You wouldn’t think that such seamless, gauzy prettiness could grow from a sweaty attic.
“It got really hot up there in summer, so doing vocals I’d be sweating a lot,” Casey Cooper remembers of The Receiver’s latest recording sessions at their friend’s home studio. “You’d have the occasional neighbour mowing his lawn, so I’d have to pause and wait for that to end. And we couldn’t have the AC on, ’cos it was too loud…”
“What he’s trying to say is that it was really glamorous,” big brother Jesse cuts in.
We’re speaking to the Coopers about the release of All Burn, the sublime follow-up to 2009’s Length Of Arms. In fact, the brothers started work on All Burn directly after the Length… tour, but the unexpected break-up with their producer put a halt to proceedings. Undeterred, Casey spent some time writing independent film soundtracks before the pair decamped to the aforementioned attic, teaming up with mixer Danny Kalb of Beck, Karen O and Foster The People fame.
Welcome To The Machine changed my entire perspective on music.
“We wanted to focus more on groove, and experiment with drum beats,” Casey says. “It’s not Jethro Tull progressive. It’s progressive in terms of expanding song structures, atypical phrasing, but what’s most important to us is to have a strong thread of melody throughout the music.”
The strength of said melody in the exquisite likes of songs like Dark Matter – think Pink Floyd getting spacey with Air and Blonde Redhead – may have had something to do with the turbulent, intense period in Casey’s relationship with his girlfriend, which forms the thematic core of All Burn (“I know it’s a total cliche,” he says). Happily, the pair are still together, “So everything sombre I write is laced with a sense of hope!”
Growing up in Ohio, the Coopers were pushed towards piano lessons as five-year-olds, and the house was filled with the sounds of classic rock and Radiohead. Then, when they were in high school, Jesse introduced Casey to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.
“I particularly remember him playing me Welcome To The Machine, which changed my entire perspective on music,” Casey enthuses. “The synth work in there, the analogue tones and the darkness to the song… I loved it. That had a huge influence on me in terms of my writing style.”
Jesse played on the local circuit in Columbus when Casey was still in school, but knew they’d end up playing music together. “It all fell together with Casey’s senior thesis,” he explains. “That was basically the beginning of The Receiver.”
Said thesis – a 20-minute electronic music piece – formed the nucleus of their 2006 debut Decades. For Casey, it was a relief to leave the academic world in favour of the stylings they’ve crafted ever since. And now their sights are set on a big opening slot – ideally with Radiohead, if they’ll have them.
“I’d love to be taken up by a bigger band,” sighs Casey. “Give us a crack at that 35-minute opening slot, do that a few times, then do our own headline.”
When downing tools, the Coopers find escapism in the great outdoors: Jesse with long-distance running, while Casey opts for kayaking and hiking. “And I’m a closet meathead – I love UFC,” he adds sheepishly. “My girlfriend and I are sports fans, we both love the NBA. It counterbalances me a bit.”