Wednesday, September 20, 2017
“From the outside looking in, [Tycho] can appear bigger than it is, and so people are like, ‘Oh, I should have heard of this.’ But should you have? It’s instrumental, weird ambient music,” laughed Tycho frontman Scott Hansen regarding why his music flies under the radar.
Still, while bands such as Explosions in the Sky may have more name recognition, Tycho’s popularity is on the rise, thanks to its expansive sounds, intoxicating beats, and atmospheric mood. The band’s most recent record, Epoch (2016), offers listeners an aurally rich, finely calibrated musical journey and can serve as an excellent introduction for those unfamiliar with Tycho.
I recently chatted over the phone with Hansen, who was at his home in the Bay Area for a brief hiatus on their current tour, which includes a stop at the Lobero on September 25.
How did Epoch come about? It happened really quickly, in like eight months. We were renovating the house, my house in San Francisco. So we moved to Berkeley, my wife and I, and spent like a year there, and I built this temporary studio in the attic. And we were in the woods in North Berkeley Hills, and it was this totally different experience from being in San Francisco, and it was super inspiring. Those songs came from a bunch of late nights just tweaking on sounds. And then [guitarist] Zac [Brown] came in, and we started fleshing out a lot of the ideas. And then I worked with [drummer] Rory [O’Connor] for a couple sessions at his studio to get some live drum tracks.
What kind of vibe would you say Epoch has? For me it was much more insular … I wanted to get back to my roots of being just a guy in a room, just messing with sounds for endless hours and seeing what comes out of the process …. Awake  was an exercise because I worked more with Zac [on] songwriting — here’s a hook; here’s the bridge; here’s the chorus. Whereas before, I did these open-ended things that didn’t have any particular beginning or end or focus — [no] thesis statements, more like a journey instead of this one pointed thing.
So I wanted to get back for that, but I wanted to bring along a lot of the things that I learned with Awake …. The songs [on Epoch] are coming from this really specific place. And I knew that this would be the final [album] before I jumped off and to do something completely …. So I wanted to tie up the three-album trilogy [Dive (2011), Awake, and Epoch].
Are you working on a new record? I have tons of music, and there’s actually a whole album’s worth of stuff. I actually feel strongly about it. [But Epoch] has a vibe; [it] was very focused. A lot of stuff, even if it was good, [didn’t] feel like it fit. So yeah, there’s a bunch of stuff that we still have floating around. And then there’s a bunch of new stuff. I’m sure that it’ll be coming over the next few months because we’re finally going to be home for a while, for the first time since the album came out.
You’ve been touring for a full year nearly? I think one time we were home for three weeks, and right now we’re home for three weeks, and that’s pretty much it. It was ridiculous. The only reason we did that is because we’re trying to develop Europe a little bit more — we did four European tours this year, which is just insane. Usually we maybe do one every two years.
How would you define your music? I hate trying to define it. I call it like chill electronic, but you know “electronic” conjures up some weird imagery. So I say ambient with a lot of rock influences. Like prog rock or post-rock…. It’s a good exercise for me [to try to describe it]. I would like to someday have a really good answer. Maybe I need to find … some journalist who gives it a good name, and then I can be like, yeah, that’s what it is.
Tycho plays Monday, September 25, 8 p.m., at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.). Call 963-0761 or see lobero.org.