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Interview with Luxury Liners

- by Natan Press

The first time I saw Carter Tanton perform was at T.T. the Bear’s in Cambridge, MA, circa 2002, with his Bard College band Catch A Fly.  At one point the bass player lost a string. Not missing a beat, Carter covered a Nirvana song solo. His voice was perfect; he carried the audience, made us forget the rest of the band. At the end of the show he fell down, and crawled slowly off stage. I thought it was a bit of theatrics. He’d been singing and playing with transfixing passion and the abrupt and dramatic exit seemed fitting, and entertaining. After the show, I introduced myself to him. He was pale and drenched in sweat. I asked him with a wry smile why he ended the show like that. He said he didn’t even remember falling down. It wasn’t an act. He was exhausted. He had given everything to the performance at the small club with the college band.


With that passion for making music driving him, the need to give it all he’s got continues. Raised in Baltimore (a protégé of Andy Bopp), and since living all over the north-east, Carter’s creativity knows no bounds, and he has worked tirelessly (until he collapses, I suppose) over the past decade on an unending stream of projects.  He recorded a solo album in a friend’s basement in Boston, titled Birds and Rain (Park the Van Records, 2005). It’s a hurricane of psychedelic guitars and organs swirling around the peaceful eye of his voice. Since those days, only his voice has remained as his signature sound, everything else changing with the capriciousness of opportunity and taste.


In 2007, Carter and his new band Tulsa released I Was Submerged (still on Park the Van). The sound changed from storm to ocean drowning everything in reverb. The change didn’t deter any critic who heard the record from piling on the praise (and his voice continued to shock and move).  After guest-appearing on a few albums for other people (like on Marissa Nadler’s self-titled album), Carter returned to the single life with 2011’s Freeclouds (Western Vinyl) a fabulously ambitious album, recorded at home, and yet an assault of sounds and song structures.


During a tour playing for Baltimore’s Lower Dens in 2012, Carter found himself in a van for 6 months, and couldn’t make the creativity stop. So he made an album on his laptop. “It’s definitely a side project," say’s Carter. “ I love it but I think what I do best and where I have the strongest voice is with my songwriting in my solo work. Luxury Liners is a big departure, for sure” He gave the project the new name Luxury Liners “because I wanted to preserve my solo work as a separate entity from this record. I want my solo work to be built around and focus on my voice and guitar playing. And this record is all about sampling and beats, etc.”

It certainly sounds different, but it doesn’t sound like a side project. The album, They’re Flowers, features everything one loves about Carter’s past works. Despite the “sampling and beats,” his captivating voice, and his accessible yet intriguing song-writing, forms the otherwise electronic sound of the album into indie-pop perfection. Western Vinyl happily released it under the new name, and after playing Bonnaroo, Carter has been taking the (side?)show on the road with Future Bible Heroes (featuring members of The Magnetic Fields). A new Luxury Liners EP is already in the works, to be released this fall, and a new “Carter Tanton” solo album is coming in the Spring of 2014.

 

 

 

 

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Luxury Liners
They're Flowers

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