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Big guitars, haikus, and fake tattoos: an interview with The Sextons

Armed with layered guitars and passionate drumming, The Sextons have managed to gel their instrumental intensity with harmonious, delicate vocals and beautifully crafted atmospheric undertones. Their sound is very reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine and Keep It Like A Secret-era Built To Spill. Recently signed to indie label Princess Records, The Sextons plan to officially launch their self-titled album on Friday, March 5th at Sauce in Uptown.

The album features remarkable sonic qualities, which is credited to the Sextons’ own bassist, Adam Tucker, who engineered, mixed, and mastered the record at Signaturetone Recording in Minneapolis. The rest of The Sextons lineup includes guitarist Adam Fekete, drummer Jake Nyberg, and guitarist/vocalist Eric Moeckel. Ever the gentlemen, Moeckel was gracious enough to chat about the band’s influences, hangouts, and their amusing conception. He even contributed a sophomoric haiku that will likely make readers giggle or gag.

-How did all of you guys meet and how long have you all been performing as The Sextons?
Jake and I have played in bands together since middle school and high school. After college we started a jazzy trip-hop sort of trio with Adam Tucker, who we met through Jake’s brother-in-law. We had a weekly gig at a little brewpub for a couple of years that got a little out of hand, until they had to cut off our beer intake, (they had amazing porter – free pitchers for the band), and we stopped playing there. We were getting really loud, being vulgar, and Jake sometimes showed up in a Tom Jones costume and sang dirty versions of John Mayer tunes instead of bringing his drums. At that time, which was a couple years ago, we were already friends with Adam Fekete, and the three of us started playing in his band Subdivider (which we still do, and are mixing a new album now). I had been writing lots of songs and playing them around town already - solo acoustic singer/songwriter stuff - and at one point I just asked those guys to play some songs that I had written for a band.

-What are some of your major influences?
When I was doing the singer/songwriter thing I was influenced by Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, and I love the subtlety of the chord voicings those guys use. I still do that kind of thing for my rhythm guitar parts. For The Sextons I’d say Built To Spill, My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead, and John Lennon are the major influences. Built To Spill has great guitar tone. The other guys have more of the harmonies that I really like, especially Radiohead – classical music sort of harmonies.

-Briefly describe your songwriting process.
I like to spend a lot of time figuring out songs that I like, and I’ve learned a lot about chord progressions that way. I’ll do that with classical, rock, folk, whatever. I feel if you spend time transcribing the bits of music you like, that music becomes ingrained in you and then when you sit down to write something you’ve kind of picked up a vocabulary and a harmonic palette. So I think that’s really important, but when I actually sit down to write I usually make a lo-fi recording at home of an idea I have, let it sit for a few months, and come back to it fresh and develop it.

-What was it like having Adam as your recording engineer?
Impressive. I don’t know anything about mic placement or anything like that, so when someone sets up mics and it comes out sounding right, it’s always amazing to me because so many times I’ve been miced up and it sounds like crap. Adam’s one of the only people I’ve met who can do that right. Adam’s a part of the band, so it could have turned into some intense head-butting but it never did, so it was all pretty great. And we got to use all that great analog gear they have at Signaturetone, really some of the best equipment in the Cities.

-You have a pretty unique vocal style – how did you hone your vocal skills?
I’ve always thought more harmonically than melodically, so longer notes, like in classical slow movements, suit that style of writing more often than not. When I first started singing I would just focus on hitting the pitch perfectly, and that’s probably also why I gravitate towards longer phrases. When I write words I focus more on how they sound when they’re sung in the context of the music than what the words mean, so that affects it as well.

-Talk briefly about how you ended up signing with a label.
I just sent our CD off to a lot of places to see what would happen. Princess Records liked us and wrote us an email to set up a meeting, and we met up with them and liked everything about it. We’re excited about it, and it’s really easy dealing with them, they’re good people.

-What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened at a show you’ve played?
Some guy came up and cupped our junk while we were playing - that was pretty weird. Also, Jake and I got a make-up artist he knows to make fake, stupid-looking Sextons tattoos on our forearms and bandage them up, and we convinced the other guys that we wanted them to get tattoos as well to “show band solidarity.” That night was probably the weirdest show for those guys – really strange mix of emotions on their faces: disappointment, shame. Saying “why the hell did you do this, what is wrong with you?” It was much more awkward than if we tried to sell them on a pyramid scheme or something.

-What Twin Cities bands do you guys admire most?
I really like the two bands that are playing at our CD release show on Friday, March 5th – These Modern Socks and The Small Cities. Both great. And Subdivider, but I’m biased.

-What albums are you listening to these days?
The Exotic Moods Of Les Baxter is my most recent purchase. I like a radio show called “Jet Set Planet” on KFAI which plays that kind of stuff. It’s on Mondays at 10:30-midnight. Pretty awesome. Also been listening to Broadcast’s Ha Ha Sound and The Noise Made By People.

-The crew of Saved By The Bell had The Max, Seinfeld had Monk’s Café – what Twin Cities spot would be The Sextons’ hangout and why?
We sometimes hang out at Sweeney’s or the 1029 Bar. Sweeney’s used to have $6 pitchers of Hamm’s, and the patio’s great in the summer. 1029 – cheap and shitty, great place.

-Would you like to write a haiku?
Hot rocket down there.
Having a large schlong is most
fun and rewarding.

Listen to The Sextons:

"Full of Holes"

"Post-Fade"

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