Marc Kinchen, Todd Terry, Mr Fingers…
Outside of that genre – who are some of your greatest inspirations? Logan: Ryuichi Sakamoto, Art of Noise, classical music…. too much other stuff, but always Aphex Twin, and stuff like Plaid..the recent Traxman [Da Mind of Traxman], Laurel’s new record [Quarantine], and our friend Tom [Arsenault] has a project Mas Ysa, he’s about to release an album and also our friends Tezeo.
Nick: Gatekeeper’s new record [EXO] just got put up for a full stream online, it’s pretty amazing.