“Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble.” Nikos Kazantzakis
OFF THE CHAIN
In Livaudais’ Brooklyn apartment (which doubles as Telepathe’s rehearsal space) there is plenty of traditional musical equipment—drums, large speakers, old guitars—but Livaudis and Gangnes focus on the iBook on the coffee table. They have an M-Audio keyboard hooked up to it and are running the program Logic. That combination gives them, essentially, access to every synthesizer ever, and as a companion, various filters to bend and pitch each note. They have a myriad of different drum options (including, through a connection, a bank of samples from a well-known Southern crunk producer). All told, each Telepathe song has about a hundred different tracks of squawk and smack, tirelessly tested through trial and error. After the basics of a song are mapped out in Logic, they bounce those files into Ableton Live, where they double all the drums so they sound less computer-generated. Then they triple them by recording live ones atop the finished electronic files. It’s modern band practice—seated in front of a laptop with braids of tangled wires, each connecting a new possibility—because, really, does Brooklyn need another regular rock band?
I don’t really do it song by song, and even though I knew there was obviously an underlying concept occurring, it was very much just whenever I had time to write I’d just quickly steal a moment. I usually write at home, in my bed with my headphones, and I have a sequencer machine. So, I do, like, “Daniel”, you know, I start with a beat, and then the DO-DO, da-DO-DO, da-DOO-DO, da-DO-DO [singing], like the bassline, put the choir part in, then I’ll work out the vocal melody. And so I either write on piano or on my little machine where I’ll do all the elements of the song. So what you’re left with is a mixture between kind of piano-based songs and then like more electronic-based songs. And then we flesh those out and work on those and I’ll bring people in to play certain aspects of them, but I have a really strong kind of vision and idea just from the demo stage. By the end of it, when I looked at it, I was like, “Ah, OK, there’s like a story here,” which I kind of knew would be there, but I didn’t realize it was such a concept album.