WRBB’s Craig Short recently had a chance to chat with Anthony Thogmartin of the band Papadosio, who played two dates in Boston at The Sinclair. We managed to get a closer look at all the work that goes into their ferocious live sets and intricate albums.
Craig Short: It’s great to be talking to you! So to start off, I’ll just ask: how has the tour with Aqueous been going so far? Any highlights or lowlights?
Anthony Thogmartin: Yeah, the tour’s been great! Aqueous is an incredible band, they’re really talented. The nights have been packed out and people are really jazzed. It’s great!
CS: Way cool! So as a band that’s sort of perpetually on the road – I mean I’ve been looking at your tour history and it’s crazy, there are just so many dates – how do you keep things fresh while you’re on the road? Do you ever get tired of being on tour and need to re-spice things?
AT: I mean tour can be… yeah, tour can be potentially work from time to time, but whatever part of it that is work kind of leaves once you get on the stage and everyone’s having that present-moment experience together. And it makes the entire thing worth it. We definitely do tour a lot, and there are aspects of touring where, you know, I’d rather be doing other things than just sitting on a moving vehicle *laughs*. But it really is great when everything’s just lining up and everybody’s just having a great time, and you really feeling like you’re making a difference in people’s lives.
CS: For sure. And when the music comes to life it definitely comes to life. So in terms of that, your music is really improv heavy, and that’s so interesting to listen to because it’s so unpredictable. You never what’s going to happen, it could be something totally cosmic or just something else entirely. So do you ever have a jam or an improv that just falls on its face? Do you have ways to save it if that starts happening?
AT: That’s the beauty of it. If it does fall on its face, then you can just scramble it up and make something else out of it. For the most part, we have a talkback system which is essentially these pedals and microphones that are off to the side, and we can call out all kinds of things like “let’s slow it down, let’s speed it up, let’s change the key!” So really the whole situation where the bottom drops out doesn’t necessarily happen anymore. It’s more just, are we doing something that’s fresh? Is it new? Does it feel nuanced? Is it taking the song in a new direction? I think the experience people have had with improvisation started in jazz, but for the most part with jazz, you had fewer musicians onstage. And now that there’s five of us, having more musicians onstage, it requires a specific amount of patience, listening, control, all kinds of stuff, which the talkback system that we use really helps us out in accomplishing.
CS: I guess that’s better than just shooting each other meaningful looks and hoping it works out.
CS: So as a band with a definite live focus, you still make some great studio recordings. Do you have a different approach that you take with that?
AT: I think the difference with studio stuff is that we’ll write music and lay it out in its structure before we play it with actual instruments, so you can hear the placement of a lot of the nuts and bolts that make the song. And then we’ll go into the studio and lay the actual tracks we want to keep over the top of those other “scratch tracks.” We create a mockup of what it’s going to be, and then create a more done-up, pretty version of it, in the same way that potentially an architect would make a small model of something larger. We’ve never really deviated from that process, and it’s worked out for us. We really enjoy it that way.
CS: Do you find that songs tend to show up live first or do you record them and then start playing them at shows?
AT: Things will go in [that first] order sometimes, it’s not as common though. A lot of the new music that we write is formulated out of like, “oh, I liked that riff,” but other than that we rarely ever take a jam and then say “hey this is going to be a song.” We have recorded some live things, but because we release our live stuff – all of it is available out there, every single night – it’s kind of nice to break it up by writing music outside of that environment.
CS: Do you have a favorite venue you’ve ever played?
AT: I mean, I think Red Rocks is pretty great.
AT: As long as it has a good sound system we’re pretty happy.
CS: That’s true. It’s hard to argue with Red Rocks though. So to wrap up, do you have any messages for the folks back home reading this?
AT: Yeah, they can look for a new record coming out pretty soon. We’ve got a lot of new recordings we’re working on. The next span of 6 weeks is going to be essentially tracking and mixing. It’s close to being completed. I don’t have an exact date, but we’re really excited about it. It’s been a year or two since we put anything out there.
I’ll be looking out! Thank you for stopping by!
You can find out more information about Papadosio here including tour dates and news!