Past Life Regression, the band’s latest full-length, has been a long time coming. After 6 years, ORBS is finally set to release the new album on July 15 via Equal Vision Records. We got the chance to talk with members Adam Fisher & Dan Briggs about the new album, how their sound came to be, their thoughts on crowdsourcing, and more.
While fans tend to see musicians in a different light, we’re all just people when it comes down to it. That being said, we like to have fun and get random bits of information about the people we talk to so if there’s anything that may not be known about you that you’d be willing to share, please do so.
Dan: I’ve been tending to my garden this summer for the first time in two years. It’s been nice to be home for that a little bit. I guess all the fun is laying out the beds, weeding…it’s just nice to be outside and working the land a bit. Of course I’m getting ready to leave the country for two weeks just as my collard greens are starting to really happen. Hopefully my roommate will keep up with them.
The band’s members all come from different musical backgrounds, so there ends up being an interesting combination of elements from all of your projects. Did the band’s sound come from different ideas that were intended for those projects, but deemed too different for them?
Dan: No not at all. I’m constantly writing but at the time for the first album, in 2007, I had just written the Colors album with BTBAM and I was on a creative high heading into that summer. I saw an email from Ashley with some music she was working on attached, it was very dark, she had just left her band but I was like well these are verbal ideas of what I would add to it. That ended up being something not Orbs related at all, but it showed that we had a good chemistry from across the country, and that was even just sharing notation in Sibelius at that time. So we talked about other music we were into and out of her I got “Muse, Radiohead, Bartok, Rachmaninoff” and I was like shit, I love those bands/composers. “People Will Read Again” was the first song we wrote and it has the layout of like a progressive rock song or a classical composition, and that classical influence is deep in Ashley’s piano lines. So that was our leaping off point. The new album is a result of a lot more time, a lot of maturity, and really tapping into a whole new sonic pallet.
Adam: On my end I can honestly answer no. I approach Orbs with a way different mindset than my other projects. I like a lot of different music and have a lot of different influences. I try to keep my projects separate.
Splitting your time between different projects can’t be an easy task, no matter how often material is or isn’t released for each group. How do you manage to keep everything straight between them all and equally spend time on each?
Dan: I’ve never had more than two going at once. Trioscapes isn’t active right now, though I have tons of ideas and hopes for the future with the group; and I started a new group that recorded in January called Nova Collective, we just approved our final masters and there’ll be more about that later this year. So right now I’m about to come off a European tour with BTBAM and a week later head out with Orbs on the east coast. I fucking love it. It’s the first time Orbs has toured in five years, and while it won’t be with Ashley (she has a young baby at home with health issues) it’s the four of us plus my friend Pete who’s flying over from London to play keys and I’m just so fucking excited. It’s going to be a very emotional thing playing older songs again, but these new songs we’ve been sitting on, and then the songs off the 7” we released two years ago. We’re gonna absolutely explode, I can’t wait!
Adam: Can’t speak for Dan. He’s a lot busier time wise. As far as writing goes, sometimes it’s really helpful for me to be doing multiple projects at once. When I get frustrated with one I’ll move to another. It’s like a little break but I still get to remain creative.
While many artists tend to be on a one or two-year album cycle, it’s been six years since the groups debut full length, Asleep Next to Science. First, was there ever a timeline that you felt you needed to get the next record out to the world or was it more of a “it’s done when it’s done” mindset?
Dan: Well Asleep took a long time as well. We had it all written in early 2008, recorded in early 2009 and it came out in August of 2010. Part of that was because of all our touring schedules, plus the fact that there was some uncertainty working with EVR when I was possibly tied to a Victory Records deal (which I wasn’t in the end), so we just waited. We did some small touring in that time; but when the album finally came out we toured in 2010 and 2011 and after the last tour we were in sort of a weird place. We had some great times and some really stressful times on tour and I think we got home and just really dug into what was going on there, I started Trioscapes that summer and spent the next couple years working on that and BTBAM stuff. Ashley moved to LA and was working on getting her compositions in film and commercials, Adam was working on his solo stuff…but all the while we still had a handful of songs and ideas floating around, and finally in the fall of 2012 I made a playlist with them and was like hey let’s really hunker down, smooth these out and get the last few ideas going, and we had it finished in early 2013. We recorded that summer and then it was a little bit of a weird situation. We had initially sent it to be mixed with someone I won’t name, he had it for three months with not hearing anything back and when we finally did he basically took a pass on it. So there was three months wasted, taking us to the beginning of 2014. Will Yip had come on my radar in that time for his work with Pity Sex and we had similar management and was easy to reach and he was stoked and took the project on right away. However, also at that time he was working with Circa Survive, mewithoutyou and a ton of other groups, so it was kind of happening intermittently, and it was totally fine because I knew it was in the right hands. We ended up getting the song “These People Are Animals” and a b-side track to the album “Picked Apart By Time” mixed by Ken Andrews that spring and released them on a 7” that fall. Will finished up the mix and we got it mastered that fall, then we spent the beginning of 2015 considering how we were going to release it. EVR came back into the picture working together on a manufacturing/distribution deal, and then finally now it’s happening. Everything just took a little bit longer doing things yourself.
Adam: This kinda just goes back to the previous question. We have other projects. Other obligations. I wish we could churn out stuff but it all kinda happens organically.
Following up on the previous question, was there any particular reason for such a lengthy delay? Obviously plans change, everyone has other projects to devote time to and things come up, but it seemed to be strongly stated the record was going to drop in 2015.
Adam: There was so much to figure out on the business side of things. Dan was constantly networking so to speak. We’re just really glad it’s finally happening. Cannot wait for people to hear it.
Does having such a long gap between releases affect the songwriting at all? Were there multiple ideas initially in place that ended up being thrown out and replaced by new ideas or would you say that the original concept is still in place?
Dan: Oh yeah, big time! It was amazing to have that time. Generally with a writing session I love the idea of capturing that time and moving on. It worked differently on this album but in every instance for the better. I think some songs stayed unfinished for a couple years because there was a fundamental flaw with the arrangement. The original versions of “Dreamland II” and “El Burro” are particularly shocking. Maybe they’ll come to light way way down the road haha. All I can say is they definitely changed for the better. We have some songs and bits that we’ve sat on for the last couple years now and I’m really excited to see what happens in the future, if our output will increase with a new life right now.
Adam: It definitely helped realize some of the deliveries that I didn’t like and/or didn’t like performing. It also gave me a chance to demo stuff and then a year later go “oh I can’t stand how I sound here” or even completely change the melodies and lyrics.
The record was self-produced and is being released via the Hogweed & Fugue Records imprint under Equal Vision. Does going down the do it yourself route make crafting albums easier or harder and did it end up having an effect on the record versus having someone else produce and release it?
Dan: Well, you know, it was nice to not owe anyone anything except yourself. I’m in the hole a bit, but it’s ok, I planned for it and most of the expenses now are 2-3 years old, so it’ll be a nice bonus if I ever get paid back for it. There are costs like PR and a video that I didn’t really consider three years ago. EVR has been a great help though in splitting the video cost with us, at this point it really helps the both of us to be able to invest in pushing the album a little. But also, there’s no online or print advertising for it. It’s hard, we’ve spent all this time and money, trying to do it as legit as possible and there’s still ways we’re falling short. But, trying to do it and hoping word of mouth will help it get on some people’s radar, and of course we’re getting going playing shows again which is the best and only way I really know how to do things. We’re all working class musicians, I don’t know the tricks people use to gain fans and attention, I just know to write music and play the fuck out of it. The older I get I’m trying to get more acquainted with the business side of things if for nothing else than to try and figure out where you can make cuts and do things yourself, take more of the power back. I can’t recommend David Byrne’s “How Music Works” enough to musicians; it’s been a constant resource for me the last few years and will continue to be.
Adam: It made it difficult in the sense that we had to do everything very unconventionally. There was a lot to learn to adapt to i.e. if we were on a label typically they pay for it set up a date to be in the studio and that’s that. This time around it was Dan funding everything and trying to make every penny count and working around everyones schedule and geographical location.
Straying away from the album and its discussion, I’d like to get your thoughts on various aspects of the music industry. Since this record is more do it yourself, was there ever a thought of using a crowdsourcing platform for the record (kickstarter, indiegogo, pledgemusic, etc)? Furthermore, do you feel those platforms are helping or hurting the industry?
Dan: We never considered crowd funding, no. I have no problem with people using it, I think I like the pledge music campaigns better because it’s just like an extended pre order instead of like “just give us x amount to help make this record.” I don’t think it’s hurting things, no. In the end people respond the most to the live event, and that’s where bands have made their money for years. I anticipate selling more Orbs albums on the road over time than in our pre order and I’m totally fine with that. But also I feel like bands can’t get lazy with the physical content. I’m hugely into the whole package idea, ever since I was a kid I’d get lost in the tape or CD layouts, pouring over each detail. It’s so important and now maybe more than ever. I was really excited about the long and inspiring art conversations I had with Reid Haitcock (album photographer) in the early stages and he just took things to a whole new level. You have to make people excited about the physical product for more than just the music.
Adam: I don’t remember if we discussed it. I’m really not into the crowdsourcing thing. I’ve seen too many bands abuse it. I think it’s hurting the industry in some ways and helping in others.
There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding streaming platforms and some artists are very vocal in how they’re ultimately hurting the music industry since the payoff is very little. What are your thoughts on streaming services and do you feel the industry is hurting or better off because of them?
Dan: Well, I guess I’ve kind of always viewed them as like how the radio was viewed years ago, like it’s just something totally different. The hope is still that someone will hear your music there and come out to the show and buy a t-shirt or an album there. But I’m also someone who doesn’t subscribe to any streaming services; I’ve never bought anything off iTunes except podcasts. Going to record stores is one of my favorite travel activities, and I still buy a lot of CDs every year because of certain genres like modern jazz and avant-garde music that just don’t exist on vinyl.
Adam: I think it’s helpful for bands who don’t have backing and can’t afford to press a physical copy. In that scenario I don’t think it hurts the label.
We like to think we provide artists with an outlet to speak their mind, so if there is anything that we haven’t discussed that you’d like to, feel free to say it now.
Dan: Hmm, well I could talk about new movies. If you haven’t seen The Lobster, what a fantastic dark/fucked up comedy/drama that was. I haven’t seen his film Dogtooth but I’ve heard it’s incredible; it’s on my list. I’m going to see The Neon Demon today and I have high hopes for it, it looks like it’ll be a pretty mind blowing movie visually if nothing else. Nicolas Winding Refn is such an artistic director, and the fact that he has Alejandro Jodorowsky’s friendship and blessing says a lot.
Adam: Game of Thrones. Am I right?! Lately I’ve really wanted to make it a point to spread awareness and knowledge about the LGBTQ community. After the tragedy in Orlando I think it’s more important now than ever that we start banding together and not bowing down to those who spread cruelty and hate because they are ignorant and just don’t understand something. Music is such a tight community and it provides a great way to spread that message and bring people together. When you’re at a show you don’t care if the person next to you singing every word just like you are is gay, straight, jewish, muslim, black, white, etc. In that moment you are just two people in a truly enjoyable moment able to bond over a band you love. That’s an amazing thing and we need more people to have that mentality. Fight hate by spreading love.
We greatly appreciate you taking the time to chat with us and can’t wait to give Past Life Regression a spin once it drops.
Dan: Thank you so much! July 15th the album will be out, I’ll be in Dour, Belgium so I won’t be able to have my usual album release celebration, but I’m so excited to hold it in my hands. Even holding the test pressing of the record is magical!