On their new album Tunnel Blanket, experimental instrumental rock group This Will Destroy You has created a world of sound unlike any other. With its all-encompassing noise, magnificent crests and falls, and sheer level of musicianship and experimentation, Tunnel Blanket offers up an echo of reverberation that communicates deep feelings and atmospheres of darkness and loss unlike almost any other instrumental album available today. After the band played a blistering, but tragically short set at Dallas, TX’s Homegrown Music and Arts Festival on Saturday May 14, I sat down with guitarist Jeremy Galindo to talk about the new record, the writing process, and the band’s upcoming US tour. Interview by Chris Nordahl.
Granada Theater: What’s pretty apparent, from the album is that Tunnel Blanket is not really like anything you guys have recorded in the past. Why did you decide to go in such a different direction this time around?
Jeremy Galindo: It wasn’t as much of a decision as it was just an occurrence, it just kind of happened. We definitely knew we wanted to do something different but we weren’t trying necessarily to do something different. As soon as we found the right tones everything we wanted to do, kind of the theme of the album which mostly came through “Communal Blood”, which was kind of the first song we wrote that we really stuck with as a theme, we kind of built on the idea of “Communal Blood” and how to make it work as a theme for an album. So after that we just kept experimenting using 30 plus instruments on the recording, just trying to broaden our capabilities and kind of break down the walls that we used to use to write with before.
GT: What was the writing process like? You said things started off with “Communal Blood”, how did things branch off from there?
JG: I guess song wise and order wise we jumped from “Communal Blood” although it’s kind of hard to give an exact chronological order. There are a number of songs we’ve been working on for years like “Kill the Lord, Left for the New World”, “Glass Realms”, and “Osario”; all three of those have been songs we’ve been working on forever but they all transformed after “Communal Blood” was written. After “Communal Blood” we went to “Little Smoke” and “Rituals”, then “Their Celebrations” which didn’t make the cut on the album, then “Powdered Hand” was one of the last things we did. Then “Reprise” was completely made in the studio, we just heard [bassist/keyboardist] Donovan [Jones] playing the guitar line of “Communal Blood” and thought it sounded really beautiful on piano and just kind of made something out of it. “Black Dunes” was the last song that was written [for the album] and “Powdered Hand was also revamped after that too. It was an interesting way to write but it was very relaxing which is something we’ve never experienced with writing.
GT: How do you think that feeling of relaxation you guys had impacted the album?
JG: Incredibly. The state of mind that I think we were all in during the writing process was different than that of any other album. Instead of drawing from certain bands, sounds, songs, an inspirations, this was more of what was almost an out-of-body experience while writing the album. In the short amount of time that we actually got it done we did our best work within two months of writing and the whole experience looking back on it in retrospect, it was almost as if it was all driven emotionally given what was going on in our lives at the time.
GT: It seems to me that you guys wanted to focus more on creating a mood and an atmosphere rather than following distinct song structures, what was the thought process behind that?
JG: There was a lot of death surrounding us at the time. We had a very close friend die, Jerry Fuchs the drummer of Mazaratti, and that surrounded all of these personal situations. We were all dealing with death at the time too and death kind of became a theme. It wasn’t like we set out thinking “this song needs to sound like it represents death” but that was all in the forefront of our minds while we were writing it, all these emotions dealing with it, and by the end when we had the album done and set up, I really think the album does just kind of represent death and the stages of death in a sense. That was a really interesting way to write, with having death in mind, but not really writing because of it and it turned out in the end that that’s what it was all about.
GT: Why did you decide to name the album Tunnel Blanket? What’s the significance of that name?
JG: It’s based on an experience we had on DMT and it’s kind of hard to explain outside of that [laughs].
GT: Do you think that name represents the album?
JG: Definitely. The whole theme of the album being death and the tunnels and spirals and all the stuff that people see [on DMT]. The vocal sample at the end kind of brings it all together at the end too and I think that definitely does represent what we’re going for.
GT: When you say that’s what you’re going for, do you want to recreate that experience that triggered the name?
JG: Not necessarily, more just about what we experienced with all the death that was surrounding us at the time and with how DMT and death ties in, it’s a very similar experience nonetheless.
GT: You mentioned earlier you played about 30 different instruments on this album, what were some of those instruments and how do you think that affected the way that the band plays together?
JG: First off, we really wanted to expand our capabilities as musicians so we just started introducing a lot of reed instruments. There’s pump organs and harmoniums, we have a lot of brass, trombone and trumpet, some violin, all sorts of homemade instruments that we made, some synthesizers, a couple different Krew-Mars, and a lot of stuff we don’t even remember I’m sure. Like I said it was like an out-of-body experience from writing it to recording it so there’s a lot of different things going on and a lot of different ways we sample and I guess really we wanted to be more orchestral [on this record] in a sense.
GT: Why do you thing you wanted to get a more orchestral sound on this record?
JG: It just made sense. When the songs started coming through and they were making more sense as a whole, it just kind of seemed like, in comparison to our older albums, it was a much more orchestral record.
GT: Again talking about the sound of the record, when you’re listening to it, a lot of the sounds you hear are very vague. A lot of the time you can’t really tell what instrument is making what sound at what point, why did you guys want to convey that sound and what do you think that has provided for the band and for the album?
JG: It’s more for the listener. As it all came together we realized that every time you listen to it you can hear new things and hear why those things are there and it’s really up to the listener to interpret. We’ve always liked to do that with anything we release. We know what’s going on in our heads while we’re doing it, the memories we have, the emotions that are going on at the time, the whole state of mind, and as much as we say this album is for us I think we’ve left enough in there for the listeners to kind of create their own story out of it.
GT: Continuing in that line of questioning, the record feels to be charged with feelings of loneliness and death as you mentioned earlier, and moods of darkness. What was your strategy to convey feelings without speaking words and directly presenting them to the listener on an instrumental album?
JG: It’s not really on the forefront of our minds while we’re doing it, its just how they come out. We wanted it to be more of a story than anything else.
GT: What exactly is that story saying to you?
JG: To us it’s dealing with the loses and the loneliness that we really were feeling at the point that we were writing. There’s a lot of shit that happened within the 3 months we were writing it. We were losing a lot of good friends and… it’s hard.
GT: It sounds like it was almost a traumatic experience making this album.
JG: It was really a very relaxing experience, I guess it was almost therapeutic to get all of this out of us and express it the way we know best to do it through the medium that we have.
GT: Why did you decide to reveal the musical changes a little more slowly on this album than in your past work? In your past work you’ve kind of made changes appear within each song, but on Tunnel Blanket it feels like there are vast changes going on over the whole record. Why did you want to do that on this record?
JG: That was another thing that wasn’t really planned; it was more in how we structured the album after the songs were done and how it made sense to us, and the way we felt dealing with the things we were going through. For example, with “Kill the Lord, Left for the New World” and “Osario”, to me at least those are kind of like the acceptance phases [of death] that we were going through during the whole experience.
GT: Why did you decide to use more open space musically on this record?
JG: It just goes with the theme. It’s hard to explain without being in that mindset, it just made sense at the time. I think it makes it more mysterious in a sense.
GT: So you kind of gave it that sound to fit with the whole theme of the record, would you call Tunnel Blanket a concept album?
JG: I hate calling it that [laughs] because when we were writing it because we didn’t come into it as a concept album, it just kind of happened. The more that I listened to it the more I can definitely see that it is a very conceptual album, but the concept wasn’t there until after it was finished.
GT: Is there a song or a moment on Tunnel Blanket that you’re most proud of?
JG: I’m really proud of the whole album. I think as a whole, I’m really proud of all the tones and the movements we got out of it. I think as whole, and it keeps changing for me, but right now “Kill the Lord” and “Powdered Hand” are two of the more interesting ways that we’ve written songs and I’m really proud of how they came out.
GT: What makes those songs so interesting to you?
JG: Really with “Kill the Lord” it was the whole process of writing it. That was one of those songs that took us a year and a half to really find what we were trying to do with it and the finished product was miles away from what we started with at the beginning. With “Powdered Hand” I think that we, without even realizing it while we were writing it, really found the closure that we needed with everything that was going on and with the album as a whole.
GT: Is there anything about Tunnle Blanket that you would change looking back on it at this point? Why?
JG: No because I have never been as proud of a record as I am with this one. It embodies everything that we’ve wanted to do since we started writing music.
GT: What do you want listeners to get out of Tunnel Blanket?
JG: I don’t know. I’ve always been about people experiencing it in their own ways but I hope that it brings something out of them mentally or emotionally that our other music could never convey or bring out of people. I want it to be a very intimate experience for somebody and very close to their heart.
GT: How is Tunnel Blanket affected you when you’ve listened back on it and how has it changed you as a person or an artist?
JG: This is the first time since we started releasing albums that I’ve heard the record from an outside perspective. It was an incredible and also terrifying experience at the same time. I don’t want to come across as pompous in any way but I couldn’t believe how well the album came out. I couldn’t believe that we were achieving something that for the first time, in at least my life, really made me feel like I was an artist and not just a composer of sorts. I’m not just doing it anymore; I’m doing it because I have to do it because I couldn’t live without it.
GT: You guys are about to go out on tour, what can fans expect from the new set and from the Tunnel Blanket songs live?
JG: It’s a very dark set. There’s not a lot of happy moments in it whatsoever so it’s going to be a more intense experience in that realm but I think that hopefully the receptive crowd would be able to feel a lot more from the set than previous ones.
GT: What’s the importance of live shows to this band?
JG: It’s important in a lot of ways. We need to get out there and keep promoting the band and keep growing as a band and also we need the money. We have to survive and if we’re not out there touring then we’re going to have to get day jobs again and that could greatly affect how often we’re able to get out and write music.
GT: Based on that response, would you say This Will Destroy You is more of a studio focused band rather than a live band?
JG: I think that’s where we want to get eventually scoring films and things of that nature is really where we’d like to get and kind of slow down the touring if it’s ever feasible. We really want to get involved with more cinematic works. I guess in that sense it would make us more of a studio band but we’re recording and writing non-stop. I don’t think there’ll ever be a moment, at least with the line up we have now that we’ll stop writing or have some sort of writer’s block. It seems like there’s always something we can do, always something that we can keep going with.
GT: Is the band involved with anything related to cinematic works right now?
JG: Yeah we’ve scored a couple of documentaries. We’re about to do another two, one of them involving filming that’s being done on the band right now and another project that’s coming from the director of that film. We’re really excited about those because those will be the first scoring experiences that we have where I think we’ll actually feel that we have control over what we’re writing as opposed to past experiences where we’re really writing what we’re being told to [in the scoring process] and that’s part of the scoring experience. With this we can be much more creative and really add to the film instead of just supplementing it.
GT: Why do you guys want to get involved in scoring and cinema? What’s the appeal of that?
JG: We’re getting older, touring is getting much more difficult and it’s been a dream of our since we got started. Becoming full time composers for film would get us back to somewhat of a semi-normal life where we can start relaxing and enjoying life again, not that we don’t enjoy touring and being on the road, but it’d be nice to have more security with what we do.
GT: What’s next for This Will Destroy You? What do you guys have coming up that people can look forward to and where do you want to take the band from here?
JG: Well the plan right now is to get the Tunnel Blanket tours done and that’ll be a good year before they’re all completely finished, but during the breaks in that time we want to continue writing, release another 7” and another picture disc and start working on the next album. Hopefully we’ll have that finished by the end of the year and tweak it over next winter and spring and hopefully have another release ready by late 2012.
GT: Do you have any ideas for the next record right now?
JG: We all have different ideas of how we want to approach it but I think it’s just going to be another one of those things where it just kind of happens naturally. We’ll keep writing songs and if we find one that seems like “yeah we could really build something around this whole idea” at least tonally, we’ll see where it goes. I have no idea what to expect from the next album.
Tunnel Blanket is available everywhere now on Suicide Squeeze records. This Will Destroy You is currently involved in a documentary film that does not have a trailer yet, but it quote “Unlike any other band documentary that has been made before”. The band has played the Granada Theater several times in the past and has plans to return in the fall. This Will Destroy You is currently promoting their new album on their North American tour right now.