Parts & Labor: Sound 'Receivers' Last spring on its MySpace page, the Brooklyn experimental rock band Parts & Labor asked fans to send sound samples to put on the group's new album. Parts & Labor used every single one, often blurring the line between instruments and samples.
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Parts & Labor: Sound 'Receivers'

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Parts & Labor: Sound 'Receivers'

Parts & Labor: Sound 'Receivers'

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The band Parts & Labor spent the past six years building fist-pumping operatic walls of sound using distorted electronics, scorching guitars...

(Soundbite of song "Wedding In A Wasteland")

HANSEN: Drums fit for a rock anthem...

(Soundbite of song "Wedding In A Wasteland")

HANSEN: And lyrics you can sing at the top of your lungs on a cross-country road trip.

(Soundbite of song "Wedding In A Wasteland")

PARTS & LABOR: (Unintelligible) outside the searchlights that circle and (unintelligible) in such a beautiful way...

HANSEN: Last spring on their MySpace page, Parts & Labor asked their fans to send sound samples which the band would then use on a new album. A friend gave them old cassette tapes of her dad making small talk.

(Soundbite of cassette tape)

Unidentified Man: I mean, it is a dirty world, but we don't have to make it any worse than it is.

HANSEN: A band member contributed sound of a beloved family cat, Fluffy, who lived to be twenty-one and a half years old.

(Soundbite of Fluffy the cat)

HANSEN: And a fan in Florida sent a recording of synthesizers that he took apart and rebuilt.

(Soundbite of reconstituted synthesizers)

HANSEN: These and other oddities appear on the band's new CD, "Receivers." The members of Parts & Labor joined us from our New York bureau. I think it's best to introduce yourselves.

Mr. DAN FRIEL (Vocalist, Parts & Labor): I'm Dan. I sing and play electronics.

HANSEN: Dan Friel.

Mr. FRIEL: Thank you.

Mr. BJ WARSHAW (Bassist, Parts & Labor): I'm B.J. Warshaw. I play bass and I sing.

Mr. JOE WONG (Drummer, Parts & Labor). I'm Joe Wong. I play drums.

Ms. SARAH LIPSTATE (Guitarist, Parts & Labor): I'm Sarah Lipstate, and I play guitar.

HANSEN: And welcome to all of you.

Mr. FRIEL: Thanks.

Mr. WARSHAW: Thanks.

Mr. WONG: Thank you.

HANSEN: We just heard the opening of "Wedding in a Wasteland," which includes the recording of Dan's family cat and of remixed parts of your unfinished songs. So Dan, we have to start with you. What was the ultimate inspiration for the song?

Mr. FRIEL: It came from a lot of places in a lot of ways. That song is actually kind of a love song, albeit in a wasteland, I guess. Parts & Labor songs in the last couple of records have dealt a lot with the chaotic state of the world and, I guess, our own lives. And I just thought I'd do a little bit of a departure, thinking about good things in the midst of chaos.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: B.J., from what I understand, two different toad trips inspired one of the songs on the CD, "Solemn Show World"? Is that true? What's the story?

Mr. WARSHAW: Well, "Solemn Show World," I wrote those lyrics while on tour with my other project, Shooting Spires. We were on tour last February. It was really cold. We had some really bad weather. The fuel pump on the van died. An amplifier caught on fire. Things were just pretty grim. And we were in upstate New York. And things looked pretty grim. The lyrics ended up just being kind of a meditation on traveling and touring through these sort of decaying areas of America.

(Soundbite of song "Solemn Show World")

PARTS & LABOR: I remember, I recall, frozen streets, And ice and wide and blue. Detritus of last night's thaw. (Unintelligible) on my winter day were through. Never now but here somehow, The details stark and true...

Mr. WARSHAW: And I had written these lyrics. And simultaneously on that tour, the guitar player, Matt Lynch, had been responding to a flyer that he found hanging in Brooklyn that simply said "What happened?" and had a cell phone number on it. And he was calling that cell phone number and just giving an update about our tour and about our travels.

Fast forward to when we were traveling out to the Midwest to Joe's studio in Milwaukee to record the album. Dan and I were having a conversation. Originally, we were just thinking about having our friends give us sound samples to use on the record, and we decided to open that up to the public, to our fans, and to anybody on that trip just in an effort to see what happened in this era of interconnectivity and kind of to add an element of chance and randomness to the recording project.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WARSHAW: When we put out this call for submissions, we got one response from a lady named Claire Lin who sent us to this Web site called And it was just this collection of cell phone calls. And we realized that it was the project that Matt Lynch, the guitar player from Shooting Spires, had been responding to. Claire had hung out flyers all over Brooklyn and in San Francisco and elsewhere, just with these questions, collected all the samples that people made when they recorded and left messages on her answering machine.

HANSEN: How much audio did you get and how much did you actually use?

Mr. WARSHAW: Technically we used every sample that we received. Overall, we received hundreds of samples from around 50 or 60 individual people.

HANSEN: I am going to actually ask some of the questions that you post to your contributors online. Joe, what is your favorite or least favorite sound?

Mr. WONG: My least favorite sound is the sound of a cat singing to itself.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Sarah, what do your parents sound like?

Ms. LIPSTATE: My parents are definitely the voice of reason for me.

HANSEN: B.J., what are you afraid of?

Mr. WARSHAW: Large bodies of water.

HANSEN: Like oceans?

Mr. WARSHAW: Oceans especially.

HANSEN: Dan, where are you going?

Mr. FRIEL: Today I'm going to Massachusetts.

HANSEN: And where have you been?

Mr. FRIEL: Asleep.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: All right. Let me ask you then, Dan. Why did you ask questions of your contributors? Was it - did you use it in the final product?

Mr. FRIEL: Well, a lot of this idea was somewhat inspired by some work that John Waters did on...

Mr. WARSHAW: Roger Waters.

Mr. FRIEL: Oh, Roger Waters.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FRIEL: Thank you. Roger Waters did on "Dark Side of the Moon." There's a lot of, like, samples of people speaking and laughing on that record where he went around and did interviews with people. And so we thought about some questions that related to themes on the record. "Where Are You Going?" and "Where Have You Been?" definitely relates to a lot of the travel theme that goes throughout the record. And some that don't, some where we just thought they would inspire people to send us interesting sounds.

HANSEN: What do you think this recording gives to someone who maybe doesn't recognize or appreciate the samples and the distortions and doesn't know your band yet?

Mr. WARSHAW: Well, hopefully if we've succeeded, the songs should stand alone as pieces of art. I think it's kind of an added bonus for us to have added all this detail. My favorite albums are the ones that you can listen to over and over again and keep discovering new things. So it's important to me and to this band that when we're making records that we put as much detail and interesting things for people to discover.

(Soundbite of song "Satellites")

HANSEN: Dan Friel, B.J. Warshaw, Joe Wong, and Sarah Lipstate are the members of Parts & Labor. Their new CD, "Receivers," is out now on the Jag Jaguar label. Thanks to all of you.

Mr. FRIEL: Thank you.

Mr. WARSHAW: Thank you.

Mr. WONG: Thank you.

Mr. LIPSTATE: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song "Satellites")

HANSEN: The song you're listening to is "Satellites," and you can hear more music from Parts & Labor's new CD at This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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