Saxsyndrum – The Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Sexy self-sampling sax and sequencing science.

File Next To: Caribou, Moon Hooch, Suuns.

Playing: Del Bel album release w/ Language Arts, Saturday April 29 @ Longboat Hall (Great Hall basement). Get tickets here!

Saxsyndrum is an experimental electronic pop group from Montreal comprised of saxophonist David Switchenko, Nick Schofield on drums and synths, and AP Bergeron on vocals. Sometimes creating intricate tapestries entirely of their own recorded samples, and at other times embracing a passion for live instrumentation, dance music, and pop, Saxsyndrum have given themselves a focused creative challenge to explore. Wavelength’s Aaron Dawson caught up with the band to learn more.

Saxsyndrum is comprised of you performing with saxophone and percussion. What led you to focus on the instruments by placing them in the band’s name, as opposed to focusing the name on something else such as a theme, mood, politics, etc?

Yeah, we started out as a duo. When we started, we really wanted to put a focus on the music itself. Our society is so fortunate to have so many talented artists that truly have things to say, something that make you really think about your place in the world, the role you play, good or bad, and really question yourself, question that which is around you. But it’s also so important to take space away from that, to be able to clear your mind. There’s so much information being thrown at us all the time that it’s easy to drown in your thoughts. Music can be perfect for that. A good rhythm can grab you, make you move your body without you even knowing. It can entirely clear your mind. That was our goal, and we didn’t want to throw in a band name with deep meaning, it wasn’t appropriate for us. So we ended up with Saxsyndrum. sax-syn-drum ~ that’s what we work with ~ sax, synths and percussion. Very simple. But also, sax-syndrum ~ we’ve got a syndrome and it means we just gotta play our sax. Haha, it’s fun and we don’t want to take ourselves too seriously, we just want to make good music and get people dancing. But we’ve since expanded. There’s actually three of us now, we’ve been fortunate to have vocalist AP Bergeron with us live for the past couple years, and he’s heavily featured on our latest singles “Up To You” and “Dawn Breaks.” He’s a very talented vocalist, and he fits the group very well. He’s able to do front and centre pop or dance vocals when it’s needed, but is also able to sink into the tunes with entirely performative vocals, as if he were another instrument. We’re very happy to have him.

You have described your music as an experiment in sound design, with some tracks composed exclusively with saxophone samples and others with percussion samples. How does your process unfold? Do you have ideas for songs first, and then create samples, or capture samples first and then work them into a structure? Or is there some other sorcery at play?

Yes, you’re referring to our last EP, SXD_EP. We’re strong supporters of the mantra that through limitations you can open up more possibilities. That’s what we did with this, using only sax or percussion samples to make an entire record. It was fun, and resulted in some really cool tunes. And there was much sorcery.

On the newer material I sense a tension between a love of classic pop sax sounds and wanting to experiment and create new sounds with the saxophone. Is this something you wrestle with, or do they exist happily together?

Totally. We love experimental music, that’s our bread and butter, but we also love pop music. There’s something about those songs that are constructed to just grab millions of listeners by the ear and not let them go. Writing pop hits is a very particular skill. I think we’re all unabashed Max Martin fans. But what’s truly amazing is when you get the perfect mix of experimental and pop. A song that’s both musically and sonically stimulating over many listens, but that also grabs you at first listen.

Who are the sax players and percussionists you draw the most inspiration from? Anyone new out there we should be paying attention to?

Anyone who hasn’t heard Colin Stetson live hasn’t lived. It’s an enthralling experience. Our fave experimental sax player. We’re also huge Brian Blade fans. It’s effortless and you can’t look away. Check out some of his recent work with Daniel Lanois.

What can we expect from the live show? How do you approach playing live versus creating songs in the studio?

We’re very proud of our live set right now. It’s full of heavy grooves that just bleed with body movement. But it’s also awash with verbed out soundscapes and a lot of interesting sonic material. And AP’s free and visceral singing really add the final touch and lift everything up. You might ask, is this dance or drone music? It’s somehow both I think. It’s amazingly fun to perform. While we’ve done this differently in the past, particularly with previous eps and remixes, in our latest studio sessions we’re trying to capture that energy by being faithful to our live set. Most of our next album was recorded live off the floor at Breakglass Studios with much less work done in post-production. We’re very excited to share these tunes.

Don’t miss Saxsyndrum this Saturday (April 29) at the Longboat Hall for Wavelength #728!