Interview With Indie Rock Band "bedbug"
An interview with LA-based indie rock band bedbug, where we explore their evolution, delve into the creative process behind their upcoming album, discuss gear and more!
bedbug, originally a solo venture by Dylan Gamez Citron, blossomed from its Boston roots into a formidable indie rock band.
Since their acclaimed debut in 2016 with if i got smaller grew wings and flew away for good, the LA-based group is gearing up for their fourth album, pack your bags the sun is growing (preorder here), set to drop on March 15th via Disposable America.
In this interview, we explore the band's evolution, delve into the creative process behind their upcoming album, and discuss the challenges and ambitions that shaped their most ambitious release to date.
Chris, Musicngear: The upcoming album, 'pack your bags the sun is growing,' marks a shift from bedbug's DIY solo work to a full band recorded in a studio. How has this evolution impacted the band's sound and approach to music-making?
It was a learning process for sure. I wasn’t really sure what collaborative songwriting would look like as bedbug, since I was still bringing the skeleton of the song to the band to fully flesh out.
In the past, I would write a song on my guitar or a synth, add a vocal melody and lyrics, then figure out what other elements to add (drum machine, synth, etc). This time around, I needed to be more considerate of the instrumental parts to give the band some time to shine.
I’m also a pretty big synth-head so forgoing my synths for the band was a big change. I think it turned out pretty well!
This album is the first to be recorded in a studio. How did the studio environment influence the creative process, and what aspects of the studio recording experience stand out for the band?
We had a wonderful time at our studio (Big Nice) with our engineer (Nick Dussault). It was actually a bit of a mixed recording process. I recorded a lot of guitar and vocals at home on an Shure SM57 LC, while all the drums and bass were recorded in-studio. It was the perfect balance.
I typically like to record one-million guitar and vocal takes, sometimes deep into the mixing process, but I could not have done the drums or bass justice with my setup. We did record one song (leave your things, the stars are returning) live in the studio because the interplay between band members felt really important for that one. Thankfully, it ended up sounding pretty gorgeous and you can barely tell it was recorded with a slightly different method from the rest of the record!
Could you share insights into the gear used during the recording process? Are there any specific instruments or equipment that played a crucial role in shaping the album's sound?
I love talking gear. That being said, this was my least “gear” heavy record so far. I used my electric guitar (I think it’s an Ibanez? I’m not even sure…) and an orange amp with a bit of overdrive. Aside from that, I didn’t use a single pedal or anything fancy. I really wanted to channel the spirit of 90’s indie rock and keep things pretty raw, so the lack of funky gear was a very intentional decision.
That being said, a few little things do poke through. On the first track, I play the melodica, which is always fun. On a few tracks, I pulled out my Korg microKORG, which is a bedbug staple in earlier albums. Typically I use a Korg electribe em-1 and Yamaha qy70 for drums and sequencing, but I left them at home for this record. If you want to hear all those, you’ll have to dig a bit further back into the catalog. I did get a chance to showcase my electribe 2 Sampler on one of the bonus tracks though!
With a full band now in place, how did the collaborative dynamics influence the songwriting and recording process compared to the earlier solo projects?
Honestly, I just had to be more intentional with my writing. I wanted the record to sound cool live, and I wanted the songs to be able to scale down to be playable and entertaining both solo, quieter, and loud as all hell. I think we achieved that pretty well!
I’m pretty guarded with my songwriting, and typically don’t change things like structure or verse once they’re written. That being said, my band really added to the songs in ways I wasn’t expecting at first. My bassist, Owen, was very good about dialing us all into an intended tone or feeling for the songs. My drummer, Mina, brought a lot of flavor from other genres into the songs. Meilyn helped out with some really cool open guitar chords behind my leads. They also nailed the backing vocals, as usual!
The album was mixed and mastered by Nick Dussault. Can you elaborate on the decision to work with Nick and how his expertise contributed to achieving the desired sound for 'pack your bags the sun is growing'?
This question might get a little opinionated, so buckle up. Nick is an old friend, so that decision was easy! He was honestly incredible at helping us achieve our sound. He’s really dialed into the same types of indie rock as we are, so he could tell what we were going to immediately.
The biggest thing we talked about from a recording perspective is that there are some dominant trends in music production that we felt were not great fits for this record. A lot of albums at the time of recording were taking a lot from the y2k pop punk sound, very maximalist with heavily compressed drums and a very flat wall of guitar distortion. I think that style will feel very dated very quickly.
I’m a firm believer that the way a record is recorded is one of the most important aspects to achieving the record's feeling. So we focused on one goal: Making the album sound lush and beautiful without losing the feeling that the album could’ve been recorded in a basement.
The album is described as "kaleidoscopic, blending confessional lyricism with surrealist storytelling." Can you delve into the conceptual approach behind the album and how it translates into the musical and lyrical elements?
I think every album I’ve ever written has had somewhat of a thesis statement at the jump, before the first song is actually finished. I am a bit of an odd songwriter, since most of my songs start out as ideas on my recordings app, but don’t get fleshed out or completed until I feel like I’ve accrued enough ideas.
In the end, I might finish 6 or 7 songs in the span of a few weeks. I love writing songs this way because it leads to a really cohesive feeling album, lyrically and sonically, but it is a double edged sword. In the current streaming landscape, you really lose a lot if you only hear a single out of context.
I’ve always hoped that my albums would feel greater than the sum of their parts.
You mentioned that this album is the most ambitious bedbug album to date. What were some of the challenges faced during the creative process, and what ambitions or goals did the band set out to achieve with this release?
It’s ambitious in the sense that I’m really not able to hide behind any sort of “lo-fi” aesthetic anymore. Every element needs to hold its own, on its own merit. It’s a lot less cute to have a messy sounding guitar part when everything is recorded so cleanly.
My lyrics needed to be stronger because you can actually hear my voice... And my voice needed to be stronger because you can actually hear my voice!
How do you envision translating the studio-recorded energy of 'pack your bags the sun is growing' into your live performances? Any plans for upcoming tours or special live shows to support the album release?
I’m really trying to put together a cool release show for the record somewhere in LA, where I live. Unfortunately, it’s not the same band members that recorded with me. On the bright side, the new group is incredibly talented, and it really felt like picking up where the other members left off.
I’ve been super lucky to have a lot of talented friends willing to put their time into bedbug with me.
Listen to the album's lead single halo on the interstate
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