Montreal has always held a very special place in my heart, and my friends there play a big part in that. Not only are they great friends, but they’re some of the most talented musicians I’ve ever met. Bands like Expectorated Sequence, Kraken, Hawkes, Black Ships and Les Bois Francs have been in heavy rotation over the years and have put out some of the best albums I’ve heard from the Great White North. Now add to the list Carpet, which is comprised of my dear friends Arch and Wood.
In a time in music where “less is more” and minimalist genres like shoegaze and drone are making a resurgence, many acts are emulating sounds from the past but applying a clean face. Production quality has improved drastically, and the new wave of these genres is heard in a pristine light. Not many current examples tackle that authentic “low-fi” sound that is so prominent on old My Bloody Valentine and Earth albums, but Carpet has done just that. Huge, distorted piano and guitar tones. Buried vocals and minimal percussion. And yet, something about the chaos is charming. There are a lot of poppy elements that you really have to listen for. A lot of the sounds are distant and hard to imagine (I actually was surprised to find out Arch actually uses a ukelele instead of a guitar!). In true “MBV” fashion there are many melodic hooks buried in the mix, which make you dig through the fog of fuzz.
Already with a full length album under their belt, Carpet push on into the fall with a lot more tones to experiment with. I recently got to ask Carpet some questions about their happenings and what to expect in the future.
So what brought about the beginning of Carpet?
Wood: Arch being in so many loud bands, he just started a solo project to have total control of the ideas behind the music and I decided to help out .
Arch: I first used the name Carpet after jamming at a friend’s house in spring 2010. The whole idea was to write and record a song all in one afternoon. The whole Carpet thing came when I said “this song is more than shoegaze, it’s actually carpetgaze!” but the name just slept for a while. At the same time, I was discovering Audacity, the most basic recording program you can download for free, and I was trying to record cover songs, the first one being Earth Angel from the Back to the Future soundtrack. After that, I started writing songs with Audacity, for myself or the bands I am or was working with (Expectorated Sequence, Royaume des Morts). Then the idea of bringing back the name Carpet came when I started doing brand new weird compositions on the spot, just like the first time. It wasn’t really a solo project but more like a collective with myself as the engineer. Different people were featured in the beginning like Xavier of Solids, my dear friend Nic The Geek or some of my roommates, but Wood and Fraülein have been the only ones to actually stick around, for now.
Before you started writing music, did you have any ideas of what you wanted it to be musically?
Wood: No preconceived ideas about sound or number of tracks or anything like that. [We] wake up with a melody in our heads and put it into music !!
Arch: The concept of fun in Carpet is interconnected with spontaneity. We compose riffs or beats on the spot and add texture to it, then lyrics. Nothing is planned and everything happens when we actually hit “record”. Something noisy comes out, it’s not always good but most of the time it’s original!
How are the songs recorded and where?
Wood: The songs are recorded in Arch’s bedroom using the most minimalistic equipments.
Arch: ..like a desktop microphone and a cheap laptop with Audacity installed. Everything is done track by track, even the percussions. For this we rely on a metronome that we set up before starting anything. We record all of this at home trying not to annoy the neighbours, so mostly in my own bedroom or in the kitchen.
Talk about the unique instrumentation used in Carpet, how do you get the instruments to sound the way they do.
Arch: Instrument-wise, ukulele has become the center of the project. Most of us know how to use a guitar or a bass, but none of us can really wail on the ukulele. The different tuning makes it difficult for our brains to actually be able to use this instrument to its full capacity on the first time. This summer I kind of let that challenge lead me to Carpet. And you could probably say I got tired of playing drums and needed something new and eccentric. Distorted ukulele became my essence. Then of course for the songs we use everything laying around in my apartment.
Wood: Broken cymbals, a 3-string bass guitar.
Arch: A bass drum pedal beater, an old snare (that I hit only with my fingers). Fraülein plays keyboard in some of the songs.
Wood: Whatever we can find, we’ve even done drum tracks on the table using our fists… all in good fun!
Arch: Now to have them sound the way they do, at first I was just recording dry ukulele and pumping the volume in Audacity to the maximum. This was how I first was able to put distortion into the ukulele. Now with a pick-up, I am able to plug it and use effect pedals to amplify the sound. I basically use the same 3 pedals with all the instruments, them being a digital delay, turbo overdrive and a phaser, all of them work quite well with bass, guitar, ukulele and even vocals sometimes. I am definitely on the hunt for cheap pedals right now too.
What are your biggest influences for Carpet?
Arch: “Lo-fi” one man blackmetal bands have really influenced my vision of home recordings during the last winter, and so I am sure it played a huge part in the whole fuzzy sound of Carpet. After that, we try to create something catchy but noisy, and we let our fingers be guided on the instruments.
Talk about some of the songs in particular and how they came together.
Wood: Most of the skeletons of the songs are composed by Arch with me and Fraülein bringing in different melodies and ideas on vocal harmonies.
Arch: For the song “Irene”, I had found a riff on the uke while drinking my morning coffee with Fraülein, we then sat down in my room to record it (always with a metronome, it helps), I added a basic drum beat (only snare and kick), then shaped the structure into a simple formula with two riffs like “AAAA-BBBB-BBBB-AAAA” and added a few noises and a guitar track. It slept in my computer for a few days, then Wood came to hang out during the hurricane Irene (which was only like a heavy rain with lots of wind here in Canada). All three of us basically added a few instruments and did a brainstorm on Irene that became lyrics, we sang them, then posted the song online the same day just so our friends could get a good laugh.
What do you write songs about?
Arch: The first few songs didn’t have lyrics, only a few Gregorian chants-like moans. Then basically everything became a good subject for lyrics.
Wood: Everyday life, what’s in the news and what’s happening around us. We also talk about the hard times of moving, the club scene, food, horses, snakes, frogs.
Arch: and bed bugs! (which I happened to have in my apartment this summer).
Any instruments you’d like to experiment with in future Carpet recordings?
Arch: We definitely need to be working with more keyboards. Only a few songs have distorted piano in them, I definitely feel we could do a lot more there. For anything else, it mostly comes down to a question of budget, I’ve always dreamed of having fun with a cello but I never had the chance to have a date with one.
Wood: I’d like to do more stuff with voices and vocal experimentation, using voice more as an instrument. I’d like to try acoustic bass on some tracks as well.
What are the future plans for Carpet?
Wood: The goal would be to play some songs live and have either pre-recorded drum tracks to just play over or even mount a full band with drums, bass, keyboard, ukuleles and guitars, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about having fun, jamming with friends and creating stuff that naturally comes out without really taking the time to think about it.
Arch: I would definitely love to prepare a live performance for Carpet. I am turning 27 next year and yet I have not become a rock star like Jimi Hendrix. But before anything, what I truly want is to record some of our songs in a studio with a more decent production. I have learned over the past ten years that albums keep on living but live performances and bands are ephemeral.
All of Carpet’s discography is currently available at their bandcamp:
Learn more about Carpet here: