Interview: How To Dress Well Talks Songwriting, Total Loss, and Album Reviews
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on the new release of the new album, Total Loss. How’s it feel to have another
project out their for fans?
feels awesome, man. I’m so happy to finally have people listening to it and
spending time with it. It’s really something very special to me. I’m happy people
are able to bring the album into their homes and lives, and spirits.
I need You, Won’t Be Without Out,” could be set as the music during a film
where the lead characters have come to a tragic turning point in their lives.
Where do you go when creating this kind of material?
That’s interesting because that song and “Talking To You,” are both
companion pieces. They’re songs that represent a turning point in my mind as
well, but not necessarily in a tragic direction, just a crossroads that has
been reached and a question that presents itself and demands an answer. You
know, what am I going to do with this? How am i going to live? When I write
music I go on affect. You know what I mean? I’ll be moved intensely by
something, an image, movie, poem, or a piece of literature, whatever, an
animal, or a relationship. I try to focus my attention, not in the sense of my
mind, but more like, I try to write in that feeling as if it were my whole
life. During the song, it is my whole life.
in that moment?
exactly. Right now I’m listening to this song by Larson called,
“Raver,” and when I listen to it I can hear the way that the
sensitive voices are working and the way that the music is working and the way
the pacing of it, which is a slow song building up. I swear to god I can feel
something in it, in my heart or the center of my head that reads in a very
specific way. It resonates with me in a very specific way. If I’m trying to
really listen to it, close my eyes and just listen, I get this feeling. That’s
how I write and listen to music. I’ll be inspired by this song for instance and
put it right into my production software, sit myself down, in that feeling,
like it’s everything and write off of that.
ever find yourself reading reviews on sites like Pitchfork or do you even give
mean, I do give a shit, I wouldn’t say I don’t give a shit. I don’t really read
stuff that much, but if a journalist I really respect writes something about
me, I’ll read it. I’m a music nerd so I read a lot on music. If a journalist I
admire writes something, I’ll read it, because I read everything they write.
It’s awesome when someone I admire praises the record or my work.
writing do you follow?
a real honor to me to have Mark Richardson from Pitchfork just because I think
he is absolutely brilliant. Every time Ruth Saxelby, this woman from the UK,
every time she writes something I get super hyped. She’s written a few things
on me, which is really exciting.
it Right,” seems like a brutally honest and personal story. I don’t know who
you’re talking to on that track but it’s serious and very beautiful.
awesome because that is a very serious song. I had this loop that I was working
on for a long time, really building it and adding details and the night of
August 21st, 2011, I listened back to the loop and text messaged Robbie, the
guy I was working with: ‘Yo, we’re going in on this song,’ because my best
friend died on August 22, 2010 in his sleep, totally unexpectedly, not self
inflicted or anything. Just a young man dying for no reason. A bunch of our
friends and family were getting together on the 22nd and I couldn’t be there
and it just hit me all it once, this is the song. All of the lessons from the
whole experience, I needed to get in this song.
You know, there were a number of things I learned from
losing him. I’m not going to live again and I’m not going to not live my life
in order to protect my pride, I’m not going to pretend that things are going to
last forever, I’m not going to speak fluently about not wanting to be alive
which is something I used to think about and feel a lot and I realized how
irresponsible of a way to live that is. In the middle of the song I didn’t know
what to do with it. I do a lot of freestying when I’m making a song, trying to
find that space that I was describing.
That night Robbie said, “I gotta go, I’m
just going to let it run and you can fuck around with the piano, I’ll leave the
mic on.” He would leave for an hour or so at a time during sessions and
come back and say “Hey, What’d you do?” We’d listen to it and for this track I
started playing a simple piano alongside the loop and I paused the track and
play the piano melody. He came back and said this is crazy. Now the song goes
heavy into the piano I laid down and when he ran it back I started freestyling.
I started to see all the names of my friends and family, the people who were at
this year anniversary memorial, a commemoration of our friend’s life, and it
just hit me like a ton of bricks. I just sang it. It was like a fucking blast
off. It went from a sad session to a really affirmative one.
It’s funny because
the vibe I got from all my friends was the night was more full of laughter,
more of a celebration than anybody could have expected. It was so many funny
stories, loving moments, tenderness, and lots of celebration. On the vinyl you
can see that it’s subtitled 8.22.2011.
my pleasure, it’s a really important story to me.
travelling to different places around the world affected the way you write
music? It’s hard to not be inspired.
inspiring because it’s life everywhere. I don’t think the music has a
geographical character to it. The land where my music lives is wherever I go
when I’m searching out those feelings, whether it’s in the heart, the sky, or
whatever. There are different sausages in different cities in Germany, but there
aren’t different kinds of people with different kinds of problems anywhere.
Everywhere in the fuckin’ planet, people are feeling the same shit. It’s
universal. Anywhere in space. Anywhere there are humans, the same problems will
exist. I try to dial into that zone.
from Brooklyn or Chicago, the internet is full of shit and I’ve read both in
different places online…
from Denver actually (laughs). I’m living in Chicago right now and I lived in
NYC for 5 years. I’ve been here for about 2 years. I actually just noticed on
my Wikipedia the other day that it says I’m from Lawrence, Kansas, I’ve never
been to Lawrence, Kansas!
public image is fairly mysterious. Have you reached a point where fans are
recognizing you in the streets?
know, in very special places. In a city like Brooklyn people will be like
“Whats up, Dude?” when I’m walking down the street. People aren’t
that dialed in all over the place. It’s funny. I’ve been living in Berlin for
the last 3 months. If i play a show in NYC, twitter pops off afterwards. If there
are 300 people there, I’ll see 300 tweets. Berlin, nothing. It’s like twitter
hasn’t even hit there or something. That was a cool feeling. It will be
interesting to see what happens next because the new album is being released on
a bigger scale.
on your HTDW moniker, is it safe to assume to you care about presentation?
that’s not why I really chose it. I didn’t have much of a reason at all. My
friend had a book called that and I said, “Man, I’ll call my shit
that.” I was 18 then. I care immensely about presentation, but I don’t
believe… Fuck, hold on, I want to get this quote right. (Rustles around) I
just got this novel called The Drop Edge of Yonder, by Rudolph Wurlitzer and it
starts with this quote, “Things are not as they appear, nor are they
otherwise.” That’s like the zone I am at with presentation. All there is
surface, but the surface is super deep, ya know? Everything is presentation.
the crowd just as big in Berlin as it would be in Manhattan?
it was sold out. It was amazing.
Loss clocks in at 11 tracks, can you say what you’re doing with excess
had recorded about 25 songs in the last couple of years during this album
process. Several of them will help to make up a record I’m working on right
now. I have 11 demos so far, but 7 of those are new that I wasn’t working on
during that period. Some of them you find that you lose touch. You scrap them.
The amount of shit on the folders on this computer is insane. There’s a few
other things I’m working on too, I want to do this collaborative record with
Xiu Xiu and I’m repurposing three of my songs for that. I have a dream to do…
well, I have these 2 records I did that almost have a trancy vibe, the closest
thing I can compare them to is “Climax,” by Usher, and I have a new
dream of getting into the studio with Diplo and Ariel Rechtshaid. I want to do
a 7″, just a few cuts with them.
good luck, he’s a busy fuckin’ dude.
see what we can do. I’ve got a legit record deal now so it’s different, I can’t
just send him music. I used to put out everything I did, but now the process
has changed a little bit. I can’t do it anymore, which is annoying, but it’s
cool because now I can do full-bloom special releases.
coming up in support of Total Loss, any videos or tours?
the tour is scheduled. It’s all on our website and and the west coast dates
will be out soon. The videos are on the way too. Just look out for them soon.