Interview with Return To Mono

In a music world that has taken the electro bug and genetically engineered it into a rather ugly looking creature known as Lady Gaga, it’s heartening to know that there are still musicians out there who make electro music the way it should be made. Tanya Kelleher, Andy Sybilrud and J.G. Paulos a.k.a Return To Mono can safely wave the electro flag with nothing to fear. Cat On The Wall’s Jo Whitby caught up with the band via email to discuss their up coming new album as well as finding out a bit more about how the band came to be…

Cat On The Wall: We’re really enjoying your music here at Cat On The Wall HQ. We’d like to find out a little about your musical background… how and when did you all meet? What inspired you all to get into music?

Andy: I had just moved to San Francisco in 2006 from Minneapolis where I studied music production and engineering at McNally Smith School of Music. I had a lot of music written and was looking for a singer to work with… that’s when I met Tanya, and we’ve been working together ever since.

Tanya: I got into music in high school, choirs, operas, musicals, you name it. anything, as long as it involved music and wasn’t social studies of science class. I had a lot of emotions as a kid and music just always helped me cope with them. I found Andy on craigslist after moving to San Francisco and being in bed for a year with a broken ankle. I think I had a ton of free time and Andy had some really beautiful compositions that I couldn’t wait to create lyrics over the top of. We found Jimmy a year later, through a mutual musician friend of ours. He seemed to be a perfect fit, his guitar work was edgy but also very lush and atmospheric.

J.G: As a kid, my first record was Queen which electrocuted my brain and made me want to be a guitarist. I formed a band and played my first club when I was 15. When I was eighteen I moved to Santa Cruz and later came to San Francisco where I played in a lot of different bands, and refined my sound. I heard that Tanya and Andy were looking for a guitarist, and that Tanya used to sing with Siggy Baulderson (The Sugarcubes). After I heard them I had to meet them, and so here we are.

COTW: You’ve got a new album coming out in November, what can you tell us about the record?

Tanya: We’ve transformed our sound a bit in Framebreaker for sure. We wanted to maintain the lushness of our first EP, Involution, while adding a bit more tempo and intensity, which we’ve done quite well. Very excited to see how our fans react.

Andy: Involution was more dark and downtempo, we wanted to make this album more live and upbeat, but not a total dance record.

J.G: There’s a loose theme running through the album that nothing is what it seems, while revolving though liberation, human excess, emotions, dreams, fears and love.

COTW: Where was it recorded?

Andy: We tracked vocals, drums and synths at my home studio in San Francisco, and Jim recorded guitars and bass at his. The mixing was done back at my studio before sending the tracks to Mike Zirkel at Smart Studios for mastering.

J.G: We were really fortunate that Mike Zirkel at Smart Studios offered to master the album. It wouldn’t have been half the album without him, his contribution is epic.

COTW: What’s the creative process as a band when composing songs? Do you all have separate rolls or is it more of a free flowing affair?

Andy: I have lots of instrumental tracks that I’ve written in Logic, so sometimes one of those work as a basis to work from, but we also compose together, which we prefer to do. Tanya creates all her melodies and harmonies on the spot… she’s very good at that.

J.G: I like to write all my guitar parts live on the spot, we’ve all got good chemistry together and we make it manifest. There are no rules, but we do constantly refine everything together and just try to push the dynamics as far as we can.

Tanya: Some days we just kind of start playing and go from there. other days Andy or Jim will send a part to me and it will immediately catapult me into a night of writing melodies and lyrics. other days, I’ll have a really great vocal idea and then we’ll just start from there. I guess the lesson here is that you don’t have to have an exact formula for writing music, but you have to have the creative inspiration.

COTW: How do you know when you’ve had a good gig?

Tanya: When you feel like your audience is really listening. With a good show, you’re the everything. You create thoughts and feelings vs. supporting what’s already there.

J.G: Its like an instant emotional energy exchange, and you’re up all night still high from playing.

COTW: What’s the most memorable live experience you’ve had so far?

J.G: Andy’s computer crashed during a set and we were heckled to play acoustic. So as a joke we broke into Ranchero music? People danced more to that than to any song in the entire set. Which I think makes me kinda question our genre.

COTW: What are you listening to at the moment?

J.G: Giant Drag, The Dead Weather, Ratatat, The Death Set, Beach House.

Tanya: La Roux, Florence and the Machine, Emiliana Torrini, Mike Snow, Andrew Bird, She & Him, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, Telefon Tel Aviv, Dan Black, Discovery, Fever Ray. I’m completely addicted to the way good music makes me feel, and love finding and buying new music, like most women love finding a new pair of well designed and well priced shoes.

Andy: I always have my iPod on random… I often get music and don’t listen to it until it comes up… weird.

COTW:Finally, what are your plans for the near future?

J.G: CD release party!

Tanya: Creating as much new music as possible, and enjoying life.

Andy: For real.

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