Thursday, April 9, 2015

Checking Back in with Charles Chaussinand of Spirits (ex-Test of Time)

Those who follow this blog may remember that last year I did a pretty in-depth interview with Charles Chaussinand, then guitarist of Test of Time, a band who released a couple of rad 7 inches and an LP on B9. Well, shortly after the LP was released and they toured Europe, the band broke up/re-constituted itself as Spirits.

Not wasting a moment, the new project has already released a split 7” with Get a Grip on the UK’s Speedowax, their own 7” EP on upstart label Cointoss Records and are about to release their debut LP “Discontent” on Long Island mainstay State of Mind Recordings.

I figured now would be a good time to check back in with Charles and get the skinny on all these new jams. Read on.

So hey Charles, last time we talked Test of Time was gearing up to release your debut LP and then tour Europe. Here were are not even a year later and Spirits is about to do the same, haha. How did everything unravel for T.O.T. and reconfigure itself in Spirits?

Test of Time just had a member that was on a different page from the rest of us. We came back from tour and started Spirits. Mike had joined Test of Time on guitar just before the European tour and when we got back, he just moved over to vocals and we kept going. In the shuffle, Jeff Novak, the drummer of Test of Time, left to work on some other stuff. 

Spirits is a driven group of guys and we wanted to keep on a schedule that we had laid out for Test of Time, so we got to work and got to writing. We started in October and have a split 7", an EP, the LP and a few other songs recorded. We are heading to Europe for about a month starting at the end of April. We're really excited and looking forward to the future of the band.

So I know you said the Test material (the LP and both 7 inches) was all pretty much written over the same time period and then you decided after the fact which songs would go on which release. Has that been the same process for Spirits or have you been taking it more one at a time?

The only things with Spirits that we have recorded at the same time were the LP and the additional few songs that we want to do a split with later in the year. We didn't do a marathon 32 song recording session again.

Upon my first brief listen it seems like Spirits has a little bit more early 00's flavor whereas Test was more youth crew inspired plus a little bit of 90's crunch sprinkled in here and there. Given that the nucleus of the band is pretty much the same, are you guys consciously trying to add certain elements or have you just been rolling with whatever comes out?

We aren't actively trying to write stuff that sounds different. Maybe we are just being influenced by what we are all listening to right now. I am not sure what would really make it sound different. The majority of the Test of Time stuff was also written and recorded almost a year before Bridge 9 put the LP out. I guess it is just a natural evolution? 

We are just writing songs we like. There were occasions while working on this LP that we would be writing and one of us would say "A song that sounds like this would be cool" and we would play something and then all be inspired to steer what we were working on in that direction. The LP was really written with a "feel" to it. We worked on music and then felt like something was maybe missing, so we would think of what songs gave us that feeling and bring that to the table.

Any firm ideas yet for who you might be splitting with for those few other new songs?

We aren't sure yet who we will be doing the split with. We are thinking about trying to do a split with a band from South Africa since we are heading there in the fall.

As mentioned before, you guys will be doing Europe again this summer. Is that Europe is just that good, the States is just that bad, or a little bit of both, haha.

It isn't that Europe is better than the US, but we all just have pretty demanding jobs at this point and for us to take the time off, we want to maximize our trips. Europe is not only a good place to tour, but it is a lot of fun for us to visit. All of us have seen the US a lot. We have been in a bunch of touring bands and this is just a way for us to see something different. We have done a few northeast weekends and will be working on a few more things like that when we are back from Europe.

What bands and places are you most looking forward to seeing again?

We became friends with a band called Gone To Waste, so it will be good to see those guys again. The people at the Flix Agency, our European booking group, are friends of ours, so it will be great to see and hang out with them. I think we just all love the chance to explore places we don't know very well. We like to go back to new places when we travel. Most of us hadn't been to Poland before, and we got three shows there this time, so we are really looking forward to that.

Lyrically the Spirits LP seems a lot angrier, and more overtly political,  with songs addressing police brutality, dead end jobs, economic inequality,  etc. How much of the lyrics are a collaborative effort vs. Mike having free reign to pursue what he wants?

Mike is a fantastic lyricist. He just writes what he feels and what he is dealing with, which is why so many of the lyrics on the EP and LP are pretty personal. He has some songs about his family and about the pressures associated with getting older. I wrote a couple lines here and there, but it is really just Mike. He is a very well-spoken and introspective person, so, what he comes up with lyrically and the placement are great.

You've always been big on layout and design....I know Dave has teased about multiple folds and layers of goodness, so what can we expect from "Discontent" visually speaking?

For anyone not familiar with the EP on Cointoss Records, I'll just say a quick word on that since I am very proud of that concept. The art looks like hand colored film from the 50's. It was achieved by printing the layouts black and white and layering on top of them, a transparency with only the color on it. We stripped the color from each image we used and recolored it all in photoshop. It really looks cool. There are a total of six different possible covers that we are using for different purposes.

The album art for "Discontent" was a pretty large undertaking, actually. We designed it to be a three layer jacket, so to speak. There is a 7.5" wide by 25" long wrap that goes around the entire jacket. The jacket then is diagonally cut along the center. Underneath that, there is an inner sleeve with an image. All of the artwork was designed by Hannah Medeiros and compliments each other so the entire record is going through the human head. Behind the image we are using as the cover online is the muscle behind the skin and the inner sleeve is the skull. It was a really difficult layout to measure out and finally get put together. The entire thing is then assembled by hand.

The European tour pressing is different art. We made colored vinyl with four color labels that are different than the labels for the domestic LP's. The labels are anaglyph 3D and the records each come with hand stamped red/blue 3D glasses. There is no traditional jacket to these and they are inside of a picture disc sleeve. All in all, the art for this record was a huge undertaking.

Anything else we should know about the upcoming LP or the future of Spirits?

Spirits is working hard to keep doing things we think will be fun and that we enjoy. We have a few tours coming up that we will be announcing in a few months that are going to be pretty exciting. We've gotten a lot of support thus far and really appreciate it. Thanks for interviewing me again. For anyone interested, please give the new record a listen.

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