Interview: Rob Cantor
Mon, 02 Jun 2014 10:29:19
Rob Cantor has the secret. He knows how to make pop music that’s both aurally delightful and lyrically thought-provoking. If you take a jump on his new album Not a Trampoline, you’ll know exactly what that means. He walks a fine line between ethereal musings and pure pop bliss, and it’s a wonderful place to be. Nobody can walk it like him either, which is why Not a Trampoline stands out as so vibrant and vital.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Rob Cantor discusses Not a Trampoline and so much more.
Did you approach Not a Trampoline with one singular vision in mind?
I was actually worried it wasn't going to come together as one piece. The songs are pretty disparate. There are threads of connectedness, but the songs were all written as self-contained works. I wouldn't say there was a vision for the album as a whole from the outset. It was more of a collection of songs, and they were definitely disparate-sounding, especially in my demo form. Working with my producer Gregtronic, I think they all fit together nicely now. I'm not sure how that came together. It was almost a happy accident.
At the same time, the music is very diverse.
I always get bored listening to albums where a band only has one sound. Even if it's a great sound, you get tired of it after six songs. When I listen to music and make it, I aspire to having variety from song to song.
What's the story behind "Perfect"?
I wrote that one with my friend Andrew [Horowitz]. We were in a band called Tally Hall together. He lives in New York, and he was visiting me in Los Angeles. We hadn't seen each other in about six months after being in a band together and living in a bus for five years more or less. We moved to separate cities. The song just sort of happened. He came to visit Los Angeles. The day he arrived, we went out, got some dinner, had some drinks, came back to my place, and started writing a song at around 11pm. At 5am, we had "Perfect".
How did "La Telenovela" [featuring Jhameel] come together?
It was the fragment I had sitting around that I could never finish. The verse and pre-chorus were living in my head for a couple of years without lyrics. I played it for my friend Jhameel, and he said he had an idea of where to take it for the chorus. We started working on it together. Thinking of it as a duet and making it a melodrama brought it into focus for me somehow. We were able to finish it that way.
Is it important for you to paint pictures and tell stories with the songs?
That was something I learned from [Hawley]; in Tally Hall. He's a filmmaker and a very visual guy. He's really great at creating a cinematic world with a soundscape and somehow conjuring up visuals from the sound of a song and hopefully the melody lives and plays in that world. I like to think I got that from him.
Where does your writing process typically begin?
It differs from song to song. Sometimes, it starts with a melody. Other times, it will start with a little lyrical nugget, a couple of words, or a turn of phrase. It just depends. Usually, the melody comes first. Then, it's a war of attrition between me and the lyrics. I'm trying to figure out what words sound like the melody and fit well, staring at my computer screen.
What artists shaped you?
I'd say The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Queen. They're the ones who have had the biggest impact on me. I love Elliott Smith and Paul Simon as well. Those are the ones that I keep coming back to and listening to over and over again.
If you were to compare the album to a movie or a combination of movies, what would be the cinematic equivalent of it?
I guess it would have to be something that takes itself seriously but not too seriously. It has a sense of humor, but it can also be meaningful. That's a good question! I'll say Big starring Tom Hanks. I'll probably be thinking about this for days now [Laughs]. Big is a heartfelt movie. It has an emotional quality to it, but it can laugh it itself.
Have you heard Rob Cantor yet?