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Boston Beats: Could you state your names and occupations for the record please.
Jake Zavracky: Occupation?
Wendy Mittelstadt: (Laughs.)
BB: Yeah, what do you do during the day when youíre not doing this.
Jake: Oh, God, really? I feel like it kinds takes away from the mystery.
BB: Then you can make up something.
Jake: ďI work on music all day.Ē
BB: Thatís a dirty, dirty lie.
Jake: I work at a bakery. Itís right down the street from my house, and I work there.
BB: Thatís very ďblack-and-pink trippy,Ē I donít know why you didnít want to put that right in.
Jake: Well, I like working there itís justÖ well, whatever, itís fine.
BB: Okay.
Jake: You know what it is? Sometimes it will be like, ďJake Zavracky, by day heís (whatever I happen to be doing at the time)...Ē It is so unimportant and completely insignificant within the grand scheme of the music. Even though I like my particular job right now, I could usually care less about it. Itís just not part of me, itís not who Cyanide Valentine is. That is why I donít like answering that question.

BB: Wendy?
Wendy: Oh, I have to answer that question?
BB: Of course.
Wendy: My name? Wendy Mittelstadt.
Jake: Oh, I never said my name. My name is Jake Zavracky.
Wendy: You donít need my middle name do you? My middle name is Lynn. Wendy Lynn Mittelstadt. My occupation is circuit designer.
Jake: That sounds much cooler than my job. Thatís the problem.
Wendy: It doesnít sound cool, it sounds nerdy.
BB: Itís nerdy-cool.
Jake: Well, you are nerdy.


HISTORY

BB: How did you guys first meet, and how did this project come together?
Wendy: We were in another band together. We were in Ad Frankís backup band.
Jake: Just for a very brief time.
BB: Like The Eagles were Linda Ronstadtís backup band.
Jake: They were?
BB: And The Band was Bob Dylanís backup band.
Jake: That one I knew.
Wendy: I played keyboards and Jake played guitar. He quit to concentrate on his band at the time Quick Fix. I quit too. Then a couple of years went by and we bumped into each other at a party.
Jake: Ad Frankís band was 2001, and that party was 2004.
Wendy: Well, at the party I said, ďHey, Jake what are you doing after Quick Fix?Ē He described a concept to me, and it sounded like it was going to need some keyboards. So I offered my services, even though I was busy. He said great, maybe I will give you a call, then some time went by and he did called me and said, ďI have a show booked.Ē He had booked a show at TTís, but we didnít have a band yet. We had like five weeks to put a band together and he was like, well Iím going to play with these other two guys, if you want to play keyboards. I checked them out, he gave me some demos and I really liked what I heard, so we did that one show.
Jake: That was March 2004. But that show doesnít really relate very much to what it evolved into, and what it currently is. I think it was a lot different then. We were horrible for months, I mean just disastrously horrible. It was like every single show we played was a calamity.
Wendy: A natural disaster.
Jake: We werenít very good, and things were breaking. It was almost like, ďit canít get any worse than this.Ē But itís been steadily getting better since then.

BB: How did you guys become a duo?
Wendy: Jake just and called me up and told me we were going to be a duo. That was November 2004.
Jake: Thatís another thing I did without consulting her.
Wendy: We only played maybe three shows as a five piece. Do you want to know why we became a duo?
BB: Why did you become a duo?
Jake: I was trying to get us signed to a label, and I knew I had a really good record to give to this guy. At that point, The Cyanide Valentine was basically just this record, ďLet it Rot.Ē Thatís basically what it was. The record was done; it had been done for a little while, actually. I knew he would like the record, and he did. And I knew he was going to want to hear that we wanted to take this all the way, and sell thousands of these records. And I knew he was going to want to hear that we had a means of doing that. But at the time I didnít really have a band. I really only had the record. I had a group of guys, but it was very loose, and I didnít feel like anyone was really committed to it.
Wendy: Everyone that we played live with was with another band and was really busy.
Jake: Exactly. Wendy was the only one who showed any real interest, the kind of enthusiasm I wanted to see to try and make this take off. And this was the kind of music that it doesnít necessarily have to be only two people, but it can be only two people. I didnít really need a backup band at the time.
Wendy: So, we became a duo so we could tour to support the record. The guy was going to want to hear that we were available to tour, and we werenít going to be able to get all five people to just pick up and go on tour at anytime, since they were in other bands.


RECORDING

BB: So tell me about putting together ďLet It Rot.Ē
Jake: Well, I did most of it myself, and then I had people play some stuff on it. Wendy is on five or six of the tracks, Iíd say.
Wendy: Iím only not on two tracks.
Jake: Youíre only not on two tracks? Seven of the tracks then. She started coming in and taking more creative control a bit. Actually, she was a very good juxtaposition to me. I am very self destructive, and Iíll just ďget rid of it.Ē There wonít be any resemblance of what was there before. But she gets very attached to things, so itís very hard to make changes. She will insist I make a really good case if I want to get rid of something and replace it with something new. This was good for making this record, because I think that a lot of decisions that she made, or better yet made me make, were really good. I think it wouldnít have turned out to be the record that it was without her.
Wendy: Did you get that! (Laughs.)
Jake: Especially on certain songs. Some songs, when she heard the demos she said she really liked them, but then they had changed too much by the time we went to record them.
Wendy: Well, I hadnít been keeping up. He hadnít been giving me new copies, and then four months went by and he gave me what he thought was the record. When I heard it, it didnít even resemble the demos. My world was shattered, because he had gone for a completely different sound.
Jake: Yeah, you werenít happy.
Wendy: It was the sound on the demos that made me want to be in the band. When we started working together on the record it was me fighting to have a lot of the old sounds reinstated. Now I keep very close tabs on what heís doing.

BB: The phone messages on the album. Are those real?
Jake: Theyíre real.
Wendy: I actually didnít know that originally. I thought they were made up until the last interview we did, when I found out they were real calls.
Jake: The voice is Eric Barlow, who plays on the album. He just used to leave me messages like that. I just thought they worked well and broke things up a little bit. Iíve heard a lot of complaints about them actually, which I can see, because once youíve heard them once, then youíve heard them, and the next time you put in the album theyíre still there. You just get tired of it. So I probably wonít do it again.

BB: What is your philosophy about getting the right stuff down when youíre making a record?

Jake: Throw something down and give it time. Listen to it a bunch and try to sort out what really needs to change. Actually, Wendy was a big influence on me coming around to this way of thinking: only change what really needs to be changed. I used to think I needed to strip every single track down five times before I got the right thing. So in making the album that we are making now Iíve been thinking this way a lot: to be very reverent to what is already down. Donít be self destructive about it. Donít just get rid of it because itís old or something like that.

BB: Tell me about this new album. Is there a working title for it?
Wendy: Yes there is!
Jake: ďThe Four Sides of the Cyanide Valentine.Ē Itís not even a title in working, thatís the title. It has to be the title because itís the whole theme of the album. During the last album, we had a lot of press that said, ďThis album shouldnít work; this album doesnít make any sense.Ē
Wendy: That we have an identity crisis.
Jake: Yes. ďThis band has an identity crisis.Ē They go from one style of music to another and somehow it evolves to something completely different within a space of three songs. So I figured, instead of trying to get away from that, and thinking of that as a weakness, why not think of that as a strength. Letís make that our style. Letís make the identity crisis our style. So this album is called ďThe Four Sides of the Cyanide Valentine.Ē Think of it as a double album, like an old school record where there are four sides, and each side is a different side of us. The first side would be more electro stuff.
Wendy: Danceable, up-tempo.
Jake: Right. And then somehow over the course of the record it somehow evolves into more breathlessly acoustic stuff.

BB: When do you think it will come out?
Jake: Thatís a good question.
Wendy: Weíre hoping the spring of next year.
Jake: I really donít think thatís going to happen. (Laughs.) I really donít.
Wendy: Itís good to set goals. But one idea was to release an EP in December, which Iím still excited about. It will have one song from each ďside.Ē So the four styles will be on this one EP. Weíll pick the best song from each side, and then have that be a teaser for the whole album.

BB: What are the four styles?
Jake: I donít know if I can really define it, but itís like Wendy just said, the more danceable stuff would be at the outset.
Wendy: Four-on-the-floor kind of thing, more danceable. And the second side will be more down tempo. We have a couple of Reggae-ish, Ace of Base style songs, some more down tempo but still electronic. The third side is supposed to be more atmospheric. So it could be a mixture of acoustic instruments as well as electronic, but there wonít be any driving beats. There will be more atmospheric sounds in the background. Then the fourth side is just stripped down, Jake playing acoustic guitar and vocals me violin, viola, vocals. You know, no fancy processing or anything.
Jake: That actually sounds pretty good. That was a very good synopsis of what it should be. What it will end up being I have no idea.
 

 

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* Photos courtesy of Clare Amarakoon. Graphics adapted
from images by Clare Amarakoon, Jill Levasseur and
Sharon Berardino. and
http://www.cyanidevalentine.com/

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