Mice Parade’s Adam Pierce spoke to Peter Hollo on the eve of their first Australian tour. In the following interview, Adam discusses the evolution of his output as Mice Parade from his early solo releases on Bubblecore through to his recent albums as a ‘band’ for Fat Cat; the development of the live show; and his reliance on analogue tape in the studio.
Mice Parade play at the 2008 Sydney Festival’s Samsung Mobile Festival Garden on January 20, 21 and 22.
Peter: I believe you actually started playing in indie bands, originally?
Adam: Yeah I was playing in bands from whenever, like age 14 on. You know, the way all kids do that. I joined an actual touring band and went to England at the age of 16, which was really fun at the time. 16 would be my first kind-of real touring band that I joined.
Peter: OK, and you’re a drummer, primarily. Was the Dylan Group where you kind-of went into what has been dropped into the pool of post-rock genre-wise?
Adam: Well, the new Mice Parade stuff has lots of guitars and vocals (laughter). But yeah, Dylan Group was the first instrumental band I was in. I was in a fair amount of guitar and songwriting bands from like forever, and Dylan & I had always been making ridiculous instrumental tracks through college and whatnot – we’re talking like “94/’95 – so during that time there wasn’t something called â€œpost-rockâ€, and there was no Tortoise record, but nonetheless yes, that would be the first instrumental band I was in.
Peter: For the first couple of albums, Mice Parade seemed to be a totally solo project. Did that come out of you just playing around in the studio?
Adam: Yeah, the first couple of records were solo things that were never meant to be toured around, and it sortof grew out of that by accident. It became a lot more fun doing that than the Dylan Group stuff, I have to say.
Peter: Is the Dylan Group actually broken up these days?
Adam: Yeah, well we’re still all friends, but after the third record and tour, Mice Parade were just doing more stuff, and I was playing with a lot of other bands as well, so it just seemed more fun to focus on the other stuff at the time. Dylan Group at the end started to feel a little stagnant with our instrumentation. We just had simple instrumentation that I felt we had kindof done our thing with that.
Peter: So I guess you started performing Mice Parade live and getting people in, and that’s how it became a band. Are you still the boss as far as the group goes, songwriting and so forth?
Adam: I would hate to say it that way, as over the years it’s become more and more of a collaborative project. Everybody lives far away from each other and it’s hard to get everybody into the studio a lot of the time, that doesn’ happen. So there are a fair amount of tunes that I end up just recording by myself here. But there’ people around, and having their input is always better than not, and I can pick out certain tunes that have more collaborative input than others, for example. It’s a product of circumstance.
Peter: And on the records then, there are tunes which are still basically put together by yourself?
Adam: Yeah, I’m not much of an internet type, it’s not like we’re sending wave files around. The band doesn’ do that – it’s a band full of busy people. We’re not working our asses off as a band, because everybody’ busy with a billion other things too, so we just enjoy having the time to get together and play the music kind of thing.
Peter: So when you come to Sydney shortly, what’s the line-up going to be?
Adam: We’ve done a USA and Asia tour as well as a Europe tour this year, and it’ll be the same line-up that we’ve had these last couple of tours. It’s 8 people – 7 on stage plus our sound engineer/effects genius at the desk.
Peter: Are you mainly playing drums on stage, or you swap around a bit?
Adam: I used to mainly play drums, but a few years ago for some reason I thought it’d be fun to try guitar. And I’m not saying it was the best idea in the world, but at the time I was playing a lot of drums in other bands, so I thought it’d be really interesting to start playing guitar. I thought it’d be fun. And it was. But since then I’ve stopped playing with some of the other groups, they’ve disbanded and this and that, and here I am left playing mostly guitar, so even though I’m playing drums a bit in the current line-up, maybe not as much as I should or want to probably.
Peter: Certainly in the really early albums I found the drumming really exciting, so I hope you can get behind the kit a bit.
Adam: Yeah, I mean, we’ll definitely try and make it happen!
Peter: And I guess you’ll be singing – are you the male vocals on the songs most recently?
Adam: Yep, it’s me. Again, I’m not saying it’s a great idea, but that’s what’s there.
Peter: Yeah, it’s funny, I’ve read some reviews of people being a bit disparaging, but I really like the vocal sound.
Adam: It’s the same thing with Kristin from MÃºm, our old singer that used to sing with us on a lot of tours – people either love her or hate her. People are never nonchalant about vocals, they either love them or hate them.
Peter: And she’ not touring with you these days?
Adam: No, the last couple of tours we’ve been touring with a vocalist called Caroline, who also releases records on the Temporary Residence label under the name Caroline. She’ half-Japanese. Kristin eventually got busy and we had to find Caroline when some tours coincided with some other tours that Kristin was going on, and it’s great, it was a blessing – Caroline’ amazing, and great value. Not to devalue Kristin in any way, but Caroline’ an absolutely wonderful singer.
Peter: Are you going to try to play some music from across the Mice Parade career?
Adam: Well, from Mokoondi through All Roads Lead to Salzburg, a lot of those tunes were written on a Chinese harp that we don’ bring with us any more. We bring, like, guitars these days (laughter), even though we have the vibes and the drums and all that stuff. So look, we can play a couple of tunes from the very first album, depending on how many shows we’re playing, and after that, mostly from Obrigado Saudade on. The last three records.
Also, it’s worth noting that we might scrap a lot of the catalogue after this. I’ve been thinking that a lot of these songs, maybe we’ll come and play them for Australia, but I was thinking of doing a tour that had no catalogue at some point. Like, only new stuff for the next album. I don’ know if that’ll happen, but I was toying with it.
Peter: Now, the other thing that’s happened, probably not that lately anymore, Bubblecore has â€œturned intoâ€ Fat Cat USA, is that right?
Adam: I wouldn’ say one company turned into the other. I personally put the Bubblecore company on hold in order to start the USA office for Fat Cat. It’s just a little bit too much to try and juggle both. It’s too much to have both and maintain their own identity and do it right. It’s much easier to just focus on one. Bubblecore turned into a full-time company when I was able to quit my job and release records, and it got serious for a little while. But it started with just putting out 7â€s or whatever, without the need to make a profit on any record that was released, and that’s a nice attitude that I’d like to get back to – with Bubblecore.
And Fat Cat’s a serious, viable business with a lot of artists and a lot of attention to be paid.
Peter: I suppose that would’ve happened gradually as well, because once upon a time it was really a fun project for the Daves I guess. So do you have some input into what Fat Cat does?
Adam: Yeah, Fat Cat is a great collective, it’s a group of people where we all know each other really well and have known each other for a long time, and a lot of things are done as collective input situations – we have a lot of discussions about stuff.
Peter: And Fat Cat these days has a lot of side label sort of things, so you’re involved across the board with the stuff they do?
Adam: Well, we’re all responsible – you’re talking about the different series we have, like 130701 and the Splinter series and that kind of thing? Yeah that’s true, they’re all there. We all work on those records, even though it’s divided in different ways for various different reasons I won’ go into now. There’ a certain aesthetic with the 130701 series, both musical and visual etc. But at the end of the day, it’s the same people working on records that are going through the same distribution channels and everything that you’re keeping track of. So even though Max Richter is on 130701 and MÃºm is on Fat Cat, for example, it’s not like I’m going to think of one different to another. At the end of the day you’re just making records and helping artists do their thing.
Peter: I guess I’m also quite interested in what other bands you have been playing with over the last few years. It’s kinda hard to keep track. Have you been recording with other bands as well as playing live?
Adam: During the Bubblecore years, I used to play a lot more in other bands. These days I’ve curtailed a lot of them – Swirlies don’ play a lot any more, Dylan Group doesn’ play any more. There’ fewer projects actively touring these days. I’m doing a lot of work – I’ve got a studio here, and I’m busy making sketches for the next Mice Parade album, as well as remixes right now. And working with a new artist, producing a new record for the, called Gregory and the Hawk. Been busy producing her album, that we hope to get finished in the next couple of weeks.
Peter: And remixes, do you mean Mice Parade remixes of other people?
Adam: Yeah, working on a remix at the moment for Bonobo, an artist on Ninja Tune that I wasn’ familiar with until Ninja Tune presented me with the remix idea.
Peter: Are you interested in doing remixes much?
Adam: It depends, but it’s always fun, definitely. I’ve never had a computer in my studio until this year. Historically my studios have always contained some sort of tape. And I’m still not good with working with computers for music. But, I have one here in this studio, which certainly makes remixes a lot easier, and more â€œremixyâ€.
Peter: I remember on the Slicker remixes there was some comment about that sampler thingy.
Adam: Well yeah, having a computer definitely allows it to sound more remixy – doing it all with tape is definitely a real workout.
Peter: Was that the impetus for actually getting a computer finally?
Adam: Well it’s actually just partnering with a buddy of mine, an engineer friend of mine, who already had a portable Pro Tools rig and a ton of gear, so when I was setting up the studio he needed somewhere to put all his gear. So it worked out that way – I didn”t go search it out.
Peter: And your preference for tape over computer is due to the sound?
Adam: Well, that’s a really complex question and it depends what you’re talking for. I don’ want to stake out any moral analog vs digital thing here. I’ve talked about this with people before, and if I were to summarise it quickly, first off it depends what music you’re talking about. I’ve been recording some loud rock shoegaze stuff with a buddy here, and I think the tape machine is crucial for that. In that circumstance it very much matters for the sound. It would matter less for other things, perhaps quieter things, or more delicate things. So I enjoy the ability to use tape, distort it, use it soundwise.
More important than that is that the worst thing that I find with computers is that suddenly everybody’ using their eyes to make music, or using their eyes to help them make judgements – even though you don’ realise, you’ve got a song in linear format, and you’re making an edit from here to there, and you’re looking at it. In some ways of course those operations are a lot easier these days, but people who do it day in and day out, I think there’ a world of music-makers out there who are starting to trust their eyes too much. And we interpret things we see differently to things we hear, and if there were no visual cue, and we were only listening to tape, and listening to the music as we went, we might be more fully devoted to it, or making better decisions about it, or something – you know what I mean? That’s my thing, I’m just not into people looking at their music all the time.
Mice Parade play at the 2008 Sydney Festival’s Samsung Mobile Festival Garden on January 20, 21 and 22