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Q&A: The Forms' Alex Tween

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The Forms is comprised of Alex Tween and Matt Walsh, whose latest EP was released this February. The band plays Friday with fellow New Yorkers The Lisps as well as local favorite Felix Obelix and Carrboro’s Towers. Photo Courtesy of The Forms.

It’s hard to describe The Forms. Just look at the band’s reviews — critics’ descriptions range from math rock to post-hardcore.

This week, vocalist and guitarist Alex Tween chatted with Diversions Editor Linnie Greene about genres, programming on the road and recording a baby grand piano from 100 yards away.

Diversions: You recorded your first two records with Steve Albini — how was that?

Alex Tween: We actually worked with him on our first two records at his studio out in Chicago. I guess at first we thought that we would be encountering some sort of weird, intimidating record producer kind of guy. By that time he’d already worked for Nirvana and those bands, but in five minutes we realized that he was a totally normal guy and was really nice and easy to work with.

Dive: Have you noticed any changes in your sound on the Derealization EP?

AT: It’s changed quite a bit. I think originally we were much more guitar-oriented, math-y even, and since then we’ve kind of moved in a new direction, much more towards electronic sounds and keyboards and things like that. That’s especially what we’re like live now, much more electronic. The EP that we’ve just finished is somewhere in the middle of the rock band that we used to be and the electronic band that we are now.

Dive: How has working with Daniel Hart impacted your music?

AT: Well Daniel hasn’t played live with us, but he played on the recording. Daniel is incredible. We played with his band, The Physics of Meaning, a few years ago, and became friends. We really liked his band. And then he started playing with St. Vincent, and other artists — Pattern is Movement, for example. We’ve stayed in touch, he’s an awesome guy. I think he really contributed mightily to our EP.

Dive: Does songwriting and being on the road gel for you?

AT: They don’t go well together as far as songwriting, but a couple of members of the band are programmers for video games and stuff like that, and we’re able to do that on the road because these days there’s mobile broadband. And you can get connected to the Internet in the middle of an Iowa corn field. It’s pretty amazing. We’re able to kind of seamlessly not have to take time off work while we’re touring, which is great.

Dive: Have you ever played in Chapel Hill before?

AT: We’ve been there a couple of times. We played a place called the Local 506, right around when there was all sorts of furious campaigning going on for Obama’s presidential election. The street where that venue is was kind of the epicenter for all of the campaigning and all that, so that was kind of exciting to be around. It’s an interesting town because in a way, you go to other cities and you see the big skyscrapers, you see all sorts of development and whatnot. Chapel Hill has a feel of being kind of an enclave in the middle of the woods.

Dive: Your sound’s often characterized as math rock. How do you feel about that?

AT: It’s weird, because the things that are important to you about your music are not that important to other people, and vice versa. The things that other people tend to focus on are not anything we care about too much. The stuff like the rhythms and the mathiness of the older music especially has kind of occurred naturally, but in our heads we thought that we were more —sort of a pop band, very melodic, trying to come up with good melodies for things.

Dive: Do you think working as programmers impacts your music?

AT: It’s a different kind of thing, where, at least for me, I sort of — maybe in an analytical mind, maybe language or whatever. I think that basic part of how I think ends up finding manifestation in both music and programming. It’s sort of that basic nature of finding expression in those things. As far as programming influencing music —I don’t think so. They’re pretty different disciplines. One is all right brain and the other is partly right brain and then other things, feelings and inspiration.

Dive: What are you working on at the moment?

AT: We’re working on a full-length. My bandmate built a studio in Ridgewood, Queens, which is where we are right now. I actually live in the building next door with a baby grand piano in my apartment, which we’ve recorded by running a 100 foot long cable from one building to the other. His studio is called Florida Keys NYC, and we recorded our EP there.

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