Words by David C. Obenour
It’s always a delicate transition when your lofi heroes start to explore higher production values. So much intimacy and emotion can be captured on these raw DIY recordings, but after exploring this setting for multiple years and releases it can also be limiting or worse yet, overly defining.
After a number of earnest and wonderful home-recordings, Emily Yacina tried for something new with Remember the Silver. Partnering with Eric Littmann (Julie Byrne, GABI, Yohuna), the duo took two years as they co-produced her songs in a new setting. The result is a stunning album that retains all of Yacina’s voice and humanity while amplifing her music.
Off Shelf: The name of your album, Remember the Silver has an interesting backstory as a line lifted from Dana Redfield’s book, ET-Human Link – a mantra used to remind the subject that her experiences were real. What about that line resonated with you?
Emily Yacina: The line resonated with me because I, too, sometimes need a mantra to solidify an experience. I sometimes have a hard time deciphering the line between projection and reality, and that’s what a lot of the album is about. When I read the book, I loved the idea of her mantra because it’s her own way of legitimizing her experience. She’s reminding herself of how real it was.
OS: It took awhile in reading about Redfield’s book to realize that it wasn’t a novel, but perhaps an almost philosophical research text about the meaning behind alien presence and abductions. Had you read the book? Are you particularly interested in the study of aliens and their interactions with us?
EY: Yeah! I found it in a used bookstore in Western Mass this past summer. I really liked it. I love anything that has to do with metaphysics. I think I’m particularly open to stuff like that because of my own personal experiences. It’s also comforting to me to remember how little we actually know about the multiverse!
OS: Remember the Silver is a departure from the more lofi production methods of your previous recordings. Were you anxious at all about how your sound would transition in this new setting?
EY: Not so much anxious, just really ready to try something new. I had been doing the same thing for so long, and I was ready to expand.
OS:Were you anxious for how your fans would respond to the new sound? The album is just out, but have you gotten much feedback yet on the two released tracks?
EY: I was definitely curious to see how people would react… so far everyone has been super supportive and excited about it which is an awesome feeling. I’m lucky because I’ve been able to situate music in my life in a way that I don’t have to rely on reception to support myself. Of course I want people to like it, but it feels so personal to me. Sometimes I think, “If no one heard this I would still be so proud of it” – which is all I really want with music.
OS: Can you talk about your relationship with Eric Littmann and how he helped with the new album?
EY: Eric moved into my friend’s apartment in Brooklyn about two years ago, and we became friends. He had proposed that we try making some stuff together, but I had to really think over several months because I had never involved someone else in the production stage. I loved what he did with Yohuna and Julie Byrne, and eventually I came to the conclusion that working with him would be a great opportunity to learn more about production and grow. We work really well together. When we started, I would play him the demos I made and we would collaborate on the different elements we could add and how I wanted it to eventually sound. We quickly got into a good groove. It never felt stressful.
OS: The album was written and recorded over the span of two years, how did your’s and Eric’s vision of the album evolve over that time?
EY: It changed so much! Sometimes I would decide to scrap a song or completely eliminate an idea. I think Eric was really patient and gave me my space to process. From start to finish, the songs all sound a lot different- but in a way I couldn’t be happier with.
OS: Previously working with more spartan production, I have to imagine that two years is a long gestation period for you to produce an album. Were there ever moments of being in your own head too much with the additional time? Was it hard to think of the album as complete once you had that much time to work on it?
EY: There were a lot of moments I felt in my head about the songs – but I think that growth often comes from discomfort. There was definitely an ‘aha!’ moment when it was finished. We had listened to the songs in order and it felt so cohesive – musically, thematically. Even though it took so much time and thought, listening to it once it was done was a super proud moment for me.
OS: Are there songs on the cutting room floor from this session? If so, do you think they’ll see the light of day still?
EY: There are a few ideas from recording sessions that never made it past the demo stage… I’d like to think that I’ll revisit them someday but there are also so many more songs to make!
OS: On Remember the Silver and a few of the back catalogue songs I was able to hear on Bandcamp, you have these really great sound samples and loops weaved into your music. Can you talk about how you source these and what you see as their role in your songs?
EY: Usually with the loops or samples in the older stuff are just added on as decoration after I flesh out the rest of the song. Mostly I make them myself, but sometimes I’ll grab audio from public websites. I think that’s a great way to push a song into the feeling you want to portray.
OS: “Stephanie” is an absolutely gorgeous indie pop song that reminded me a little of The Sea and Cake. Did you have any bands that you were thinking of when you made the transition to a more involved production sound?
EY: I didn’t have a specific band in mind but I’m so happy with how that one turned out. We took the instrumental from a song I scratched and manipulated it through a Kaoss pad to make it go backwards and do all of this crazy shit. Once I had a structure, we added instruments and vocals on top of it. That one felt way more experimental.
OS: “Siren Song” has this amazing horn backing to it. Can you talk about the decision to include them on the song? For being the only time used in the album it still blends in seamlessly.
EY: Yeah! The song initially had a way more sad vibe [laughs]. Then when we got to a certain point I could hear either a trombone or sax to accentuate it. Eric’s friend Cale Israel added the trombone. I love the way it sounds now, but initially it changed the whole feeling of the song and we had to sit with it for a bit to decide if we would keep it. I’m so glad we did!