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Interview: Ducktails

By ; September 3, 2010 at 12:00 AM 

Matthew Mondanile, aka Ducktails, is your typical bedroom recording artist. Expansive and obscured catalogue, hypnotic and experimental sound, reserved but renowned by his peers. On his third and forthcoming LP Arcade Dynamics, Mondanile has taken his experiences playing with Real Estate and other projects and created an album more rich with song and texture.

Along with waxing poetic about Arcade Dynamics, Mondanile also runs down his other releases this year, talks about his September tour of Europe, details the different ways he plays live, and touches on what it’s like to release an album in the digital age.

And even if you haven’t been tracking all the Ducktails news this year, we’ve got you covered. You could even start with his newest single “Art Vandelay” right now.

MP3: Ducktails – “Art Vandelay”

130-BPM: I was wondering if you feel your sound has changed at all on your third album, Arcade Dynamics, compared to your earlier recordings?

Ducktails: Yeah, it’s changed a lot I guess, in a way that, the new recordings are kind of fuller sounding than before. I recorded them the same way I always recorded them, but then the way I mixed them on the computer was different. Usually I mix really quickly after I record it on cassette but this time I spent a lot of time mixing and I got it mastered by this guy named Rusty Santos who mastered like Panda Bear and Ariel Pink Records and stuff.

Do you think Arcade Dynamics has benefitted from this change at all?

It’s just a more acoustic kinda sounding record. There’s still some kind of stranger stuff on there. But it’s definitely like the most vocals I’ve ever done on an album before which is a change.

Yeah, and I was gonna say that all along. I mean, you’ve got three different singles or so coming out this year too. And they’ve all been a lot more like “song”-oriented I guess. As opposed to like more of just a jam or something, you know, like most of your older stuff.

Yeah, but all my stuff is pretty much just jams and stuff.

Could you talk about your song writing process at all?

Yeah, I sit down and make a song and I just don’t know what’s gonna happen. And then I just kind of go with it and then if I like it I like it, and if I don’t, I don’t.

After hearing all your catalogue and seeing your live performances your sound seems very spontaneous, without a set plan or rhythm or goal. Is that true?

Improvisation is a huge part of the process, even as I write a song. Sometimes I’ll write a riff or some chords and some changes, and then I’ll write the lyrics afterwards; but for Arcade Dynamics I had songs that were actually like, done, written, that I’d put on the album that had been written for a while.

Another interview I was reading that you did, you were talking about how a lot of times you would record by yourself and have to be totally alone. I was curious if that was the same for Arcade Dynamics since your sound has changed so much?

Yeah, pretty much. I did pretty much the whole thing by myself. My friend Sam Franklin from the band Big Troubles and Fluffy Lumbers plays the drums on one song. Ah, he just did that with me and then um my friend Jarvis from Woods sings on a song and does some bass playing and acoustic playing and then um, Dent May the recording artist from Paw Tracks, he sings on a song; and I did that through the mail collaboration. So I think this is the first record where I like worked with other people on it like a little bit, but its still like almost entirely me, and I still recorded it alone in the same way in my basement that I recorded everything else.

And the idea of collaboration seems to be huge today. You also play in Real Estate, a band that has great solo artists like Alex Bleeker and Martin Courtney. You’re also friends with Underwater Peoples popular label-mate Julian Lynch. Along with everyone else around you, does this huge influx of talent close to you influence your music at all? Do you notice what they do and try and build upon that?

I think it’s all just like a big mess of each other honestly [laughs]. But um, I think playing in Real Estate a lot, touring a lot, made me wanna make songs more. Cause sometimes we play out, like songs in Real Estate, and it made me like write songs for a band? So maybe that’s why this record is more song oriented and stuff? But its still really different than Real Estate. It’s like, for me, most influences come from my friends band Big Troubles, and I grew up with them and they’re from New Jersey. They also play as my backing band as well sometimes.

Yeah, I was also curious about your live performances. I’ve seen some videos obviously of you playing totally by yourself with a lot of different loops. I was wondering whether you like to play alone as well, or if you prefer a full band set?

It’s different. I kinda like to use them equally. I’m touring Europe by myself. But when I’m home in the summer my friends are out of school and available to play I like to play with a band cuz it’s fun. I’d like to play with a band in the future, it combines more of the solo stuff that I do, and the band stuff that I do and that kind of brings it together. For the time being it’s still like a thing where I can either have the band, some of the time, or I can always play solo. And so for a while I wasn’t really into playing solo cuz I was playing with Real Estate and it was so fun to be in a band. But this is probably one of the last tours I’ll be doing solo, hopefully.

You’re touring all over Europe in September, is there one particular spot you’re looking forward to?

Well on the UK shows I’m gonna have this band Spectrals be my backing band and they’re replacing Big Troubles as the Ducktales band. But I’m going to Istanbul, Turkey and Greece and I’ve never been there before. Also Stockholm I’ve never been there, along with Sweden and so I’m excited to go to those places.

I also wanted to get your thoughts on the state of self-publishing artists. Even in the short time since your first album came out Bandcamp and other services have exploded in popularity. You’re a huge fan of cassette and physical releases, do you see this digital trend in your genre as a bad thing?

Well releasing stuff on cassette and releasing stuff on Bandcamp is similar because it’s just you and the money goes straight to you, but with a cassette you put out something yourself. You take a physical object in the world and it’s different, [digital releases] are just so much different than physical music. I mean my music is just getting on iTunes now, like my first record isn’t even on iTunes yet, and Landscapes just got on iTunes. And so I think a lot people use digital ways of downloading music, and I’m not opposed to that at all

So you’re a fan of Bandcamp and the like because they’re personal and there is still that connection with the artist?

Yeah, and with labels you have deals where they kind of like own your songs for a couple years, and so, for me I’m gonna try to make it so like I have a Bandcamp with all my records and stuff. All that money will just go right to me in the future. But I mean, I still have to set that up and stuff.

You’re a very busy guy, do you ever find is hard to be in two groups especially as each continue to grow in popularity?

It’s kinda hard to be in two groups. Like, Real Estate and Ducktails both don’t have managers or anything. It’s kinda like we’re doing it all ourselves. And then, especially for Ducktails, I don’t have like a booking agent and I just got a PR guy, But other than that uh, I’m working on a lot of stuff. Being on your own, it’s kind of crazy [laughs].

Well go ahead and tell us what you’re working on and then I’ll let you get back at it!

I have like a bunch of releases coming out. A 7″ on Olde English Spelling Bee. That has the song “Hamilton Road” on it from the LP, that one’s coming out probably in middle or late November. I have a split LP with Dracula Lewis on No Fun Productions. There’s not many of those. I have a split with Rangers on Not Not Fun. Mirror Image 7 ” is already out and sold out. My first record that came out on Not Not Fun just got repressed. I’m gonna try and make t-shirts in the future and some pretty cool music videos, so you’ll see some stuff.





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