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Interview with Arms And Sleepers

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hello! I am well, thank you. Currently I am at home sitting on my bed. I’m moving out of my apartment tomorrow so there is no furniture except for the bed. Not sure what Max (the other person in the band) is doing…

What’s on your schedule at the moment?
Our schedule looks crazy now that I think about it! Well, we’re preparing to master our new 7-inch vinyl release (due out in February), working on artwork for it, getting together all the details for the European tour, and figuring out the touring schedule after Europe.

You’re about to embark on a long European tour. How much have you been looking forward to this?
We love touring in Europe, so we’ve been looking forward to it a lot! It actually won’t be a very long tour (only 2 weeks), but we’re still very excited! Last time we toured there was exactly a year ago, so it will be good to come back. There’s been a lot of work involved getting all the details together, so we can’t wait to just get there and finally start the tour!

As a duo, you will probably not be able to play every single part live on stage. How are you coping with reproducing your compositions on stage? What kind of equipment are you using?
Well, we now have a live drummer, so there will be 3 people playing on stage (before it used to be just the 2 of us). This helps because it adds a new element to the live experience which is not there on the record, so it’s more interesting for us and hopefully for the audience as well. We do try to play more acoustic instruments live, like melodicas, glockenspiel, and drums, because it is tough to recreate some of the other sounds. For equipment, we use one laptop for pre-recorded tracks (mostly programmed drums), another laptop for visuals, midi keyboard, Indigo Access (synth keyboard), bass, drums, melodicas, glockenspiel, and soon also an accordion and a music box for special effects.

In which way is there still space for improvisations in your current sets – or do you prefer a tightly choreographed approach?
I think we do prefer a tightly choreographed approach in general, but now with acoustic drums, it adds a new element of improvisation, especially playing bass along to the live drums. Also with smaller instruments like a melodica, it’s easy to try something new. But overall, we like planning ahead and having things a certain way, especially because of the live visual projections.

What can you already tell us about the set list for the upcoming gigs?
There will be new songs and new visuals, and also new instruments being played live, which I’ve already mentioned. We’ll be playing songs from most of our previous albums as well as material that is still unreleased.

You've constantly been on the road for the past few months. Has it sometimes been hard to keep motivated for yet another show? How are you keeping things interesting for yourself?
We really love travelling and playing shows — we like the idea of a complete audio/visual event where you can just sit down (or stand up if you prefer!), relax, and experience the whole show. This is what we like ourselves when we go to shows too — it being a “complete” experience. So that alone makes it exciting for us to keep playing shows for people; it might not be new to us, but it’s new for the audience. Of course there are sometimes difficult moments, such as having technical problems on stage or driving long hours to get to a show, but these are just details. In the end, we’re always motivated to play another show! How do we keep things interesting for ourselves? Well, we argue a lot…

Would you say that, next to presenting material from your albums, you are also using the live situation as a testing ground to try out new ideas and determine “what works and what doesn't”?
We have done this more lately, trying songs that are incomplete and seeing how we like them live. It’s sometimes difficult to do this because then we have to create brand new visuals, which can take a lot of time, but yes, we do occasionally do this.

Your previous full-length “Black Paris 86” has just been released on Vinyl as a luxurious 2xLP set (next to remaining available as a regular CD from Expect Candy Records). Was there a real sense of excitement when you received the first copies from the pressing plant?
Very much so! We’ve been talking about releasing BP86 on vinyl for a while, and it was really a great feeling to actually hold it in our own hands! It was also exciting because there were no mistakes whatsoever — the pressing plant (Pirates Press) did really an excellent job, exactly what we envisioned.


With a bonus track and a bonus loop as well as the obviously more sizeable artwork, does the Vinyl edition feel like an entirely new release for you in a sense?
I don’t think so. It’s still the same image and feeling we had for this album on CD, just expanded and perhaps more complete overall. There are actually 2 additional songs on side D, and they are more telling of our new material. So it’s also kind of a bridge between our previous material and our upcoming material.

A couple of artists have started writing especially with the Vinyl format in mind. Is that something you could envision doing in the future? How important, would you say, are format and packaging of a release to you?
Definitely. We were really surprised at how much better our music sounds on vinyl — we knew that it made sense, but actually hearing our songs on vinyl just really changed our perspective. So I would say for sure, in the future we will be writing more with vinyl format in mind, knowing that certain details will just come out better on vinyl. As for format and packaging — yes, they are both important to us. We look at our music as a complete piece of art (don’t mean that in a pretentious way, just how we feel about our own music), so if the packaging is mediocre, it doesn’t make us feel good. The music can still be good, but there is always that element that overshadows it if it’s not all good. We’ve made some mistakes in the past with regard to this, but now everything we do has to be put together well — music, packaging, proper format, etc.

The original release of “Black Paris 86” already dates back a year. Have you started writing new material for a follow-up? If so, what direction is the material taking?
Yes, we are currently working on all new material. Our 7-inch is almost finished, which will have 4 new songs (2 shorter ambient pieces and 2 full tracks) and will be released in February. We are also working on a new full-length, which will be released in May. The direction is a bit different, but not too much different — probably more ambient and including more piano. We’ve been inspired lately by artists such as Helios and Mum, so some of that will certainly come through in our music.

The media are of course always quick in drawing links between different bands and genres. On the other hand, there are obviously other groups who share similar approaches and aesthetics. In which way, would you say, do you feel attached to a “scene” and directly inspired by what other, befriended acts are doing?
That’s funny, I just mentioned 2 other bands in my previous answer and here is a question about links between different bands! Well, we are always inspired by other art — whether it be music, film, photography, dance — there is always exciting new art happening. I’m not sure that we feel attached to a certain music scene, but we certainly feel attached to other artists in whatever medium it might be. For example, there is this museum of contemporary art in Montreal, Canada, that we always go to when we play a show there. It’s always full of amazing art, and just walking around and seeing all this, it really inspires us and we feel a certain connection there. But of course we are also inspired by other bands too — I already mentioned Helios and Mum, but also Travels (ex-Victory at Sea and Metal Hearts), the Birthmark (Nate Kinsella’s project), Lymbyc Systym, Max Richter, Jacob’s Stories, the list goes on and on…

Why did you decide to release “Cinématique” and the Holiday DVD/CD package in strictly limited editions?
We like the idea of having self-released albums/EPs that are straight from us, hand-made and packaged, nothing in between — just directly from the artist to the listener. The limited edition makes it more special for the people that really like and appreciate our band, I think — we know that the first people to buy all this will be those people that listen to us the most, so it’s kind of a release for them. It’s not mass-produced, it’s not available on or anything like that, it’s just something that we make in our apartment and then have it for sale on our website and at shows.

It may be a silly question, but: Why was BLACK Paris released on BLUE Vinyl?
Not a silly question! Well, the first 100 copies are on blue vinyl, the rest are on black. The entire artwork packaging was blue, so we decided to do blue vinyl to complement this. Since we made the sleeves for the vinyl black instead of white, the blue vinyl really made sense…

By Tobias Fischer

Lautlos EP (self-released) 2007
Cinématique (self-released) 2007
Arms and Sleepers (Milkweed Records) 2008
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive (Fake Chapter Records) 2008
Holiday EP (self-released) 2008
Black Paris 86 (Expect Candy Records/Ericrock) 2008

Arms and Sleepers
Arms and Sleepers at MySpace

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