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A Few Pedals and a Little Self Indulgence – Virgo Rising

Written by Michael Carr on January 18, 2011

Playing around the traps in Sydney for the past few years Virgo Rising have plenty of experience under their belts. With one EP behind them and a new one on the horizon, the band have been churning out dense layered shoegaze/pop for over three years. Recently adding a drummer to the line-up the band are set to play Mum at World Bar this Friday January 21st, so we caught up with guitarist Sean Duarte to chew the fat.

Music Feeds: So you guys have been playing for over three years now, how has the music developed over that time?

Sean Duarte: Well, when we first began, it was only me and Tim and we were very interested in dance music and creating ambient italo disco if you will. We both loved mixing dance beats with a very nostalgic melancholy similar to New Order I guess. We both used synths but eventually we grew pretty tired of just making empty dance music and decided to adventure into more layered soundscapes using guitars and pedals and what not. This is when we were introduced to records such as Loveless and Psychocandy… The many layers and ideas in the music imbued us with a greater understanding for sound and also made us realise pop music was not all about aesthetics and too much compression. With this we also gained a interest in female vocals and hence brought Emily on board to diversify the sound and make it that little bit sweeter.

MF: You’re currently working on an EP, how is it going? Can you tell us how it might compare to earlier work?

SD: Yeah, the EP is going smoothly. We have had a few hiccups over the last few months that have delayed it but we have made much progress in the last few weeks. I wouldnt say the sound is so vastly different from the first one but more an exploration into that sound and what we could do with it. We still have a heavy use of layered guitars and synths as well as harmonies from Emily. I have collected a larger array of guitar pedals to expand upon my tone and Tim has bought a few more essentials. Emily will be featuring on all of the tracks which will make for a different feel from the first EP I think. Overall, we hope for these tracks to expand upon our sound but still deliver a sense of blurry pop that we seemed to play with on our first release.

MF: How are you going about the recording process?

SD: Well, we have recorded and always recorded in my bedroom basically. It has moved around a lot but it has always remained our ‘studio’ so to speak. The setup I have now is the best we have had yet. I have a small room in front of my room which i record in and it sounds great for live guitars. There we also do the vocals but the synths are mainly plugged straight in or just the poor mans MIDI. When it comes down to studio tricks and illusions, I don’t really have any apart from the use of guitar pedals and all the post production that goes into making certain sounds. One of the main things I’m into is making synths sound like guitars. Everyone thinks all of the guitar sounds are guitars but not every one is. Its easy to make guitars sound like synths but to do the latter is a little more adventurous I think.

MF: How do you approach recording as compared to playing live?

SD: Well, like I said before I think in the studio we are interested in post production and doing things you cant so easily do on the stage (not unless you had over 10 members and an infinite amount of cash to buy all the gear). We have always found the studio a lot more versatile for creating sounds than in doing live performances. In a nutshell, we see the studio as a means to be very indulgent and create many layers and soundscapes that would be almost impossible to produce live. Live on the other hand we like to keep it simple and produce fuzzy pop with some layers and looping. Unlike the studio, playing live has kept us open to mistakes that would change our sound in ways we have not realised.

What about songwriting, is it jam based or do you guys come to each other with pre-written parts?

SD: Most of the songs have been produced by either me or Tim. We have always enjoyed just hanging and making songs hap-hazardly and just seeing where things go. However ever since Hayden (our drummer) has joined the band and Emily has taken up vocals, we have enjoyed making tracks as a band as opposed to each of us coming up with an idea and bringing it forth. When it comes down to it, its all about who has the time to make the songs really. Considering the fact I have a terrible habit for waking up around midday and like to stay up to 4am almost every night, lately I have been the one coming up with some new tracks. Eh.

MF: You guys manage to achieve a very broad sound for a three piece, how do you do it?

SD: Correction. We are actually a four piece now but I guess the introduction of a drummer doesn’t really so much factor into the ‘sound’ that we produce. Ah, most of it is just one guitar running through two amps and Tim’s synth. We both use a lot of reverb and delay but most of the loudness would definitely come from the numerous distortion and fuzz pedals I use. We like to use long delay and loopers to create the ‘wall of sound’ effect and on top of that maintain a sense of melody with Tim’s synth tones. Most of it rather simple really. Its just a few pedals and maybe a little bit of self indulgence.

MF: Would you ever consider filling out the line-up with some extra members?

SD: No, I don’t think other members would really be that necessary. We have thought about getting a full time bass player as Tim and Emily share the responsibilities, but other than that its merely about getting the money to buy more pedals and other crazy new toys.

MF: What do you have coming up other than the Mum show that we should be keeping an eye out for?

SD: Yeah, with the release of our second EP coming up we will be doing an EP launch in Sydney and hopefully go interstate. The dates themselves are yet to be determined as we are still currently recording but we are keen to do some shows soon. Tim has just gone to the states to look for the Joshua Tree so we will also have to wait for his return in a month or so but be sure that we will be doing a few shows around the area and abroad once all of us are together again.

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