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IRIS


  

EN: Reagan, "Disconnect" was an extremely well received album back in 1999 and the singles off that album are still making waves. Were you surprised at the fan response and reaction?     

Reagan: Yes, definitely but even so, as far as writing songs, I knew we had better in us. So (pause) I guess, my response had more to do with the motivation to continue on to the next release. I felt more of a direction towards the end of recording Disconnect and it seemed like it was seeping through for the first time. Something more genuine, more real. The listener response to Disconnect was generous and very uplifting, so my focus was to roll with that feeling and explore it further. From day one I'd been stealing methods, limiting myself to imitation, and just learning the relationship between melody and response. I spent very little time evolving. It just wasn't time and I wasn't there yet. Still, we ended up with a couple of new tracks, which I felt were the first real songs for us - "Lose in Wanting" and "Danger is The Shame". They were written at the last minute of recording and are the best moments on Disconnect for me.

EN: "Iris" formed in 1993 as "Forgiving Iris" with Matt Morris. Why did it take you six years for your debut album? Where did the name "Forgiving Iris" come from and tell us about "Iris" pre "Disconnect" years. 

Reagan: We were really just writing songs for ourselves in the beginning. I don't think anyone ever even suggested releasing an album. When good live opportunities came around we'd move on those. That was success to us at the time. For the first two or three years we were just having a good time opening shows for other bands who we wanted to hang around with (laughs). That was our thing - get the best live opportunities possible. In '94 we somehow ended up as one of the five bands for the KRBE 104.1 Halloween Block Party in Houston, which included Freedom Williams (formerly of C&C Music Factory), Miranda and Lucas who each had a hit at the time, and Channel 69. KRBE was very supportive of electronic music in the mid 90's and being an actual part of their lineup seemed like a validation. Fortunately that led to more KRBE sponsored events in Houston, including a side stage performance for the Duran Duran/Waterlillies concert at the Woodlands Pavilion. I don't like including that show in the list, cause it looks like it's saying we some affiliation with the Duran Duran show. It was a side stage but still, to us, it was another "yes" from KRBE, for a show that really mattered to them. So that's where some of the time went. No talk of signing to a label or anything. We knew if we played shows with other bands who used electronics - especially at events sponsored by one of the few electronic-friendly stations around, we would surely be seen by people who might get into what we were doing.

Somewhere around there we wrote" Annie, Would I Lie to You?" and that ended up on a couple of compilations - Control-Alt-Delete's Cat Compilation and Electronic Fields in Europe. From those two releases we started receiving some excellent feedback so Matt put up a website and compiled our best material for those who wanted it. Todd Durrant stepped in a few months later, asked if we'd like to release our demo as a full length on A Different Drum Records and after a few added songs we had Disconnect.

"Forgiving Iris" - a few years back I would have reluctantly given a synopsis on its meaning but I'm more resistant now. Not trying to be mysterious or anything but I don't want to bore you either.


EN: Matt Morris is no longer a member of the band. What prompted his departure?

Reagan: Actually Matt is still very close with the band and everything we're doing. He's like the phantom third member and will be with us on stage at each performance. I read somewhere that Matt left because he and I couldn't get along. That's not true at all, as we're very close friends. Every band has moments where the individuals feel they can't deal with the situation anymore and want out, but Matt's decision had more to do with changing priorities. He just wasn't thrilled about going back into the studio for album 2. There was a time when we had differences on the band's musical direction, an argument that never seems to go away. Still, I think he'd made his mind up and that involved more than this issue.

EN: Andrew Sega of "Alpha Conspiracy" has now become a member of "Iris". How did you guys meet and how did the new collaboration come about?

Reagan: Actually Matt introduced us and it just fell into place. It was one of those moments when the timing was right and it seemed like something we should explore. I was working with Matthew McGregor, a studio engineer here in Dallas, on what would have been the next Iris release when Matt turned me on to Andrew's work. I heard "Winter" and thought, o.k. this guy's totally hitting the ball out of the park but he's coming out of left field at the same time. It wasn't until we all met up in Austin and went out one night that it fell into place. I remember we'd gone out to a club called Texture there in Austin and once we all got back to the car, Andrew gave us the Forward Rewinding LP. When I heard "Last Collection" there was no delay in my response. I turned around and looked at him like "you m*therf*cker". I knew right away. That track is beyond belief. I hate that I didn't write it and I'll never forgive him for that.

EN
: Any further plans for "Alpha Conspiracy" Andrew?

Andrew: There's one more proper full-length in the grand AC plan. It's going to be called "Aura" and we'll be trying to get it out within the next six months or so. I'm going to push it a bit more towards the IDM-pop vein (think: Postal Service / Plaid / Max Tundra / Prefuse 73). I'm also signed up for a bunch of remix work for a while, so that'll take up a fair chunk of time. After that, I'll likely start some new side-projects - can you ever have enough?

EN: "Awakening" has just been released here in early 2003. How do you feel the album has been received so far? Was it intimidating knowing how anxious your fans were for the follow-up to "Disconnect"?

Reagan
: The comments and reviews have been incredible. Especially when you consider how this album's sound leans a bit more towards the tempo and feel of an alternative album. I don't think we really felt pressure because of Disconnect though. I mean, you pour yourself into something and don't let it go until it's as close as you're going to get to where you want before losing your sanity. When that point is reached, you're happy with the end result and ultimately that satisfies. It has to. I can say, however, that I was nervous until I saw the first reports coming in. After that I knew it would be o.k. If we got off to a good start, we'd have a good foundation to grow from and that's exactly how it's gone down. But, yeah, I was nervous simply because weren't making a dance album and I wondered if our core listener base would understand. It seems like they're well beyond understanding, as everything we've seen suggests they truly get something new from Awakening that matters to them. We've seen this expressed a lot here at EGN and elsewhere. So, thank you.

EN: Tell us about your creative process. How did you build "Awakening"?

Andrew
: Reagan lives in Dallas, and I live in Austin (about three hours away), so that presented a bit of a logistical challenge. The process we adopted in the end was pretty straightforward: Reagan would send me a demo he'd written, and then we'd record quick-and-dirty vocals on top. Then, I'd go and recreate the underlying tracks, keeping the basic song structure the same. I'd send him MP3's of the tracks as they would take shape, and when we felt it was the right time, we'd record final vocals over the new backing tracks. Then, there was a final pass where we'd add vocal effects, shimmers, and sparkles, and finally call it finished. From start to finish, the record took about 14 months. It wasn't always a perfect process, especially when outside commitments would rear their ugly heads - but in the end we got the record done and it's a quality product.

EN: What were your main creative influences for the album? What can fans who have yet to purchase "Awakening" expect?

Reagan: Maybe it's best if they go in without any expectations and just let it come to them as they hear it. It's a constant fight to dig out of those pigeonholes and get someone to enjoy the music for whatever it is to them. It's simply traditional songwriting in a mix of IDM/alt rock influenced electronic arrangements. It's Alpha Conspiracy meets Iris. As far as influence, the single most influential writer for me over these past few years has been Glen Phillips. I'm a changed writer as a result of Toad The Wet Sprocket's music and there's now a more balanced blend of ingredients that go into the songs. It may have gone unnoticed, but I think it's one of the key differences, as far as the songs, that listeners have received so well. Also, Andrew is a prolific collector of new music and I've been introduced to a slew of new bands which he's taken a liking to.

EN: What are your favorite tracks off the new album?

Reagan: I like different songs for different reasons. "Whatever", because I like the raw edge of the chorus when it's played really loud. "When I'm Not Around" is one I'm very proud of. For me, it's hard to spend so much energy writing songs, having them realized in this style, and not feel close to them all.

EN: "Awakening" was released on your own label, "Diffusion Records". How did this come about? Are you shopping for a larger label deal of any kind or just plan to go it alone?

Andrew: Diffusion is a label that I had run for a while, before I was involved in Iris. We wanted to try to keep artistic control of the new record, and didn't really need a production advance or anything that a mid-sized label could offer, so we decided to go it ourselves. I don't think we're actively "shopping" the record around, but on the other hand we wouldn't be opposed to signing with someone bigger. For now, we'll see how far we can get on our own. Many labels won't even talk to you if you're not going to spend most of your time touring - and that's just not a productive mentality to us. I'd rather be making records than trawling through every tiny venue in the country trying to build some sort of "buzz". There's a big difference between playing shows for fun, and playing shows because you're in desperate need of the money.

EN: You had the opportunity to play the "SXSW" music festival back on March 14th, a large nationally promoted event. What was that like and what was the reaction to "Iris"?

Andrew: It was totally a last-minute thing - we ended up filling in a 4 PM slot, with about 5 days advance notice. SXSW is an insanely large festival... at any given hour there's probably 50+ bands playing at the same time, all over the city. Nevertheless, it was fun, and a good way to start preparing for some of the bigger shows we have coming up.

EN: Many fans are anxious to take in an "Iris" show. Any plans for a US or European tour in support of "Awakening"?

Reagan: If things continue to go well with this release then I would think it's only a matter of time before we perform in Europe. We'll certainly be hitting some of the major U.S. cities beginning in May and that will hopefully continue through the summer. I guess we're not really a touring band. Live performances are the best times but unless we signed with a label with the clout and intent to promote us to more of a mainstream level, it's hard to imagine devoting the time it takes to tour for any extended period. We'd have to be living from band-generated income. In that case, I think we'd tour forever because there's a great time to be had. Andrew is currently working on some really cool additives to enhance our live show as well. I really feel the shows now being arranged will be the beginning of our best performances yet.

EN: Tell us a little bit about Reagan Jones and Andrew Sega. What do you enjoy when outside the studio?
 
Andrew: I usually have about 5 side projects in the works at any time, so usually it's music, more music, and even more music. Oh, and well there's always hanging out at bars drinking snobby beers and arguing about music. And when that's done, there's always some time to go and buy CD's. Did I mention how much fun it is to make beats? Sometimes, though, Reagan will call me and tear me away from the studio, usually it's things like: "You should come over, I figured out a great way to make crème brulee" or "Hey, uh, I got arrested down in Tijuana and I need you to drive down here and help me out before the Mexicans throw me in jail"

Reagan: I very much enjoy sneaking into events, getting backstage, just doing whatever it takes to outsmart security and Clear Channel reps at whatever the occasion is. Like the sport of Supercross, which if I had enough talent is where I'd be devoting all my time. I was in Houston this past Saturday and posed as a writer for a fictitious magazine doing a story on the race. There was a moment when I knew either I was going to be arrested or I was walking out of that office with a pass around my neck. Just getting to the office, which was located deep within the underbelly of the Reliant Stadium, took more than an hour. At any moment I could have been caught and when I was there giving my story, it was a complete rush! And it worked. I was out on the track with Ricky Carmichael and all the stars. Point is, I can't abide standing in lines or not having access to spaces. If you're "not allowed", then the way I feel is I'll just allow myself. For some reason this has become a real enjoyment. It's definitely the challenge. That's the only reason I'm in the band -to have all access at the club.
 
EN: A message to your fans in closing?
 
Reagan: Thank you first and foremost. If we didn't have this kind of support, there wouldn't be much of a future to speak of.

Just as a side note, the hardest part of being in an electronic pop band is justifying your legitimacy to those outside this circle. When talking with music lovers who know little about song-based electronic outside of Depeche Mode and New Order, I spend less energy comparing or trying to give them some kind of reference and more energy recommending someone's music based on what it does for me, how I react to it, and what its effects are. There are many doors that should be open but aren't due to limitations placed on music because it sounds like this or that. To me, that is what is illegitimate and unjustifiable. I heard Rick Savage from Def Leppard once say that there are two kinds of people who listen to music. The first are those who listen while trying to figure out what it compares with. The second are those who listen to it for what it is. When it's all said and done, they're just songs. Whether you're Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, John Lennon, Beck, Ben Gibbard, or Vince Clark, they're just songs. To afford any one writer or band more credibility because of anything besides the quality of their work is just chaotic nonsense. We're living in this world where there is so much emphasis placed on equality and acceptance. Yet in music, the same people who chant all that stuff refuse to give it back. Unacceptable. People may say, yeah but it's just music. Well, music may be someone's life. It's what they do.

Anyway, everyone take care. We definitely hope to make it to your city very soon. Once again, a huge thanks to all who have been so supportive.



FEATURE WRITTEN AND CONDUCTED BY: Craig Smidt 

Copyright 1999-2015 ELECTROGARDEN.COM, All Rights Reserved.
This feature may not be reprinted in any fashion, either in part or in whole without written consent from ELECTROGARDEN.COM.

 

ARTIST VITALS

ARTIST: IRIS                             
PLAYERS: REAGAN JONES
ANDREW SEGA
MATT MORRIS
LOCATION: TEXAS, USA
LABEL: DIFFUSION RECORDS
SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY: ANNIE, WOULD I LIE TO YOU - MCD
SAVING TIME - MCD
LOSE IN WANTING - MCD
DISCONNECT (ADD)
AWAKENING
EMAIL: iris@irismusic.com
WEBSITE: www.irismusic.com
  TRACKS: Annie, Would I lie to you?
Saving Time





 


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