Combining the raw aggression, angularity and heart of 90s post-hardcore with a healthy dose of progressive flair, NY in 64 craft dynamic, ever-evolving tunes full of pulverizing riffs and melodic flair. On their newest full-length recording, The Gentle Indifference of the Night, the band hit harder than they have before and forge seemingly endless intricate sonic passages across 30 minutes. Devoid of lyrics, NY in 64 tell engaging stories that most words wish they could tell.
Svbterranean recently caught up with bassist Tom Schlatter and guitarists Justin Hock and Chris Alfano to discuss the new record and future projects.
Could you please introduce yourself and your role in NY in 64?
Tom Schlatter: I’m Tom and I play bass.
Justin Hock: I am Justin and I play guitar.
Chris Alfano: I’m Chris and I also play guitar, albeit from the opposite side of the stage.
How did NY in 64 come to be?
TS: After Justin and I did a reunion of our old band we expressed interest to each other about collaborating again sometime down the road. NYin64 is the result. Seth[Rheam, drums] and Chris were nice enough to want to try it out and here we are.
CA: Justin called me up and said he and Tom were putting together a band that would be an instrumental post-hardcore throwback thing. I’m not sure if that’s what it wound up being, but I’m not really worried about that. What we were worried about was if Seth would be into playing drums, since he was already in two other bands.
From its inception to now, how do you feel NY in 64 has evolved?
TS: I don’t think we ever had a problem playing music together, things sort of meshed really easily from the beginning. Playing in a live setting always came pretty naturally as a band since the four had been doing it in previous bands for so long. The evolution really can be seen in the expansion of song structures, trying to include different styles, time signatures, etc.
CA: I think there was a jump in the quality of our music around 4 or 5 songs in – earlier than that we were a little less bold and less particular about our choices, as we felt out the dynamic. Those first 3 songs are still our shortest and simplest.
How do you feel playing and writing with NY in 64 has pushed you as a musician and songwriter?
TS: Each song is a sum of it’s parts so you’re really getting a full on mix of each of our playing styles. I thought doing an instrumental band would require something different on the part of the writing process, but the way the band melds together it seems to happen naturally.
CA: I’ve been challenging myself to write more riffs on the spot, and labor points a little less. That said, some of my favorite sections are ones that I’ve woodshedded at home afterwards, or even during the recording session, so maybe I’m just doomed to a life of partial spontaneity at best. Also, doomed to hairy shoulders.
You have all played in a variety of different musical acts including East of the Wall, The Postman Syndrome and You and I. How do you feel your time with your previous and current musical endeavors has affected the sound of NY in 64?
TS: NYin64 is probably a little bit more raw and unfiltered than most of the instrumental bands I’ve listen to. I think most of that comes from spending so many years playing (and still playing) in the DIY hardcore and punk scene. Sure, it’s an instrumental band and very different from anything I’ve done before, but the approach remains the same for me. I love playing basements, art spaces, etc, I love being as hands on as possible, so all of that is still the same.
CA: We’re either polished for a DIY hardcore band, or raw for a progressive instrumental band.
What influenced the decision to keep NY in 64 entirely instrumental?
TS: I think the first song we wrote was “Washington Square Park”. Once it was done we all sort of just said “do we really need vocals over this?”. We all agreed it could stand on it’s own and just went from there.
What do you feel the challenges and/or benefits of writing music that is intended to be instrumental versus music with vocals?
TS: Neither is better or worse, it’s just a different set of parameters. The one benefit I can see if that instrumental music can have a little bit more of a universal appeal since the absence of vocals makes it a little harder to pin down genre-wise.
CA: Well definitely it’s a bit harder to get people to notice the band, but we’re not doing runs of shows longer than 3-4 days so it’s to be expected either way. As far as the music is concerned, my main issue with some instrumental bands is the lack of a featured instrument. Even if you don’t have a vocal, you usually still want a lead actor on the stage. So generally, I push myself to make sure there’s something jumping out of the mix, and not just a bland chord progression. Fortunately, Justin tends to cover that ground at least half the time, because I’m not much of a melody line-writer. If I do have an involved phrase in a song, it’s because I spent an inordinate amount of time on it.
What do you feel instrumental music accomplishes that words do not?
TS: The listening experience differs between the two. When I’m listening to a band with vocals I’m hearing a narrative, when I’m listening to instrumental music I tend to project my own narrative onto it.
JH: Vocals usually define the mood, theme, and guide the listener as to the potential ‘meaning’ behind a specific song…if you remove that dynamic, then the listener has the opportunity to actively participate in his/her own interpretation of the sounds and, like Tom suggested, create a narrative exclusive to that specific individual.
CA: We can be useful in smoothing out genre jumps between bands on a diverse show, kind of gluing things together since, like Tom pointed out before, vocals tend to narrow down the genre. We’re kind of like the mayo (or hummus, preferably) in the show sandwich.
What can you tell us about the new record, The Gentle Indifference of the Night? Writing, recording, etc.
TS: We wrote most of the record after I moved up to Albany, NY. The rest of the band is in NJ so the writing process was a mix of live practices and the band sending me recordings to write parts over. It was a trying year of changes for all of us and I think a lot of that mood makes its way into the songs.
CA: Most of our best writing happens when Tom makes it down to NJ, and all 4 of us are in the room, so we’ll binge sessions when able. Tracking was done mostly at our rehearsal spot, except for the drums and a couple quick guitar doubles, which were laid down at Portrait Recording Studios in northern NJ. Scott Evans at Antisleep Audio mixed and we were all super-thrilled by the result. It was the first time I’ve had a record mixed remotely, so not being there at all for the sessions was strange. But our arrangements are pretty straightforward, so I didn’t need ten pages of “okay, on this section there’s four mariachi guitar overdubs, so they should be blended….”. And Nick Zampiello at New Alliance East killed it with the mastering job as always.
How do you feel it compares to your previous self-titled full-length?
TS: I would say the new stuff explores some new ground and gets more intricate. The record seems to have a little more of a narrative to it, but I think they may just be me projecting onto it.
CA: It has one fewer song, and the cover has more blue on it. Oh, and the disc isn’t transparent this time.
Granted the record is devoid of lyrics, but do you feel the album possess a certain theme or themes?
JH: It definitely does…almost the entirety of the record was written after an overwhelmingly tragic moment in my life. The songs reflect, for me, working through a lot of the emotional, psychological, and philosophical issues that come along with significant loss while trying to find a way to move forward.
What is the significance behind the album’s title and how does the artwork tie into that?
JH: The album’s title was a play on one of the last lines in Camus’ The Stranger, and is similar in meaning to the original sentiment expressed in that work…that in some ways the world is completely indifferent to human suffering and things keep moving regardless of whether we are here or not. I remember thinking about that line a lot during the writing of this record because I tried to keep my intense personal struggles to myself so as not to burden others…my bandmates supported me in ways I’ll never be able to truly describe; they put everything they had into helping me translate all of the shit into creating something beautiful in the end.
The artwork was originally intended to be very sparse, very bleak…but Brent didn’t believe the initial ideas reflected the music very well, so we reproached the layout with cleaner lines. The cover photo was taken at 11.30 at night in Iceland…in fact, the artwork on both records is from photographs I took in Iceland.
What do you want listeners to take away from the record?
JH: Whatever they naturally feel while listening…
CA: Hopefully not hearing damage. Keep those stereos at reasonable volumes, people. You only get one set of ears, and you’ll need them for life.
What is next for NY in 64 in the near future?
JH: We have three new songs in various stages of development and some shows coming up.
What is on the horizon for your other musical projects?
TS: I’m currently playing bass and singing in a band called WHAT OF US, playing drums in a band called SCAVENGERS, and from time to time I play bass and sing in CAPACITIES as well as play guitar in HELL MARY. Justin and myself are also playing in another band called HUNDREDS OF AU. Yeah, I play too much music.
JH: Like everyone in NY64, I also play in multiple bands. Besides guitar for NY64, I play guitar for a band called ‘Category Mistakes’ and bass in ‘Hundreds of Au’.
CA: Seth and I are wrapping up the 5th East of the Wall record, which has been a long time coming, so I’ll be relieved when it finally is unleashed into the world. Other than that, I have a new eerily straightforward rock band called Rough Spring, and Seth will hopefully be putting out a new El Drugstore record in the nearish future. Oh, and I’ve started contributing bass parts to a solo record from former EOTW touring guitarist Becca Scammon.
The Gentle Indifference of the Night is available now via Magic Bullet Records. Order here.