Fresh off their double header at Treefort Music Festival, Noise & Color sat down with the driving forces behind The Domestics, Michael Finn and Leo London.
Getting ready to release their debut record, they talked a little about making music in Portland and what they hope people hear in their upcoming release. Subverting the lone singer-songwriter genre into a duo (and live five-piece), The Domestics bring their lyrically-charged brand of rock to a place that is at once relatable and immersive while also being personal and heartfelt.
N&C: Can you talk a little about your writing process and how it translates into the band dynamic. Is it a group effort?
LL: As two songwriters, mostly we will write alone and arrange and produce in the studio together. Having the two of us there to edit together makes a huge difference. Sometimes one of us will make a subtle change in an arrangement and it will open up a whole new idea. It’s very rewarding and lots more fun than a solo flight.
MF: I’m fortunate enough to work at a recording studio full time and have an affordable agreement worked out with my boss and friend Tucker Martine for working with Leo, which has enabled us to do a large chunk of our collaboration while we record. None of the songs we recorded for our self-titled record were really demoed, outside of cell phone recordings of ideas or past recordings of a few songs that varied greatly from what we ultimately ended up with. It’s a very fun way to write and it can be really rewarding, but it also comes with a lot of anxiety. Not knowing, really, what you are doing until you get into the studio and the clock’s ticking.
N&C: What’s in store for 2015 (and beyond)? Tour? New albums?
MF: Our debut record will be getting officially “released” this summer and we will be spending a big portion of the summer and fall touring to support it. We have been chipping away at new songs when windows at the studio pop open, and plan on having all the songs finished for our next record by the end of the year.
LL: We are always writing and working so there are already demos for new projects. I mean a lot of material. We have a great tour van, Van Marino, and plan to be on the road a lot.
N&C: How do you see yourself fitting into the Portland scene? What’s the best part of making music in Portland? Any bands that people should be looking out for?
LL: The best part of working in music in PDX is the audiences. Great people who are passionate about the music and art. So many great bands too. Great writers and stellar musicians. And And And, The Century, Genders, No La La, Bleach Blonde Dudes….
MF: Minden, Boone Howard, Old Age, Grandparents, Talkative, Sama Dams, Máscaras, Tamed West, The Shivas…
N&C: How does your live show differ from your studio recordings? Is there anything people are surprised about when they see you live?
LL: Our live show is very energetic. Some of the tempos are faster than our recordings. This is partially for the audience and also when you write in the studio sometimes your arrangements will be slower, especially having two musicians mostly layering instruments. With a band it’s more visceral and has a really good pumping energy. But that being said we’ve had some pretty vibey solo sets. We write about some heavy feels so we can definitely dish out the sad jam if the room calls for it.
MF: I guess I’ve never really seen us live. Most of the time all I hear on stage is my voice blasting out of my monitor and the terrible dissonance in the first bar of “What A Life” when I forget to tune down to drop D. I’ve had a bunch of people come up and tell me seeing us live is better than listening to the record, which makes me either happy or pretty depressed depending on, well, depending on a lot of things.
N&C: What do you want people to think about when you’re playing? What is your music meant to invoke?
LL: I would hope that people heard our lyrics first. I mean the rock and roll changes and killer grooves are my favorite but our pop songs aren’t bubblegum. They are about real shit. Some songs deal with love but I wouldn’t call them love songs. Some of them deal with drugs but they aren’t party songs. There’s usually a subtext to the songs and maybe at first glance it won’t seem like much but I hope that the listener can hear more in the words after revisiting the album again. The songs are sad but real honest. Sometimes funny but sincere. I don’t know, Mike, I’m not any good at this shit…
MF: Yeah, that’s a tough one, we got called “romance rock” once in a write-up and I thought that was pretty funny. I think sometimes it takes a few listens through to new music for anyone to break through and grab onto certain ideas presented in the lyrics. Leo spent hours and hours making an animated lyric video for “Tower Blocks”, and multiple friends commented after seeing that they didn’t really realize the story in that song until they saw it all written out. I love listening to records with the lyric sheet out in front of me. I remember listening to Minden’s Exotic Cakes for the first time after seeing them live, and having heard them mostly described as a disco band around town, and discovering a whole different depth to that band. I keep going back to see them time and time again because I know every word and feel a connection with something they have made. Same goes for AND AND AND, The We Shared Milk, and Old Age. Every time it’s an interactive experience. That’s what I hope we are for other people.
Be sure to check out The Domestics as they headline The Deli Portland’s Best Emerging Artist of 2014 Showcase at Kelly’s Olympian on Saturday April 25.