The Inner Banks is David Gould, of the roots-rockers The Bootleg Remedy, and Folksongs for the Afterlife, a gorgeous shoe-gazing pop band who released a wonderful record a few years ago. Combined, the duo and a core group of several others make music that sounds like neither; instead, The Inner Banks' music is lush, dark, atmospheric instrumentals with a hint of country darkness. It's a brooding sound, but when listened as a whole, the experience is quite breathtaking. Below, Gould tells us about the ethos of the band, what brought it together, and the ideas behind their excellent self-titled debut.Tell me a little bit about how The Inner Banks concept started. Were you working on this before you and Caroline got together?
I sort of started it before I realized I was starting it. The Inner Banks project grew out of some things I had recorded on my own at home, almost as a reaction against the music I was playing with Bootleg Remedy, which was sort of my old-timey group. After I had about three or four sketches that I liked, I realized there might be some sort of autonomous project somewhere in there. I started having Caroline sing on some of the tunes, adding vocals in part because I loved her voice, but also because I wanted to see how certain things would sound. Then, before I knew it, that formula started to become an integral part of the sound as well. It wasn't until last summer, though, that I decided to add a couple of songs, put together an album, and call it a new band. Caroline and I had been living together for three years, and we’d been married a year or so. Everything's sort of morphed a bit, in terms of band identity. A lot of it changed as I started to finish the album, and as I started to figure out how to perform it live. By that point, Caroline was definitely a bona fide member.
In terms of lineup, is the band just you and Caroline, or is there a solid band?
It's the two of us, and we have a core group of about five. In addition to that, we have others. When we play live, we have string players and some brass players, but they sort of come and go a little more. A lot of the guitar players have drifted in and out, too. It's almost shaping up as a collective at this point! (laughs)Something I noticed--and correct me if I am wrong--ties into something you just said. I can definitely hear a progression in sounds throughout the songs. Some, like "Electric," have a folkier element to them. Others songs, like "Siberia," lose that element and are atmospheric, electronic sound scapes. Then you have the two songs with Caroline singing, and those blend the two elements together. Does this change reflect a change in the idea of what The Inner Banks should sound like?
For whatever reason, the further you go back, the more instrumental the songs are, and the closer you get, the more prominent the vocals are. In terms of progression, not to talk about "folky" versus "electronic," I definitely had the voice grow more and more prominent. But in terms of the other thing you brought up...hmm, let me see. I guess I wasn't thinking about having one or the other. I think combining the folky elements with electric and electronic soundscapes was one of my founding principles, in a way, so that's why, if you listen to any one song, you don't really get a grasp as to what "The Inner Banks sound" is.After listening to it, trying to describe it is rather difficult to do; it just sort of floats around in this amorphic sound style, and when I listened again, I kind of got the impression that Caroline's vocals were added later on, as if they weren't necessarily part of the original vision for the band.
There was definitely a fear early on, whether all these pieces would go together, or if there was a common thread running through them, and things like that. At some point I kind of flipped that around. Caroline was very good about that, in terms of encouraging me. One of the things that she would remind me about was to make an album that I would want to listen to. One of my biggest problems as a music listener is that I get bored rather easily. It's not like I have ADD or something, but if I go to a show or listen to a CD, even something that's really great, after a couple of songs, it loses me--sort of; I kind of feel like I've heard that song. Certainly, if there is a lot of sonic variety, I'll be right there, but the things I really enjoy, they jump around a little; not for the sake of being weird or anything like that. You hear that a lot in better band--they'll have something rather offbeat in their music; you'll hear a crazy instrument or sound. So I definitely started to be more open about jumping around with the music. That's kind of how dealt with that. Expanding on that, on when I started bringing in the voices--even great voices, when I listen to something, one song after another, to me it can lose its special-ness over the course of a listen. At first, I did want to do the record with the idea of a person who is only partially listening, where the instrumentals would gather the focus of the listener's attention, and they might not expect a singer, and thus it would be a surprise to hear someone singing. So even early on, we had that idea. I think that's what led us to working in a few songs with vocals, so that they would help pace the album.Plus, Caroline has such a really great voice. I loved her band Folksongs for the Afterlife. Are they still around?
It is, but it's more of an on-and-off sort of band. It's definitely still on; she and her partner are still sending files back and forth, so…maybe. The new stuff's really good.So what's next?
A couple of things. I'm sort of resting now, since we put the record out on our own label, on one hand I'm trying to get this record out there, but on the other hand, I want to start getting the next round of material out there. It's interesting, starting from scratch, even though now there is some band identity; we should have some idea of what the band is now. I'm curious to see how that goes. You definitely see people fall into this path, where they get something going and release or record something that they like, and when they get together later on, they react to those feelings, and they kind of wind up recording the same sort of song over and over again. I want to stay true to the project, but I'd like to get back into that space where I don't have any preconceived notions as to what it will sound like, even though it comes from the same band members. I'm foreseeing it being more collaborative this time around, now that I have a core around me of people who get it and identify with the style and my vision. Also, I'm working with Caroline on her new stuff, so that's fun, working together.How does it sound?
If there's any new sound or influence that wasn't in the first few releases, it's a 70s singer/songwriter style. There's more piano, bigger arrangements...I dunno, though. You know how these sorts of things can be; you start with one idea, and finish with another. It's gorgeous, though; she's definitely matured as a writer, and though it's been a long time, it's definitely going to be worth the wait!The Inner Banks' self-titled debut is out now on Dag! Records