(Para leer la versión en castellano haz click aquí)
Prolific, surprising, unclassifiable. All adjectives fit, but none at all just define the new American pop genius. Corey Duncan has made a tremendous impact in Spain with the first LP of his music project Oh! Pears entitled ‘Wild Part Of The World’ (Acuarela Records, 2014). Eleven tracks over which hovers the shadow of Zach Condon (Beirut). An unclassifiable and full of references and influences album that exudes originality for each of the countless sides of this multifaceted artist project. Discovered in the 2012 edition of the Tanned Tin by Jesús Llorente (record label owner) and with an only EP released, Duncan befriended label responsible, who showed interest in adding him into their roster. The first two EPs (‘Fill Your Lungs’ and ‘In The Bedroom’) the band would have followed this first album, which confirms the talent of an audiophile musician, lover of pizza and headmaster an unfathomable number of projects (alone or along with others) in the near future. We interviewed Duncan via email and discovered also an obsessive genius and a delightful conversationalist.
Corey Duncan: “Next album will be more psychedelic and I’ll play all the instruments”
How is it that you publish a record halfway between Philadelphia and Seattle and it ends succeeding in Spain?
When I met Jesus from Acuarela, we were playing the Tanned Tin festival in Spain. After watching us play, Jesus instantly expressed interest in putting out a record with me. At that time I was living in Philadelphia. I actually wrote and recorded the record in Philadelphia, right before I moved to Seattle. But it wasn’t actually released until after I’d moved to Seattle. But I’m frequently back in Philadelphia because I have a lot of music ties there.
A couple of years ago you were touring Europe. Are you planning an European or Spanish tour after the success of ‘Wild Part of the World’ release by spanish label Acuarela Records? How did Jesús Llorente initiated contacts with you?
Yes, definitely. I can’t wait to tour Europe and Spain again. I absolutely LOVE touring over there. I fell in love with Spain on this last tour. It’ll probably be sometime in spring or early summer. Jesus booked me on the Tanned Tin festival, and we talked a lot over the couple of days during that festival, and that’s how we got connected. I’m really excited to be on such an amazing label! The roster is crazy.
I’ve read some interviews where you are asked about your musical influences, do you feel comfortable with this or the feel of being labeled is an issue for you?
I feel like the hardest thing for me is to accurately describe a genre that my music fits into. I’m not trying to make a grand statement about doing something that’s never been done before, I just find it difficult to summarize what I do into a particular category. Lately when people ask, I’ve been telling them it’s “orchestral art pop”. That seems somewhat accurate. I guess the biggest difficulty with a label is that I listen to so many different kinds of music that I probably won’t always make music that sounds like Neutral Milk Hotel filtered through Duke Ellington and Tchaikovsky. For instance, lately I listen to mostly psychedelic music from all over the world, and Nigerian High Life music, and 60s Indian pop music. So that will probably inform the next record to some degree.
Could you unveil us some of those real influences?
I’m completely obsessed with listening to music. I listen to different things all the time. I’ll mention some influences that might turn up on the next record, and I’ll stick with mostly things I that are less obvious:
Broadcast, always. I’ve been deeply obsessed with Broadcast for like 12 years.
Ebo Taylor. Highlife music from Ghana. His early 1970s music is just unbelievable. I’ve listened to the song “Love and Death” literally thousands of times in the last couple years. It’s so deep. The rhythm of this music is definitely changing the way I think about songs.
Tame Impala. I remember thinking that this was one of the best bands I’ve heard in years, and then I found out that it’s really just one guy playing and singing almost everything on the records. That blew me away. Kevin Parker is one of the most amazing musicians ever. I’m especially drawn to his drumming. I’ve been playing a lot of drums lately, and I’ve been studying what he does on these records.
Asha Bhosle. She sang on tons of Indian movie soundtracks. These songs are totally amazing. Maybe the catchiest music I’ve ever heard. The rhythms and those soaring melodies just hook you instantly. And the brilliance and dexterity of her voice is unreal. Absolutely incredible control.
Ilaiyaraaja. Indian film composer. If you’re out of music ideas, spend like 20 minutes listening to this guy. Limitless ideas. Possibly the most singularly mind-blowing album in my record collection. I read that he composed 70 film scores in a single year. Superhuman.
Pusha T. The beats on this most recent album just KILL. I can pretty much guarantee I will never make any attempt to rap. I seriously doubt the world needs to hear that. But I play the drum grooves from this record to get improve my sense of feel.
Flying Lotus. Changing the way I think about electronic music, and music in general. There’s something pretty symphonic about his albums, in the way one part moves into the next. And the low end is unstoppable. So thick, but so smooth.
Speaking of clichés, do you agree with the chamber pop definition? Is it feasible to tour with (I guess) 7 to 16 people?
Yeah, I think chamber pop is a fairly decent categorization. But even that definition can be quite broad. Belle and Sebastian is also called chamber pop, and I would say that my music bears maybe only a glancing resemblance to them, although I really like their music.
I’ve toured with a four piece (guitar/vocals, drums, cello, violin), and with a two piece (guitar/vocals, drums). If I had lots and lots of money, I’d love to bring a whole chamber group with me, but I think that’s a ways off at this point. I think the reason I can do just guitar and drums is that the songs are mostly embodied in the guitar chords. So I occasionally play solo as well, and that works quite well. I had a regular band in Philadelphia that was 13-16 people. It was wonderful, but it took hundreds of emails to get even one practice together. It became too much of a time expenditure to continue. My Seattle band is around 4-6 people usually.
Since the recording of ‘In the Bedroom’ EP untill the release of ‘Wild Part of the World’ LP some songs have experienced an evolution. For instance, you explain on your bandcamp that the song “Haunted Love” was created using material from “Under The Olive Trees”, which was completely remixed by Patrick Ellis to create a new context, to which you added a new melody and new words. How has enriched your creative experience having worked with different producers?
Definitely!! I want to work with Patrick Ellis a bunch more. Not only is he one of my best friends, he’s just brilliant. And I think the concept of re-imagining songs in a totally new context is wonderful. I loved the process of making that one, and we’ve been talking about doing more songs from the record as well. We’ve also been talking about me singing over his music as well. I really would love to dig into that.
The artistic concept of the album cover immediately refers to the song ‘It’s Real’. This one, as well as the single ‘Under the Olive Trees’, shows us just a side of the polyhedral musician you are. What can we expect from Corey Duncan’s new musical projects?
I like that! Polyhedral. Very cool. Well there’s a whole lot coming up! I’ve been working on the next record, and that will most likely be one where I play all of the instruments (guitar, bass, drums, synth, etc). It’s going to be a bit more psychedelic. I’ve been desperately wanting to make something completely by myself for a long time. I’m obsessed with arrangement, and I want to go all the way into that idea. ….Then the record after that might be more band oriented, and will almost definitely have lots of stings on it.
I’ve also been talking about making a more classically oriented record. Instrumental. Maybe 5 string quartet pieces, and 5 solo piano pieces. This is another thing I’ve been wanting to do forever.
And also the music I mentioned with Patrick Ellis before. I think songs will probably trickle out onto the internet soon.
And then there’s my other new project, Strange Parts, with my great friend Attia Taylor. She lives in New York City, and we email ideas back and forth, layering instruments and singing until we have something resembling a song. I’m incredibly excited for this project. We’ve got nearly two albums worth of material. There should be an EP happening very soon. This music is very vibrant and energetic, and also really beautiful. Attia is a total genius. I can’t wait for people to hear this music. (Attia sings on “Haunted Love” by the way)
There are many different but related topics on your lyrics with an intimate atmosphere. What inspires you when writing a song?
I’ve really been trying to get a bit more stream-of-consciousness with lyrics. When I was writing the Fill Your Lungs EP, it would take me about 2 hours a day for about 2 weeks to write lyrics for one song. It was kind of agonizing. I liked the results, but I like for it to be more of an outpouring. Closer to the heart, I guess you could say. Almost all of the songs I write are personal, and they almost always combine so many different ideas, which might not even be that closely related. I’m a very scatterbrained person, and I think that’s reflected in the lyrics. But I like that. I think it leaves most songs open to some interpretation, and I’ve never been very interested in trying to tell the listener how to feel. I think before it was more of a conscious thing, where I would try to avoid really saying what it is I’m dealing with. But I think I’m getting more emotionally open with lyrics, and I feel like that’s because I’m more comfortable with myself, so being more vulnerable is a good feeling.
To more directly answer your question, I usually write lyrics while going for a long walk. And if I write indoors, I move from room to room every 20 minutes or so, to keep my mind fresh. And more recently, Ive been trying really hard to write lyrics while I’m writing the melody. It’s a way for everything to be more directly connected. The music and lyrics almost write each other. That’s something I learned from Attia Taylor.
What are your immediate plans to tour ‘Wild Part of the World’?
I wish I could say that I have immediate tour dates. But I will have solid plans in the next couple of months. We’re trying to get the record out there as much as we can, since it’s my first full length, and then we’ll book the tour.
Pizza quality is mandatory to arrange gigs? Favourite pizza topping combos?
I’m not gonna say I make it a REQUIREMENT to have delicious pizza at every show, but I certainly wouldn’t turn it down, haha! There isn’t always quality pizza available anyway. It’s much easier to find good pizza in Philadelphia than it is in Seattle, for example.
My favorite toppings are black olives and mushrooms. Being that I actually grew up in Seattle, I also like ham and pineapples. But in Philadelphia you’d get dirty looks for ordering something like that. “Fruit on pizza??? What the fuck is wrong with you???”
(Para leer la versión en castellano haz click aquí)