Based in Brooklyn, the Depreciation Guild made prominent use of the Nintendo Famicom early in its career to build electronic rhythms to underlay founder Kurt Feldman's luminously melodic guitar pop. Inspired in part by artistically ambitious synth-pop bands of the '80s as well as experimental, melodic guitar bands like Cocteau Twins, Kitchens of Distinction and Pale Saints, Feldman and the band have succeeded in effecting the perfect alloy of the elements that inspired their songwriting.
The proof can be heard on the act's latest release, Spirit Youth. Though clearly drawing from a musical era long past, the Depreciation Guild infuses the whole with modern sensibilities, arriving at something that comes off not so much as retro as it does the next link in the evolution of a sound. We spoke with the always thoughtful Feldman about his youth in music, the early days of his band, and its aesthetic touchstones.
Westword: How did you get into non-mainstream music and then the underground scene?
Kurt Feldman: I went to a music camp when I was eleven, and I became friends with a lot of kids who were older than me, like eighteen. There were a couple of summers where I would go to concerts with them, and they'd show me cool stuff and make me mixtapes. That was a big part of my upbringing. I could play pretty well at a younger age, so I was able to hang out with those guys and play music with them. I was cool enough, or at least musically competent enough, to hang out with those kids.
How did the Depreciation Guild come together?
I guess it started with just me writing songs. I always liked older video games, and I wanted to compose that kind of stuff. I had these songs in my head, and I thought the compositions were interesting. So I went on the Internet and figured out that there was this program called Nerdtracker II. It's a tracker, which is like a sequencer, but you put all the information in by hand, using the computer keyboard instead of an actual MIDI interface.
The arrangements on Spirit Youth are reminiscent of some of those great synth-pop bands of the '80s like Tears for Fears and Talk Talk. What bands of that era had the greatest influence on your own work?
Those bands you named are two I absolutely love. There's a band I love called Gangway. They're from Denmark, and they were a major influence on what I've tried to do. Scritti Politti is another one. I think I like those bands because of their chord changes and arrangements. I think there's something to be said for musicianship in all of those bands. We try to carry that torch. There's a lot of really lazy songwriting out there right now, and we always try to keep it interesting. I don't know how well we succeed, but that's what we strive for.