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Future States Pull Psychedelic Rock into the Unknown with New Album 'Casual Listener'

The Ottawa/Montreal band talks about their unusual recording process, Euchre, and collecting orange peels.
October 27, 2016, 2:55pm

It's not every day you hear an album by a band that makes you scratch your head and think "how in the hell did they do THAT?" Ottawa and Montreal-based five-piece Future States have done that with their latest LP, Casual Listener. A little less laid-back than the title suggests, songs like "Apostolic" and "Sudo Su" break apart and reform like foam on water as sturdy psych-rock gives way to abstract electronics. The gentle krautrock chug of "You Got It All Wrong" provides one of the more grounded moments on an album that beguilingly hangs in the air while providing memorable songcraft and inventive production. We hit up Future States on email to talk about Casual Listener, which you can stream in its entirety below. Read on for our Q&A with the band, too.

Noisey: This album has a lot of unconventional electronic production on what would otherwise be typical rock arrangements. What is the process of integrating those elements like?
Future States: The process really varies song-by-song. Sometimes these electronic elements are added while arranging as a band and come from playing around with a synth or messing with different keyboard patches. We've kind of been gathering more and more gear as time goes by – a sampler here, an old synth there – and slowly sounds from these new tools have been worming their way into our final mixes. It's interesting, in that sometimes you can get the weirdest (maybe coolest) sounds during the period when you initially get a new instrument and have no clue at all how to operate it properly (or at least in a way that the manual would recommend). Having new toys to play with always leads to more creativity and produces a lot of "a-ha!" moments when someone will play something and everyone goes "Whoa! Do that again!".

Other times these electronic elements have been added in mixing by Daniel, who is our drummer and engineer. Dan spends a lot of time sort of playing with the mixes and trying out different sounds.  Sometimes you'll get a mix back for listening and it will sound exactly like you thought it would sound, but other times you get a mix back and there will be a whole bunch of new and interesting sounds added in. Arranging and recording is really a collaborative process, so there's a lot of adding, subtracting, discussing that goes into it and leads to all the final bleeps and bloops.

Do you see these electronics as destruction or construction, arrangement-wise?
A little bit of both. There is definitely a lot of adding that goes on while arranging and recording. This is really the result of a recording process that is pretty open – we have lots of time to work, and song structures are pretty flexible going in, which leaves a lot of room for experimentation. We definitely would take the optimistic view that these additions are constructive, and as we go along we arrange and rearrange until we're all happy with the resulting recording.

What's the album title referring to?
Casual Listener can mean different things in different contexts, so in that way it's a reflection of the music on the album which we also hope grabs people on many different levels, in many different ways. With every listen, we hope the ideas associated with the album take on new meanings and grows deeper and more personal. There's a bit of irony in the choice as well. This is the album we have spent the most time on, but the title doesn't really reflect that. There's a dissonance there that I think reflects a dissonance that we feel sometimes working really hard and putting out music that may or may not be received how we would imagine it in an ideal world.

Do you guys pursue other interests like gaming, crafts, collecting casually or hardcore? Are any of you casual listeners?
Dave plays FTL​ and is an avid card-player – he plays Contract Bridge with his folks and wishes Brodie would learn to play Euchre so that there would be four people in the band who could play (Chuck and Nick know how). The closest he can get with Brodie is crazy eights though. Mostly we're obsessed with music, with everyone playing in multiple musical projects, but everyone has their own thing: Brodie listens to podcasts before bed and is obsessed with baseball, Chuck does cryptic crosswords, Nick journals incessantly and is a huge trivia buff, Dan collects orange peels and has us all hooked on green tea that he brews on the road. As for casual listeners, yeah we're all guilty. There's really no avoiding it.

Phil is a Noisey Canada staff writer. He's on Twitter.