Indie pop duo Rococode (Laura Smith and Andrew Braun) are back with their second full-length album Don’t Worry It Will Be Dark Soon, out February 26th via Marquis Label Services.
The songs for Don’t Worry It Will Be Dark Soon were recorded in an fairly unconventional way – in a cabin, off the grid, in the isolated coastal forest of British Columbia, sharing their space with producers Caleb Shreve (Phantogram, Bear Hands) and Ted Gowans (Tegan and Sara, Fences). The result are tight, crisp sonic gems that sparkle, shuffle and shake at every turn.
Sean Carlin chatted with Laura about Rococode’s latest video, “Panic Attack”, their unique recording experience, and their advice for young musicians.
Northern Transmissions: Hey Laura, thanks for taking the time to talk to Northern Transmissions! You recently released your video for “Panic Attack”. How has it been received so far?
Laura Smith: Good, a lot of people that I showed it to really liked it. It’s one of the more responsive videos that we’ve put out. I think it makes people react in some way or another, which I like.
Northern Transmissions: How did the idea for your video “Panic Attack” come about? Were other ideas brought up?
Laura Smith: Yeah, actually. Originally we had a whole other idea, we were gonna have me jump out of a plane [laughs], and it didn’t quite work out because of… technicalities but during that shoot we did a whole bunch of things, like Andrew and I did shot for shot contest, and we did arm wrestling, I dunno just a whole bunch of things but the directors when they were editing it and putting it together, they just found these the most compelling, and sort-of raw, honest, almost emotional shots, and that’s kind of what they were looking for – for us to be a little vulnerable, which I don’t think we’ve been quite this vulnerable in a video before, so it’s been pretty cool.
Northern Transmissions: Let’s talk your forthcoming release, “Don’t Worry It Will Be Dark Soon”. It drops February 26 – what does it mean to you? How do you feel now that it’ll be out in the world soon?
Laura Smith: I feel really excited. This record is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s been a long time since we actually make most of the songs and I still really love them and I still feel like it’s a really cool representation of a period of time for us, and yeah they’re really exciting songs to play live. So I’m just happy to finally give them to the world and hopefully, you know, we can play millions of shows next year [laughs].
Northern Transmissions: And what would you say are the standout differences for you between your forthcoming and your debut?
Laura Smith: I would say definitely there’s a lot of differences, I mean, we just kind of know who we are now as a band. These songs came from a different place; we were both struggling with a lot of personal growth issues when we were writing it. I think the sounds are darker and sexier, and there’s lot of synth, and it’s a little bit more dancy when we’ve been playing these songs live. People are always dancing now. I think overall it is a bit more vulnerable, kind of like the video.
Northern Transmissions: Yeah, and the title of your record kind of ties into some of what you’ve said about having comfort and catharsis that the nighttime provides, and just the whole concept of going off-the-grid and doing the BC cabin studio thing, I think that all fits well with what you were going through.
Laura Smith: Yeah, and doing that and going off the grid because its like a way to really dig deeper, you know? [laughs]
Northern Transmissions: Yeah, how was that whole process, working with Caleb [Shreve] and Ted [Gowans]?
Laura Smith: It was awesome. Yeah, the four of us get along really well. We’re actually still great friends from that process. It was kind of like we’d get up in the morning, start tracking something, go all day, maybe someone would take the hour trip to the grocery store [laughs] so we could eat at some point in the day, and then we’d work ‘til late, and do it all again the next day. It just allowed us a lot of space, and I think working that constantly just sort of forces you to dig really deep and to come up with ideas that you wouldn’t normally otherwise. We were limited by sort of the instruments we had, and all of our skills levels, like Caleb is, and has always been more of a pop, hip-hop guy, and Ted Gowans has worked with Teagan and Sara but he’s more of an indie kind of guy. He worked with Fences, and then you have me and Andrew. Just putting the four of us together and seeing what we came up with was really magical because we wouldn’t have come up with it otherwise.
Northern Transmissions: Going with that, what were some challenges you faced with that aspect of the album?
Laura Smith: Just like mental stamina [laughs], being in a cabin for a few weeks, and trying not to go insane. I’ve been talking about how much space we had, but actually we meant to record twelve songs in two weeks, which is… that’s a lot, so it was hard to fit it all in. But it also forces you to let go of things that you might normally waste time on, and just say, “Okay, this is it. This is what we’ve got, it sounds great,” and move on to the next thing, ‘cause you have to [laughs].
Northern Transmissions: Did the title also reflect the so-called retreat you took to record the album?
Laura Smith: Yeah, I would say so. I mean, it’s kind of like that phrase, it’s a comforting thing, “Don’t worry, just don’t worry, it’ll be dark soon. Everything will be okay, when it’s dark”. I think that also applies to being in the middle of nowhere because in the nighttime most people are sleeping and I feel like there’s like less of a buzz of everyone’s brain energy. Especially in the city I can find that a little overwhelming, so out in the woods it’s like “Ahhhhhhhh.”
Northern Transmissions: Oh definitely, and what track would you say speaks to the album as a whole or showcases your growth as a musician, or as a band?
Laura Smith: Mmm, tough question. I just like all of them, no that’s not a very good answer [laughs]. I think any one of them basically showcases our growth as a band. Actually, “Dead and Gone” is one of my favourite tracks. It’s not going to be a single but I really like it, it’s like a nighttime song. And “Hunter Gatherer” is really cool, I think we got to make a lot of fun sounds on that song, and that showcases some of Caleb and Ted’s ideas on there, some of the sampling and that which is really different step for us and we’ve kind of continued on with that in writing some newer songs. We’ve taken that concept and integrated into our band.
Northern Transmissions: Gracing the cover of your sophomore record is artwork from Fivethousand Fingers, how did you link up with them and come up with the concept?
Laura Smith: Well we’ve actually done all our artwork with Fivethousand Fingers, for the last five years and Eli, which is one half of Fivethousand Fingers, he and I went to Cap. College at the same time. We must have had an early day one day of the week and we would always be on the bus home, the only people on the bus at this one afternoon of the week. So we eventually started talking on our bus trip home, and became friends. When we started Rococode, I checked his stuff out and it was really interesting, and we both really fell in love with his style. We basically just say here’s the music, you guys come up with something. I think for the artwork of this we wanted something less colourful so I think we said use black and white. But that’s all we gave them, and they always come up with something totally amazing that fits with our music, so it’s a really good pairing for us, and we just want to do all our artwork with them forever. It’s pretty special.
Northern Transmissions: What did you take out of the process of writing and recording the album, and what do you hope people who listen to it take out of it?
Laura Smith: Personally I think it was very cathartic, as it says in our press release. I think we were both experiencing a lot of new things, and having a lot of sort of mind expansion, and viewing the world in a totally different way. Through these songs, they help us process these insights, and feelings. I just hope that some of that sort of magic that we felt through writing these songs can transfer into the minds of other people. I’m certain that they will not hear them and visualize the same things we were thinking about when we wrote them, but just like any song if someone can get a message, or an emotion from it then that’s a success.
Northern Transmissions: What keeps you motivated to get to where you are today, what is your advice for artists who are trying to make it?
Laura Smith: Well my motivation personally is that it’s just something I need to do, it’s something I love to do. I find it very necessary for my own survival [laughs], and I feel lucky that there are people out there who actually want to listen to things that I have to create and say. For young bands, it’s both a very difficult and very exciting time for people to be bands, and for people to be creating because it’s so accessible for you to be creating things and putting them on the internet, but also it’s difficult to be heard so I think just dig deep and make something really true, really true to yourself, and people will connect to that.
Northern Transmissions: Finally, what plans do you have for the rest of the year? Any announcement of a tour soon?
Laura Smith: Yes, soon hopefully! Sorry I don’t know how soon, but it will be soon. We’ll be doing dates throughout North America. Just look for that!
interview by Sean Carlin