(Dylan Marx, who you can check out by clicking [HERE] recently interviewed
Saint Mahogany’s Andrew Campbell. They have a new EP called Burdell check it out HERE)
DM: Alright. I’ve got some questions, and hopefully you’ve got some answers.
AC: Okay, word. Let’s do it.
Would you say there was any kind of feeling or concept that inspired this EP?
Yeah, this might make me sound… well, I don’t know. It’s mostly autobiographical. The EP is called Burdell, which was the name of a hill in the town I grew up in, in northern California. My family would go hiking there a lot when I was really young. I guess it was the most representative word I could think of for my childhood.
And now you’re studying music in New York?
Yeah. I studied jazz drums at the New School for a couple years, but I recently transferred to the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. It’s this great little program at NYU that focuses on things like music business, audio engineering, and production. It goes really in-depth into the realm of the recorded music industry, and it’s more geared towards popular music. The studios and the faculty are really incredible. I’m really enjoying it a lot.
So you spend a lot of time in the studio, then? Are you into music that’s more artsy and experimental, that uses the studio as an instrument? Would you ever consider making music like that, that’s more sonically experimental?
Definitely. My philosophy for producing the Saint Mahogany stuff – one of them, anyway – is to take field recordings and obscure sounds and blend them into the music, which is essentially indie rock. Musically, it’s pretty accessible, but in some places there are underlying drones and textures that may be beautiful by themselves but not really interesting enough, in my opinion, to warrant being released on their own. As much as I’d love to put out a compilation of all the sounds from the EP, I don’t think many people would be into it. Maybe. I don’t know, we’ll see.
What was the recording process like? Did you do it at home, or the studio?
Mostly the studio. We recorded bass and drums at Braund Sound in Brooklyn, and pretty much everything else was done at Clive Davis. There’s some random aux percussion that was recorded in my apartment. Some sounds were recorded around New York City or in California.
Do you go around New York with a field recorder?
Yeah, I do. I actually got this idea from another band I play with called Little Sur (shout out to Josh and the gang), but I went into the 6th Avenue L Station one night and found a guy doing this crazy tapping shit in F minor on an electric guitar. New York subway stations are all tiled walls, and when you listen closely they create this huge natural reverb. The hallway that guitarist played in created this really beautiful texture that I recorded, which eventually, when pitched down, became the background noise you hear in “Featherlike.”
Tell me about your solo EP from 2011, This is What the City WIll Sound LIke When All the People Are Gone. You did a lot of the instruments yourself, right?
I played all the rhythm section – guitar, drums, bass, keyboard, banjo – and did all the singing. I did get a couple other folks to play strings and woodwinds but everything else was me.
Is the Saint Mahogany EP different?
With Saint Mahogany there are lots of other players. I just kind of realized that I am not that sick at piano or bass – or even guitar or singing for that matter. (Laughs) But not only are these people killer musicians, they are really good friends of mine who I trusted to collaborate creatively and work out great parts. Their contributions made the recording process much more fun and productive, and I think you can hear it in the EP.
What instruments are you playing?
Singing, rhythm guitar, drums, percussion, and all the sounds. Again, that’s all I really felt qualified to do.
Was the songwriting more collaborative?
No, the writing was still all me. But the parts and the arrangements were created together. I made a point of letting the others know I was open to suggestions, and people would chime in if there was a chord that needed to be changed or whatever.
How does Saint Mahogany compare musically to what you were doing with What the City Will Sound LIke?
I think it’s a lot… clearer. I put out that EP when I was still in high school. I was smoking too much weed and listening to too much Grizzly Bear – not that there’s anything wrong with Grizzly Bear! They are one of my favorite bands… But I feel like my ability to write songs that are interesting both musically and lyrically has gotten much better since then.
How much of the theory that you studied at the New School do you think about when you’re writing?
I’m very theory conscious. I’m definitely of the belief that the rules of theory are meant to be broken, but you can’t really break the rules until you know them. There’s some cutty shit that happens in these songs every now and then, but I’m completely aware of what’s going on. Everything is very deliberate.
Have you studied non-western music theory?
I can’t say that I have. It’s regrettable, but all my understanding of music comes from the classical and jazz traditions. That’s not to say I don’t want to learn at some point, but I just haven’t gotten there yet.
There’s time. Well, to close it off, what’s next for Saint Mahogany?
I’m not really sure yet. We’re trying to play some shows around New York and get people juiced about us. Beyond that, we’re just stoked to be making records. I’m always writing, so there will undoubtedly be some singles or another EP at some point.