LA indie pop minimalists Princeton recently released their album To The Alps, and to celebrate its release, the band is digitally giving away their single “Clamoring For Your Heart”, and their B-side “This Weather, A Swimmer” as well.
Consisting of twin brothers Jesse (guitar, vocals) and Matt Kivel (bass, vocals), Ben Usen (keyboard) and David Kitz (drums), I got the opportunity to chat with Ben about their upcoming Barnstormer tour.
Where did you get the name Princeton from?
We got it from the name of the street Matt and Jesse grew up on in Santa Monica
How did you get started as a band?
Matt, Jesse and I had been best friends since about first grade. We’d always talked about starting a band, since we were really young, like 4th grade. And finally I high school when they got guitars, and I’d always played piano and keyboard we actually started playing as a band. After our first year away at college, when we all got back to Santa Monica, we recorded a bit and that’s when we made Princeton. It just sort of evolved into Princeton. And then in 2006, we all studied abroad in London and played a lot of gigs, and that’s when we started taking it seriously, and decided to pursue it full time.
Tell me about your new album To The Alps?
The new album is coming out next year, and I feel like this album is us growing creatively. Before we were always bridging a gap between Matt and Jesse, and our last album was more of a compilation of pop songs. We produced it ourselves, and it was kind of all over the places. There were a lot of ideas, and the songs were pretty different from one another, it was just young. This album is much more focused, and we were trying to capture a more specific mood.
And what mood is that exactly?
We were going for a minimalist record. We wanted to be a captivating wreck, where you were drawn into the music and then you were stuck there. We wanted music where the listener got lost in it. We wanted something to captivate listeners whether they’re driving in their car with the windows down, or it’s nighttime. It’s a lot darker than our first record and it’s moodier. We wanted music that would create it’s own world for the listener, and we’re trying to recreate that live as well.
What made you choose “Clamoring For Your Heart” to release as a single?
It’s being released on August 30th, but it isn’t even on the album. We recorded it right after our first album. We always liked the song, and still play it live, and it’ just a song that we are drawn too and gets a great response live, It’s a good bridge between the first and second album, and has hints of both of them. It’s a good transition song.
Is the internet changing your sound and distribution techniques at all?
Yeah, definitely. Everything is online these days, even with press. Our first record was on a decent label, but there’s only so much a label can do, and everything that has happened since is because of the Internet. You put a song out and you want as many people to see it as possible, and online is the best way.
So what’s the National Barnstormer Tour?
We start our tour in New York City on August 29th, and this tour is actually called Barnstormer 5. Daytrotter is a rad site that you should check out. Basically, it’s a studio in Illinois, right where Iowa and Illinois meet, and they have all this super old equipment, like amps, guitars, keyboards, and most importantly an analog tape system where they record all their stuff. They have bands come in everyday and record live sessions. Each and does 3-4 songs in a two hour period and then they release the songs for free. They’re going to post our third session in a few weeks. They started two years ago doing these barnstormer tours, where they invade these barns in the Midwest and turn them into awesome music venues.
What do you find most important to focus on when writing new stuff?
Usually how it happens is Matt or Jesse come to the rest of the band with song ideas. They’re record a pretty raw demo on their own and then bring it to the band we just have certain ideas that we play around with, and it evolves on its own really. For this album Matt and Jesse had written songs, but then we all went to my dad’s house in LA by a lake and we just worked on these songs for four days. We had a pretty specific vision of how we wanted it to turn out, and so it was more a collective effort where we all fleshed out the sound. A lot of what we worked on during those four days ended up on the record. How we write songs keeps evolving. It used to be really just Matt and Jesse – they had the vision, and Dave and I were there to help flesh it out. This next record was more of a band vision, where we all sat down and focused on what mood was going to be set.
It’s always changing, but for this record it’s mainly minimalist influences. Jesse is drawn more into disco, so we combine a lot of what we listen to. We incorporate everything we like into a minimalist structure.
If you had to suggest one song to listeners that really epitomizes Princeton, what would it be?
“Holding Teeth”. It’s a six-minute song all on the same chord. I’m most proud of it. I’m just so blown away by it. The arrangement, and the number of instruments. It’s just really interesting. I mean, it’s Matt’s song, but I can listen to it over and over again. It’s not a really catchy Princeton song, it’s completely different – another realm. But to me, that song has so much depth that I can listen to it forever.