This Friday, May 5, finally, the first album of Muzz, the superband conformed by Paul Banks (Interpol), Josh Kaufman (producer / multi-instrumentalist) and Matt Barrick (The Walkmen), which with this new production loaded with genres such as jazz, rock, folk and others, show us the good things that happen when a group of friends come together for the simple pleasure of making music.
Muzz’s self-titled album is made up of 12 songs, and some of them were shared by the band before the album’s release, as was the case with “Bad Feeling”, “Red Western Sky” and “Knuckleduster”. These tracks released not long ago gave us an idea of what we could expect from this new production, one that sounds quite different from the musical facets we already knew from Banks, Kaufman and Barrick separately.
However, it is important to say that If there is a reason why this album stands out, it is because of the diverse elements that exist in each of the songs., which are due to the duration, the lyrics or the musical genre, manage to stand out from each other, but they also achieve a homogeneous album that does not even seem to follow the stereotype of what we would expect to hear from this superband.
In fact, the tracks on Muzz have quite interesting stories and anecdotes, which we had the opportunity to know a few days ago thanks to a talk we had with Paul Banks and Josh Kaufman, who very kindly explained the inspiration, work and meaning of each of the songs included in their first album as Muzz:
Sopitas.com: As you know, this June 5 they release their debut album titled Muzz, one where we can appreciate emotional lyrics with music from genres such as jazz, folk and more. What is the concept of this album in general?
Paul Banks: I believe that the concept is simply to write good music as a collective of musician friends who have very good chemistry and good vibes. I don’t know if there is such a concept behind it.
Josh Kaufman: Yes, I don’t think there was a preconceived concept beyond that. Maybe one thing we were looking for as we worked on this record was just take the plunge. We were very aware of the fact that we wanted to consult the album again because we did it over the course of many years. So we took time to check it out again and see if things were still emotionally compromising.
We wanted to make sure that we had been with him the whole time, we never wanted to become famous or that time seemed to pass. There was a timeless step to making this, but I think it’s something we wanted to get out of it. It is a reflection of the friendship that we have for a long time and we are happy to continue in contact and resonating with each other still. We hope to continue resonating with this music too.
Sopitas.com: Let’s talk about the story behind each of the songs on the Muzz album and start with Bad Feeling, a ballad that seems to speak of the ghost of a past relationship. What is the story or inspiration behind this song?
Paul Banks: It is not about a past romantic relationship. Josh and Matt wrote the music for that song for one afternoon and it was included after a studio session. I went home to record everything that we had already worked as a band and that little track was on the CD of the songs, so the first time I heard it I felt it was a very special song, with a very beautiful, airy and pleasant feeling of nostalgia. For the same reason I wanted to write something that really felt in tune with the vibe of the track itself.
I took time for that, but one day I was on the beach catching up with a friend who was moving with his family to a very remote part of Panama, in the middle of nowhere. He had contagious joy, like he was very excited to bring his family to this remote place, and it was that kind of feeling of excitement that was inspiring to me at the time.
It was something like “man, really what a beautiful thing how people who expect positive things for the future can infect you with that.” And just that’s what inspired the opening lyrics and the chorus, so that the song is actually more about taking joyous steps toward our own happiness. I think that is essential.
Sopitas.com: The following is Evergreen, which is one of the most psychedelic pieces on the album. How did you decide to perform this song under that specific musical style?
Josh Kaufman: This started as something I was testing on my own in my studio, and later I shared it with Matt and Paul in one session. They contributed their voices, which quickly united.
I do not know, I don’t really feel like this song is being very psychedelic, but still and it’s the fact that there’s a light guitar and a melody that Paul sings. These two things become a single voice, which transforms this song to be on the album, because now it has a different sound.
The voice opens up much more than the chorus and you can hear that Paul’s singing is more defined, but I think that in the verse there is a strange union between the guitar and the voice to make a sound together, which I guess is a bit psychedelic.
Sopitas.com: In “Red Western Sky” a kind of prayer from a man to heaven is appreciated, to whom he asks to help him know what to do or where to go. What is the metaphor behind heaven in this song?
Paul Banks: What is the metaphor behind heaven in this song? I mean, I guess heaven for the character in that song represents that there is a higher power that you can talk to... it could be your god or your mother nature, I think that is the metaphor. Is really a kind of spiritual search that the person has.
Again here I feel a touch of psychedelia and something like an acid trip. You know, that I will ask for a kind of peyote and look for a vision through the desert.
Sopitas.com: Patchouli It makes us think that it has some inspiration in the plant of the same name. Why did they call this song that?
Josh Kaufman: That was a title worked by Paul who stayed around. Sometimes there was some separation in songs like “Patchoulli”, but I think we have all arranged to come back after taking a short break and just sit down with instruments and improvise together without planning much musically speaking. Instead, we start a discussion about the music we are going to create and let the instruments guide it.
“Patchoulli ”was born as an improvisation, so I like to think of it as a kind of subconscious composition in which Paul wrote the lyrics as well. In it there is a little wink about the depiction of the classic essence of the hippie bedroom where a bunch of guys are playing acoustic guitars with a Bob Marley poster on the wall or something.
But we also like all these things, so it’s like the fun song title turns into something much deeper than that. Although without a doubt the title of the song is as if it were a state of mind. I don’t think I could describe it any other way.
Sopitas.com: The fifth song on this album is “Everything Like It Used To Be”, which seems to relate certain experiences of a man who tries to be a better person, but who in the end cannot because he feels trapped in his past mistakes. Is the story behind this song any recent personal experience?
Paul banks: It was not directly inspired by any particular reason in life back then, but I think that maybe at that time when we were working on the song there was a lot of introspection going on and it was only reflecting on part of life.
I think there are many songs that work with that tension between feeling a little regret, being on your knees before your past and hoping for the future. This particular song has gone a bit of an attempt to institute a kind of rejuvenation, a kind of return to purity from some previous states. So whoever goes down or gets lost in that place will know that there is always a way back. It is like the essence of it.
Sopitas.com: The album includes a song called “Broken Tambourine”, in which the sound of the piano predominates and also where Josh’s voice stands out a lot. Is there another curious fact in this song?
Josh Kaufman: I sang there? Oh it’s true, he sang a little there. It is true, I forgot, thank you very much. It is Paul’s voice that is leading the charge and there is much I can let Paul talk about that song in terms of its lyrical origin, but One thing that is always worth mentioning about that song is the sound of nature in it.
Record the birds and the wind, and the sound of the leaves in the wind. All of that is captured as part of the piano track. So When Matt and I were recording the drums and the piano together, we had the window open in the studio and all the sounds from the surroundings entered the microphones.
The interaction between the piano, the birds, and Paul. There are several voices that happen there and some of them are of the pure nature coming in. Those sounds that weren’t there would not fit the music later as a later thought in terms of a production idea, as they were part of the bass tracker. And I think that is interesting.
Sopitas.com: Knuckleduster, musically speaking, it is the most energetic song on the entire album. It has a letter that could describe the courage that some have when starting a revolution and changing many things that are wrong in the world, something that we can see in the current situation in the world. Is that the feeling you wanted to convey in the song?
Paul banks: Yes, that is, It was done before all this (coronavirus and protests in the United States), but it seems that the choirs especially speak a bit of riots and revolutions made to build a better future. and those things.
I think it’s another kind of weird song in the sense that it also starts off as something romantic and I feel again like that’s the way I think. It is the narration of a relationship and then there are a lot of narrations surrounding it. I feel like in this song it’s like these two things come together. There is a calm and peace in a domestic romantic relationship that has its ups and downs and perhaps even is in decline. The chorus is a bit more about this grand narrative than it would be when romance settles.
It is a little difficult to explain everything it is about, but I think it works quite well. I think that it does have a relationship with the world events of this moment, and it is just an interesting song because of the way the lyrics adjust to what is happening. I also agree that it is the most energetic song on the album, it is definitely a real rocker. Very good drum beat and good things with the guitar. I love.
Sopitas.com: What is the story behind Chubby Checker and why did they name this track like this?
Josh Kaufman: Well, Chubby Checker wrote “(Let’s Do) The Twist” and a year later he wrote “Let’s Twist Again”. How cool is that Two songs, one dance.
Paul Banks: Although “Patchouli” is a title that seems to go hand in hand with the meaning of the lyrics, “Chubby Checker” is a song that only existed as an instrumental version that we had done spontaneously while we were together in the studio, but it was of great quality and we believed that you should stay with us.
Almost at the end of this album it was when I finally started to write the choruses for this song, and I remember that at that time we had already referred to it as “Chubby Checker” for a considerable time. The lyrics that were applied to that song are pretty serious, and the idea of changing the title from what we were used to to something that would drive the lyrics would only make the whole song serious.
Somehow we feel like that (seriousness) is all over the record, and really we wanted to leave some of the dumbest fun we had in the studio making this record. So we saw that one way to do it, was to say Fuck it, let’s leave ‘Chubby Checker’ as the song title. ”
Sopitas.com: For “How Many Days” They opted for a more notable jazz touch than the one existing in other songs, why did they adapt this sound for this specific song and what did they want to transmit through the lyrics?
Paul Banks: This song was also almost like the way “Knuckleduster” was written, along with Matt, Josh, and long before Muzz was a band. It was a song I was working on with Matt, and it started with a chord progression that Matt decided to include in a crazy way. What did you call it, Josh?
Josh Kaufman: Garage Rumba
Paul Banks: Yes, that style of rhythm. Once Matt had the rhythm he was having fun with, so we had a good momentum working on that track. And then Josh was the one who I think planned my guitar parts on that song, although I don’t even know if I play the guitar on that …
Josh Kaufman: I don’t remember it very well, but I do remember that I followed it with you on the guitar.
Paul Banks: We made it much more “mozzie” when we got together and then Josh finally landed that amazing guitar solo and lyrics; I like the lyrics of this song. It’s almost like I’m the subject of “Red Western Sky”, but now while he’s really hallucinating, very ‘high’, and this was a song similar to “Bad Felling”, because it was also a song that I almost wrote in real time, at a time when I was on the beach.
He had just played and written the top line melody, the voice, the lyrics, all at the same time, making it like he was completely on the same channel. In this song I remember the whole second verse that I wrote in real time. Before driving I converted it to mp3, put it on my phone and drove my car while listening to it on repeat. It was a good feeling like “Oh yeah, I don’t think I want to change any of that, I think all of that came from somewhere great.” and so I left it.
Sopitas.com: For his part, Summer Love It contains a melancholic and minimalist touch, how was this specific song born?
Josh Kaufman: It tops the list of quite a few changes that were made over time, but I think the song’s instrumental remained constant.. We had to go back to the studio and reinforce some different vocal versions, because the original sounded like a soundtrack unlike the others, and I think it started out rather obtuse.
There is something about Alice, the birds, and a strange intimacy that we like. With this song there was a long nostalgia that was happening in that main section of the song and which came outSo we wanted to explore it much more.
Sopitas.com: Almost at the end we find “All Is Dead to Me”, where we listen to a combination of folk, rock and electric guitars. What can you tell us about the lyrics behind this song?
Paul banks: For me as far as what I meant by “How Many Days” was concerned, it occurs to me that it’s kind of like what the surrealists talked about automatic writing, that real-time idea of just not trying to develop a thought and then refine it into words.
It’s like letting the words come out of you and I think the idea is that somehow, in our subconscious, there is such a well of understanding and meaning, and the type of language has been related to something. Sometimes I feel like things are there to be received rather than composed, so that was an instance for “All Is Dead To Me”It was like I heard the song and the priest came to me instantly and then it was one of these things that I wasn’t really sure about.
I was going to rewrite the lyrics and finally decided that there was something very pure about this and that the emotional quality of the choir can only appear with that lyrics, whether or not it is my favorite lyrics when I wrote it. There’s a state of mind that’s going on with this lyrics and I’m just going to keep it. The verse was like one of these songs where I felt like I was just describing a character in a movie, which is in a kind of locked urban landscape and then the choir becomes a kind of melodramatic self-compassionate hook.
It is definitely not autobiographical, it is not from my experience, it is just something that comes from within me, but more like exploring a state of mind, I would say.
Sopitas.com: By last, “Trinity” It seems to reflect emotions and feelings that exist when composing music from home during confinement by coronavirus, for example. In your opinion, what has been the most difficult thing about creating songs in this way?
Paul Banks: Neither “Trinidad” nor anything was written during the time of social isolation, everything was written before. We recorded an acoustic version of “Trinidad” while in confinement, but That was just a song that I half wrote a little bit, and then Josh finished it.
It’s a song that I didn’t know what to do with or if I knew if it was finished or not. And that was good because somehow, we discovered that instead of trying to build it more, we just decided to leave it as a kind of short and tenuous piece of music, similar to that existing in a small space.
So we recorded it live. I think the vocals and the guitars were recorded at the same time. Then we did some over-recordings that were kind of spontaneous and quick feeling, so I consider it to be a very lively piece of music and not overworked. It has a very simple emotional message that in turn is very sincere.
Today comes the album Muzz, the debut of the superband made up of Paul Banks, Josh Kaufman and Matt Barrick, so it’s now available for you to listen to.