God Lives Underwater Push Songs To The Surface
Electronica duo insists that it is more about the music than the technology.
by Contributing Editor Frank Tortorici
Since the duo God Lives Underwater surfaced on the electronic music scene in 1994, its members — who both sing, play guitar and keyboards and handle looping — have insisted that they are first and foremost about songs, not ambiance.
And based on the recording process used for their latest modern-rock hit album, Life in the So-Called Space Age (1500/A&M), it can safely be said that God’s Jeff Turzo and David Reilly, both 27, are men of their word.
While the two write songs in many different ways, Turzo said their favorite tracks on the new album — which was released in March — are the tunes that began as just words and guitar.
“A lot of times we’ll have a nearly finished song written on guitar and then we’ll go back and find sounds on some tape that go with it well,” he said.
“This album is more song-oriented than the last one,” Turzo added. “And the track ‘The Rush Is Loud’ is an example of that. It’s a 2-year-old song that we had a lot of fun remaking. It took from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. a few days before mastering the album to [cut the song]. That’s what made it cool.”
The band’s label, 1500, was fully behind the duo’s first single from Space Age, “From Your Mouth” , a funky and irresistible track that garnered a great deal of airplay on modern-rock radio stations. The label plans to release the equally catchy “Rearrange” on June 30.
“Everyone has a say in picking the singles,” Turzo said. “But often [David and I] are too close [to the songs] and we can’t hear anymore, so we look for help [from the label].”
The two — Pennsylvania natives who moved to California — share the songwriting. And although they sometimes focus their lyrics on personal experience, they’re primarily concerned with what words sound good.
God Lives Underwater’s eponymous 1994 EP and 1995 debut album, Empty (both on American Recordings), were not your typical, monotonous, melody-free electronica-fests, either. It’s just that, according to Turzo, the duo had more of a game plan this time: to cut music like that which they love.
And what they love are “song bands” such as techno-rockers Spiritualized, Depeche Mode and even the Beatles, though mixed with some techno of the Prodigy and Nine Inch Nails kind. It comes off sounding something like new, highly produced pop from David Bowie or Radiohead, only with more tape splicing.
And while GLU’s music has certain electronic elements to it, the group draws its lyrics organically from the life around them.
“Dave’s more personal,” Turzo said. “I like to write colorful things. Music is still art if it’s not 100 percent real emotion. Emotion can be fake. We’ve written stuff as other people.”
Turzo and Reilly produce all their sounds, mostly on their own, in their private home studio. They’ve shunned commercial studios since the beginning of their recording days. “[Our studio] is where we’re comfortable working,” Turzo said.
On tour, where they’re joined by drummer Scott Garrett and guitarist Andrew McGee, Turzo and Reilly said they believe that GLU’s live sound should be different from their recorded music.
“Very few techno bands play live,” band manager Gary Richards said. “GLU add in everything from guitars to live drums, vocals [and] filter changes on the fly. They are more like a rock band than a techno band. Songs come first, then the production elements are added.”
GLU switched to A&M Records when Richards formed the label’s 1500 Records. The new label offered the group more creative freedom, Turzo said.
Familiarity with the band makes a crucial difference in helping the group develop, Richards said. “As a label, we can help get God Lives Underwater’s vision across,” he added, “because I’ve been [working] with them for many years, live with them, and I understand what they’re trying to accomplish. They are a song-based band that utilizes technology to enhance the music.”
Original Date: 1998-06-19