From Allah-Las producer & Jacco Gardner collaborator Maston, we present the artist’s arresting visuals for the gorgeous instrumental that lives up to the title of “Swans”. Featured off the upcoming album Tulips available October 27 through Phonoscope, Frank Maston presents the self-directed video, shot on 16mm Kodak vision 3 200T & 500 with a Красногорск-3 camera that was filmed in Noord-Holland, Netherlands & Basque Country, Spain during while performing, recording with & touring about Europe with Gardner. Maston’s music has a certain charm & production value that instantly transports you to those vague places of the past that you just can’t put your finger on, or quite pinpoint a place or proper era for the sound.
Like the anachronistic style of Maston’s music, so is the visual for “Swans” that feels like an art house look through the modern lens of media & motion. From captures of busy streets, church bells, windmills & plenty of birds of the title’s namesake on hand for good measure; “Swans” takes you on a relaxing Dutch day sojourn where blends of colors and overlaying images of luscious tulips can be seen in the cinematic mix of everything to relax the body, mind & restless spirit. The throwback wood-winds, strings & mysterious chords will throw you for a loop as if you were in some sort of 1970s European warp where you are relaxing among both the swans & tulips in tranquil harmony. Join us immediately after the listening/viewing to read our interview with the multidisciplinary artist Frank Maston.
Describe your creative connection with Jacco Gardner & how that lead to the making of Tulips?
Jacco and I were introduced to each other by Trouble in Mind records; they released our debut albums together on the same day. We played some shows together, became fast friends, and the following year I found myself playing in Jacco’s band and living in the Netherlands. Jacco and I are very different in a lot of ways, but we share the same approach to writing and arranging, and we work very well together because we speak the same musical language—which is rare.
He introduced me to a lot of new things in the studio—instruments and gear I hadn’t been exposed to, different ways of doing things. I would say the same for the other guys we toured with as well—I learned a lot from everyone. They all turned me on to a lot of music in the tour van that was extremely influential. Not to mention helping me learn Dutch. Tulips was definitely born out of this influence.
Like the title that alludes to the common flower found in the Netherlands; how did the environments & locals further inspire the new album?
The interesting thing for me was not necessary moving to the Netherlands, but touring around Europe and always returning to the Netherlands. Because of that, it began to feel much more like a home much quicker. Tulips was pretty much written and recorded in Holland between tours, and that definitely influenced the mood and vibe of the record. The tempo and length of many of the songs—even some titles—came about from me riding my bike everywhere. I wrote a lot of melodies while biking to the shop and back, and as I began recording them I found they were also nice to listen to while biking.
There is an efficiency to the arrangements on this record, which was a very Dutch influence. That directness. Perhaps also, most obviously to me, is this slight sense of alienation. Being a foreigner for the first time was interesting, but it was equally strange to visit L.A. and feel just as foreign.
Describe the making of the gorgeous 16mm video for the evocative “Swans” that was filmed in both Noord-Holland, Netherlands & Basque Country, Spain & how you made it fit the equally beautiful song.
I became really interested in photography through touring, and it blossomed into an interest in motion picture photography & animation. There were some really inspiring visuals all around me and I think that was the main motivation in capturing it. It was fun because I planned it out a bit ahead of time, with the intention of film tracking the music. I bought this soviet made 16mm camera and a few reels of color reversal film, did some research on lighting and locations, and jumped on a train. The windmill shots are in an historical village a few minutes North of Amsterdam called De Zaanse Schans.
The swans and tulips were filmed in Zwaag, the village where I lived. My favorite part to film was the waves crashing on the beach, which was near Bilbao, Basque Country—Spain. We had a day off from our last tour with the Jacco band and we spent the afternoon on this gorgeous beach. The sun baked the film a bit which gives it this incredible ethereal quality. A very happy accident.
I had always planned to pair this footage with the song Swans, so the editing was quite smooth. The Phonoscope bumpers in the beginning were really fun to make, I’d like to do more 16mm animations in the future.
What else can you tell us about your own approach to musical composition, like how do you set out about organizing & arranging your music?
Where the ideas come from I’m never quite sure, but I go about developing them in a very meticulous way. It always starts with a melody- if it gets stuck in my head then I’ll probably end up turning it into something. I almost always have an arrangement in mind by the time I start recording. These days I’m thinking mostly about how to translate an idea with as few elements as possible. I really like how certain instruments or effects can make chords just sound good. So I’ll really try to plan my arrangements economically and in service to the melody. If I can stop myself from fussing too much over things, it’ll usually turn out how I intended. I realize now after writing for 12 years or so, I can trust my instincts pretty reliably.
What else can you tell us about the new music your producing with members from LA’s own Allah-Las right now?
Allah-la’s are one of my favorite bands. It’s funny, even though we’re all from L.A. I actually met them in Holland while playing with Jacco. They’ve been really supportive of Maston, especially in coaxing me to release this new album. They’ve snuck out a few of the Tulips tracks on their Reverbation Radio playlists in the past year.
Last summer, Pedrum and I exchanged some music we had both been working on. He sent me a few 4-track demos of some songs for a new project and my mind was instantly blown. I offered to produce & record an album for him, and in the first few months of this year we did just that. The project is called “PAINT” and Matt Correia from the Allah La’s played drums on most of it, as well as our friend Nick Murray.
The second release on Phonoscope will be a 7” single by PAINT early next year.
Also tell us more too about the launch of your label Phonoscope & the mission statement of your newfound label.
Phonoscope sort of created itself in a way. I started getting some inquiries about mixing albums for other artists, and when I returned to LA last fall I brought with me a bunch of gear and instruments I accumulated in Europe and set up shop. We cut the PAINT record at Phonoscope, & recently mixed the upcoming record New Work from Dinner [Captured Tracks].
It’s a hybrid studio, but there is certainly more of a focus on the analog side of things. Lots and lots of tape. It’s also been set up as a film studio as well, which is where I’ve been making the little animations, and I have it set up so I can easily score the footage I’m working on.
I have a very specific aesthetic, for better or worse, and it was only really worth making another Maston record if I would be able to have complete artistic control over the release. Things have been pretty busy in the studio, so that allowed me to think about how I might wanna release my own material. I was inspired by Piero Umiliani, who had his own Sound Work Shop studio and released what he made there on his Omicron label. As well as Stereolab, who started their Duophonic label so they could release whatever they want as often as they want.
I’m interested in using Phonoscope as an outlet for Maston, both music and film, as well as other artists that come to work with me in the studio. Essentially my goal with Phonoscope is to make and release things that I like, and in that sense it’s already been a success.
Maston’s album Tulips will be available October 27 via Phonoscope.