The Soft Underground was formed in New York City by drummer, Andrew McCarty, and guitarist, Charlie Hickey, after the two met at music school and bonded over their enthusiasm of The Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine. After many performances booked under different incarnations of the band, the duo eventually recruited vocalist, Brannon Barnett, before beginning work on their debut album, “Lost in Translation”. Throughout 2014, the band split time between New Jersey and Tennessee to record and mix “Lost In Translation”, releasing their debut single, “Limousine”, in December of that year before releasing their album to positive reviews that following October. Enjoy our conversation with The Soft Underground below!
How did each of the band members meet and begin writing and performing music together? I met our drummer Andrew at a music program a few years ago. We both were really into a lot of 90’s bands like Smashing Pumpkins, My Bloody Valentine and Stone Temple Pilots and would jam on a lot of their songs. Eventually we started exchanging songs we wrote ourselves and culling ideas from jamming, many of them making it onto the album. We brought in friends of ours to the band and and performed a handful of shows. Bran, our singer, didn’t enter the band until almost midway through the album’s recording.
Could you tell us about your involvement within the music scene of New York City? We don’t have a strong affiliation with it. The band has only performed a few times and never integrated with a scene or fit with the groups we did perform with. We’ve more or less kept to ourselves for the past few years, recording music and such.
Could you tell us about some of the most exciting or interesting live performances you have been a part of? The fondest memory I have of performing was at a banquet hall in New Jersey. We set up to perform and our other guitarist decided it was best to turn his amp up to jet engine volume. He was asked by the sound guy to turn it down to which he replied, in his words, “no”. So we basically deafened a small venue of 20 people for forty minutes. My low E string broke on the first song. Our singer couldn’t hear himself because they turned the monitors toward the crowd, I guess so that they could hear us a little louder. Eventually I got sick and decided to just lay the guitar on the amp and leave before the last song ended. I walked off stage and fell ass first into a perfectly placed drum bag. Andrew gave a kiss off to the crowd. No one applauded. I’m just glad we headlined.
What experiences and events inspired the writing and recording of your twelve-track debut album “Lost In Translation”?
Most of the songs reference a variety of things like the surreal nature of dreams, experiences with people who’ve affected us, and some story based songs, among other things. A number of songs have a theme of ambiguity or have meanings and images that look different to different people. What reads as a love song may reveal something more sinister from a different angle.
The sound of the album was influenced a lot by albums like Siamese Dream and Loveless that are thick and abrasive as well as lush and layered.
Could you tell us about the album’s recording process and why the band decided to split recording between studios in New Jersey and Tennessee? What was it like working with Andrew McCarty, Will Danger and Brandon Bachrach at Studio 809 in River Edge, New Jersey, American Recording Studio in Memphis, Tennessee and The Schwam Cave in Paramus, New Jersey?
Our drummer Andrew and I recorded almost all the instrumentals in River Edge, but our good friend Brandon helped out with recording some keyboard stuff. Andrew and Will Danger mixed and engineered the record in Tennessee, where they recorded our singer Bran. They also brought in Rick Steff, who did stuff with the Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers, to play keys on “Right Between Her”.
What musical equipment, instruments and programs does the band use live and in-studio? We had been using ProTools to record everything for the most part. The drums used are a Yamaha stage custom with Jimmy Chamberlain signature snare. I use a VOX tube amp and I switch between an ESP and a PRS. There’s some e-bow on the album. I also used a quarter to scrape notes on the song “Molasses”.
Does the band have any upcoming performances? We’re still waiting for that banquet hall to call us back. Other than that, not at the moment.
What’s next for The Soft Underground? We’re going to be releasing a new single “Untrue” with an accompanying video. Some other videos may be on the way as well. Then this summer we’ll be starting to record our follow up.