Back in October 2009, I posted about a song I’d heard while working a late night at Topspin called ‘Regresando’. The band was The Silver Pesos.
A little more than a year later, The Silver Pesos released their debut album “Born at Midnight” and the complete work was everything I expected, and more. Peter Brambl and Chloe Conger, two very talented individuals, collaborated with a handful of top notch musicians to bring this album to life. It’s an eclectic blend of electronic rhythms, soulful vocals and a contagious Latin thread that runs through the album. Peter’s penchant for Caribbean and African music also fills the record with warmth and uplifting, soulful energy, even in the most mellow of songs. My personal faves on this record are ‘Regresando’ (surprise) and ‘No History’, but the entire album is quite the package as a whole.
I was fortunate enough to not only interview Peter, but also give you, Paper Buddha listeners, an opportunity to get the entire album in digital form (320kbps MP3) for free. All you need to give in return is an email address – a more than equitable exchange, no? Just enter your email into the widget below and you’ll get a link to download the album from Peter’s marketing partner, Topspin Media. And, if you like what you hear, I encourage you to support The Silver Pesos by purchasing an upgrade of the album in physical form as well as a limited edition T-shirt and even a Deluxe Edition complete with tracks stems for remixing.
Stream the full album as well as exclusive remixes (sold separately).
My interview with Peter:
How and where did The Silver Pesos come to be and who are the members?
Chloe and I are basically the nucleus of the group, with help from co-producer Robert Weber and a variety of additional musicians, most notably Doddy Sambodo and Deny Surya. Chloe, Rob, and I are old friends from university days, and we’ve stayed in touch over the years and worked on various projects together. A couple of years ago, Chloe and I got pretty focused on this current batch of songs and decided to give it a name and turn it into a little enterprise. We’re based in Los Angeles at the moment, but much of the recording took place around the world using mobile equipment. Rob also has his own studio in Indonesia, so we tracked quite a bit of the songs there too.
What was your involvement in the project?
I wrote and arranged all of the instrumental pieces, and co-wrote the lyrics and vocal parts with Chloe. For the recording of the record, I shared production duties with Rob.
What was the recording process like?
It probably took longer than it needed to. We had a idea for the record in our heads, which was going to be a mix of live instruments and sequenced elements, plus a lot of vintage sounds— Jamaican dub effects, old sixties reverb tricks, things like that. The songs were first recorded with a full band— meaning bass, drums, guitars, etc. Later on, we used software to restructure the songs, or in some cases sample the songs and do dub remixes of them. We even sent a bunch of tracks to a guy to transfer to analog tape, do some work, and then bounce it back. Getting everything to gel together was a challenge, but I think we pulled it off.
The other challenge was that the band was not always in the same room. So we came to rely upon the internet for collaboration. We would do session recordings in places like Bali and Mexico, post the stems to our server, and then shoot mixes and overdubs back and forth. A lot of bands are doing this type of thing these days, and it really does open up some new possibilities.
What would you say were the musical influences for Born at Midnight (and for the band’s style overall if it’s relevant)?
We like all kinds of dance music and also more abstract genres like dub and ambient. Rob and I are really into west and south African artists like Thomas Mapfumo, Fela, Ali Farka Touré, and so on. On some of the songs, like “Remember the Land” and “Garifuna,” you can hear a bit of west African guitar influence. Other influences would include producers like Diplo, Lindstrom, and Daniel Lanois. In terms of sound, we found that the combination of Chloe singing her style of folk-blues on top of these skittery, funky tropical bass tunes was an interesting combination, and one that allowed us a lot of freedom to mix up genres.
Some of the lyrics are in Spanish, and some in English. Can you talk a bit about the songwriting process?
At first, we used other languages as a way of laying down temporary vocal tracks without worrying about the meaning. We would literally grab fragments out of Pablo Neruda books and just use them as grist for the mill. Chloe is actually fluent in Spanish—she lives in Mexico part-time—and as as time went by we decided it might be interesting to incorporate some original verse in Spanish as well. It’s certainly a beautiful language for singing, and we found that it added an interesting effect to the song, adding a new voice and sometimes causing the listener to shift attention for a few bars.
Chloe and I are big fans of songwriters like David Byrne, Neil Young, and Lou Reed. One thing that all of those writers have in common is the ability to shift between different types of voices or points of view between songs— it’s often not the singer who is the subject of the song, but another character. That’s really interesting to us, and I can see us continuing to develop a songwriting style along those lines.
How has the album been received so far by the media, fans and other taste makers?
We were very lucky to have great feedback early on. KCRW played our first single on the same day they received the CD, so we took that as a sign that we should probably finish the record! There’s also been some great feedback from blogs and fans reaching out to us on Twitter. It was not immediately obvious a few years ago, but Twitter is a great medium for discovering new music and connecting with folks directly.
Why did you decide to release this album directly to your fans vs. seeking a label deal?
For a somewhat non-commercial act like us, it may be the only way to go. Regardless of how you do it, releasing a debut record has its challenges. It’s not really possible to do a lot of advance press or publicity, because you don’t have a long track record or a fan base that is waiting ardently for the release date. It may take 12-18 months for this record to find its audience. Most of that will depend upon our own efforts during this time— playing out, putting out new content, and so on. We’re assuming most of the risk anyway, so why not do it ourselves? Down the road, it may make sense for us to partner with someone else, but for right now we’re having a lot of fun connecting fans ourselves and watching the band grow on a grassroots level. It’s great to communicate directly with folks and let them participate in our development.
What plans do you have to distribute Born at Midnight via more traditional retail channels, specifically digital service providers like iTunes?
The album is now available on iTunes and Amazon, and we may even do a little work with indie retail. If we were ginormous, there would be some advantages to releasing it exclusively on our own site, but for now we’re trying to make it as easy as possible to find our songs.
That being said, the best place to buy the album is our site— www.thesilverpesos.com — because we offer the record at a better price and with a lot more options than you’ll find anywhere else. You can get it with additional remixes, and you can even get the remix stems for your own dabbling. There are also things like t-shirts and posters that come bundled with downloads as well.
When will your fans get to hear The Silver Pesos perform live? Any tours planned?
Most definitely. We’ve started rehearsing our live act and we plan to play some dates in Los Angeles this spring, with the intention of playing more cities this year. I doubt we’ll do a full-blown tour, but we’ll probably try to do a string of dates in various places around the world. If anyone out there is interested, please do get in touch with us at: info [at] thesilverpesos.com.
Whats next for you and the band?
2011 is going to be pretty fast-paced. We’d like to get out of the album release cycle and into shorter release cycles with smaller batches of original songs, remixes, videos, and things like that. There are new folks joining our live act, and I’m looking forward to adding their influences to our recordings and songwriting.