Broadcast transmitted their first signals out of Birmingham, England, in the mid-'90s in the form of several enchanting, atmospheric electro-pop singles. A compilation of previously available material, Work and Non Work, followed, but producer walk-outs and studio mishaps kept the band relatively quiet until they resurfaced in 2000 with the lovely and sophisticated The Noise Made by People.
Continuing along an experimental path of Morricone-drenched music, Broadcast seem to have finally gotten the hang of the recording process. Setting up shop in their hometown and figuring out what to do with all of those buttons, knobs and doodads in the studio, Broadcast are slated to release back-to-back CDs this year. The PendulumEP is a six-song teaser that precedes what they feel is their finest accomplishment thus far, this summer's Ha Ha Sound. And although it has been stated that Broadcast are trying to make music they themselves couldn't buy (read: not much to compare them to), we think Broadcast sound a bit like a more sinister St. Etienne or perhaps Petula Clark if she provided vocals for the Barbarella soundtrack.
Which all leads up to this: we love Broadcast and needed to know more. But seeing as an impromptu trip to England isn't really in our budget, we sweet-talked some Broadcasters into chatting with us via e-mail. Vocalist Trish Keenan and guitarist Tim Felton graciously typed us about the "mental torture" of recording, love for a Texas improv band and gifts from prison.
Mental torture sure sounds like a swell place to start, so we ask them what it's like spending their days holed up in a studio. "Recording is a laughable process," begins Keenan. "At every stage, there's a mistake, a setback or a load of cash just waiting to be wasted. It's like a holy trinity of Production, Performance and the ever-elusive Third Thing—the thing that no one knows how to obtain or control."
On the other hand, neat stuff can "happen" in the studio. Happy accidents sometimes leave room for interesting sounds to creep into songs. For instance, there's that first noise heard on Ha Ha Sound."That's a valve dying on the tape delay," admits Kennan. "Sometimes you can go to strange lengths to manipulate a sound, but the best [ones] are usually made by the errors and are somehow always more rewarding. It's like you've got that third thing on your side for a moment."
So far, this all seems a bit too technical and much too serious. Shouldn't this be the part in the interview when they divulge stories of free-flowing swill causing blackouts and waking up next to [insert your fantasy here]? Broadcast must've missed How to Make a Complete Fool of Yourself 101 because there's none of that here.
"The clichs of rock & roll indulgence are available to those who want them," states Felton. "The reality of recording, press and touring is often repetitious, but the more you do it, the more you see how it can be done better, which keeps you interested and hopefully moving toward a goal."
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Another thing that can keep a band moving is musical inspiration. Keenan's list is full of people we've never heard of (Anne Briggs, Vashti Bunyan and Wishbourne Films). And of course there's the Charalambides. You know them. They're the world-famous Texas improv band. Okay, maybe not, but if you were familiar with them, perhaps you'd understand where Broadcast are coming from.
It's nice to know that at least one person does. Well, sort of. "We don't really get gifts very often," says Felton. "But this one chap who was a prison arts tutor did portraits of all the band and sent them to us. Nice, if not a little odd."
We suggest sending chocolates, flowers or a CD of the latest improv craze your state has to offer.
Broadcast perform at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-7022. Tues., 9 p.m. $7. 21+.