Howard Remixes Themselves in New EP Please Recycle

SF Weekly

music2So you form a band, hole up in a studio, and record your debut album. It’s released to rave reviews and accolades from fans and critics alike. You play some shows, maybe even go on tour. Then you head back to the studio to start working on your next record.

But rather than start from scratch, you decide to listen to that first record again for inspiration. “Damn, it’s good,” you think to yourself. “But I wonder what it would sound like if I took this out and added this in?” You start toying around with the stems of the song. You remix the separate recordings of each individual instrument, placing the rhythm guitar here and the hi-hats there, and the bass in the background.

Before you know it, you’ve created an entirely new song using bits and pieces from the old record. “What a brilliant, economical idea!” you think to yourself. “Perhaps I should make more songs like this? Or maybe even an entire EP?”

This is what fans of the Brooklyn-based quartet Howard will hear on the band’s upcoming EP, to be released on March 25. Called (appropriately enough) Please Recycle, the concept album was crafted entirely from the stems of the band’s debut album, Religion. And the two sound nothing alike.

Religion is a folksy indie-rock record replete with acoustic guitar strumming, tinkly keyboards, glitchy electronic melodies, and plaintive vocals. Singer/songwriter and band founder Howard Feibusch says he was largely inspired by Fleet Foxes and Other Lives while writing and recording the album, which he describes as “folktronica.”

But folktronica Please Recycle is not. Though only one single off the EP has been released (“Glass”), you can already tell this upcoming record is an entirely new beast. Where Religion sounds like Andrew Bird and The Decemberists, Please Recycle is more in line with experimental classical artists like Steve Reich and Terry Riley. Because it was made from pre-recorded building blocks and not from live recording sessions, the album has an inherently electronic sound. “Glass” is choppy and industrial; an aural layer cake of chords and notes that have been stitched together, sped up, and slowed down to create three-minutes of song.

Using the music production software Ableton, Feisbusch and keyboardist and guitarist Alex Chakour created around 25 different song mock-ups, which they tweaked, edited, and whittled down to five.

“This project is way more heavily produced,” Feisbusch says, “and I’ve actually never heard of anyone doing this before.”

Howard fans can rest assured: This EP is not an indicator that the band is moving in a new sonic direction. Remember, it’s only a concept album, or, as Feisbusch calls it, “a journey unto itself.”

Fans, however, will be hearing a lot of the band’s electronic alter ego on their upcoming tour. But becausePlease Recycle is an entirely electronic album, translating it into a live performance, with all of its different tempos and transitions, will be no easy task. Though Feisbusch says the band practiced “a lot,” they’re still getting the hang of playing the new material.

“It’s almost humorous how badly we fail at it,” he says. “We almost sound like 12-year-olds at times.”

Is this comedic self-deprecation or a stark confession? There’s only one way to find out…