Bay Area indie group Talkie took most of 2017 off from live shows to complete their follow-up to 2015’s huge double-album Hablas. They are in the final stages of mastering the recordings, but spent so long working on the material that they ended up with two albums.
“We were just taking our time and not trying to rush it,” says drummer Eric Martin. “We set out thinking, ‘hey, let’s write a follow up to Hablas,’ We ended up writing the follow-up to Hablas, and a follow-up for that as well,” says drummer Eric Martin. “It really speaks to the amount of time it ended up taking.”
They’ve released a couple of songs from the first of the records, which are mellow and have a groovier beach-pop feel and lusher production than Hablas. That album should be out this spring. The other will come later, and will have a harder edge.
The band explains the first album as being “cold,” and the second as “warm.” Sensing my confusion, they then explained it in Santa Cruz terms. The first one is “you are going out to Santa Cruz and have yourself a hot chocolate and listen to this record, then [the other is], you’ll be riding the Giant Dipper, drink an energy drink and get on that roller coaster,” says Martin.
As complicated as it all sounds, these two albums are actually a move away from the heady thought processes behind Hablas, which they say is loosely a concept album. They’d only put out one release prior—a short and sweet self-titled EP. While discussing the follow-up, they imagined an album cover taken at the psychedelic, desert-y Salvation Mountain, and then they wrote all of the songs with that visual in mind, capturing the mood of that photo, and then imagining various narratives that would work in that setting.
“We really just wanted to make an indulgent double-album for our debut. We thought it would be hilarious,” says Martin.
Just as the extremity of doing a self-indulgent concept record is the opposite of their bare-bones rock ’n’ roll EP, they see the next two records following a similar pattern of ping-ponging between different extremes.
“Everything reacts to the last thing we did,” says singer/guitarist Brad Hagmann. “We were reacting to the original EP which was very heavy rock. Hablas was the other end of the spectrum. It was kind of psychedelic, a little more delicate. This reacts to Hablas in a similar way, but it’s definitely not the EP.”
The new records are also part of a continuum of self-production that they started with Hablas. After recording their first EP in a proper studio, they decided to build a portable DIY studio, which first got installed in a barn in San Martin. Having their own studio afforded them the time to really devote to fleshing out details without fear of going over budget.
They’ve become competent self-engineers, which has given them the ability to experiment in terms of textures, creative mic placements and little songwriting tweaks. The drums on this upcoming record, for instance, were recorded in a cabin in Lake Tahoe, to give it “a big room sound.”
“There was a lot of experimentation. Because we’re not working in Abbey Road, or even Tiny Telephone, everything we did was the second or third attempt that we did doing it, for us being musicians first and then record engineers and then producers and mixers after,” Martin says. “Doing all three and having the ability to not worry about the clock, that allowed us to really experiment.”
They have consulted with some sound experts who steered them in the right direction at times, but a lot of the charm of the recording is that they didn’t always know the correct way to do it. When they would land on the wrong thing, they’d come up with some creative sounds.
“If it’s technically wrong, then who cares? If it sounds cool, let’s try it,” Hagmann says. “When you’re recording in odd spaces, you just try a lot of things.”
Talkie perform at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.