As week 45 chimes and the final eight weeks begin, we're bringing you a track from a personal favourite of mine, Bear & Walrus! Also, this week is dedicated to Victor Arce aka Love Through Cannibalism aka the WeeklyTreat Art Grunt, as it's his birthday and he's an absolute legend. ~much love~~~~grab the track here!
WT: What was your first introductions to the chiptune scene?
Zachary: I somehow ended up working the door for
some of the first 8static events in 2009. I was terrible about showing up
reliably to work the door, but I loved the music. Up until that point we didn't
realize there was a chip music scene... we had been using trackers and old
hardware for years to get interesting sounds, but not really thinking anything
of it. It was great to have a sort of click moment and discover this entire
Chad: Zachary took me to an 8static in Philly one
weekend I was visiting. I think it was Covox and Nullsleep. I'm a bit older
than most the people in the scene so it was a little awkward. But I totally got
into the sound and the technique.
Z: Yeah, we're notably older. Most people at
8static or Pulsewave are in their late teens, early twenties. I've had people
at shows ask me if I was there to see my kid play.
WT: Where did the name ‘Bear & Walrus’ originate from?
C: I was watching the nature documentary
Planet Earth. There is a scene where they follow a polar bear as it swims
hundreds of miles to reach an island inhabited by walruses only to get gored to
death and die. I feel like that sums up our music.
Z: I live in Philly, Chad lives in Baltimore.
It's a pretty brutal battle to consistently release music that we both approve
of, let alone work on the songs together .
WT: How do you work as a team? Who does what, and how do you get around
the loci problems?
Z: Over the past ten years of performing
together we've built a fragile, tedious system by co-opting software
C: We use Subversion as a way to collaborate
and track songs. It's an open source software versioning system, meant for
building websites and applications, stuff like that. We use it to keep our
recordings in sync. Our methods are as collaborative as they get. I generally
do more of the melodies and Zachary the ambient textures, but over the years
it's blurred and can be impossible to remember who did what to which song.
Z: We have a pretty big cache of instruments
between the two of us. Half the time I'm not even sure what instruments Chad
uses on a song, because I just see the files after he's added them to
Subversion. So it could be a glockenspiel, modular synth, hand bell,
diatonic melodica... I really have no clue. It's just a waveform.
WT: What music influences your output?
Z: We both have more formal backgrounds --
classical, jazz -- but our tastes are all over the place. Lots of experimental
music, lots of hip-hop, lots of improvisational music.
C: All music, new music. I generally don't
listen to music that is more than 2 years old unless I haven't heard it before.
Z: I try to listen to new music every day too.
I think that sort of blend shows through in our output. A straightforward
background with experimental leanings.
WT: Could you talk to us a bit about your past releases, the influences
in them, what prompted their creation and which you enjoyed making the most?
C: Two of our albums, Lake Poems and Image
Poems were both created in a month's time. There is a certain cohesiveness to
those albums because of the time restraint we had. We've started to theme our
work, which I think helps give focus to the projects.
Z: Yeah, the driving motivation behind our
first few albums was to capture the feeling of specific times... less about
concise imagery, more painting with broad strokes. Trying to evoke certain
feelings. Our most recent album, Words From The Woods, is the start of a new
body of work where we try to capture a sense of place. That's part of a bigger
series that we're slowly working on.
C: We did a series of four song EPs that were
themed around summer months, romance, 17th century poetry... time and temporary
things. Those were a lot of fun, both to record and design. We did wood
carvings for the artwork, hand inked and letterpressed the CD cases,
silkscreened the discs...
Z: It just felt appropriate for the project. As
more and more music is released in a form that's primarily intangible, it
seemed necessary to declare those songs as having a physical component, being
something scarce and temporary.
WT: What goes in to creating a standard ‘Bear & Walrus’ track?
C: Generally a track can go through five to
twenty revisions. One of us will sketch out the beginnings of a song and then
we pass it back and forth after that. Usually the end result is way different
than how it started. Kind of like Photoshop tennis.
Z: It's a lot of back and forth. I have a work
style that's really rapid, sloppy, trying lots of different things. Chad is
more calculated and precise. Somehow those two styles strike a good balance.
WT: What went in to your WeeklyTreat in particular?
Z: This song started with some bad RadioShack
brand audio cables. They kind of crackled if you didn't seat them in the mixer
just right. So we were messing around and I sampled a bunch of those crackling
noises and the song got built around that. Chad added in the piano melody and
the chunky distorted part, which is just a straight pulse wave with 25% duty
C: Most of our sounds are actually really
simple like that, but then we treat them like we would any other instrument --
reverb, EQ, distortion, compression -- and they become something else. If you
hear a crazy distorted instrument on one of our songs, it's not a guitar...
it's probably a Game Boy.
lying in the near future for ‘Bear & Walrus’?
Z: We're wrapping up an album now, we just shot
a video for one of the songs. Instead of touring to support the album we're
going to get right back to recording. The half life for an album is so short in
the age of Soundcloud and Bandcamp. It seems better to focus our energies on
making as much new music as possible.
C: Plus, between the two of us, we work like 8
Z: Yeah. Real life gets in the way.