Sights & Sounds Interview September 8th, 2009

Subba Cultcha sat down with Adrian for a quick interview leading up to their UK dates this fall. Go to for the full interview.

Sights & Sounds is vocalist/guitarist Andrew Neufeld, drummer Joel Neufeld, bassist Matt Howes, and guitarist Adrian Mottram. Featuring members of notable bands such as Comeback Kid and Sick City, Sights & Sounds is comprised of a unique and talented group of musicians with a collective knack for creating music that is refreshing and interesting. Their debut full length album, Monolith, will be released in the UK on 7th September 2009 via Distort/United By Fate. Produced by Devin Townsend (Darkest Hour, Misery Signals, Bleeding Through), Monolith is a collection of intricate songs that straddles the line between sonically massive and a beautiful experiment in textured sounds. Citing bands such as Mew, Afghan Wigs, Foo Fighters, Sigur Ros and Smashing Pumpkins as influences, Sights & Sounds is able to create something that is as much music as it an incendiary celebration of life and friendship. “The inspiration for the songs comes from life experience, current events, literature, poems and from reflections on the human condition,” explains Adrian, who adds “The other guys in the band bring so many different creative elements to the table that the energy around us when we are together is both towering and vast.” Their acute dedication and musical capability is evident both in their live show and on Monolith, and these qualities are bringing Sights & Sounds to the attention of audiences worldwide.

How are you? Where does this Q&A find you? I’m doing very well thanks. Right now I’m in Vancouver BC (the west coast of Canada) just drinking some coffee.

How did the recording sessions for your new release go? The recording experience was phenomenal. It’s been about a year since we started recording and often I find myself reflecting on all of the information my brain was bombarded with, and immersed in during that time. I think everyone in the band has pulled some pieces of inspiration from the experience.  We were very fortunate to have had worked with Devin Townsend on this record. He’s the kind of producer that has the insight and vision to bring a unique space to any band. He’s a genius but has since pulled back from producing bands and is currently working on a quad of albums of his own material to wrap up 2009.  We were so very fortunate to have had the opportunity to have done Monolith with him.

What goals did you set yourself before you started recording? Did you do anything differently this time, on purpose? why? I’ve had a history of bashing heads with producers creatively and ethically. It was important to respect the idea that we needed really interesting atmospheres surrounding our music, knowing that Devin has a unique vision and gifted ability to achieve that in his own way. I knew I needed to be patient and have faith that he was going to do the right thing. It’s very easy to get attached to specific sounds in your head. A reality that keeps coming back is that certain guitar tones don’t actually exist! Or, there isn’t a budget to spend time with 15 really old guitar amps and 30 vintage guitars to find that tone, so you have to let go. I knew I needed to be patient and not be so attached to an “absolute” vision on how the material needed to sound.  Some people are talented as technicians in the studio but they lack feel and don’t provide a good conduit to the creative process. One bad experience years ago taught me a tremendous amount about how close I am to the music, and it’s important to maintain a healthy perspective on the task at hand. That includes having the foresight on hiring the right engineers and producers that are the proper fit for the job. You can also scar somebody emotionally when they think they are doing a great job and you have to tell them it’s absolute shit. (None of this happened with Dev. I’m speaking of an entirely separate situation about 8 years ago.) Devin has definitely set the bar for Sights & Sounds, and for Rock and Roll. It was a pleasure working with him. We are so very thankful for his patience.

What do you feel are your own limitations when it comes to creating/writing music? For Monolith I was focusing most of my energy on the arrangements and performing my guitar parts with the right feel. Andrew has a particular talent in arrangements and I love watching him take an idea and run with it. Having the opportunity to work with him has really opened my eyes and ears. It’s really easy for me to write songs on my own with dense harmonic structure, making it fairly difficult for a second guitar player to fit in, and not sound like they are competing for space. Understanding Andrew and Matt’s abilities as writers, musicians, and players I knew I could space things out and not feel the need to fill in all the blanks before bringing it to the table. That was a huge exercise for me. I also get frustrated when I hear a huge piece of music ripping through my head and if I start to think about writing it out to early in the game, or I’m running to the computer to load up Pro Tools my focus has been known to drift, and the music begins to fade away then sometimes I’m running in circles with a melody line or riff. I would like to develop a 5.1 output jack on the side of my head that would allow me to record the music directly and accurately as I hear it. Also, when people call my phone when I’m writing or knock on my door and ask absolutely ridiculous questions, that breaks my concentration. I definitely need to cut the world off when I’m in writing mode.

Tell us 3 of your favourite songs from your career and the inspiration behind them?  Let me stoke the memory a little bit… I’ll preface by stating that whenever I finish an album, or a song, or a project,  it is important to step up my process with what I’ve recently learned and apply it to the next situation. It’s not that I devalue anything I’m a part of, but it’s important for the process to grow and mature and evolve into something bigger or more defined as I move through the years as a writer/performer. In a sense I always feels like I’m at the beginning. I would like to nurture that feeling to be a motivating factor in continuing to learn everything I possibly can.
So here we go.

1) There was a band I was in when I was 17, at that time I didn’t have clouded judgment or a fierce analytical approach to my writing (both of which later grew to destroy my creative side for a brief time). It was also my first experience I had with recording. I had just acquired a Roland VS1880 virtual 8 track and wanted to put it to use. The guys I was playing with were musicians I really looked up to and together we wrote some killer songs. I still feel like my guitar playing was at a certain peak then because I didn’t really care about anything else. I would come home from school and practice all night. I was also the youngest one in the band so at the time this motivated me to prove my worth to these guys and it definitely shows when I look back. In a way I built the archetypes that allowed me to have a starting place down the road. The song was called The Bazooka Drive-by and I still can’t play as fast as I did on that recording.

2) I played bass for years in a band called The Getaway. One song that remains in my top personal favorites is the track “Rescue me”. When it came down to writing the bridge I kept thinking “make it heavier, it needs to be darker and heavier” so we dropped the tuning and wrote a ripping mid section. During the recording session we had a really good friend of ours put a shred guitar solo over it. This was the first song for me where I felt like the darker side of my writing was colouring the project at hand.

3) A friend of mine visited me in the Rockies a few years ago. We ended up writing a really cool song in this empty mansion on the side of a mountain. It was the perfect place to make as much noise as we wanted and stay in the music. It’s cool to have acquaintances that are heavily involved in the creative process as well. It’s like you start to occupy a really comfy space outside your body. Every time I get a chance to hang out with Jon he shows me a really interesting twist to songwriting. I know I have the master tapes from that jam in a storage unit somewhere. He also recorded it as “The Jon Eddy Band” the song was “Downward Spiral”.

4) Naturally as Sights & Sounds entered my life. I found myself more respectful of the opportunity. Especially now holding my guitar once again. Being aware of everyone’s abilities - I knew how to write and direct ideas in a conducive way. I’ve had several incredible moments writing the material with Matt, Andrew, and Joel. To pick one out specifically…I’ll go with the song “Borderlines”. The initial inspiration for this song came from a desire to incorporate world influences into my music. On the demo I had a friend play didgeridoo in a bathtub to get a really big sound and from there I put acoustic guitar over the rest of the song, then added some ambient layers and some breathy background vocals. I wanted to convey the feeing of growth, and what often comes with growth is separation so by the end of the piece I wanted it to be big and spaced out. When Andrew came back with the direction he was going to take lyrically, I felt an abundant sense of synchronicity. It was a self affirming moment if I do say so myself.

What do you love and what do you hate about life on the road? Tell us your funniest tour experience yet? Touring is an incredible experience especially when certain aspects of life can seem so mundane and routine. I encourage random situations and experiences into my life. I never know who I’m going to meet, what I’m gong to see and hear, or where a conversation will take me. These experiences are what provide limitless inspiration to songwriting. An ongoing story for Sights & Sounds is trying to stay out of trouble, and this always leads us to more trouble somewhere else down the line.  I’m not at liberty to divulge any tour stories at this time. So use your imagination and keep it to yourself.

What are the bands plans for the rest of the year? What exactly do you want to achieve with your band, now and in the future? We are about to start a very brief western Canadian tour before going to Europe. We start that tour in Portugal and go all the way through Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary and the UK.  We are also booking another Canadian tour in the end of November into December. I think we are going to try and get to Australia and Japan and definitely do something in the US in the new year. We are always talking about adding some really cool visuals to the live show but when you have an opening or middle slot it’s often chaos enough to set up what we already have without pissing off the other tour managers and promoters. ha. How would you describe your own/bands sound, or what do you hate being labelled as? I think we are a Progressive, Psychedelic, Rock band. I’m not sure if we have been labelled as anything yet. We are still fairly new to the worlds ears.

Who is currently moving you musically at the moment? I’m on a heavy Tool kick. I really admire what they have to say and how they acknowledge and respect the intangible and unknown. A band like this who can go all the way with one extreme. It allows me to gain perspective with my point of view on where, and how I can direct specific ideas. I read recently that the singer really hates singing certain songs live for very personal reasons. I think if he hadn’t talked about these issues and chosen to avoid certain topics the songs wouldn’t be anything near what they became and wouldn’t have allowed the listener to connect to a very subtle feeling within the music. Perhaps it hurts to do it again, and again every night but apparently life is all about suffering so thanks for the wisdom. The composer Richard Struss (2001 Space Odyssey) is a favorite of mine. In his compositions for the film he was using certain production techniques that I am very connected to. The “Requiem” using mostly voices to create that uneasy tension paralleling with this sense of realization brings the “Rawness Of Life” to mind. I admire that ability in a composer.Anything Greg Dulli does is always a hit to me and the rest of the guys in the band. He was somebody who came along and stopped me in my tracks. He carries an elegant sense of mystique and evilness. He’s pretty bad ass and on a rough day he can make you feel pretty damn good about things.

What album changed your life and why? What ONE? That’s a brutal question to bring it all down to one single solitary album. As a guitar player? Paco De Lucia “Live In America”. Also the album he did with John McGlaughlin, and Al Di Melola. I was lucky enough to see him perform at Massy Hall in Toronto a number of times. He would just lay into the guitar and make it sing, and scream. It blew my mind. I remember going home and immediately trying to teach myself how to play guitar like him. Maybe one day I’ll learn flamenco properly on the streets of Madrid. I’ll throw in one more story. I can remember having dinner with my family when I was about 13 or 14. I was probably going on about guitars or drum sounds and I remember my Dad saying. “You want to hear something cool?” He put on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon” and we listened to the whole thing. When the song “Money” came on he informed me that was 7/8 time. I now write a lot of material in 7. I have a story for pretty much every significant event in my life and it’s usually tied into music somehow.

If you could erase one single/album from history (your own or someone else’s) which would it be and why? NONE. All of them provide a relationship to one another. Without the worst albums written or recorded how would we truly appreciate the great ones? How would planets have any relation to stars? Or small fries to supersize?

Best piece of advice you’d give to aspiring musicians, or the best piece of advice you were given when you started? I have found that anything that ignites the imagination is an excellent way to gain an understanding of expression. It’s also important to practice your instrument. Not just practicing at home or in your room. Practice playing live, practice writing songs you really don’t like and turn them into songs you love. Understand that the instrument is a tool and it will become an extension of you. Eventually you will be able to express your ideas out as soon as they appear in your mind. Playing along to your favorite records is always a good exercise. The more you put into learning it the more you will get out of it.

If you’re in a car going at the speed of light, and someone turns the headlamps on, would they do anything?  Well yes absolutely, I would be able to notify that I’m making a lane change


I’ll say this is for 2009.1. Vengeance - Tragedy (Very groovy and heavy). 2. Disruptor - Devin Townsend (It reminds me of a very important time in my recent career)3.  Tool - Lateralus (A bar of 9, a bar of 8, and a bar of 7. What more could I say)4.  Daniel Lanois - Two Worlds (What an awesome way to open a record)5.  The Beatles - Because (It takes me out to lunch and picks up the tab) Thanks!You are very welcome!

26.10.09   UK   Cardiff   Barfly
27.10.09   UK   Leeds   Josephs Well
28.10.09   UK   Brighton   Engine Room
29.10.09   UK   London   Underworld
30.10.09   UK   Nottingham   Rock City
31.10.09   UK   Plymouth   White Rabbit

Category: Sights and Sounds