My final interview at this year's SXSW was with Former Thieves. Still one of my favorite albums this year, we talked a little bit about the transition from the band's EP to their first full-length and recording with Chris Common.
Going into the recording of The Language That We Speak, what was the first thing you guys wanted to do after the EP?
Joshua Sparks: The tones of everything. I think it's just something we just kind of wanted to address. The atmosphere that the EP created, opposed to the atmosphere we wanted the full-length to create. Much heavier. More Earthy. With the EP, we were floating with more of an indie rock vibe. The EP was kind of one dimensional. We wanted this one to be more well rounded and have more range of emotion. Still be able to do the noodling stuff, but have more punishing songs.
One of the things I told Bobby [Markos] of Native when you guys played here back in August is that I wish the record sounded as full as you guys did live. Was that one of the things you guys told Chris you were looking for when you went in to record?
Sparks: Just a little bit. We wanted to bridge that gap for sure. After we heard the record we had a better idea of what we wanted to do live too.
What do you feel was missing from your playing style after hearing your personal improvement on this record?
Ben Lynn: I don't know. Just a bunch of gear stuff really. As far as what we sounded like live?
Yeah. Did it sound to minimal?
Lynn: Yeah, just finding those tones in general wasn't really what we had in mind. But we worried about matching it after recording it. We just spent the next three months figuring out how to match it [live]. I feel like that's definitely shown on the five or seven shows we've played since we've left.
What's the feedback so far live without anybody hearing the record yet?
Sparks: Kind of the consensus has been the same. People heard the EP and wished it was heavier. It was like something was missing from the record, and then they saw us.
Lynn: Always heard, "I wish the record sounded like you guys did live." Always heard that.
This record is a lot more cohesive too. Do you think it's the tracking, or Chris or just the writing in general?
Sparks: That had a lot to do with how we spent almost a year writing this record. We wrote it in separate bumps. Before we went out on tour, a little over a year ago, we had five songs finished. Then we went on the Native tour, came home and wrote two songs. Then we went in with eleven songs. We had an idea for the track listing. We wanted "Dead Horses" to be the opener and "Language" to be the closer. We wanted "First World Blues" to be the middle album range.
What took the most time in the studio then, getting the tones right or re-thinking an sort of pre-production?
Sparks: The guitars took a lot of time.
Lynn: We spent a lot of time getting bass tones and tracking bass. We spent a solid four hours just getting bass tones.
Sparks: The guitars and vocals for sure. Drums we just kind of knocked out. Chris and I got it down a lot. We just were strapped for time. Ten days seems long at the front end of it, but in retrospect it may have not been enough time.
There's something very powerful about this record. Not necessarily the sound, but how metal has kind of been the same thing for the past few years, and now bands are writing in the style of the late '90s Revelation and Hydra Head type stuff. So what influences went into this album?
Sparks: A lot of that had to do with Chris. We're more of a fan of the rock and roll things. I myself am a huge Botch fan. That kind of era of hardcore, even if that's not where we came from, that's something we strife for. There's not a lot of that from where we came from. Chris wanted to get more of those '90s rock tones.
How intentional was that?
Sparks: It was a more of a saturation. We were never like, "This is the way it needs to be because this is the way it was." We're not reinventing the wheel here, but if we're going to do a techy-hardcore record, we need to put our seal on it.
Do you feel it's an allusion, or are were there times when you felt like you were too close to just re-creating the sound?
Sparks: I don't know. I feel like…
Lynn: If you look at the whole album, there's so many different things going, I can't say that we're directly ripping anything off. I don't get that feeling. Maybe it's bias because it's our music.
Sparks: There's definitely an emphasis on the song-writing process. We knew what we wanted to do after the EP, and we entrusted Chris. There were a few times when we weren't sure, but he said to trust him to get the right sound for certain parts, and he did.
As for the theme of The Language That We Speak…
Sparks: The title of the record is just about how subjective it is and how things are done with bands. Everyone has their own ethics of things and how things are done and how to operate. I think where we're at as a band, it's just the way that we're going to do things and what we know.