Pattern Language Interview: “I was holding my breath the whole time”

pattern language
Photo by Chris Sessions.

Total Squaresville is out now via Happy Robots Records.

Last month, Colorado based synthwave producer Pattern Language released the retro and seductive mini album Total Squaresville. Drawing on the work of krautrock legends like Kraftwerk and La Dusseldorf, and combining this with the more up front synth work of 80’s pioneers like The Art of Noise and Eurythmics, the record is a sultry and vintage sounding throwback to simpler, perhaps better, time.

We had a chat with Chris Frain, the man behind the moniker, all about his new record.

Overblown: Your two new videos for ‘By Time We Get There’ and ‘Le Choc Des Etoiles’ are very cool. Can you tell us a bit about these singles?

Chris Frain: Oh, thank you! “By Time We Get There” is something I actually wrote a couple of years ago and have been playing in my live set since then. To me it’s always felt like a very solid composition and it was the first time I felt like I found a little bit of my voice as a composer. I’ve been told it sounds a lot like early OMD. The video was done by Cheyene Grow of the video team called 75 Ohms. I love how it turned out and it suits the music perfectly.

The other one, “Le Chocs Des Etoiles,” started with the desire to build a track around the sound of the classic Roland CR-78 drum machine. Once I got those basic drum machine parts together I started building the bass and melody around them, as well as featuring the sound of a Mellotron for the string section to give it a vintage 1970s feel. I put the video together after watching hours of public-domain industrial short films and found this one about Plexiglass where the camera just moves slowly over these garish Plexiglass objects from the 1970s – it just seemed to sync up with the tempo of the piece with very little editing.

O: What formats are you releasing your ‘Total Squaresville’ mini-album on (and where can people find it online)?

CF: It’s going to be a digital release, and you can find it online at: https://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/.

O: How do you feel about streaming services vs. physical media? I assume your music will be available on both soon enough?

CF: They both have their advantages and disadvantages, obviously. For the sake of just getting exposure to new and different music, you can’t beat just going online and following one rabbit hole after another for relatively little (or no) cost. Also, being able to hit shuffle-play on a huge playlist while on a long car trip is something that really can’t be replicated with vinyl albums. But if you’re a fan of someone’s work it really does feel nice to have a physical copy of something, especially if you buy it at a show and you know you’re directly helping them with their career, or even just with gas money getting to their next show! And if you’re a music nerd (and I mean that in the best way), it’s nice to have liner notes so that you build up that knowledge of who played on or produced a particular album so you have new avenues to explore. I guess at the end of the day I don’t have a “versus” mentality about the issue, just weighing the differences they better serve different purposes.

We’ll see about doing a run of physical copies in the future. I have CDs to sell at shows, but the cost of vinyl reproduction right now is insanely high. It’s more important to me right now to just get my music heard than to go into debt getting a nice electric-blue and orange vinyl disc made…although that would be sweet!

O: We know you are releasing your album through Happy Robots Records and that it’s being distributed through Cargo Records. But how are you getting the word out about this release?

CF: Both Happy Robots and my publicity team at Shameless Promotion PR have been working very hard for months getting the album reviewed in magazines/blogs/etc, while also getting tracks played on radio and in podcasts. So far the reviews have been very enthusiastic, and reading the review in The Electricity Club was fantastic because I sincerely think the reviewer understood my music better than I do!

O: I understand you’ve been played on BBC twice in the past month. That’s impressive indeed. What was your reaction when you found out?

CF: It was surreal. I actually got nervous listening to the show, waiting for my track to come on, wondering if somehow they might forget to play it or maybe the copy they got had a glitch in it or some other irrational fear. After it played, and I swear I was holding my breath the whole time, I jumped out of my little office chair and was dancing around like an idiot.

O: What are you listening to these days?

CF: I’ve been re-listening to Robert Fripp’s early solo work (the “Frippertronic” albums), as well as the Brian Eno-produced Talking Heads albums. Just recently I found out about a singer-songwriter named Laura Groves, and her recent EP “Committed Language” has been in heavy rotation. Her voice and the production are just sublime, and the songs are super-catchy.

O: Can you recommend any bands you think we should listen to?

CF: I just finished remixing a few tracks for a synthpop duo out of Brighton (UK) called Battery Operated Orchestra. They are fantastic and I can’t quite understand how they’re not famous millionaires yet! I also really like the “hauntology”-inspired sound of artists like Pye Corner Audio, Volcan, and Concretism. If you’re more into chirpy/happy electronica, maybe check out Solvent, too!

Of course, you should also listen to Rodney Cromwell and any of his releases are worthy. Recommend you start with the ‘Age of Anxiety’, but I have a remix on the latest ‘Fax Message Breakup’ EP as well. Go to: http://rodneycromwell.bandcamp.com

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