Interview: Adam Pierce
Adam Pierce is an indie-rock Everyman. As the main brain behind hip post-rockers Mice Parade, member of the dub-drenched Afrobeat collective HiM and owner of lauded label Bubblecore Records, the Brooklyn native has released some of the American underground's most challenging music.
Both Mice Parade and HiM -- fronted by drum master Doug Sharin have new records that show the groups expanding in new directions. In Many in High Places Are Not Well, HiM layers organic funk, jazz and world rhythms over the pulse of a vicious, two-drumkit attack. Obrigado Saudade, Mice Parade's latest, shows Pierce steering away from the angular experimentation of his earlier recordings and embracing lush, orchestrated pop.
On the eve of the bands' double-bill show in Vermont, Pierce chatted with Seven Days from his Brooklyn office about the writing process, touring and rock labels.
SEVEN DAYS: You've spent a lot of time on the road. How is this tour going to be different or exciting for you?
ADAM PIERCE: Oh, in a million ways, on every front. It is exciting that both bands have new line-ups. The HiM band has a singer, which is cool. In the Mice Parade band, I'm ditching the drums and trying to play guitar. It could be stupid, but it's also exciting nonetheless. The idea of HiM and Mice Parade playing together in the same places? How can you get more exciting than that, man? C'mon!
SD: How did you translate the material from the new records to be played live?
AP: It's a hard thing to do. I've put out these old [Mice Parade] records when there was never a live band [planned], and then [we] sort of tried to play some of that stuff and it was ridiculously impossible, because there are just different instruments everywhere. So with the new record I tried to keep things a little bit tamer with instrumentation and parts and all that, so that a band would be able to play it better I think it'll translate decently, I hope.
SD: So, unlike your previous albums, which were strictly studio projects, you wrote this record with the thought of it being played live?
AP: Yes, exactly.
SD: How much do the bands improvise on stage?
AP: A fair amount. Both bands used to improv more than they currently do, but it still definitely happens. The HiM band has the burning two-drumkit thing still going on most of the time. I guess the MP band may be a little bit quieter or poppier or, I don't really know [laughs].
SD: As a writer, do you view albums as being a collection of sounds or a collection of songs?
AP: Songs, man. I own albums that are collections of sounds and those are great for that, but my albums are songs. I'm trying to really get back into songwriting. The studio's in my house, so I can record stuff whenever, be lazy and slow about it, and then after a while there are songs and we can put it out on an album [laughs].
SD: Did you have a goal with the album? A certain sound you were aiming for?
AP: No, I never have anything like that. I'm always pretty surprised by the sound once it's done. It's rarely intentional. Usually I listen back once it's done and I'm like, OK, wow, it's done.'"
SD: What are your feelings about running an indie label these days?
SP: Ahh [laughs]. We need more good bands to sign!
SD: Do you feel like there's not enough good music going on?
AP: Yeah. Definitely in the demos that we get.
SD: What have you been listening to that's shaped the music you've been making lately?
AP: That's a good question. I think everything we listen to shapes the sound of what we are doing. What shaped the sound of this new Mice Parade record is my memory of my indie-rock roots, 10-plus years ago [chuckles]. [It] probably has more to do with shaping this record than any of the records I'm currently listening to.
SD: What about some of the South American sounds on the record?
AP: Well, I've listened to that stuff forever, and a lot of it, but I don't think there's actually that much of it on this new record. There's some, but just because the title is in another language doesn't mean to imply that the music all has some crazy Brazilian tinge to it. There's one song, "Milton Road," that is directly influenced by Milton Nascimento, and I certainly do listen to him. That's an obvious Brazil reference, but all the pop shit is more like, I don't know, the first Lilys album, maybe.
SD: What are three records any fan of Mice Parade should spend some time getting to know?
AP: The first record by D'Gary, a guitarist from Madagascar. I would have to say Milton Nascimento, a record he did in 1974 with Los Borges. That record is insane. And then, how about My Bloody Valentine's Loveless? Or any given Fugazi record.
SD: Do you feel tied in to a larger scene of musicians?
AP: It's more like feeling like an infant in a world of people I can learn more from. Fuck all that other shit, that post-rock shit. I always thought that was a weird term anyway. I thought it should have been "instrumental guitar math jazz" [laughs]. It's trying to give its middle finger to rock, really, not trying to lead from it.
HiM, Thursday, January 29,
Higher Ground, Winooski, 9 p.m. With Lake Trout. Bubblecore
Records can be found at www.bubblecore.com.