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Son, Ambulance

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Joe und Daniel Knapp, am: 12.05.2005 ]

Es ist sicher nicht übertrieben zu behaupten, dass Saddle Creek schon seit jeher eines der stilsichersten und beständigsten Labels im Indiezirkus ist. Diese herausragende Tradition was die Qualität des Rosters und des Outputs anbelangt unterstreicht das Label mit dem fantastischen zweiten Album "Key" von Son, Ambulance einmal mehr als zufriedenstellend. "Key" als Herbstplatte zu bezeichnen, ist sicherlich nicht unpassend, doch greift diese Floskel natürlich nicht weit genug, wenn man den herrlich nostalgischen und oftmals schwermütigen Popsongs der Band gerecht werden will. Grund genug bei Mastermind Joe Knapp und seinem Bruder Daniel mal genauer nachzuhaken. Wir sprachen über Schach, Björk, Saddle Creek und Vaterfreuden.


Musicscan: Tell me a little bit about how the tour has been so far?

Son, Ambulance: Joe: It has been the best tour ever so far. Our booking agent here is the best booking agent we have worked with. Berthold is really nice. We always played in really nice venues, which is something I always wanted. I want to avoid playing in really dirty clubs, which unfortunately happens a lot in the States. I want it to be a nice environment, more of an event. I feel like these shows are more like an event.

Musicscan: Have you had certain expectations before coming here? Did some other bands tell you about their experiences in Europe?

Son, Ambulance: Daniel: They just told us that it would be great over here. That we would get treated well, which doesn't really happen in the US. Every single show we have had was better than the majority of our shows in the US, except for Frankfurt which wasn't really that pretty. Everywhere else was fantastic.

Musicscan: How did you approach this album? What was the songwriting process like?

Son, Ambulance: Joe: It started right around the time when "Euphemistic" was finished and maybe even before that. There were some songs that I had been working on or had started writing and for the next three years they kind of became songs. In those three years, I was working with a lot of different musicians. So the songs kept changing. We had a drummer for a short while and I went to Lincoln and just spent a couple of weeks writing with this drummer. He ended up not wanting to do the band, he was kind of the temperamental artist type of guy. Songs like "Houseguest" were done around that time. Songs would just change shape constantly. I had this song called "The Kite Song", it was just going to be this string arrangement and the sounds of engines turning on and off, but that song turned into "Houseguest".

Musicscan: Do you write all the songs on your own or do you also incorporate other people in the songwriting process?

Son, Ambulance: Joe: With "Euphemistic" I was writing everything myself. I would write the keyboard parts and teach it to someone and I would have a lot more control over the drums and everything. After that I broke away from that, because I thought the album was kind of encouraging the people I was working with to express themselves and not put any restrains on the people I work with. When Dylan started playing guitar for us, he is our cousin, and I didn't want to tell him anything about how to play. I didn't want to say things like "more passionate here". I just encouraged him to let his soul lose in the music and I think that makes the music more potent. Daniel also started to play the piano during those three years. He didn't know how to play before. Growing up he didn't seem interested in music.

Musicscan: Do you feel like the band now is a more solid formation that is going to last for a longer time? Or is it still a flexible entity with people coming and going?

Son, Ambulance: Daniel: It is mostly solid. Our drummer Cory couldn't come on this tour, because he is in Statistics. You have probably heard of them, they have toured over here. He owns his own glass blowing business and he works a full day-time job painting houses. He is really busy. We are not always sure if he can make it, especially for tours.
Joe: I think right now, we have plans to write new stuff and write a new album together in the summer. We will see what happens.

Musicscan: Why does it take you so long to get stuff released?

Son, Ambulance: Daniel: Back then it was because of changing members.
Joe: I was trying to get into the studio, though, the whole time, but everyone was recording. There were so many records recorded during that time in Mike's studio. Cursives "The Ugly Organ", both latest The Good Life releases, Bright Eyes "Lifted..." was recorded during that time, so the studio was always booked. You have to book way ahead of time. We would go in for a weekend and then we would try to find the next free day for us to drive up and work on it some more. There would be lapses of several months where we couldn't get studio time. At one point, all the stuff that we had recorded...the hard drive got messed up and all the files got corrupted. So we had to redo tons of stuff and that ended up taking a really long time.

Musicscan: Would you say you are a perfectionist, at least in the studio?

Son, Ambulance: Joe: I used to be a lot more so. Right now I want to experiment and let something come off as naturally as possible and then I will feel better about it. If I am going to be perfectionist about it, then when does it end? It's never good enough and then it would bother me, because I would never release anything.

Musicscan: Do you feel a certain pressure with all the other bands coming from Omaha, too? Is there some sort of competition or is it really all hugs and friendship as it is always made out to be?

Son, Ambulance: Joe: I feel like nobody can really catch us. It is not really competition. I mean it can be a competition, especially with pop music. The kind of band that would be played on MTV. There is a certain way you write music and songs can't be too long and things like that. I feel like we have always ignored any of those rules or have willingly broken those rules. I think what we are doing is uncompromising and that is how we win, because all those other bands compromise in some way, especially with record length. I mean even we had to compromise our record length. Our original master of "Key" was 72 minutes, which is the longest you can fit on a CD. The record label was like "no way, this will bore the hell out of people". I was kind of upset, because that is like telling Tolstoi that his pieces are too long.

Musicscan: Do you feel like you have more of a business relationship with Saddle Creek than something like a friendship?

Son, Ambulance: Joe: Yes, it is. I mean it is a friendship and a business relationship. I think you have to try really hard to be friends. I could hang around the office a lot more and be more involved with the label, but that would take a lot of effort. Daniel: We used to hang out a lot, but everyone has their own personal lives, too. We see these guys a lot, but we don't see them day to day. So I guess that makes it more of a business relationship than a friendship.

Musicscan: I believe you have been struggling for a long time to decide if you wanted to pursue music full-time? When did you realize that music was what you wanted to do in your life?

Son, Ambulance: Joe: I don't think I ever did realize that. I think it just happened. It is just something that I have always done. Maybe it was when I stopped playing chess. I was kind of getting serious about chess and at one point I decided to quit playing chess, because I didn't have time to do that and music. I mean I could go back to playing chess. I though about it, because it is something I really like. It is just so time consuming. It takes away from other aspects of your life and music is, too, but music rather goes hand in hand with life. If you want to be a chess master, it is pretty much like school. It is basically studying. Same thing with school. I have so many interests, I would love to go back to school and get my master's in something like philosophy or medicine, but that sucks away from your life, too. If I was going to do that and have a job, where would I have time for music? Music was easy to decide on, because it has always been there. I just wanted to pursue that.

Musicscan: Doesn't that entail being away from your son a lot, too, though?

Son, Ambulance: Joe: It is hard being away from Neil, for him and for me, but we have it worked out. He is ok with me not being there all the time, he is fine with that. I talked to him about it and he deals really well with having his own space and he doesn't need me there all the time. When we do spend time together, it is really quality time. The time we spend together is so concentrated that it takes tons of time to think about it.

Musicscan: What changed for you in your life once you became a father? Did it influence your music as well?

Son, Ambulance: Joe: I think it made me grow up, but music did, too. When I became a father was just around the time when I started playing in Bright Eyes and when I started to live on my own all at the same time. I think I had to grow up really fast, but the ties I had through music really helped me turn my life around. For instance, I didn't really get along with my parents. I hated my family, but it was all really therapeutic for me. Playing music made me feel like going into adulthood and it made more sense. There was so much I had to come to terms with as far as being a dad was concerned. It made me more of an independent thinker and that also applies to music and writing.

Musicscan: Would you consider yourself an optimist, since your music doesn't sound as dark and broody as most other music from Omaha?

Son, Ambulance: Joe: I have become less of an optimist. I used to have these really idealistic thoughts. I thought I could save the world and I would write music with that belief in mind. I thought everyone could just snap out of it and the world would be a perfect place, the world in my mind. I was just very much in my own world. I kind of ignored the outside world, because I wanted this to be true. So I wrote songs to snap out of this world. But I think that got me in trouble, because people didn't understand me and refused to believe that people didn't see things the way I did. Now I realize that people don't see the things the way I do. Maybe it is really disadvantageous to me to keep thinking like this. I mean I don't want to write sad, soppy songs. I want to inspire people. I want to evoke emotions through art.

Musicscan: Would you consider it a compliment or rather a form of criticism if someone called your music escapism?

Son, Ambulance: Joe: I think there is a negative connotation with escapism. That it is really unhealthy to escape from reality, but I mean maybe that is true. We don't really have a goal with our music, though. I don't want to put a cap on music. I always have to think of Björk. I love what she does. She doesn't have any boundaries and I love that. I want to be like that, too.

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