What are the direct positions assigned to each member of the duo? Who does what, and how did that come to be?
Zach: I began the project on my own in 2010, and at the time it was a home-recording experiment rooted in piano, this abstract idea of starting a project on an instrument I didn’t know how to play. On my end, it’s a lot of guitar, messy drums, piano, organ, some banjo, and whatever other odd instruments I have lying around. Denny contributes a great deal of the field recordings, which is how she became involved in the project. Eventually, she started bringing home enough recordings where it made sense to make her the other full member. Live, Denny handles field recordings, tape effects, hand percussion, shortwave radio frequencies, that sort of thing. We also have a great cache of good friends who help us out with instruments we can’t play from time to time, such as violin and cello and horns and such.
What is it that drove you towards the particular style of music you find yourself creating today?
Zach: I’ve played guitar for most of my life, and starting around eleven or twelve I’ve played most kinds of music you can imagine, and in a ridiculous amount of bands. After college, I knew I wanted to pursue music full-time, as it was the only thing I could imagine wanting to do full-time. Something always felt wrong playing in those bands, though. I listen to a wide array of music, but it always felt like I was the one pushing traditional indie bands towards more experimental structures. I’m from a very small eastern North Carolina town; I didn’t really know about experimental music until hooking up with the Triangle (NC) music scene introduced me to more underground genres. Once I heard my first set of ambient/drone stuff, from my future good friend Andrew Weathers, I knew it was what I had been looking for. It was a figurative final jigsaw piece. It captured the mood, atmosphere, sense of mystery, and sense of emotional grandeur I’d been seeking.
When was it you first found refuge in a piece of music? (what was it?)
Zach: My mother’s very into music, and has pretty much keep all of her vinyl from growing up in the sixties, so I started pretty young in seeking that stuff out. The first album I can remember really resonating with me was a Creedence Clearwater Revival best of, Chronicle, a double-vinyl set. My parents used to play that a lot when they were still together. CCR still very much puts me in the mind-frame of my very early childhood, in the mountains of western Massachusetts. That landscape will always seem classic rock to me. It’s like a sensory time-capsule.
Denny: When my parents got divorced, I was 7, and my dad lived in the same city (Durham, NC) where my mom, brother, and I lived. When my brother and I visited our dad, he often played the vinyl of Paul Simon’s album Negotiations and Love Songs, as well as music by Allan Sherman. I particularly liked Sherman’s song “Here’s to the Crabgrass.” I remember making up a dance to it - jumping off of a small ottoman, turning around, and stuff like that.
What is it about the concept of field recordings that draws you in?
Zach: I think field recordings add a real sense of tension to the music. Without vocals, it’s often a bit more difficult to get across the mood you want to communicate. Just the right dialogue sample from an end-times preacher or a schizophrenic patient can take a simple melody and transform it into something heartbreaking, just through implication of context. As far as non-dialogue samples go, I just love sound, and using sounds that aren’t traditionally ‘musical’ in music.
Denny: I like field recordings because I like the idea of mixing sounds found in nature, and sounds that aren’t typically thought of as music, and using them in musical works. I like that this blends sounds we’ve found and recorded with sounds we’ve made ourselves, and that it recycles that material.
Why do you think this particular style of music lends itself so well to Lost Trail?
Zach: I think the entire project came about based on the idea of crafting a specific mood. A sort of nameless emotion. Bittersweet, nostalgic, hopeful, haunted, all at once. There’s no better communication for that atmosphere than ambient music. Our themes - the supernatural, the power of belief, the calamity of mankind vs. the wild - are generally themes that are paired well with sweeping, emotional music.
One could argue that your music would suit release via a Vinyl record pressing – how do you feel about this in particular? Is releasing music this way something Lost Trail has ever considered?
Zach: Vinyl is our favorite format, definitely, and not just sound-wise. As important as album art is to us, it’s really the best canvas. A label shows real investment in you when they want to do vinyl. It’s been very hard to get labels to commit to it lately, what with economic conditions being what they are. It’s a big financial risk. But I’m happy to say that we’re planning a split 12” release on Inherent Records, with Earth Builder, coming later in 2014. We would love to release more on vinyl, so if anyone out there is willing to invest in our music, let us know!
Zachary, recently you spoke, in great depth, about the struggles of being an independent unsigned artist who chooses to produce such niche music – what makes a project you so obviously pour your entire being into difficult?
Zach: I think a large part of it, frankly, is a culture that devalues art and doesn’t consider artistic labor a job worthy of income. That’s a shame. Many European countries are at least enlightened enough to help artists pay the bills with stipends and whatnot. A lot of people misunderstand all the legwork that goes into being an independent musician. Add to that the fact that we’re working in a real niche market, a very unpopular kind of music in America, and you have the conundrum of the fact that we’re far more popular in the UK and Europe than here in the States. What we do is strange; we’re too raw and lo-fi for a lot of the more sterile, chin-scratchy Eno disciples, but we’re too experimental for the K Records indie types. It’s a no-man’s land. But really, what it comes down to is just changing your definition of success. I’ve begun to care less about other people’s definitions of success for us, be that becoming Pitchfork darlings or NME darlings or whatever. I feel successful. I create music I love and I have a supportive spouse that helps out and understands. Many people love what we do, though even if they didn’t, I’d still be doing this. It isn’t something you can turn off. I’m hooked for life. It’s what I do for fun, and it’s also my job. And as long as I’m proud of what I’m doing, I’m content. I’d like to get there just to make the bills easier to pay and to get the word out to more people, but if this is as far as it goes, I’m grateful for it. More than I can say. It gets less frustrating if you change your perspective on where you are. I can’t control a bigger label taking a chance on us. I can control how I feel about it.
Picthfork darlings, I like that. On that note though, you were recently reviewed by Pitchfork, can you talk us through how that came to be?
Zach: I’ve written for a great number of music blogs and zines over the years, and in fact that very much predates my pursuing my own music full-time. A colleague from my time at Beats Per Minute moved over to Pitchfork when BPM went dark, and he was kind enough to lobby for us getting that writeup. Thankfully, it wasn’t hard, as the Pitchfork folks liked it enough to agree. It was a nice thing to happen. I’ve read them for twelve or so years now, so it was somewhat of a personal goal.
Your music seems to strike an emotional chord with a great percentage of your listening audience – is emotion something that’s spurred you on in terms of creating music? Are your musical endeavors emotionally motivated?
Zach: Definitely. I became very disillusioned with the apathetic, ironic hipster thing when I first moved to the Raleigh/Durham area after college. I always wanted my music to be emotional. I’m a sentimental, nostalgic, heart-on-sleeve sort by nature. I’m not coy and too-cool. I hate when people say someone’s music is ‘too serious’. That’s what good music is supposed to be, emotional and serious. There’s room for fun, definitely, but to me, if it doesn’t move me emotionally, what’s the damn point? And it comes across not just in the music, but I think in the samples and such we choose. Passionate belief really fascinates me, especially in the context of faith. Even if I don’t agree with a religious sentiment, and I often don’t, there’s something very striking and elemental in the tone of it all. Let’s be real; the world is kind of fucked right now. Life’s too short to listen to “Call Me Maybe” or whatever all day. Let’s feel something before we’re gone, y’know?
- Luke Bartlett, Zachary & Denny Corsa