Interview: Shoegaze Duo The Know

todayApril 22, 2020 40

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The Know, a new shoegaze duo from Los Angeles, is releasing “wearetheknow,” a debut 5-song EP, in May. The husband and wife team of Dan Knowles and Jennifer Farmer spoke with Big Sonic Heaven contributor Rick Bourgoise.

The Know shares stories about the songs, their history, the creative process, Jennifer’s talent for conceptualizing and directing music videos … and why is Billy Corgan wearing a cape?


Big Sonic Heaven: (BSH): You have a debut EP coming out in May. This has to be a really exciting time for you.

Jennifer Farmer: Yeah, it’s pretty fun. It’s been done for a little over a year now, but getting all the pieces together, getting all the videos done and just getting everything ready has taken a while. It’s exciting to finally put it out into the world.

BSH: While it’s exciting, it also has to be an immensely personal experience. Your songs really expose a lot of inner feelings.

Jennifer: Definitely. They’re all about us as a couple, or just personal feelings that we have. Our last single “Hold Me Like You Know Me” was about this loneliness and isolation feeling that I had last year. “143” is about us around the time we met and hanging out in L.A. with our friends. “Someday Maybe” is also about when we met and us as a couple and trying to navigate the feelings of an early relationship when you don’t really know what it’s going to be yet. The other songs on there are also personal songs. One of them is about my intense anxiety (“Dreamlike State”). One of them is a song that Dan wrote for me 10 years ago, and we decided to record for this. It just kind of fit (“The Tiny Door,” which Dan originally recorded solo as a surprise gift to Jennifer on Valentine’s Day).

BSH: What’s your next single?

Jennifer: The next single is “Someday Maybe.”JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwc3JjJTNEJTIyaHR0cHMlM0ElMkYlMkZvcGVuLnNwb3RpZnkuY29tJTJGZW1iZWQlMkZhbGJ1bSUyRjVRQlVTWnF0a3hZMEdHREdDU2VtNlklMjIlMjB3aWR0aCUzRCUyMjMwMCUyMiUyMGhlaWdodCUzRCUyMjE4MCUyMiUyMGZyYW1lYm9yZGVyJTNEJTIyMCUyMiUyMGFsbG93dHJhbnNwYXJlbmN5JTNEJTIydHJ1ZSUyMiUyMGFsbG93JTNEJTIyZW5jcnlwdGVkLW1lZGlhJTIyJTNFJTNDJTJGaWZyYW1lJTNFBSH: Dan, you have a really great music background. Tell me a little more about that. You’re from England, and you were in another band.

Dan Knowles: I was the guitarist and the producer for Amusement Parks on Fire, which was an English shoegaze band. We were signed to V2 in England and signed to the Filter magazine label in the U.S. It was actually the reason I ended up living here. In 2009, we recorded our last album in L.A. for Filter. And in the process of recording that, I met Jennifer, and when I came out to mix that record, I didn’t leave the U.S. I live here now because of that.

BSH: You’ve been married for more than eight years. What prompted you to cross that line from living domestically as husband and wife to then all of a sudden saying, “ok, we’re a band now let’s make music together?”

Dan:  We did a cover for fun. Jennifer had this idea that “Jingle Bell Rock” might sound nice in a kind of dream club setting. And it was Christmas. We put down an instrumental pretty quick. Jennifer hadn’t really sang before, but she decided to sing on it, and it came out pretty good. Good enough to play to relatives and stuff. We put it up on Spotify, and that was the point where we were like, ‘Oh, we could record some stuff when we get around to it together.'JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwd2lkdGglM0QlMjI1NjAlMjIlMjBoZWlnaHQlM0QlMjIzMTUlMjIlMjBzcmMlM0QlMjJodHRwcyUzQSUyRiUyRnd3dy55b3V0dWJlLmNvbSUyRmVtYmVkJTJGODFxWWVvOG45dGslMjIlMjBmcmFtZWJvcmRlciUzRCUyMjAlMjIlMjBhbGxvdyUzRCUyMmFjY2VsZXJvbWV0ZXIlM0IlMjBhdXRvcGxheSUzQiUyMGVuY3J5cHRlZC1tZWRpYSUzQiUyMGd5cm9zY29wZSUzQiUyMHBpY3R1cmUtaW4tcGljdHVyZSUyMiUyMGFsbG93ZnVsbHNjcmVlbiUzRSUzQyUyRmlmcmFtZSUzRQ==Dan: Before that, we had a project where we had another singer, a guy called Bryce, with this thing called Ghostel which we briefly worked on together.

Jennifer: I played bass in that.

Dan: She was co-writing and co-producing all that stuff too. Bryce got too busy, so it seemed to be a no brainer once we realized Jennifer could step up and do the vocals to just do this stuff together.

Jennifer: We continued on after Ghostel because it was actually gaining a fair bit of traction. We got a song in an Oscar nominated film trailer (“Buckley Get Your Gun” for “Mustang”), and we had a lot of sync licenses for big TV shows. It was moving forward pretty quickly. Then, Bryce wasn’t available. We were a little bit bummed, so Dan and I decided to continue it. I had no experience singing whatsoever before. It kind of terrified me, to be honest, but I always really, really wanted to. And so, I just was like ‘Let’s try to do a cover’ and then once it turned out pretty cool, we just decided to start writing our writing our own stuff after that.

BSH: What are your biggest influences?

Dan: When we started this EP, some of the things came about because we decided not to spend too long. If you close up some of your options, sometimes you can work quicker. So, we were kind of like ‘OK, what do we both like?’ We both like Beach House. We both like this kind of dreamy stuff. We both like…

Jennifer: …Jesus and Mary Chain.

Dan: It was some easy talking points. It gave us a focus, kind of an overview, an idea.

Jennifer: We wanted it to be sonically dreamy and distorted and reverby. We also wanted to focus a bit more on the songwriting. I love dreampop and shoegaze, but a lot of the times, the vocals are kind of buried and the lyrics aren’t a focal point. So, we wanted to focus a bit more on the actual lyrics, but have it still sonically sound really cool.

Dan: And then you have a great lyrical side, the classics like Nick Cave, Tom Waits. The National are really interesting.

Jennifer: The National! We love their songwriting.BSH: What is your songwriting and your recording process? Do you come up with the sound first and then write words for the music or do the words come to you first then you create music around them or some combination of the two?

Dan: Almost half of them is like, ‘Oh, I got like three lines in my mind’ and she’ll like them. We have the studio in the house, so it’s really easy. I can record anytime. Sometimes, I’ll just have an overview for a song, like a general mood or theme or ‘what if Brian Eno played over this aggressive beat?’ or something. Sometimes we’ll be like, ‘oh wait, what were those three lines you sang the other day?’ and we’ll try with different permutations over things we have. And usually when something kind of sticks or we’re both like, ‘Oh, that’s cool’ then you got a starting point, you can take it from there. Some of them have been almost full instrumentals before we figured out what to do vocally and some have been almost written vocally before we’ve even put a chord down.

BSH: Tell me how you came up with the band name ‘The Know.’

Jennifer: Professionally, I go by my maiden name, but our last name is Knowles. So, it’s kind of like ‘The Knowles,’ but I thought that ‘The Know’ sounded cooler.

BSH: Jennifer, you said you had never sung before, but it sounds like you have some musical background.

Jennifer: I worked in the music industry for a long time, but on the industry side. I was never a musician. That’s how I met Dan because we had a lot of mutual friends. When I played bass in Ghostel, Dan just sat down with me and taught me how to play every song. I couldn’t really jam if I wanted to, and I don’t really know what I’m playing, but I was able to play the songs. In terms of singing, I just sang along to songs. I guess I just developed a style that way.BSH: Dan, are you doing all the instrumentation or is Jennifer playing some instruments on the music?

Dan: She’s pretty much deferred to me. I’m playing everything on these.

Jennifer: He’s pretty much the only one that plays anything other than me singing. Then, he produces it, mixes it and masters. He does everything.

BSH:  Big Sonic Heaven is playing your debut single “143.” Is that the first song you wrote and recorded together?

Dan: It was the first one we finished.

Jennifer: “143” actually started off as a Ghostel song. We could never really make it work because Ghostel wasn’t really shoegazey, but soulful. Bryce had a very soulful Black Keys-style voice. It just didn’t quite work with that sound. We picked it back up when we started this project. The first original song is “Dreamlike State.”

BSH: On “143,” lyrically, you had some big inspiration for that, right?

Dan: Yeah. It was Tom Waits’ “(Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night.” I just really like that. He’s got a great way with the storytelling, like place and characters and just the little details that make you feel you’re there with the narrator. It wasn’t super conscious. But, as we were starting to sketch together a few lines, it became clear that it would be nice to try and aim for something like that.

BSH: I really love the music video for “143.” It adds an ambience to the song.

Dan: Thank you. I do too. That’s Jennifer’s work.

Jennifer: I direct all of the music videos. All of the people in the video are real friends. It was kind of cool to have our real friends because the song is about us hanging out with our friends. The things that happen in the video are just memories that I have of nights out when we were super drunk. Little dim memories that I wanted to piece together in this sort of home movies style, psychedelic way. There’s a guy holding a Big Gulp cup the whole time, and it’s just like a night out with our old roommate where he was super drunk and had this Big Gulp. It’s just this weird memory that I have, so I wanted to put that in there because it meant something to me. At one point, somebody steals a lawn gnome in the video and drinking liquor outside of the liquor store. It’s things that we’ve actually done, like walking around Hollywood Boulevard, doing the jig and stupid little things like that. Then, going all night until the sun comes up.JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwd2lkdGglM0QlMjI1NjAlMjIlMjBoZWlnaHQlM0QlMjIzMTUlMjIlMjBzcmMlM0QlMjJodHRwcyUzQSUyRiUyRnd3dy55b3V0dWJlLmNvbSUyRmVtYmVkJTJGa1BFSk55eDU4QjQlMjIlMjBmcmFtZWJvcmRlciUzRCUyMjAlMjIlMjBhbGxvdyUzRCUyMmFjY2VsZXJvbWV0ZXIlM0IlMjBhdXRvcGxheSUzQiUyMGVuY3J5cHRlZC1tZWRpYSUzQiUyMGd5cm9zY29wZSUzQiUyMHBpY3R1cmUtaW4tcGljdHVyZSUyMiUyMGFsbG93ZnVsbHNjcmVlbiUzRSUzQyUyRmlmcmFtZSUzRQ==BSH: Would you say making the video was as fun as make as recording the song itself?

Jennifer: When we write songs, I’m already thinking visually what the song looks like because I’m a very visual person. We also own a company and I’m a designer for it, and so I really care about the way that stuff looks. I really love making the videos. I don’t know if I’d say it is as fun, but I think it kind of completes it, to see what it visually means to the artists that wrote it.

BSH: The “143” lyrics reference Billy Corgan. Why Billy Corgan?

Dan: I don’t think I’ve told this before, but that was the point of trying to get stuff together. There were still gaps in the lyrics. I was laying down something to try get a melody idea and there was a stream of consciousness thing going on. We’d seen Smashing Pumpkins, and I think he was wearing a cape, and it was a thought that lodged like ‘why is he wearing a cape?’

Jennifer: Our friend even said something to us that night like, ‘is he wearing a fucking cape?’

Dan: I basically had ‘the city by the lake.’ As I was freestyling, it was a Smashing Pumpkins lyric so it moved quite seamlessly into the idea that Billy Corgan was there in a stupid cape.

Jennifer: As the song progresses, the first line is ‘he’s in a fucking stupid cape’ and then towards the end of the evening, ‘he’s in a fucking awesome cape.’ So, as the night goes on and you get drunker, the story changes.  Kind of like a game of telephone. Nobody ever really knows what the real story is. Everybody tells it differently.

BSH: It’s kind of a crazy time and a lot of us are locked in. Are you finding this inspires creativity for you?

Jennifer: We pretty much almost have a whole other EP recorded. We have like three songs that are nearly done and then one or two more that are in the works.  We also did a live home quarantine version of “143” that this blog LA put out the other day, which was really fun. Just in our bedroom with some projections:JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwd2lkdGglM0QlMjI1NjAlMjIlMjBoZWlnaHQlM0QlMjIzMTUlMjIlMjBzcmMlM0QlMjJodHRwcyUzQSUyRiUyRnd3dy55b3V0dWJlLmNvbSUyRmVtYmVkJTJGZWNSMnZ3R1otWnMlMjIlMjBmcmFtZWJvcmRlciUzRCUyMjAlMjIlMjBhbGxvdyUzRCUyMmFjY2VsZXJvbWV0ZXIlM0IlMjBhdXRvcGxheSUzQiUyMGVuY3J5cHRlZC1tZWRpYSUzQiUyMGd5cm9zY29wZSUzQiUyMHBpY3R1cmUtaW4tcGljdHVyZSUyMiUyMGFsbG93ZnVsbHNjcmVlbiUzRSUzQyUyRmlmcmFtZSUzRQ==Jennifer: I think we’re going to be doing a couple more songs in a live quarantine thing. Those are fun for us because we live together, and it’s easy for us to do. It’s inspiring.

BSH: I would think any type of touring plans obviously are on hold for now because of COVID-19.

Jennifer: Yeah. We weren’t ready for that before this happened so we’re definitely not ready for it now.

Dan: We were just about to put that together, like who would be in a band and who would play what. It’s slightly been put off right now because there’s no way to get in a room with anyone else now and test that stuff out.

Jennifer: Maybe we’ll play our first play our first shows towards the end of the year, if that’s even possible this year. Nobody knows yet. If not, we’ll probably be doing some more of these live streaming sessions.Purchase The Know’s debut EP at wearetheknow.com.

It is available in limited edition gold vinyl (Dan says “the pressing sounds really good!).

You can also hear The Know at:

Rick Bourgoise
Big Sonic Heaven Radio Contributing Writer

Big Sonic Heaven is a 24/7 Internet radio station dedicated to the ethereal sounds of shoegaze, dream pop, post-punk, trip-hop, etc. Listen to the artists featured on the blog and discover more by downloading the app for iPhone and Android or listen at  bigsonicheaven.com.

Written by: Rick Bourgoise

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