Thursday, July 03, 2008

Archive Interview #1 - Owen Tromans

Originally published in 2004, this interview dates back to 2001. It took place around the time of Owen's first, self-released, album after the split of his previous band San Lorenzo (a much missed trio, reminiscent of Yo La Tengo, Eleventh Dream Day, Karate).

What were your immediate feelings after the San Lorenzo split? Was it something that always seemed likely to happen? Was it difficult to go from a band to a solo mindset?

OT: It was my decision to bring the band to an end. That doesn't mean that it was an easy decision to make though. I felt that we had reached a point where we had to either really push on and try to "make it", or call it a day and move on to something new. I couldn't have gone for it with San Lorenzo because my heart wasn't in it by the end. There would have been no point in us carrying on with me dragging my feet because that would have wasted everyone's time.

We were always going to split one day I guess and we made the decision never to replace members or anything because SL was about the particular interaction between us. To put it in context, even before SL started in '97 I had been in a band with Nick and Liz for years. I mean Nick had been playing drums with me since he was 14! It was time for me to do new things with new people, which may seem an odd thing to say when we had just played some of our best gigs and recorded some of our best tracks but its just the way I felt.

When I found out that Alan from Bearos Records wanted to release a CD compilation of all our singles and some unreleased stuff, it gave things a sense of closure and reinforced my feeling that I had done the right thing. That record will be out in the Autumn and will be called "The Sea is a Map". It has 6 unreleased tracks on it and 7 songs from our single releases. The only apprehension I had about the split was that I thought the stuff that we had recorded this year wasn't going to be available for people to hear. Now that those songs are going to be out there on an album I feel a lot better, they are great songs and great performances that were recorded very well. One of those songs, a track called "Mirror Witch", is the first song of ours that I haven't been able to find a fault with. Normally I pick SL recordings to pieces but it was very difficult to do that with the final stuff on "The Sea is a Map".

I got good at switching between solo and band mindsets over the years, getting a feel for which songs would sound better within which context. Although I did feel strange after the split it was also very liberating. Now the band is finished the "side project" feel of my solo stuff has gone and I can focus on it properly for awhile. I would also like to get a band together soon, in fact there is a whole load of different things I'd like to try with music.

The LP - first of all, how happy are you with it? Was it always in your mind to record a solo LP, even if San Lorenzo had continued? Were you always in two modes of writing songs, I can't put it any better than "Owen" songs and "San Lorenzo" songs. Was it difficult to combine the two?

OT: I am very happy with the solo LP, I can listen to it all the way through without picking out faults and getting stressed, which is rare for me! The album was finished while San Lorenzo was still going and the two were completely separate so yeah, it was always going to happen. Like I say, I often had two different mindsets when writing songs but sometimes it would be unclear whether the track should be for San Lorenzo or my own projects until it was written and demoed. "Firefly" from the new SL album is a good example. It sounds like a solo track but lyrically it really complemented another song on the album, "Ocean", so I thought it should be included.

I always ask people who have stark, acoustic songs with more personal lyrics on albums this as it interests me, so bear with me! Do you find it hard to do such songs knowing strangers are going to be listening?

OT: No, that doesn't concern me. I mean the records are supposed to be listened to. There have been some really personal songs that I have recorded but decided not to put out because they are just for me. Equally some of my songs are very distant and not personal at all, some are stories or interpretations of things that are quite removed from my life. The songs that are personal are usually either about my beliefs or stuff that has happened to me. It's not always completely obvious but every song is about something or represents something, even if it's just a feeling or a memory.

What I like about the album is that it's not just you and your acoustic guitar - I take it you wanted to make the album as varied as possible? Are you the type of person who wants to try other things and not be content with one particular style?

OT: I did want the album to be varied, but it was a very natural process; I wasn't struggling to make each song different from the last with the seven tracks that were recorded specifically for "Box of Tapes" during 2000. Also the fact that the other half of the record was selected from masses of recordings dating back to the start of 1997, couldn't help but add to the variety. I suppose the way you write and play changes over time, it doesn't necessarily get better or worse, it just changes as you change.
I do like trying different stuff with music. Nothing New Ever Works was supposed to be this all-encompassing album of music that I loved. That was way over-ambitious and we didn't have the time, cash, or know-how to get exactly what we wanted, so the album turned out differently but still good and definitely varied.

The album didn't come out on Gringo - any particular reason for that, or just that it's your baby and you wanted to see the whole thing through yourself? Go on, dish the dirt - what's it really like being involved with the Gringo "empire". I won't tell anyone, promise!

OT: There definitely was a feeling that the record was my thing and it was just logical that I should put it out after doing nearly everything else. If it was to come out on another label it wouldn't have been Gringo because they have lots of other cool stuff coming out and that is keeping them very busy. Also Gringo are very keen on people supporting their records with live stuff, it's part of the whole feel of the label that the bands go out and represent their release with live shows. I am doing a few solo gigs but I want to wait until I have a band before I commit to lots of shows.

Gringo are a great label and although I don't have any formal involvement with what they do I'm always going to be interested because some of my best friends are there.

End with ye olde favourite of your hopes and plans for the future. Are you continuing in a solo stylee, or can you see yourself being involved in a band again?

OT: I guess I am going to have to focus on my Uni work for a little while because I have a dissertation deadline looming! As for music I should be going "into the studio" soon to put down a couple of tracks for a solo seven-inch. I'd like to get a band together and do a ROCK album at some point but I'm in no rush so there will probably be another solo LP before that. But I guess nothing is ever definite with me! In the immediate future look out for San Lorenzo's "The Sea is a Map" on Bearos Records.

1 comment:

dunc said...

Ooh yeah. San Lorenzo were a great band. Mirror Witch is a great song.

Some of OTs solo stuff is worth getting too. Three is a cracking song.