Trans Am take time out to talk about their new album, Thing, the process of recording, and how much winning means to them.
Going into this project, how did you feel?
TA: Trans Am felt very positive at first. When we started, we thought we were making a very lucrative soundtrack. Then that fell apart and we started hearing a lot of negativity. Lots of people were coming up to Trans Am, saying, “Trans Am can’t finish this album – you’re all washed up.”
So it’s been a long journey, but we’ve got a veteran mentality. We’ve been through all this before and we kept our head. Now, here we are!
What happened to the soundtrack?
TA: Well, we were supposed to get some serious cash to record a soundtrack for a Hollywood sci-fi film. We never found out for sure what the project was, but Trans Am has a feeling it was the soundtrack to Avatar. Then Jim Cameron got cold feet and had James Horner come in to do his soaring orchestral bullshit. We’re not going to lie to you, that hurt. But Jim’s got a job to do and we understand it’s business, not personal.
Do you have a different feel for this record than the first eight you’ve done?
TA: No. It’s the same. Trans Am has been here before. We’ve been a few songs away from winning and just couldn’t do it… eight times. It’s unbelievable to have an opportunity, after 15 years, to be here, again. But there’s nothing different about this album.
You’ve spoken before about a desire to transcend music. Do you think this album accomplishes that?
TA: Absolutely. This album isn’t about music at all. It’s about being prepared mentally and physically. It’s about training 8 hours a day for the past two years. You know, too many people today are results-oriented. We want to win as much as anyone, but we’re not going to abandon our system now. That’s what got us where we are and we’re not going to throw everything away and just play for music’s sake.
What other music are you listening to these days?
TA: We’re not. Trans Am is too focused. Besides, these days, most bands are too afraid to step up to the bat. They are scared that life is going to throw them different kinds of curve balls.
We always say, “Look, there’s no one in professional baseball batting 100. We doubt there’s anyone batting 600. There is no one probably batting even 500. Or 400. But as long as you're not afraid to step up and take on a challenge, you never know what's going to happen. And every challenge, Trans Am has faced. TA is going to step up and swing - one time we may hit a home run. And that home run is going to carry Trans Am a little bit farther.”
What do you think about all the media?
TA: You guys have a job to do and you are doing it. You’ve just talked about Trans Am so much.
What was the biggest fight you got into during recording?
TA: During mixing there weren’t so many arguments, because Trans Am is so focused that we’re not really paying attention. Basically Kurt, the engineer, can just do whatever he wants until we catch him. Then we’ll be like, “Hey! Is there reverb on that tom?” and Kurt will say, “Yeah.” And then we’ll say, “Well, I don’t like it. Can you put like a synth-y purple chorus echo type effect on it instead?” and Kurt will plug in a bunch of patch cables and say, “Like that?” But Trans Am won’t be in the room anymore. Because we’re just out there - doing it!
How do you kill time during the recording session?
TA: Well, lots of ways. Seb usually stays pretty focused and says stuff like, “Do the drums sound good?” or “Dude, the drums aren’t really that good” or “Can we just hear the drums without everything else?” Then he goes off and checks his Facebook and Kurt turns down the drums. So that’s cool.
Phil doesn’t like to be in the control room during our session. He likes to keep things tight by reorganizing the mic cables and dusting and stuff.
Natron eats a lot to keep his strength up – stuff like bagels, tortilla chips or anything in an open container. Sometimes he might get confused and read the same Led Zeppelin article in Mojo or a 2007 US Weekly photo caption under Matthew McConaughey. Then he’ll take a nap.
In recording, you got to pick your battles. You’ve got to find a rhythm or you’ll never last the whole session. How are you guys feeling health-wise, going into your release date? TA: Everybody is feeling good. It was great for Trans Am to have the last two years off so that everybody can get their rest and all healed up.
What do you anticipate the matchup with Nice Nice is going to be like?
TA: Well you know, they’ve been getting better and better with each year. They're still a great band and they’ve got a lot of confidence going on with them right now. We’re going to have to pay close attention to them. We are going to have a good battle.
Why did you decide to call the album Thing? TA: Well, there’s so much history there – so many meanings, you could just pick one. Could be the album as a product. Maybe the strange other entity that the band becomes? Or some sort of external muse? An undefinable threat? There’s so much going on there...
How ready are you to finally get this album out?
TA: Trans Am is ready to get this thing going. It’s about time.
Do you think this album will win?
TA: Trans Am went through a lot to get here. We can’t worry about the music now. All we can do is bring lots of energy and do all the little things that put us in a good position to come out on top.