As a producer and engineer for acts like Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction, Tacocat, OCnotes, and the Moondoggies, Erik Blood has his fingerprints all over the modern Seattle sound. After getting delightfully, pornographically dirty on his last solo record Touch Screens, Blood returns to take things in ethereal, expansive, and mind-bending directions on his new album Lost in Slow Motion. The record finds the Black Constellation member crafting walls of sound lush with color and teaming up with Irene Barber to spin webs of vocal mystery. The album also spawned an absolutely stunning music video "Chase the Clouds," which details forbidden love at a gay conversion with a cinematic grandeur that legitimately makes it one of the best music videos to ever come out of Seattle. Blood fully unveils this new aural journey this Saturday (April 30) at the High Dive with a Lost in Slow Motion release show featuring Wall of Ears and Fruit Juice.
For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we met up with Blood in his Georgetown studio to chat about Lost in Slow Motion's sonic shift, his many upcoming producing projects, and passive aggressive neighbors.
Since it’s such a huge sonic shift from Touch Screens to Lost in Slow Motion, was there a specific thing that pushed you from to shift from a more direct rock sound to this more atmospheric ascetic?
It was just kind of the natural progression of things. After Touch Screens, I was having a lot of trouble writing new stuff, and I realized I was like writing for specific band members that I had, back when I had the huge band. And I really hated that cause it felt like I couldn’t do the stuff I wanted to do. So I got rid of the band and just started writing from scratch. This album came from nowhere, really… that’s just what came out of me.
Irene Barber's voice plays a crucial role in Lost in Slow Motion's sound. Was she brought in after you had written the songs or was it written with her in mind?
So I got rid of the band, and then almost immediately after that I was offered a show with Shabazz Palaces at the Tractor. And I said yes, so that gave me two months to come up with something to do. [Laughs] So I wrote six songs, and I called Irene and asked if she would sing with me. And she was totally down to do it. And it just worked so well for me working only with her.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of bringing Irene into the fold on this album?
I just love Irene. I met her doing the Vox Mod album Syn-Æsthetic. When we sang together at his album release show, that was the first time we’d ever sang together. And we were both just like damn, we work well together. This works. And so we just every time Vox would have show we would be like yeah we get to sing together again! So that’s why I wanted to bring her on for what I was doing, cause it just worked.
For the most part I was just writing everything and sending [it to] her like here’s your part and here’s what you do and blah blah blah. But there are a couple of instances where I didn’t know what to do, so it was like here… you figure something out. And those were perfect. They just worked out really nicely.
The vocals on the record seem to emphasize sonic colors and moods over lyrical clarity. Was that just done in an effort emphasize the flow of the songs rather than get bogged down by specific lyrics?
Yeah, lyrics are secondary to me. I love voices, but words are not terribly important to me. In any piece of music, the voice should be an instrument, one that doesn’t necessarily have priority over anything else. I’m not concerned with clarity or anything like that. I don’t think it serves the songs necessarily to have vocals sit on top of everything.
Do you approach anything differently when producing yourself as opposed to producing other artists?
I think I’m probably more focused with other bands than I am with myself. [Laughs] With me, I literally don’t know where things are gonna go when I’m making my music. I’m limited by my abilities cause I’m doing all of it. And then I collaborate by… I know a ton of musicians who are super talented, and when I hear them on something that I’m working on, then I try my best to get them. But a lot of stuff is just me playing around here and finding sounds that I like, and from that a song can emerge.
With other bands I get to hear their finished music for a long time before we even get in the studio, so I know exactly what I’m gonna do, how I’m gonna approach it. [Laughs]
What’s the story behind the black and white outfit and makeup you’ve taken wearing at shows and for the album artwork?
I don’t really have a story to tell on that. It’s just so hard to explain this. It was something that I’ve wanted to do… and when I realized I could do it, there was no reason not to. So yeah. We’ll see what it’ll be in a year. [Laughs] I don’t want to ascribe any meaning to it, I’d rather you think about it. Like if you see it and I scare you or if I make you laugh or if I make you feel funny in whatever way… cool, just go with that. [Laughs]
(Loud sounds of a piano begins to seep through the walls.)
I have a theory about that.
Yeah, I don’t know that it’s real. I think we have feuding neighbors. [Laughs]
And one of them just plays loud piano… records?
Either that or they actually have like some sort of setup. But there was a band just seemingly jamming and a party going on, but it sounded more like a recording of a band and people talking, because like chatter was too loud.
Man, that’d be like some next level passive aggression.
I know. Cause we’re loud as fuck in the studio, cause that reverb is phenomenal. Like, I don’t use reverb plugins anymore. I just send stuff into that room and it’s beautiful. I love it. I remember one night we were recording drums in there, and someone upstairs brought out a boombox and put on Pat Benatar super loud and just let it play. And the drummer was like, “Is this a problem?” And I went not really, let’s just keep going. [Laughs]
So there’s the underscore of “Love Is A Battlefield”…
Yeah. There’s a few, man. There’s a song on the new Hotels record that I just did, and at the end of the song, you can hear the drum school next door fade out. And it’s actually really cool. [Laughs] Little ghosts in the tunes.
Is there anything else you'd like to add about Lost in Slow Motion?
This is the first record that I’m still completely happy with. It’s been done for over a year, and I can still listen to it. It’s like one of the only records of mine that I can still listen to and be really into it. Super happy about it. Super, super happy about it. There’s a listing party at Speckled and Drake on the 28th, where we’re gonna give away a bunch of cool shit. Release day is the 29th. And then the show is at the High Dive on the 30th with Wall of Ears and Fruit Juice.
And since it seems you've always got a million projects beyond your own stuff, what are you currently working on?
The new Pickwick album is done, I’m gonna do another pass at mixes on that. And then I’m mixing the Porter Ray album now. I’m gonna do an album with Boyfriends. And… what else? New Shabazz. That’s all in the not-distant future. That’s all coming right up.
I stay really, really busy. I’m so grateful to be this busy. I’m so tired. [Laughs]
Erik Blood: Lost in Slow Motion Release Show
Apr 30 at 9, High Dive, $8–$10