Interview: The Sufis
Published on August 20th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
The Sufis recently ‘dropped’ Inventions, their second album on Cornershop’s Ample Play label, and here at Rocksucker we were quite taken with it.
“Tumbling vintage psych with tangential tendencies befitting of its own youthful exuberance, but with an extra added sophistication that they refrain from beating us over the head with”: that’s what we said in our overly verbose four-quail review of the thing.
As such, we did that thing we like to do when we fling some questions over to a band we like, then they fling back some answers, and we post it all up together like some heated conversational tango.
In the process, The Sufis – or Evan Smith and Calvin Laporte, to give them their real names – joined the elite band of artists to have been interviewed on our hallowed pages for a second time…
Congratulations on the release of your second album. Were all the songs written in the time since the first, or do some date back further than others?
Evan: We started recording stuff soon after the first record was mastered and some of the first tracks on Inventions came about pretty soon after that. There were loads of songs recorded all of 2012 into early this year for the album.
Calvin: Yeah, we thought the album was done at one point but I recorded a few more songs that made it on the album. I think we finished “No Expression” the day off our mastering deadline. We’re always recording, so there’s never a start or stop point. We have enough leftovers to make a double album.
Who or what are you singing about on “Most Peculiar Happening Cat”?
Evan: It’s about a couple different people, but mostly it’s just kind of a take on tastemakers and cliquey music scenes. There’s probably a most peculiar happening cat in most every town these days.
Calvin: Everyone’s been asking us about that. It’s partly about people we know in Nashville. It’s meant to be really funny though, not negative at all. We were definitely laughing a lot when we recorded the vocals.
Who played the harpsichord on “Turn Around”?
Evan: Calvin had this great progression which had a lot of chords so it took a few goes to get it right. Our harpsichord has two broken strings so I had to play the chords differently and make sure none of the keys stuck. I’m pretty sure Calvin had to tune it specially as well.
Calvin: Our harpsichord isn’t really the easiest to play. It was originally owned by the Chicago Symphony but never maintained. It’s a little more work, but it sounds better than digital harpsichord sounds most other people seem to use.
It’s ridiculously early to be asking, granted, but do you have material in mind for a third album?
Evan: Yeah, as soon as Inventions was mastered we started working on new stuff. Jon came back for a few weeks and did some woodwind overdubs too.
Calvin: We’re busy working on demos right now. We’re mostly working individually; Evan wakes up early in the morning to write and record his demos. Then, I’ll spend most of my day working on music until we meet up to share our songs with each other. Then we’ll usually argue for a couple hours trying to figure out whether it’s good or not.
We’ve built a new studio so things are starting to sound different. The vocals are getting very dreamy. I’m more interested in a layered, dense, wall of sound sort of production now.
How did you first come to the attention of Ample Play? Are you fans of Cornershop and/or the other acts on the label?
Calvin: We’re huge fans of Cornershop, and we’re very lucky to be on Ample Play. They let us do whatever we want, but also give us invaluable help and advice.
Evan: Our friend Ryan from The Paperhead told Ben at Ample Play about us, and we also sent them a CD copy in the mail. I definitely bought When I Was Born For The Seventh Time when I was in middle school so I thought it was awesome that Ample Play wanted to work with us, and of course the other bands on the label are great too.
Are there any plans afoot to come to the UK sometime in the near future?
Calvin: Not sure. Jon bought a place in Kansas and he’s focused on his gardening and building a studio. We want to play and we have lots of offers to play around the world, but we just don’t have a band. It’s very hard for us to find people to play with. We’re not easy people to deal with; we’re really weird and obsessed with making music.
What other new music from 2013 have you been enjoying?
Evan: MBV, Foxygen and Paul Messis.
Calvin: I think Paul’s record is my favorite so far. I also really like the Focus Group album, and that Broadcast soundtrack. I hear bits and pieces of new albums in Evan’s car that I like. I heard a funny song by Foxygen that combined “Under My Thumb” and “Suspicious Minds”, but I didn’t like it. They have a couple good songs though.
I’ve been listening to Ashra’s New Age of Earth a lot, it’s not new but it could be.
The Sufis, thank you.
Inventions is out now on Ample Play Recordings.