Heavy on atmosphere, light on the sludge, and weighted in space, Rosetta have their own sound, and that is a rarity nowadays. A decade in this industry is a considerable achievement, and for a band committed to doing things their own way, the best is perhaps still to come, and that is exciting!
Now a five piece, and with ‘Quintessential Ephemera’ now upon us, The Sonic Sensory had a few questions for guitar/vocalist Matt Weed about their new release, the state of the music industry, and the last decade as a band.
Firstly, congrats on the new album! There is a definite shift in sound on ‘Quintessential Ephemera,’ at least compared to ‘The Anaesthete.’ Was it a conscious effort to move away from that darker & heavier universe, or was it something that just eventuated during the writing and recording sessions?
A little of both. The Anaesthete was in large part a product of our collective mental and emotional state at the time it was written. But the irony was that its release fundamentally changed the dynamic of our band and our outlook on what was possible. So, as we wrote new material, it naturally took on a good deal more of that hopeful, outward-facing perspective. At the same time, we did want to do things a little differently on the new record, and asking Eric (from City of Ships) to join us in working on it was an unprecedented step. We wanted an additional creative voice, and we definitely got it.
The 7 untitled tracks that appear on the album have been creating a bit of a storm amongst those that like their music spoon fed; surely you had some working titles during the writing of the record, or was this always going to be a part of the deal?
There are always working titles, but they’re always jokes and have nothing to do with the content of the song. When we first started out, we referred to all the songs by numbers, like a lot of bands do. Around “song 11,” that got too confusing, and we switched over to joke names. These persist now. The (Untitled) tracks were so ‘named’ mainly because we couldn’t think of titles that weren’t distracting or heavy-handed. I don’t understand why leaving something with no title is ‘pretentious’ but calling it something meaningless is somehow better or more authentically intellectual. It’s simple — we wanted the music to speak for itself and didn’t feel the need to color that experience by slapping a half-baked, overly melodramatic name on it.
‘Quintessential Ephemera’ feels like a band truly collaborating. There is also a stronger ‘live feeling,’ especially on ‘Untitled V, that just feels like a band in complete unison. Is that a true reflection of the writing and recording process on this one?
I think so. Because of having Eric on board, we had to be much more disciplined about arranging the songs, since he was commuting from NYC to Philly twice a month to work with us. On the older records, only having one guitar player, I would layer parts on top of each other to great a thicker sound. On this one, Eric and I just recorded our parts and that was that. So you’re hearing the interplay of the two guitars exactly as it would sound in a live situation. We asked the engineers to mix in a lot of the natural sound of the room we recorded in, so that the record sounds like you could be standing there while we play.
You’re entering your second decade as a band, and while that’s an achievement in itself, do you look back on the last 10 or so years and consciously recognise how far you have come as artists and what you have achieved?
It’s hard to grasp, honestly. I can’t quite take it in. It really doesn’t seem that long ago that we were just a local band looking to play shows. There’s definitely a weird feeling when I think about how most of the bands we were friends with in the early years don’t exist anymore. People grow up, move on, and do other things with their lives. When you do the same thing for over a decade, it makes it hard to account for time, and sometimes it feels like you’re floating in a sort of stasis. We’ve all made huge sacrifices to be able to play music on our own terms, but after so long, it’s just the shape your life has taken. You don’t think of it in terms of what else could have been.
Regret is a strong word, but are there moments in time whether it be a creative decision or a business move that you would like to have over again?
Of course, all the time. If I knew in 2004 what I know now… wow. A lot of things would be different. But then again, if I knew then what I know now, I might not even be in this band at all. Sometimes it’s the willingness to make mistakes and learn from them that makes you who you are. But that said, most of my regrets have to do with administration, logistics, that sort of thing. I’m still really proud of everything we’ve produced musically and I still place a great value on the relationships we have. Have I been a bonehead on lots of occasions? Sure. But everybody makes mistakes, and you just learn from them.
I think it was Radiohead that pioneered the ‘pay what you want’ digital release method with ‘In Rainbows’, and I personally think that if more bands did this rather than announce a release date 3 months prior to actually releasing the album that the music industry would be in much better shape. What are your thoughts on this, and is it a means to have more control in getting your music out there?
I agree, I wish every band would self-release with whatever pricing structure they think is fair. I don’t want to ‘play ball’ with industry gatekeepers, and I think a lot of bands would be better off if they just boycotted that whole apparatus. We are moving toward a time when content brokers and middlemen are fully obsolete. The model we’re using isn’t mature yet, I don’t think, so it still has a lot of disadvantages compared to a label-backed model, but in time, that will change. The more bands get on board with the independent model, the sooner we can get to a more equitable and artist-centric music industry.
Was there a long turnaround between having ‘Quintessential Ephemera’ done and dusted until the release date? If so, can you shed some light on what goes on during that time?
We finished the recording at the end of February. It actually only took six days to record, even though we booked seven. We spent about ten days back home listening to test mixes, and then it got mixed over a three day period in early March. After that, it went to mastering, and the master got done at the end of March, at which point, we sent it in to our licensing partner labels so they could start manufacturing vinyl and CDs. We did some announcements in May, started aggressively promoting the record in late May and early June, and released on June 22nd. For us, that’s a lot longer turnaround than last time, where we didn’t do physical media until later — last time the turnaround was 2 days between the end of mastering and releasing the record — but it’s still a lot quicker than the typical label turnaround. We wanted to try a concurrent digital/physical release this time, so there was just enough time allowed to get manufacturing done and get the word out a little before we put it out.
Five albums in, ‘Quint’ usually means five, there are four known elements or ‘essences’ – Earth, Air, Fire and Water. There is a bit of speculation as to what the fifth element actually is, but one things for sure it is superior to the others. You guys are pretty clever, or am I just overanalysing this?
Well, I can’t tell you that you’re wrong, because art has a life of its own, right? But we intended the title to pose a question in a very literal sense — what is the quintessential ephemera of our time? The most typically 21st century, transient, worthless object of consumption? It was a way to tie up the disgust we were feeling with the fact that the most amazing invention in human history — the internet — is basically pumping our lives full of noise and distraction 24/7, and isolating us more than it’s connecting us. In our minds, the quintessential ephemera of our time is that noise. It’s the meaningless nonsense that we occupy ourselves with online all day every day, unable to look away or reclaim free agency for ourselves.
Thanks for your time, whats next for Rosetta in 2015, touring?
Yep. Europe this summer, some scattered US dates through the Fall, and possibly Japan, Australia, and SE Asia next year. Everything is always in flux, but we’ll see.
Pay what you want for Quintessential Ephemera HERE
Quintessential Ephemera reviewed HERE