Metal Skull: Interview with Naam: Back From The Woods

Following up their well-received Kingdom EP, Brooklyn heavy psych trio Naam is set to release their self-titled full-length debut this month on Tee Pee Records. To make the album, guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lugar, bassist/vocalist John Bundy and drummer Eli Pizzuto holed up in a cabin in the Catskills for 12 days with nothing but a ton of equipment and a batch of new songs to bang out in that time. The resultant Naam kicks off with a 16-plus minute remake of Kingdom’s title track but moves quickly to show the carefully constructed and layered development which Naam have undergone. Their presence on the album, aided in no small part by having put the basic tracks to tape live, is palpable and makes for one of 2009’s most satisfying psychedelic listens.

On the verge of playing Tee Pee’s numerous CMJ events with the likes of labelmates Weird Owl and Nebula (among many others), Pizzuto took some time out for the following phoner to discuss making the album and their plans going forward.

Describe where you went to record the album.

We were fortunate enough to have [manager Mike] Bigel get us this house up in the Catskills, and it was amazing. We had it for 12 days and it was kind of like whatever we wanted. We were out in the woods and we got to get away from everything and have our only focus be on recording the record. It was really cool, we had 100 acres of land to roam around on in-between recording, and when we got the house set up, we got there, pulled up with two vans pulled of gear, set it up within that day. The next day we started record. It just came together so easily.

We went up with probably around 40 minutes worth of material. We went up and we got to write some new stuff, and the vibe was there, the atmosphere created exactly what we needed to get it done for what we’re doing. It was good. It was good to be out in nature and have that whole vibe brought upon us instead of the city. Living in Brooklyn, the daily stresses of whatever. Then you go and play music and your focus is not all there. Out in the woods, it was just all there.

Do you think, even though you had most of the songs already written, that the location bled into the final product, the album itself?

Definitely. We knew where we wanted to place the songs, we knew what order we wanted them to go into —this is all before going up—and we knew the kind of feel we wanted to have throughout. It was pretty easy for us to do, and it was really fun, really enjoyable. It wasn’t forced. Nothing was forced. It was all good. But yeah, we had a good idea of what to do. Bundy and Ryan had some ideas and we just pulled it together.

Can you compare that to making the Kingdom EP?

Making the EP was a lot more work for us, because we were recording at John’s work, at The End Records. We were just using the warehouse, setting our gear up at the end of the work day and going at it for hours. We all have jobs and stuff and it was tiring. We got it done, we got it accomplished, but it was definitely more of a raw version of what we were doing. The straightforward. We didn’t have the time to really overlay all the stuff that we could at the mountain, nor did we have recording capabilities. We did what we could with what we had and I feel like it came out the way it should have. I like it. I like everything that we’ve done so far. Comparing that to going to the mountain, the mountain we went into with a lot more ease and a lot more excitement. It was something to look forward to, so it was more of a positive feeling to it and less of grueling to get it done.

Since you had the songs written, did you know what you needed to add on once the basic tracks were done in overdubs? How much of that was improvised?

For instance, the new recording of ‘Kingdom’ is about three minutes longer. Before we went up, John had restructured our intro to ‘Kingdom.’ That’s just one example. There were a couple other songs where we knew we wanted to keep a gap for things here and there. The sitar in ‘Kingdom’ as well, the big sitar part we had in there, we had Matt Robeson from Brooklyn Street Raga come up and record. We had some friends come up and hang out and pitch in. Some of the other stuff though was improvised. Even on a live recording, when I play drums, I kind of play songs the way I feel they should be played at the time. I don’t necessarily play beat for beat exact from recording to playing live, and rerecording the songs it’s always a bit different. For at least, it’s not so much about trying to play the song exactly the same every time. It’s more or less trying to convey my feeling through what I’m playing on the drums and what I feel like doing. For Bundy and Ryan, it’s more precise as far as note for note. For me, it keeps it interesting. A big part of what I do is improvisation, whether it be recording it live. The structure’s all there. It’s little things. Little fills or different ways of keeping things together.