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  • The Submarines
    Monday, January 8, 2007

    He is a very friendly, affable fellow, Mr. Jack Dragonetti. One-half of the pop duo The Submarines, he is responsible for one of the best records of 2006, the lovely, understated Declare a New State!. Even if the name doesn't resonate with you, it's quite possible you've heard their song, "Brighter Discontent," on such hip shows as Grey's Anatomy and Nip/Tuck--a song that, when you hear it, will make you say, "yeah, I've heard that!" The story of how this husband and wife duo came to release their lovely record is an interesting one, as you'll read below.

    You two first met about the time Blake began working on her solo record, right? (Confirms) Were you in a relationship during that album?

    We weren't, no. We met through mutual friends. One friend who played with me in Jack Drag knew her. We started working with her and started helping her out with recording, and our relationship developed from that point.

    I take it that Submarines is a bit of a happy accident for you.

    Oh yeah, it really is! It's been a really, really pleasant surprise for the both of us. We didn't really "form" the Submarines; it came out of music we made here, a few years later, in private for ourselves. We didn't really have any expectations. When we decided we wanted to put this together, as a record, it was really something we did quietly, just for close friends and family. We thought of maybe making 100 copies of it and giving them out. It's very different from my past experiences of being in bands, which was a determined struggle. It was nice to make a record without worrying about what it will or won't do, you know?

    I know that you personally went through the major-label circus in the 1990s with your band, Jack Drag, but you sort of fell silent after the millennium. Had you soured on the music world because of your experiences?

    Yes and no. As far as the business aspect of it, it didn't really leave a bitter taste in my mouth, because I kind of knew what to expect going into it. I'd made a few records before making Dope Box, the A&M record, and I had really enjoyed the homemade process of making those records. I kind of understood that going into the majors would be a risky proposition, but yet I thought, "Well, I'll give it a shot." Plus, I kept releasing records in Europe, though I didn't do much in the States. Blake and I moved out here to California a few years ago, and I was focusing more on producing and working on film and television scores. That's where I was headed, so I didn't really consider doing band stuff anymore.

    I guess the back story to Declare a New State! is that you two worked on a solo record, and a relationship developed. Then you split up. After breaking up, she started working on new material, and came to you to work on it, and from that your relationship rekindled, and then the material you worked on together became Submarines.

    Well, it wasn't so much that she came back to work with me on a new solo record. My side of it is that we had split up, and she had been working on her own stuff. I was working on some Submarines songs, yet I didn't know what I was going to do with them. It was more like our breakup kind of failed, and that happened separate from the music we were making. We got back together, and we started listening to what we had worked on, and felt like, "well, we've got these songs..." and some of them we recorded together. We started to consider the material we'd written and realized that, thematically, they were about the same story. We thought, wouldn't it be cool, after all this we've been through, the emotional trips we've been on, to have this record as a document of our life through these bad and good times? We started thinking that it would be a really good idea, and we both became excited about collaborating together again. But that's generally how Submarines came to be.

    Is it weird to hear these songs about your relationship? I've always been curious about bands like Fleetwood Mac, where the couples in the band go through breakups and write these deeply personal, direct songs, yet continue to work together. Is it weird hearing a song about a turmoil you've been through?

    I think there's a little bit of that, only because when we did put the album together, we weren't really thinking too much of sharing these songs. When we go out on tour and play these songs, at this point, I'm kind of outside of them, so it doesn't feel that weird, but every now and again, I'll listen to Blake sing and think, "Wow, I remember that!" (Laughs) SO now and again it comes up, and it's a little weird. At the same time, we don't want to think of ourselves as a "couple band" or a "breakup songs" band, because we were never a band to begin with. The songs we're working on now, they're different kind of songs.

    I would think that--well, speaking for myself, if it were my band and that was my story--wouldn't you consider making this album and project a one-off and then moving on together as something else?

    It's very tempting! (Laughs) Blake would probably say it's not the same, but to me, the concept of the band makes me think of the home recordings, and how great it was to work together again. But I realize that there is no way we could make a record like Declare a New State! ever again, so part of me would say "Yeah!" to your question. I dunno, though. Things are up and running, and running really well, so it's like, "Oh, we'll make another record, and it'll be really different from the first record." Some people will like it, some will be disappointed by it, but I think that would happen anyway. That's how it is when you release music.

    Well, I know that the idea of "success" is completely different now than it was a decade ago, thanks to the internet. You have been rather successful, in terms of exposure and critical acclaim, in the blogging world.

    It's really instigated some interesting changes. I know you've had your website for a few years now, but yeah, when I started doing Jack Drag, it was at the very, very beginning of the internet and that sort of thing. It's amazing to me now. I wouldn't necessarily say it's totally better, but it's pretty exciting. There's a lot of great stuff out there now, even though there's some crap out there, too.

    I think there's more crap out there now! (Laughs)

    Yeah, you're probably right, because anybody can fuckin' make a record in their toilet. (Laughs)

    I'm looking at two crates of crap that I am never going to listen to, that I can't do anything with, and it's kind of depressing, because on one level, the idea of anyone being able to make a record should be good, until you realize that not everybody should make a record! (Laughs)

    (Laughs)I just hope there are enough people out in space out there to help certain brilliant records come to light. It's a pretty exciting time, too, and it's amusing to me to watch the old dinosaurs run around in circles, trying to figure out what they're going to do. I think, "You guys are so dumb, you just don't have a clue."

    I'm sure from your days with Jack Drag, you have plenty of evidence of that cluelessness.

    Yeah, that world's an insane whirlwind, and it doesn't interest me anymore. It still exists, of course, but you can make a living doing other things. You don't have to go that route.

    Let's talk a little bit about the new material.

    I'm working on a lot of instrumental stuff right now, and I'm handing them over to Blake. It's definitely going to be a different kind of record. I don't know what exactly it will sound like; I'm not sure if there's an obvious unifying concept like there was on the debut.

    What does this new material sound like?

    I think it's going to be atmospheric, like the first record is, but not as underwater sounding; it'll be a bit more surfaced. I'm being vague. (Laughs) Some of it has a dubbish quality to it; not in any way that's heading towards reggae, though. I might say...dare I say it...I'll say it, but I won't mean it, but Massive Attack-ish. Sort of. (Laughs)

    Heavier, with more orchestration and atmosphere?

    Maybe so? I dunno. At the same time, I'd like some of it to be more minimalist. Ya know, I don't really have a coherent answer to this question! (Laughs) It's all kind of floating in idea-land, so I guess the best answer I can give is, "We'll see!" (Laughing)

    Declare A New State! is available now on Nettwerk

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 9:47 AM  
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