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Q&A with David Klein, of Birdmonster

A Monster Mash

After waiting to sign a record deal and self-releasing its first album amidst early industry buzz, San Francisco’s Birdmonster is back with From the Mountain to the Sea, its first release with indie record company Fader Label. Recorded in a studio sanctuary in the heart of the often-chaotic Tenderloin, the album provides an even mix of acoustic-electric arrangements with threads of straight-ahead indie rock, folk and cow punk. Guitarist David Klein spoke with SF Station during a phone interview before departing on the band’s first major tour in more than a year. Birmonster opens for Nada Surf on September 3rd at Great American Music Hall.

SF Station (SFS): Some people at Outside Lands were begging to take my photo with the sticker for your new album. Did you have a lot of supporters there?

David Klein (DK): That’s so funny. I got a call from a friend that said the same thing. I guess Fader planned that.

SFS: You weren’t aware of that was going on?

DK: I had no idea until my buddy told me. We never had a label before so we never had anyone do stuff for like that for us. It’s nice to have that kind of support.

SFS: How is the Fader deal working out?

DK: It’s been really good, so far. We recorded a record with the producer that we wanted to work with and we are really happy with how it sounds. We’re about to go on a long tour that is going to be about seven weeks when all is said and done. We took a ton of time off to record this record and a good part of the next one, and we’re just ready to get started with touring again.

SFS: How was recording in the middle of the Tenderloin at Hyde Street Studios?

DK: Hyde Street was great, but the Tenderloin was wack. The studio was amazing, with a great vibe. It was a really great place to record.

It was weird recording in the Tenderloin because we were in the studio for eight to fourteen hours a day and if we wanted to get outside for a change of headspace or fresh air there would be some guy pissing next to us, people selling drugs or someone yelling from the middle of the street. It was all sort of Tenderloin hectic. We started looking more and more haggard as we spent time in the studio. The first week or two nobody really came up to us, but by the end everyone was trying to sell us drugs.

SFS: Did the surroundings have any influence on the album?

DK: Not really because we went to a remote cabin to do all of the songwriting for this album. I think being isolated, away from the city and other people, definitely affected what we were doing with the record, but when it came to the actual recording process the Tenderloin didn’t really affect us. It added some comedic value to the recording process but not the music itself.

SFS: Did you make any new neighborhood discoveries?

DK: We went to a couple shady, shady bars and we would always shop at this liquor store where I was accused of stealing gummy bears. There is a great Turkish place right there by the studio and some other great food in the Tenderloin. It could also be depressing because of all of the people who are kind of down and out.

SFS: You had a lot of buzz with bloggers and with different media outlets with your previous album. Are you finding the same response this time around?

DK: There is definitely some but, thus far, there is not as much. At the same time, we are not trying to be as involved or pay that much attention to it this time. Although they are a great way to find out about new music, blogs are definitely fickle.

SFS: You had some praise them some backlash before, right?

DK: Yeah, there was a little bit of that. With this record, we wanted to withdraw ourselves as much as possible from that process. We are really proud of this record. We really like it, we had a great time making and we stand behind it.

SFS: How does the album reflect where you are right now as a band?

DK: We had a lot of time off and we wrote tons of songs. We wanted to take a streamlined approach. Peter wrote a lot of really honest, heartfelt lyrics and there are a lot of really strong melodies with acoustic guitar throughout the record. We wrote the way we were feeling. We recorded fast rock songs, which are on this record, and also some slow acoustic stuff.

We wanted to be able to do both. As a band, we look up to artists that we respect and the ones we respect the most are ones that are able to do whatever they want. If you look at guys like Jack White or Beck, they record whatever they want. I think that is a great thing to aspire to do.

Birdmonster opens for Nada Surf at Great American Music Hall on September 3rd. Tickets are $21. Doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 8pm.