[Interview] Tanlines Talk Live Performances, Trends in Electronic Music, and Their First Concerts (Part Two)


Brooklyn duo Tanlines have come a long way since their formation in 2008. After several years of releasing remixes, singles, EPs and featuring on compilations, Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen have firmly established themselves and the name Tanlines with the release of their debut LP Mixed Emotions, which dropped this past March on True Panther Sounds. The album sees both Emm and Cohen melding their collective talents into their most gratifying and seamless release so far, with each song delivering a fantastic mix of Cohen's production and drum work and Emm's emotive vocals and captivating guitar progression. Simply put, Mixed Emotions is fun, danceable, and consistently a joy to listen to.

During their recent tour, Emm and Cohen made their way to Fortune Sound Club in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada where the three of us sat down before their show and had the opportunity to chat. In part two of our interview, we discussed their live performance and the reactions they've garnered from fans, the various trends in electronic music and where Tanlines fits into that, and the first concerts they ever went to, including mine. Check it out after the jump, and, if you've yet to do so, head here to read part one.

Continued from part one.

Adrian: How has the idea of your music being danceable translated into your live performance and how have you worked around that?

JC: When we finished the album, we thought about how do we want to play the songs live? And we talked for a long about different ways we could do it, including putting a band together and just playing the songs with a drummer, bass player, keyboard player, guitar player, because all the songs would work that way; all the songs would work with just Eric singing them alone. We tried it a little bit and it was a very different thing. I think it’s a very cool thing, it would have been a very cool way to do the tour, but I don’t think it’s something people necessarily would have been satisfied with.

We wrote this album and we thought, “Oh, it’s a very different album, very different kind of music then we’ve been making in the past. It’s not electronic music, it’s a band or whatever.” And then, once the album started to get our there and people were saying, “Oh, it’s an electronic duo,” or “it’s a dance project,” we were thinking if we go out there with a band, people aren’t going to be satisfied. I’m not sure I would be either.

A: Similarly, when Holy Ghost! went on tour, they did that, they got the whole band, and it actually worked out. It actually sounded very good.

JC: You know, it’s sort of like we stuck to what we had been doing up until the point we did this album, which was performing as a two-piece, where it’s Eric singing the songs and playing guitar and I’m doing everything else. It’s not quite like a DJ/rapper situation, but it’s close. It’s like an electronic duo.

EE: That was the best thing about being called an electronic duo.

JC: It gave us the flexibility to perform however we wanted.

EE: If we showed up just the two of us with a computer, no one is going to say, “Pfft fuck these guys, they’ve got a computer, they don’t have a drummer.” So, it’s good cause we can do that.

JC: There is always time when we are making much more money to be adding the six person band. There is always time to go in that direction

A: You can always try it out for a while, and see how it goes.

JC: We practiced on the drums and guitar with no samples or anything, and it sort of sounded like 311, so we decided to just wait for a while. But, I can tell that the direction of the songs that we’re writing are going in is the direction of more traditional instrumentation. I don’t know what will happen next.

A: How has the reaction been from fans and at concerts?

JC: Pretty good, pretty good.

EE: Everywhere is different. You do the same thing every night in every city, which we more or less do, although we do vary the set a little bit. People’s reactions are always different, but they’re generally good. No one has come up to me and said, “You should be a band. You guys need a five or seven-piece band.”

JC: It’s true. I mean, that’s sort of the thing when we first started making music three or four years ago, we didn’t play live. But, when we started to play live, we just thought we’ll do what we can do, and we weren’t really expecting anyone to be interested in it. We actually got a pretty good reaction, and a lot of people who were knew or people who work in our little record industry that we’re a part of were like, “On paper it doesn’t sound like a thing that would be good live, but it turns out that they’re live band is pretty good.” And so, that definitely made us… [pauses]

A: A little bit more confident.

JC: Exactly. I would say that if we hadn’t done that then we wouldn’t have made it this far. Playing live is definitely one of the main things that sort of pushed us to keep going. It’s way, way more satisfying to play a live show or to meet a guy who drove down from the Bronx cause he heard “Real Life” on the radio and he loves it and it changed his life or whatever. There are tiny little experiences worth way more than putting a song out that gets a lot of comments on a blog. No offense to blogs.

A: No, none taken [laughs]. I feel the same way about music sometimes. If I hear a song and it makes me react that way then it doesn’t really matter how many people are talking about it on The Hype Machine or anything like that.

JC: Yeah, it’s way harder to quantify. I think that’s part of the evil of the music Internet in that so much of it is about quantifying comments, views, and all of the good things about music, and it’s always been this way. It’s like that with record sales too. The things that people actually like about music are not quantifiable.

A: It’s personal.

JC: Right, it’s hearing a song ten years later and feeling the same way you did ten years ago. Those are the things that people actually like about music, and all those different ways to quantify aren’t missing the point because business relies on doing that, that’s how you make money. But that’s not why people care about music, and so for us, releasing music on the Internet is not ultimately that satisfying.

A: So the live experience is much more satisfying because you see first hand people’s reactions.

JC: Yeah, and also making songs that will hopefully linger a little bit longer than just like a track, or a remix. I don’t think anybody has ever had a remix change their life.

A: There are some good remixes out there.

JC: There’s a couple! And the sad thing is, in those cases the remix sort of outshined the original song.

A: RAC does some very good remixes though.

JC: Who?

A: RAC, the Remix Artist Collective. Ever heard of them?

JC: No.

A: It’s a few musicians from around the world, primarily André Allen Anjos, who do really good remixes. “Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. That remix by RAC is fantastic.

JC: Don’t get me wrong, there are remixes that I’ll hear that are fantastic, but I do think that you have a different relationship with it than you do with an original song that you’ve heard forever. With a remix, there is an additional layer between you and the music. It’s just different.

A: Because it’s someone else’s influence on top of the original influence.

JC: Yeah, it’s just, you know, whatever [chuckles]. But anyway, that’s pretty much how we’ve grown to think about music, and ourselves, and what we want to try to do, what we want to try to create. Also, the electronic music world, that’s a world that moves extremely fast, with a lot of trends, and I think realistically being thirty-something guys, with our background, and where we come from musically, that’s not a game that we could play well. That’s a game for some other type of musician, like either a twenty-two-year-old kid from London that’s super inspired and is making some raw shit that no one has ever heard before, or a guy who has been in it for a long time and understands it really well. That’s not our background, and that’s just a game that we don’t want to play, didn’t want to play, trying to keep up with that. It was more we wanted to write an album of music.

A: That’s an unfortunate case, though, where a lot of artists are well known for a year or something like that and then quickly disappear. That happens a lot in electronic music, and even things like dubstep, as much as people like it now, it will eventually fade away.

JC: Yeah, I mean it’s definitely something we’re fighting also because we are associated with a tropical, 2009 wave of tropical-inspired electro, or whatever it is that was at the time when we started making music. I definitely feel the force of people wanting to tell us that’s not relevant anymore like they would in the electronic world. I think the album that we wrote, I believe, transcends that because the core of every song that we wrote could be from anything. But, I definitely feel the “game,” just in terms of how people write about us, and I guess that’s the price of making music in part of that world.

A: Even with this in mind, you guys have done really well for yourselves.

JC: [humbly] Thank you, I think so too.

A: And honestly, I had a huge electronic phase a couple of years ago, and it’s kind of gone away, well, sort of.

EE: I had a Zeppelin phase a couple of years ago [laughs]. I listened to nothing but Zeppelin, and now I don’t. Although when I hear the songs on the radio I know them all.

A: Well that’s good at least. It’s just one of those things where I had that huge phase, but I don’t really need to go back to it, and a lot of the songs, I don’t feel, have really kept up with my life. I don’t really feel anything for them anymore, whereas something like what you both have done can last for years and years, the lyrics especially. It’s the kind of stuff that happens in all walks of life, so it’s very relatable.

JC: I hope so. It’s interesting, releasing music in 2012 is completely different than releasing music in 2009. It’s amazing how much things change, and how quickly they change.

EE: Our perspective is different too. It makes a real difference.

A: And considering how far you guys have come, what excites you about the current situation and everything that’s going on right now?

EE: In terms of everything that’s going right now, the most exciting thing is playing for people, you know, looking forward to a show that day, and when it’s over the show the next day. Maybe not so much the day off because we’re having to drive for a long time or get up at seven in the morning to drive to Seattle to play on the radio at noon. But, we still look forward to it.

A: What does the future hold you, then? And what are your plans after the tour?

JC: If you have a career as an artist or an entertainer, and we have a career as both, it can be very difficult to plan for anything. Our plan is just to work hard, and try to seize every opportunity we can make for ourselves.

EE: We just say yes to everything.

JC: I mean, we want to do whatever we can to reach as many people as possible, and I don’t know how exactly you can do that. Right now is a hard time because a lot of things are out of our hands. We already wrote the album, we already made the artwork that we wanted to make. A lot of the creative decisions were made already, so it’s just letting the ball roll down the hill and see how far it goes. It’s not up to us anymore.

A: It’s more or less up to fans who want to listen to it.

JC: Yeah, we could say we only want to do these things, we only want to play these cities, we only want to do this. We’re not really trying to do that. We’re trying to do as much as much as we possibly can, honestly. I think that any audience is a good audience as far as I’m concerned, and I wanted to create as many experiences as possible where our music is the soundtrack.

A: That’s a great mentality.

EE: It’s exactly that, there’s no better feeling than that.

JC: We actually met these kids and our show was the first they ever went to.

A: Really?

EE: Yeah! You meet people like that and it’s like, “Wow.”

JC: It was crazy. I mean most people ten years later are embarrassed by the first show that they went to.

EE: Right. True.

A: Your first show?

EE: My first show? That’s hard to say…

JC: They Might Be Giants.

EE: My aunts took me to see The Temptations when I was eight-years-old.

A: That’s not the worst first show.

EE: Yeah, it was great. But what do I remember from it? Not much.

A: I don’t even want to tell you my first show.

JC: [insistently] You have to now.

EE: How bad could it be, unless it was Nickelback.

A: No, no, it wasn’t Nickelback. I absolutely despise them.

JC: But they’re Canadian. You’re contractually obligated to not hate them if you’re Canadian.

A: I feel like if you’re Canadian, you’re contractually obligated to hate Nickelback.

JC: Oh, I see, I see. So what was it?

A: Do you know the hip-hop group Swollen Members?

JC: Uh huh, are they from Vancouver?

A: Yeah, that was my first concert.

EE: I don’t even know them, so that’s not that bad.

JC: Yeah, that’s all right. What year was that? 2006?

A: No, I think it was 2002.

JC: So, you were eleven or twelve?

A: Yeah [laughs].

JC: All right, anything you do when you’re that old is fine. Just let it go.

EE: I would really not beat yourself up over that. It’s really not that bad. And once again, thank you for giving us gifts.

JC: Yes, thank you.

A: No worries at all. Thanks for taking the time to do the interview.