Warehouse talks 'Tesseract'
Burgeoning five-piece captures a moment in time
Without so much as a heads up, Warehouse released its debut album, Tesseract, on the Fourth of July. After recording the album last December, guitarists and founding members Ben Jackson and Alex Bailey, along with drummer Doug Bleichner, bassist Josh Hughes, and singer Elaine Edenfield, self-released the album via Bandcamp when talks with Brooklyn's Captured Tracks stalled out. On the heels of its debut single, "Mental Faculty," which arrived back in April, the album consummates the unrefined and compellingly naïve post-punk and new wave sound the group's live shows have delivered over the last two years. After releasing the album, the group's members sat down to talk about writing songs, trusting each other's abilities, and stamping the band's growth in time.
Warehouse's songwriting is a group effort, but is there someone who makes executive decisions, or says now if something doesn't work?
Ben Jackson: No, and that would be a bold move on one of our parts. One thing that has kept this group together is that we all trust each other to be the best at our job. I don't think I could write a better bass or drum part, and I wouldn't try.
That kind of trust in each other's abilities has to be earned, though.
Alex Bailey: When we were recording, Josh improvised some of his parts. We taught him the songs we were working on, but didn't tell him what to play. I've never heard him play anything that made me think, "Naw ... that won't work." I actively don't care what he plays, so long as he knows the song, and that's pretty much how we work.
BJ: We don't have the same preciousness about our material that we see in some bands. Warehouse practices in the same house as Red Sea, and we'll hear them working on the same riff for hours — spending an entire day perfecting a 15-second part. For us it's more about the process of getting together and interacting with each other, and we didn't set out to write an album. We had this relationship with each other and this is where it went.
AB: None of us are all knowing about the parts of each song. I don't know Josh's or Ben's parts, and I don't even know the lyrics. I know some of them, but I never really heard them until we were in the studio recording them.
Elaine Edenfield: When we went into the studio to record, my car had been broken into, and I borrowed my parents' car, and I had just fucked it up on the way to record my parts. I was really stressed out, and then there I was alone in this room singing these songs, and they were all listening to it for the first time. It was nerve-racking, but I think everything contributed to how it turned out. And like Josh, there are some lyrics that I improvised at the last second, like for "Erosion," the last two lines were spur of the moment, and that's my favorite part of the song.
Doug Bleichner: We have material together for a whole second album already, and the plan is to go back to the same studio — the Living Room — in December.
BJ: There was no mission statement for the next record. In December we'll see where we are, record the album, and move forward. It feels more appropriate to view albums, the way we make them, as markers in time rather than coherent ideas, because we change so much. It would be hard to keep a cohesive thing throughout the entire process.
Warehouse is often compared to Pylon. Is that an appropriate reference for your music?
BJ: I'll take it, but it's mostly because of Elaine, and because our older material was more new wave sounding. The music has found its own voice now, but we listened to a lot of Pylon when we started. We've always thought that Athens bands from that era were generally cool.
Anything the B-52's did when Ricky Wilson was still with the group is brilliant.
BJ: Exactly. Ricky Wilson is the guitar player god for a lot of what Warehouse does.
Elaine's voice is more gruff than Pylon's Vanessa Briscoe Hay's voice. Also, in a single phrase, Vanessa would go from sweet to savage in just a few words. With Elaine, I hear more immediacy coming through.
EE: A lot of the gruffness and screaming with me came out of the fact that I couldn't hear myself singing at our early shows. I don't really have a sing-songy kind of voice, either, so it wouldn't be appropriate for me to do anything other than what I do with it. This is also the first band that I've written lyrics or sang for.
You're also a painter. I would describe your paintings with words like non-objective, abstract, and expressionistic. Do you equate your work as a painter with your lyrics?
EE: Oh yeah. It's definitely all the same thing. It's all coming from the same place, and I want to do all of the album art and any relational imagery for the group.
Your lyrics don't tell stories as much as they are stream-of-consciousness snapshots of what's going through your head.
EE: Yes, and like Ben said, these songs are really about the time in which they were made — it was all about a difficult coming-of-age kind of year.
BJ: A lot of times we are adamantly nonconceptual in our approach. We aren't walking ourselves through every process of what we're feeling. We use broad gestures to approximate a direction as to where the songs are going. It's not about a breakup or a bad day. It's more about what you would feel over the course of a month. We're not trying to make our masterpiece. The goal is to keep going, rather than to get somewhere. There is not a perfect thing we're aiming for. We don't have ... goals. We never decided to make a record. We talked about recording, and then we had the material together, and it seemed like what we should do next.
Sometimes the process is as important as the finished product, which seems to be the case with Warehouse. Are there songs that stand out for you in that context?
BJ: The whole album is presented in chronological order — as we wrote it. "Figure in Bronze" is the first thing we ever wrote, and "Promethean Gaze" was the most recent one at the time. It wasn't intentional; it just worked out that way. We wrote what we thought we should feel next. Now, some of the songs feel embarrassingly amateurish to me. I'm not ashamed of them, but in terms of what we can do now, and knowing how we wrote some of the parts, I know a lot more about the chord shapes that I like, and Alex is a lot better with making melodies.
Personally, I like "Succession." It's the first song on the album that I wrote the structure for myself. There are other songs on the record that I am less into now, because they don't align with our tastes any longer. "Promethean Gaze" is the best constructed.
EE: Everything else feels like it's grasping for something. "Promethean Gaze" is the only song on the record that comes to a point. It feels like resolution.