Words by David C. Obenour
In May of 2020, when no one had any idea about the here and now and even less about the there and then, Weak Signal posted their sophomore album up on Bandcamp. There wasn’t a big push. The mixes weren’t even mastered. But none of that stopped the songs on Bianca from reaching the ears of Iggy Pop and then the ears of the listeners of his BBC Radio show.
Over a year later, listening to Colonel Records’ proper digital and vinyl released – now fully mastered by Carl Saff – its easy to hear what he heard in those early days of isolation. Raw and dark, sparse and heavy, the songs lay bare what the trio of players have to say and how they choose to say it. Already two albums down the road now, the album serves as a fascinating premonition of the world we all found ourselves in.
Off Shelf: It’s been a crazy last few years. Had you spent most of lockdown in New York? How was it for you as a human and as a musician?
Mike Bones: Sash and I were in New York for most of lockdown. We went to England for a few months somewhere in there. Tran was in Vietnam for the early part of lockdown. Musically we stayed busy. We released an album “Bianca”, recorded and released a digi EP called “Look See”, made our next album “War and War”, and wrote a ton of songs.
OS: Listening back to Bianca, do you hear the pandemic and isolation in the songs? There was also some intense political and social upheaval happening in 2019 and 2020 – did any of that bleed into the recordings?
MB: We recorded “Bianca” a year before the pandemic in April 2019. So no, nothing about the politics of 2020 or the pandemic bled into the music. Maybe our extrasensory abilities bled into the events of 2020?
OS: You originally released Bianca online back in May. Can you talk about what you were thinking when you initially had the album on Bandcamp? Did you imagine you would have a more mastered and complete version with a physical release later?
MB: We finished mixing “Bianca” with our engineer Jonathan Kreinik in the first few weeks of the pandemic. May 2020 felt like the right time to release it, the right world for the music to exist in. The three of us have always had some sense of certainty or inevitability about Weak Signal. We knew the music was strong and that someone would eventually give the record a proper release. Enter Bryce and Jen Franich and Colonel Records. They hit us up in Feb 2021 and asked if they could release the album.
OS: Iggy Pop picked up “Drugs in My System” from it for his BBC show, do you remember how you found out about that? I also love how he referenced The Kinks when talking about you – how did that hit you?
MB: Danny Gonzales from The Jacuzzi Boys, who put out our first record, is friends with Iggy and put him onto our music. Danny sent us a message from Iggy saying he loved our songs and was going to be playing us a lot over the next few weeks. I was over the moon. Listen, Lou and Leonard are dead. Iggy is the only living member from my trinity of rock heroes. The real dissociative part for me was when he sung a few lines from “Drugs In My System”. It sounded like a dream.
OS: How has it been like coming back out of lockdown to perform the songs live? Have you played enough to notice any evolutions in how you’re starting to perform them with the feedback of an audience?
MB: We just returned from two weeks on the road. The audiences and the music were different every night. Some audiences talked all the way through our show. Some were religiously attentive. Some shows were more aggressive, some were more reserved. Some nights we played with a sense of anger, some we played with a sense of praise. The songs themselves change from moment to moment too. They’re mercurial, just like us.
OS: You’ve been playing with Sash and Tran for a few years now. What do you appreciate about making music with them? Are there any moments in their playing from the Bianca that particularly resonate with you?
MB: Sash and I met while playing in a band called Sian Alice Group, almost fifteen years ago. We’ve been partners for nearly as long. Sash and Tran are the realest people I know. Can our band get across a real and true feeling? That is what concerns us. Not our own individual feelings or ideas, but like an archetypal feeling, a capital “F” Feeling. Beyond their realness, Sash and Tran are endlessly sensitive and constantly creative.
OS: How do you think the new album better captures where you are now as a band as compared to listening back to your debut album?
MB: We’re way past “BIANCA” as a band. We recorded it almost 3 years ago. We have a new record finished, waiting to be pressed and we have at least two records worth of new songs ready to be recorded. We play a lot. We stay busy. If I remember back to where we were at when we made “BIANCA”, we were starting to have a sense of what we could do as a band, what our powers were. We had more certainty. That certainty about our music has only gotten stronger since we made “BIANCA”.
OS: I’m also interested in the sequencing of the album. It rides an emotion, but does a great job of mixing tempo and styles. How did you go about putting the listing together?
MB: The song sequence was the first sequence that popped into my head. A gift I guess. I’m happy you like it. I knew what the first and last song would be before we recorded the record.
OS: Can you talk about working with Jonathan Kreinik for the mixing and production of the album? How much of a hand did he have on the sound for Bianca?
MB: Jonathan is a wiz and his bedside manner in the studio is very calm and wonderful. We’ve made three albums with him now. I think he hears our music in almost the same way we hear it. We let him do his thing with the mixes, and then we all get together and tighten them up. He’s also our cheerleader. He’s bigged us up since day one. He approached us after one of our first shows and said, “Let me record your band.” He helped give us an inkling that we might be onto something, when we were still a bit green and unsure of ourselves.
OS: What do you find yourself most excited for with the return of live shows and touring? Like, what otherwise or mundane aspect that now that it’s been two years, just sounds amazing.
MB: Like I said earlier, we just returned from two weeks on tour. We toured with Garcia Peoples. I watched them every night. They’re mesmerizing, totally entrancing—beautiful musicians and people too. I felt very lucky to watch them play every night, but I also loved how they all related to each other as a working band. Their band functions in an almost utopic “each to their need, each to their ability” sort of way. It was a pleasure to be around their whole vibe.