Q&A: Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor On Recording CANT
Grizzly Bear producer and bassist Chris Taylor is releasing his new solo album Dreams Come True under the moniker CANT. Taylor once joked that the name was a reference to the fact that he “can’t” finish his own projects. All that seems to have changed since meeting George Lewis, Jr., the man better known as Twin Shadow. Last year, Taylor co-produced Twin Shadow’s Forget, and with Lewis working on Dreams Come True, the duo hasn’t missed a beat. Taylor recently spoke with American Songwriter about the difference in the two projects, how he sets up his studio, and what he didn’t learn at NYU.
What’s it like working with George Lewis, Jr.?
In meeting George and becoming really close with him through working on his record, I felt like he’s the person I’d like to make music with. You know how a friend or lover or whoever can empower you – you can do something bigger than you could before. We became really close. He’s one of the most important musical people that I’ve collaborated with. I feel really lucky to have met him. That really helped me. It was very encouraging. I think that records are generally more interesting when more people are working on them.
Was the process similar for working on the Twin Shadow and CANT records?
For Twin Shadow’s record I was in on the production, mixing, and recording side of things. Not necessarily really writing with George. I spent like five months or so working with George’s material for Forget. We spent a week and half or two weeks together writing Dreams Come True. The rest of it I had to finish myself because he had to go and tour Twin Shadow.
Where did you record?
My studio is mobile. It goes anywhere there’s a power outlet. For Forget, we did it in this church in Brooklyn. [Also] in New York at a friend’s house that they let us use. We set up in a large bedroom and made music like that.
What kind of gear do you use?
I have a ‘70s Neve eight-channel console that I use for some pre-amps. [I have] some Chandler pre-amps that I like. Weird effects from the ‘80s, crappy digital effects that I like. Weird effects that no one cares about. I don’t use plug-ins.
What are the synth and drum sounds on Dreams Come True?
Most of the synths were Yamaha DX-7 or Yamaha CS-80. CS-80 is the most amazing synthesizer I’ve ever come across. Definitely used that heavily. My friend had one up at the house we were using. Drum machine-wise, it was just a crappy Alesis from the ‘80s. Real, real basic. Sounds cool. I heard it a lot on noisy industrial bands from the ‘80s. I don’t really know much else about it. Either George or I would program beats in Ableton, or on the drum machine or MPC.
Did you record to tape?
I really wish I had tape. But I don’t. Tape sounds so much better. But it’s expensive and I don’t have it. I’m kind of writing as I’m recording, so for me to pay for a studio with tape would be a pretty big bill, because it takes some time to do it. So no tape unfortunately.
You just mentioned that recording is part of your songwriting process. How does that work?
Production is hand and hand [with songwriting]. I don’t think about it specifically. It’s just kind a part of how I think about music.
Did you study composition at NYU?
No, I studied music technology, which is learning how to record. It’s a pretty crappy program, but I managed to get something out of it because I asked a lot of questions. I grew up playing jazz. Saxophone player. I guess that’s where I learned how to play music.
What’s your favorite song on Dreams Come True?
Honestly, I’m proud of the whole thing. I have to be proud of the whole thing or I wouldn’t be able to release it. I stand by all of it. It’s all really important subject matter. They’re no throwaway lyrics for me as far as I’m concerned. That’s the only way I could release it – to believe in it.