Saturday, May 26, 2012

Interview with Ross Auger of Wet Eyes

I ushered in the arrival of Spring with a healty dose of cloud watching accompanied by a release on Jozik from unknown project under the name Wet Eyes. Since losing myself in the dreamy reverb soaked guitar tones, I've caught up a bit with solo guitarist/producer Ross Auger and had a chance to pick his brain about the project. Following his tape debut, Ross seems to be taking his creation in a variety of directions familiar to the chrome tape obsessed, and has begun including a harder more rock edge, and a variety of vocals. I'm all about the convergence of intelligent and accessible and we're smack dab in the middle of that intersection here. Dude is part of the bright future of the scene.

Talk a bit about the origin of the Wet Eyes project and your musical background.

Wet Eyes initially started as a two piece with my friend Andrew Blaeser and I. We had some demos recorded while we were going to the same college. He ended up transferring to a different school four hours away which made it difficult for us to write together so I decided to go under the name Wet Eyes as a solo project. I've always admired artists who went under pen names for one reason or another. Wet Eyes is sort of a front for the art. I'm mostly just the translator and/or the performer.

What personal inspirations do you draw from creatively?

At least half of my inspirations are of feelings or memories. I moved out of my parents house and into an apartment in Minneapolis a few years ago so most of my previous piles of music were based off of the nostalgia from being a true kid with no responsibilities biking down by the river. The other half is from watching old films and television shows. I keep an acoustic guitar near me while I watch old Hitchcock flicks and a riff will just hit me while I watch. Clepto Journals was heavily inspired by the film 39 Steps.

Please tell me a bit of the creative process or processes you use when recording. For instance, do you start with an idea, or a sound, or maybe a melody, or maybe something else altogether?

I generally have a riff or progression of some sort to start with. I suppose it really depends though. Sometimes I have an idea in my mind of exactly what I am trying to get across and the song just happens. Other times I'll record almost too many tracks and filter it down to whichever ones compliment each other. Every once and a while there's a beat that I'm really digging and everything just kind of happens from there.

Your new cassette “Clepto Journals” released on Jozik Records in an edition of 40. How did you come to be involved with Jozik? What was it about their label that appealed to you? And what the heck is a Clepto Journal?

I follow this artist named Wolf Fluorescence and he had a tape put out in the last batch of Jozik's. I really enjoy the aesthetics of Jozik when I checked out their website. It was all very clean and human. Some labels have their site so ridiculously polished that you almost feel like they aren't humans you know? Jozik seemed like someone I could email and get a response from wether they dug my tunes or not. I'm endlessly grateful that they enjoyed my demos and decided to put out a record for me. Clepto Journals is sort of a mental journal for myself so I wanted to utilize the word journal for sure. I had been taking a class on old films where everyday in class we just sat and watched something like Citizen Kane or some Buster Keaton shorts. A lot of my musical ideas were sort of "stolen" from those movies. Around that time, a friend of mine was telling me about when he would go out, he would turn into a kleptomaniac the more he consumed. I hadn't heard the word klepto in a long time and just had to use it.

The most recent recording I’ve heard from your upcoming release incorporates vocals from Cecelia Erholtz (see below), which in my mind took your project to an entirely new level. Are you taking Wet Eyes in a specific direction musically, if so in what ways?

In my mind, Clepto Journals was in black and white. I limited myself to how many tracks I would have. I tried to keep it as minimum as possible. Most of the tracks on that record had just two guitar tracks, a bass track, a keyboard track, and some sort of beat. With my new record, I didn't really restrain myself. I also want to change up the vibe for each batch of songs I put out to keep whosever listening interested. I'm a big fan of Sargent House Records and their head honcho Cathy once said something to the likes of if a new record doesn't sound new, then it really isn't a new record. With Cecelia, I'm honored that she will throw down on a track like mine. She's a folk artist by trade so I was pretty amped when she agreed. She's on another track that will only be on the physical copy and she just belts out soul. I love having the ability to utilize her talent.

Any specific wish list of future collaborators?

I've done a few tracks with this guy who goes by the name of Physicism. He's got some interesting stuff and I'd definitely like to do more with him sometime. Considering Wet Eyes is my solo project, a collaboration doesn't generally appeal to me. If I was to collaborate, it would be a situation where I'd feel more comfortable going under a different band name.

I’m always curious to pull back the curtain and uncover how the process works? What gear do you favor?

I have this Digitech rack that isn't all that fancy. There's a hundred presets on there and there's this one reverb setting that every single track of Clepto Journals was recorded through. It sounds sort of dusty. I can't get enough of it. I will also have an infinite love for the Electro Harmonix Muff. I have the Russian version, the NYC version, and the Nano Muff overdrive. It's always interesting mixing a heavier tone into an ambient setting.

Any tape scene recommendations for 2012 listening? What should folks be checking out?

I'm pretty new to the tape scene but I'm always going to be following Jozik. The guy I mentioned earlier, Wolf Fluorescence, just put out a tape through SicSic (reviewed here) and they seem to be onto some cool stuff as well. There was another artist in the batch of tapes I was in named Ross Baker. He's got some cool stuff out there too.

A million thanks to Ross for being cool enough to take time out and answer a few questions. I highly recommend you visit Jozik for the physical copy of Clepto Journals, or for immediate gratification, dig into the Wet Eyes Bandcamp page, and explore. I recommend starting with "Dimension Hex" from the album "Lucid Limbo". Killer track. Thanks Ross!

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