For the record, Adam Pierce's Mice Parade isn't really a post-rock band. The music does share some of the genre's trademarks–namely dense, intricate drumming, non-standard instruments, and wild dynamics–but it also defies stereotypes by delving deeper into actual songs. Mice Parade isn't a post-post rock band either... it's just that you don't need a bong and 10 minutes of careful listening to get into songs like "Tales of Las Negras," from his latest, self-titled endeavor.
Prior to Mice Parade, Pierce acted as drummer for a slew of bands, which included The Swirlies, The Dylan Group, HiM, and Múm. These days, Pierce splits his time between operating the Bubble Core label and distribution company, making music as Mice Parade, and rebuilding vintage tape machines at his recently self-built studio, The Mills.
XLR8R: When did you get your start playing drums?
Adam Pierce: I started playing when I was around 12 or 13. I had quit playing piano, and I thought drums would be more fun–and they were. But my piano background allowed me to read the rhythms, and I had pretty good coordination already, so I think that helped me get a quick start. From there' played in a bunch of shitty high school bands doing Rolling Stones covers for a while, but right around my 16th birthday, I joined this band, The Philistines Jr. We ended up doing three Peel Sessions, and I did a UK tour with the band when I was 16. It was pretty awesome. Since then, another guy in that band, my old buddy Peter Katis, has gone on to be a well-respected engineer for Interpol and so forth. And I work with him now–he did the mixing on this last album.
The drums on "Tales of Las Negras" are crunchy without sounding flat or overly distorted. How'd you do that?
Almost every time I record drums, I throw up a distortion mic. You throw up some room mics and you throw up one mic that you intentionally distort through compressors and gain and shit. It's just a matter of how much [that mic] gets used. There are some tracks where it's barely in the mix at all, and there's some, like ["Tales of Las Negras"] where the sound is a bit more prominent.
When you mic drums, are there any other methods you usually use?
I work with my surroundings. On older records, like Obrigado Saudade, I recorded and mixed everything on a little ghetto setup in my old basement. Since then, I've moved studios, where I do the tracking, but I go elsewhere for the [mixing] part. This new studio has a bigger room, and there's more mics and channels and stuff, so I've been taking advantage of that. I used to sometimes just do three mics, like on the older records; I did a lot of kick, snare, and overhead mics. But now I'm mic'ing each drum with one mic, and I'm putting two room mics out there and that additional distortion mic, too.
Do you track into a computer these days?
I always used tape... I'd never used a computer for recording until this last record. But when I set up my studio for this last record, I was going to use this two-inch Sony 24-track tape machine as the hub. Once we got [the tape machine] in there, we turned the thing on, and it didn't work. It ended up taking me a few months to get it up and running; by that time, the Mice Parade album was already done–I had a deadline. I hate the computer, but not for sound reasons–more for using-your-eyes-in-the-process kind of reasons. Talk about linear: it's like left to right, beginning to end, there's your song. It doesn't sit right with me. You should just be listening. Pro Tools doesn't let you do a lot of the cool things you can do with tape, either. Like... I'll slow the tape down just a tiny bit, like a half-step in pitch on recording, so when you speed it back up, the sound is brighter, and it has this shimmer. I didn't even know you couldn't do that with Pro Tools when we started recording.
Some of the instrumentation from Mice Parade sounds like a harp, but I can't really tell. Are you using a delay?
No delay: It's all just straight-up guitar. It's a technique I've done with some previous albums, too, dividing guitar parts down and overlapping triplet rhythms– basically thinking like a drummer with guitar notes. The notes are all fast triplets, but one part is in groups of four and another part is in groups of six.