Confusions……A Clunk Back and Forth Interview

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Been keeping up? we introduced Confusions music to you not long back. The EP is out there now, called ‘Grounds’. We really like it at Clunk HQ. Here’s your chance to get to know a little about Confusions. Read on then go check them out!

Hello Confusions…….welcome to the Clunk universe.

David, thank you for the invitation.

Please give us a description of your surroundings so that we can create a picture in our mind’s eye.

We are in the midwestern part of the US, in Columbus, Ohio. We work in an old, cinder block basement where I’ve attached some sound treatment panels and bass traps. There’s a little stage and an old Wurlitzer organ. It’s a fun little spot to go and feel calm.

Please introduce us to the band ……. who does what… writes the songs, plays the triangle, makes the best tea etc.

I always wanted to try the one person band thing in the studio, but then have a live band for shows. So I wrote the songs for Grounds, then tracked everything, with producer Brendan Youngquist.

Jake Summers was the first to join the live band. Since we met, we’ve been collaborating, and performing with a rotating group of musicians in the local Columbus music scene.

We work with Eric Stratton, Alex Criado, John Neumeier, and Noah Fisher. 

Jake probably makes the best tea, plays guitar, and sings harmony. The other members form the rhythm section and add additional harmonies. You might see us with one lineup at a show, and the next time see us with a different group.

For our live sets, I sing, play guitar, and an electronics rig. It has a Roland SP-404 sampler, a microkorg synthesizer, and some analog effects.

Our label, Earth Libraries, is hosting a festival in Birmingham, Alabama called Book Fair, that we’ll be performing at on 10/3. Most of the members mentioned above will be there with us. I want to bring a sort of Talking Heads meets The Beach Boys meets cosmic music, energy to shows. I’m looking forward to having the larger group with us!

How did the band name Confusions come about and where are you based?

I don’t remember specifically what we were watching, but Brendan (producer) and I always liked to have movies on in the background, during the more tedious parts of the process. We heard a narrator talking about Confusion mountain range in Utah during one film, though we heard it as “Confusions.” It sounded like a band name.

It ties in with a lot of the songs on Grounds. All the confusion you can experience in grief; your brain using large amounts of energy to try to make sense of something that it can never understand. The energy drain leads to actual confusions. Ya know?

Really enjoying listening to ‘Grounds’. Could you tell us about it? The ideas and how you achieved the sounds on the album. There seems to be a lot of care taken over it.

Thanks for your kind words about the record. As a general approach, we wanted to blend  lo-fi and hi-fi textures. All the grit, atmosphere, and emotional expression of the lo-fi effects, but also clarity and listenability.

We tried to get the cleanest recording we could for each layer, and then we would reamp it, rerecording each sound with effects. Then Brendan would blend the two signals.

The vocals in Half Life are an example. In the second verse, I think they kind of sound like they’re ripping their way out of the speaker, yet it is balanced by the clean signal. The basses in We Were Programmed to Fall in Love share that as well.

I’m interested in the human energy of a musical performance, and then somehow turning it on its head a bit. Sometimes reamping makes it more visceral. I am eager to get more experimental with that approach on future records.

Sampling dialogue was another key part of the production process. Throughout, there are both clips of found audio, and samples I made speaking as different characters.

They helped provide more context around the themes of the songs, and brought some cohesion to the genre bending on the record.
The sample found for the beginning of Half Life, a psychedelic, grief song,was a way to transition from the preceding electropop love song, We Were Programmed to Fall in Love.

I think a lot of the time humans make music, as a choice to create some meaning of the things that have no answers. Sampling was definitely about adding more lo-fi textures, but it was also a choice to make the meaning of having fun.

For instance, the dialogue at the end of We Were Programmed to Fall in Love, or the ramblings at the end of the song Grounds. The odd dialogue samples at the bookends of Dusty, Hissing Tunes.

Using them in that song was a way for me to poke fun at the mythologized, patriarchal, bootstraps shit of american, midwestern life.

Will there be a physical copy of ‘Grounds’?  You know, for the old timers like myself to get their grubby hands on?

I appreciate your interest in a physical release. I hope you can get your “grubby hands” all over it, but we’re still working out details.  In the meantime, if readers would like to support Confusions and Earth Libraries, you can purchase the digital copy at https://earthlibraries.bandcamp.com/track/grounds.

What about a tour? Any chance of getting to the north of England? There’ll be a dinner at Clunk HQ in it!

Touring is something that is definitely on our agenda. We had a small tour planned, but canceled due to the pandemic. It’s all pretty up in the air right now. We hope to get to your neck of the woods someday and would like to take you up on the offer for dinner at Clunk HQ. Thank you!

Werner Herzog made some remarkable films, especially with Klaus Kinski. Tell us about the ‘Herzog’ sessions.

Brendan and I had the most fun with the tracking process of Grounds. Getting into different spaces together and recording each of the parts. Though, our work schedules and locations didn’t afford that all the time. We lived in different states, so I would record some stuff at home, then transfer files in person, for him to put in the recording session. That way we could work at it together whenever we’d meet.

Since transferring files is kind of boring, and reamping is a bit different than tracking, we’d throw on movies when we were in those stages of the project. A film in the background made a cozy atmosphere and we could shift our attention, to take little brain breaks at our own pace.

The images and moods of Herzog had a certain vibe we liked. We were watching Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Lessons of Darkness, and Into the Inferno a lot while we worked together. 

We liked the name Herzog sessions, and it became a term we would use to refer to working and watching something, even if it wasn’t a Herzog film. On the surface, nothing too special. Just watching the TV in between tasks, but I think it enhanced our workflow.

If we were to come to your neck of the woods for a weekend where would you take us? You are the Entertainments Committee!

The Scioto mile. It’s a nice path along a river that runs through the city. Used Kids Records. Two Dollar Radio, for books. The North Market has some wonderful food too. We’d try to get you to see a house show in the Columbus DIY community too.

Any bands/artists that you recommend we check out?

On Earth Libraries, Phantom Limb, Star Moles, and Spiritual Warfare and the Greasy Shadows have been inspiring to me lately.

In Columbus, Hydrone, Friends with Elephants, as well as the many solo projects and bands of the friends I mentioned in the band.

Thanks for taking the time with Clunk, see you out there!