After being blown away by the new Millions album
"Failure Tactics" - my review Here., I got in touch with
the band to find out more about what makes them tick
and was kindly given an interview by Corey Lyons who
hits the guitar hard and shares yelling duties.
“Failure Tactics” seems to have a more structured and cohesive feel than “Gather Scatter” - was this a natural progression or something you worked upon?
A bit of both, really. We definitely approached this one more like an album, instead of just a collection of songs we’d written in the last year or so. We demoed a lot more than we did with Gather Scatter, which is to say we actually demoed this time around, and spent more time tweaking and retooling things.. A lot of that was also just out of necessity, since Scott lives in Portland now - it just forced us to kind of put the songs under a microscope more than before. But at the same time, focusing on the songwriting was definitely more of a conscious choice than before. With Gather Scatter, in a way we were hearing the songs for the first time in the studio, as we recorded them. With Failure Tactics, since we demoed them so much we were almost sick of hearing them by the time it came to record them! But that process also gave us more time to experiment and mess around, record noise tracks and stuff, which was something we wish we had done more of with Gather Scatter, but things just weren’t as fleshed out as much then.
We also seemed more open to new and weirder song ideas rather than trying to write songs that sounded like Millions “should” sound. This time around we wrote more from our gut, more naturally. I see us going more in that direction in the future too.
Andrew Ragin produced this time around - he did an excellent job - was his work with The Atlas Moth an influence in getting him on board?
Andrew’s a solid guy and was a fan and into what we were doing, and wanted to record us. We all dig Atlas Moth of course, but it was more about the fact that it was something he wanted to do. And we had a blast recording with him too. He’s super laid back but also really knows his shit, the whole experience was just tons of fun. We’re all super happy with how everything turned out. The studio itself is amazing too, like a museum of old tape machines, pianos, and even a mellotron. We were hoping we could work that into the album somehow but ran out of time.
The album has got very positive reviews which must be buzz after all the hard work you have put into the recording. How important is what the ‘Mainstream’ press writes? Web blogs are now my main source of music information but I am very aware of the fact that compared to some sites, mine is like a tiny fanzine being sold at gigs. You are taking the time to do this interview (thanks!) - do you get many of these requests?
We actually appreciate the blogs and stuff a lot more than the ‘mainstream’. A review in a big magazine or something is great but it’s no guarantee that anyone is actually listening to the music, but I think with the blogs you get a better sense of that. Seems like more people are looking towards the blogs for new music these days, I know I do. And man, I miss the days of fanzines being sold at gigs! Definitely had much more of a community vibe to things, and I guess blogs are kind of carrying on that tradition in their own way.
We’ve had a fair amount of interviews this time around, but are always down for more. Definitely dig doing them, always cool to provide more insight into the band.
You are spread out between Chicago and Portland - how does this translate into the problems of recording and playing?
It kind of forced us to focus on songwriting more and allowed us to experiment and toy around with ideas. It also contributed to a change in our sound, but overall I think all of these things were for the best. Certainly not an ideal situation, and definitely was frustrating at times, but we made it happen and are really happy with how things turned out.
Playing live is a little different now. We’ve been playing most of our shows as a three piece for the last year, and it’s actually been going over really well. It’s not ideal of course, but it definitely works. Scott joins us when he can, such as recently for the record release show in Chicago. A lot of the newer songs lend themselves to being played as a three piece pretty well, but of course are just that much better when Scott’s around. And most likely there will be more touring as the original four-piece next year and in the future.
What does the album title refer to?
Nothing in particular, but Millions is a huge outlet for us, a way to unleash our negative sides, so the album title kind of encompasses that. It also came to represent a lot of the frustrations and stuff we’ve experienced either personally or as a band since Gather Scatter. It could speak to the process of trying to write and record an album while your members are thousands of miles apart, problems on the road, etc. It almost became a running joke while recording and release the album, whenever something went wrong one of us would just say, “Failure Tactics!”
It’s open to interpretation. Not to get all serious, but given the state of the world these days, “Failure Tactics” just seems fitting.
Also a while back we decided that every album title we have will just be two two-syllable words. Gather Scatter, Panic Program, Failure Tactics... so to anyone trying to predict the next album title, that should help you narrow it down to only several million two word combinations!
To my ears, Millions are the perfect mix of post-hardcore and noise rock - which bands have inspired you in the past and what are you listening to today?
As a band we’re kind of all over the place in terms of what we all listen to, but we share some common ground in the old AmRep/Touch and Go/Dischord stuff from the 90s. A few bands we can all agree on would be Rodan, Jesus Lizard, Swans, Fugazi. Swans is a big one right now, I know the last couple albums they’ve put out have got some of us pretty obsessed.
While recording Failure Tactics, a couple of us seemed to purposely listen to things that didn’t sound anything like Millions, but would maybe inspire us when writing/recording. I was listening to a lot of early Pink Floyd and late Beatles for instance, instead of just drowning myself in Jesus Lizard and Botch or something. I think all the Pink Floyd help push the song ‘Darmok V’ to become one of our weirder songs. Fun as hell to record that one, all kinds of things going on there.
As far as what we’re listening today... Swans, Glenn Branca, Nina Simone, Lee Van Cleef, Fight Amp, Bohen & Der Club of Gore, Distorted Pony, Glazed Baby, Krallice, live stuff from The Who,
Maggot Brain by Funkadelic, Lord Mantis....
I know a lot of the vocal duties are shared - do people tend to sing on the songs they have written or is it a different process?
For the most part, yeah, but it’s more because it just worked out that way, rather than being what we specifically had in mind.A few of our older songs are sung by someone who didn’t write the initial riffs, but everything on Failure Tactics has us singing leads on our own songs. Numbing the Dream was almost the exception, but we’re gonna save that outtake for our 20th Anniversary boxed set. When it comes to backup vocals, we tend to have a good idea as to who would be the best for that particular part. We’re no Frank Sinatras, but we all have our own distinctive ranges and whatnot that lend themselves to certain songs/parts of songs. I would sound horrible singing “Siberian Angel” and I don’t think anyone but Mark could have pulled off “Pervert’ how he did.
I missed the UK 2009 dates - are there any plans for Europe dates in the future?
Most definitely, it’s one of our priorities at the moment but can’t say when exactly it will happen. We were trying to go this Fall, then that turned into next Winter/Spring, but now I have a baby on the way (and Scott had one this summer), so it’s been postponed again. But rest assured, we’ll be back. That tour was a freaking blast and I can’t wait to do it again sometime. I was even deathly ill for half of it, either some kind of flu or vicious food poisoning, or both. Most of my time was spent curled up in the back of the van or passed out, but I’d still do it all over again. And I still say it was one of the best experiences of my life. In retrospect, I probably really should have gone to a hospital. Still worth it though. Next time I’ll just avoid airplane dairy products and gas station tabbouleh .
Finally, what can we expect next from Millions?
There’s going to be a slight hiatus in 2013 while a couple of us are busy raising kids. After that there will be some more touring to support Failure Tactics, and then hopefully working on album number three! There’s already ideas floating around for that one, but obviously it will be awhile before we really sit down and hash it out. We’re all really excited about the new direction Failure Tactics took, and can’t wait to expand on that even more. I think it will be as different from Failure Tactics and that one was from Gather Scatter. Unless having kids changes us and it becomes an album of lullaby renditions of Botch songs or something.
Thanks Corey for taking the time to answer my drivel - catch them at the links below: