Interview: Triangle Piece (Glenn Davis of Way Yes)

MP3: Triangle Piece – Johnny (Single Version)

So a few weeks ago, Glenn Davis (1/4 of Way Yes and 100% of Triangle Piece) sent me his new album, The Man I Love. Being a fan of the music he makes, I was intrigued before the first listen and it has since become a breath of fresh air peeking through the infinite amount of indie bullshit right now.

I sat down and interviewed Glenn via the interweb (thank goodness for technology) and he told me how Triangle Piece came about. The Man I Love can be downloaded starting today here (name your price).

So you ARE Triangle Piece, correct?

Yes is the answer to your first question.

Is this your first full release?

Yes. Well… it’s not the first I started, but it’s the first I’ve finished. I have another one that I have been working on very slowly and this was an attempt to make an album in a more immediate way because the other way was taking so long. I made The Man I Love in two weeks.

What are we calling this collection of jams? Other than The Man I Love
.

I call it an album. It’s sort of a mixtape, or a beat tape but I don’t really understand the difference because I feel like I know what to expect if a rapper puts out a mix tape… a release of tracks that aren’t album material. This is not that, but it’s sort of a beat tape. I don’t know, I’m not trying to get people to hire me to make beats for them or to get people to rap over these, so it’s not really that either. So I just call it an album.

If you could get anyone to rap over them, who would you ask?

My initial thought was I wouldn’t ask anyone because I hope they stand alone. If I had to get someone and could choose anyone, I would get Method Man, but I would ask him to keep it real clean. Haha. And then he would say no.

Haha. So only an awesome rapper who could keep things PG.

Not sure if that’s even a good match. It’s just the rap album I have been listening to the most the past few months is Tical, from ’94 I think? I really like that album because it’s so dark, so I don’t know if PG is good or not. Most good hip hop is at least PG-13.

True. Would choosing him be an attempt to bring a dark spin on a rather lightweight record?

Honestly I think I would rather have a really good R&B singer than a rapper. If I could get anyone it would be so hard to pick. Probably male. R Kelly? Maxwell? Charlie Wilson? The ghost of Luther Vandross? It would be hard to pick. It might be great to have someone who wasn’t such a heavy hitter but was popular for a few songs. Mark Morrison? El Debarge? Someone like that.

So explain to me how The Man I Love was molded together? How did you choose the samples and what’s the decision-making process for including them?

Well, I have a tradition with a close friend. Instead of buying each other birthday gifts we make a mix CD as a birthday gift. They have gotten really extreme with extra attention to transitions, keys and tempos of the songs everything. Usually I would pick a theme for the mix and try to find the perfect songs and string them together. Sometimes it’s an era (early 80s) or a style (Soukous Jams). This year I had a bunch of random songs that didn’t go together at all. I had no theme or unifying elements. I had been working on this Triangle Piece album forever (the one that’s not done yet) and so I figured I might be able to use the techniques I was using to produce the album as a way to unify all the songs I wanted to give my buddy. So I cracked down on it hard and in two weeks I made The Man I Love. It wasn’t ever planned to see the light of day but a lot of people who heard it pushed me to self-release it ’cause they thought others would like it. I had to ask my friend if it was okay, but he was fine with it.

Because it was a gift for him?

Yeah. I made it for him, not for other people really. I mean I wasn’t thinking of it that way at the time, that others would ever hear it. But I’m glad other people do enjoy it.

How do you choose the spoken bits? Are they part of that same equation?

Almost all of them are inside jokes and hopefully no one (listening to the album) is alienated by that.

I don’t feel in the least bit alienated, just interested.

Is there is a specific one you want to ask about?

What about the guy rambling in the beginning and ending?

My friend Travis Hall and I think youtube unboxing videos are really funny. [Travis is the friend Glenn makes mixes for.] For some reason people (especially people buying music gear or technology) like to film themselves opening their new items. So when we are looking into buying new music gear and are searching for reviews, inevitably it will be someone who is just opening something and not actually using it yet. Just opening it and rambling about the product. So the video I sampled for the intro and outro was from this 20-minute unboxing video where (the guy) kind of starts reviewing the camera but doesn’t know much about it and just has no idea how to stop. So Travis and I had watched this video together. I liked the idea that he starts off the album and could be reviewing that camera the whole time and then the album is done but he is still going. The way that the sample lines up, if you have mp3s on repeat, it will loop. The end flows right into the beginning and the album will start over again. So it’s like he never stops. But also it’s a nod to J Dilla. His Donuts album can be played on loop the same way.

So do you have any plans to make Triangle Piece a live act?

No. I will do it someday, but no direct plans now. There are a few things I need first.

Money, a private jet?

Yeah, money to buy some gear, but I feel like sampling to perform and sampling to produce are two different things. A lot of the songs I make would be boring live. I would want to really know I had a good live set before I got on stage. Right now Triangle Piece is something I started on the side of Way Yes as a way to just keep in touch with having fun making music — no pressure to write a hit, or have a killer live show, just have fun making music.

Are you happy for Triangle Piece to keep being that? Like Ducktails seems to be for Real Estate?

Yeah. I am happy keeping it like it is. I would like to do more remixes and stuff with the project.

Are you looking into the opportunity of remixing people?

I am open to it, but I would only work on something if I like it or if I feel like there is something I can add.

I think you should put it out there for people. It could be a fun creative exercise. Maybe you should either tell other people in the music community that you’re up for making remixes or just make your own remixes off of your favorite local tracks. It could be a whole Triangle Piece record. Cbus remixed through the ears of Triangle Piece.

Yeah i have done some of that already actually for local artists, but those people asked me. Like Monster Rally. It would be cool to do a whole album that way but I probably won’t do it until I run out of other ideas because I’m not so good at asking people myself. This track has Saintseneca. Their song jams so I just used it. I know Zac, but even if I didn’t, I’d use it because I guess I end up using music I like no matter where it comes from. Remixes are more reserved for people who approach me I guess.

Sounds perfectly reasonable. I guess it depends on why you’d be making them. If people just want you to make your own spin on a track, it could be boring for you or it could be interesting based on how into the particular song you are.

I don’t ask people if I can do remixes because all of my songs are kinda like remixes already. But when you are actually asked to do a remix, I feel like you owe them something. I think a good remix should still reference the original so fans of the band can still recognize the song. But if I sample someone, I don’t have to worry about if their song is still in there at all. I just use the part I like and scrap the rest.

I feel like the magic of sample-based music is selecting. I pick what songs to use and what parts to use and that is a form of expression. So although asking people for input is a great way to get others involved or excited, it takes a lot of the fun out of it. Like, yeah i COULD make a Garth Brooks vs Sisqo track, but why?

So tell me about the Steve Carrell clip.

Travis and I are both fans of The Office. We got addicted on Netflix and one of my favorite episodes is “Threat Level Midnight” where Michael (Steve Carrell) shows the office the movie that he made. There is a song called “Do The Scarn” in the movie. So I was like, ‘I’m gonna remix The Scarn.’ Haha. End of story. Just kidding. Actually, one of the songs on the album, “Duran Duran,” is in the same key as The Scarn. I was working on “Duran Duran” and wondering why I kept thinking about “weeeeeeeeell my name’s Michael Scarn and I’m here to say…” and I looked it up online. Same key. I knew Trav loved The Office too, so I worked it in.

So what other samples are on there?

All sorts.

I feel like a lot of them are really familiar.

Which ones did you feel were familiar? I would be curious to know. I like that idea with the Kimya Dawson track where it’s like, ‘where do I know that?’

Honey? It sounds like Fleetwood Mac.

It is. Haha.

Ha, that’s why. I tried to not have preconceived notions of what I was going to hear so I tried to convince myself it wasn’t for whatever reason.

My version is in a different key. I started using a layering technique to get some weird effects when sampling tracks. When I work, I find a hook that I like (like the first part of “Honey”). Usually, when there’s a song I am listening to and I think, ‘Why did they not just ride that out? You could ride that part out forever and I would never get tired of it.’ And then I know I need to sample it. Whereas the rest of the song or verse just goes in another direction, but there was something interesting in just repeating one part of it. I like to try and create my own hook with a phrase taken out of context and repeated.

It’s a really interesting way of always living inside your favorite parts of the songs you like.

Yeah! So on “Honey” did you know it was Fleetwood Mac? Or were you still unsure?

Yeah, I mean I thought I knew. Then when I was playing it the other day and my boss asked, “Is this Fleetwood Mac?” and I thought, of course. And it clicked.

I think it’s fun ’cause you don’t see people sampling Fleetwood Mac that often. Just to take a song I love, beef up the drums a bit and make it my own.

When I listen to this album, I feel like I’m listening to the radio… BBC6 or something.

Is that good?

Yeah, its definitely good. That’s the best radio station I’ve ever heard. It’s got bits and pieces of all this modern music, some not modern but before it’s time. They’ll play De La Soul right next to Fleet Foxes or some new electronic band right next to The Clash, or Sigur Rós then Joy Division. It’s awesome. So I feel like this album is like you summing up the radio, with some inside jokes woven in.

Thanks, that’s a cool compliment.

Is “Cayoucas” a Way Yes song? It’s got your vibe.

No, it’s Oregon Bike Trails. I restructured the melody though and then overlay a new chord progression on that. I want to be pretty transparent about the samples on the album ’cause I didn’t ask anyone to do it. I can only hope it might get some of the bands I sampled some attention from my versions and that they will take it as a compliment and not sue me.

Haha. I’d like to think they’d be flattered by your appreciation of their music.

It goes up today on my Bandcamp so if you really want to know, all of it is there for most of the big samples. The album is available for a free download.

Who’s the last track by?

Sade. That song has the same name.

And what’s the line about having a golden palomino from?

Golden palomino, haha. That is MacGyver. Travis and I tried to get into MacGyver and only watched the first episode together and that is from the opening dialogue of the pilot.

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To have a look at more Triangle Piece material, visit the website and/or soundcloud.