Interview: The Tines
The Tines are a band from New Haven, CT, who according to their Bandcamp profile “play cleverly crafted indie rock that focuses on the balance of tension and beauty”, which sums them up pretty perfectly. Their newly-released self-titled album is a real pleasure to listen to and features excellent guitar playing by Sam Carlson and Ilya Gitelman. I caught up with Sam and Ilya over email in September 2022.
Tell me how The Tines came together.
Sam: I had recently opened a recording studio in downtown New Haven (Sans Serif Recording) when the pandemic hit. I got together a group of friends to use the near infinite free time that the early pandemic provided on a short record; The Enemy Is Listening. It was such an odd record making experience, because with COVID going on, we were never able to all be in the same room. Everyone wrote their parts alone, came in one at a time, and just put down what they had. No one even really knew what the whole thing sounded like until it was finished.
The resulting E.P. came out really well and when we started getting show offers we decided to keep it going!
Ilya and I both played in Ports of Spain so naturally we worked together on The Tines as well. The other members are J Thompson on drums and percussion, and Sean Koravo on bass.
How would you describe The Tines’ musical identity?
Sam: We’re very much a band born in the studio – it was sort of a cart before the horse scenario that wound up working very well. With everyone able to get together in person now, it’s become much more about the conversation between a group of really unique players.
Ilya: We look for a balance of beauty and chaos, adding disorder when a song is too orderly. A decent amount of time was spent playing with that chaos and blending it in with the songs.
What was your process for writing the songs on this record?
Sam: The songs typically start with a sketch that I’ve come up with. Maybe a first verse and chorus. I’d bring a few sketches to a practice, and if there’s one that the band was into then we’d all take it apart as a group and figure out how The Tines would play it. Some of the songs sounded VERY different in their original sketch, especially Know By Feel which went from being sort of folky to really sultry and vibey. Most of these songs were fleshed out in rehearsal, then recorded the next day so that on one could overthink it.
Ilya: I listen to the sketch to determine how busy or not busy the song wants the part to be as well as the mood. Then I start by playing by intuition until I hear a melodic idea that feels right and use it as a jumping off point. When we start recording I map the part out over the course of a few takes. I prefer doing it in the moment like that so it’s got an element of spontaneity to it and a sense of exploration, as opposed to having it fully worked out before coming into the studio. I try to come in with just the initial spark that aligns with the mood of the song.
Take me through the gear you used on the album, and how you chose it.
Sam: Gear choice is always a big factor – we wanted something that had sort of a timeless vibe and tried not to get stuck in any specific kind of genre but to think purely about what each song needed. As we got further into the process a few pieces of gear definitely emerged as the key players. For rhythm I used a Fender MIJ 62 reissue Telecaster, and a 69 Dan Armstong for the heavier stuff. The amp that most of the guitars are played through is a black faced Princeton Reverb that we really put through the paces.
Ilya: The main lead guitar on the record is a 2010’s Fender Jazzmaster customized by Bob at Guitar Wacky. It has overwound pickups that make it push gain and distortion pedals harder than a normal JM, and it has rounded frets and the back of the neck is worn down making it incredibly smooth and fluid to play. The secondary guitar used for leads was a Nash S62 Strat.
The guitars were chosen based on which one sat better in the mix. I wound up going with the Jazzmaster’s tone more, but they’re both amazing guitars.
Over the course of the recording we kept coming back to Univibe as an effect – specifically the Wampler Terraform. The watery texture of it fit crucial moments very well. Fuzz also became a standby tool for creating chaos.
Sam: The second song, Collarbone, features a really unhinged solo that was originally captured through DI and then reamped through several pedals in order to audition them. About a week after the solo was tracked Ilya picked up an old Fulltone Octafuzz and that wound up having the right amount of mayhem.
Ilya: Other than Collarbone, all the fuzzy sounds are actually a Keeley modded Rat distortion.
Delay was also used a little bit, but not for its dimension as much as for its warping effects. We reamped vocals on a few songs and Rhodes piano on others through a dunlop echoplex and strymon big sky. The delay was manipulated in real time to create strange swirling sounds and give tracks an eerie underpinning.
Ilya: We also made a catalog of strange noises that we could plug in for effect – dropping spring tanks, feedback to fit in different keys, bad circuit patches on synths etc. If something was too pretty we tried our best to make it messier.
Sam: One of my favorites was dragging a kick drum pedal spring across the strings near the bridge. It sounds like a demented e-bow.
And finally… what’s The Tines’ recommendation for the best pizza in New Haven?
Sam: I live right next to Modern, and the smell constantly wafts through my windows, so I have to give it to them.