Q&A with Sam Scranton of Volcano!
Chicago, Illinois three piece Volcano! have been releasing music together for almost a decade now, fulfilling an evolution of sound that ranges in experimentalism, math rock, noise, pop and so many other genres that the division lines are completely blurred and untraceable at this point. 2005′s Beautiful Seizure, released on the almost 20 year old UK imprint The leaf Label, was possibly one of the most played albums of my life in 2005/2006. With a sonic integrity that still makes me unhinge on contact, Beautiful Seizure set the bar really high for this band. Volcano! followed up with Paperwork, another full length released three years later on the same imprint. More playful in the composition and make up of the album, Paperwork became an evolving step for a band whose had done so much with their first. Volcano! takes their time when constructing and recording albums and nothing has chnged with the launching of their third full length this year. Piñata is their latest endeavor and finds the group once again evolving into a new plateau with the help of The Leaf Label. The group has never changed members since Beautiful Seizur so it was an honor to connect with drummer Sam Scranton of Volcano! for an exclusive interview at Sound Colour Vibration. Sam and myself had a good time doing this interview a few months ago and we hope you have as much fun reading it.
Q&A with Sam Scranton of Volcano!
Conducted by Erik Otis
Where was the new album recorded at and how many songs are making the final cut?
Sam Scranton: We recorded it at Key Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan this past December. All of our songs always make the final cut. We are too slow at writing to abandon anything. Actually, that’s not true, we have abandoned many songs, but at that point they are still fetal songs. Any song that we complete we record. We have 7 new songs, and 1 semi-old one- So Many Lemons, which I guess at that point is actually really old. We’re just so slow it doesn’t seem that old to us.
What type of influences come to mind when you think about the drum work that you brought to this new album?
Sam Scranton: I can’t say that I was trying to emulate any one drummer directly, it’s more that for this release, I “composed” beats instead of just improvising in the style of rock n’ roll. The feel on this one is a lot less loose and more propulsive, more toms, maybe it’s more krauty. I’d say it’s a new lens on our characteristic Volcano! energy. We were trying make the whole thing tighter but retain some of our old-style sloppiness that lets the listener feel that it all could fall apart at any moment.
Where does the band plan to tour in support of the new full length?
Sam Scranton: We hope to play one show in every country in the entire world, but some of that depends on how this record makes it out there into people’s hands.
How much time does the band dedicate to composing and rehearsing together right now?
Sam Scranton: We rehearse two times a week. Wed. 7-10, and Sun. 3-7, and we each contribute some hours on our own to bring in scraps of ideas for future songs. So maybe 10 hours a week?
Guitar player and vocalist Aaron of Volcano! is one of the most dynamic musicians with his mutated yet pop guitar lines and the unique way he molds his vocals over them. How has working with Aaron affected the way you play drums?
Sam Scranton: You’re right, Aaron is great. The biggest difference is that I play rock n’ roll drums now instead of jazz drums, which is a good thing. I suppose that this is more of a Volcano! effect, however, rather than an Aaron effect. I wouldn’t have made it very far as a jazz drummer (who knows I guess), but my practicing wasn’t methodical enough so I would never have attained jazz-precision at a high level. I guess playing in Volcano! helped me to develop more of what I am good at, and allowed me to ignore my weaknesses. It’s like realizing that I could only eat chocolate cake all the time and still feel great, be healthy, more muscular, a better smile, shinier mop. One Aaron-specific change is that I play extremely loud now, which is because his first amp was eardrum-shreddingly loud, so I had to play equally loud, and then use earplugs, which caused us to play even louder so that we could feel it in our viscera.
Who are some of your favorite artists or bands right now?
Sam Scranton: James Blake is the best thing to come out since Dirty Projectors, who have long been a favorite of mine. I liked the new-ish Kanye record. Nicky Minaj is exciting. Bloom off the King of Limbs was great. I grew to like and fear The Weeknd. I’m playing in another band Bastardgeist. I’ve been listening to Gyorgi Ligeti, Per Norgard, Georg Friedrich Haas, Thomas Ades, Horatiu Radulescu, Gerard Grisey. Those are some 20th/21st century classical guys. They all make some brutal and beautiful music.
I am going to have to check out these composers, really interested to get into that area of music more. There was a great amount of transition in the sound of Volcano! from 2005′s Beautiful Seizure to 2008′s Paperwork. I loved how the band evolved and presented something new. Can we expect this same state of transitioning to something new with Piñata?
Definitely expect serious transitioning. At least it feels like a serious transition to us. Our new songs for the most part are punchier, shorter, more “poppy”, except for a few where the opposite is true. There is one track we refer to as our old-Volcano! song; it’s kind of Palimpsest-y or Red and White Bells-y in form but with our newer feel. Hendirx-style melodizing, classic Aaron and Mark shredding, screaming, emoting, but more like we’re thirty instead of twenty in a cool, life-experience way.
What influenced you guys in choosing that album title?
Sam Scranton: Its basically the title track of the album. It’s probably the most fun
and characteristic of what we are making right now.
Did you compile a top 10 favorites of 2011 list for the year or no? Or top anything?
Sam Scranton: Off the top of my head: James Blake killed it, Azealia Banks had two awesome songs, umm…
James Blake was incredible in 2011, really gathered a lot of momentum, did you get into the new Tom Waits record Bad as Me?
Sam Scranton: I heard it. Didn’t get to into it though. I can’t remember what else came out right now embarrassingly.
I get those moments from time to time with how many good albums we have coming our way, seems like I can’t even think straight when trying to summarize it all in one conversation. Now that you are really close to album launch, what are some dream gigs you have in mind for the upcoming year?
Sam Scranton: I’d like for Kanye to discover us and take us around a bit, play some shows, record on his record.
I really think that would be one of the most bizarre experiences ever and you’d have to get me in backstage if that goes down.
Sam Scranton: Totally, so weird, I don’t think I could handle it. Other albums: I liked that Drake and Weeknd.
Did you see the Ghostface Killah article where he calls Drake softer than baby thighs?
Sam Scranton: I did see that.
He gave Drake the top 3 slots for softest rapper, I couldn’t agree more.
Sam Scranton: Ghostface is right.
That was a good article.
Sam Scranton: But what can I say, Kanye was in there too for wearing women’s clothing.
I don’t remember him being on the list but when you are skinny, got height and raised in the 90′s, they didn’t have clothes for you like that, so I guess it’s all good as Kayne is a little older and from the 90′s. Kayne is tall, right? or nah?
Sam Scranton: No, he’s actually short. You’re in the UK, right?
Southern California, I’d say my city name but that would be pointless, I don’t think you do meth or drive a big truck.
Sam Scranton: Oh, whoops. I thought you were UK.
So I doubt you’d know about this place.
Sam Scranton: Yeah, don’t do meth.
Me either, that’s bad news bears. For Volcano!, have you guys changed working together since the days of the first album?
Sam Scranton: So much, it’s way easier now.
Sam Scranton: It used to be really intense and we would argue all the time, now we realize that no idea is sacred, so if one of us doesn’t like something we just don’t talk about it too much. Knowing that there are a million ideas and then just coming up with a solution that we all like. It’s way better that way. I think we’ve just mellowed a bit too, which makes collaboration easier and more fun. We make serious stuff but don’t take ourselves as seriously.
Well this about wraps it up, thanks for your time Sam and we hope you the best.
Sam Scranton: You too.
Purchase Volcano! tunes: