Beirut's Zach Condon Shares A New Song And The Story Behind It
Support for this podcast and the following message come from internet essentials from Comcast, connecting more than six million low income people to low cost, high speed internet at home. So students are ready for homework class graduation and more now they're ready for anything. It's all songs considered. I'm Bob Boylan. There's new music from Beirut, the project of Zach, Condon friends. So today you'll hear deliberately the title track from the next bay route record and a conversation with Zach Condon on how this song which was hatched in Italy, how it came to be Zach is living. Now these days in Berlin. We start the conversation by playing a bit of the new song as he gives us some insight into what we're hearing. This is a far Feazel Oregon, that was in the studio in Italy. And it has the syringe repeater, which in a sense is. You can set it on a mode. You know, it'll say like Boston over something like that and it whatever chords you play that you choose. It just spits them back out at you on this preset rhythm. But then we tied the whole thing through a space echo and blew it out of a couple of amplifiers. And now. And now you're hearing my my brass fanfare. I was trying to play it as sloppily loudly as I could on what instrument few going on, but there's a lead more than anything else. Yeah. Yeah, that's about six or seven Trump attracts on top of each other that I played. Let's listen a little. And what is that opening line that you saying. You know, it just says, we tell tales to be known. I wouldn't say. I'm not sure what I was trying to say with the Lear here. I feel like I wrote them in resignation to something and I don't remember what it was at the time. Perhaps it was the act of writing lyrics. Which cannot be easy ever know if you know me at all, you know that I hate writing lyrics and I tend to Hitler in general. Basang took shape in in Italy now. Yeah. I mean, this song was written. After my visit to the city of, but the lyrics were written in Berlin after I came back from Italy, so they would have been a couple of months apart by then, you know, I wasn't necessarily thinking about the city. For example, I think I was if I remember correctly, this is one of the first songs I put vocals on because we recorded everything instrumentally and Italy from demos. I'd written in Berlin. And then when I got home in my own studio, I started singing over the home. Where's home at this point? I'm not lost you. I don't know where you live anymore. Zack. Zack. I am currently in Berlin. I've been here for the last year and a half. I'm you're calling that home. Yeah. Okay. So you'd have to find a recording studio and Germany. Did you try to do that? And because I'm trying to like, like I think of Germany is such a home for music, music studios, producers and so forth, but tinny wind up in this little town in Italy. So help me get from one place the other. Maybe that'll help make some sense of at all. What I do have in Berlin is this one room studio that I'm renting and it's really nice and I have a lot of Queant -ment there. None of it mine. I kind of walked into it and it was like a keyboard kinda graveyard or something that the owners of the studio just basically told me, hey, if it, if you can turn it on and it works, you can use it. And this is where I was just writing material on my own, which is usually what I do before I involve the other members of the band for example. And so what happens is Paul. Collins who plays bass and other instruments was on this honeymoon in Rome, and he was getting involved with some of the scene there, and he met some people and he kept hearing about the studio in Pula like this small rural, it's it's in the boot heel, and we saw some video of it. Actually, I think we saw Earl and playing there because he lives in Palermo now and we saw the studio and it looks nice. What was it that you saw stone castle with. I mean, when you say nights? No, the funny thing is it's it's a giant building that was built very recently. I guess Steffano the owner stuff. No Monka his family had a plot on a vineyard there, and then he built this gigantic studio on top of it. And the funny thing about the studio is it reminds me of my elementary school in Santa Fe. Building from the outside stone castle, keep going. No, not a song castle. Nothing so romantic, but it had this huge open recording room which I thought would make for an exciting life. Sounds like very organic. And I looked, I essentially looked at the, you know, equipment lists, and I got to see that there were a lot of nice kind of old to bams and lots of organs, which I'm fascinated in and fascinated with. Maybe I'm losing my English now. It looks to be the right amount of acquits not fussy seemed laid back as well. I'm gonna guess less expensive than so. Yeah, also less expensive. And also I felt like in Berlin, even though there is plenty of studio space and stuff like that, I felt like we could concentrate more if we were actually kind of living in the studio so to speak, which is what the case was there because there would be no else to stay. So June fight pollen, Nick, Paul, the bass player, Nick Petri as the drummer, and I've known them all the ways since Santa Fe where I met both of them like my twelve or thirteen years ago now. And then I brought the producer gave wax who's from the last record. We worked with him and I brought my demos. I brought all the material that I've been writing on my own. When you say you brought your demos, would you bring up some recordings of you sit in a room together and listen to describe what that processes? Yeah, essentially, that was. Is it the way I tend to work is I just tend to hang a microphone in my studio and start playing until something catches. And then I get excited and I start adding melodies and vocal melodies and percussion ideas because I'm really not a great drummer. I tend to leave that to Nick, but I tend to lay down the the baseline ideas, for example, and then yeah, we get, we get into a proper studio and we get someone who actually cares where the microphone is in relation to the instruments versus me, and I play the song for them and I show them the parts. And then we, we develop it more, you know, we, we give it more detail and and we really choose the orchestration and then that sort of thing. And I don't know. And then I don't know twelve thirteen hours disappear. Magically and you may or may not have something. So you mentioned right at the top of this. That first thing we hear is the far Feazel Oregon was for fee support of the original concept of the song. Well, here's the funny thing is I'm I'm sitting here explaining this process that nine the way that you know ninety percent of the record was written, but this song is a complete outlier. Okay. This song existed in no form at all. Until the day. I started sitting down at that keyboard in the studio in Italy of keep going. It was one of those instruments where I turned it on had an interesting sound Mehan Gabe were messing with putting it through a space echo, like I mentioned, the repeated delays aren't quite on time and you get this kind of jerky motion, and you know, kind of crunchy and buzzy. And it soon as we got the sound is I, my hands started gravitating towards a couple chords that I realized we're just full potential essentially. And so I sat and I played that in parts just over and over and over again. And then I ran into the, you know, the main to here how it sounded pulled out the Trump and it just the whole day disappeared. But the entire songs written Monday, percussion, all just from scratch top to bottom, just like that. Yeah, I don't know. Very strange. Two. Two. Anything about Italy and so forth and to help inspired the song because when something comes together like that kind of magic here here is my feeling about that stuff is there's generally something in life or in fought or something that's in you that comes out. And so is there anything that happen when you're like about an in this town in the studio that might have helped color and help you paint the picture this song? I think so, it's funny that you say that because back in the day, I didn't believe that there were any real world connections to have came out. I just thought that was too obvious that can't be that simple. I always thought the best songs came when you completely took your own mind imagery out of the picture and just became more of a vessel for what was happening in front of you. I don't think we're saying things. I think that what you just said is true. And what I said is too, I think both things can happen simultaneous, but keep going true. Yeah, your environment can give you some input and as long as you don't try to force it come out naturally. In an interesting way. This was written the day after we during breaks in the recording sessions, we would take drives with the owner of the studio out to the coast. Remember we were driving back up. I was seeing signs for city called globally. We showed up in the city and we get out of the car and we just decide to go for a walk. And in that moments, we happen to hit a procession. And this is common in small towns in Italy. It's like the, the local saints. You know, every city will have its own will be paraded through the city streets. From one church to another at a certain time of year, and we had no idea was happening, and we just very serendipitous. -ly happened to walk in at the exact moment as the Saint was leaving the church carried by a bunch of priests while behind them was this frenetic kind of brass band. You're in having this city itself is I was in heaven. Yes, this is exactly what I want to be. You know, this is better than any concert for me. Speaking out and the city is these just claustrophobic streets, winding, there's, you'd have to live there your whole life to know where you're going, and we're just following this procession in the whole town is there. And it's in this medieval city on an island off the coast with only one kind of bridge connecting it to the mainland and we just got lost with it for for an entire nights. And I wondered out of there and I was, you know, deep in thought and processing at all these things. All I know is that you know. Sure enough. The next day I'm sitting on an Oregon and this this kind of these rhythms in these melodies are coming out. And like I said before, I, I'm almost cynical of the idea that it could be that straightforward that you're inspired by something and it just comes out in a song. But then again, perhaps it actually does. I don't know. I've always been a believer that fear and what's around you, what's in the back of your head and so forth shapes and some Wes. Shape or form shapes the music you make as much as if you didn't eat very much that day and you're in a bad mood shapes the song that you might right. You know you're part of who we and you are was music. I just want to. Melodic music was that I mean. Yeah, yeah, it was. It was bouncing off the walls and simultaneously every church in town was ringing which just made for utter chaos. I actually have a recording of it because I ended up just walking around recording on my iphone half the time. It simultaneously disorienting and very trance-like and you're in a crowd and you can't move left to right, and you definitely can't turn around. So you're forced to just follow the whole trail. So to speak. You go on the studio, you make this thing, the band plays it. There's no words to this song. At this point, you're recording a full albums worth of stuff to do even have an idea of title, or did you just naming it Khalil later because that's where it all happen. I named it Golightly that nights. I mean, if it isn't obvious yet I have a kind of silly fascination with city named notice. No, honestly, I feel like it. It probably comes from me being super young and reading too many, ten ten books and watching Indiana Jones. I don't know. But it's funny because with the Strecker it's these are things that I actually became quite self conscious about later in my career just saying, oh, I was really wearing my heart. My sleeve and my kind of innocence to and on this record, I decided to just embrace it. Whatever comes first first idea, best idea sort of thing, but it's true. There were no lyrics. I had written the vocal melody along with the music. So what you would have heard if you had been there at the end of the night was missing gibberish with the same malady that you hear on the final version, but with no lyrics yet and in those didn't happen until I took it back to Berlin and had the chance to sit down and focus on my own vocal parts. You mentioned how different this was in the way this song came together lyrically VO, who who was that true of all of the songs on the record that you took back home, or did you have lyrics to those other pieces of music that you brought to Italy? You know, I told myself I was going to sing in the studio. I don't like to, but I told myself I would, and I don't like an audience at all. Even if it's just a producer or a good friend who I trust, I still feel very strange. It cracks me up when I hear this. I mean, the only places I've seen you beside at my desk singing in front of people on a stage singing from people and just. I think people who don't play musical, find it really hard to understand how phrase like that can come out of a performer's mouth, but I do there. There's something that when you're up onstage tell me if I'm putting words in your mouth or not or or expand on it, but but when you're performing on stage, it's so different. You can actually be in your own world when you're onstage. If you want to be different than when if you were in a room, full of friends, new started to sing. Getting that right. Absolutely. Are I mean, the truth is in many forms will also tell you this, and it's very true for me is that sometimes it's easier to perform for six to ten thousand people than it is for you know, fifteen or less. We see the tiny desk concerts where the most well known performers come in and they're nervous as all hell performing someone like eight feet away, and there's only thirty of us fifty of us. Well, it rattled me to my core. Terrified. I am. I am not. I've never been in a natural performer and I'm not afraid to admit it. I just never was my music in the entire creation process was always meant to be done behind closed doors and privacy, and to get out on stage has always been a struggle for me. And I tried to just hold on for dear life and seeing as best as I can. My my comfort zone where I'm happiest, where get the most, everything out of music is often in the studio, and it's not that I don't like performing and hearing audience reaction and that sort of thing. And sometimes it feels really good, but the place I belong the most is, you know, like in that studio where I have the ideas and they're coming out quickly and I know exactly what I'm supposed to do. Some of that in as a musician too, that I find is that I love the magic process, the process where something unfolded didn't expect, which is different than when you go out stage to perform them because for the most part like eighty seven eighty percent, but you know, what's your doing? And you know what's going to happen. Yeah, your guitar player may play a different line, but it's the most part you're executing something as opposed to conjuring something and I find them really different to and I love the creative part. I get the. Most ecstasy from the. Even these days I finished the record, but I still go to the studio every day anyway. And I just try to write one melody and it's only for me. I literally will bounce down accord progression melody, and I will put my headphones on and I will listen to it on the train going from the studio back home, and that makes my entire day feel complete. So that's awesome. Well, I'm happy as a listener do share some of your stuff. Do and, and I know even doing something like this where you have to talk about this magic process. I know that processes just like, oh, Mando really have to talk about this. Can I just do it right. It is an odd moment. Like I mentioned earlier, this this out is coming out soon, but it's it's been finished for while in. So I've had this long period of just adjusting to it on my own terms and not talk about it is actually kind of funny experience Zach Condon's speaking to us from Berlin. The next album from Beirut is called glibly and it's out February first on four AD records. I'm Bob Boylan for NPR music. It's all songs considered support for NPR and the following message come from circus oh, lay crystal, a frozen playground of world-class ice skating and stunning acrobatics. See it live at Capital One arena from December. Fifth to ninth tickets available now at circus. Oh, lay dot com.