In our latest Artist Spotlight, we chat to Brooklyn’s Robert Toher of Public Memory about his music and inspirations.
S] How are you today?
I’m well this morning. It’s beginning to feel like fall in New England. My favorite time of year.
S] To what extent does ‘The Line’ represent the project’s current sonic direction?
I wouldn’t say that The Line encompasses the entirety of the feel of the album, but it definitely shows one of its dimensions. In terms of production, layering and having an at-times orchestral-like quality, it certainly alludes to the rest of the record and the current period of the project. Though the album as a whole explores varying vantage points and colours.
S] What plans do you have for the rest of the year?
The live band is doing a west coast tour in November, and probably a NY date or two, before or after. I’d like to come overseas next year, and do some more US touring as well. Ideally, I’ll also begin a new record.
S] What have been some defining moments so far?
There hasn’t been anything totally ‘monumental’ but I’ve been very pleased overall. While I have been fond of all incarnations of the live band, the current band, a trio, with a drummer has been dynamic and exciting and I’m looking forward to performing live this way. I think if anything, and if I may say so; it’s been great to see a humble but sincere following develop. I hear directly from people all of the time how much they connect with the music and how it’s been important for them, or helped them through a rough time, and that’s the most rewarding thing for me.
S] What are some of the biggest challenges you face as an artist presently?
Probably just the balance of the creative/life/work equation. I love making music and I want to do it all of the time. But of course I have to maintain a balance; working a job to pay the bills, making time for relationships/friends/family and so forth. I know it’s the same for pretty much anyone who creates that is not totally living off of their art. I am lucky to be able to balance all of these things and really its a privilege to be able to make music and for people to hear it and connect to it. I just wish I had more time or I was better able to maneuver time management.. I don’t mean to sound self-important but there’s just never enough time for everything.
S] What advice would you give to new, and emerging electronic artists?
I’m not really in the habit of giving advice, but since you have asked:
Don’t try to sound like all of the bands say, from the 1980s or whatever, that you love. All/most of those bands were making something new when they were doing it. Don’t play to a “genre” – it’s boring nostalgia. Make something that’s all your own, even if your influences come through. There’s a difference between your influences coming through and objectively trying to emulate something from 30 years ago. We’ve all heard enough of that. We don’t need more dime-a-dozen goth/synth bands that are virtually indistinguishable from each other.
Also: don’t be a gear fetishist. It doesn’t matter if you have the latest and the greatest, or that sought after vintage drum machine or synth. Sure, it’s nice to have beautiful instruments and there’s no shame in that, but don’t make it all about your gear. Use the tools that are available to you and do not let equipment define your creativity or your identity.
S] Can you explain why you chose to create an album with more lyrical and sonic clarity this time around?
I wanted to approach things from a different direction. A lot of my vocals/lyrics in the past have been a mix of glossolalia and actual lyrics, also with lots of thick reverbs and delays. Those effects are still very present on this album, but one of the rules I had for the record was that each song would have definitive lyrics that were personal and important to me; something that I hope others can share in / relate to. The lyrics have been included in the artwork this time around. Regarding sonic clarity; I think I just needed to go to the end of that road with the equipment I have and see what could come of it. I wanted this one to feel more in-colour, more widescreen. More high definition. Having now done this, for the next album I imagine I’ll probably work within a limited palette and see what I can get out of that.