The Saddest Landscape vocalist/guitarist Andy Maddox discusses the band's new album, After the Lights, the current music scene, vinyl hunting and more.
Your new album, After the Lights, comes out on Valentine's Day. Is that some kind of sick joke?
Yes. And by yes, I mean it sort of just worked out that way. Seth over at Topshelf suggested February 7th as a release date, and then almost immediately after that I think both of us in unison had the same thought of pushing it back a week and having it be on Valentine's Day. And with the subject matter of our songs and our borderline dark sense of humor, it seemed perfect. Plus, for some reason, I like the idea of someone being like, "Hey sweetie, happy Valentine's. I got you the new Saddest Landscape record," which most likely won’t happen - but if it did, oh my, I hope there were at least some flowers given at the same time.
How would you say After the Lights compares to your last album, You Will Not Survive?
I try to not compare the two that much. To me, it is just a continuation of everything we have done, each one a progression over the last. I do feel that this is thematically the next step. You Will Not Survive was a very dark record for me, simply in terms of the subject matter, and After the Lights is sort of the "what do I do with all of those feelings?" aftermath, and I would imagine the next record will build on that as well.
This will be your first full length on Topshelf Records. How did that deal come about?
Well, even though it is our first proper album for Topshelf, we have done two splits with them this past year, and were very happy with how those were handled. Plus, somewhere through that process we became friends with both Seth and Kevin, who run the label, and have come to simply trust and respect what it is they do, and we like to think the feeling is mutual. I wish there was some glamorous story involving signing contracts in blood or sacrificial virgins, but the reality is we wanted to work with them again and they luckily felt the same. We are also stoked to be on a label with so many like-minded bands who sound so diverse, to be labelmates with both Pianos Become the Teeth and Into It Over It is pretty rad. Also, have you heard Empire Empire, or Prawn, or Caravels, or By Surprise? Amazing bands, and we are just happy to be part of it all.
The album leaked more than a month in advance. What were your thoughts when you found out?
We just hoped that people would like it. At this point, we would be pretty foolish to think that it wouldn’t leak. We had copies of it on the European tour, so we knew as soon as we played that first show with them in Berlin it was as good as leaked. And even though it is a little frustrating that it happens, we won’t do anything to try and stop it. It is what it is, and we are just glad people care about it enough to think it is worth leaking/downloading to begin with.
You put a lot of effort into the packaging and presentation of your records. What is the significance behind the After the Lights title and artwork?
The artwork for the record was done by Adam Vass, and while he took all the photos and laid the whole thing out, I worked closely with him to make sure the images chosen were ones that illustrated the look/feel of the record. The cover is all photos taken in Boston, which is where him and I both live, and the idea was to layer them in a way that makes them all sort of fade into each other in a manner that is both clear and unclear; sort of not immediately being sure where when one layer starts and one ends, but you know it is part of a greater whole. And this sort of illustrates a lot of what the record is about - just this general feeling of uncertainty and trying to figure things out, various emotions not being totally clear but coming into view at certain times. And I wanted to put a woman sort of hazy on the cover to be the companion to the cover of You Will Not Survive, as a fair amount of the songs are relationship based.
As for the title, After the Lights, it just kind of sums up the feeling of, what do we do with everything after the focus shifts, when we are left sort of in the darkness, is there comfort there? Can we finally rest, or do we fight our way out? It also is a reference to when I was growing up in the suburbs, and I imagine this is pretty common, there was a point at night where the street lights would simply turn off. It was not quite dawn, but it was somehow deemed too late for anyone to be out walking around. And I sort of have this intense, almost romantic feeling when I think about nights I have had walking those streets after the lights went out.
On a related note, what are your thoughts on the industry's increasing focus on digital distribution?
I don’t really think about it much. There are no shortage of amazing records to buy, and the ones that are digital only are very rare comparatively, so in that regards it is not that big of an issue for me. That said, where it becomes a problem is that traditional record stores suffer substantially when everything heads towards digital. There will never be a store front where people will go in solely to buy digital files, so a lot gets lost. And it is more than just stores closing up, jobs getting lost, etc. There is also a sense of community that is fading as well. A lot of my favorite stores over the years became that, because I liked going there and hanging out, getting to know the employees, other regular customers and just dorking out on records. I found some of my all time favorite releases this way, made some great friends, and neither would have happened with out those stores being there.
Why are your full lengths only seven tracks?
It it less about the number of tracks and more about the overall length of the record. We tend to like to keep our full lengths in the 25-30 minute range. Anything longer than that, I think we run the risk of losing momentum, or at the very least starting to repeat aspects of the record. Someday, I would really like to do a solid double LP but we simply just don’t have the right group of songs for that. We put a lot of thought into the overall arc/feel of our records, and it just has worked out that seven songs has been achieving that for us.
When Adam spoke with you last year, you made some comments about how the scene has changed over the years. The whole community seems to have only grown since then. Have your thoughts changed?
They haven’t really changed. If anything, the majority of them have just been reinforced this past year. There are still a lot of great things happening in music right now; many inspiring bands and labels that are revitalizing the energy that is keeping this scene going. Also, it is important to point out that great bands and labels have always been there. What has changed, though, is what these types of bands are able to accomplish. There is just a larger, somewhat different kind of support network that wasn’t there, say, 8 years ago. For example, a lot of bands from our scene are now getting coverage in larger publications like Alternative Press or playing larger tours, and these types of things are helping bands just reach such a larger group of people, and it is allowing them to get out there and just be a band full time. And this wasn’t happening a few years ago. I think it is so inspiring watching what bands like Touche Amore and La Dispute have been accomplishing. They are truly reshaping what is possible for a band that started in the punk scene to accomplish without changing what they are about. I love it when the band is defining the genre as opposed to the genre defining the band.
You recently toured Europe with We Were Skeletons. How did that go?
It was awesome, easily one of the best tours we have ever had. The shows were pretty packed out, we had a great driver, super comfy vehicle to travel in, got to hang out with the Skeltons dudes every day, saw some great cities, met some cool people, did a lot of record shopping, ate good food, and just in general hung out and had a good time. We really couldn't have asked for much more.
How do the shows over there compare to those in the U.S.?
The biggest difference is just the level of professionalism in regards to how the shows are put on. Even though they are still a lot of shows in squats, garages, art spaces, etc., they are run so smoothly that is much closer to a club show over here. And that is a compliment; it is nice to know that a show will run on time, food will be provided, it will be well promoted, money will be respectfully dealt with. But It is all handled by like-minded individuals who, while they run a space in this manner, it is still a punk space and is cared for as such. Here in the States, it can often be a gamble with how a show will be run. There are a lot people who are just like, "Sure, I have a basement. Come play my house," and do nothing else for the show and act insulted when, as a band, you expect more.
Will you be touring in the States to support the new album?
We will be trying to. It is never a matter of not wanting to - we would love to play everywhere - it is just a matter of finding the time. A couple of us in the band have substantial jobs that is tough for us to get enough time off to do the amount of touring that we would like. There will, of course, be a lot of weekend excursions, and we are no strangers to airplanes, so we will get out there and make them count.
I know you're a big record collector. What are some of your best recent scores?
Lets see. In Europe, I got a large number of Guns N Roses Europe-only 12"s from the '80s that I was very excited about. Eric just found me the Botch 10". Lucero's That Much Further West on vinyl. The complete Smiths boxset. I also now have all of the Red House Painters LPs, which took me a bit. The real trick though is, like any true addict, it is not always about the records I have but the ones that I am searching for - so if anyone has the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Fever to Tell, the Tigers Jaw self-titled LP, The Dead Weather Triple Decker or Unwound Leaves Turn Inside You, please get in touch. Finding these keep me up nights.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Just thank you for having me do this interview, as well as all the support that you and AP have shown us as well other bands in this scene. It is noticed and appreciated.
That was a really great interview. I heard a Saddest Landscape song from a sampler but haven't fully checked them out. I respect a lot of things Andy said and think he's coming from the right place in the music scene.