When we heard Saratoga, the storming lead track from The Soft Pack’s forthcoming Strapped album, it felt like the LA based four-piece were onto something special. Turns out the whole damn record is quite literally stuffed with class A tunes. What’s more impressive is that the group wrote around 80 tracks, recorded 30 and decided upon 12. We spoke with Matty McLoughlin about his group’s apparent burst of inspiration.
Bowlegs: How long ago was Strapped officially in the can and ready to go? Is there an unspoken pressure in the period between completion and the actual release date? Do you purposefully not listen to it too much in case you start picking it to pieces?
Matty: The record wasn’t finished until June if I recall correctly. We needed to wait on money to get it mixed and were still doing little overdubs until the very end. For me there was kind of a self-imposed pressure to finish it. I am glad we took our time making the record but it gets to a point where you just want to get it out there for people to hear. To have a new and updated representation of yourself. After it was completed I tried not to listen to it so I wouldn’t critique it anymore. It was liberating to not be thinking about the album all day, every day.
Bowlegs: The whole writing process for this record was different from your self-titled debut. This time round you wrote around 80 songs and then whittled it down to 12? Firstly what happens to the remaining 68 tunes? Was it a voting process? Any tracks you kinda wish made the cut?
Matty: Well there was a good portion of those 80 song ideas that weren’t finished. Like one or two parts but never completed. We demo’d everything so we can always go back and use them. I am sure some of those ideas will resurface and become real songs. I like our b-sides for this album and we’ll probably use some stuff as bonus tracks. Yeah we all kind of decide what goes on the record. There is this song called Crass Number that I liked a lot but Matt wasn’t really feeling it and didn’t write lyrics for it. Maybe someone will buy the song off us in the future? Oh that would be awesome… Starting price is $500K.
Bowlegs: And how do you think the sound differs on this record? Were there elements you all felt needed addressing from the debut? Is there a feeling that you need to demonstrate some form of progression on each new release?
Matty: We wanted to make the album more sonically diverse and rich. The last one we tried to capture what the band sounded like live at the time. This time we overdubbed quite a bit and used saxophone, synth, and other random things. We felt we needed to sound more interesting. Different instruments coming in and out.
Bowlegs: The new record was self-produced, was that an easy decision to make? Was it a more enjoyable experience? It certainly took longer to make – around two years right?
Matty: Yeah we wanted to do everything ourselves and just take our time. I am really happy with the way the record turned out. I’ve always been most comfortable in the situation where it’s “if this sucks, it’s my fault.”
Bowlegs: There’s some nice brass riffing going on here – especially on Bobby Brown. Where did that come from? Brass in pop can backfire in the wrong hands – you seem to have integrated it perfectly!
Matty: Our friend and part time live member Tony Bevilacqua played the sax on that one (and most of the record). We realized that you can achieve things above your talent level if you just surround yourself with talent and have them do it.
Bowlegs: Talking of Bobby Brown, that feels like a big departure in sound for you guys. You’ve got a sax solo, pitch-bending synths and new wave vibes going on. Was that a fun track to put down?
Matty: Yeah I love Bobby Brown. We often switch instruments and jam in practice and I think 4 songs on the album came out of doing that. We recorded that song like 7 million fucking times before we got it right. It’s a fun song but it was a bitch to record.
Bowlegs: Just as I was thinking you were sticking to the short and sharp song template we get the excellent closer Captain Ace – it’s nearly seven minutes long. Was it a riff or rhythm you just felt could go on and on? Might we get more epics on the next record?
Matty: Matt and I wrote Captain Ace and the band just jammed out the end. Brian (drummer) and David (bassist) are great at locking in a groove which makes it easy for guitars, sax, vocals to float over it. We’re down for long ones.
Bowlegs: Are these songs written from personal experiences – if so who is Ray and what’s the mistake he’s made? What themes are you exploring on this record – are meanings in songs important to you or is it all about getting a good vibe?
Matty: Well Matt Lamkin writes all of the lyrics. I can tell you that “Ray’s Mistake” is a drink from this Tiki Bar in LA that we adore and hang out at all the time. The place is called Tiki Ti’s if you are ever in LA and want to get that perfect kind of drunk where you think you are stoned and floating or something…If you drink 3 of them you are kinda fucked though.
Bowlegs: Finally what albums in 2012 have you been spinning on a regular basis?
Matty: I am blanking on stuff I’ve been listening to in 2012. Ariel Pink’s Mature Themes for sure. The new Fresh and Only’s record is sick.