Recently, WEEKEND sat down with the coolest of cool Tangled Up in Blue side project: The Teaspoons. Set to release their last and latest album this summer, title open for debate but most likely “Teaspoons/EP/thealbum/all my pets are dead,” the group gave WEEKEND a dollop of perspective on the recording process, the pleasure of folk music and the art of collaboration. With Tommy Bazarian ’15, Lauren Tronick ’15, Jenner Fox ’14, and Jacob Paul ’13, Hans Bilger ’16 and Ethan Schneider ’14, the group exudes a grounded, substantive spirit. And, in interview with two of the members, WEEKEND got to hear about the joys of recording, songwriting and going on tour.
Q. So what’s the story behind your band name, The Teaspoons?
Tommy Bazarian. Want to do it?
Lauren Tronick. You can do it.
TB. So the Teaspoons were founded two summers ago when Lauren, Jenner, Jacob Paul, a former member of the group who just graduated, wanted to go on a summer tour and play some folk music out west — so, we did! And we needed a name and we’re all in Tangled Up in Blue together. Our friend, Rav Shapiro (also a TUIB alum) observed that we, the Teaspoons, were a TUIB side project. He abbreviated that to TSP, so, the Teaspoons. Really a very clear story! And it stuck.
Q. So you all really came together through TUIB?
LT. Yes. We all met through TUIB and then the band just really happened because we wanted to go on tour and play originals. We played up and down the coast of California and went to the Grand Canyon and Vegas, which was hilarious … and then it kind of stuck when we got back to campus.
TB. Before our sophomore year, it was really just a bluegrass/folk quartet. Then we added Ethan Schneider and Hans Bilger on drums and bass that spring.
LT. And then Jacob left, so now it’s just the five of us. But then it was so special because he came back and recorded with us. So, all six of us are on the album. Jacob even also helped produce and plays trumpet.
Q. What are the other most exciting places you guys have performed?
TB. California was the only big tour we’ve done.
LT. We literally were on the Vegas strip and it was nighttime and everyone around us was doing crazy things and we just kind of stopped in the middle of the street and sang, which was really so neat.
TB. We sang a cappella.
LT. We also played with this awesome family in Stamford. We do their Christmas parties. The Yale Farm? That’s pretty exotic!
Q. When did you guys perform at the Yale Farm?
TB. At the pig roast last spring!
LT. We did Koffee?…
TB. Lauren and I also played at Chocolate Maya…
LT. Oh and we did the block party and at the beginning of this year had an awesome show in the backyard of 28 Lynwood, which is kind of our home base because Jenner and Tommy live there and sometimes we rehearse there.
Q. Is there one place on campus where you’d want to perform but haven’t?
TB. Yeah, Woolsey!
Q. What about your dream place to go on tour again?
Q. How about your recent recording process? What has that been like?
TB. We recorded in a very short amount of time. It’s really hard to get everybody together. We decided to block off two days: this past Saturday and Sunday.
LT. This has basically been two years in the making. We’ve been trying to record for so long and finally at the beginning of the semester we just thought, “All right! We’re doing this. We’re going to raise money and we’re going to have something to record once we’re done. Ethan and Jenner are graduating and I think that’s probably going to be the grand finale for the group. We wanted to celebrate with something concrete that we could keep.
TB. We did an [Indiegogo fundraiser]. Our amazing friends and family contributed.
LT. You know how you have to do those promo videos? Ours was fantastically awkward. But so many people donated. It was so unreal.
TB. We broke our goal and got even more money, which we ended up needing. We ended up using the extra money to book the place we recorded, Dimension Sound Studios in Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts, for two ten-hour days. It was a crazy short timeframe. We were planning to do a six or seven song EP, but we ended up getting thirteen songs totally done in two days. We were also planning on coming back to campus to touch it up and do vocals, but we finished the whole thing. It was crazy! A magical whirlwind of stuff.
LT. It was one of the best musical experiences I’ve ever had.
Q. What made the recording session particularly special?
LT. It’s so rare that you spend ten straight hours intensely focusing on one thing. You spend all this energy but you’re just so focused. You’re just in this headspace that continues for ten hours. It’s also something that you love doing. You just want it to be better and improve and play with everyone. We were all so well rehearsed.
TB. We just tried to bring the best energy we could. There are a lot of different ways to record. You can do tracking-based recording where everyone records his or her part individually and then you later them. What we tried to do, since we’re a live band and that’s what we’ve always played and we weren’t really used to recording, was do as much as we could live at the same time. The first day we did a lot live since the studio had amazing capabilities to record that. The second day we did a “second wave” of overdubs and violin. Then for the last three hours we did a ton of vocals. It was kind of three “waves” of live performance.
LT. I would listen and I would hear what had been recorded so far. It would guitar maybe or drums or bass or sometimes mandolin and then I would either play fiddle over it or sing over it. Sometimes it’s hard to record a song since we’re so used to playing live. It was so funny because say for a song Tommy or Jenner sings, they can’t sing their part while they play guitar, so I would be in a different room singing their songs so they could play along with it.
Q. What are the other differences between live performance and recording?
LT. Well, you can hear everyone! It’s so amazing! You think, “Whoa, you play that part?” It’s incredible. You can be a lot more detailed and nit-picky.
Q. After this experience, do you prefer recording or live?
LT. I don’t think recording would’ve been so magical and amazing if we hadn’t played so much together live already.
TB. Recording can be hard when you walk into the studio and start from nothing and try to build it. It’s so much better and different when you’re recording a live band that’s already played so much together. It’s like taming this animal.
LT. We’re also releasing this album online for free. We’re not going to ask for money. It’s not like we’re trying to promote ourselves. This is kind of the end, so it was really just for us and our friends and family. It was just a different energy. It was more about creating this thing that we were happy about.
TB. So that’s the plan for now. Dan Cardinal, our engineer, is going to mix and master it at the end of this month or next month. We’ll hopefully put the tracks up online. And they’re free! All thirteen songs are also originals. We even had seven more that got cut.
Q. Who does most of the writing?
LT. Mainly Tommy, Jenner and I do the writing. Sometimes we write together. Sometimes we write part of a song and then pass it on to the next person. We’ll have a vague idea and make it more whole as a group. Other times Tommy will have these incredible parts to the trill. It’s so different for every song.
TB. Lauren, Jenner and I play for the band but Hans is also an amazing songwriter. And we all sing. There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen.
LT. It’s much easier to get everybody doing anything when live. In an album, you have to pare it down, which we did.
Q. Which song on the album kind of speaks to you the most?
LT. It’s different playing it versus what it means as a song. Tommy wrote this song that I love singing because it’s such a challenge for me called “Amity.” I love it.
TB. I’d say that’s my favorite, too, because it’s so awesome to hear Lauren. I have this vivid memory of watching Lauren record. I was two rooms away and she was in her little singing booth when she did this amazing vocal take at the end of our session. I got such goosebumps.
LT. Aw! I didn’t know that!
TB. The other highlight recording moment was I have this song inspired by the California tour. It’s mostly pretty bare bones, just me with the guitar, but then at the end everyone usually just sings along. We wanted the sound of a group of people singing, so we got everyone in the studio signing. So the band, plus Jacob, plus Jacob’s girlfriend, plus the engineer, and then our friend stopped by, and he had a child with him, so Alex and his small cousin are on it. There’s this little kid giggling. Twelve people gathered around this microphone — afterwards we were all so happy.
Q. What is it about folk music that you think makes it so special?
TB. Before I came to school I never was really into folk music. I was into everything that wasn’t folk and beating around the bush. Then I got here and joined TUIB and saw where all the music I really loved was coming from. I think it’s good to get back to the source. If you listen to this album, though, it’s probably more of a pop/rock album.
LT. It’s really evolved. It’s so clear, though, that our inspirations come from folk. I think that folk music and TUIB and the Teaspoons has a way of being really simple and raw and there’s no shame in hearing a very clear inspiration from another song because that’s how folk music works. Another kind of sounds like one and it’s this beautiful, giant catalog of collaboration in a way.
Q. When can we catch your next live performance?
LT. Stay tuned — if you’re around for Commencement we’ll definitely be doing a show and bidding it all farewell.