Q&A with Adam Schatz (of Landlady)



4977(Photo credit: Sasha Arutyunov)

Your latest EP, Heat, begins with two covers: “If This Room Could Talk” by Sly and the Family Stone, and “Mind” by The Talking Heads. Was there any thought in putting these two songs in conversation with each other?

The Heat EP was Landlady coming up for air, between our last album and the next one. So as a way of touching base, we included two covers that we had been performing during our set in the year prior. I’ve got a serious love for both of those songs and that’s the simplest truth as to why we performed and recorded them. The Sly Stone cover is super loyal to the original, which was track two on their under-appreciated debut album, I think it’s such a tremendous song that is so much fun to play and hear. The Talking Heads song we used as an opportunity to re-arrange and Landladify. I always enjoy deconstructing a great song because there’s a significant challenge to see how it can breathe from another angle and still pack the punch the original has. When in doubt, I’ll slow it down, which is what we did with Mind.

The two trademark energies of Sly Stone and The Talking Heads are certainly a part of the genetic makeup of the band. But truthfully, people enjoy playing the “sounds like ______” game when describing our band, any band, and I truly think the influences run much more subconscious than that. Any song that really resonates that any of us has ever heard will sneak into our bloodworm and come out in different ways in the music we make for the rest of our lives. That is the influence. I got off track. But I told the truth!

Around the release of Upright Behavior, a descriptor floating around your band was “adventure-pop”. Can you speak to this tag? Do you feel that it is the task of your music, and other music, to take the audience on some sort of adventure?

I think I came up with that tag around the release of our first record, “Keeping To Yourself.” The genre title game is always a frustrating one for me, so I made one up, and it seemed to make sense at the time. Now it makes me cringe a little but so does reading your diary so who cares. My diary, not yours. And I don’t have one, so don’t try and find it. More recently I would call our genre surprise which seems to make sense to me as well. It is adventurous but there are hooks, and ultimately the goal is not to exclude, but rather include and expand anyone who wants be a part of it. I want to make honey music that rattles and surprises, and to any of those words can somewhat communicate that. Ultimately it’s only the songs themselves that do the trick.

I do get bored easily. So a lot of the music I make and the experiences I try to create come from that perspective of “what would I want to hear? how would I want to feel?” That’s where the adventure comes in. I want to go above and beyond. I want to blow everyone away. I want nobody to forget what happens, and to return wanting it to happen more.

Songs like “Washington State Is Important” have intricate instrumental and vocal arrangements. Do you enter the studio with a clear idea of the structure of a song, or do your band members help you elaborate on a short melody that popped into your head?

I usually have most of a song structure written before I take it to the band, which means the chords, melody and lyrics are set. The real fun comes from arranging the song, carving out everyone’s parts and the contour of how the song is going to exist from start to finish, and everybody has a say into how that happens. We all are very great at editing each other and giving feedback to the music as it comes together, with the only goal being to make the best song possible. Sometimes the vocal arrangements happen in the rehearsal room, other time we’ll record a song and I’ll be in my bedroom editing vocal takes and realize there’s room for a few more backing parts that we can then lay down. It really changes from song to song. Some songs come together in 15 minutes and others take a bunch of hours before they feel finished.

In describing Heat, you write that it “is an EP, a smaller thing presumably between two big things”. Can we expect another LP soon from Landlady?

You definitely shouldn’t not expect one.

Landlady plays at LPR on July 13 with Debo Band. Tickets for that show are on sale now.