Ducktails: ‘I Definitely Embrace Soft Rock’

Real Estate’s Matt Mondanile’s solo venture has turned into more of a group effort…

‘The Flower Lane’ marks something of a change and subtle reinvention for Matt Mondanile, the musician and songwriter behind Ducktails. The fifth Ducktails album is an entirely different and more overtly soulful pop record than the blurred bedroom experimentalism of the Real Estate guitarist’s previous solo output. DIY caught up with Mondanile during a brief downtime to find out about Ducktail’s creative process.

The new Ducktails album is now out there in the world. Are you apprehensive about how it will be received?
I just let it come out and see how it goes y’know. There’s nothing you can really do after it’s done.

‘The Flower Lane’ features a different kind of Ducktails, you recorded for the first time in a studio and it features a number of guests including Daniel Lopatin and Joel Ford. How did changes in the way you recorded come about? How did it feel different?
It was cool. It was in a studio in Brooklyn so a lot of people would just come by and record in the studio. It was really collaborative and we had a good time making it. We didn’t take it very seriously and it was pretty easygoing. It was fun. That’s why all the guests are on it because we recorded it in the city and I live here. It was the first time that my friends could come around.

The album features a markedly more hi-fidelity sound approach as opposed to your previous albums, which were home based recordings. Did you have any nerves about how your sound would come across in a more polished studio environment?
No, I was pretty excited to get the new hi-fi sound of the record and try something like working in a studio to see how we go. I wasn’t really nervous about the sound changing at all.

The album is produced by Al Carson who has previously worked with a number of electronic acts including Peaking Lights, how did you get together with him. Did you feel his knowledge of electronic music could bring something different to your music?
Actually, I approached him because he was the only available studio guy that I could record with at the time. None of the other studios were available, this one was really close to my house, and he is a really cool guy, so we went and did it and it was fun.
It wasn’t because of anything other than he has worked with other people I like.

Many of the songs on the album have a lovely groove and gentle funk quality with nice electronic influences. Do you see yourself incorporating more of this sound in the future?
Yeah, I definitely want it to be more electronic in the future. To do something like that would be cool but I don’t know how it is going to go.

Your work as Ducktails seems drawn to understated softly played melodies, soft 80s pop and rock sounds. Many people may see soft rock as a disparaging term though. Is that a style of music that you enjoy?
Soft rock is cool; I like a lot of soft rock. I definitely embrace soft rock for sure.

Is the classicism and soft rock vibes of ‘The Flower Lane’ a reaction against your older, more primitive material?
I don’t think so. I guess my music has evolved to this level with playing with a band were it sounds more soft rock and it’s less folksy as before. I can’t really say why but that’s just what I’ve turned into.

Are there any distinct themes to the album? Much of it seems to be about a romantic urban utopia?
The lyrics were just written together as friends and they don’t really mean that much. I think it’s more about the music, the words just add to it instrumentally.

As you are also a member of Real Estate, how difficult is it combining work with both Ducktails and Real Estate?
Pretty difficult. Today, for example, I had practice with Real Estate and now I’ve got a short break then I’m going to practice with Ducktails before I have a record release show with Ducktails and then the next day I fly to Singapore with Real Estate and then I’m in Singapore and Australia for three weeks. I’m really cramped for time and sometimes it’s really stressful.
I’m actually more busy than I would be if I was someone who had a real job. I’m just playing in two bands but somehow it ends up busier than someone with a 9-5. That’s wild when that happens. Most of the time though it works out pretty well. I think after the record comes out I’ll be fine; it’s just this one little push that I have to get over.

Does Real Estate and Ducktails feed off each other and influence ideas etc?
No, Real Estate is more of a collaborative process within the group. With Ducktails, it’s mostly me writing the songs completely and me fleshing them out.

Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2013 and what are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?
Just touring and relaxing. Honestly, I’m looking forward to relaxing for most of the year and working on new music.

Ducktails’ new album ‘The Flower Lane’ is out now via Domino.