Landlady - Interview

the lady in rosso corsa

By: Dean Van Nguyen

November 14, 2014

" ...these songs grew from 2010 until weeks before we recorded in 2013. There's no one approach we took, I played a lot of pianos in different places and we played these songs in many different ways in a few basements and venues until any of it felt ready. "

Led by keyboardist and songwriter Adam Schatz, Landlady’s lush, symphonic soundscapes on sophomore record ‘Upright Behaviour’ pull influence from everyone from Sly and the Family Stone to the Pixies. Such is the effervescent nature of the piece, you’d almost miss the existential tones embedded into the tracks.  Schatz’s examination on the human condition, however, proves life affirming,  and the album offers uplifting instrumentation, huge choruses and the frontman’s soulful but booming vocals at every turn. Speaking after a lengthy touring scheduled, Schatz – whose resume includes saxophone and keyboard duties with Vampire Weekend – opened up about the process behind the LP.

Your latest album 'Upright Behaviour' has been out for a little while now. How has promoting the record gone?

It's been incredibly exciting to get to tour as heavily as we have, pretty much from August until right now. We're lucky to get a big break now to catch our breath, but the whole process has been great. It's a simple idea to just go from town to town and play the songs for people, but we're learning that the old-fashioned approach seems to be really backed up by the music. When people hear the songs live, they buy the record. When they buy the record, they want to hear the songs live, and I think both experiences are different enough from each other that we've already been able to develop a loyalty among fans of the band, who know we're going to give them absolutely everything we've got in anything we do. 

Can you tell me a bit about the writing process? Was there any consistent themes you wanted to sew into the album?

There ended up being consistent themes of mortality, but I think that might just be a consistent theme of human life, so it found its way into my songs because I'm a human and am trying to write honest personal music. But these songs grew from 2010 until weeks before we recorded in 2013. There's no one approach we took, I played a lot of pianos in different places and we played these songs in many different ways in a few basements and venues until any of it felt ready, and the record still came out totally different than I would have imagined. 

This is one of the most uniquely drummed records I've heard this year. How much of that do you attribute to having two drummers? Or do you just gravitate towards unusual percussions?

Quantity does not equal quality, but when I put this band together I knew I had two of the best drummers I'd ever played with. And since 2010, Ian Chang and Booker Stardrum have developed a complimentary superhero strength within this band, it's compelling and collaborative and can still get super huge but also super sparse. I put a real emphasis on the arrangements and the potential for us to be so quiet and also so expansive, and the guys in the band take that approach and really run with it, everyone is so creative and arrangement-driven and has such little ego that we always seem to end up with performances that are both dynamically satisfying but also raw and adventurous. 

It's quite a lush record and it seems like a lot of different instruments are on display. Can you tell me a little bit about its production?

It felt like we just worked on the songs until they were done. We all had our areas of expertise, but sometimes [guitarist] Mikey [Freedom Hart] would lay down a bunch of guitar ideas and other times any of us would give him a few keywords and it would totally change the performance, but we'd know when we had something that was going to stay on the album. A lot of the arrangements were already set from the live performance so it was fun to just add a few more keyboards and vocals in places where we normally couldn't do it all live.  

Did the process of creating the album differ much to that of [first album] 'Keeping To Yourself' and, if so, how?

Absolutely. Aside from the fact that we were three years younger, ‘Keeping To Yourself’ is very different because I produced and recorded it all myself in my basement. Drums would come over and  record onto my Tascam 388 tape machine, and then 2 months later we'd do guitar and bass, and it stretched over the course of a year, which was fun for the growth of the songs since the band was still relatively new, but I wouldn't want to do it that way ever again. It felt great to go into a studio [The Isokon in Woodstock] and do initial tracking, then we finished in our homes in Brooklyn. For future records I would love to spend even more time in studios. Maybe definitely even get out of New York.