Austin and Sara from Tremblexy was kind enough to grant us an interview and share pictures of their studio from 2 years ago. The pictures are dated because as they made plans to photograph the current studio, it got burnt down! True and sad story. Help them get their studio back up by buying their new album Magmatic on Bandcamp or make a donation on their website.
Austin: I was born in Birmingham, Alabama. I attended The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and upon graduation I moved to Los Angeles to pursue work in music, film, and art. I started experimenting with recording and playing instruments as a teenager. I always gravitated towards overdubbing and layering sounds together. I have always been searching for new worlds of sound. Whether trying to create a sound I hear in my mind or discovering something completely foreign that I did not know existed.
Sara: I was raised in Bluemont, Virginia but was born in Santa Ana, California. I moved to Chicago in 1998 to attend SAIC and stayed in the city until 2004. I lived in Vienna, Austria for a short time before a 2 week visit to LA turned into 6 years. The earliest memory I have with making music was when I was 7. My dad gave me a Yamaha PSR-6 and I became instantly obsessed with #99 Wave played on the high C key. It had this modulation that none of the other presets had. I thought it was defective and therefore special. From then on I was attracted to sounds that sounded ‘wrong’. The motivation is pretty simple. I love sound.
Austin: I am really in love with the Korg MS-10. I love the tactile interface of the Korg and the complexity of timbres that can be built with very simple analogue synthesis. I am very concerned with timbre and modulation so analog synthesis in general is very comfortable for me. It is a very helpful framework that broaches the questions “what waveform, what register, what frequency?”. It is a great place to start from.
Sara: I can’t really say that I have a favorite because I find that you can make great sounds from anything, but I generally gravitate towards anything that makes exceptional white noise sweeps.
Sara: I sometimes use a reverb plugin, but that’s about it. I recently discovered this Java applet that maps gray scale images and produces a 64-voice 1 second sound loop based on the image. I have plans. Mega plans.
Workspace and Environment
Austin: My workspace is extremely important for my mental space. My new home studio is surrounded by trees and sunlight which is very helpful. I spend a great deal of time editing film and sound so it is important to have a good relationship with my work desk and computer. I also try to get up and move about as much as possible. Physical movement and activity can be really helpful while playing an instrument to get the right energy or feeling. I have seen images of the film editor Walter Murch working while standing instead of sitting. I have thought about throwing out my chair altogether. I think the people and things that happen in the city are more important than the surface or geography. That being said California has the city, the ocean, the desert, and the mountains. Visiting all the different areas can help recharge the creative energies.
Sara: Space and surroundings is key. I have to keep my workspace super organized in order to think clearly or else my brain ceases to function. I’m usually working on 5 -10 projects at the same time so I need to know where everything is. I also just moved to a house in Glassell Park with a killer view and garden. It makes the breaks peaceful and inspiring. Ergonomics are extremely important to me, but I’m not always great about it. By the time I come out of a 4 hour work zone my body is contorted into a pretzel and I’m sitting sideways in my chair. I do try to stretch at least 5 times a day. I’ve noticed that since I’ve been in LA I’ve been creating so many loops and drones. I believe it is a reaction against the visual and auditory clutter of LA. I like meditating on repetition.
Austin: Having a place in an urban environment can be difficult with the issues of sound pollution and sound containment. My ideal place would be a studio in a remote forest.
Sara: Right now I love being in a place with mechanical noise and dense nature. LA has an amazing soundtrack. The ambient sounds are very rich and all sorts of stories occur when you listen. It’s very inspiring. I love sitting on my porch and listening to the white noise created from distant traffic melding with helicopters and birds. With my house being situated on a hill I have a large view and I like to imagine how the sound would change if I was over there or there. I love thinking about the relationship between distance and sound. Right now I’m creating a composition by ‘field recording’ a virtual environment that ties into that idea.
Austin: I try to focus on as few pieces of gear as possible when creating a composition. I like to work with a signal flow that is unique to and sympathetic to the structure I am building. Choosing the keyboard parameters, effects, mics, etc is usually modified while a structure is being chosen until the sound palette is integral to the series of notes or rhythmic patterns I am engaging with.
Sara: To squeeze everything you possibly can out of one piece of equipment and when you think you can’t anymore start over.
Austin: I started recording with multiple tape decks and boom-boxes when I was about 12. Recording something and then playing with it and recording to another tape deck and then another, etc. I did not know multi-tracks existed! Then around 13 I got a Fostex Cassette 4 track. It opened up so many possibilities and then it pushed me to educate myself about audio recording because the results I was obtaining were so lo-fi. To this day I am very drawn to tape formats and using them to process, degrade, and distort signals.
Sara: I got a Tascam Porta 07 when I was 14. It was all over as soon as I discovered that the recording reversed when you flipped the tape. I started de-tuning my bass guitar as low as I could because the sound of that thing reversing was better than anything I had ever heard. That in combination with the #99 Wave sound on the PSR-6…pretty amazing. That 4-trak is broken now, but I still love recording to tape. I like to treat sound as if it was a malleable material. Tape helps achieve that.
Austin: Last year I bought a Boss RC-20 looper. It is great for building up a cloud or atmosphere of sounds to play with or inspire a new piece. I think recording and playing back sounds in realtime will always be a powerful tool.
Sara: A free M-box. It will always sound terrible, but I’m enjoying it. I’ve been gravitating towards super flat digital sounds lately.
Austin: I work with film directors and artists in varying capacities. I am currently working at the artist Doug Aitken’s studio. I find film editing, composing, sound design, and field recording reinforce and expand what I do with music. These endeavors expand how I can deal with music and sound but more importantly they make me question why I engage with music and sound.
Sara: Austin and I have written songs for a few commercials and films outside of Tremblexy. I just recently composed music for an animation by Nicolas Sassoon. I’d like to form more collaborative relationships where I compose pieces for visual artists.