As I sit and listen to Medicine’s newest record Home Everywhere I’m astounded by the fact that they’re still largely seen as an underground band. If I asked the first four people I see if they know who the band Medicine is they would all likely say they have no idea who they are. Sure, those four people would be my wife and three kids but still(actually, my wife would know who Medicine are as she hears them constantly on the living room hi fi.) My point(yes I have one) is that Medicine are more than just some obscure dream/noise pop, shoegaze band.
You see, their albums tell different tales. They are beautifully produced and engineered works of aural art. Technicolor sound that splatters on the walls of your mind like a Pollock painting. Their earlier output in the early 90s was both harsh and sweet. Brad Laner made his mark as not just a songwriter and guitarist; but a sound sculptor. Along with Beth Thompson and Jim Goodall, Laner released three great albums as Medicine. Short Forth Self Living, The Buried Life, and Her Highness were released between 1992 and 1995, then there was silence. Laner kept busy working with a list of artists that is too long to name here, as well as putting out albums under his own name. He did release a Medicine album called The Mechanical Forces of Love in 2003 without Thompson and Goodall, but nothing more. Then last year the three of them got back together and put out the first true Medicine album in 18 years called To The Happy Few. As far as comeback/reunion albums go, this one was massive. All those years of working in the studio and with other artists had turned Brad Laner into a force to be reckoned with in the studio. His production and engineering skills are now that of wizard. I’ve coined it the “Brad Laner sound”. Yes, he has his own sound now. It’s this hyper-focused, in-the-red buzzing and chiming. The guitars ring like static bells; drums chatter teeth with their massive “John Bonham-meets-Phil Collins-in-a-digital-Thunderdome” blasts; and ethereal vocals that hint at Beach Boys harmonies genetically altered by regenerating them in jazz structure. In other words, there is nothing cookie-cutter about Medicine. Yet, there is still -underneath all the sound, layers of atmosphere and noise mastery- a pop sensibility that can’t be denied.
What I’m getting at here is that Medicine are incredibly underappreciated, and I’d like to change that if I can.
Not to rest on their laurels or call this reunion done, Medicine have just released yet another new record. Yes, that’s two in two years. It’s called Home Everywhere and it’s both more on the fringe and inviting than To The Happy Few. Sometimes it’s both of those things in the same song. I was lucky enough to catch Brad Laner in a not-so busy moment and he answered a few questions of mine.
J. Hubner: So it’s been just a little over a year since the release of the amazing ‘To The Happy Few’, and we’re now talking about a new record called ‘Home Everywhere’, which is equally amazing, btw. Can you tell me how soon did you guys get started on the new album after ‘To The Happy Few’ came out? Was that the plan, or did you Beth, and Jim just get on a songwriting kick and keep going?
Brad Laner: Thanks a lot ! There’s a little bit of overlap with “To The Happy Few”. “Turning” and “The People” were both started and nearly finished during those sessions. “The Reclaimed Girl” is based on a song I started about 10 years ago. The rest of it was recorded starting directly after TTHF came out, like a day or two after we played in NYC and then there were months of work following that up until June of this year.
JH: Was there a different approach to making Home Everywhere in comparison to To The Happy Few? Or just more of a refinement to what you’d done in the past?
Brad Laner: Probably the latter, though this LP seems more raw and wild to me than TTHF. Same people, same studio, same method.
JH: How did Captured Tracks react to a new album so soon after To The Happy Few? Were they open to the idea of putting a new Medicine album out so soon after the reunion record?
Brad Laner: They’ve been extremely enthusiastic and supportive of everything we’ve done with them. They’re a great fit for us because they believe in building up catalog and releasing as much music as possible, which is all I ever want to do.
JH: Did you record the new album at your home studio?
Brad Laner: Yes indeed. I can’t believe I ever did it any other way.
JH: How did the songwriting work on this new album? Did you do most of the songwriting and then bring the songs to Beth and Jim? Or did you work out the songs together in the studio?
Brad Laner: Either I’ll start a song on my own and then bring in Beth and Jim to add parts, or Jim and I will jam and we’ll build a song out of that. That’s the way it has gone since we reunited.
JH: Your guitar sound is quite unique. Without revealing any of your sonic secrets, I was wondering if you could expound just a little on how you get your sound? Do you use rack mount effects or do you still use stompboxes? What guitars are you using on the new album? What amps do you like using nowadays?
Brad Laner: I have no secrets. No two people can ever sound the same just because they use the same gear. A schematic of my setup was online for years, but it seems to have disappeared so I’ve attached a photo of my current rig(see below). I’m either using that or going in direct and using a bunch of plug-ins.
JH: I was wondering if you could tell me a little about the soundtrack you did for the documentary Beautiful Noise. How did the opportunity come about? What was your approach to creating the music for the film? Is scoring films something you’d like to do again? Did you enjoy the process?
Brad Laner: When the filmmakers came out to my place to do my interview segment for the film way back in 2005 I was actively trying to do as much film composing as I could, so I offered to do a score for their film just to build up credits and experience. I also thought it would be an opportunity to musically critique the work of the other people covered in the film (and my own, perversely enough). It was fun because they let me do whatever I wanted and it sounded great hearing it in a theatre setting. I’d love to score more films.
JH: I know you’re not a big fan of touring, but I was wondering if there will be any Medicine shows to promote Home Everywhere?
Brad Laner: I’m wondering that myself. I’d say only if there are offers that are too cool or interesting or lucrative to turn down. Fine with me if those types of offers don’t materialize. I never wanted Medicine to be a bog-standard touring band, even back in the day. Too much touring is what killed the band in the first place.
JH: With To The Happy Few, your solo record Nearest Suns, Home Everywhere, and the Beautiful Noise S/T, you and Medicine have been rather prolific the last year to say the least. Are you already working on something new for 2015?
Brad Laner: Of course! Can’t say right now if anything will come out next year, but I’d be very surprised if something didn’t.
I can’t say enough great thing about Medicine. A class act. They’re more about creating the art and not parading it. Not that there’s anything wrong with parading your art around the country and playing for folks. But there’s some that prefer to create and keep creating. Brad Laner is one of them.
Get out and get a copy of Home Everywhere. It’s a stunning album and will likely overload your frontal lobe with wondrous sonic ecstasy. So consider yourself warned. Seriously, get some Medicine in your head. And if you can, check out Brad’s excellent score for the shoegaze documentary Beautiful Noise. As a standalone album it’s up there with Eno’s Music For Films. Check it out.
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