An interview with Chan Poling from the New Standards.
Minnesota is a hub of fantastic music. Its eclectic range of musical talent spans from the Andrews Sisters to The Replacements, and includes industry legends Bob Dylan and Prince. Born from this Minnesota tradition are The New Standards, a trio made up of The Suburbs founder Chan Poling (piano), Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic bass player John Munson, and on vibes, Steve Roehm from the Texas punk bands Billy Goat and Electropolis.
As big fans ourselves, and fellow Minnesota brethren, it was an honor for M Magazine to chat with Mr. Poling and discuss his music, his audio gear and how he’d like others to enjoy the group’s songs.
M: You all come from such amazing musical backgrounds, how did The New Standards come to be?
Chan: It started with John and I jamming in my living room one night. We were working on a show for a friend from L.A., and we started screwing around doing cover songs: “Under Pressure” by Queen and Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” As we played, we realized how fun this was. We began breaking the songs down to the acoustics, adding in our own sauce, soloing over the changes and added a little jazziness to them. And my wife walks in and says, “That sounds great, you should take that out on the road.” So we booked a gig at Bryant Lake Bowl, and it took off from there.
M: What kind of audio gear do you have at home?
Chan: To be honest, I have nothing in my house right now. I haven’t had a turntable for years, and I really want to get back into it.
Music is extremely distracting to me because it ‘s my world. I rehearse 4 hours a day in the studio and I spend so much time writing. I love music and dig very deeply into it, it’s an intense experience. So when I listen to music it’s totally immersive to me, all I can do is think about what every instrument is doing, what’s the mix. So when I’m working on my own music, which is most of the time, I don’t listen to other music, because it’s distracting.
If I want to relax and listen to music, John and I will hang out in our studio, drink wine and just have a good time. We spend hours listening to everything from old jazz to Blue Nile and Annie Lennox and old new wave stuff from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
M: So how would you prefer your fans listen to your music?
Chan: We grew up listening to rock in the ‘70s. The Rolling Stones and Small Faces and punk rock — the original punk rock. All those records were made on that old gear, so we try to reproduce that; that’s what we love.
One of my favorite records is “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis. I think that record was made in two days. All that stuff was caught live. That’s one of the most classic records of all time, and we’re trying to get back to that with our new record. We’ve been tweaking our home studio where we can record a lot of rehearsals and pull together a whole album, and it will all be live.
M: That doesn’t translate very well to digital device format, does it?
Chan: I worry about replicating bass tones. Everyone is so used to listening to stuff without any low end, everything is so compressed these days. That’s why I love records, I love making records. I’m all for audiophilia, if that’s even a word. Some of my most pleasant experiences are going to friends’ homes who are audiophiles and who spend the time and money to invest in this stuff. Digging in really deep to old classic vinyl, playing on a turntable with the beautiful tube amps — I love it. So that two-channel sound, that’s how I’d prefer people listen to us.
With The Suburbs, I resorted to doing a lot of overdubbing and tracking. But for the jazz stuff, for the acoustic stuff, I want to get back to the basics and two-channel systems because they certainly deliver that extremely well. I can’t stand listening to music on my phone or my computer. I want the full sound.
Raise your standards
If you want to check out The New Standards in concert, buy their music or just learn more about the trio, check out their website at thenewstandards.com. And if you want to explore the best ways to listen to their jazzy/rock sound, or any kind of music for that matter, visit your nearest Magnolia, where you’ll find the finest turntables, tube amps and speakers.