Getting together at the end of each week after having left their day jobs behind, the duo of Sean Moore and Alberto Hernandez started piecing together what would become their debut album, Sinister Devices. They eventually took on the name Viernes — the Spanish form of the day of the week (Friday) when those fateful recordings were most often made. With a fetching mix of organic and electronic instrumentation, the Floridian duo eventually caught the ear of Brooklyn, NY’s Kanine Records, who recently released Sinister Devices. LimeWire Store caught up with the pair for this EXCLUSIVE interview.
Viernes – “Entire Empire”
From what I gathered online, it sounds like Sinister Devices has been completed for awhile. Was it just a matter of finding a label to release the record or did it require some fine-tuning?
Alberto Hernandez: It was pretty much a matter of finding a label. We had recorded more than enough material for the LP—and also an EP — before we started getting interest from different labels. We were nearly finished with the album almost a year ago, then slowed down a bit. When we started getting actual offers from labels, we started putting finishing touches on it.
Sean Moore: We began tracking Sinister Devices in February of 2008, finished up all of the tracking in 2009, completed final mixes ourselves, and then sent it off for mastering in January of 2010.
Despite a good amount of electronic embellishment, the album still sounds rather organic. Was it important to you for it to still sound “natural” despite those electronic elements?
Moore: The organic feel is also credited to our work ethic. Most of the sessions spawned from philosophical and political discussions we would find ourselves involved in. The material found on Sinister Devices was highly improvised and spontaneously composed on the spot. The electronic flourishes served as a backdrop to the naturally occurring elements. It was a high priority of ours to insure that each piece of music represented our humanistic qualities.
Hernandez: We set out from the beginning to make this an experimental project and not be pigeonholed. Initially, we just wanted to record music on Fridays after the work week, off the top of the dome, total freedom. We didn’t want to force ourselves to only use electronics. Since non-electronic instruments are our primary instruments (guitar and violin), that is why the record sounds like that. If you look at most of the songs, the electronic parts are usually only the beats and percussive layers. The only reason for that is, neither of us is really a drummer, and we liked the sounds we were getting electronically.
You recorded the album yourself, correct? Was it a lot of piecing things together or were there songs that were played live?
Hernandez: We did record it ourselves. It was a combination of both. Since most of it was written as we were recording, there was some piecing together. However, there are also many moments that were played live, first take. We really just would start with an idea, either a beat or a melody we liked, and we would vibe off it. But given that we were initially only getting together on Fridays after our work week, we would have to set the songs down and return to them the following week.
Moore: Yes, we recorded the majority of the record at my home studio in Orlando. I enjoy having the seemingly unlimited amount of time to compose and record without budget constraints.
Your bio describes making the record as a very give-and-take process between the two of you. In that sense, do you have specific roles in Viernes or are there really no limitations as to who does what?
Moore: We consider each other to be multi-instrumentalists. I orchestrated the recordings with strings and horns. As far as specific roles are concerned, the lines are most certainly blurred. For this record, we utilized whatever instruments we were surrounded with. Our current live configuration features Alberto handling all things guitar, and myself tackling synthesizer and piano embellishments.
Hernandez: No limitations. The sessions were super collaborative, like tag-team wrestling, but with recording.
What’s it like being a band in Florida? While I think a lot of Northerners view Florida as kind of a wasteland musically (no offense), it seems like there’s a lot of exciting music coming out of the state these days.
Hernandez: No offense taken! I like being in Florida, mostly because I like being outdoors and the weather’s usually great. You can’t beat it. Being in a band here can be difficult, but we’re doing our thing. I know what people think about Florida because I thought the same thing for a long time, but there is some really good music surfacing. I said in an interview with Under the Radar recently that Florida is like the dingleberry of the U.S. tour circuit. We always get the shaft. Bands hit Georgia and go West, so that doesn’t help.
Moore: Like any other place, you still have to sift through a good bit of filler to locate some truly inspired talent. I am humbled that people are beginning to take note of what’s happening down here. It’s long overdue.
That said, is it difficult to do things like tour when you’re kind of isolated geographically? It takes a few hours just to get out of the state, right?
Hernandez: More like five or six hours! Yeah, it’s not as easy, but we are up for it. We’d love to tour when the right opportunities arise for us. We’d love to play more festivals. We are flying up to New York City at the end of June and playing like five shows in three days. One show is for our label Kanine’s showcase at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn, which some great bands like Real Estate, Liars, and High Places are also playing.
Moore: Well, we both have demanding day jobs right now. Alberto manages a dental laboratory, and I am an orchestra director at a private school. That alone makes it difficult to tour frequently.
Do you think there’s anything particularly “Floridian” about what you do?
Hernandez: Not really. I mean, I like wearing tanks, shorts and flops, but that’s just ’cause it gets pretty warm down here.
Moore: I don’t think so. We didn’t have any preconceived notions going into this venture. I guess I’ll leave that answer up to the editorial departments across the globe.
Hernandez: Maybe “Floribbean.”
Songs like “Honest Parade” have a pretty grandiose sound. Is it difficult to achieve that kind of big sound live, working as a duo?
Hernandez: When we first started getting asked to play shows, we tried to pull off that big sound we created on the recordings, but it was just the two of us playing primary instruments and triggering beats and backing tracks on the laptop. But we started to feel cheap. Not to knock people pressing buttons, but we want to play without that. So now we are just saying, “Let’s see what we can take away and still do the song justice.”
Moore: With the recent addition of a live drummer [Tyson Bodiford], we’re now able to do away with most of the rhythmic backing tracks. Alberto and I have been engaging in musical multi-tasking. At times, I’m playing different keyboards with each hand, and on “Ancient Amazon/New Fashion” I play French horn and synth at the same time. Alberto is starting to use his loop pedal. We’ve just been bringing each piece of music down to its core and enhancing only what we feel is essential.
Is this your first musical endeavor or have you both been in bands previously? If so, what makes Viernes more compelling to you?
Moore: I have been in numerous music groups over the years [Pardon My Carbon, Dodger, The Ocean Floor]. I’ve also put out multiple solo records. Viernes is a collaboration of the highest order. I am grateful for the artistic trust we have developed thus far. It’s rare to meet an individual who operates on such a similar frequency.
Hernandez: Not my first either. What made Viernes compelling to me was that it started out as just another creative outlet after our work weeks, and the songs have just poured out. We didn’t sit down and flesh out songs, they just sort of happened, like happy accidents. So the fact that it has been very natural is what I find compelling. Working with a producer and musician like Sean has been nothing but a pleasure. But I love all of the projects I’m in—Young Brother, Father Figure, Science Center—and I also have a solo record I’m working on under the moniker Galleries that I hope to put out next year.
Obviously Sinister Devices just came out, but are you already working on new recordings? I mean, are you constantly working on music or do you work only when there is a goal in mind?
Moore: We have started on some templates and rough sketches. First and foremost, we are completing work on a follow-up EP, which will also be released by Kanine Records. The two of us tend to work more effectively when we have a deadline in mind. We’re also cooking up a few remixes for some up-and-coming artists.
Hernandez: As Sean said, we are always working on something, but right now I think we are most focused on Sinister Devices and supporting it.
Fuente: LimeWire Music Blog