As part of the ConSouling Sounds EP series, Syndrome and thisquietarmy recently released their Split collaboration The Lonely Mountain. Daniela reviewed this EP for Ech(((o)))es and Dust and wanted to find out more so she asked Eric Quach of thisquietarmy some questions before he left Montreal for another long tour.
(((o))): Hi Eric, how is it going?
Eric: Good, I’m currently writing this on the way to Quebec City for a gig, last one in Canada before flying to Europe next week.
(((o))): How’s life in Montreal?
Eric: Montreal is sick of winter, we can’t take it anymore - it’s been a long 6 months and we just had yet another snowstorm last weekend. Besides that, all is fine, managed to get some work done for the next tour and albums, spent time with friends and family, went to see some good shows, do typical Montreal stuff... there's still quite a lot to do in winter despite being cold, if not we just stay in and work on art.
(((o))): Eric, have you ever been to Gent?
Eric: Yes, I’ve been there many times, it’s almost like a second home lately. The people from ConSouling Sounds are based there and they have been very hospitable when I have days off on tour. I’m looking forward to the opening of their new brick and mortar record store opening on April 5th, and playing there on Record Store Day, April 19th.
(((o))): Let’s start at the very beginning. How did you start producing music?
Eric: I started producing music in my bedroom, shortly after I picked up an acoustic guitar around the 00’s. I used to paint a lot as an artistic mean of expression and I just wanted to translate that creative spirit in the same way but with sounds. A couple of years later, I started picking up the electric guitar and pedals and founded Destroyalldreamers where I’ve been heavily involved with the production of our demo and subsequent albums. By the time I started thisquietarmy, I felt more confident in my abilities as a composer and producer.
(((o))): When and where did you meet Mathieu of Syndrome for the first time? Any particular memory?
Eric: We met in June 2011 in Gent; I was on tour with Aidan Baker and we were booked in this old house in Gent with Syndrome. We each played in different rooms of the house. That’s when I met Mathieu and the ConSouling Sounds crew for the first time.
(((o))): How come did you decide to do a Split album with Syndrome? And how you managed to do it?
Eric: At that show, Mathieu gave me a copy of his first EP Floating Veins and mentioned an interest to collaborate. A couple of years later, I had recorded some tracks and asked Mathieu if he thought they were suitable for a collaboration.
(((o))): What is the idea behind The Lonely Mountain?
Eric: Since Mathieu took care of completing the tracks I gave him, I also let him pick the concept and titles. But I suppose the concept is about a specific mood or an atmosphere, suggested themes stem from the chosen titles.
Syndrome and thisquietarmy
(((o))): Should you describe it with one word which one would you choose?
(((o))): I like your Split album and the live track is brilliant. How was playing live together like?
Eric: It was great, we always talked about doing a live improvisation the next time we did a show together, and it happened in Brussels at M4. We didn’t prepare anything, we just talked about what it could be and how we’d start it… I did several live collaborations before so I was confident enough about doing it. Eventually once we were into it, the improvisation just took a life of its own and guided us through the whole thing.
(((o))): What did you enjoy most? Were there any difficulties in the cooperation?
Eric: I think that both thisquietarmy and Syndrome solo sets are very detailed, melodic, thought-through and rehearsed. So I think it was great to just let go and see where it led us, I enjoy the darker noisier abstract aspect of what becomes, together. And we knew that it was OK to do something different, especially since that's what happened with our record. In the end, it was collaboration in its true sense and our style was quickly defined.
(((o))): Eric, I appreciate your works together with Aidan Baker, Year Of No Light and Labirinto. Why do you like these kind of collaborations so much? Is there something you are particularly looking for?
Eric: Playing and collaborating with people is always very different than playing solo where you may be in control of everything but are also very limited in your own capacities. When playing with different musicians, it allows more dynamics and interaction, things can get less predictable. The situation creates new ideas that you’d never come up with on your own. At the same time, it’s different than to be committed with a band where there’s a long-term relationship with the members of the band. Collaborations are like one-night stands basically and whatever happens happen, for better or for worse, and I'm always up to others as long as I respect the other musician or band. I actually have a collaboration with Noveller coming up soon on Shelter Press which was recorded early last year in Brooklyn, New York - look out for it.
(((o))): I saw both you and Syndrome playing live recently, thisquietarmy in Berlin supporting Caspian and Syndrome at Dunk! Festival 2013 when Mathieu played that awesome 28 minutes long track. Would you rather play in small venues or larger venues?
Eric: Larger venues usually have a better and bigger sound system that can handle what I’d like to achieve soundwise (wide frequency range, bassy low end, crisp details), so it’s always exciting to play big venues and to be exposed to more people. However, I like the intimacy of the small venues where everyone is cramped up – the sound may not be as good but at the same time, there is no escape and it’s more effective to connect with the audience... or rather the audience can connect more easily with me and not be distracted by larger, unfocused spaces.
(((o))): With whom would you want to do a tour/concert with?
Eric: I could say Godspeed, Swans, Low, Slowdive, Mogwai or whoever - but the best may be people that you already like and that you get along with because a tour can be long.
(((o))): Do you ever get lost in the music?
Eric: I get lost every time I perform.
(((o))): What are you working on right now?
Eric: Finalizing the logistic details of my upcoming tour, and also other touring projects for the fall. Music-wise, I’ve been developing some ideas here and there, recording some demos, maybe planning my next album a little bit more differently this time and just going with the flow. Locally, I've been doing a lot of live collaborations with local bands that I play shows with, to perform tracks from Hex Mountains... who knows, maybe I'll bring it more collaborators for the next one as well.
(((o))): What do you listen to when you’re not writing music?
Eric: I try to listen what’s going on but it’s hard to keep up with everything, always going back to older stuff. These days, I really only discover new bands on tour, with the festivals that I play or the bands that I happen to cross paths with.
(((o))): Eric thank you very much for your time. Any last words?
Eric: Thanks so much for your support, and hopefully see you on the next tour – I’ll be playing 30+ shows in Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Norway and UK from April 12 to May 26. Check out my website for the dates.