Published in Blog Archive, City Pages. Tags: Interviews, Music, Twin Cities.
Recently landing a pair of spots on national television, Minneapolis’ Estate is continuing to expand its audience outside of the Midwest. Recently speaking to [City Pages] about the new found exposure, the duo of Dan Kramer also Josh Johnson also spoke candidly about their unique approach to performing live and their affinity for creating remixes.
For those who haven’t seen you live, how would you describe the mix between media and music in your shows?
Estate: Like the question implies, our live shows are a blend of audio and synchronous video which was created by both our friends and ourselves. Each song has a unique video made to fit the mood and feel of the song. They’re edited to the rhythm and feel of the music. We really like how they reinforce each other both on stage and on screen at home. During the show we project the video on a large screen right on stage with us. We like when other groups give the audience options on what to pay attention to. Watch the band, chat with friends, dance, watch the video, or all the above. It’s up to you.
We spend a fair amount of time as freelance sound designers so we know the synergy that can arise from mixing interesting audio and with awesome visuals. We love it. We had always been really impressed when we saw bands incorporate a visual element to their show, and the idea to play live with the videos came about after we were in contact with Jon Thompson (local animator and awesome guy) about creating some videos for songs off our first album. After he had finished a few videos for us, we thought to ourselves, “Man wouldn’t it be awesome to have these things going while we play live.” Easy solution; our musical computer software (and bread and butter) Ableton Live started incorporating video at the same time Jon finished some videos for us. The goal of our live shows is to create an evening of experiences and the visuals are one aspect of the many experiences we hope the audience takes away with them.
When you’re recording your music, do you keep in mind how it might transfer to the stage. Or rather, how it might transfer to the way in which you showcase your music?
Estate: We don’t seem to feel the need to stick to a single formula which is great for us. It ends up giving us the freedom to experiment as well as lending a unique flavor to each tune. Whether or not a song will work for us live comes very late in the writing process. A few brews, a nice beat, and some new synth sounds usually kick start our songs.
The birth of an Estate song is like a dysfunctional childhood. It’s born at an unexpected time and we don’t yet know how much love it’s going to receive. All songs are kept, but some are favored. If we decide it has potential to become a productive member of (Estate) society, we keep nurturing it. If over time, and two or three Estate dads still feel like it’s a really bright bulb, it will make it to our full three person practice. This is often when we decide if the songs graduate to maturity aka the stage. Very few do. Most are neglected. Some songs, maybe more, work well for recordings but not the stage.
Our writing, recording, production, and editing happen concurrently so we are constantly tweaking them all as we go. We do however, typically divide the writing process into two phases. Phase one is the birth of the song. It is the time when we create the sonic qualities, characteristics, melodies and grooves of the song. The second phase is much more analytical as it is when the structure starts to take shape and a majority of the editing is done. At this point, we’ve boiled down the big sound elements we’re working with and now have to figure out how to make them fit together.
If we have a song that has graduated to further practices, we take a listen and say, “OK. Who wants to play what?” (aka Dan you have guitar and synth lead, Josh you rock the bass, vocals and wind sample, Jessie – you blend the acoustic drums, and MPC with the prerecorded beats and rhythms.) Next we give it a try and see what needs to be stripped out of the computer mix and what we can add, if anything. We try to showcase our music live by making a hybrid of what you’ll hear on the album and what you would expect from a live band. The end results is something that is has the energy and drive of rock with the smooth sexiness of highly produced electronic music.
Our first concern with our music is making something we’d want to listen to. Sometimes we put a song down for a few weeks and pick it up again, throw on some headphones and see if it catches our ears. If so, that song-child might have a future.
How have the many remixes of your songs helped expand your audience? Last year’s split with Nobot was awesome–are you working on producing any other remixes yourself?
Estate: Remixes are one of our favorite things. Whether it’s us making one or having one done for us, it’s always gratifying. It can breathe a whole new life into a song. When you’re working on remix for someone else, you have all these awesome elements to play with and add your sound to. Super fun and rewarding.
The icing on the cake is that the remixes can only help expand our audience. Plus we end up meeting great, like minded, bands/peeps. We have a Toronto remix connection with Madrid and the Cansecos which are two awesome groups, and we know our name is much more familiar up there as a result. Same goes for Nobot and Gigamesh. Every group has their own friend/fan base and it’s a great way to get exposed to new people and return their efforts with the same. We end up performing some of these remixes live as well. We liked the Gigamesh remix of our tune so much we ended up performing it instead of our original! We are always interested in working on remixes of interesting groups.
How’d you end up landing your recent national television spots?
Estate: We were approached by a small company out of LA that focuses on commercial placement. We didn’t know what they could do but gave them a shot. They’ve landed some cool stuff for us so far and seem to have more in store. These TV placements and our new album coming out this winter have kept us excited and busy.
[This article was originally published by City Pages.]