There's a fine line between a rock band who adds electronic elements
to beef up their music (i.e. Kaiser Chiefs) and an electronic
band that adds rock elements to make their music more interesting
(i.e. Interpol). NYC's Burnside Project is a rare breed,
in that they straddled both lines. But with the release of their new
album The Finest Example Is You, they're bringing more of a
"band" element into their rock and electronic music. At
their recent record release party last month at NYC's Rothko, the
former three-piece had noticeably multiplied to five members on stage,
filling out their sound with a live rhythm section.
"Our live shows have become more impactful and energetic with
the addition of bassist Anna Bohichik and drummer Michael
Lerner," explains Richard Jankovich, who along with
fellow multi-instrumentalist Gerald Hammill and keyboardist
Paul Searing, make up the studio version of the band. "We
always enjoyed performing but with the added 'oomph' of these two
powerhouses, the shows are even more fun and, we hope, entertaining,
for the audience."
An added "oomph" is totally noticed even with the opening
chords of the new album - a finely-crafted collection of rock strained
through a rave-hued sieve - as if Les Rhythmes Digitales remixed
a Modest Mouse or Wrens record. If their debut The
Network, The Circuits, The Streams, The Harmonies can be likened
to New Order's Movement, then The Finest Example
is their Power, Corruption, and Lies. More song-based and less
angular experimentation, their second album takes their electronic-infused
indie music to melodic indie pop highs.
Once conceived as a solo project with rotating musicians and guest
performers playing bits and pieces, Jankovich found kindred spirits
in Hammill and Searing, and turned it into a band. "Let's just
say it started as a one-man band," confides Jankovich. "I
don't want to be compared to Billy Corgan in a good or bad
way, but it kinda started like that. I had about ten songs that I
had put together and when I played live - it was just me and a couple
of friends. I met Gerald when submitting my music to a music website,
and we started collaborating. Add Paul, and then we all just fit."
Written with the immediacy of a band setting and with live performance
in mind, The Finest Example is an extension of their debut's
exploration of texture, ideas and rhythms. "When the time finally
came to lay down a record, we wanted it to be as close to an immediate
expression as possible," explains Jankovich. "We wrote the
songs in February, recorded them from March thru June and then mixed
them, which, for us, is incredibly fast. I think this benefited the
songs (and allowed their "natural" state to shine) since
we had little time to second-guess or over-tweak things. We kept the
songs pretty much as they were when they were born."
The instantly adorable opening track "Signs of Perfection",
with its shuffle and skip and gravelly harmonies, ups the pop quotient
to mainstream digestion. "'Signs' is a good song with a troubled
chorus," adds Searing. "Rich re-wrote the lyrics, altered
the melody and we added harmonies."
"We actually had to do some pretty drastic rewriting of the
chorus two or three times," Jankovich confirms. "But once
we hit this one, it felt right
that and we were all high on
crystal meth," he laughs.
"A classic Burnside mode of working is Construction, de-Construction,
then re-Construction," says Searing about the creative process
that their songs go through. "We spent the entirety of 2004 working
in precisely that manner and were itching to approach this record
differently - trusting instinct and telling intellect to shut his
fucking mouth for a minute and keep his second guesses to himself."
"For these songs, our ideas were clear," continues Jankovich.
"We wrote songs quickly and recorded them quickly - allowing
ourselves to focus on pure creativity without the time and hassle
of focusing on 'is this right?' or 'is this cool?' or whatnot. It
was very similar to when we all began in music, getting back to that
initial state of just writing songs and laying them down to tape...or
computer, in our case. That and all the speedballs."
The soon-to-be dance floor classic "One to One" and the
single "And So It Goes" all feel much more fleshed out and
realized than the songs from the debut. Combining elements of mid-80s
synthpop and early 90s underground punk with an early 2000 alt-electro
sensibility, The Finest Example has a timelessness in electronic
rock, not sounding too homage-heavy like many of their Williamsburg
counterparts. "We're all avid fans of music and our influences
aren't limited to one genre or time period," explains Searing.
"Some of our tastes overlap and some are unique to each of us.
This insures that, collectively, we avoid sounding like a Velvet
Underground or Kraftwerk or Pavement tribute band."
"For me, the more conscious influences on this record would
be the music of my youth, 80's hardcore and punk," says Jankovich.
"Not in the music as much as in the urgency and sincerity. Dag
Nasty meets Visage."
"We're the antithesis of a rock band," says Hammill. "Indie
rock meets electronica."
Or, as Searing describes, "Post Millennial forward motion with
five-speeds and a rear view mirror."
He couldn't be more right.
Photo By Scott Meadows
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