Tuesday, April 6, 2004
Detractors of disco have always maligned the genre's cold soullessness. The absence of real drums and the prevalence of studio-created instrumentals, they claimed, took the feeling out of the music. So now that (by this standard) an astounding percentage of popular music should be categorized as disco, why should the sterile emotional void of groups like The Motels, The Thompson Twins, and Berlin be judged any more harshly than the sterile emotional void of current "soulful" artists like R. Kelly, Christina Aguilera, and their ilk? It shouldn't be. And if a record makes you want to shake your ass like a Christmas present AND isn't by a hideous former mouseketeer? All the better. Dan Geller and Amy Dykes of I Am the World Trade Center have made such a record. Equal parts Human League, OMD, and Bananarama, "The Cover Up" should affect you the same way as 2-for-1 drinks night at the Manhole. lawrence.com spoke with Dan Geller after the most important meal of the day.
Dan Geller: I'm in Denny's right now. Hold on, let me step out. [pause] Hello?
Hi. I'm back.
Okay. Did you get the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity(r) breakfast?
They don't have that anymore, man.
- Thursday, April 8, 2004, 9 p.m.
- Jackpot Music Hall, 943 Mass., Lawrence
- 21+ / $5
[It's actually at IHOP. -ed.]
No, I got the Sunshine Slam.
That's a good one. Do they have the Moons Over My Hammy(r) anymore?
Yeah, they do still have the Moons Over My Hammy(r).
Good. We don't have Denny's around here. Well, Kansas City I guess, but that might as well be Duluth at breakfast time.
Yeah, we don't have 'em in Athens either, so it's a treat when we're on the road.
There's been a lot made of the Little Rascals curse and the Superman movie and television curse and so forth. And I think IATWTC is in the running for an E! True Hollywood Story story. According to your bio you two are broken up now, there's the controversy stemming from your name compounded by a song called "September" appearing as track 11 on your first record [released in July of 2001, by the way], you've had label problems... It all reads like the Paul McCartney death hoax.
[laughing] Right, right, right, right. It would be a great "Behind the Music." You're right about that one. It's weird. I guess things happen to all bands, and ours are just a little more sensational, but I don't think that the effects of them have been that detrimental. The name thing has been weird because it's generated as much positive press as it's generated questionable press, I guess. I don't know. I don't see any of it as all that negative. Our relationship is not - technically it's not really over. I mean, it changes from day to day. We're on the road together every day, so obviously lingering feelings still exist. I guess it's one of those things that you learn in life: Nothing is 100 percent. We have a better label now [Gammon Records] than we had before. They put more money in this than our other label [Kindercore Records] ever could have, so that's good. We've made the best record we've ever made [The Cover Up] after going through all that. Part of making that record was the fact that we did go through all that stuff and it allowed us to make a record that we really feel like a hundred percent we did the best we could. I guess it does read kind of dismally, and it's funny, I've actually gone back and edited that bio after I saw it. I was like, "You know what? This isn't really isn't reflective of our lives." 'Cause we're pretty happy with our lives. So it's weird. I kind of disagree with that statement but I see why you say it, I guess.
What's it like touring with an on again / off again romantic interest.
Yeah, that's probably the best way to put it.
Does it affect the live show?
No, it's weird. I think when we get on stage we're the band, and it's almost like we're in love again no matter what when we're on stage because we created those songs while we were together. We're definitely best friends, period. I guess that's what we can say about it. And because we are best friends I think we can really interact well onstage. If you didn't know that we had problems with our relationship you'd never be able to tell by the live show. Except on the nights when we want to kill each other. Then you can tell. But that's only happened like once that I can think of.
But nothing came of it. No violence.
Yeah, right. Exactly.
As long as you don't follow through, it's just entertainment.
So this isn't the end of the band?
Oh god, no, no. We're stuck in this thing. We're gonna see it out.
How do you bring your music to the stage? Do you bring extra personnel?
It's just us, and I think the thing that's most noticeable about the show is that we go crazy. It's probably on of the most high energy shows that is touring in indie rock right now. People at the end of our shows often come up to us and say, "How do you do that for your entire set?" 'Cause it's kind of like running a little marathon, what we do. And we try to make it more visual than musical. The music is partially tracked and partially played live, but I think the focus is really on making it enjoyable and entertaining more than worrying about recreating all those sounds live. The music comes out the right way, but it's because we've planned it that way. I think it can be said we've done the work in the studio, and then when we go out and play we just go have fun.
I'm not normally a fan of dance music, but this record is bringing back a flood of memories of being dragged from bar to bar on Halsted Street, blowing all my tip money on booze and coke.
[laughing] That's the coolest thing anyone's ever said!
I'm hearing Berlin, OMD, Bananarama, Human League, Erasure - what separates IATWTC from an '80s tribute act?
It's really weird because none of those bands really influence us. The bands that influence us are mainly from the '90s. Like it's Blur and the Stone Roses, and Smiths, and - well, I guess that's '80s - but even Morrissey I guess is the '90s. And it's just not that much '80s stuff that influenced us. I think what happened was, the way I made the music kind of lent itself to that sort of '80s retro sound, and it was totally done unconsciously. That was not the intent of this music at all when I started making it. And in fact the first record, I think if you go listen to it, it's more loop-based and more "modern"-sounding, I guess, more DJ-sounding than the new stuff is. But I think the more I stopped using samples and started creating my own loops, the more "synthey" it became. And it just kind of evolved. And it's weird. We get the '80s thing a lot. And we don't mind it. I like all those bands that you talked about, and that's fun music, and people like to dance to it, but it isn't really where the music's coming from. Which is bizarre how it ended up that way. But it's funny because we do '80s covers now, and we do that because it was like, "Alright, whatever, we'll give in," and we'll throw an '80s cover in. But we also do covers from the '70s and covers from the '90s, and covers from 1999 to 2000. We do a lot of covers, and we try and mix it up every night. You never know what we're gonna do. And we don't ever know what we're gonna do either. And I guess we take songs from other eras and make 'em sound that way. Just by the process of creating the songs they come out that way.
When I heard "Different Stories" [Track 8 on "The Cover Up"], I was thinking, [singing] "You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar..." You've got that Human League call and response going.
[laughing] Yeah, I can totally see that. That's funny. I think "Deny It" [Track 6 on "The Cover Up"] almost more has that feel to it as well. ... When we were writing it, we were writing it from the perspective of a tumultuous relationship, so I guess that kind of comes out of that, where you want to talk to each other... I guess I normally don't sing on the records, but on this one I felt it was necessary so I could actually express my opinion on it. [laughs] I guess that's probably what happed with Human League way back when too.
Well, if you haven't already established this fan base, you're going to have busloads of gay men in their late 30s following you around the country after this record.
[laughs] We have a little bit of that. We definitely have a little bit of that. Our demographic is weird because it's like - There's the indie rock kids and the hipsters that come out to shows no matter what. But then we have this added layer of fans that we have to kind of coax into coming out that don't always come to shows, and the 17-year-old girl who loves us but doesn't get to go to the drinking shows and stuff like that. It's a really diverse fan base that we have. It's pretty interesting.
That must add a little spice to your shows.
It does, because people come, and they're less conscious of being at a show and they kind of tend to bust out more and dance. Ideally, the shows usually turn into a pretty crazy dance party. Like last night, we played here in Eureka, CA, and it went crazy. The best thing is when it's a really heavy drinking town and we play last and everybody' totally sloshed. Last night it was just ridiculous. People were going crazy dancing. And that's what we hope for.
Have you ever been to Lawrence?
We played there once in a house, and we played Kansas City once, I think. We never really played a proper club in - Oh, wait. No, I take that back. Never mind. We played the Bottleneck with Mates of State on their last tour.
And you're like the anti-Mates of State.
It was funny touring with them 'cause we were touring with them during our breakup, and they were recently married and now pregnant. And we were in the middle of a breakup. It's weird. It's a breakup but it doesn't feel like it to either of us, I don't think. It's more like just kind of an evolution in our relationship. 'Cause like I said we are best friends, and I don't really feel any further away from her than I did when we were together. It's just there are certain elements of our relationship that are nebulous at this point, I guess. [laughs] It's day to day. It changes every day, so it's pretty hard to say where it stands.
So how was your Lawrence experience last time around?
Oh, it was great. ... their fans are huge in, you know, their former home town, so it was a great show for us to get to play. But it was weird 'cause it was more of an all ages crowd - more of a younger crowd - and like I said, we like a more diverse crowd, where it's from all ages to 45 is pretty much what we like to see. So a certain element of our crowd wasn't there, but that's okay, hopefully we'll get 'em this time.
Did we treat you alright, though? 'Cause your new record is way better than their last record.
[laughing] Oh man, now don't say that.
I love their new record. But we went on tour with them and I had to listen to it every day, so it kind of grew on me. [laughs]
Like mold. What are you expecting in Lawrence this time around? You're headlining this time.
Yeah, we're headlining this one, so who knows? We never know, we never know. It's funny. We're the kind of band where if the timing's right and everybody's drunk it's a great show, and if nobody gets drunk then it's just not gonna be as fun. So we encourage heavy drinking.
Well, this is for the pull quote, so make it good.
It's funny. We kind of think of Mates of State as sort of our sister band. And being their former home town, we kind of see it as a very comfortable place. I guess I can say that much about it. When we came there last time it definitely felt like a homecoming 'cause it was Mates of State's homecoming. So hopefully this'll be like our second homecoming to Lawrence. ...
Well, after this new record, you'll have a lot of homecoming queens to choose from.
[laughing] Well, hopefully. We'll see.