Feature photo by Susan Mclean
Sometimes the best thing is right in your own backyard.
What do I mean? Well take music for example. You go through phases where you feel you’ve found all the great bands you’re going to find. You’ve combed the great musical landscape over and over again and have come up empty-handed time and time again. Maybe it’s time to stop looking and just be happy with your collection of Can, NEU!, late 60s psych, and that weird collection of early electronic music. But then, just when you’ve written off ever finding something interesting and great again it happens. Like finding a needle in a haystack you’re turned on to something great. This happened to me recently. It took a Danish record label to turn my eyes and ears not to some obscure Finnish post-punk band, or some Slavic death metal. No, it just took them to turn my ears to the east. Far east?
No. Just Connecticut.
El Paraiso Records recently announced they were releasing a new album by a band called Landing. Landing, it turns out, has been putting out drone-y psych and sleepy ambient albums for close to 20 years to little or no fanfare. Recording DIY-style they’ve had many members over the years, with Aaron Snow and his wife Adrienne as the constants throughout this whole time. I headed to their Bandcamp page and was overwhelmed by not only all the music amassed by this band over the years, but the quality of the music. A mix of ambient, psych, and early 80s alternative are present and accounted for. The ambient side of stuff is very much in the vein of Tangerine Dream, Bardo Pond, and even bits of Boards of Canada; while the more song-based stuff puts me in mind of Cocteau Twins. It’s all incredibly good, which makes me feel bad because I didn’t know anything about Landing until some great guys in Denmark told me about them.
I reached out to Landing about the possibility of talking to them about their great new album called Third Sight, which is being released by El Paraiso Records on June 17th. Aaron Snow got back to me and said absolutely. So here it is.
J. Hubner: So tell me about Landing. How did the band come together? Who are the current members?
Aaron Snow: Landing started out as a studio project in the summer of 1998. Adrienne, Daron(Gardner), and Dick(Baldwin) joined a few months later. Dick left the group in 2004 and since that time we’ve also had synthesist Pete Baumann, who played on “Brocade”, and John Miller, who’s been in the band since late 2014.
J. Hubner: Were you all in previous bands prior to Landing?
Aaron Snow: Adrienne and I had been playing shows for a few years as a duo before forming Landing. Daron had been in a number of notable Utah indie bands including Fortynine Hudson. Dick had also been playing in a few really great bands before Landing, including Perth Amboy. John Miller has played in a number of cool bands including Titles, The Mountain Movers, and Snake Oil.
J. Hubner: Let’s talk about the music. From the very beginning with the 2001 debut ‘Circuit’ the band established a definitive sound; dreamy, hypnotic, and very spacey. Going into this band what were you all soaking your brains in musically? What artists were really influencing Landing to create the music that you were writing?
Aaron Snow: My main idea was to create music that I could fall asleep to. The idea of making “ambient” music in a rock band context was (and still is) really interesting to me. I’m a huge fan of bands like Bardo Pond, Transient Waves, Fuxa, Windy & Carl, and Yume Bitsu who have elements of pop songwriting but take it deep into the tryypr territory.
J. Hubner: There also seems to be some pop elements in the music as well.
Aaron Snow: Adrienne and I share an almost identical musical taste based in a love of Cocteau Twins, The Cure and first wave shoegaze, but Dick and Daron exposed us to a whole other palette of cool, weird stuff. Pete and John had the same effect, and I’m proud of the fact that we were (and still are) unafraid to incorporate anything we want to, musically.
J. Hubner: What’s the songwriting process like with Landing? Musically it sounds very loose and organic. Is that how the songs come together, or is there a definitive starting point, melody, or riff and the band builds from there?
Aaron Snow: Sometimes it’s entirely organic! If we’re making improvisation based stuff, someone will write a synth or guitar loop and we’ll get together to improvise around that framework. We’ll make loads of edits, layer, and overdub on top to form a “song” out of it. Rarely do we improvise and release the raw recordings.
Our other mode is pretty normal, I think. For the most part, I’ll write a guitar or bass part and we’ll build up a song around it. Daron, John, and Adrienne are the best at taking my super basic song ideas and forming something really cool out of them!
J. Hubner: There also seems to be two very distinct vibes with the music. You have the more pop-oriented songs and the more experimental, hallucinogenic vibe on something like ‘Oceanless’. How do you balance those two sides of the band? You’ve seemed to do it really well in your new singe ‘Morning Sun’, by the way.
Aaron Snow: Thanks so much! We don’t consciously try to balance both sides of the group, necessarily. We all love writing more conventional songs and we also love doing improvisational weird tryyyyps. For Third Sight, El Paraiso wanted us to make something improvisational for their Impetus series (which is a series that’s based in improvisation). Working within those constraints was super fun and I’m proud of the end result!
J. Hubner: Landing seems to relish in the experimental musical world.
Aaron Snow: Luckily, that’s not all we do or I’d get bored. I also love writing verse/chorus/verse pop songs and we have a few releases coming out later this year that will have a bit of the deep tryyyp mixed with pop song structures.
J. Hubner: So lets talk about your new album ‘Third Sight’ that’s coming out via El Paraiso Records. First, how did Landing get hooked up with El Paraiso?
Aaron Snow: I’ve been in touch with Jonas Munk for a number of years. It’s always been an honor that he’s into Landing because we love his work! We chat from time to time and when we released our last EP Body Diffuser he expressed interest in putting it out on El Paraiso, which was amazing! Although Body Diffuser didn’t work out (we had already pressed the tapes), we offered to do something entirely new just for them and they were into it.
J. Hubner: I can only imagine it’s been a great experience working with the label. Jonas and Jakob seem like they’re tuned into Landing’s wavelengths.
Aaron Snow: Working with Jonas and Jakob has been AMAZING. They’re two of the nicest, most engaged label people we’ve worked with. Not only did they contribute amazing artwork and layout (Jakob) and mastered the record beautifully (Jonas), but they had excellent ideas about the music as well. I love those guys!
J. Hubner: What’s changed from your debut to ‘Third Sight’ for the band songwriting-wise? Or has anything changed for you? Do you feel the creative process has become easier to tap into? Is the new album a departure from previous records?
Aaron Snow: Lots has changed over the past 18 years, obviously. The main difference from our debut is that we lost Dick Baldwin, who was the other main songwriter. His feel for weird folky intertwining cool stuff is something that I miss a lot. The creative process has remained mostly unchanged. If anything, it’s gotten a little easier to figure out what works and what’s falling flat. We know what traps to avoid and when to abandon an idea.
Third Sight is a little bit of a callback to older Landing records like Oceanless, Brocade and Fade In/Fade Out while still being quite a bit different. We’re obscuring stuff a lot less than we used to, I think. Adrienne’s vocals, especially, keep getting better and better so we decided to make them front and center in a way that we wouldn’t have in the past.
Our last two LP’s, Landing and Wave Lair, struck out in a more electronic vein. While I’m still proud of those albums, I feel like since the addition of John Miller, we sound less like a studio project and more like an organic band again. Body Diffuser was our first step back in that direction and “Third Sight” is in a similar vein. Later this year, we’re releasing Complekt which will focus more on all aspects of our sound- both tryyyps and “songs”. I couldn’t be happier with where we are right now!
J. Hubner: Was ‘Third Sight’ self-produced? Landing seems to be a real DIY kind of band.
Aaron Snow: Landing is and always has been entirely DIY. Before John joined, I recorded, mixed, and in most cases mastered the albums. Lucky for us, John is an outstanding recording engineer and we’ve taken full advantage of the situation, which is why our new stuff sounds so much better! Being DIY is important to us. We always record at home.
J. Hubner: What’s the current live situation?
Aaron Snow: Since John joined, we’re a pretty solid live band (if I do say so myself)! Recording has always been the most important aspect of what we do, so we don’t put much thought into how we’ll play the songs live while we’re making them. This means that we’re often not able to play certain songs, but with effects becoming more versatile and looping pedals, we’re able to play songs that we couldn’t have in the old days.
J. Hubner: What’s touring like for Landing? Will you guys be playing some shows to promote Third Sight?
Aaron Snow: Touring is a challenge for a band like us. We don’t make money off the band, so we have jobs and responsibilities that keep us from doing long tours, unfortunately. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do a little touring if not this summer, then next. Our shows are pretty cool, I think! We LOVE playing live and meeting cool people. We try to play songs from all aspects and eras of Landing, so you never know what you’ll hear.
J. Hubner: What’s the rest of 2016 look like?
Aaron Snow: The rest of 2016 will be busy for us!! We’re releasing another full length called Complekt and a split cassette with the amazingly great band Thought Forms on These Are Not Records this summer/fall.
J. Hubner: Any chance of an El Paraiso Festival with Landing, Causa Sui, Mythic Sunship, Papir, and maybe some solo sets from Jonas Munk and Jakob Skott? I’d make the trek from Indiana to the East Coast for that.
Aaron Snow: An El Parasio fest sounds GREAT. I feel like they should hold it in Europe and fly us over for it.(laughs) We are SO PSYCHED to join the El Paraiso family along with so many amazing musicians! It’s a total honor.