FEATURE > ANIMALS AS LEADERS
Abasi: They’re actually improvised until
they’re composed. I’ll play the solo section
over and over and flesh it out, throwing in
a few different ideas and angles of approach
until I figure out something that’ll work,
and then this will end up being the composed solo. I feel like I’m going to get a better solo that way. The solo sections for some
of the compositions are hard. You don’t get
a whole lot of choruses to really develop
your solo or anything like that. It’s like one
time through, usually at a very rapid tempo
and in an odd meter. That’s not my ideal
improvisational setting and not where I
feel too comfortable improvising.
its strengths. On an 8-string guitar, if you
drop the pick and use your open right hand,
you can play multiple lines at one time, basically like playing classical guitar.
Reyes: I’ve been doing the classical and counterpoint stuff for a while, so learning Tosin’s
stuff didn’t seem like a big deal. It’s allowed
me to learn all this stuff.
In some ways, you guys are like an electric
version of the Assad Brothers classical-guitar duo.
Reyes: Yeah, Tosin and I actually saw them
a while ago. I got introduced to the Assad
Brothers through my teachers back in D.C.
Abasi: Their harmonic approach is a bit
more varied and adventurous than most
traditional classical music. They’re technically proficient, too, which is obviously
really nice. So, yeah, there are some parallels. Seeing them live was, like, “I didn’t
know you could play at that speed with
that amount of dynamics and detail!” It
Do you use notation or charts to communicate the band’s music?
Abasi: I read at a very basic level, but it’s
kind of de-motivating so I avoid it. We
don’t use charts or notation—everyone
basically plays by ear. A lot of the stuff
is very technique oriented, so I’ll have to
physically show Javier what I’m doing.
We record the music first, so the song
basically exists before we learn it as a
band. Then we go and learn our individual parts. After the riff is tracked, Javier
will listen to it and either learn it by ear,
or if he had any questions, I’d clarify.
Reyes: For my own personal practice, a
lot of times I’ll play along to the song.
I’ll take sections and analyze them, count
them out if I need to, and make my own
little cheat sheet with the counting—but
not necessarily in staff form. I’d just write
[something like], “There’s three beats
here, then a two-beat rest, then Navene’s
going to do a two-beat roll.” I rely on a
lot of muscle memory and intuition.
Abasi: We’re really heavy on phrase
memorization. I don’t want to make any
riffs that are so counter-intuitive that you
have to count seven 16th-notes. We use
the meters as a guideline, like, “Dude,
you’re playing an extra beat because this
is in 9/8.” We’ll do stuff like that, but at
the end of the day it’s about internalizing
the phrase of the musical line. I think
that’s the best way to approach this stuff.
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Why change a good thing?
You guys play a lot more counterpoint
than many of your peers.
Abasi: Yeah, I’m an intermediate classical
guitarist—if I can even call myself that—
so it’s kind of a by-product of knowing a
bit of classical and then trying to utilize
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PREMIER GUITAR FEBRUARY 2012 91