HOMESHAKE is on the road again
HOMESHAKE is on the road again. The project, born from the head of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Peter Sagar, is back on tour after a long covid-imposed hiatus, out in support of the 2021 release Under The Weather. Sagar has had a long and complicated relationship with the touring life, which he has explored in various dimensions through his music, going all the way back to his 2014 debut, In The Shower, which served as a postscript unpacking of Sagar’s time touring as Mac DeMarco’s guitarist. In a way, Under The Weather is Sagar’s most “indoors” record to date, composed and recorded at Sagar’s home studio during a post-tour period of home-bound depression, and then incubated and ultimately released into the broader state of pandemic lockdown. Sagar’s recordings always have a distinctive intimacy, and Under The Weather is no different in that regard, but it does feel more airy, its cloudy synth lines floating above the programmed drums, with everything coalescing around Sagar’s gentle falsetto. Although Sagar writes and plays all the parts on the recordings, he has enlisted his longtime live band for this tour, which stops in Portland on Saturday, the 14th of May. We caught up with Sagar via phone to talk about the tour, the album, and how he prefers to listen to music.
ELEVEN: So, as we’re speaking, you are now on tour in support of Under The Weather, and if I’ve got it right you’re somewhere between Arizona and San Diego?
Peter Sagar: I’m in San Diego. We play here tomorrow, and we drove through all of the insane landscapes that are between Phoenix and San Diego yesterday.
ELEVEN: It’s a pretty beautiful area of the country. Has this tour been pretty standard as far as the regions you’ve been to before?
PS: Yeah, I don’t think we’ve played anywhere we’ve never been yet. Like with this group, we haven’t played Vegas, so that will be interesting. I’m pretty sure everywhere else is somewhere we’ve played.
11: We are excited to have you here in Portland. So this is the first tour you’ve done for Under The Weather, which came out last year. Is that the longest you’ve ever waited to tour an album?
PS: Probably. I’ve never really thought about it, but it was over two years between concerts.
11: How have you found being back on the road?
PS: It’s actually been pretty smooth. We did rehearsals at our drummer’s house in the rockies. He’s been living in the mountains for the last five years. So we rehearsed at his place, and we did a couple of warmup get-back-into-it shows in Alberta. The first show we played was my hometown, at a venue I hadn’t been to since getting kicked out for smoking weed at a Dead Prez concert when I was a teenager. It was pretty cool. Those first two were kinda crazy. We were all re-adjusting to the act of performing, but then once we started this whole stretch that we’ve been on for almost three weeks now, we fell back into it pretty quickly. I’m very fortunate to have a band like I do. We all just know each other so well, we’ve been playing together for so long, and it’s just a joy to play music with my friends.
11: I was going to ask, who is the personnel, is it the same crew you’ve played with in the past?
PS: Yeah, so it’s Greg Napier on the drums, and Brad Loughead on the bass, and Mark Goetz on guitar and keyboard. This has been the personnel of HOMESHAKE since 2013 or maybe 2014. Greg was the last person we added, but it’s been like this since we started touring.
11: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand that your composition process is just you writing and arranging the songs?
11: It also strikes me that you’re a pretty meticulous arranger, everything is placed in a dedicated spot when you’re recording. So when you’re taking these songs to the band, do you try to recreate that recording as faithfully as possible, or is there some improvisation that happens? What’s that process like?
PS: Everyone tries to learn the parts as they are, but then with everyone being musicians that I’ve been so comfortable with for so many years, everybody can kinda bend it to the shape that they’d like, as long as it works. It’s not really realistic to completely recreate a live recording, so everything is different, even if it’s just in small detailed ways, but I try to make sure that everybody has room to stretch, and put their own self into the performance. Otherwise they’re just sorta robotically repeating something that I wrote, in some cases, ten years ago, and that’s not fun.
11: Is there a way that those older songs take on new meanings, or do you feel differently at all about them after so much time?
PS: Yeah, I grow to hate a lot of them (laughs). You know, when you grow up, songs that you wrote when you were ten years younger don’t hit the same. Go figure. You grow out of whatever ideas or feelings you have. But some of them stick. Some of the older more popular songs become a thing that’s a performable piece that makes people happy, and that’s cool. That’s a nice way for things to end up. Everything changes over time, myself included. When we were rehearsing for the shows, we rehearsed a lot more songs, ones we hadn’t played in a really long time. We toyed with some that we had never even tried playing live, and with a lot of them, it was like, this isn’t going to work, but there were a couple surprises that made it into the set. It worked out really good. We’re all really happy with where the set is, it’s been really fun to play.
11: I was going to ask, you’re touring the newest record, but it sounds like you’ve got a range of songs from your whole catalog as well?
PS: Yeah, a little bit of all the LPs is in there, at least. There’s more songs from Under The Weather than any other album individually, but yeah, I dunno. We’ve got a lot of songs to choose from, and they’re all really fun to play.
11: Do you find that your set stays mostly the same night to night, or do you switch it up depending on what you’re feeling?
PS: No, we put a lot of effort, Brad I should say, specifically, in arranging the flow of the set, so it’s pretty important to us that each night moves well, and the songs go into one another well. It’s pretty planned out honestly. Maybe that loses something. If we were switching things up every night, there would be the opportunity for special moments, like the Grateful Dead, how they did stuff, or Fugazi, they would just improvise on any song that they would play. We don’t really do that, it’s more specific, and in that way we feel like we can do the best job each night. We know what’s coming up next, and we know what we gotta do to make it sound the best.
11: Do you listen to other artists when you’re on tour, or do you stay in your own musical world?
PS: No, that would be horrible (laughs). What have we been listening to? There’s a new Tirzah song that just came out. We were pretty hyped about that. We spent a lot of time today listening to this one DJ on NTS, Louise Chen. We listened to like four Louise Chen mixes today. Great great DJ, so good. The other night we were listening to Hoobastank (laughs). Sometimes at the end of the night we get a little unhinged. Leaving El Paso, we were blasting At The Drive In out of the car, I dunno, we’re kinda fucked up. Oh, that Whatever The Weather, that Loraine James project that she just released, that’s more ambient, that one’s been getting a lot of play. It’s all over the place.
11: You mentioned NTS, and you’ve had a show there for quite some time. Would you say that’s a favorite way that you consume music, in that curated sense?
PS: Mostly I just listen to albums. I like whole albums. Honestly sometimes I’ll skip singles until the album comes out. One exception is the new Soccer Mommy, those two new singles are amazing, we’ve been listening to those a lot on this trip. But I’ll often skip singles and wait for records. I don’t like algorithmic playlists. They’re sterile. They make me sad. But I love NTS shows. I sorta need to have music on all the time or I get anxious. It’s not like a really intense or urgent thing, but I feel better if I have something on. I don’t love silence, I guess. But yeah, I love throwing on an NTS show when I don’t know what to do.
11: We’ll definitely link to your show, we certainly believe that there’s value in a human-curated playlist.
PS: That’s where all the value is.
11: I know you also worked with Lucas Nathan, of Jerry Paper, on Under The Weather. I wanted to talk about their contribution to the new album, and how that relationship has developed.
PS: Yeah, Lucas is a dear friend. I met them ten years ago maybe, and we immediately hit it off. I was such a fan of their music as I heard it, and yeah, we just became fast friends, and have stayed in touch, and would see one another on tours and such. We did a tour together through Japan with our other friend Edwin, Eola is their project name. But we’ve always been close. I knew that I needed another set of ears for this record. I had mixes that I was basically happy with, but for it to reach its sonic potential I needed someone who wasn’t fixated on all the same stupid shit I get fixated on when I mix my own albums. So yeah. It was mid lockdown, and no one had anything to do. I was in Toronto, and they were in L.A., and it was a fun project. I would email them stems, and they’d email me a mix, and I’d email them a giant list of changes (laughs), and they’d get back to me with another mix. It was a really fun back and forth, and a really good project to do with a friend so far a way, and it taking a long time improved where we got with it. They also added a lot of details and things that I wouldn’t have been able to. Lucas really improved the record in every way.
11: One thing that’s always struck me about your music is your ear for melody, those really standout melodic parts that are the heart or the center or even maybe the foundation of your songs. Is that the first part of a song that typically comes to you, or do you build up to that?
PS: I dunno. It’s different every time. I generally start with an instrumental, usually chords, and then as I’m writing and arranging melodies fall into it, and the very last thing I do are the vocals and lyrics. It definitely varies from song to song. I don’t keep it too strict or anything. It’s just me in my house, so I just keep it pretty casual.
11: In addition to this interview, we’re giving away some vinyl of yours, so I wanted to talk about mediums. Do you prefer physicals? Are you a vinyl guy? I know you’ve recorded a lot to tape, but do you listen to tapes?
PS: I like to pirate MP3s. 320kbps. High quality MP3s, that’s my thing, and I like to steal them (laughs).
11: Nice. Old school. Do you have an iPod for those?
PS: (Laughs) No, they’re just in my phone.
11: You’re playing at the Crystal Ballroom on the 14th of this month. Is that your first time at that venue?
PS: Yeah, I’ve only played on Mississippi, in that neighborhood. Actually talking mediums, I always love to visit Mississippi records, because I love the cassettes that they put out. I have probably like twenty or thirty of those tapes.