Arc In Round's Jeff Zeigler on Balancing Life as a Producer and Performer
A swirl of krautrock and shoegaze, Arc In Round (formerly known as Relay) draws as much influence from Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine as they do Camberwell Now and Can. The four-piece are also a primary figure in the Philadelphia music scene, thanks in large part to lead guitarist and vocalist Jeff Zeigler's production work on more than 20 albums, including Phoenix locals Lymbyc Systym's Shutter Release and Kurt Vile's Childish Prodigy.
Arc In Round is also bassist Josh Meakim, keyboardist/vocalist Mikele Edwards and drummer Matt Ricchini. The band are currently on tour with Frightened Rabbit, but for their upcoming Yucca Tap Room show, they'll have local act Knesset opening for them.
We called up Zeigler to discuss his band's varied influences, the changes they've faced as a band and their debut self-titled album.
Up On The Sun: Ever been to Phoenix before? What do you think of this place? Jeff Zeigler: Yeah, we've never played Phoenix before, but I've been there before with the band Frightened Rabbit. We toured through a while back. I used to do sound for them back in the day. I have been through before.
It's a cool little town. I don't have a full sense of it. It's one of those things where you're in for a day and then you're out. I've been through there, more so than actual Phoenix. It's real nice out there. It's one of those areas when you're in and out of an area in a day, it's hard to get a total figure on the pulse of what's going on.
I read that you produced Lymbyc Systym, Kurt Vile, War on Drugs, and a number of others. Who are you working with lately?
I'm working on some new War on Drugs stuff. You know, flushing out some songs for the follow-up to their last full-length. Our bassist [Josh Meakim] is also in the band A Sunny Day in Glasgow, so we've been in the process of working on their next record as well, which has been going really well. We're working with Ramesh Srivastava, he's the ex-leader singer of Voxtrot. We're working on that, too and a variety of other projects.
Do you prefer composing your own songs or producing for other artists? They both kind of go hand-in-hand. They both have their pluses and minuses. Certainly, if I'm away from working on music for too long of my own, I tend to get a little crazy. Having broader control on the creative process than just producing. They both work for each other really well. I feel like I've definitely learned a lot about people's creative processes in general and something about my own creative process. I don't think I could tolerate not working on my own music. I could probably give up producing other records easily, but it'd be a hard sell either way.
I know the band name is a reference to a Disco Inferno song, but do you know what Arc In Round means?
I don't really think there is much of a specific meaning to it. It's more of the imagery of it all, I suppose. More of just the overall sound and feel and the aesthetic of what they were doing as a band than necessarily trying to pull any meaning from it.
I definitely think the name fits. When I think of Arc in Round as a band and listened to the music it definitely fit to the ideas I got from the name. Yeah, yeah.
Arc in Round reminds me a lot of My Bloody Valentine. Are you sick of the comparisons? It's fine. There's definitely an influence. I don't know if the influences come across like that precisely, so it's fine, it's gonna happen. And they're a band we like a lot, but I think if we were doing something more heavily indebted directly to that, it might bother me. I think there was a point in which it did, the whole shoegaze thing kinda bothered me, but you kinda get over it. It is one of the things we're all heavily influenced by. Certainly not the only thing, so it's gonna happen.
Would you say there's a stronger influence coming from another direction other than shoegaze? I'd say just as much, if not more, '70s krautrock. The styles of Can ... that whole world. And to a different extent, more like '70s post-punk stuff like This Heat or Camberwell Now. I think especially Camberwell Now were a pretty big influence on us, especially on me production-wise and that was a good part of the last record. That stuff is also more machine logic progressive music than it is post-punk in some ways. There's a little bit more emphasis on musicianship and there's a lot more going on in terms of changes, etc. Which I think influences what we do or are thinking. A lot more noise introduced in a different way than it is in shoegaze music, a little bit more randomly I guess.
But back to shoegaze, is there a reason you're not lo-fi? I mean, I own a studio and I guess a big part of what I like is the contrast between sounds that are a little bit more crisp and clear and things that are a little big more murky and low fidelity. I mean, if you soloed some of the tracks on the record, they're pretty distorted and messed up. There are times that we take drums and maybe run them through a Dictaphone the same time we record them through a regular set-up and you kinda just sneak that in there, so it adds like a different texture. We're trying to span the spectrum of sound as opposed to adhering to one or the other.
I personally think hi-fi is better than lo-fi, so I was wondering if there was a preference for that. Yeah, it seems kind of limiting, I guess. There are bands I love that have done that really well and there's that contrast between a song that's recorded really well in the studio and something else that's recorded at home on like a 4-track. It's done really murkily and sometimes that can work really well on a record. We just didn't do that, at least this time around. Also, stuff that's just lo-fi all the time can get pretty one-dimensional after a while. You lose something that I'm not necessarily interested in losing.
Was changing your name from Relay difficult? It's kinda a different band altogether, so not so much. I think it was difficult to make that decision to not have that band anymore and start new more so than anything else. It was a big drop. The only original members of that band ... Well, the only very original member of that band would be myself. I didn't really feel comfortable keeping that name and not having the same lineup because they were all a really big part of it. It's always difficult to start a new band off of something else, kind of gaining ground. I felt like when Mikele [Edwards] who also writes a lot, became a partner in writing everything it seemed logical for us to switch it up. It was also nice for us to start afresh.
Did you release an album under that name? We released a full-length and an EP on this label Bubble Core that's now defunct. It was the label of the main guy behind Mice Parade.
Do you have any plans for those records, to maybe redo them with Arc in Round? Maybe at some point. It's not something I really think about too much, but I could totally be persuaded to do it at some point if there's actually some interest. Now they're up on Bandcamp, so they're widely available for a name-your-own-price. That's enough for me at this point.
What other names did you consider when you did the name change? We didn't consider any other names. Even when we were members of Relay we did some side project stuff. People would ask us to play shows or whatever and we couldn't do them as Relay. We'd always been interested in doing more improvised, experimental stuff as well, so we'd just do that under the name Arc In Round. Whether it'd just be me or members of Relay or other people involved. That was always nice to have a side project like that and I grew to like the name more than Relay anyway. It seemed like a natural choice.
Arc in Round is scheduled to perform Monday, October 22, at the Yucca Tap Room.
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