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My first interaction with Under came by way of an email as Eamonn Flynn had heard the show while driving in San Francisco and sent me some of his tracks...Â once I heard the music I was hooked.Â As an old New Wave head I couldn't help but connect the old "Sundays" sound with a more modern "Zero 7".
When I finally met these two in personÂ it was all over,Â EamonnÂ & Jen are not only two of the nicest people but also have their feet firmlyÂ rootedÂ in theÂ ground when it comes to their music and the industry.Â I couldn't help but want to hear more and work with them more, but we were only able to go as far as a big night of sushi and lots of saki!Â If I would have been able toÂ sign them rightÂ away I would have done it, butÂ running a smallÂ radio showÂ isn't easy... so it wasn't possible... but watching them growÂ over the past two yearsÂ has beenÂ very exciting!
They have a new album on the way, so I thought it was time to get back with them and see what is going on in their world...
Below Zero: Hey Eamonn & Jen hope you are both well, can you tell us about the background of â€œUnderâ€ and how the two of you met?
Jen: Hi Mason! We met through a mutual friend who thought we'd hit it off musically. From the first time playing together we realized we have bizarrely similar tastes and have been bickering ever since.
Eamonn: We started out writing songs in a little room in the Sunset district of San Francisco. We recorded everything as we went along onto a little tape deck that played everything back a little bit slow.Â Under became the name of the band because we wrote a song with that name and it just seemed to fit the tone of the music.
Below Zero: You had an amazing EP release that we ate up here at BZ, now I hear you have been in the studio working hard on a follow-up album?
Jen: Thanks for the compliment. Yes we recently finished the record which includes some different mixes of our EP songs, as well as a bunch of new ones. We had a really cool time making it and are pleased with it.
Eamonn: I would say that we are total slackers so I don't know about the working hard bit. We're also perfectionists on the scale of Fleetwood Mac making Rumours or My Bloody Valentine making Loveless, not that I think our album is anywhere near as good as either of those two. It is however, I believe, an honest representation of who we are at this point in time. We had some very talented people help us with it.Â Milosh programmed beats on a couple of songs. Joan Jeanrenaud, ex Kronos quartet, played a whole bunch of beautiful cello on it. And there are some excellent local musicians and engineers who worked on it: Ricky Carter, Daniel Berkman, Ronnie Smith, Paul Scriver, Stephen Smith, Justin Lieberman, Darryl Anders, Steve Adams... Because of that it feels to me at least, like a very San Franciscan album. Oh, and we used a compressor that used to belong to Brian WilsonÂ - and still has all his markings on it .... so hopefully it sounds just like Pet Sounds.
Below Zero: Can you tell us how the two of you work together when it comes to writing and recording?
Jen: It's different all of the time because of how moody we both are. Sometimes it's super fun and easy and others it's a bit more edgy. But the result is usually something genuine. We do a lot of 'cyber-writing', passing pieces of songs back and forth late nights from our computers. When we record, neither of us really bothers or criticizes the other. We just sit back and listen to what the other is doing, and enjoy it.
Eamonn: Step one is load up the bong...Â Some of the time Jen writes everything and I just claim writing credit cos I do all the hard work. Sometimes she emails me a file and I mess with it and maybe take it somewhere else or realise what she did was better and leave it as is. Sometimes I give her something I've been working on and she puts her melancholic genius all over it. Sometimes we actually get together like a real band. We work a lot on our little computer recording set ups at home using Pro Tools, Ableton, putting drums through karaoke machines etc... Then we bring it all in to posh expensive studios to record live drums, cello etc... and have real engineers make sense of our bizarre files and make them sound good, or at least better.
Below Zero: Where do you both get your main inspirations from when it comes to your creating but also your sound?
Jen: I am hugely inspired by spacious music, such as R&B. Simple, gorgeous songs that don't irritate you by the first chorus are inspirational to me. I love music that moves me, whether it be because of the beats, the production, the sentiment or the musicianship. But sometimes when someone is too good (ie: Mozart) it has the opposite effect and I don't write a song for a while, thinking, "I can't compete with that!"
Eamonn: This is going to sound incredibly pretentious but I don't care: Kieslowski's films and Tolstoy's novels have had a big effect on both of us as has anything in any art form that is brilliant, boring and tragic! In terms of the sound: we didn't really have any specific people we tried to emulate to get whatever sound we have, if we have one. People have compared us to Zero 7 and Jen's voice to Harriet Wheeler from The Sundays and they are flattering comparisons and probably useful if you were trying to describe what we sound like to someone.
Below Zero: What are your New Yearâ€™s Resolutions?
Jen: I truly have none. I barely noticed the the change of the year.
Eamonn: I never make any.
Below Zero: Are you feeling the hope with our new President?
Jen: I still think I'm watching a movie when I see him on TV. It's much too good to be true.
Below Zero: What is your favorite dish to make if we came over tonight for dinner?
Jen: Ahhh, tough question. I think I'd start by opening the wine and hope we all forgot about the food part...
Eamonn: Is Sinukus showing up too? Better get lots of beer. It's freezing out as I write this so Irish stew, brown bread and butter and bottles of Guinness.
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