Echodrone are one of those bands that I want to be horribly embarrassed to have not been aware of ‘til their fifth album and tenth year… Although, apparently many of the band members are yet to even meet each other… So I’m inclined to be slightly less embarrassed… This February Echodrone released Five on Saint Marie Records, which not only signifies their fifth release, but the first time the band has consisted of five members. Eugene Suh and Brandon Dudley have been at Echodrone for a while now, but their latest release also introduces Rachel Lopez, Mike Funk, and Jim Hrabak into the fold. The album boasts the kind of dreampoppy, shoegazey sounds the cultural aliens of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s found oh so delectable, in addition to the aesthetic of the legends of new wave and synth pop, who were slightly less afraid of the “popular.” This Spring I got a chance to chat with all five members of Echodrone, who told me everything a biographer could hope to know about the current state of the band.
Izzy Cihak: You recently released your fifth album and celebrated your tenth anniversary. Not to start with a huge question, but what were the biggest highlights of the first decade of Echodrone?
Brandon Dudley: For me, they are pretty pedestrian – our first EP release party, our last gig in 2009, and working on Five with the current lineup.
Eugene Suh: So many awesome memories over the past 10 years! I think one of my biggest highlights since our inception were our first two shows (Stork Club, Oakland, 09/17/06 and Edinburgh Castle, San Francisco, 09/23/06). This is one of the first “real” bands I’ve ever played in, and it was a really eye-opening experience to play a show and have people come and listen. We’ve also met a ton of interesting people along the way, from other musicians to photographers/visual artists. They are people I would’ve never connected with if it weren’t for Echodrone, so I’d say that aspect of the Echodrone experience is memorable. The entire creation of Five has also been a highlight!
Izzy: And what would you consider to be the biggest differences between Echodrone’s approach to creating music this time around, compared to your first record, in addition to the obvious lineup variations?
Brandon: We used to record traditionally – live, in studio, with vocal and guitar overdubs as necessary. For Mixtape and for Five, tracking was done remotely, as we all live all around the country and could not get together this time around for a variety of reasons. I miss the visceral-ness of live recording but this way worked really well for us.
Eugene: Yep, we’ve gone completely virtual! I’m blown away that we’ve been able to create something like Five via file exchanges through the internet!
Izzy: The sounds of Five are an amalgamation that I can’t quite figure out… I mean, there’s obviously the shoegaze thing, but I also hear a lot of things that remind me of the balladry of bands like The Cure and Nine Inch Nails in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Who are the artists who actually inspire you, whether they sound anything like you or not?
Brandon: As the bass player, I’m inspired primarily by bass tones and sounds. For Echodrone, I tend to be inspired by shoegaze bassists from the ‘90s – Nick Chaplin from Slowdive and Ian Masters from Pale Saints most of all. Peter Hook is another big influence.
Eugene: I’m really influenced by a lot of different artists, and they’re mostly not shoegaze (which may explain the different factors that play into our sound). My biggest influences are Glenn Branca, anything that Sooyoung Park’s done (Seam/Bitch Magnet/EE), Jim O’Rourke, David Behrman, Terry Riley… If I were to sum up what I was trying to do with my guitar sounds, it’s probably trying to mix late ‘70s/early ‘80s NYC no wave stuff with something percussive, like Battles, and something dreamy, like Stars of the Lid.
Jim Hrabak: I’m inspired by producers/bands/musicians that are unafraid to push the boundaries of music production. Brian Eno is my first and foremost influence. The Bombsquad’s productions in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s still inspire me to this day. Radiohead have never been afraid to take a good formula and jettison it without warning. Currently, I’m listening to a lot of Jon Hopkins, Haxan Cloak, and Run the Jewels.
Rachel Lopez: I have so many influences (also mostly not shoegaze). As an orchestral musician, I really enjoy listening to and playing pieces by composers like Bach, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, and Stravinsky. As far as rock, I spend a lot of time listening to ‘80s/’90s new wave, post-punk, goth rock, synthpop, industrial, alternative, and grunge. My personal influences involving female singers include Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Pretenders, Garbage, and Juliana Hatfield. Most of the bands I listen to have male singers, and I’ve been deeply inspired by bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, New Order, Clan of Xymox, and Bauhaus. Also, Peter Hook and David J inspired me to pick up the bass guitar in the late ‘90s, and I came to really listen to and appreciate bass lines.
Mike Funk: I’m with Eugene on the Glenn Branca influence. Like Branca’s compositions, it’s all about the layers of instrumentation and how they intertwine with each other. You can also hear it in the minimalist classical work of John Adams and Steve Reich, which I really love. I hope people can hear that similar aesthetic in our music. As for drummers, my all-time favorite drummer is Stephen Morris. His drum parts are so distinct. I love his tom-tom work on Joy Division and early New Order albums. plus the way he locks in with those synth patterns is just amazing.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the album’s biggest non-musical influences?
Eugene: I’m a very visual person, so oftentimes, movies will inspire me to create music. This happened a lot with Five. Some of the filmmakers that inspired me during the creation of Five include Sergio Leone, John Hughes, David Lynch, and Dario Argento. In fact, the basic skeleton of “Chrome” was inspired by the final scenes of Suspiria, with all its swirling colors and oppressive mood.
Mike: Well, funny thing – I actually watched films while I was laying down drums all on my own. I recorded the drums in this giant 2000+ square foot room in a large house in the middle of nowhere – with nothing to keep me company or to feed off of visually. Usually when I drum, I’m looking at other musicians for queues and play off of their energy. I recorded at night and it was really dark outside so I couldn’t really see anything out of this room’s large windows, so I brought blu-ray discs with me to keep me company while I recorded my parts. Here’s some of the discs I brought with me to the sessions: Blade Runner, Michael Mann’s Thief, Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express (one of my all-time favorite films), and a few by Terrence Malick.
Izzy: Do you have a favorite album track, whether one you’re most proud of or one that best signifies where your future sounds might be headed?
Brandon: I really like “Chrome” — it was a track that I didn’t even want to put on the album in demo form, but once Rachel and Jim put their touches on the track it transmogrified into a really strong song. I don’t know that the track signifies the future as much as what Rachel, Mike, and Jim’s contributions mean to our music.
Eugene: I really enjoy how things came together on “Falling From Planes.” I enjoy the more dissonant, swirling electronic elements combined with pop melodies. In my opinion, it’s a song that kind of looks backwards and forwards at the same time…like we were blasting a Tears for Fears song in an airplane hangar while a jet engine was firing up (If that makes any sense at all!) It’s a direction I hope we continue to pursue in the future!
Jim: This is a difficult answer for me to give because I love Eugene’s songwriting so much, but I would have to say “Octopussy.” Rachel’s vocals are so strong and confident and I feel like every element has room to breathe. It just strikes me as a very powerful statement of what this group is capable of sonically.
Rachel: My favorite track keeps changing! Initially it was “Less Than Imaginary” because of its catchiness, but lately I’ve been waking up with “When Two Ends Meet” in my head. The lyrics to “Chrome” are very personal, and I was skeptical about revealing strong emotions like that into a song. But I quickly realized that’s what a lot of musicians are inspired by… So I just went with it. I’m personally really proud of “Motion Pictures” because it’s another song with very personal lyrics, and I really liked how it came out.
Mike: I love “NoiseBed.” I love how unusual it is. It’s not your usual verse-chorus, verse-chorus type of song.
Izzy: Has anyone ever told you that you sound like you should be on the soundtrack of a Gregg Araki movie? (Hopefully that’s not insulting. The Living End, Totally Fucked Up, The Doom Generation, and Nowhere are four of my all-time favorite films.)
Brandon: I personally have not been told that, but I take it as a high honor! The Nowhere soundtrack was a fave of mine in the late 90s.
Eugene: Wow! Big thumbs up to that comparison! Weren’t Pale Saints on one of those soundtracks?
Jim: I haven’t heard n Araki reference before. I have been told that some of our tracks would fit in a John Hughes film, which I take as the highest of compliments.
Rachel: I haven’t seen these movies, although I’ve been meaning to check out The Doom Generation because of the soundtrack alone… Love & Rockets, Cocteau Twins, Jesus & Mary Chain, and Lush? There need to be more soundtracks with bands like this!
Mike: I love Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd’s score to Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin. I also like the remix of Slowdive’s “Shine” in his film Splendor. Don’t laugh, but I like that movie. It doesn’t get enough love compared to his other films but then again I’m into classic screwball romantic comedies and fond of Kathleen Robertson – so there you go.
Izzy: Finally, how do you hope and plan to spend 2015?
Brandon: My goal is to begin work on the next release and to meet Jim and Rachel in the flesh!
Eugene: There are a lot of things in the works right now! Hope they get to see the light of day in 2015/2016! I’ve also never met Mike, Jim, and Rachel in-person, so I’d love to get a chance to hang out with all of them.
Jim: I’m looking forward to working on an EP of reinterpretations (I’m reluctant to say remixes.) of some of the tracks on Five. I also can’t wait to meet these fine Echodroners in-person for the first time! It is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that we could come together to create this art without ever meeting in person. I think of Eugene, Brandon, Rachel, and Mike as friends and it seems like I’ve known them forever. It’s very surreal.
Rachel: I’m looking forward to meeting these guys as well, and working on more music in the future! I initially “met’” Brandon virtually due to our similar musical interests in post-punk and shoegaze bands, but I also feel like I’ve known them all much longer than we actually have.
Mike: To be in the same room with these amazing people and to hopefully make all kinds of racket with them live.