Building on Buildings recently released the first single from its forthcoming album, which doesn't have a title yet. Recording began in November with engineer Jaime Hansen at Justin Vernon's April Base studio in Fall Creek, Wisconsin. The band hope to finish the record in April and release it in the summer.
"Wheel" is a dreamy, atmospheric track featuring pedal steel by Ben Lester and additional vocals by Amanda Rigell of Count This Penny. Building on Buildings, along with Moonrise Nation and Marielle Allschwang, play the Frequency on Friday, Feb. 14.
I asked Building on Buildings members Erin Fuller (vocals, guitar), Connie Ward (vocals, guitar, bass) and Eben Christensen (keys, bass, guitar, vocals) a couple of questions about the song and about songwriting in general.
Isthmus: Tell me about the band's approach to songwriting. How does an idea grow into a song, and what are some of your favorite parts of the process?
Fuller: We're all pretty busy adults, so if we'd limited writing to available practice time, we'd still only have like three songs. That said, the more we play together and have come to define our sound and understand each other's strengths, the less full-fleshed the song sketches become when introduced to the group. The latest batch of newbies are just mere sketches that we're all pushing toward finalizing.
Ward: Lyrics are a personal, private affair for me. On the music side of things, I enjoy the collective approach, allowing us to explore and give the song a feeling we can all groove on. The more we work collectively is helping us produce a stronger and more confident sound.
Christensen: Erin and Connie wrote most, if not all, of the songs that are on the album -- but often those are skeletons that get fleshed out in practicing songs over and over. In my opinion, the best practices we had were our "quiet" practices with Erin's son sleeping in the next room. We would workshop songs until we felt that they felt right.
Oftentimes, we just play with things over and over until it feels right. For example, Connie has the ability to read Erin's emotions and style during jam sessions and her "noodling" is just so good the first time that it often builds off that.
How did "Wheel" come about? What has surprised you the most about this song as you've watched it evolve?
Fuller: I had a rough sketch and most of the lyrics set for this song over seven years ago. When I began writing again, I felt a strong urge to finish or revisit this one before allowing myself to move onto anything new. I just needed the creative and emotional closure. I finally finished it during the "Snowmageddeon" of December 2012 while without power in my Madison apartment.
We never anticipated that "Wheel" would rise to the top like it has. When we rehearsed as a group its legs grew longer; but when laid down at [April Base], it immediately became one of the standouts. It's completely representative of how we heard the album and our collective sound. When it came to figure out what song would be the first single, there was no question.
Christensen: It's a surprise that after everything this is the single from the album, but it probably sets the tone of much of what we bring. There is a measured sensibility about the song, like it drives you forward without being too pushy; it brings you down, while lifting up. If anything the album is a function of that desire to present songs, that are meaningful to us in a way that is clear, raw and to the point.
There is a pensive nature to the LP, in that each song is about wanting, waiting or becoming. In that way, "Wheel" is representative. In other ways, we are so excited about presenting the album to people, because we believe in it wholeheartedly, without ego, due to the strength of the songs individually and the feel as a whole.
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