Interviewing Ejecta is not the easiest. When their debut album, Dominae, was released earlier this month, Leanne Macomber and Joel Ford had barely toured or given an interview. For this piece they preferred to answer questions by email, to buy a moment while they worked out who tells what in the story of their band. When it came to taking photos, Joel was too busy to make it. And when the album promo arrived, it came in the form of a watermarked stream on a site my web browser wholeheartedly rejected for a week.
During this process, both Joel and Leanne were very accommodating—via email and text—as well as funny and personable, so I had no doubt that they were on the level about their reasons. Leanne is a Texas native living in New York, a long time member of Neon Indian and Fight Bite, while Joel is one half of Ford & Lopatin and the producer behind acts such as Oneohtrix Point Never and Replica. The two met out on the road and reconnected at home in Brooklyn, where Leanne also waits tables (texting me on the day she served Annie “St. Vincent” Clark lunch), and Ejecta was born out of shared interests with a certain sense of cosmic inevitability.
I shot Leanne on a recent rainy day in a borrowed living room in Brooklyn. Once there, she explained one of the key parameters of Ejecta: Leanne will not be seen with, or wearing, any object in the band's imagery. I was going to have to photograph her naked. Why the no-clothes policy? Think of it as a kind of reverse-RiRi situation. Leanne is choosing to be naked so that she isn't instantly defined in the music world by what she's wearing. She will never be the sort of singer you recognize before you've even switched on a song.
And the songs are great, by the way. When I finally heard them, I was glad I persevered. Their MO is lush synth-pop with breathy, strangely delivered vocals, replete with kitchen lyricism—except that kitchen sink is located in another world. Turns out Ejecta isn’t so much a band as a character—more on which below—and while the pictures happened in person, the interview happened via the internet. Thanks internet!
Noisey: You guys met while touring. Do you remember the exact moment?
Leanne Macomber: We met in Salt Lake City at a vegetarian all-ages "No booze! No moshing!" venue. Joel looked like he was in a biker gang and I was dressed like Peter Pan with a purple wig. There was secret tequila and Mormon beer consumed.
Joel Ford: That is totally a lie. The first time we met was in Denver at the Larimer Lounge. It was the first day of that tour. You told me how some guy had full on groped you just off stage on the previous night. The Salt Lake show was wild though. Weird all-ages vibes. Modular buildings on some compound. I remember it smelling really bad.
What were the influences that brought you together and led to the making of this record?
Leanne: We both love romantic pop music and fringe electronic movements. A schizophrenic combination of your dad's radio and your drunk cousin's record collection—from Gainsbourg to Death in June.
Joel: I asked Leanne to send me music for the first time years after we met. I'd never heard her sing, but knew I wanted to make electronic music with a female vocalist. She sent demos and I was blown away. The first time we tracked anything in Brooklyn, she was nervous because we were in a “real” studio. I laughed and assured her it would be fine. I think we tracked five out of the ten Dominae vocal cuts that day. She slayed the first take almost every time: super precise and stylized vocal delivery.
Joel selfie! Hi Joel.
Some of these songs are three years old. How does it feel when those songs finally get out into the world? How have they changed? Leanne: It’s exciting when someone—aside from you—can see past the hissing foggy goofiness of a frantic demo and give it a reason to live again. "Mistress" is seven years old. When I began sharing my haphazard, visceral recordings with Joel, I had no idea what he'd see in them. He’s a very polished, very slick forward-thinking musician. I’m a naval-gazing, toy-keyboard fanatic who's recording methods are ancient. On paper you'd think the only collaboration we’d be capable of was killing each other.
Joel: I'm not opposed to double suicide, but it would have to be in a car-flying-off-the-cliff scenario.
Where was the album recorded? Can you give me a timeline that loosely gives when the record was begun and when you considered it finished?
Joel: It took us 14 months in five different “studios” to finish Dominae. I was in Asheville, NC, and Leanne was in Texas somewhere. We worked in bedrooms, on laptops, in really nice studios, in awesome “project” studios. We used super nice, really expensive gear and really terrible broken equipment—anything that worked at the time. After switching studios and taking a break to do an unrelated session in LA, I lost some files and had to rebuild one of the sessions. I was so heartbroken, but the track ended up sounding amazing and different then we had originally planned.
What are your plans for touring with this record?
Joel: We played our first shows at CMJ this year. Was really fun. Ejecta live is a trio—live drums—I play bass and handle electronics, Leanne sings and plays guitar. The show is super dynamic and complements the record nicely. Someone told me we sound like OMD, which I thought was an amazing compliment. There's been a ton of inquiries so we're planning on doing both US and European touring in 2014.
Leanne has spoken to me about how she got into music early in her life in Texas—please could you elaborate on that? Joel, do you have a story of how your upbringing turned you on to music? I notice that both stories owe something to sports!
Leanne: Like many Texan's I’m a musician due to high school football. The fervor around it rightly inflates the importance of school music programs—obviously a team’s gotta have a slick marching band to win a game. My parents we're fairly strict. Band gave my obsession with music validity in their eyes, without which I’m sure I wouldn't have had the freedom to play in sweaty rowdy garage bands!
Joel: Both my parents were originally symphony orchestra musicians and I was lightly pushed toward classical music and trumpet as a kid. I played for 14 years, but grew to hate it. I became obsessed with jazz and funk and taught myself guitar and bass as a teenager. I started fucking around with MPCs and sampling late in high school and early college. I never had the means to make actual records until about six years ago.
Leanne, I love your reasons for Ejecta to be photographed without clothing or objects. Please can you write them down here?
Leanne: Ejecta is a term in volcanology, something to do with particles being vomited up and then settling anew. One of the many cyclical destructive, yet life-shaping habits this earth has. Dominae was recorded at a time when I was first coming up for air after years of touring. A sort of rebirth. Ejecta is always nude as she is eternally displaced in time and space—as I have felt first growing up in the military, then pursuing a nomadic existence on the road. Nude, she displays no signifiers of class, culture, or sexuality. Ejecta is whoever you want her to be.
is a character that you inhabit for the band. What's her deal?
Music is an escape for me. These songs have varying degrees of levity and melodrama, but I find them really heartbreaking, overall. I cried the entire time I wrote “Tempest.” Ejecta is a character to deflect some of these very personal thoughts onto, to make my voice seem more universal, although every word could have been ripped from my diary. She's an everywoman singing about loss, bitterness confusion, etc. It makes me feel less exposed.
Can you tell me a bit about the other things you're both working on?
Leanne: I have a recording project called Fight Bite. we're always achingly slowly making music.
Joel: I'm super busy with my new label Driftless Recordings, but also working on a bunch of new productions. Airbird & Napolian are doing a record for Cascine next year, I'm mixing the Megafortress LP. I'm working on tracks with Alan Braxe, and I've got a bunch of remixes coming out soon. Leanne and I are still super amped on our collaboration and we’ve also just started work on new Ejecta tracks.
Dominae is out now on Driftless Recordings.
Emmy is a singer based in LA. She recently spend six hours trying to buy all the labels mentioned in A$AP Rocky's "Fashion Killa" and she's on Twitter - @Emmy_the_great.