The long wait is over! After six years (and a few hours due to some technical difficulties with their site), indie electro-rock act Taken By Cars‘ third studio record Plagues is finally here. It’s available for free download, but you need to be quick, because it won’t be free forever.
Following their 2011 second full-length album Dualist, Plagues sees Taken By Cars in a different light. It’s replete with dreamy vocals and distorted sounds that put you in a daze, gracefully expanding to new horizons.
After releasing Plagues last Friday (Mar. 3), Taken By Cars spoke with BillboardPH about their risky new sound, life over the past six years, and their experience working with Raimund Marasigan.
Why did it take so long to release Plagues?
Sarah Marco (vocals): Basically we did a lot of growing up in the past years. Three of us are married, some have more than one kid, we got businesses and jobs that have gotten more demanding. Life happened and so did scheduling difficulties and a lot of delays with regard to the songwriting process. We also took some time before we realized what we really wanted Plagues to sound like. we scrapped out some songs and there were several that didn’t make it to the album because we felt that wasn’t the sound we wanted.
Who did you work with recording Plagues? What clicked with them?
Siopao Chua (guitar): Production duties were handled jointly by Raimund Marasigan and Mong Alcaraz. With Mong, it was like clockwork as he already produced both our previous records. He really understands our individual and collective tastes and needs, plus we communicate with him really well.
This was our first time working with Raims on a record and what clicked with the band was his level of professionalism, discipline, and strictness. Raims would always stress pre-prod and practice, so you did not want to forget your homework and under-perform at the studio!
The album was mixed by Jerome Velasco, who previously worked with me and (drummer Bryan) Kong last year on our Olympia Maru side project. The band was looking for a more dreamy / reverb-y sound so Jerome was a natural fit given his own shoegaze background and mixing output with Moscow Olympics, Pupil, and Cheats.
Lastly, the album was mastered in the UK by the great Mandy Parnell of Black Saloon Studios. Do look her up; she’s amazing!
Where did you record the album?
Bryan Kong (drums): Kodama Studio tracked by Shinji Tanaka. We also did a little more production work at my home studio after the tracking.
What are the band’s biggest highlights in the past six years?
Siopao: Just completing this album despite all the challenges we faced would probably be the biggest highlight of all! But outside of the music, I’m happy to say that our little tribe has grown with the addition of some younglings! Most of us in the band go back more than 20 years already, so it’s nice watching our families grow together.
How many songs did you write while working on Plagues?
Siopao: Around 18 songs were written during the entire album process, but we ended up scrapping 8 of the songs as they were either not up to standard or had an entirely different sound/feel from what ended up on Plagues.
What about Plagues differs from your previous offerings?
Sarah: It’s definitely got a different influence to it. More dream pop and shoegazey than dancey. It’s definitely a more brooding and introspective album as well. The songwriting also called for a difference in how things were sung. I guess that made it more interesting as well, the fact that i wasnt using a lot of the androgynous vox used in past records.
Siopao: I’d like to think Plagues is a more grown up record overall. If Endings was the sound of our roaring 20’s, Dualist the sound of us starting to settle down and getting a reality check, then Plagues is the sound of our…mature mid-30s! While we continue to push our wall-of-sound aesthetic, sonically I feel that this is our most balanced and immaculate-sounding record as we emphasized more textural and ethereal elements in our instrumentation. Lyrically, the songs here are deeper, more layered, complex, and introspective.
Bryan: As the time keeper and drummer, I purposely gave restrictions to myself. A big rule of mine was to not go faster than 110 BPM. The band got so comfortable with fast rhythmic patterns and driving beats that it became second nature to us making fast and dancey songs. Slowing down meant giving way to more melodic arrangements for the vocals, guitars and synths.
While wrapping things up on Plagues, did you guys take a moment to think of any risks you’d made in the direction you took with your sound?
Sarah: We definitely risked sounding more mellow. We were prepared for people to be disappointed that there are no dancey four on the floor tunes on the record. This was a record we definitely did for ourselves and tried to perfect for ourselves. It took a lot of time because we also spent a lot of time getting everything to sound the way we wanted it to.
Siopao: We were aware that abandoning our dance-y sound might alienate some listeners who have come to expect that from us. But ultimately as artists you strive to grow and evolve and not repeat yourself. The music has to accurately and honestly reflect your life-stage and experience, and Plagues was simply our natural progression. The best thing we could hope for is that the listeners give it a chance and are ultimately able to connect with it.
Bryan: I did feel a bit of apprehension to be honest, but one of the most rewarding things for me is breaking new ground during the production and writing, so we just went with our gut and decided to stick to the more downtempo sound.
Next year, Endings of a New Kind would be 10 years old. What does that mean to you?
Sarah: I think the band has come a long way. I’d like to think it’s our deep friendships and caring for each other, beyond the music. That has gotten us afloat amidst all the delays and problems we have had. I just feel truly blessed to have bandmates who are amazing at what they do and who I would hang out with even if the band wasn’t around anymore.
Siopao: I am just thankful that we have lasted this long, and that [Endings] will always be a snapshot of my youth and all the wonderful memories that go with it. I am grateful that we are still able to make new music in the now and express ourselves as we continue to age!
What are your next plans with Plagues and the band as a whole?
Sarah: Definitely be touring around bars and getting the word out that the album is here and it’s good! As always, we’d love to go beyond borders. Maybe around Asia again and outside of Luzon as well. We’re hoping for just more opportunities to get the music out.
Siopao: Continuous gigging and promoting, definitely. We are also currently working on our vinyl pressing for this album which hopefully shall be available by June of this year. A documentary on the making of Plagues is also in the works plus some surprise video releases in the next few months so do watch out for that!
Bryan: Besides gigging, I’m hoping that we get to do SXSW again next year.
Stream Plagues below:
Click here to download Plagues for free.
PHOTO: Niña Sandejas/Courtesy of Party Bear Records