By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
Since its inception, Carbon Choir has explored many styles of music — all very different from the teenage punk rock of Petrol Apathy, an outfit in which some of the members used to play. Frontman Joel Van Horne left that band in 1999 because he felt like he wanted more from music than just three chords and attitude.
Teaming up with two of his ex-bandmates, drummer Scott Weidner and bassist Ryan Fechter, and the only keyboardist to answer an ad posted at CU-Boulder, Chris Hatton, Van Horne formed Carbon Choir in 2007. By the time of 2009's High Beams, the band had discovered an emotionally stirring amalgam of power pop, jazz and a melancholy yet triumphant spirit.
For their latest offering, Sakhalin, the four have continued to hone their sound without losing their talent for building expansive moods or their penchant for impassioned live shows. We talked with them recently about the new album.
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Westword: Your new album is called Sakhalin, which is part of Russia. Why did you choose such an unusual name?
Joel Van Horne: The song "Sakhalin" is a story that's fictional and plays on that feeling that anyone can relate to shortly after a breakup and imagining or fantasizing a reconciliation with that person. It takes place mainly under a tree on a hill. Sort of a strange world I created for that song. It seemed like a good place to put that story in the real world, and it happens to be a kind of tree, so it worked. It was like, write this song and this name suggested itself, and it made sense to call the record that.
Chris Hatton: Plus we wanted to make it very difficult to pronounce.
Ryan Fechter: We're just hoping to blow up in northeast Russia playing the Bering Strait circuit.
For your previous record, High Beams, you pared back several songs from those recorded. Did you do that this time out?
JVH: Not as many. We decided to record fewer songs this time and focus our energy on less material and see what came of that. We also simplified what we were doing in the studio. With High Beams, I remember many times sitting there thinking, "Oh, there could be a really cool violin line there – let's try that." So it got dense and thick, and there was a lot of extra stuff we ended up adding to the record in post. This one was much more simple, and we focused our efforts a lot more on getting really great tones on drum and bass.
RF: With a focus on drum and bass, there's a better rock-and-roll foundation. I think we all felt that High Beams felt a little more refined. It kind of had too polished of a sound. We thought that if we had a more solid foundation of rock-and-roll-sounding drums and bass and a nice, full, rich, punchy sort of texture, that that would be a better place to build from.