New-York’s Talking Under Water are releasing their new EP “Tossing & Turning” next Tuesday, December 2nd. (listen to the title track single above) The eclectic collective will be making this compilation available both digitally and by cassette tape. Yes, you heard me, cassette tape; they’re bringing it back.
Talking Under Water has a sound that, for me, is hard to describe. The band themselves describe it as a rich, rootsy and evocative of the Americana/Blues tradition with the band’s own distinctive spin. To give you more of an idea, I could see these guys opening for bands like The Lumineers, Conor Oberts, and Hozier down the road. Adding to this even more, TUW specializes is writing sad songs in hopes of making listeners feel better. It sounds backwards but as lead singer Dave Chisholm puts it, “The idea of using sad songs to make listeners feel better is a crucial element of the blues” (He explains this even further in the interview below)
Let’s talk a little bit about the EP, shall we? Tossing & Turning begins with the title track, and honestly that track is probably my favorite. The whole EP is amazing but I get goosebumps every time on this one. If you were to ask me what the song were about I’d probably give you a different answer than what you’d expect, because as you’ll find out below the band leaves their lyrics for open interpretation. (mysterious) This track has a ton of dynamic and it is very well-written in my opinion; they make great use of bluesy piano chords, gang chants, fuzzy/clean vocals, fuzzy guitars, bluesy guitars, a CELLO, good beats, and a really awesome and fitting guitar solo. The EP in total holds four amazing tracks (Tossing & Turning, The Sun Sets, Never Been, and My Song) and every single one of them had my undivided attention throughout. You can tell the band spent a lot of time stepping back and developing each one of these songs to perfection. Each track is very emotional but also very thought-provoking and very addicting.
I couldn’t help the feeling of wanting to know more, so I connected with their lead singer, Dave Chisholm. We talked about how their music translates to a live performance, how they came up with their sound, (for instance, why did you think it was a good idea to incorporate these instruments specifically??? Genius) what it’s like working/playing with Grammy Award-winning sound engineer & drummer Stephen Roessner, why their passionate about writing sad songs, and much more.
AMN: “What’s your biggest musical influence (of all time)?”
Dave Chisholm: “My biggest musical influence!? As in JUST ONE person? That’s impossible. The list of influences is way too big. If I was to narrow it down to one category, I’d say the people who have had the greatest impact on me are the people I have played music with over the course of the 15-odd years I’ve been playing music professionally. They’ve sculpted my taste and turned me on to great music more than anything else.
As far as songwriting influences on what I’m writing for this band, I guess the answers are sort of obvious…? We all love the Beatles, Elliott Smith…I have been listening to loads of old r’n’b and soul music from the 50s and 60s, and I’m really taken by the new Hozier album. These kinds of lists can go on and on, though. We have a band Spotify playlist that keeps growing and growing. It’s funny to try to guess which member of the band added what. Sometimes guessing is pretty easy!”
AMN: “If you could play at any venue in the world, where would you play and why?”
Dave Chisholm: “Hmm. On one hand, it would be amazing to play something totally culturally ubiquitous like SNL. On the other hand, it would be super cool to play an enormous venue like MSG. On the other hand, it would be amazing to play a stage graced by so many great artists, like playing on Austin City Limits or something. Haha. I guess, if we were playing at any of these venues, we’d be reaching a large number of listeners. We all believe that people just need to hear this music–it speaks for itself!”
AMN: “What’s the weirdest show you have ever played?”
Dave Chisholm: “I once played a jazz gig for a marathon. When runners would come around the bend, we’d fire up the band for a minute until they passed us. The runners arrived so sporadically–we never made it through more than 2 choruses on any song. It was ridiculous!”
AMN: “How do you feel your band translates in a live performance?”
Dave Chisholm: “I think our music translates well! Sometimes it’s hard to really communicate a lyric-driven song at a live show, though, and that’s why we have great ear candy like Alex’s guitar playing and Elise’s cello playing (also Steve’s drumming). I’m always working on improving my vocal delivery, trying to communicate the emotional content of a song beyond just hitting the right notes! It’s cool to see these songs connect with new listeners in a live context–really thrilling looking out into the crowd and seeing people locked into the music coming from the band. We have a good energy on stage–we all enjoy each other’s company, which obviously helps stage presence.”
AMN: “What’s the meaning behind Talking Under Water?”
Dave Chisholm: “To be honest, we were looking for a good band name and my 4-year-old niece suggested it. It feels mysterious, interesting, and kind of compelling and it was DEFINITELY the best suggestion!”
AMN: “What was it like working with Stephen Roessner?”
Dave Chisholm: “Steve is great–really fantastic dude and musician. Great drummer, brilliant and INCREDIBLY fast-working recording engineer/producer. We’re lucky to have him in the band for sure. Alex, our guitar player, is also a very talented engineer–he recorded all of the guitars at a cabin in Conesus, NY. When we all heard the guitars on “Tossing & Turning” we all just about died. They were just perfect for the song, loose, angsty, bluesy–I can’t say enough great things about them. Again, we’re lucky to have them both. They are way more perfectionist than I am when it comes to this stuff, and for that I’m super grateful.
The cool thing about this band is that we all have approximately the same pop/rock musical touchstones so I rarely NEED to offer much guidance when I bring a song to the table. 95% of the time everybody just brings the coolest ideas to the table. It makes for what I’d consider a very relaxed rehearsal atmosphere. Every one of us is a trained, well-versed, experienced musician–I trust them all completely with these sad songs I write! My tunes tend to be sort of chord-driven, chord-heavy songs, and it really is easy to communicate the musical DNA to them since they’re all so utterly on top of their game. They push me to be better.”
AMN: “What inspired the specific collection of instruments chosen for TUW?”
Dave Chisholm: “I was interested in starting a rock band again and I thought this combination of personalities would lead to strong results and good times. I also enjoy the challenge that having cello instead of bass presents–it forces us to be creative in orchestrating a song. When Elise has melodic content, I have to play bass material with my left hand.”
AMN: “I hear musings of tour dates, music videos and full length albums, any word on that?”
Dave Chisholm: “We are working on a video for “Tossing & Turning” and it is looking SO great. Our extremely talented friend Will Graver is directing it and we have some friends who are going to act in it. I think it’s really going to be special!
As far as full-lengths go, we definitely have enough material, however we want to be smart about it and not necessarily dive right into a 12-song album without having an appropriate clamor for it. It’s also fitting in the current market to put out a series of EP’s, so that’s where we find ourselves. I think we’re going to record live in-studio for our next release, although the details will be fuzzy still. Looking to record in December and January. Should be awesome–the next bunch of songs have a real rootsy gospel-influenced sound that we’re all really happy about.”
AMN: “Why do you feel passionately about making people feel better from sad songs?”
Dave Chisholm: “OH man, this is a great topic. Why do we love sad music? On the flipside, why do we so often get so quickly annoyed with music that is only happy, party, YAY all the time (at least I do haha)? I think people stress out, freak out, a lot, people get sad, people get mad, and having music that is empathetic with them in that moment–it exists with them down in that hole–it can really help people feel less alone. It can also serve to point out that things will get better. That’s a core message of the blues: things are bad right now, but they’ll be better tomorrow. I’ve been going through some stuff in my personal life and this kind of music is the nearest and dearest to my heart. These emotions just manifest themselves as songs, as these little objects. The object of a song then helps me manage my own emotions. It takes something that could sit and stew and fester inside of me, infect me with this darkness, and it puts it in an external object that is hopefully well-crafted, effective, and beautiful.”
AMN: “What’s Tossing & Turning (the track) about?”
Dave Chisholm: “You’re not gonna get that out of me! I want people to find their own conclusion to that question! Love triangles, rhombuses, biangles (?), unrequited love, etc. it’s about feeling incomplete in whatever situation you’re in and at the same time feeling conflicted about looking for completeness.”
AMN: “I hear you guys are making this EP available on cassette tape? Why cassettes?”
Dave Chisholm: “Initially, we only wanted to put this out digitally–it’s only 4 songs so it felt maybe a little bit silly to manufacture boxes and boxes of cds for such a project. However, we felt like we still needed something physical to sell at shows since people are reluctant to buy download cards at events. Vinyl is super expensive to produce, and tapes are small, still somewhat novel, they have a cool sonic character, and it’s easy to package them with download cards, so people can still have the high fidelity of the download with the fun physical product. We are also able to do short runs of tapes. With replicated cd’s, I think the minimum cutoff is something like 500. It just felt unnecessary for this project. We’ll hold off on that until we do a full-length hopefully sometime late 2015.
AMN: “Anything else you’d like to talk about?”
Dave Chisholm: “hmm. Both Steve and Alex are involved in other rock/pop projects.
Elise runs a string quartet:
I also do visual art:
Talking Under Water is very different and in a good way. They’ve incorporated good use of very opposite techniques and blended them into a sound that is very complimentary. You can find more of them on their Facebook!