Since I was fortunate enough earlier this year to experience the sprawl of Brooklyn heavy psych rockers Naam in the form of their Kingdom EP (Tee Pee Records), I’ve been looking forward to the prospect of a full-length outing. Manifesting in the form of Naam (also Tee Pee), the first LP effort from the trio takes the aesthetic presented on the EP and expands it in nearly every way except song length.
The tracks that comprise it, cut with periodic interludes, may not be as long — the reworked version of Kingdom‘s title track that opens the record notwithstanding — but Naam call upon a broad psych spectrum for their sound and make themselves at home with a vast, reaching, engulfing sound. With layer upon layer of extra aural attractions, they craft a filling sonic brew that, if you close your eyes at just the right moment, it’s possible to entirely lose yourself within.
To make the album, guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lugar, bassist/vocalist John Bundy and drummer Eli Pizzuto (who, believe it or not, with that name is not originally from Brooklyn) holed up in a cabin in the Catskills for 12 days and separated themselves from their urban environs and any external influences that might otherwise cause them to lose focus. In the phone interview after the jump, Pizzuto discusses the process and what it was like to get away from it all and have his concentration geared entirely on making Naam. Enjoy.
Describe where you went to record the album.
We were fortunate enough to have [manager Mike] Bigel get us this house up in the Catskills, and it was amazing. We had it for 12 days and it was kind of like whatever we wanted. We were out in the woods and we got to get away from everything and have our only focus be on recording the record. It was really cool, we had 100 acres of land to roam around on in between recording, and when we got the house set up, we got there, pulled up with two vans pulled of gear, set it up within that day. The next day we started record. It just came together so easily. We went up with probably around 40 minutes’ worth of material. We went up and we got to write some new stuff, and the vibe was there, the atmosphere created exactly what we needed to get it done for what we’re doing. It was good. It was good to be out in nature and have that whole vibe brought upon us instead of the city. Living in Brooklyn, the daily stresses of whatever. Then you go and play music and your focus is not all there. Out in the woods, it was just all there.
You were there for two weeks?
Yeah, we had it for 12 days. Within the first five days or so, we nailed the live recordings for the main songs. The bass, guitar, drums. Got that done real quick, and then continued on to put the record together the way we thought it should be.
So you recorded the basic tracks live and everything else was built on top of that?
Right. We’ve had, when we first started playing we had this guy Caleb playing keys and theremin and stuff like that, so we already had a good idea of what we wanted certain things to sound like, and Bundy and Ryan also play keys and organs and synthesizers. They knew what they were getting themselves into with overdubbing. Some of the interludes, we just on the spot wrote up there. We had four or five days of straight rain, so it was just cloudy and rainy and it brought that dreary vibe to it. It was perfect for the songs they wrote.
A little doom in the atmosphere never hurts.
(Laughs) Exactly. A little darkness, man.
Do you think, even though you had most of the songs already written, that the location bled into the final product, the album itself?
Definitely. We knew where we wanted to place the songs, we knew what order we wanted them to go into — this is all before going up — and we knew the kind of feel we wanted to have throughout. It was pretty easy for us to do, and it was really fun, really enjoyable. It wasn’t forced. Nothing was forced. It was all good. But yeah, we had a good idea of what to do. Bundy and Ryan had some ideas and we just pulled it together.
Can you compare that to making the Kingdom EP?
Making the EP was a lot more work for us, because we were recording at John‘s work, at The End Records. We were just using the warehouse, setting our gear up at the end of the work day and going at it for hours. We all have jobs and stuff and it was tiring. We got it done, we got it accomplished, but it was definitely more of a raw version of what we were doing. The straightforward. We didn’t have the time to really overlay all the stuff that we could at the mountain, nor did we have recording capabilities. We did what we could with what we had and I feel like it came out the way it should have. I like it. I like everything that we’ve done so far. Comparing that to going to the mountain, the mountain we went into with a lot more ease and a lot more excitement. It was something to look forward to, so it was more of a positive feeling to it and less of grueling to get it done.
12 days is plenty of time too, especially if you’re doing the basic tracks live.
Yeah, it was perfect.
I saw the equipment list you guys brought with you on your MySpace.
Yeah, there was a ridiculous amount of stuff (laughs). Two vans completely packed. We had to leave gear because we were taking too much stuff. We were packing up the vans, there was a couple things we were like, ?Ah, I guess we don’t need that.? But whatever (laughs). We just wanted to make sure we had enough shit to keep ourselves busy up there. The more the merrier. Gear for days, man (laughs).
Since you had the songs written, did you know what you needed to add on once the basic tracks were done in overdubs? How much of that was improvised?
For instance, the new recording of ?Kingdom? is about three minutes longer. Before we went up, John had restructured our intro to ?Kingdom.? That’s just one example. There were a couple other songs where we knew we wanted to keep a gap for things here and there. The sitar in ?Kingdom? as well, the big sitar part we had in there, we had Matt Robeson from Brooklyn Street Raga come up and record. We had some friends come up and hang out and pitch in. Some of the other stuff though was improvised. Even on a live recording, when I play drums, I kind of play songs the way I feel they should be played at the time. I don’t necessarily play beat for beat exact from recording to playing live, and rerecording the songs it always a bit different. For at least, it’s not so much about trying to play the song exactly the same every time. It’s more or less trying to convey my feeling through what I’m playing on the drums and what I feel like doing. For Bundy and Ryan, it’s more precise as far as note for note. For me, it keeps it interesting. A big part of what I do is improvisation, whether it be recording it live. The structure’s all there. It’s little things. Little fills or different ways of keeping things together.
How have things been for you on Tee Pee Records?
I feel like we got really lucky with Tee Pee being so interested in us. I’m fucking psyched that we’re on Tee Pee, because the roster is ridiculous and it’s the music that we are all into, for the most part. Even bands like Annihilation Time and Iron Age, more of the faster-paced thrash or hardcore, that’s my style too, because before I moved to New York, I was playing a lot of hardcore punk. I’m from Massachusetts and I lived in Boston for a little bit. When I was growing up, my music interests revolved around early age hardcore, Black Flag and Citizens Arrest or whatever. It’s cool to be on a label with such a wide range of good music. Heavy psychedelic, hard, aggressive or even just light, weird drone or whatever. It’s awesome. The kind of music that matters, I guess. There’s so much bullshit, but Tee Pee‘s got exactly what we fit into.
Well, even just for the amount of bands they have from around Brooklyn and New York. It seems like there’s a real vibe there between everybody.
Oh yeah, for sure. Playing shows here, I couldn’t ask for better shows for a hometown. I’ve played around the US in different cities. And even Boston. The scene in Boston is very small and conservative and opinionated. The difference being in New York, people are more into it for the music, I feel. There’s just so many people for every genre of music, but especially ours. I never thought there would be such a big scene for it, but it is New York City and there are millions of people here. There’s something for everybody and there’s a lot for us, I feel. It’s a big, growing scene and it’s awesome. I love it.
Talk to me about CMJ. The lineups for those showcases, the day party and the night showcase, is pretty unbelievable.
I’m really excited to play with Nebula again. We went on tour with those guys for a couple days and it was awesome. We went out with them for about six dates and toward the end of that, they were still going and we didn’t want to go home. It’s going to be really cool to play with those guys again. I’m really psyched to play with them again. Fucking awesome. The lineups for those shows are awesome. The venues too. The venues are all good times. We just got added to another day show as well with Nebula as well. The Cake Shop and Union Pool shows, and now I think we’re playing at Fontana‘s. The Cake Shop is the day party. There’s another show — I can’t keep up with all the dates. We’re playing a BrooklynVegan thing. It’s a BrooklynVegan CMJ showcase during the day. That’s at Fontana’s, and I don’t know the date, but Nebula’s playing that one too. It might be the date of the Union Pool show. Lot of good shit for CMJ. We’re real busy this month for shows.
And you’re hitting the road after?
Yeah, we’re hitting the road with Priestess for a couple East Coast dates. It’s going to be pretty fun. We all just want to aim to be on the road as much as possible, playing music and touring around. Hopefully we can get to that point and do longer and longer, rather than just a week. But we’ve got a little tour coming together in January as well that’s gonna be good. It’s still kind of indefinite now, but it’s going to be on the West Coast, I believe. That’s all coming together right now and that’ll be good.
Tags: Brooklyn, Naam, Tee Pee