Cryptacize’s Chris Cohen Shares Six Quick Tips On Making Music
Right now, there is exactly a one in three chance that Cryptacize are hard at work on their next release, an EP set for the spring.
OK, so those odds might be a little less than scientific. Still, it seems like a reasonable enough estimate – when I spoke with guitarist/singer Chris Cohen last summer, he said the minimalist, vocal-centric trio would be chipping away at a new short-length right about now.
“We want to try to knock something out fairly quickly and get it out in the springtime maybe. That’s our plan right now,” Cohen told me while jaunting with Casiotone for the Painfully Alone.
After that spell with Casio, in support of last year’s Mythomania, Cryptacize didn’t rest on their laurels. Instead, they retread the tour circuit with maestro Sufjan Stevens and then the siblings Friedberger, a.k.a. the Fiery Furnaces.
Now that they’ve thoroughly worn out the tires to the Toyota owned by Cohen’s mom, the triplet – rounded out by main attraction Nedelle Torrisi and percussionist Michael Carreira – are sussing out their future affairs. Aside from the proposed EP, they’re also making the move from the Bay Area to L.A., where Cohen and Torrisi have roots and/or family (and lots of friends).
Fortunately for their sanity, touring won’t be in the mix again anytime soon.
“While we’ve been on this tour, we’ve been writing a little bit,” Cohen disclosed. “We’ve got this little acoustic guitar that we have in the car. Sometimes we work out new songs, sometimes I just like to practice the songs we’re playing in the set. Limber up, I guess.”
At that juncture, the prospective EP material was very much in its nascent stages. But Cohen – he too of Curtains note, and formerly Deerhoof – did impart some valuable insights about how Cryptacize songs are born, reared and nurtured until they can eventually walk on their own.
So, while we bide our time waiting for Cryptacize’s next dose of post-everything ditties, let’s consider some of the measures Cohen and his partners will be taking as they resume their craft:
1. Map out the song – but let it breathe.
“We don’t have fully formed, executed things in our brains,” Cohen said. “It’s more like a strand of DNA is a blueprint for a person. You wouldn’t say a strand of DNA is a person – it’s an equation that generates infinite possibilities, and you just let it come to life and see what happens. [Then] there’s an idea to be faithful to.”
2. Know your art.
“Music isn’t just words or just music – it’s synthesis,” Cohen said. “The meaning you get out of it is this combination. Like a movie is sound and image; they add up to more than just the parts.
“An idea of a song to me … it has a lot of different dimensions. It has a lyrical idea, and the rhythm and the chord and the timbre … usually it’s combinations of those things.”
3. Know your limitations.
“My vocals on [Mythomania] were kind of an afterthought,” Cohen admitted. “I wish I had spent more time doing them. We really focused on Nedelle’s vocals. Mine we just kind of throw in to spice it up here and there. But I think I’ll probably sing a little more in the future. I really like singing, I just spent way too much time mixing the record and recording all the guitars and stuff. So I kind of rushed my vocals.”
4. Bring the idea of the song to life.
“You have this shape in your mind that you want to see built,” Cohen said. “So then playing the song every night, you have this blueprint of this shape. Every time you make it, it comes out a little different, but you’re still trying to be faithful to this shape you have in your mind.”
5. Stretch before your workout.
“My mom was a singer,” Cohen said. “She taught me a few little tricks – warm-ups and stuff. Nedelle and I have this CD … the guy’s name is Roger Love. We have it on our iPod and do vocal warm-ups to it. It’s called Set Your Voice Free.”
6. Be ready to tweak the songs’ presentation while on tour, re-tailoring them to best suit the venue and crowd at hand.
“We’re generally taking notes on what’s going to bring people happiness,” Cohen said without a trace of sarcasm. “If we play too [quietly] in a loud rock club, is that going to be a situation where people are straining to hear us over conversations? If that’s the case, maybe we need to be a little louder.
“[We take] notes on the subtle things that we notice and try to put them into effect. [We] just wanna … see what’s going to have an effect on people – including ourselves.”
Bad Penny download: “Mini-Mythomania (C. Spencer Yeh Remix)“