Preparing to record its fourth album, Eternal Summers settled on a goal of discovering and incorporating the sort of sounds the band had never put on an album before.
"We just really wanted to explore the studio more than we had in the past," says singer-guitarist Nicole Yun. "With our other albums, we felt like our time in the studio was limited, and we put some other limitations on ourselves, not veering too much from what we sound like live. With this album, we wanted to capture the sounds that we were really imagining, even if we couldn't play it live."
After forming in 2009 as a duo of Yun and drummer Daniel Cundiff, Eternal Summers released one album before adding bass player Jonathan Woods. Over two more records, the Roanoke, Virginia, trio has gained fans steadily before receiving a big bump this summer, when the release of Gold and Stone caught Rolling Stone's attention and the venerable music magazine named the Eternal Summers an "Artist You Need to Know."
The band returned to Austin's Resonate Studio, deciding to self-produce the album and spend more time than ever in the studio. "We usually work at a fast pace, so even with 10 days, that felt like a good enough time that we could experiment with sounds and still not break the bank, as far as recording," Yun says.
The band's hazy, shimmering guitar pop is augmented this time out by synthesizers, piano, bowed electric guitar, and even sounds captured from a Nintendo DS.
"For this one, we worked on capturing really gnarly guitar sounds and using those subtly in the mix as an underlayer of the songs. It was more about the willingness to look into different instruments but also just weird other sounds," Yun says. "We've been a band a while and it's just about being comfortable in our skin. On this album, we said, 'Let's do what we hear in our minds, what we really love,' all these other types of sounds and albums that have a lot of subtlety and details to them."
Gold and Stone also captures much of the band's evolution, from the more immediate pop of Eternal Summers' debut, Silver, to the heavier and darker sounds of last year's The Drop Beneath. The title song actually came from a batch of songs written for 2012's Correct Behavior, which the band then transformed according to the mindset it established for the new project.
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"We were listening to the recordings we did for that album of that song and it was a totally different thing back then," Yun says. "We spent time rehashing it and reworking the structure. We're just better players than we were back then."
"Black Diamond" and "Together or Alone," two other songs that are darker than the rest of Gold and Stone, opened up the band to the different possibilities it could pursue in the studio.
"I don't think necessarily the album is dark. A lot of the other songs are very shimmery and pretty and upbeat, but it was how creatively free we felt on those two," Yun says. "Working on those songs, we knew that they required just more attention to detail in the production of it. Even just practicing those songs, we could almost naturally hear what else they needed.
"From those two songs, I think we knew that we shouldn't worry too much about what type of album this is. Let's feel as creative as we want to, even if the songs all feel really different. We're at a point that it doesn't matter about presenting this one type of album. The spectrum can be wider."