In 2010, Spank Rock founding member and producer Alex “XXXChange” Epton teamed up with his friend Chris Devlin to form WIN WIN , bringing on their other mutual friend Ryan “Ghostdad” Sciaino primarily for the visual component, but also to contribute musically.
For their self-titled debut record, they tapped guest vocalists like Gang Gang Dance‘s Liz Bougatsos and Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor to complement their dance-y “psych-rock” sound. When they played live, they would perform DJ mashups of the material in lieu of vocalists.
But for their sophomore album Double Vision, out Tuesday on VICE Records, they’ve come out behind the computer a bit and have crafted a record that’s still something you can move too, but chill enough that they’re on the bill opening for New Order in New York tonight, as well as two dates in Toronto next week. (Buy tickets here).
The band stopped by the VICE offices to talk about group dynamics, their visual presence, and how the band has progressed since they first got together.
The Creators Project: One thing that is really interesting about you guys is that you chose to have a visual artist as part of your band… what made you make that choice?
XXXChange: It’s funny you ask. We’ve never thought about that before. Me and Ryan started doing stuff together because he was doing video stuff for my DJ sets.
Chris Devlin: … and I started making music with Ryan when we were living in Boston, so we weren’t collaborating visually at all. We were just doing stuff creatively together, but we all do a bit of visual art.
Ghostdad: I was doing a lot of video stuff at the time, so for me it just made sense because we were using laptops on stage, so we might as well have a video element be a part of it.
XXXChange: But he also happens to be a really good guitar player. Songwriter as well.
Devlin: He’s a better musician than all of us.
Ghostdad: I do a lot of video work, generally speaking, but we all work on the music and video together and I guess I wrangle it into a live show, but it’s a collaborative process, musically primarily.
How do you you go about making your music and visuals meld into one?
XXXChange: Well after he [Ghostdad] wrangles the video together, he wrangles my tentative melodies together. I don’t know if this time around the video informed the music very much. The first time around we were going through a lot of YouTubes and weird stuff. We were pulling from visual stuff and then making the music.
Do you do make videos before the music?
Ghostdad: Well we don’t now, although one song off Double Vision is inspired by chopped up video. It’s called “After The Wake” and it’s from a chopped up video that I won’t name.
XXXChange: We started playing over YouTube and that’s how we wrote the song, just playing over this guys’ YouTube of him playing guitar.
Ghostdad: That might be the only song. This time around I think we were concentrating more on song writing, playing instruments internally and recording. Now we’re all getting a chance to go back and decide what visuals fit that and add in stuff we’ve worked on before, what worked from the last time around and what didn’t.
Devlin: Some of the stuff that is in the show right now visually is animated pieces of visual art that we did that were 2D images that we put out in a little periodical.
Ghostdad: We made a newspaper.
Devlin: After that 2D thing came out it went back into Ryan’s brain and was animated.
XXXChange: It’s the same process for the visual stuff as it is for the music, everything’s done by collage and we sort of record over and over into something else. None of us are natural songwriters, we use tricks and techniques.
That’s the interesting part… when you’re able to pull that off.
Devlin: That’s what’s interesting for us, it keeps us interested in doing it.
I know your debut album used a lot of weird sounds. Is there anything unexpected on Double Vision that people wouldn’t realize by just listening to the record? Any happy accidents?
Devlin: There was some sound we found in a barn that we were recording in while in Maine that made it onto the record. There’s some radio interference stuff.
XXXChange: No sample-samples, but Chris records a lot from his phone. Like when you’re on the subway and you hear someone singing or something. But we’re not like “Alright, we’re going to do a field recording!”
Ghostdad: We would be really glad to go do that. It would be really rad to go to Madagascar and do some field recordings.
XXXChange: It doesn’t sound out of the realm of possibility.
You guys are all singing on the record this time. Do you guys like this method? Is it more natural, or do you prefer working with guests if you have time?
XXXChange: I think it’s 100 times more fun.
Devlin: Yeah it’s way more direct. Ryan still has a computer on stage doing video, but it’s nice to play the set instead of watching you operate your laptop.
Ghostdad: We’d tried to make that fade in the background this time around.
Can you talk about the live visuals a little more. Are you triggering them as you go?
Ghostdad: They’re synced to the set. They’re synced up so they correspond to the backbone of the songs we’re playing. They can also respond to what we play live.
What kind of programs do you use?
Ghostdad: Resolume right now but I’m really a Max/MSP guy. Max/MSP is what lets it communicate with the music and sync up. It’s kind of the go-between the music and the visuals.
XXXChange: And we use Abelton too.
Do you guys actively work with other musicians for Win Win?
XXXChange: We’re actually working with this guy right now, Roofeoo, who’s in our WIN WIN band. He works with a lot of other people, so when we’re putting the show together live, he’s pretty helpful being a critic that isn’t so closely tied to the songs as they were made.
Roofeoo: I have been friends and bandmates with pretty much all of these guys for the past few years and at the time I had been playing with my band, TV on the Radio, and had the opportunity to play with my friends. I was like fuck yeah, I’m gonna play with my homies in between all of the other stuff I do, which is DJing and producing like the rest of these guys.
Don’t you guys have a music video coming up at the end of the month?
Ghostdad: It’s a different way of collaborating, we’re kind of lending our song to a different set of producers to put a vision to it. Hope it’s awesome.
We do too!
Stay tuned for the premiere of WIN WIN’s music video for “After the Wait” out later this month.