“A Time Capsule to Ourselves”: Slenderbodies’ Upcoming Album ‘Komorebi’ [Interview]

Interview with slenderbodies

photos by Nolan Feldpausch

From the first guitar lick, slenderbodies’ full-length debut ’komorebi’ is an invitation into an organic paradise. The tracks are sparse yet delicately textured, with falsetto exhales scattered into space; each stacked harmony a call into a distant chasm just to hear the echo back.

Where is it, then, that the band imagines this echolocation taking place? “I think it'd be multiple places,” they answer. “It’d be a foggy forest with sunlight starting to cut through, a warm tropical sea, a moonlit desert night. It'd also be the comfortable cabin within all those spaces.”

The California duo’s surreal sounds are capable of this kind of transportation, despite only utilizing the basic building blocks of what can be created with an instrument or a voice. It’s something new, innovative. “This idea of sticking to only guitar, vocals, bass, and drums was the roadmap from the start,” the band explains. “When we formed the project, we resigned ourselves to these parameters because it presented a unique and exciting production challenge for us. It's all about how far you can take a sound with digital editing and design.” As a result of this process, their tracks maintain an indescribable quality; crafted to give the impression that they never could have been recorded so simplistically.

Stepping onto the scene in 2016 with their ‘sotto voce’ EP (meaning “to speak softly but with emphasis”), the band might characterize their music as “dreamy, moody, and intricate indie pop” - but in a way, it has a genre of its own. The pop elements that they have incorporated seem homegrown; completely intrinsic as opposed to imitative. “Pop music landscape today is very rhythm-centric, so as melody-centric people we made a conscious effort to hone our skills in integrating syncopation into our vocal lines,” they tell us. But it’s this consciousness that allows for irresistible grooves, while still maintaining a flavor like no other.

“I want all my senses back,” vocalist Max Vehuni whispers through a lush canopy of shimmering guitars. And their music is, at its core, a sensory experience. Alongside musical partner Benji Cormack, the two invent the kind of immersive surroundings that can’t be listened to halfway; they must be delved into, as vibrations felt rather than heard. Every sound feels deeply tied to their individual expression, too. “This project has always been a creative haven for us, so I think it reflects [our personalities] in that way. Our melodic tendencies blend really well together, and each song is essentially a manifestation of conversation between the two of us.” On this new collection, set to release on September 20th, they’ve taken it a step further: “We've always trusted each other immensely in terms of creativity, but our flow is so much better now.”

Demonstrating their refinement of melodic purpose, ‘komorebi’ steps into an exploratory realm with opener ‘ruminate’. “[It’s] a huge departure from what we've done previously,” the band reveals. “It illuminates this simplistic, syncopated world we drop into on other parts of the record.” In between gliding motions and percussive clicks, the pauses speak for themselves. The third track, “nothing”, is another highlight, thumping and dissipating in puffs of atmosphere. For Max and Benji, it’s “a nostalgic trip [that] always conjures up beautiful, blissful memories with our loved ones.”

Each song is carried on a warm breeze - the crisp plucking of “moods”, the distant swirling of “dewdrops”, the undulating “departure” contrasted with the gentle breaths of “arrival”. “The outro of ‘arrival’ is one of our favorite moments on the record,” the duo notes. “We feel it wraps up so much of the raw emotion we want to communicate through this piece of music.” And then through the meditative, cascading waterfalls of instrumental "hearth", closing track "away from you" entices the listener into a feeling that lasts late into the night.

The word "komorebi", originating from Japanese and lacking a direct English translation, means "sunlight streaming or filtering through the trees”, capturing the essence of the album in a single enigmatic image. “It’s the dappled sunlight you see when walking through the woods, or the holy rays that illuminate a forest path,” slenderbodies describes. “We both grew up very close to nature, so in a way as this album is a large guiding light for us. The album itself is partially centered around how being close to nature remains important to us.”

'komorebi' album artwork

This connection to nature is woven all throughout the lyrics on the album, capturing vivid images from setting suns to trickling dewdrops. “We like to create worlds, paint pictures with words when we write,” the band continues. “We don't have a set way of creating; it's very fluid. Words are always tied to melody so we can capture cadence, but not always are they created in line with the full production or even chords.” And they bring these worlds to life with their visual artwork as well, “experimenting with crop and color” until they can “intuitively” match patterns of the natural sphere to each track.

With their instinctive aptitude for words, which led them to write a mesmerizing short narrative on their website to go along with 2017 EP ‘fabulist’, it was clear that their full-length venture wouldn’t be complete without a story. “’komorebi’ is actually a concept record as well,” the duo reveals. “We formulated it as a time capsule to ourselves, delving into our subjective morality and priorities with which we operate now as young adults. We want to see if when we're 80 or 90 years old if these things change, or stay the same. So each song is a facet of what we believe to be important, and how to best live life.”

If you’re lucky, you can experience the world of slenderbodies live on their US tour this fall. As far as what story we’ll hear next, though? “We’ll see where the road takes us.”

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