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Is This On?

August 21, 2006

Tomorrow Supersystem release their new album A Million Microphones. It's their second record as Supersystem and their sixth full-length as a band (they recorded and played for nearly a decade in various forms as El Guapo). On A Million Microphones they continue to stray from their punk and avant jazz roots and embrace more synths, afro-pop and hip-hop production. Oh, there's harp on it too. We think if you let yourself get into it, you'll get into it. Comprised of drummer Josh Blair, keyboardist Pete Cafarella, guitarist Rafael Cohen and bassist Justin Destroyer, most of the band members also have other musical pursuits—including Shy Child, Orthrelm and Edie Sedgwick. After the jump, read what happened when we talked to Cohen about the new set of jams and being in a band.

How do you feel about the record?

I feel good about it. It was done very intensively in a burst of work from the beginning of the year until May. We recorded very quickly, which is not how we’ve done stuff in the past. Our deadlines kept us from over thinking things.

Did the label give you deadlines or did you give them to yourself?

They were self-imposed. Last album we took a really long time. When you’re making stuff at home you can just take forever.

What elements of this album make it different from your previous ones?

We had a conscious effort to make everything slower. We added a full-time drummer during the making of the last record, so this is the first one we made where he was fully in the band. It felt like we were a rock band making an album—there’s a keyboard player and a guitar player and a drummer and a bass player. It felt more like: Let’s be a band and not just be a weird project.

Where did that impulse come from?

As you do this longer, you stop being into the bells and whistles of what you can do when you’re in a studio and you just want it to be people playing new songs. It just gets simpler.

How does the process of having three singers and song-writers work?

Me and Pete are in New York and Justin and Josh are in DC, so geographically we can’t all get together and play as much as we’d probably like to. It ends up being that me and Pete will work on something together and Justin will make something in DC. It’s a lot of recording little demos and sending them up and down. Each song originally comes from one guy or two guys and gets worked on by everyone eventually. But by the time the song gets there, there’s already an idea of the vocals or the guitar or whatever. I don’t think there are any songs on the record that are four dudes jamming who came up with this thing. It all comes from one specific point. Sometimes it gets totally changed around and sometimes it stays pretty close the original intent of the song. It’s mainly just annoying geographical distances that make us work that way.

How often do you get together as band?

It’s hard now, because Justin and Pete and Josh have other bands that they do. Now we have to actually schedule things in advance. It’s starting to get really annoying actually.

How important is it that everyone else in band has other musical outlets?

Obviously it’s good since if a guy in the band feels like he needs to dress up like a ’60s socialite and sing about celebrities, that’s not going to happen with us. It’s good that he gets to do that.

In the band’s trajectory there have been lots of changes from album to album, do you feel like there has been one jump you made that was the most important?

I think between the last El Guapo record and the first Supersystem record there was a sense of wanting to abandon the idea of being a conceptual thing. We just wanted to be a band that wrote good songs. Before it was more thought out. That kind of got old after awhile. Now it’s more of a mission to do something good rather than a mission to solve some problem. It made sense to change the name of the band at that point because the focus of the band changed.

I know some guys in the band have a straight edge background and I wanted to know what the reaction was to Cafarella’s pro-drug lyrics for “Pinnacle Of Experience” on the new album?

It was the last song and Pete hadn’t finished his lyrics for them. We were all psyched for them because they are so weird. I felt like he had gone back to his parents’ basement to write them.

Can you tell the story behind your song “Revolution Summer?”

A lot of the lyrics that we write, especially on the last album, are really abstract. I was like, We should try to write more personal stuff, but the other guys in the band were not totally convinced. Revolution Summer was a fabled summer for Washington DC punk music in 1985. That’s when I moved to DC from Mexico. When I moved I specifically remember being in the airplane and coming down and being like, Some shit is going to change right now, there’s no going back from this. I was aware of the magnitude even though I was ten or whatever. And a couple days later after I got there I was with my parents and we were looking for a house or something and we walked by this show that was going on on the roof of this restaurant and I remember being really curious about it. Years later I found out it was an important show for DC punk people, and I had a feeling even back then that this was where my life was headed in a weird way.

Who was playing?

It was this forgotten DC band called Gray Matter. They wrote on the side of the building “Revolution Summer 1985” or something like that, and for years when you drove down Connecticut Ave in DC you could see it. The elders down there talk about how that’s when they reinvigorated their interest in music because hardcore had gotten dumb.

Posted: August 21, 2006
Is This On?