Doom Sweet Doom
It’s tempting to think of shoegaze/noise duo Procedure Club as the gloomy outcasts in the back row of the Slumberland class photo, snapping gum, refusing to take off their sunglasses, listening to bootleg Whitehouse cassettes on barely concealed Walkmans. And yeah, the sound they make, while sharing some touchstones — the Jesus and Mary Chain, Slowdive, Shangri-Las — with their peers owes just as much, if not more, to Suicide and Cabaret Voltaire’s wall of horror. Procedure Club, a.k.a. the bedroom pop project of Andrea and Adam Malec, released Doomed Forever in late 2010, an intriguing and jarring audio canvas that is all happy feedback accidents, razor-sharp Gothic melancholy, and Andrea’s icy disaffection. Though perfectly happy releasing cassettes and CD-Rs up to that point, Slumberland Records came a calling and now they’re getting the attention and plaudits they deserve. Sometimes evil pays off. Ink 19 chatted with sound mastermind Adam Malec about Death In June, the proper way to play a drum machine, and the importance of not getting it right when recording.
How and when did you and Andrea meet up and start playing music?
In 2005, I guess we dated for a few months and then we ended up being friends and then in 2008… The way it happened was that I was always recording on my own and I never thought to have… I did the vocals over my recordings, and eventually Andrea pointed out to me that my voice is horrible [laughs]. So then Andrea started singing. And I was blown away! Yeah, I never thought in three years of knowing her that she was so good. And she’s a great lyricist too. Which, yeah, was an unexpected thing. I had been involved in different music projects here in New Haven, different bands and stuff, so it was sort of like a spur-of-the-moment thing that came out of nowhere.
Were there any records or bands that guided the early forming of the band’s sound?
Basically, we both always liked the same music. She would introduce me to new things. Since I’m older, I would introduce her to old stuff that I knew, like for example Shop Assistants, a lot of English bands, Sarah Records kind of stuff, that all of the sudden I started to listen to out of nostalgia. Ahhhh, back then, in 2008, everyone sort of started doing that. I noticed for example, the Vivian Girls came out with that style, and all of a sudden… We already had stuff recorded, but it was this weird undercurrent, almost generational, I think. A lot of the ’80s synthy sound that we shared together — listen to this, listen to that! It was fun. It was fun music.
There’s something else I wanted to ask you about that — in an earlier interview, you expressed an admiration for bands like NON and Death In June?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Definitely, I was heavily, like there was a time when all I listened to was NON and Death In June. I was really sick of a lot of the stuff that was going on in the ’90s. There was really nothing that interested me musically. I was very fascinated with the sound and progression that Death In June’s music has taken from their first album or starting from Crisis (the first band that Douglas P had) on to this dark, weird world. I guess all of this sort of blends into the sound that Procedure Club has right now. It’s all sort of… I don’t think of any influences when I record. I mean, I do when it’s all done, “What does that sound like? What would this person or that person in this band or that band think?” Everyone thinks that; if they say they don’t think that, they’re lying! Everyone who records, I believe, thinks like that.
Was Procedure Club, from the beginning, envisioned by you as a duo project, or was there any thought to bring other musicians aboard?
I always thought that it would be a two-person project. The way we would play our first shows was basically just as a straight-up karaoke style show. We would have a track playing without any band, without backing vocals, and Andrea would sing. Sometimes, it was even with backing vocals, so it was awkward, very very awkward. But eventually, we came up with stripped down versions of our songs that we could perform live, just me and her. She plays keyboards and sings at the same time and I play guitar. During our tour this year in August and September we assembled a little “big band,” basically six people on stage. We had very little time to prepare it and rehearse. And eventually, for a few, few shows, we sounded pretty good, at least in San Diego! [Laughs] It worked out, but it was a part-time thing. A six-person band like the Allman Brothers!
What was your criteria for adding extra players? Did you think, “We need more guitars…”
It was basically just friends from Gape Attack (Kyle Borodkin, Peter LaCombe, Chris Keys) and Burning Yellow (Zachary King) that we met at SXSW who really wanted to play with us. We became really close friends, and we just sort of decided jokingly that one day if we go on a tour, we were going to take these four friends on the tour! So we had to accommodate these four friends on that tour. You’re going to play this! And you’re going to play that! [laughter] Whether it works or not… It really wasn’t a strategic decision. We got together, we love these people, and we wanted to be on the road together, and they’re great, and let’s play together! We’re going to have fun together. It was actually more problematic. Because when we met in Seattle — those guys are from Seattle — they learned songs, we really had problems getting these songs together, our styles are different; we only had two or three days of practicing. But overall, I was happy with it.
It changed the sound of the band quite a bit.
It did live, but it didn’t change the direction of the band. I’m not going to try and sound like that, I mean, I’m not even sure how it sounded! When you’re playing out on stage, you don’t really know how it sounds out in the audience, but I thought it was good.
When you first started playing as Procedure Club, how quickly did the sound come together?
As soon as I recorded it. The way I record, I record everything myself, and I record A LOT. And it’s basically up to Andrea whether she likes what I record or not, and she just starts singing to it or making up lyrics to it and depending on whether she likes particular style of not. So that’s how it works. It’s very simple — I record a song, and she sings over it. Sometimes we do it over a distance, she used to live in New Jersey for a really long time. So I would send her a WAV file, she would get it and record over it and send me the whole song, That’s pretty much how a lot of the songs on Doomed Forever were recorded.
Do you prefer home recording to recording in a studio?
I can’t really say if I prefer this or that because I haven’t really had a chance to really record in a studio. I did it once with my other band, in like, 2000, on a tape. It is a little different and it’s interesting. I wish I could do it again. Like, just straight up recording with a whole band. I kind of miss it; I kind of miss having a band.
As a listener, do you prefer rougher or more lo-fi recordings?
Yeah, definitely lo-fi. I do not like sound that is current. I never liked the choices that people who happen to record or produce [make]… The current trends, they always make me sick. I always like to try to emulate the sound that was 20 years ago, 30 years ago, than like playing clean, you know? My previous band back in 2000, it was a great band, but what we did wrong was we recorded our second album really clean and it didn’t do us any justice. It was so bad! Every time I pull the album I’m like, “No wonder why this album never went anywhere.”
I was hoping you’d talk a little bit more about the recording of Doomed Forever — it seems more of an organic sonic whole (versus there’s the guitar, and there’s the bass) and manipulates distortion and noise more artfully than many of your Slumberland peers.
Yeah, basically, I used a lot of crazy reverb and as much of everything as possible. Make it ridiculously trippy as I could get it without it being totally indistinguishable as music! [Laughs] I just like it, I’ve always loved noise. I just drown myself in noise, and then to put beautiful vocals over it and bass and drunken drum, so much the better! The way I record drums is that I hit the pads with my fingers…
On the drum machine, really?
Yeah, actually it’s just an old Yamaha, like a toy keyboard, and it has really good drums, you can make it sound like drums recorded back in 1981, and I just play with my fingers and it gives it a really good organic feel. A lot of the times. I make mistakes here and there, and they always stay on the recordings. It’s much more fun.
How do you know when a song is finished?
I either finish it in one sitting or I never finish it. I have no patience. I can’t work like normal people, with the patience to construct things. I wish I could, maybe I’m limiting myself! But it seems to work so far, I don’t know how far it’s going to work y’know, but that’s the way it is. It’s either going to work in one sitting or it’s not going to work for me.
I did try before to sit and construct the song and really think about where it’s going to go, and most of the time it just doesn’t work; it just sits there and Andrea doesn’t like it and she’s the barometer of whether the song is good or not.
What I liked most about the album is that it felt less like “This is my big statement” and more like “This is what I’m working on now, this is how I’m progressing.” It felt very much like a work in progress, and I found that more exciting.
I’m glad you pointed that out, because that’s how I feel about it and that’s how I like songs to be. It’s kind of an unfinished; it always takes you by surprise. I like surprises. (Laughs)
Do the unused tracks that you record for Procedure Club make their way into other projects?
No, because right now I just do Procedure Club. I had a solo project before locally, called Human Pontiac and it was just noise. I’d take the keyboard and loop it and play guitar over it and sing, and I’d do that live. That might never make it out of the New Haven area, though people seemed to like it. Two years of doing that, and I feel like I’ve learned enough tricks from that thing to leak into the Procedure Club. It was just experience, that makes it so much easier to work with the new project. I’m not involved in anything else right now.
How did you end up being signed to Slumberland Records?
Someone from Bada Bing Records said that we should be put out by Slumberland. And then the guys from Crystal Stilts contacted us and said, “This is great!,” and then we were contacted by Mike Schulman [Slumberland head] who liked us as well. And this is in 2008. And we were like, “Oh my god! This is great!” And then we didn’t hear anything for about two years. And all of the sudden Mike contacted us and asked if we wanted to have our album released by them.
Are you pleased with the reaction the album got?
We are. Really. We’re getting the reaction that I kind of expected. I noticed that there is a little bit of a fatigue when it comes to DIY bands, female-fronted DIY bands, and I noticed that a lot of reviewers mentioned that. That’s in the first paragraph where they mention fatigue with the scene, but then they say that we break the mold, that we put something new towards this whole shoegaze scene. So I like it. I think we had one bad review, and it was about the quality of recording. [laughs] It’s horribly recorded, but in my book it’s beautifully recorded! I take it as a compliment.
Do you enjoy touring and playing live?
Oh yes. I would enjoy playing live better if I had more chances to practice with the whole band. I love going on tour. I don’t like the part at the end where I have to ask the promoter for money. That’s the worst part. I hate it. But that comes with the… Yeah, we should have a booking agent doing that.
Have you played with live drums?
Yeah, actually, with the six-piece, we had a live drummer. It was Zachary from Burning Yellow, and he was just playing on the West Coast. And we had one other attempt with live drums, and the drummer was just not of my liking. He was too trained! [Laughs] He was too good of a drummer. We need someone who plays the way I play on my recordings. It’s hard to find a drummer! Everyone’s too good of a drummer.
Who are some other bands you feel a commonality with at the moment?
Weekend are very good friends. Also we recently played with this awesome band from Colorado called Candyfloss. I was so impressed with these guys, their age range is between 18 and 21, and they’re just so incredibly clever. Their use of effects is so clever, they’re so amazing and the fact that they cite Burt Bacharach as an influence! Where did these kids grow up to become so cool? I was very pleased to play with them. They toured with Sunny Day In Glasgow.
What are you working on next? Any tours or album releases on the horizon?
Right now we have nothing really planned. We just had a release online on the Beko-DSL online label out of France, and it was our old recordings that were kind of on the back burner, and that just got released. I just moved so I have my recording equipment all in pieces, so I have to reassemble it and see if I can start rerecording again. I’m definitely planning on recording and playing a tour, but it’s not happening yet. But it’s gonna happen soon!