On Let's Not Deprive Each Other, Jonathan Byerley takes Plates of Cake to a twangy, lowdown rock and roll hangover that's remarkably inspiriting.
Plates of Cake have been pretty quiet since 2016's Becoming Double. What has been occupying your time since the record?
We started recording Let’s Not Deprive Each Other right after Becoming Double came out. Then Paul at Unblinking Ear Records asked us to write and record a single for a series he had going. That’s now available on a really cool compilation tape called Office Supplies. In addition to playing out a lot around NYC as Plates Of Cake, Josh (our lead guitar player) started another band called New England Axe Factory that Ian and I are also playing in. We haven’t recorded anything yet as a band but we’ve done a handful of shows. I’ve also started playing bass for my pal Zachary Cale and I’ve been working with him on his new record.
As you mentioned, the latest from the band is a cassette titled Let's Not Deprive Each Other released in September. How was the writing for this record different than your previous works? Had the band shifted priorities musically since Becoming Double?
Right before the band made Becoming Double, I actually recorded a whole version of Let’s Not Deprive Each Other on a 4-track cassette machine. I played everything except the drums which were automated using Garageband loops. At the time, I thought it would be its own album, and that maybe I’d release it as a side-project. But then I realized they were just pretty polished demos, so I showed them to the band and they helped blow out the arrangements and brought it all to another level. Josh wrote some great guitar solos and Ian elevated the drum and percussion parts a ton. Gregory Hill and Jason McDaniel (Colorado musicians who I go way back with) also contributed arrangement ideas and played on it.
What are the differences in writing and recording for a cassette release than for other formats?
We didn’t really write this with any format in mind, though I consider it to be an LP. It’s out on cassette right now for practical reasons. The turnaround time on vinyl these days can be like 6 months. When Unblinking Ear Records offered to do a tape, I was all for it since it meant we could get it out this year. We’re working on a new album now so I just wanted to get this out there. I like tapes cause they’re quick, they sound good, and look cool. Maybe this one will get pressed to vinyl as well, I’m not sure.
The Plates of Cake catalog has breadth and variety that's comparable to several iterations of rock and roll from the 80s and 90s. The new record stays true to form expanding into a twangy side we haven't heard explored by the band. How was the vision for the record acquired in the recording process? What prompted the transition to a more acoustic sound?
This album is definitely quieter as all the arrangements were built around the acoustic guitar. I think it’s just a result from the fact that these songs started out as a bedroom 4-track project and then evolved into a band thing later. When playing these songs live, there are a lot more dynamics to be aware of and we’ve been figuring out how to achieve that range effectively in a club setting.
It can be tough playing the more contemplative stuff when you’re in a bar, but it’s been really fun anyhow. Our set is all over the place in terms of style and volume. We’ve got all these twin lead parts which are super effortless for Josh but always have my left hand tied up in knots.
Let's Not Deprive Each Other seems like it's primarily focused on the difficulties of relationships. How has age, maturity, and good and bad relationships impacted your creativity and writing?
A lot of my songs are about people that are either on their way in or on their way out. Not just relationships but all kinds of other allegiances and responsibilities too. This album covers both the ups and the downs of being alone, being together, and being alone together. The songs on Becoming Double came at this from another angle - all those songs take place out in the street, in the public sphere where there’s a lot of open conflict. Whereas these songs cover more domestic, spiritual, and private settings.
There’s also just a “musician gets older, is bummed” vibe going on here. I’ve always been intrigued by what I’d call “rock n roll hangover” records, like John Phillips’ John, The Wolf King of L.A. or Merle Haggard’s Serving 190 Proof. On our new record we’re grasping for the same straws.