Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Interview - Brian Hancheck from The Arctic Flow

The sound of The Arctic Flow is dreamy, full of lush sound scapes and floating guitars. Brian Hancheck is The Arctic Flow and this week Blueboy and Popgirly caught up with Brian to ask him about his music, his inspirations, his music interests and his upcoming EP release As Close To A Kiss As We'll Ever Be.

First of all, where does the name The Arctic Flow come from? And what inspired you to become a musician, has it been something you have always thought of doing?
When I was first starting The Arctic Flow I was really interested in ambient music and had a few songs in the very beginng that were kind of ambient, but because of my short attention span I soon gave up on that and started writing pop songs. The actual name "The Arctic Flow" came from a lyric of a song I misheard from this band I used to be really into. I just recently read the lyric sheet to find out they weren't singing about the arctic flow at all.

Anyway, growing up I was always surrounded by music. My parents and brother played music so I guess it comes naturally. One magical day when I was 5 or 6 I was messing around with my dad's tape player and all of a sudden the song 'Red Rubber Ball' by this obscure 60's band The Cyrkle came on and all of a was really one of my first emotional experiences... I heard it all: the guitar, the melody, the melancholy, and even though I didn't understand the lyrics, I felt what they were singing about. That is what got me interested in music, being able to express these complex feelings that I could not otherwise say.

A lot of your music is incredibly dreamy. Do you produce all of the music yourself? Or do you have people who you collaborate with to create such lush landscapes? Can you tell us about The Arctic Flow recording process?
Thanks so very much. Actually I do everything in The Arctic Flow primarily because after years of playing in really bad bands that I'm embarrassed to admit, it just seems easier to do it all myself instead of telling some producer to turn the reverb all the way up and get really strange looks. The actual recording process isn't epic or anything, but just to give you a glimpse, I usually start the rhythm tracks and bass first and then I become a kid in a candy store and go crazy with everything else. The absolute worst part are vocals...I cringe when I have to do vocals because I have such little confidence in my voice, so I just sort of sing and drench it all in glorious reverb. That's pretty much it. Then I will leave it for about a week and come back to it with fresh ears and start mixing. 

As far as the dreamy's just a combination of reverb, chorus, and delay. For the guitars I never record anything "dry". I will get as much chorus as possible just before it starts to warble and record with about 40% reverb...then during mixing I'll add even more chorus and more reverb over the track.

Does song writing come fairly naturally to you? Are you ever stuck for inspiration or do you find inspiration easily?
Song writing is as natural to me as breathing. I don't ever spend much time pondering over something, but most of the times I come up with the chorus first and then once that's done I write the verses. I usually start and finish a song in just a few hours... music and lyrics. Even though I've tried to take on some serious subjects it usually comes out sounding forced so I just write about things I've gone through, boy/girl things, living and growing up at the beach, being a loner...

Who are some of your musical influences? 'The Pink Beds' reminds me of early Cocteau Twins, while 'Heart In Flight' reminds me of later Cocteau Twins, and 'Lemonade Kiss' is very Jesus & Mary Chain. Who are some other bands that inspire you?
Oh man....this might take a while. The Cure really changed my life in 7th grade. I saw the 'Fascination Street' video on MTV and I was never the same..actually I think it was that video, 'So Alive' by Love and Rockets, and 'Enjoy The Silence' by Depeche Mode all played back to back...just completely turned around and confused at the same time. I went out and over the next few years devoted my life to The Cure. When I was a senior in high school I bought Hatful Of Hollow by The Smiths and I was done. That was probably the greatest musical moment ever to me...hearing those songs. I really believe The Smiths are the greatest band ever...greater than The Beatles, greater than...they were the perfect band. I became very obsessed with Mr. Marr. In college my next great discovery emerged in the form of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine and The Cocteau between The Cure, The Smiths and Slowdive and the Twins you have my influences. Oh and I forgot to mention The Ocean Blue and Starflyer 59.

These days my favorite band is The Radio Dept. I just love their sound.  I have really been into this band called Delorean and Horse Shoes as well as Isles of Kin, Data Unit, Tony Pucci, The Consolation Project and The Bilinda Butchers. The Bilinda Butchers are one of the best new bands I have ever heard.  They are going to be the next big thing. I also love Sundae, The Tough Alliance, The Embassy, Air France, Boat Club, The Field Mice...Really that doesn't even scratch the surface.

I never thought of 'The Pink Beds' as being influenced by early Cocteau Twins, but I can totally see that now. 'Hearts in Flight' was deliberately influenced by them, though. 'Lemonade Kiss' is right on too. That song came was only a single, but I had a bunch of songs I was working on at that time, but it really all sounded too much like Psychocandy.

Have there been any standout releases that you have heard this year? What have you been listening to lately, old or new?
The new Embassy album is going to be amazing. The Bilinda Butchers EP is just beyond words. I know I mentioned them earlier but Isles Of Kin is this shoegaze band from L.A., actually it's just a guy named Kyle, but he does this really Lush, A.R. Kane influenced sound that is among my favourite this year. To be completely honest I haven't listened to many new releases, I usually wait until the end of the year and just saturate myself with a whole year's worth of stuff. The new Drums album is pretty good, it will have to do since Horse Shoes isn't doing much, are they? The new Sundae EP is super cool... really good.

Tell us about the upcoming release of your new EP. It's the first CD release of your music which must be incredibly exciting.
The new EP is called As Close To A Kiss As We'll Ever Be and it's the first CD release for us, everything else up until now has been free digital downloads so this is uncharted territory. It's coming out on Little Treasure, a new imprint of Bubbletone Discos, which we had a single on last year. Cris is one of the nicest guys I know and he has done some really cool artwork.

The songs are some of the best I've done. They sound...well they sound like The Arctic Flow, but there's a lot less guitars and more keyboards. I didn't realize until after I heard it that there is absolutely no distortion on it. It's lush, very lush. If you liked the 'Sentiments and Artifacts' single, you would probably like this one...
This EP contains my favorite Arctic Flow song to date called 'Vanity of Human Wishes', it's kind of autobiographical. It's very exciting!!

The internet has been a great way of promoting your music. What are your thoughts on the MP3 industry?
The fact that it is an industry is really sad, because industry = money. That's why up until now I have given away my music for free because I believe music should be free as long as the artists get credit. The internet is just an amazing tool... I wouldn't be doing this had it not been for being able to use the internet for promotion.

Do you perform many live shows?
I have this shyness thing going on. I'm not the most extroverted person in the world so I don't play live, yet. I am waiting for a show invite. One day I hope to be playing at the NYC Popfest... that would be amazing... I mean The Drums exploded after doing NYC Popfest. But I think I would do OK live, it would probably be just me and my guitar and some backing tracks.

If you could only play 4 songs to best describe your sound, the essential Arctic Flow songs, which 4 songs would they be? And why?
Oh... where do I start? This will be different if you ask me tomorrow, so here it goes.
1- 'All The Way Until December' from All The Way Until December LP. This is one of the best pop songs I've ever done. It was the first song written for that album and the rest of the album followed quickly. It is the culmination of an amazing year.
2- 'Sentiments And Artifacts' single. This song is one of my biggest productions ever. If I can remember there are seven guitar tracks and three bass tracks on this song. Plus it just sounds really cool.
3- 'Dear Diary' from the Starflow Lightning EP. I was gaining confidence as a writer and producer and was saying things in a song that I hadn't before. I really liked how the chorus turned out and it way my first use of piano on an Arctic Flow song.
4- 'Raincheck' single. This is our latest song it originally started sound like an Ocean Blue song, but I rerecorded it and I'm really happy with the way it turned out... very simple with my homage to Peter Hook in the middle.

Thanks for taking time out of your schedule for this interview. We look forward to reviewing your EP in the near future.
Thanks so much. Oh yeah, if you can go over to Facebook and like us... shameless plug. Thanks again!

Here's a free download of the fantastic Starflow Lightning.

LastFM (songs available for free download!)