Dan Luperini is an interesting cat; he edits video, produces albums in his Burbank studio, waxes poetry like its his job and his widely melodic, resonant voice as lead singer for Los Angeles based band Madras has its own signature – something that, like Andy Partridge has its own distinct character and yet seems so very familiar. The band also features guitarist Marc Thomas whose pedal infused experiments and gorgeous voicings recall Dave Torn and Robert Fripp, prolific drummer Ryan Brown (who also plays with Fuxedos, AM/FM, Owl and countless others) and on their newest album “Up From the Ground” bassist Chinmoy Panigrahy.
MusicZeitgeist sat down to talk with Luperini about his logic and heart as they pertain to the band’s swooning latest release:
MZ: Talk about some of the songs and their themes on the new album.
Your basic bash-rock anthem. Desperation yielding determination. Lost at sea, and resolving to set fire to your boat so that it might be seen from the sky. yeah – I like the idea of last resorts.
Out of the gates, it’s bouncy indie pop, but eventually “grows up” into a slow flowing melody wave. This one is about trying to grow your own political awakening. Maybe the length of it, the time signature changes, the evolving density of the guitar layering, and the pace-change in the middle is analogous to that in some way. What stands out for me is the overwhelming awesomeness that is Marc Thomas (guitar). To have been a part of recording him for this song was one of the greatest things i have indulged in musically in my entire life. He goes from finger-pick style to ethereal to jangly to single note solo guitar stuff, and every single bit of it is damned gorgeous. The boy oozes beauty. One day I will compile a mix of just his parts on this song, and I might never stop listening to it.
In this one I’m a traveling salesman (songwriter?). selling little trinkets I make myself (songs?). They’re not the most beautiful or valuable things, I know.. but I like making ’em – and traveling the flea market circuit in which I sell them allows me to view the world from a safe distance. There’s no prospective wealth in it, but there’s a bit of insulation, and the occasional affirmation. And that’s good enough for me…for now.
Admittedly, I wrote a 10,000 foot view song about the state of the world today. Ick. The point here is that whether we’re being inundated with information that tells us what is good for us, or whether we’re having bombs dropped on us – we ought to run for cover either way.
MZ: What affected, influenced your approach to the sound of the new album/what were your references?
I’ve noticed a funny thing lately. The bands that I’ve gone through obsessions with in the last bunch of years have more often been fronted by women than by men. Why? Generally I gravitate toward music (and art) wherein the artist chooses to unapologetically reveal his/her vulnerability rather than wildly indulge his/her aggression. It’s not that I don’t like “hard” or “dark” modes of expression – quite the contrary – it’s just that I like it to be born out of a place that’s more self-exorcising or self-aware than it is just blatant sand-kicking or chest-beating. I think it makes the difference between music being interesting or not. I don’t think men are incapable of effectively revealing their frailties – that was totally prevalent in the past in things from seminal R&B, to stuff that crossed over to pop from the underground in previous decades. Also this is not to say it doesn’t exist for male artists these days – it just seems to me that female artists are reaching me more often right now.
If I’ve moved in any direction over the last handful of years of writing, it’s been to get up enough gumption to brave the “vulnerable” approach, despite my perception that it’s not being rewarded as much lately. It’s only in recent years that I’ve come to understand all of this a little better, and start tapping into it more effectively.
MZ: Tell us about your approach to recording this record.
In my mind I associate texture with contemplation. This last record is a bit more lush than past efforts. Heavier delays on guitars and vocals, the slides in Hopeless, Marc’s beautiful ambient stuff in Go On and Moon In a Blue Sky. I messed around with keyboards a little more on this record, tried creating more “mood” on this record with them than in the past. It was all about allowing ourselves to indulge things that created texture, rather than just going forth and making a rock record. Marc has a natural ability to create that – and not only with his uncanny ability to tweak a pedal; he does it with his chord voicings. With [drummer Ryan Brown]’s damn-near insane versatility, he’s always adding flourishes to the basic drum patterns in the songs, and when those things are brought forward, they make a difference.
But we try not to let things get out of hand – the density of an arrangement speaks to its depth, but the simplicity speaks to its intellect. When you’re recording, the common mistake is to just pile on – so we try like hell to temper that instinct, and make sure that not too many things are sharing the same space. I mean, It’s hard to “reveal” something about yourself when it’s all covered up in shit, right?
MZ: How has the band changed/evolved since the previous releases?
There’s some stuff on “Up from the Ground” that we revisited from our previous EP (“Dimestore Raves”). I think that EP was like a test run of all of this, and I think the method was greatly improved this go round.
That said, make no mistakes, we will still try and kick a little ass from time to time – but, in the end, while so many other bands are trying to show the world how bad-ass they are, we’re trying to show the world how defenseless we are. To me that’s way more bad-ass.
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