Deliciously dark yet diligently delicate, Remy Zero’s third album ‘The Golden Hum’ comes thundering from across the seas. At a time when the current Atlantic import seems to be a tidal wave of Nu-metal, Remy Zero bring with them a breathe of fresh indie air! On a chilled winters day back in early February I caught up with the band prior to their Borderline gig – their first UK gig in 3 years. With front man Cinjun fast asleep, and guitarist Jeffery sound checking bassist Cedric and Drummer Gregory took up the challenge!
Firstly your name, explain to the British public how it materialised as I’ve read many conflicting accounts of how exactly it was acquired. ‘Well we all remember it in slightly different ways’-Cedric, It’s like a dream now it was so long ago that everyone’s got their own story. There’s a private detective called Remy Zero that died in the Chicago fire, there’s lots of ways. I don’t really subscribe to any of them. – Gregory. The honest answer would be Shelby, Cinjun's brother named the band and it’s from a pilot character, he said he named it after him, Cinjun and I always thought it was, because we’re all big Kate Bush fans when we were kids from her song ‘Army Dreamers’ were in the second verse of the song, there’s something about Mommy’s hero and we always thought it was Remy Zero, and we were to Shelby ‘That’s where you got it from really like’ No one’s really owned up to how we got it, character in a film, character in a book, there’s a silent movie I think that has a Remy Zero in it You pick your favourite story and that’ll be it!
The most infamous story has to be about contacting the original musician named Remy Zero whose early recording were given to Shelby as a boy. It’s a nice enough story, but have the band managed to ever do this? Actually we have never made contact with him so much as we just found some of his work and sort of tried to bring it to life. How much of an influence do you believe his work is and was to you and how much have you incorporated in your own? I think it’s more maybe in the moods, they were darker moods but Alabama is a dark placed filled with lots of light scenery. So you see a lot of beautiful things but scratch below the surface and there’s a lot of prejudice and other things like that and I think a lot of his music had that kind of reverberation, darker tones to it so we picked up on that and it was the stepping off point for us to get to where we are now.
If you haven’t heard Remy Zero you might frequently have come across the lazy journalistic comparison that seems to haunt them! According to this Remy Zero sound like REM mixed with Radiohead but what do the band think to this compassion? I mean we met Radiohead right before Pablo Honey came out and it was cool because they were kids like us who listened to the same records and in that sense we are similar as we came from the same musical background. I think that our record collections are where the similarities stop. I think they have beautiful voices, not the same type of voices but the fact that they both have pretty voices I think makes people sort of lazily put us in the same category.
Before recording ‘The golden hum’ Remy Zero party company with Geffen records. - but how did this come about? Was it an instant transition to Elektra or was there any time when they regretted their decision? We floated a lot but we never regretted anything. We will float but not regret! I mean we had to move on. It was just like having an amicable separation from a romantic relationship. We saw that it wasn’t going to possibly work both sides realised that and we were let go. It was a nice thing for them to do but it was good for us because we had to find out what we really wanted to do. Did we want to stay as a band? Record the next album? What did we want that to be? What statement did we want to make? We had a year to think about that.
With Remy just about to release ‘The Golden Hum’, their third album in the UK, this brings us to…
Talking on a completely personal level, to me ‘The Golden Hum’ seems to be some kind of turning point, almost a metaphoric battle between light and darkness, where someone in the middle light wins. It seems to me to contain a greater sense of optimism and expectation of what is to come, more so than the other two albums – but what do the band think to this analogy? Wow! That’s a great way to put it I mean I can’t say anything better than that. That’s pretty flattering. I don’t know if that was conscious but I think that happened while we were making the album it started off like almost trying to get something off the ground again. Slowly we saw something taking shape and we probably did get lighter or at least we changed our focus we might have been down at the beginning you may be right about that. It’s like a blur it’s like your on a really speedy vehicle most of your life and you’re with four other people, you don’t have time to actually think about what’s going on it just starts happening. After The Villa Elaine, Cinjun and Gregory and I have all been divorced, Shelby had kids and with what we went through it’s all like going through the centre of the earth and we’ve all struggled, The Villa Elaine was situationally what we were going through but this record is more about the internals spaces and the dark shit you were dealing with and how you were dealing with it, so there’s a lot of depth, a real sort of spiritual quest.
What are main influences behind ‘The Golden Hum’? It’s just a progression, the chaos that happened in the last three years. Imagine if every time something happened to you, you wrote it down or tried to put a tune to it, it’s kind of like that.
This album seems to have a deeper sense of clarity and almost a mutual band understanding how was this achieved in recording? It’s like joining a cult at first you don’t know all the rules, then slowly you learn them. Being together, or just working together for such a long time. When we left that label it was the first time in a long time that we were outside of all the mechanisms. We had to make a decision about what we wanted, I mean to put out records the same way we would have done? Instead of taking things for granted we had to go in a certain direction musically and I think it created a sense of unified purpose.
I’ve heard great things about your studio set-up could you explain exactly how you worked to achieve this album? We gambled a lot and won a lot. By gambling I mean we’ve gone to different record labels and we could have all brought a car or done something with money but instead we got studio equipment because we needed it. All we really wanted to do was know that we could make records, and that’s the ultimate achievement.
What was it like working with Jack Joseph Puig? It’s like working with your really genius uncle, who is a little bit blunt and so are you and you meet each other halfway a lot. You want to see his side of things. We’re doing it within our band and we let him in and we follow his instincts. He had a lot of instincts that we may have not come to that conclusion the five of us. He was seeing a side of us that we can’t see because he was looking from the outside in. It’s the first time we’ve really ever let someone in that close to help us do that. Did he input into each song? Each song he had something to say, but just like us he had as little or as much to say as he thought was needed, sometimes he thought we had it pretty well covered and he just helped with a few little things to adjust, and then sometimes he had whole mantras of things to say.
Sound track work for Remy Zero seems to be quite common, mainly because there is a definite dramatic and powerful element to their work. The use of ‘Save Me’ as the title track from Wb’s Smallville launched Remy Zero into the homes of many UK music lovers, but what did the band think of Wb’s decision to use ‘Save Me, as the title track for ‘Smallville’ and did they have film or television in mind when writing any of the songs or albums? You always think visually, I mean anytime people use adjectives that’s trying to make something seem visual so the songs are adjectives for the visuals. We never think about television so much as we think about movies, we were writing, not for a particular movie but just movies and sceneries. When writing we’ve formed the idea of imaginary sound tracks, we do that a lot. Cinjun wants to make films and we always set up songs like we were trying to describe them, describe a scene or a character or what’s going on. When they made that decision to use the song, it was fantastic for us. It reaches audiences we may not have reached at our own concerts. It’s good because there is something to be said for the way superheroes are always trying to get over adversities somehow, I can relate to that. Musicians and artists do that a lot. It doesn’t mean that we’re superheroes, what I mean is there’s adversity and the way we get through it is by trying to focus on this one situation. We pop up on television a lot, I think it’s because some of the lyrical content; the soundscapes are very composed sounding.
Also will the single version of ‘Save Me’ be like the Smallville version? No way! Television makes their own different world. They have nothing to do with that the album is like and doing, definitely separate. They have to be like that, they are church and state the way it’s supposed to be. When I watch television I turn down the volume and listen to other albums. Even if I’m watching ‘Smallville’ I’m not listening to the dialect. I’ve never really watched it all I’ve just listened to the theme tune…see that’s cool I’d love it if people just tuned in ever week for three minutes. That would say something to the public they’d be “we really need to think about this ‘Save Me’ song that’s pretty good”
You seem to be able to achieve a great diversity in your styles ranging from really dark and brooding tracks to the most delicate poetic inklings, how is this achieved? By living your life! Whatever tortuous pain you may have felt, believe it or not I felt that pain, that maybe my role in the band. I bring one of those experiences, he has other experiences, they all come in and they become songs it’s the only way that we can stay focused without going mad. We’ve all almost been committed before into asylums, everybody has whether it’s a real asylum or just a place in your mind that you can’t get away from, a dark place, those echo out throughout the years. We’re just picking up channels of music; it’s gone on for centuries. Music is a healing thing.
As a band do you all have set roles, or are you integrated in creating your music as a unit? I can make a good Tai curry. It’s fantastic he’s a wonderful cook; he has a real way with spices. Anybody can do whatever it takes to make a recording happen, I can play drums serviceably, and he plays keyboard and guitar but if I really want it to sound great, then he has to play the drums and I have to play the bass. What it is also, is we have enough respect for each other that we do as little or as much as needed from each of us to make something form and in our opinion perfect or finished, which really is never finished because it’s not finished until the audience hears it and then it’s then it goes into their imagination and it’s no longer just our responsibility anymore. They have come up with lyrics that we would never have thought of and that’s great. But while we’re in that position of writing things, if I hear his instincts and know he’s going somewhere I fall silent. It’s like taking a vote in some sort of congress when to fight with knowledge and not to fight. We all have egos but we’ve sat on the side, probably 95 % of the time and 5% of the time we’re just like every other country we always want to be at war!
Until that night I’d never been able to see Remy live. It was defiantly am experience, but what can the audience come to expect? I think all the songs off of the record except two will be played tonight. And will ‘Chromosome’ be played? You’ve just answered my own question. We’ll play it for you! I’ve always wanted to play that song and I’ll go on record saying that that is my favourite Remy Zero song! Mmm probably not maybe second favourite, I can’t think of the first right now mm ‘Christmas’ is one of my favourites, there’s a lot of songs I love. There’s a lot of songs of off the new album I love but I always want to play ‘Chromosome’, no matter what’s going on. We’ll play it for you though.
For you does this album emulate live and rehearsal performances? This is almost the stepping off point to our live show. It’s the closest thing that we’ve ever gotten on record to our live show.
The Borderline for those who do not know, is a small and intimate venue. How do they feel about playing large venues in the US to playing small capacity in the UK? If someone comes into a small place with huge energy then it’s a big place. This place is going to feel big when the music is going on if you don’t think about it in an architectural sense then it is big. We’re gonna be excited and you guys are gonna be excited, it makes it bigger than what it is actually. Talk gradually moves on to the subject of Travis and other UK bands making it in the US.
Are there any differences in the way in which you are perceived by both the US and UK public? I think people listen to music here, take it much more seriously generally speaking than Music fans in the US so I think the perception is a little more intelligent and more in-depth. But obviously we are a lot more well known over there!
Many have said that the industry and in particular the fans seem to be stuck in a musical apathy although not true for everyone. In the US do you come across such feelings or is this apathy just a feature of the UK music scene. Yer defiantly we get that. I don’t know what the root of it is, people are just use to the whole scene. But it seems that people have just become lazier and more disinterested in things in general and music is no exception. It’s so easy to get music say download it there’s no real passion.
What do you think to the current scene and trends in both the US and the UK? It’s always terrible, all trends are always terrible.
How many singles do you plan to release off of the album? Has there been any mention of maybe laying down the foundations for another album? Eleven! I think all the songs should be singles. They should all be in the UK chart at the same time. As for a new album the foundations are already laid down now it’s just the rest of the architecture, the plumbing, the harder part. The concepts always flow out. We have lots of skeletons of songs already.
Is making it in the UK a priority? We would rather be here and in Europe all the time! We would stay here. I don’t want anyone to think it’s by our own choice that we haven’t been back here, we truly love the people in London we love Europe, everything about it we really do. I haven’t found a bad spot yet in London, maybe musically but people here really listen, I mean at least the one’s I’ve met listen, it’s refreshing it’s nice.
Where do you go from now? Any plans to extensively tour with the golden hum over in the UK? Maybe festival appearances? Definitely, everything that you just said we’re gonna try to do as much as we can. I want to do everything as much as we can. I mean we were on the Reading bill a couple of years ago and then we didn’t play. I don’t know what happened there, I came anyway though. What did happen? Well I don’t want to go into it, let’s just say we didn’t make it!
Looking back at any point in your career have there been times when you have just wanted to quit, and what pulled you through those times? Well it’s not like a job so much as the band’s like a relationship between musicians, we’ve been together so long it’s just what we do. There’s never really been anything else. So even if we weren’t playing and putting out records we’d be doing something together making private recordings and music. We never felt like we would ever break the band up.
Who have been your main influences in your careers, for example favourite albums that have had an impact on your work? There’s lots Cocteau Twins all their albums, Miles Davis almost all of his albums. There’s composers, there’s David Bowie anything he’s done. Roxy Music, Kate Bush mainly records like that. It’s really whole pieces of work that stand out on their own.
The Villa Elaine is seen by many as a turning point in your careers how do you view it? And what was it like working out of the comfort of your home studio for the first time? Comfort and home studio, are two words I try to put them together but at the time because we were all going through lot of painful situations, and growing up sort of situations I think that we may not have seen it for what it really was. It was a good turning point we learned a lot but we didn’t learn it till afterwards. During the time we were just obsessive and crazy and I don’t think we were focused I think the music came out of chaos. That Villa Elaine? That what you think? It certainly did. It was chaotic and there’s truth out of that chaos. It was anarchy. Did you find you would just rush down and record whenever you felt like it? Well that’s the beautiful part about it. It’s problematic though as it’s hard to get work done that way. It took longer to like produce because you need structure. A little discipline. There’s a good side to it. We’re such a family, living together and having the home studio and seeing each other 24 hours a day, we act like a family so there’s a constant friendly struggle going on within the album process. Does that put any pressure on the band seeing so much of each other? It makes it the best thing and the worst thing because we can’t live without it so I’m not going to say it’s bad because it isn’t bad it’s just necessary now. It’s like the way that you live.
Looking back now how do you feel about all three albums? I like the one we haven’t made yet! It’s like reading a diary from last year, from four years ago and six years ago, you don’t really have any positive or negative opinions, it’s just a factual record or where you were. It’s natural geographic territory for us. It’s a map.
As more and more band members took to a soundchecking stage the interview drew to a close – and not through lack of questions or importantly lack of answers. We could have talked for hours, unfortunately time just wasn’t on our side, and besides once Gregory took to the stage apart from being semi-mesmerised by his drumming, neither Cedric nor myself could really hear a thing. It was with an expectant note that I left the venue, three members sound checking and Cinjun somehow still sound asleep!