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Librarians release the summer’s best album

By Staff | Apr 28, 2010

I’ve said it once and I’ll say a thousand times more: Librarians’ new release,  “Present Passed,” is one of my favorite albums of the year — West Virginia artist or otherwise.

Sure it’s a little similar to Animal Collective — a point that’s brought the band some criticism — but it wasn’t purposefully so. And the melodies are catchier and more upfront, with layers and swirling guitars and propulsive drums in the background.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, you really need to do so.

In the meantime, keep reading for our interview with Ryan Hizer.

Graffiti: Update us a little on what you’ve been up to recently.

Ryan: We’re trying to get a tour together, some weekend dates for now, but maybe a month long or so toward the end of summer. We don’t have a lot of contacts though so it’s kind of difficult.

Graffiti: Do you have any places in mind that you’d like to hit up?

Ryan: For now, just the weekend stuff, just the normal places we play, where we know people. D.C., Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Columbus, just the tri-state area. But for the longer tour we’d like to head out west to some places we haven’t been before.

Graffiti: How’s the reception been to the new album?

Ryan: It’s been pretty divided, which I kind of like. People either hate it or they really like it. I want to think that’s a good thing, but I’m not really sure.

Graffiti: What are the negative things you’re hearing?

Ryan: I guess people compare it a lot to things that weren’t necessarily primary influences for us. Like we get the Animal Collective thing. I don’t want to talk too much about it because I don’t want to sound like I’m whining — but the album they compare it to came out last year and we’ve been writing this album for three years now.

It’s kind of hard to be able to logistically rip that off. But you’re going to get that. There’s nothing you can do about it. We all like that band so it’s not like we think that’s a horrible thing to be compared to.

Graffiti: No band wants to be accused of ripping another band off.

Ryan: Right.

Graffiti: I read somewhere that you guys were listening to a lot of The Zombies during the recording of this album. What were some of your other influences?

Ryan: We didn’t have any overt influences. We kind of did that on the last album. We were listening to a lot of post-punk and stuff like that, and I don’t think any of us are really too thrilled with that last album as it aged.

We wanted to do something we could be happier with for a long time.

Graffiti: Something a little more timeless?

Ryan: Yea, I guess that’s a good word for it. We tried to look at older artists and some things that had staying power and add our own little twist.

Graffiti: So was it a conscious decision to take the sound somewhere else?

Ryan: Yea, we were pretty bored with what we were doing.

Graffiti: This album also seems much more layered and nuanced than your previous efforts. Did it take more time in arranging the songs to get that effect?

Ryan: Yea, definitely. This first album we probably wrote all the songs for that within a year. This one, the first song was written in 2007 and we didn’t start recording until about a year after that. But we recorded this one ourselves instead of with someone else. We had the luxury of walking into our room and doing it ourselves, so we spent a lot more time on this to get it to where we wanted.

Graffiti: How much of a challenge is that to not keep trying to perfect the songs? At what point do you just kind of give up tinkering with them and move on?

Ryan: Yea, definitely. You can find something wrong at any point, you just have to learn to accept that this not necessarily as good as it’s going to get but you’ll work yourself to death if you don’t accept a few things.

Graffiti: I read you have something like two or three albums worth of material to sort through when you putting together “Present Passed.” Do you have any plans for that material?

Ryan: What we typically will do is record a quick demo of a song and work on that as a band for a while and then once we’re satisfied with that we’ll move on to recording it for an album.

We decided what songs we wanted on the album before we started recording. So we don’t have a lot of extra stuff lying around. We just have a bunch of demos, nothing too super high quality. Everything that we liked made it onto the album.

Graffiti: Going back to layering, how does that translate to a live show?

Ryan: it was tricky at first because some of those songs have an intimidating number of tracks to carry over live. We’ve tried to do a stripped down approach, so that we play only the pieces that make the song the song are played. Sometimes we play with some samples or a pre-recorded track but we’re trying to get away from that because it feels like a cop-out. So we’re trying to stick to what we can play as the four of us and it’s been working out well.

Graffiti: Lyrically, “Present Passed” seems more personal than “Alright Easy Candy Stranger.” Why did you decide to go that route?

Ryan: That was one of the things that kind of bugged me about the last album is the lyrics didn’t have any weight to them because they were all fictional stories. I thought it might be a little more relatable to people if there were some actual genuine thoughts and feelings in the songs at least. They’re vague enough to where I’m not too embarrassed to sing in front of a bunch of people.

Graffiti: Was it easier or harder to write the lyrics in this way?

Ryan: I’d say harder because you can’t just write whatever you want, if you want to be honest. You have to find a way to make it both honest and pleasing aesthetically, which is kind of tricky.