So, I've become a full fledged juuornalisst.
Lars from The Intelligence was nice enough to let me "interview" him.
Basically, I sendt him some not so great, and some good questions by mail, and he answered. (Photo taken in Barcelona last week at the Primavera Sound festival..more on that later)
So here it is in all its Pulitzer price winning glory:
CMA: Tell us a little about your background. How and where did you get started playing music?
Lars: I started playing guitar in high school. I got grounded from my skateboard trying to impress these scumbags by trying to steal some poor kids skateboard, trying to look tough in the sheltered burbs. So I spent the summer playing the intro of Metallica's One and the intro to Purple Haze in a 100 degree garage in Bakersfield, California.
CMA: You have done a lot of varied covers over the years. What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
Lars: I was listening to Red Red Wine by UB40, tell my friend when 'what the fuck are you doing buddy, and gave me a recorded tape of the Dead Kennedys. I heard most stuff from skate videos. That informed a lot of stuff I liked. Those old videos in the 80's had Black Flag, Sonic Youth, firehose, Bad Religion. I liked that kinda stuff. I got into that 2 tone ska stuff for one summer. Shit, I even dug this Lenny Kravitz tape! My last year in high school was when I really got into music more though because I started hanging around with the dopers you know. Black Sabbath, The Breeders and Abbey Road I remember listening to a lot. The grunge got really big and I liked most of that stuff.
CMA: How long have you been Intelligence?
Lars: Since the day I was born son! Just kidding. I think our first single came out in 2000, but I'd been doing solo 4-track stuff two or three years before that - which was more fun and satisfying than the real band I was doing with some friends. We liked The Jesus Lizard and stuff but stunk on our instruments. Then I heard The Country Teasers and realized we were doing it wrong.
CMA: You have played in a number of bands before (A Frames, Dipers, Unnatural Helpers etc.), why did you decide to focus on this "solo" project?
Lars: The Intelligence has always been what I cared about most but the other bands were easier live for quite a while. I was denying being 'the boss' for years so we were pretending to be a band for years and since I was always disappointed and hated giving direction, it was my excuse to party first and play some shit songs second. The long time drummer quit and I was finally free to record by myself. Also Matthew Ford from Factums and Love Tan was my best buddy and was really encouraging and played drums and I got the first band I really dug together. The other bands just kinda died as far as my involvement. A Frames gave me the boot, Unnatural Helpers reformed without telling me or the bass player. Dipers personalities clashed too much I guess.
CMA: You seem to have done most, if not all the recordings yourself. Do the other band members have any influence on the writing?
Lars: The funniest part for me is recording. I don't' want to just sing and play guitar, I get to do that live. I like playing drums and the other stuff. I like recording alone. I went to recording school which taught me I hate recording. I like being a side man in a band but if I'm 'the boss' I like doing it alone. It's faster.
CMA: You have also been known to change member a lot like The Fall's Mark E. Smith. What is the story behind that?
Lars: Some people don't like the set up, or they are great but they move to San Francisco or L.A. , or they aren't good enough, or they aren't fun to tour with, or the band would be better with someone else, or they bend all the guitar notes trying to show off. making them and us sound awful. If they want to write all the bass parts or write songs together in a rehearsal room democratically there are papers full of other bands for them to join with sympathetic parties. I am the first one to say this band is probably really boring to be in as a 'musician' because there isn't room for and individuals 'personality'. We are all four working towards ONE simplistic personality.
CMA: How great are The Fall by the way? You have opened for them?
Lars: They are great. We played two shows in New York with them but we forgot to pay attention, I didn't know any of their new album and we were too excited to be flown to New York. I listen to them far more now than I did then though.
CMA: Intelligence seems to be released on a ton of labels in both America and Europe (including one here in Oslo). Do you prefer these kind of limited vinyl 7 inch releases?
Lars: No not really, I really like to work on an LP. But we have friends ask us for stuff or stuff laying around that doesn't fit on records. I do like having 7" on the merch table for sure, but after the Oslo 7" we're going to chill out, I don't want to have too much stuff out there, it's a turn off to me. I don't think being 'prolific' is the greatest compliment.
CMA: What is your writing and recording process like?
Lars: Pop in a cassette tape and start layering stuff usually. Start with drums and just stack stuff on. If it grabs me then I'll sing over it or toss it in the shoebox to be dug up six months from now when we're out of ideas. Lately since we get to go into a real studio, I've been using a lot of the home recordings as 'demo's' since I love the big drum sounds we get at the distillery. I'm tired of 'lo-fi' I like sounding good with the windows rolled down too. Tell us about your studio setup. - Just a 7 track Tascam cassette that has the tape door punched in out of frustration. I use this piece of garbage peavy PA head I guess as a 'preamp' to boost the signal and put the fakest reverb since Van Halen on there.
CMA: Some people might react to the extreme "lo-fi" sound and the mix of garage and electro of your records... is this sound a concious decisions?
Lars: I guess so, it was the necessity of our environment. Stuff recorded like garbage sounds really lousy quiet so we mixed it really loud. I like that our Icky Baby record literally destroyed the editor/owner of terminal-boredom.com's speakers. But the mix is not conscious at all, there's no plan it's just what's quick and close and fun or inspired. Some songs you don't want to get the drumset out of the garage so you use the drum machine inside a cheap keyboard and you have a song like Cheer Up Switch. Other times the whole band laughs at you when you try to get them to all play this one dumb riff so you find and old tape of a surf beat and slow it down and play the riff yourself and you get a song like The World Is Not a Drag. We do try to approach each song differently just to have a more varied pallet of sound - sorry that's the most pretentious sounding thing ever.
CMA: How do you feel about the label garage punk or glue wave and how its becoming "hip" these days? Do you label your own music in some way?
Lars: They say it's hip but I see all of us playing to three people on plenty of stops on tour so I think just because it's on the internet and trickels into some magazines it doesn't. I like the term glue wave actually. I hope it get really hip and really big so we can all make some money and be on 'NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL GLUE WAVE VOL. 3" compilations by Time Life.
CMA: You have a new record out on In the Red Records called Fake Surfers. How does this record differ from the earlier ones?
Lars: It's pretty similar to the last record but better and weirder. With Deuteronomy (In the Red) I wanted a good rock record with good sounds but pretty stripped down. I wanted to keep it simple since I was nervous about blowing it in the studio for the first time. But this one I wanted to mix good rock songs with some more weirder stuff. Like a hi-fi version of our first record (Bordeom and Terror, Omnibus/Draget Records) but weirder. There's more layers and lots of different sounds. On Deuteronomy we got a good drum sound and used it for all the songs, same with the bass/guitar/vocals, this one we had more time to make it all different. My favorite day was the guitar day where we set up a little station with four different amps and guitars and pedals and made different combinations so they weren't' ever the same. The Hunches new LP was somewhat of an influence on that, there's 1000 different guitar sounds on that usually within the same song. The singing was more fun this time too, I had some of my favorite singers come in, Brad from this great band from LA Wounded Lion sings some back ups and so does Brian from Christmas Island, another of our favorite new bands. Monty Buckles from the Lamps 'sings' on another and plays some guitar and synth. Susanna is on there again too.
CMA: Tell us a little about the people who are playing with you now and where you found them.
Lars: Our guitarist Perve Bird was a fan and in a good band The Professional Man from Portland; he sent me this really nice email when we were playing as a three piece after the Icky Baby (In the Red) version of the band split up saying how he loved us but it's better with two guitars and asked for an audition; he drove up and learned all the songs fast to, we practiced and he was good enough so he played a show with us that night. He's been leaving his luggage in airports and outside of cars all over the world since. Our bassist Susanna is 'my old lady'. We were together for a while and she'd dated a touring musician before and it didn't work out with the time apart so I'd been thinking of having her play keys so we could tour together. We had this great guy Shannon McConnell from the Fall-Outs and The Pulses playing with him who I loved but he couldn't' really tour so he had to quit. Maybe the idea came from Volt, and a lot of our songs I recorded the basslines on keyboards so we gave it a shot with her playing them. Turns out she's one of the best musicians we've ever had, I guess all her piano lessons came back and she's great. - Our drummer Beren, this is a funny story: We were on tour in the US and our drummer quit, I loved him but we'd broken up the first band I was in 10 years ago in kind of the same way, we got on great but there was a kinda tension underneath sometimes. Anyways we blew up at this great show in NYC and he quit the next day. Meanwhile Beren was on tour with Eat Skull and had tried to give her notice, telling the band she'd finish the tour but when they got home she was done. I guess they booted her on the spot and left her stranded in NY. I'd already been a fan of her drumming (and she played in Perve Birds band) so we called and asked if she'd finish the tour with us. We picked her up the next day and she listened to our songs on an Ipod for the 9 hour drive to Toledo and we played this god awful show with her not having any practice, I'd beat box the beat of the song and we'd go for it. It was pretty messed up but she did great. The next day we got to practice in Detroit all day and she ruled. She's the best.
CMA: Do you still like touring and sleeping on floors?
Lars: Mmm, I love sleeping on floors. Man whenever I see one I just get drowsy it looks so dirty and comfy.
CMA: Do you prefer touring in the states or in Europe?
Lars: I think everyone likes Europe better cause you can't eat 'get the fuck out of here' for dinner. Seems like we do the best in Paris which amazes me and my parents. I like Spain a lot. We had a blast in Eastern Europe last year in Croatia and Serbia. It was really cool to get go to Macedonia where 15 people ate and drank their nuts off at this great restaurant for 30 Euro.
CMA: What other then the Karate Party Helicopter LP would you recommend everyone to have in their record collection?
Lars: We're really into Tones on Tail Pop right now for some reason. Coltrane's Lush Life I love.
CMA: Any new bands that excite you these days?
Lars: Oh yeah lots, its' a great time I think. The best since we've been playing for sure. Christmas Island, Wounded Lion, Thee Oh Sees, Sic Alps, Meth Teeth, Eat Skull, The Growlers, Hospitals, The Spits, Cheveu, Soft Pack, Ganglians, Crash Normal, I forget...
CMA: Are you tired of these lame questions?
Lars: No these are good and I can't wait to read my coffee wave brain from the start, confused- stoked- kinda stuck up- confused- rambling-shamed- lighthearted..
CMA: Wanna plug some more releases, projects, zines, blogs, books, films etc?
Lars: Oh Calvin Lee Reader our old bassist makes great films, Little Farm is great and Piledriver too. His new one Pina Colada something is great too. I do interviews of bands I like on www.terminalboredom.com
CMA: Are you a fan of any Scandinavian bands?
Lars: Maybe I am, I can't think of any right now though, isn't LLiamannaria Finnish? I love them.
CMA: Lars Finberg is a very Scandinavian sounding name. Where is your family originally from?
Lars: Finland and Sweden. It was changed to Finberg from Ooupoula or something.
CMA: Dragnet Records, which I guess you helped run, seems to be defunct. Are you running any other labels?
Lars: We started Dragnet because back then there weren't little labels to send it to it didn't seem like. 'hey think Universal or E.M.I. wants to release this 7" recorded on a wet VHS tape?' So we just saved up and did it ourselves. Once someone else offered to put it out we jumped at the chance. If I had money I'd do it again, maybe in the future it'd be nice to have a little label but there's so many these days I don't see the point really.
CMA: Anything you want to say to people in Norway (other than buying the records and coming to the show June 6th at Gloria Flames)?
Lars: Just hello and we're really excited to be coming, we didn't' have time to make it that way last year so we chose you over Eastern Europe this time, you and your running water. And it's your birthday on the 5th and mine on the 8th so lets take it really easy and reflect. Just kidding. Last time our (Swedish) promoter jumped through a plate glass buss stop so we're kind of expecting a lot. Thanks for your time and/or interest!
Originally posted on groove.no May 2009. (Thanks Bjørn)
The Intelligence are on their european tour now. Saturday is the big CMA release party in Oslo with Intelligence, Crash Normal from Paris and local heros Bungalow Ranchstyle. AND its my birhtday...it's gonna be a good weekend.