Jeremy Malvin had a big year in 2014, lunch-wise: The Squirrel Hill-born electronic musician known as Chrome Sparks ate lunch with a different person every day of the year, and chronicled the project on his blog, Lunch With Jeremy. It was an attempt to branch out, and to break out of the solitary, graveyard-shift songwriting that electronic musicians tend to rely on. It seems to have worked.
Beyond the lunches, 2014 was a highlight year for the now-Brooklyn-based Chrome Sparks, including a tour with The Glitch Mob, a flurry of remixes and singles, and the release of his third EP, Goddess, a pristine six-song showcase of his disorienting, percussion-driven songwriting.
With a full-length in the works and a DJ set opening for RJD2 coming up at Mr. Small's, CP spoke with Malvin by phone to talk sampling, bad music and lunch.
You ate lunch with a different person every day of 2014. How have those lunches affected your music?
Well, in an abstract way, over the course of those lunches, I've picked up little things from people. Like little tidbits of information that have informed what I'm after in music, in general, as far as what purpose I want my music to have and who should be listening to it, why I'm making it, what I feel about it, if I should care whether anybody else likes it. There have been very philosophical discussions during some of the lunches. ... I can't specifically pinpoint how it's affected the way I work, but I'm sure it has.
- On the beat: Chrome Sparks' Jeremy Malvin
And then there have been more specific things, like learning about different new plug-ins or equipment or instruments or artists. For example, I went to one lunch with a drummer and studio engineer and was mentioning that my tape inside my space echo [a sound-effect device] was busted. And he pulled out a tape loop from his backpack, and that day I went back to the studio, put it in, and recorded stuff through the space echo that was broken. So it's affected my music in a lot of different ways, both big-picture and small-picture.
Would you say your forthcoming full-length has a direct relationship to the lunches?
I'd say that the lunches and the album I'm working on lived together and were formed together and grew up together, stayed good friends and now they're both far apart from each other, because I'm not doing the lunches anymore and I'm still working on the album. But, they still keep in touch, the lunches and the albums.
You're working on a lot of new music this month. Is this music for the full-length?
I have absolutely nothing figured out. I'm just putting together a lot of tracks and seeing how they can be ... I'm trying to figure out the best way to organize them, whether it's an album and an EP, or two EPs or just a whole bunch of singles. So I'm not necessarily tied to it being an album, but we'll see how well the tracks I'm working on pan out. And then, I'll figure out what's best for them.
When you're listening to a record, what do you hear that makes you want to sample it?
If there's an isolated moment in a track, when I'm listening to a record or a track online, in which there's only a small amount of things going on, I think about how malleable it is and what kind of purpose it could take on if I were to record it and screw around with it on my computer. Or run it through different effects, or put it into something I'm working on. So I guess just a moment in a track at which something is clear and special and isolated is what I would listen for.
As an artist who samples from a wide variety of sources, is there any genre of music that you completely dislike?
I think the one kind of music that I find no personal redeeming qualities in would be modern country-pop. That's the one thing that I can't find anything I can connect to or that I like in. Older, more folky country, that's great, that's awesome, that has its time and its place for me. But new modern pop-country music, that's the one I'd throw under the bus.
You're opening for RJD2 and have called him a big influence. What did you take away from his music growing up?
I think he was one of the first sample-based artists that I got into, and [at the time] I didn't really understand that that was possible. Since then, I've learned a lot more about that whole world and how you can take samples from individual parts of songs and find the drum break [or] the section where it's just horns, and turn it into your own thing. For me, that was really exemplified early on by what RJD2 was doing and that was hugely inspirational.
How did this show come together?
I was asked by James Gyre. He's an awesome Pittsburgh artist and DJ and community organizer. He reached out to me and asked me to head back for that, which is a total dream because I would go to Mr. Small's all the time growing up in Pittsburgh. Always wished that I could eventually be on stage.