Big Sir talk new album: Before Gardens, After Gardens

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It was a special night at the Bootleg Theater this past Friday when Big Sir took the stage for their headline spot.

The duo of Juan Alderete, bassist of The Mars Volta, and composer/vocalist Lisa Papineau (Pet, ME & LP) played their first show together in a long time (possibly years!). The band mostly performed songs off their upcoming album Before Gardens, After Gardens, scheduled for release on January 10th 2012, their third full-length album and first release in six years.

To make the event more special, they performed with the assistance of musicians/friends Cedric Bixler-Zavala (The Mars Volta, De Facto) on drums, Jonathan Hitschke (Le Butcherettes, Broken Bells) on bass and keys, and Matt Embree (Rx Bandits) who appeared on two tracks.

“We knew that it was going to be a little bit of a mess,” said Papineau, after the show, “but we had so much fun. We are all involved in a lot of projects and, sometimes, it can get pretty heavy, so to just come up and have a fun show, pure fun, was a gift to me.”

The show, featuring opening acts Greenhorse and The Sea of Cortez, delivered a set filled with both melodic and danceable tunes. Papineau’s vocals floated over the bass harmonies of Hitschke’s lower-end bass and Alderete’s jazz-like, trebled bass guitar sounds. And for those wondering, yes, Zavala was great behind the drum kit.

Many of the new songs used a variety of samples that, in this case, were looped off of Alderete’s iPad. The duo readily admits that Before Gardens, After Gardens relies on more programming and sampling than their past records.

“The reason why at least half the record is more electronic,” said Alderete, “is because Lisa and I can do it ourselves where, before, we always had to ask somebody, we always had to go into the studio. Now we can make these records that, to us, sound like hip-hop records even though they’re not hip-hop records. We just wanted beats! We’ve always wanted that and now that we build it all, we’re just going to get better at it.”

“In this [album], we both started learning engineering skills and a lot of trial and error,” said Paineau. “That’s why it took us so long because we decided we want to do it ourselves. We did have a lot of help though.”

“The hardest part is mixing,” said Alderete, “so Lars Stalfors [of The Mars Volta] mixed five tracks and Robert Carranza did all the other tracks. I hope people get the idea that we’re not claiming to be Low End Theory dudes. Now we can make beats and we’ll just get better and better and have more fun with it. We’ve always wanted to do dance music!”

“That’s our connection,” said Papineau. “That and fretless bass.”

Catch Big Sir as they make their way up the West Coast: