Joshua Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv talks about the makings of his stunning new album ‘Move To Pain’, released under his solo moniker Sons Of Magdalene. With a name such as ‘Move To Pain‘ this album is a personal reflection of Joshua’s struggle to come to grips of the death of his father and long time musical collaborator and childhood friend, Charles W. Cooper, III.
Firstly can you explain the coining of the name Sons Of Magdalene?
It was inspired by Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ, and deals mostly with the hypothetical children of Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene, had Jesus listened to Satan’s offer of a full life as a man and given up his martyrdom.
It’s been seven years since you started Sons Of Magdalene, did you ever envisage that you would release an album? Or was it more of an experiment to see what else you could make?
In all honesty the latter is closer to the truth. Originally it was a drain catch for anything that wasn’t immediately related to TTA, or just experimenting with things that wouldn’t fit there. I never really thought I’d do more with it than random CDR’s and maybe a 12″ here and there, but things change and here’s where I find myself, I guess.
A lot of music we listen to is not based upon such bleak experiences, in a way it’s refreshing to listen to an album that is so rich with emotions and experiences. By comparing your music as Telefon Tel Aviv to Sons Of Magdalene, and all that has happened in between, do you feel that as a musician that you are stronger and more experienced than ever?
I don’t think any of this made me a better musician, maybe touring with and playing in other bands, but ultimately I think I’m the same kind of musician. I try not to over think the music side of it, because I over think every other aspect of my life and my friends all know too well the 4am phone call they get from me where I’m panicking and have no clue how to do life. But even when I’m at my worst, the music side of things is ahead of the life side of things. Maybe now after going through ridiculous highs and lows, life is starting to catch up to music.
Your decision to hold back from Telefon Tel Aviv is perfectly appropriate and to say the least expected. Did you ever fondle with the idea of including someone else into Telefon Tel Aviv?
Oh, absolutely. I still do! How much easier it would have been to just call this Telefon Tel Aviv! It’s so hard to get anyone to pay attention if they think it’s a “side project”, which actually infuriates me and makes me feel like I want to call down a comet to smash this world.
If Charlie were still alive, yes, it would be a side project. People forget simple things sometimes. Charlie isn’t replaceable in TTA. I know that now. I’ll try to do things under that name, but forgive me if I remain doubtful as to whether or not it will see the light of day. I know there are people who don’t care and just want to listen.
Do you see Sons Of Magdalene surpassing Telefon Tel Aviv?
I don’t care. In all, likelihood, no.
What records were you listening to whilst finishing off the album?
Tropic of Cancer ‘Restless Idylls‘, Tinashe ‘Black Water‘, The Haxan Cloak ‘Excavation‘, The Cocteau Twins ‘Milk and Kisses‘, stuff in those worlds.
Over the years you’ve spent working on the album and coming to grips with the loss of your father and Charlie, what have you taken from these experiences that will help you in the future?
Grief doesn’t ever really go away, we just get better at dealing with it on a daily basis.
With so many people being distracted by technology and life in general – do you see this album as a warning to those who are ’too busy’ for friends, family and loved ones – not to take advantage of life?
Hmm, I’ve never thought of it along those lines, but I guess in some ways it could serve as that kind of warning. I don’t like to preach with music, so I generally avoid that sort of thing, but if a message like that (which is a healthy one, I think) comes through accidentally then I’ll stand by it.
Who’s behind the album cover? Can you explain the imagery, the (almost) bandages holding it all together?
David Nakamoto designed it all. I took the photograph in 2007 on a Holga medium format camera or something and I dug up the negative and sent it to him – and he came up with everything surrounding it. I love what he did because it references so many of the things that I’ve been inspired by design-wise over the years: the early Factory look of Peter Saville, the late 90’s/early 00’s look of things from The Designer’s Republic and Graphic Havoc and places like that, and then just a general unsettling sense of creepiness. I let him run wild with no direction and he listened to the record and nailed the look of it, I think.
Tell me about your relationship and decision to release under Audraglint?
It all boils down to friendship and promises. When Charlie was still around and I was working on some of this stuff, Brian Foote of Audraglint and I had already been friends for years, and he said “if you ever do an LP for Sons, let’s do it together on Audraglint” and I said yes. This was in 2008.
You mentioned that the production process was weird, a producers worst nightmare, why so?
There are so many versions of these songs! There is basically an alternate version of almost all of the record done as Telefon Tel Aviv. I will never release this. I went back and forth so much trying to decide how to make things sound right, and to ask myself, in trying to make TTA music, “ok what would Coop have done here?” I had to get inside the mind of someone who is gone. It was pretty trying.
Do you see Sons Of Magdalene continuing the Telefon Tel Aviv legacy?
Eeeeeeh that’s a touchy subject and I’m not entirely comfortable predicting future legacies – I don’t even think there really is any legacy to speak of. We were two dudes that made music together and a small handful of people found it meaningful. If anything I’m more concerned about making music that I think Charlie would like than I am about carrying something over from what he and I made together. Not the best answer, maybe!
Have you decided if you’ll be taking the album on tour? If so how’s that shaping up? I can see that small-scaled intimate events would be the best way to experience the show.
Well, I first have to find a booking agent in the states. No one wants to book this act. “Oh, TTA side project LOL NOTHXBAI” so we’re starting over a bit. EU may be different, there’s a little more interest over there, but it’s pretty slim. We shall see. I want the show to be something special and engaging and meaningful so if I can’t do it that way then I probably won’t. I really want to, though!
Will you be releasing any remixes or further records as Sons Of Magdalene?
Yes quite a bit of things are finished already and new things being worked on that will be released.
What do you think Charlie would think of the finished album?
Without patting myself on the back, I know what he liked, and this would have been right up his alley.
Finally what’s your most cherished memory of Charlie?
Too many to count and not one in place of another.Sons Of MagdaleneAudraglint26 June 2014DowntempoElectronicPop