Blush Response Talks ‘Dead Air’, Live Plans & Farming Rumours! jimmy 16/09/2014 features, interview, shoegaze Blush Response has been one of the surprise hits for shoegaze fans this year. Since the debut release of ‘Telltale’ in February the Adelaide-based solo artist (Alister Douglas) has been praised by Clank For Breakfast, Happy, Tone Deaf, Psychgazer and KDHX. In other words, pretty much everybody who’s heard it! A few weeks back Blush Response delivered an equally compelling follow up in the ‘Dead Air‘ EP. I had a chat to Alister this week to find out how it came to be… Congratulations on the new EP ‘Dead Air’ – I don’t think there’s a dud on there! Are you happy with the result? Thanks! I’m glad you think so. I found myself being a bit pickier and tougher on myself this time around but I’m definitely happy with the result. That’s why I like EPs, there’s less potential for filler. Though on the other hand, one or two duds could really sway an EP into mediocrity. I’m glad that’s not the case! Dead Air by Blush Response Knowing that so many people loved your debut EP ‘Telltale’ – you must have gone in with more confidence this time? The positive reception that Telltale received was really flattering, for sure! I think it made me more self-conscious about my songwriting. As all of a sudden there were people that seemed eager to hear what I did next, while making me more confident about recording/producing. Before I put out Telltale I was worried it would be (obviously) home recorded, but the kind feedback I received has made me doubt my ears less. Can you tell us a little about your creative process? I’d like to say it was unique and interesting but it’s really not. I just start mumbling nonsense over guitar chords until I find a melody/chord progression that I like! Once I’ve got a vague structure, I’ll start recording. A lot of the songwriting process happens during recording. I’m guessing that’s because I’m not writing songs with a band, so the computer almost acts like a band for me to collaborate with. I’ll usually record a clean guitar track, drums and bass. Then comes the fuzzy reverb fun, building the song in layers until it’s suitably noisy. Lyrics are invariably the last thing I add. And you do all your own production? Yeah, I record everything at home. I never really liked recording in a studio, at least not with financial pressures. Recording at home I can be as fussy or finicky as I want and, if it’s just not working, I can take some time off without wasting studio time. There are some obvious downsides, like not having the best equipment or the most trained ear, but I’ve developed workarounds for most of the problems that I’ve encountered. There’s some issues I haven’t worked out yet, like how to record loud guitar or drum parts without annoying my neighbours or driving my housemate insane. Egg cartons and mattresses, I’m told! I remember the first time I heard ‘(Not In It) For Love’ and thinking you had a really strong voice to match the great guitar tone. Unlike a lot of shoegaze soloists, you really don’t need to bury your vocals in the mix! How much emphasis do you put on getting the right balance? Thanks, man! Vocals have always been a tough one for me, especially lyrics. I find lyrics the slowest part of the whole process. I’m often torn between wanting to bury the lyrics under guitars, but then I also want the vocal melody to be heard. I’m slowly becoming more confident with vocal harmonies too, which is something that I feel can really make a song. Dead Air has far more vocal harmonies than Telltale, at least. Telltale by Blush Response So you’re from Adelaide. I’ve heard you’re also handy on a farm – quite the cowboy! Are the rumours true!? Oh, boy… calling me handy might be a bit of a stretch! I’m actually pretty green behind the ears when it comes to farm activities, but I’m studying to be a vet, so it’s something I’m exposing myself to a lot. I’m guessing I have Happy to thank for that rumour! I was trying to send them a demo for an article while battling with near nonexistent 3G reception during a dairy placement. 4am starts and cow poo everywhere. It mightn’t sound it but it was a really fun week! When did you start making music? I’ve been writing songs since I can remember. For a long time they were either rubbish or unfinished, or both. It’s only been in the past couple years that I’ve been confident enough in my songs to release them on anything other than an obscure MySpace page. I think it was because it took me a while to find a creative comfy spot. I played (and still play) in a bunch of bands and contributed to heaps of different genres before I found the music I identify with as a songwriter. Are there any plans to recruit more members and play live? Definitely! Plans are already in motion. I’ve had a couple of practices with a guitarist and a drummer, which went really well! It was a real kick to hear the songs “live” for the first time. I’ve got someone in mind for bass, it’s just a matter of finding times when everyone is free. In Adelaide, everyone seems to be in multiple bands, so it can be tricky to get everyone together in one place. I imagine it’s the same wherever you go, though. How important has it been for you to get local radio play versus exposure online? Local radio stations, Three D and Radio Adelaide, have been supportive, which is always nice, but I think the internet seems to be where word is getting around. There are a bunch of really dedicated and enthusiastic online shoegaze/dream pop communities and blogs that have been very kind and receptive to my stuff, which is great as I’m terrible at promoting my music. The culture surrounding these genre groups are some one the most supportive I’ve come across. It’s a nice thing to be a part of. What are your most loved pieces of gear? I play my (bits and pieces) Jazzmaster through Vox amps pretty much exclusively. Pedal-wise, my Timmy OD, BeeBaa clone and Blue Sky verb get the most use. I tied a few different reverbs to try and match the Logic Space Designer patch I used for recording and the Blue Sky was the best I came across. Such a nice sounding pedal. As for recording, my Rode mic and Apogee interface get me through almost anything. There’s already a few other bands/artists with the name Blush Response. You obviously felt strongly about the name to go up against that? You’d think the smart thing to do when you decide on a band name is Google it to make sure other people aren’t using it, right? I didn’t think to check. I got the name from a song by local band Steering By Stars. I’ve been playing in bands for around ten years but I’ve always been reserved about starting my own band, so the idea of a blush response seemed fitting to me. Hopefully, I don’t get any letters from lawyer-y types. What are your top records of 2014 so far? At the moment I’m loving We Need Secrets’ ‘Melancholy and The Archive’. Melbourne band Lowtide’s self-titled LP is fantastic, as is Roku Music’s ‘Collider’, and Nothing’s ‘Guilty of Everything’. I’m eagerly awaiting Bored Nothing’s ‘Some Songs’. Something would have to go very wrong for that not to make my list. Outside of the shoegaze/dreampop scene, I loved Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s ‘Sling Shot to Heaven’ and Conor Oberst’s ‘Upside Down Mountain’. How did you discover Jack Vanzet‘s art? Love the album art on both releases! Yeah, Jack’s work is fantastic! I was really taken by artwork that he did for local producer, Glamour Lakes’ ‘Canicule’ EP, so I looked him up online. The Glamour Lakes’ cover was more a stark geometric style, but I fell in love with his softer colour blending paint style. I feel like he achieves with paint exactly what I hope to achieve with sound. If you could assemble a fantasy band – who would be in it? Hmm… I’m gonna say Elliott Smith, Kevin Shields, Alice Costello (Big Deal), and Bryan Devendorf (The National). Elliott and Kevin would collaborate on songwriting, Alice and Elliott would co-front (sharing bass/guitar duties) and Bryan would do his drumming thing. I’d like to think that I’d put Wayne Coyne in charge of visuals and pyrotechnics, but that could equally be a disaster. What’s next for Blush Response? Is a full length on the horizon? Immediate future, I want to focus on getting the band on stage. As for recording, I’m not sure yet. I think I’m going to just start writing and recording and see what happens. I do like the EP format. I think it’s because I’m impatient and just want to get things out there and move on. EPs let me do this and give people something new to listen to sooner. That said, I love listening to an album and if I could achieve a full-length record it would be something I’d be really proud of. We’ll see. Thanks so much for your time Alister, all the best. No worries. Thank you! **BLUSH RESPONSE’S ‘DEAD AIR’ IS AVAILABLE NOW – NAME YOUR PRICE DOWNLOAD** Visit Blush Response @ Bandcamp @ Facebook.