Death From Above Are Going Steady
While Death From Above weren't even a band for a few years, they've returned and started writing albums more consistently than they ever did in the past. On their third album Outrage! Is Now they find themselves steering their album in a pop direction with weirder arrangements and more catchy hooks than ever before for an album that put them to the test. We caught up with bassist Jesse F. Keeler ahead of their show at the Bronson Centre on October 19, to discuss the band's step forward, underestimating themselves and how they've held together after a five year break.
Ottawa Life: You've stripped back a lot of the sound for this album, was this a personal reaction to how dense your last record was?
Jesse F. Keeler: Each record is a reaction to something previous or environmental. When we made our first record, people didn't understand why there wasn't a guitar, they were hung up on the form. I'm sure that affected us in some way to where we were compensating by adding more sounds because we weren't confident enough. This time around, we're pretty damn confident so anything like that we went the opposite route. We wanted the sound of our band to be clear and defined.
What did Eric Valentine bring to the recording process and what did he bring out of you in the recording process that another producer might not have?
Eric did exactly what we hoped he would, which was pushing us forward because we wanted it to be the best version of us. There was aspects of all of our other records that sonically we were never satisfied with. I liked them at the time but I always wanted something more sound-wise, and Eric did all this. In hitting all those marks, it made us more confident where we didn't need to add a bunch of other stuff. We listened to it and thought "Wow this was done." My old default was always to do double tracks of everything on the bass, and there was so many times I would ask Eric if I was listening to the double track. He would say "No that's just your bass," and I would say "F&@# really!?!" What we need from a producer is someone to tell us if something we're doing isn't awesome or if we're trying to pass off something that's not there yet. We support each other a lot and don't step on each other's toes much but sometimes we need to hire someone to point out those moments.
I understand part of your recent switch back to just calling yourselves Death From Above involved the ice cube art for "Freeze Me", has the change had any weird side effects?
Honestly it's just been all the questions about it. We dropped it two years ago and no one said anything. We left it off a bunch of merch, people probably wondered about but no one said anything. The 1979 is nice for the internet where it's on our social media stuff, and it's nice to half unique characters for that but we've dropped it.
Looking at the numbers these days it's funny that you've been a band now longer than you were before your break, what's different now that's kept things flowing more naturally?
Things have just been easier for us as a band since we started playing again. The trajectory of our band previously just continued in our absence and we returned to something that had grown without us. We came back at a point where we would've liked to be the first time. Back in the day we were cap in hand trying to get anything done. We returned to a level of respect we never had before, which mean concessions we really needed to do anything we were hoping to do. We're older now and I feel better doing whatever it is you call what we do.
We've talked about sound but the writing has also shifted for this record, what's driving you forwards?
It's boring to make the same stuff over and over again. In terms of keeping our own attention, we want to be challenging ourselves in some way. There's things that I write that I need to learn how to play. There's some things on this album that required me to find new ways of even getting around the bass. On "Trainwreck 1979" we had that piano section on it, and we wouldn't have done it years ago because we didn't know how to do it on stage. This time around we've figured out how to do it, so it enables a song like "Freeze Me" to exist. You can see things that we learn on one record and apply on the next.