Ohio is home to a number of incredible artists and bands: Kim Deal of The Pixies and The Breeders, Cloud Nothings, Guided By Voices, Jason Molina and countless others. Cincinnati’s Ampline are among these incredible artists.
After touring and playing for nearly 20 years, Ampline have perfected their driving, dark breed of indie rock. And their new record, "Passion Relapse," is almost a textbook guide to post-punk. Mike Montgomery (guitar), Rick McCarty (drums) and Kevin Schmidt (bass) have managed to create a record that captures a variety of sounds while maintaining a consistent mood. Songs like opener “Shrunken Heads” and “Captions” are relentless, driving and maniacal while the title track and “Edger Chaos” are much more brooding.
I recently had the privilege to discuss the new record and more with guitarist Mike Montgomery. Check out our interview below.
You tracked "Passion Relapse" live, if I’m not mistaken. How did that process affect the sound of this record?
We wanted to make an album that sounded like we hope we sound when we play together in a room. Our previous recordings have had more layers and overdubs, and we really tried to keep this one pretty bare-bones.
The core of the songs, drums, bass and guitar, are all live, all one continuous take. No edits or punch-ins. Once we had a take where each of us was happy, I'd double a guitar or add a squiggle then do the vocals. That idea, to keep it raw, carried over to the mixing... I didn't use a computer or any automation, I just mixed it like I used to in the 90s and early 2000s.... just practice my fader moves and then do a sort of performance-based mix as it's printing off to the 2-track mix down recorder.
Was the writing process for "Passion Relapse" different than any other previous album?
There were a couple that I had as pretty finished thoughts, but we still like to get in the room and hash it all out. We've been playing most of these live for quite a while, so everyone sort of adds their touch to a song over time, regardless of who had the initial idea for it.
Did you use any interesting gear recording "Passion Relapse"?
I'm biased. We recorded at my studio, Candyland, and I think everything there is interesting! We recorded on 2" tape using an Otari MTR 90 mk2, 24 track tape machine and I mixed it through a Harrison SM5 analog console. There's a depth or dimensionality that I can achieve with the drums and bass on tape that I sometimes miss in the computer.
You have been doing this for a long time. How have you remained inspired after nearly two decades of DIY touring?
Having ideas and wanting to make music and go out and play is something that never really wanes....doing a band with the same people and grinding it out against the miserable financial climate of the music world... that's the part that takes work. We started as friends and we try to remember to put that first. It is a relationship and it does take work. Our lives have changed through the years, so we try to acknowledge that we're long distance runners, not sprinters.
Are you excited about Athens Popfest?
We're thrilled to play Athens PopFest. I played there with another band I'm in, R.Ring, and I remember telling Rick and Kevin from Ampline what a great time it was, so we're really glad to have been invited. Mike Turner, Marie Uhler and all of the staff and volunteers are incredible.
What have you been listening to lately? Any favorite albums of 2018?
Mixes from an unreleased album by a band called 'Quailbones' from Murray, KY. They're great.
Floating Action, Bat Fangs, A.M. Nice, Cold Cream, Post Pink, Flasher, Melkbelly, Vacation, Your Heart Breaks, Earth.
What’s next for Ampline?
We're trying to write some more stuff. After this short August run, we'll do some long weekends to finish off the year... then I guess we'll play more shows next year… make a new album… play some more shows after that... how do we get off this ride?!
Ampline will appear this week at Athens Popfest, which runs from Aug. 8-11 in Athens, GA.