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Behavioral Experiments In Music: The Behavior Interview...

A band behaving boldly...
Brooklyn based trio Behavior is making music that not only satisfies the ears but also the intellect.  While other bands emerging out of this musical hub are buzzing in the usual blogs and running their flags up the indie flag pole, Behavior seem content to explore the same musical landscape much like a painter confronts a canvas.  Their approach to music and the music business is more in the tradition of early New York City artists like Talking Heads, Television, The Velvet Underground and Suicide.  Their exploration of "polyfidelic" recording and experimental approach to songwriting makes them one of the more interesting bands on the horizon.  "What Duvet Said..." conducted an interview with all three members, Bryce Hackford (vocals/guitars/synth/effects), Ian Campbell (bass), and Khira Jordan (drums) over email.  The result is a intriguing look at a musical group that is just as much at home in an art gallery as a Rock club.  By clicking on the title link or the band's name at top of article you can find Behavior's music via their Bandcamp site. 

So give a bit of background on the band.  How long have you all been together?  Other bands you were involved in, how you all met, etc.?

Ian: Bryce and I met on long island in high school through a local music scene. We met Khira two years ago shortly before forming the band. I have been playing in a succession of bands since junior high school, most extensively with a Brooklyn band called Bent Outta Shape.

What were some early influences?

Khira: Lol Tolhurst probably has a lot to do with the way I appreciate, listen to, and play percussion. Stephen Morris, too. I’ve always preferred the sort of style that is driving and decorative, but never excessive.

Ian: I think taste is quite varied within the band, for me thinking about other New York bands like the Talking Heads, Television or The Velvet Underground set precedents for what it could be like to be a band in the city, navigating through varied types of venues from house parties to art galleries and trying to make music that is appropriate and exciting in both.
In the New York Free Press interview you describe the band’s sound as “poli-fi”, could you expand on that a bit more?

Bryce: This idea of “poly-fidelity” developed out of experimental processes with recording equipment. The whole idea of pop is based on recordings, recordings of recordings... As with sampling, and the shifts in medium and the way older recordings are preserved, it naturally follows, that ideas of fidelity will all become compromised and incorporated into those that follow. It's essentially combination, center of the Venn.

Ian: It’s an exciting concept for me to appreciate the emotive potentials of high, low, clean, chaotic, recording qualities and exploit them all as a means of creating a richer and more complex sound.

How are the songs written (is there one songwriter or is it more collaborative)?

Khira:  We sort of “discover” our songs. They turn up everywhere: inside other songs, between songs on stage, during sessions of pure improvisation and adventure in the studio. A Behavior track, wherever it comes from, is always a snapshot of a moment when Bryce, Ian, and I looked at each other and said, “Eureka!”

Ian: All of our songs so far have developed out of free playing, stumbling across a rhythm or melody, repeating and constructing.

I found this to be an interesting quote with regards to your songs and maybe music more generally: “I like treating songs as found objects because we haven’t paid for anything,” says Campbell. “It’s such a small operation. I’m interested in the found object and thinking about songs as just things around you that are free to be taken. You can work them into your own conversations.”  Are you commenting on the songs as “pieces of art” or the way music gets distributed and reaches an audience, given the current climate of file sharing?

Ian: This quote was originally talking about distributing the music on cassette and public file sharing. All of our music both recorded and live includes appropriated sounds, some commercial music, some field recording, it is important to the way we use this material that there is an equalizing between these different types of found sound, an approach which has evolved from traditional ideas of authorship and ownership of sound.

Tell me a bit about how Lands End was recorded?  What label? Who produced it? Was there a sound in mind or record that guided the recording process?

BryceLands End was recorded at the loft where we have a studio. I do most of the engineering and producing, and our dialogue is a big part of how we achieve the mixes. As a result of the previous comment - that most music considered is recordings - it only follows that production would become a widespread and significantly appreciated art form - dance music, dub, electronic music, pop from 60's to present, etc. Recordings and performances should not mirror each other, but they do have a deep correspondence.

Khira: I think the three of us share similar tastes, so it’s not very surprising that we would end up making music we all grew up enjoying, like Joy Division and The Cure. But, with that said, we honestly never actually know what a song will sound like until we make it, so I wouldn’t say Lands End was “intended” to sound any particular way - other than just something we, for whatever reason, believe in and love.

Ian: This record was released on cassette by WHIP records and distributed freely on the internet. It was recorded and produced by Bryce in his studio with the advising and guidance of Khira and I. I think the biggest influence on us was, really, “us” and our previous release Beautiful Child. We covered two Fleetwood Mac songs. It was our first recording since kicking out our keyboardist Toshio Masuda. By trying to apply our new setup to these readymade songs we were able to explore our new freedoms and boundaries as a three piece. After that session we applied that new setup, including more group singing to fill out the sound, a more prominent and deliberate use of audio collage and a more structured approach to the songs, to our original material and that resulted in Lands End.

The production of Lands End, particularly the drum and “keyboard” sounds were reminiscent of early to mid 80’s synth sounds.  I hear shades of OMD, early Cure and Joy Division, but with more of a dreamy and expansive quality…less “pent up” for lack of a better description. Was that and influence or inspiration?

Bryce:  These artists have certainly had their effect on each of us to some extent, and we also share a lot of the same influence (Krautrock, Eno). We use some of the same devices, but we aren't trying to forge a new identity through synthesizers alone.

I also hear a bit of Animal Collective in your sound, maybe a bit more guitar driven, is that a fair comparison?

Bryce:  It is undeniable that Animal Collective and The Skaters have had a pervasive influence on contemporary music. I don't know any AC songs, but was blown away when we started to travel and every band around had a notable influence... There are certainly similarities but I get the sense they have pretty different aims. I think Person Pitch would be the standout for me.

Ian: I don’t actually hear that comparison that often, more often comparisons to the former question, it is certainly a fair comparison however I think out interests in sound and approach to being in a band seem to me to be quite different.

How important is it to have the music be danceable, if at all?

Bryce:  I always respond to dance music in a way that I want to respond to Behavior's music.

Khira: I wonder about that too. I think “intention” plays a very, very marginalized role in the way we make music. The fact that most of our songs teeter on the edge of dance music is not a coincidence, but it’s also not really a calculation. Either way, people always end up dancing at our shows, and we’re really into that.

Ian: It is important that our music be open enough that it is appropriate in a variety of settings. It is important that it can be danceable if the audience wants to dance. I think flexibility required to do this creates for me an exciting way for us to play the songs as a DJ would play them, syncopating with a variable surrounding.

How would you characterize the current state of music or the music scene?  It seems like it’s very competitive and “dog-eat-dog”?  What has your experience been like getting your music out there and playing live?

Ian: I don’t find it to be “dog-eat-dog” at all. There are lots of great bands, lots of excitement. The realities of how a band can support itself logistically and financially it seems is in flux from top to bottom in the industry, it can be discouraging, but in all my experience with bands faith in the music and the projects ability to survive and thrive is still in my mind.

Khira:  We’re pretty laidback when it comes to engaging with “the scene.” It can be incestuous and nepotistic, maybe even a bit monopolistic, but what artistic field isn’t? We just aren’t really involved in any of that. We’re ambitious but not cutthroat or obsessive. We do great shows, records, and collaborative projects, even though we may not be playing the game the way we’re supposed to.

Bryce:  Fuck all the haters. We are the best.

How is the “live” Behavior experience different from listening to your recording?  Are there things you are able to get across live that you can’t in the studio?

Ian: The experience of playing and recording are two vastly different performances, the idea is that they help each other, but for me hold vastly different sets of risk and reward. Live there is a tradition of rock and roll bands which our set up is most closely related, and that performance truly resembles that, however in our manipulation, distortion and layering of the sounds we are producing results in a sound more complicated and accounting for developments in pop music. Recording I think we fit way more closely into a contemporary model of home recording which is now the norm for even platinum selling records which is a huge departure from the tradition both in form and experience.

What live shows do you have coming up in support of Lands End?

Ian:  Friday, February 11th @ The Gutter (200 N. 14th, Brooklyn, NY)

Wednesday, February 23rd @ Volume2 Gallery (33 24th Pl., Venice, CA)

Khira:  We just finished up a couple great gigs at Santos Party House and the 92Y Tribeca, with plenty more New York shows planned for the 2011.

Any plans on touring?

Ian: Nothing certain.

Khira:  We’ll be on the west coast in February, and in Europe in the fall. More is always in the works.

Bryce:  We have been curated in a show at Vienna’s Kunsthalle, and are working on a surrounding European tour.

Where would you like to see Behavior be in the next couple of years?

Bryce:  Cover of Vogue.

Ian: There has been lots of talk of a European tour to coincide with some other artistic ventures next fall. We are all collaborating now on a play, a rendition of Shakespeare’s   The Tempest, and in some short films. I hope that the band continues to remain fluid enough to accommodate to the constant pressure of survival in New York City.

Khira:  We have plans to relocate across the Atlantic for a spell, so I’d definitely like to do that before 2012 rolls around.

If you guys could work with anyone who would they, he, or she be?

Bryce:  Nicki Minaj.

Ian: Werner Herzog.

Khira:  Jackie Wilson or Jay-Z.

“Ridiculous but Necessary Questions”
What is your favorite cheese?
Bryce:  Bleu.
Khira:  Fontina.
Ian:  Goat.

Thomas Dolby or Herbie Hancock?
Bryce:  Herb.
Khira:  Herbie.
Ian:  Herbie.

Beverley Hills 90210 or Gossip Girl?
Bryce:  Um, BH.
Khira:  Beverly Hills 90210. I’ve never seen the show, but it’s my hometown, so I’m compelled.
Ian:  90210.

The author whose work most resembles Behavior?
Bryce:  Conrad.
Khira:  Henry James.
Ian:  We don’t believe in authors.

A month in the van with anyone (your pick)?
Bryce:  Ciara.
Khira:  My best friend, I haven’t seen her in a really long time.
Ian:  Louis Armstrong.

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