UTG INTERVIEW: Slim Charles Talk ‘Small Improvements’ Reissue

New York-based math-pop outfit Slim Charles caught the attention of multiple UTG staff members last year, a fortunate find that culminated in a song premiere preceding the release of their debut full-length, Small Improvements in Life and Light. Within recent months, the band has signed to Little L Records, an independent Irish label that has previously teamed up with names such as Alex Calder and The Otter Years.

Kicking off their newfound relationship with a limited edition reissue of Small Improvements, Slim Charles have undoubtedly started 2015 on the right foot. Thus, we took some time to speak with the group about how they came in contact with Little L Records, the poetic nature of their lyrics and listening to Beyoncé.

First off, congrats on the European re-release of Small Improvements in Life and Light. How’s it feel to have your record distributed across the pond?

Dom Green: Feels great! We’re hugely inspired by lots of European acts past and present (TTNG, m0ck, Enemies, Tangled Hair, Pennines, etc.) and the general scene in the UK especially. Being a part of that, even peripherally, is very cool.

Speaking of across the pond, you’re signed to Little L Records, an Ireland-based label. How did you come in contact with Little L and what made you decide they were the best fit for you?

Maggie Toth: I had seen the name around the internet, and my ears definitely perked up when I read that they were doing cassettes for tortuganónima. Eventually, Callum (of LLR) and I got to talking. We had this long initial Skype while I was on tour with Ishmael last summer, and we just sorta got to know each other and hashed it all out. That same night at the Ishmael show in St. Louis I met and saw this great band Neev, whom Little L had also done cassettes for. Callum approached us, so his initiative and genuine desire to work with us was really endearing and engaging. Also, we just played a show a with our new label mates, The Pluto Moons. They fucking rocked.

That being said, your home of New York is an international location in its own right with a melting pot of different sounds and ideas. Have other acts and contemporaries affected how you go about writing?

Alex Jarvis: I’m not sure if other NYC bands have influenced our sound but I will say other contemporaries have helped shape a sense of our own local music community here – one that is not united around a specific genre but really just a shared passion for making original music, straight-up. Bands like Ishmael, Hannibal Montana, Father Figure, TippWerk, and Zevious (and many more) are making groundbreaking and outrageously good sounds right now and you can go see ’em for $8 or like, for free. Also, living here you obviously get so many of the world’s best artists coming through on tour, so we’ve been able to see some of the best in so many genres. You name it: indie rock, hip hop, metal, avant garde, jazz, Beyoncé…it’s crazy, man. But I think seeing all these people do their thing just pushes us to be ourselves and keep doing our thing.

The two words I keep coming back to when thinking about Small Improvements are technical and poetic. Would you say that’s a fair description of the sound you’ve been aiming for with Slim Charles?

Ben Mickelson: It’s always fun to push ourselves technically, but the outcome is honestly a lot better when we focus more on restraint. Being in such an extraordinary musical environment, like you mentioned, is a helpful reminder to not make a point of writing flashy music, because we’ll never win at that game. And that’s a beautiful, inspiring thing, not a deterrent, and it keeps everyone motivated to search for ways to make unique but understandable musical contributions.

As for poetic, that’s quite the compliment! Lyrically, 98% of the credit goes to Dominic, whose words – and the structural and rhythmic delivery of them – absolutely strike me as “poetic.” Musically, “poetic” is not a goal or word we’ve ever discussed, but for a listener to liken the music to poetry in some way is very rewarding, because good music shares a lot of what makes poetry special: Poetry and music yield a fuller understanding of both momentary and big-picture flow, through repeatedly considering both the minutia and the piece as a whole. Both mediums excel in the playful freedom of irregular structure, punctuation, and arrangement, within a well understood and analyzed language or form, which is cool in how it juxtaposes total artistic freedom with closely guided refinement. I know that was rather long-winded but it’s hard to not get overexcited when thinking about the significance of one form of art being associated with another. A pretty neat comparison when you break it down!

Could you begin to speak on the sounds and styles you’d like your next work to entail, or is your writing process more of an impromptu event?

DG: While we don’t really plan sounds or styles during the writing process, I will say that I’ve been listening to more jazz and metal recently, so that will probably shape my share of the songwriting process in some way. Our writing is definitely impromptu; I imagine it’s that way for most people, unless you’re Dr. Luke cranking the handle of the platinum hit machine (no disrespect intended, by the way – mad respect for that guy).

AM: Yeah, our writing process has always been spontaneous; no broad discussions of the sound we are aiming for. We already have some brand new sketches brewing actually, but so much growth and shape-shifting is still yet to be done that it’s hard to say what they will end up sounding like. I am really excited to find out though!

After the re-release of Small Improvements, what are your plans for the foreseeable future?

MT: Play lots of shows with an ever-growing list of great bands, write new material, and eat really good sandwiches.

Interview conducted by Michael Giegerich (Follow him on Twitter)

Mike Giegerich
Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.