here's our first interview of the year... with the super nice marc cantone, the voice and mind behind the city and horses, one of the best bands on brooklyn's musical scene. here we go then...01. first things first... tell us about the origins of the band and the name the city and horses.
the name basically comes from the idea that horses don't belong in the city. perhaps they did at one point, even up until the early 1900s. but definitely not anymore. that's pretty much it. i live in the city and it's not like i feel like i don't belong so it doesn't really represent myself or the band. i just like the way it sounds. i also wrote a song and a screenplay of the same name back in college.
02. do you guys get to live of music or have 'real jobs'?
real jobs for the most part (considering the most we've ever made from a show is $60). the bass player, josh and i are freelancers (josh is a graphic designer and i do video production). domenica fossati (flute, vocals) is a professional musician who's in many bands. chuck palmer (drums) is also a professional musician as well as a producer. alvaro (drums, we have two interchangeable drummers) is a creative director at an advertising agency. katie (cello) has a very real job as a doctor at a hospital in manhattan.
03. how's the creative process? i mean, how the crafting of the songs happens... i ask that because a lot of the songs have this 'basic' melody played with the 'basic' instruments and suddenly start to develop in a wonderful dialogue of instruments...
i've been writing songs since i was 13 so it's just something i've always done. over the years i've gone from writing painfully (and embarrassingly) confessional lo-fi ditties to (hopefully) more structured and crafted pop songs. the songs most always begin with a lyric idea and then a melody. the best songs are the ones that take the least thought and effort. not to say that any of my songs are the "best" of anything. i'm always surprised to hear that anyone likes them (especially cool bloggers from brazil!).
as for the band, i didn't want to perform live (i still really don't). but a few years ago i met neil lipuma, founder of the excellent brooklyn indie label white shoe records, and he encouraged me to form a band. so i found all these amazing musicians (mostly via craigslist) and started the band. i write songs, demo them at home and then send to the band to learn who then really bring them to life. domenica is a huge help because she's classically trained and can translate what i'm trying to do into something that makes sense musically. she's also awesome with harmonies and can make whatever i sing sound really pretty.
04. the range of sounds we hear on the album is as wide as the type of music people say you play... and some of them create magical moments like the twist in 'i don't want to dream ' (the song) that has to be among the best song twists of the year. talk a little about the creation and construction of 'i don't want to dream' (the album).
thanks! the song "i don't want to dream" was originally a very quiet acoustic number. when we practiced it and got to the last part (where the twist is) josh had the idea to play it hard and loud. that's all Josh and a great example of how the band members contribute to the songs. ss for the album as a whole, about half of the songs were written two or three years prior to me forming the band (like "abigail adams," "i miss it all," "i love the girls," etc.,) and the other written specifically for the band (like "russian military badges," "i am such a drag," "a thousand lashes," etc). we recorded basic tracks over a few days but spent a lot of time doing overdubs in the studio and at home. it's really just fun to layer and build songs with different things so that's where the range of sounds comes from. the guys who produced the album, aaron nevesie and john davis at the bunker studio in brooklyn, are excellent musicians and also played a variety of instruments they had lying around.
05. as i said before, there's a countless number of definitions for the music you make... what's the funniest you've ever heard?
somebody compared us to bruce springsteen once which is flattering but couldn't be more wrong. there's really nothing in our sound that resembles him. sometimes we play live with a saxophone and perhaps the person thought: saxophone = clarence clemens = bruce springsteen.
06. what about the writing process (well, you can see i'm very interested on creation processes)... i like the way that the songs in a first hear make you think 'oh, it's cute' but as you hear for a second, third time you start to see shades of a very peculiar irony and bitterness.
thanks. i love bands that write really pretty songs with catchy hooks but have lyrics that aren't always as shiny as the sound. the smiths, belle and sebastian and the field mice/trembling blue stars, are the best examples. i also just really love pretty and simple melodies. this isn't to say that that's all we play. i'm also a huge fan of early 90s indie rock like sebadoh and pavement. so we get dirty sometimes. well, as dirty as the purell will let us.
07. time to name some heroes and/or inspirations... movies? cartoons? historycal figures? abstract paintings? anything?
i love artists who do their own thing without regard for success or popularity. and if the artist can make a living off of that, then all the better. woody allen is a great example. he's mostly done whatever he's wanted regardless of popular opinion (marrying his step-daughter being the exception). charlyne yi, who's become a friend of mine, is another good example. she's completely and totally herself.
08. any song you'd like to cover?
rum and coca-cola by the andrews sisters. it's a pop song from 1944 about alcohol and prostitution. 1944.
09. if you could give a place and hour to hear your songs, what would they be?
on this blog. now. :)
10. finally, recommend something you've been listening lately...
the band. their first few albums. they're actually pretty much all I've been listening to lately. i'd love to be able to play and sing like them but i'm not good enough.
11. anything else you feel like saying?
i recently helped white shoe founder neil lipuma record his own first album under the moniker scaresthedaylights. the album, "burn the bed," is gorgeous. and it was great fun to make. i even got to play drums on two tracks.
i'm currently trying to finish up a new city and the horses album now. it follows a similar pattern as 'i don't want to dream' in that some of the songs i wrote a few years ago and some were written for the album. the newer songs are a little different stylistically. i've recorded half of it so far at the bunker studio in brooklyn and a couple tunes with my friend man man producer craig van hise in philadelphia. i've also written a couple of proper duet songs to sing with my friend and amazing singer/songwriter katie costello.
oh, "i don't want to dream" is being released in the philippines on universal records. so to all of our filipino friends, check it out!
here you can download little finland and i love the girls.
here you can download little finland and i love the girls.
on a side note, marc is a movie maker/ producer / editor (just like me!) and he directed, produced and photographed a documentary called bowling blind that may be soon in a film festival near you... if so, check it out!