Tanlines is a Brooklyn-based music project featuring Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen.

Listen to the new Tanlines remix, "Apply."

Part I: In the Brother’s Studio Live Room with Jesse Cohen.

What’s the Tanlines story? Where are we now?
Jesse: Right now we’re sitting in the live room at Eric’s studio which is called the Brother’s Studio because he built it with his brother Josh and used to do production as the Brothers. That’s how I met Eric because he produced my old band Professor Murder. So we came in to record an EP here and we’ve just been friends ever since. About a year ago, I’d say, Josh stopped doing music and Eric starting producing as Eric Emm, which is his name in music for the last ten years, and around the same time he and I started Tanlines as a band/production duo so those two things kinda happened at the same time. Tanlines, we make our own music, we perform and we also do remixes, and also we are starting to do production for other artists, writing and production. That’s gonna take a little more time I think, but that’s where we’re going with that. When he’s not doing that, he’s working with bands and artists producing as Eric Emm. That’s the situation here.

So I’ve heard a bunch of the remixes, like the one you guys did for Telepathe’s “Chrome’s On It.” If you had to rank the focuses of Tanlines how would you do that? I know you’re also making your own original music…
That was actually the first thing we ever did, was that remix. We were just kind of sitting around working on a song and then we though, “oh, we really need vocals for this” and didn’t have any ideas, so we went to the hard drive, and Eric actually did that song here. So we had the stems because they had done “Chrome’s On It” here at that point. We just grabbed the vocal and made the remix. We sent a text message to make sure it was ok. That’s how that started.

So the first thing we did was a remix which I guess isn’t the way most bands start out. Maybe that’s changed. Because, you know, the way that we make music is straight into the computer, basically, we’re not sitting around jamming and writing songs that way. We write a song as we’re recording the song. Production is a huge part of what we do and remixes are just kind of a good way to do that, it’s a good excuse to write a new song and it’s fun to work with someone else’s vocals, and it’s also always a challenge. A lot of the time having parameters that you have to work around can inspire a lot of creativity. Also, remixes are so ubiquitous now, they’re everywhere, it’s kind of fun to do something new. I think that’s what we do {with the remixes}. We try to make a unique piece of music with them instead of just putting in a new beat behind it or something.

Is it a political thing, doing a remix? Like, doing an Animal Collective remix or something would get Tanlines a lot of exposure…
And you can be sure that they’ll hear it. I’m not gonna say that that doesn’t have anything to do with it, only because I’d love to work with people I really like and I think that’s, for the most part, what we’ve done. The Tough Alliance remix that we did, we did that because I really love them and I just wrote them an e-mail asking if we could do a remix. And they said sure, and I don’t think anything really ever happened with that except that they heard and some people on the Internet heard it. It was really fun. It’s a really unique challenge to take something that you already like and find a way to add to it in some way that doesn’t feel pointless.

You recently got some good press due to your inclusion on the latest Kitsuné compilations.
Yeah that just happened. As far as Tanlines releases…that came about just because the guy who runs the label we had e-mailed at some point a long time ago and I just sent him music and he was really excited about it and wanted to include it on the compilation. The truth is, I never listen to any of those compilations. I know that they have a lot of people listen to them so I was excited to be a part of it. I don’t know if anyone’s heard it, you know? I also think it’s cool that my impression is that they like to put out new music and I think that’s really cool when people on labels listen to demos and listen to stuff they’ve never heard of and are genuinely excited about music, and that’s my impression of what they do. And also, obviously, it’s in Europe, I don’t have any access to them otherwise.

Are you guys going to make a record? What’s that process like?
Well that’s what we were just talking about. We have a 12’’ that came out basically just in England and then we had this compilation. The Myspace is like, half remixes and half our own stuff which is sort of the way we’re doing things, which I’m fine with. We’re working on a Tanlines release now, either another single or an EP. Part of the thing about being a sort of not-straightforward band is that you get to think about different ways to release music. I want to get more of our own music out…it’s not going to be an album, maybe some point down the road, but right now I just want to get stuff out so there will probably be an EP in the Fall. That’s the plan. And that’s what we were just working on.

We write music together then if Eric can sing on it or it feels like a piece that can stand on its own for us, if it’s not, if it’s missing something, or it needs a vocal, then we put it in this other pile which is either separate and used for a remix or stuff that we can maybe find another outside person to sing on and give it to them, make it their song.

We’ve been playing live a lot, which has sort of been a learning process also, how to play live, and a lot of times we’ll work on something and we’re not sure if it’s our song or not and we’ll play it live a few times and we’ll say, you know what, that’s not really our song, and we’ll just put it in that other pile. That’s happened a lot of times actually, at this point.

What’s the live show setup like?
The live setup right now is Eric plays guitar and sings and it goes through his computer, he’s got Ableton on, and that’s synced to my computer and I do all the sequencing and I play drums on top of it. We can say that we’re drum and guitar, but a lot of the music is coming out of these computers. We use samples because I have like, thousands of them, pieces of our music as samples that I trigger or effects that Eric is running through his computer. That’s the setup we have now, I think we’re probably going to add a keyboard. But it’s just something we’re figuring out.

How do you guys interact with one another when you’re working on something?
Eric is a producer so he’s really manning the computer, the board, and Logic, and the way it usually breaks down is that I’m sitting at his side tapping out drum patterns, we’ll pull up instruments, we’ll talk about it, figure out what sounds good, we’ll get the sounds that we want, or I’ll play a drum pattern or have an idea for a riff, then I’ll put it down…There’s a lot of editing. Editing is what we do more than anything else. So I’ll play drums over something for a few minutes and we’ll go through it and throw most of it away, but we’ll keep the parts of the sound that worked, so that’s basically what we do with all the different instruments until we’ll get the best parts, what we think are the best parts, and try to arrange it. Which is the hardest part.

It’s really easy to write a drumbeat that sounds really good, I shouldn’t say easy…yeah it’s easy, or a guitar part that sounds really good. Arranging it ends up being what takes the longest. And that’s it!

Tanlines music draws from a lot of different sounds…what do you attribute that to?
I think really that’s part of doing music in the 21st century. It used to be completely different, you would only hear music that someone gave you or that you had the wherewithal to find yourself which usually involved physically going someplace and getting it if they had it. I could be wrong, but that probably has a lot to do with why genres were so important at one point, because if you go to this record store…or like, you listen to what your brother likes, if you go to a store your taste tends to veer toward that store. If you only read three magazines about music then your test tends to veer towards those tastes.

But now it’s completely different and you can have ten different people e-mailing you a different version of a Pitbull song in the morning, and then in the afternoon looking at a new video by so-and-so…YouTube is a huge part of that. I think it’s really…it’s where I go to hear music. Even though the sound quality is shit. There’s more easy access to more kind of music from more places than from anywhere else. And not only that, you also get to hear variations of the same song by different artists. If I’m interested in a new song, like some kind of dancehall song or the new Sean Kingston song, I can tap Sean Kingston into YouTube and I can watch a video of the song: the official video, I can watch a video of a kid dancing to it, I can watch a live version of it, I can listen to a cover and a remix, some weird homemade remix that someone did, and you get to hear all of those things at once and I think it does something to the consumer where you implicitly accept variety, you know, instead of having to think…well….I think it’s very natural now to accept so many different varieties and it just naturally affects the way you make music.

Part II: Jesse and I join Eric Emm by the soundboard.

What’s the ideal person you’d like to work with? It can be anybody, living or dead.
Eric: Living or dead? That really opens it up. I don’t know. I’m trying to think of some dead people I wouldn’t mind working with. I’d rather work with living people. I think Maxwell Dee, he’s very cool, but he’s a producer.

Jesse: Benjamin Franklin.
Eric: You have the best answers.

Jesse: Poncho Villa. Can we make a remix of the tape of this interview?

Eric, what do you contribute to Tanlines?
Eric: Well, I play guitar and I like to play guitar, I like to write guitar parts. I like singing. It’s kind of a new thing for me. I’m really interested in that because it’s something I haven’t done that much of, it’s a new challenge. It’s a new instrument that I’ve always had that, for whatever reason, I haven’t had the opportunity to learn how to play.

Jesse: He was never in a band where they would let him sing. Fortunately I’m a pushover (laughs).

Eric: And he’ll regret it. So yeah. In the recent weeks I’ve had more attention placed on the singing than the guitar playing, but I’ve found some new things for the guitar that I like doing that I’m going to do a lot of. I just want to make cool music, that’s all.

Jesse: That’s the quote right there.

Eric: Delete that. I don’t want to make cool music. I said that once before in another interview and I read it and I thought it was, it seemed really stupid. You know what I mean when I say, “I always want to make cool music.” But in a way it read that, “I want to make music that’s trendy!” Something like that.

I’m interested in making songs too.

Visit Tanlines' website.

Listen to the new Tanlines remix, "Apply."










© 2009

Tanlines Interview

Corban Goble

Photo by: Katie Notopoulos