Interview: Shapes of Future Frames

Shapes of Future Frames may be a new band, but their faces are familiar. Featuring members of local powerhouses Scarlet Symphony and the Old In Out, the band’s epic arrangements and space-age guitar effects have already earned them a reputation as one of San Diego’s most exciting and innovative live acts.

The group recently finished recording their debut EP, The Minds of Tomorrow, Gone Today, and we caught up with band members Jamie Pawloski and Gary Hankins to talk about the record, the importance of brevity, and what an acoustic Shapes might sound like.

Owl&Bear: How did Shapes of Future Frames come to be?

Jamie Pawloski: Shapes were birthed from an eggless womb. A space baby. A fellow named Andrew Rhymer originally played drums with Jamie in a eight-by-ten kitchen nook, and later I asked Gary to play bass. We originally just played noise with a little bit of melody, mostly goofing around. Eventually we realized we had something good going so we started taking the jams/freakouts and turning them into songs. After we got a few songs under our belts, Andrew had plans to move to Seattle, so we asked Chris [Carrol, of the Old In Out] along for the ride. I had played with him in another band prior so I knew that we’d all get along from our past experience.

Owl&Bear: How is your music different now from the way it sounded on day one?

JP: We’re a lot noisier now. [Laughs] There was a lot of atmosphere. We were experimenting with a lot of different things, but we’re more focused now. In the beginning, we would just play for twenty-five minutes straight.

Owl&Bear: What would happen when you would try to recreate a twenty-five minute song the next time around?

Gary Hankins: It would get shorter. [Laughs]

Owl&Bear: By necessity, I assume?

GH: Yeah, it’s nice to have those long songs and express yourself, or subconsciously express yourself, but as far as playing out goes, no one’s going to want to listen to you play one song for an hour straight. So we made the decision that the songs could still sound out there, but still focus it in the format of a song.

Owl&Bear: To make them bite-sized?

GH: Exactly. You can only eat one piece of pizza at a time, otherwise you get sick.

Owl&Bear: You recently finished recording your first EP. Can you tell me about it?

GH: Chris Grundy, who used to play drums in Thin Man, he has a place called House of Plenty and we recorded there. We did basically all analog, which is pretty cool. He’s recorded a lot of bands: he just recorded the Widows. We recorded five songs. Four of them are original, and one of them is a Yardbirds song [“Evil Hearted You”]. But basically it was just: get in the studio, bang it out, and have something to show.

JP: We only had a little bit of money, and we wanted to get something done quickly, so we recorded five songs. And we just kind of busted it out, recording a live track and we just went over it a couple of times with our vocals and whatnot. It sounds pretty good, actually.

Owl&Bear: Is that most of the material you have so far, or do you have more songs ready for a full-length?

GH: We’ve got plenty of material that we’re working on, but it’ll probably take us another few months to really finalize it. But there’s definitely enough for a full album, and hopefully we’ll be ready to record that in the near future.

JP: We’ve got, like any band, probably, I don’t know, twenty songs boiling around. We have to cook them, have to focus. That’s kind of the downside of the band and our kind of writing process. It’s really easy for us to make music, but the focusing of taking the songs that are 15 minutes long and whittling them down to the three to five minute range can be hard.

Owl&Bear: How does the writing process work in the band? Do the band members generally contribute equally, or does one person pitch a song to the others?

JP: The one thing that’s really fun about being in the band is that we kind of blur the line of who writes the music. It’s not Gary, being from Scarlet, who’s always the one writing the lyrics, or for me playing guitar, I’m not just writing guitar stuff. We all sit down, we write a song that’s fifteen to twenty minutes long and have fun with it. Then it’s like, okay, let’s write the lyrics, so we sit down and throw ideas around. There tends to be a lot of space and a lot of random weirdness, but we’ll throw things out there until one of us finalizes it, but we’re all equal in that process.

Owl&Bear: What are some bands you’re listening to right now?

GH: I’ve been listening to David Bowie, Scott Walker, Huddie Ledbetter, the Veils, Hawkwind, Talking Heads and Patti Smith.

JP: I tend to get obsessed with records more than I do with the bands themselves, but if I’d pick anyone it ranges from Brian Eno, Radiohead, Faust, David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Oneida, Miles Davis. Anything with old analog synthesizers pretty much.

Owl&Bear: One of the big draws of seeing you play is the wide range of crazy guitar effects you use. What would an acoustic Shapes of Future Frames sound like?

JP: An acoustic Shapes sound? [laughs] I would say that Shapes Acoustic would sound like psychedelic folk. [To Gary] Does that sound right?

GH: Not at all.

JP: Gary says not at all.

GH: It would sound like a spliff grinder.