Progress Report

Progress Report: Les Savy Fav

NAME: Les Savy Fav
PROGRESS REPORT: Releasing their fifth album, Root For Ruin. Recorded with Chris Zane at Gigantic Studios.

Tim Harrington jumped onstage to sing “Precision Auto” with Superchunk when both bands played the Primavera Festival in May. It seemed spontaneous (Harrington was thrilled), but, like most Les Savy Fav moves, was a little deeper than that. Though LSF have played the Superchunk song live many times, they had also just completed an album that, according to guitarist Seth Jabour, takes much of its inspiration from Superchunk, Dischord Records, Drive Like Jehu, Archers of Loaf, and other ’90s bands and labels. There are “nods to things here and there,” but the influence was more about getting into the same mood the band was in back then. “I think that for this record, we were kind of thinking of this almost as a follow-up to our second record [The Cat and the Cobra] that came out in 1999,” he says. Some of the nods here and there: Jabour says Tim Harrington takes a line verbatim from a Circus Lupus song, they used a little bit of David Berman, and they tried to write guitar lines that had a Pavement feel to them, far more melodic than their usual stuff. “We were conscientious about being inspired by music that inspired us back when we started being a band, as opposed to being inspired by whatever happens to be going on right now.”

Jabour says it’s too soon for him to tell if they were as ambitious as they thought they were while they were recording (they were just heading into mastering the record when I spoke with them a few weeks back). But they tried things that could make people cringe (his words), like a Slayer-esque three-guitar lead on one song. On the day photographer Ryan Muir visited the band, at Gigantic Studios, they were in the middle of building their own talk box. They were going for something specific — the talk box on Mötley Crüe’s “Dr. Feelgood.” Other talk box classics he mentioned: Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer,” and everything Peter Frampton has ever done. The cringe potential was through the roof. But the band were determined, searching YouTube clips of 15-year-olds making talk boxes in their bedrooms to make their own. “We tried using it on our tracking and it sounded like total shit,” Jabour says. Harrington finally gave up and bought one. Was it worth it? “I think that we pulled it off. It’s so subtle and it just adds a little bit of texture. So, I’m hoping that if I had to kind of like backpedal on the decision that we made, a little bit. I would say, ‘We didn’t abuse the talk box,’ let’s just put it that way.”

The problem, he says, is that when you use such an obvious effect, it’s just not exciting, for the listener or for the band. That sets up an interesting problem for Les Savy Fav — he says that, in the past, they’ve recorded songs that they just assumed would never make it to their live sets. Layered keyboard parts, guitar sounds that were too airy to fit with their spontaneous, muscular performances. This time they tried to keep that in mind (leading to the album’s many “rippers” according to Jabour). Harrington takes his shirt off when he records his vocals too. “He wants to be able to capture that feeling of having a freak-out moment even though he’s in the studio with just us,” Jabour explains. There are still moments where Jabour can’t remember how they recorded one part or one sound, and those moments are still good to have, since not everything could, or should be recreated live. Except for the talk box. He groans a bit thinking about it. “Now we have to bring it on tour with us every time we go out, bring along this enormous box with this barely-working talk box in it,” he says. “It’s my albatross, my cross to bear.”

Root For Ruin is out 9/13 in the UK via Wichita and 9/14 in the States via Frenchkiss Records. Here’s the cover:
Les Savy Fav Root For Ruin Album Art

Jabour has this to say about the cover, designed by drummer Harrison Haynes: “Harrison started making these submissions and I said what I really liked about it was that when you look at an album cover from bands like Pavement or Guided by Voices or a lot of bands, how were our peers making album covers before the advent of Photoshop. There’s gonna be some Photoshopping involved of course, but it’ll be mostly just to clean up the photographs and tweak them a little bit. The track list:

01 “Appetites”
02 “Dirty Knails”
03 “Sleepless in Silverlake”
04 “Let”s Get Out of Here”
05 “Lips n” Stuff”
06 “Poltergeist”
07 “High and Unhinged”
08 “Excess Engergies”
09 “Dear Crutches”
10 “Calm Down”
11 “Clear Spirits”

Tags: Les Savy Fav