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Monday, May 21, 2007

Urge Interviews DNTEL, Gives Insight On the Future of POSTAL SERVICE


After a long hiatus, DNTEL (aka Jimmy Tamborello, also of POSTAL SERVICE and JAMES FIGURINE) recently released his third full length, "Dumb Luck" on Sub Pop. Listen to a stream of "Dumb Luck" in its entirety.

URGE recently caught up with Tamborello to discuss, among other things, the new album, the many different monikers, and the fate of his most successful project, THE POSTAL SERVICE.

"URGE: You play in a couple of bands; Postal Service and Figurine; and create solo work as Dntel, James Figurine and Headset. How do you define each project for yourself, and what makes each one different?

Jimmy Tamborello: Well, like you said, Figurine and Postal Service are bands. They're defined partly by the fact that there are other people involved. Figurine started off as a '80s synth take-off, but by the last album [2001's The Heartfelt] I think it changed into modern techno-pop. Postal Service sort of comes from the same place, except that it incorporates more indie rock, guitars and stuff. But maybe that's by default, considering who is in the group. The James Figurine stuff came out of the fact that all of us in Figurine had done music under our fake names, and it became a techno thing because I wanted to try to do that kind of music. Dntel's the one I've been doing the longest, since the mid-'90s. It's usually the most experimental of the projects, but it's still techno-pop. I'm always trying to come up with new sounds [as Dntel] and the ultimate goal is of coming up with a new kind of music that couldn't happen elsewhere. Whereas with Figurine or Postal Service, it's more about the songs.

URGE: You took a pretty long time to create Dumb Luck, even though you already had some songs finished in 2005. What was going on?

Tamborello: Part of it was just not having much of a plan, just waiting until you have enough songs that fit together, and that's when you stop. Even the songs that I finished early on — "Breakfast in Bed" with Conor, the Jenny Lewis song — I would go back to over the years, because I was bored with them. There are layers in these songs that tie them all together. The bottom layers are five years old [and] I can hear what I was listening to at the time. It's like peeling away at the tree bark.

URGE: Is that why Dumb Luck ended up veering so much towards indie guitar music?

Tamborello: Part of it was getting techno out of my system with the James Figurine album. There were a couple of dancey moments [on Dumb Luck] but I ended up taking them off. The fact that I started [the album] with that song, "Dumb Luck," had something to do with it, too. I usually start with one song as a blueprint and work out from that, always trying to have that sound in mind. So I started with one that was mostly acoustic guitar. There was also the music I was listening to at the time, a lot of Fennesz and those kinds of electronic sounds. Early on, I discovered Animal Collective's Danse Manatee, which got me to turning on the microphone and recording spontaneously, live percussion and stuff that I could later edit to get some feeling into it. And a lot of the Cluster/Eno for synth ideas and textures.

URGE: You also started singing, which you have not previously done for Dntel.

Tamborello: Not a lot. When I started the album, I wanted it to be just me, but I chickened out of it. [Laughs.] I still feel pretty limited, lyrically. I get, like one song out a year. The James Figurine songs were a lot easier to write, because I can take it less seriously. I feel like I'm better at being goofy than serious. It's funny, 'cause I've read reviews for Dumb Luck, and I feel like people are taking it as a lot darker and drearier than I imagined. I thought it was quirky and pretty happy in a weird sort of way.
Though I guess it's also more claustrophobic, and the tempos are mostly slower.

URGE: Why is that? You mentioned before that you got the beats out of your system with the James Figurine album. It seems like that album affected the Dntel album quite a lot.

Tamborello: I decided to start to work as James Figurine more out of frustration, almost to get away from Dntel, and it felt good to have a detour. It helped that I did [Mistake] with John Tejada, who helped me mix it [and] work faster. A lot of it was just him showing me new equipment, mixing it in, adding parts to songs. I liked using some of it so much, [that equipment] went into making the Dntel album, and that would have turned out very different [without it].

URGE: How so?

Tamborello: It got me more into the purely electronic sounds again. Dntel was veering so much more towards the organic side, James Figurine took me back towards adding more synths; it contributed to the awkward feel of Dumb Luck.

URGE: I've got to ask; where in the gestation period is the next Postal Service album?

Tamborello: [Ben Gibbard and I] are working on songs but it doesn't feel any more like a band. It still feels like a side project. We don't have a schedule, and I could just as easily see it never materializing again as having another album. We both want to make sure that we put it out because we have more ideas; not to sell more records. We're still working on songs the same way: by mail. We started around the beginning of this year, and it's hard to say what the sound is. I sent him a few beats, he added some stuff to it, that's it. I do like the three unfinished songs we have so far, but it's hard to say what's going to happen."

Click here for the full interview with Jimmy Taborello.

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