From left to right: Clare Veniot, David Cooper, Jack Freudenheim
(photo courtesy of 46bliss)
46bliss provided the perfect musical accompaniment to the end of "Silence of the Lamb" in their song "The Way You Are." But who are 46bliss, really? How did they get a song on Veronica Mars? And what the frak does their name mean, anyway? All these questions and more were answered when spacecitymarc hunted them down and forced them to speak at gunpoint. Or maybe he just called them on the phone. In any case, the band was more than happy to share their experiences being featured on a television show and recording a new CD. Pay attention, and you just might win that CD. Details at the end.
MI.net: I'll start out with a hypothetical question. If an incredibly lazy interviewer were to ask you how to describe your music, what would you say?
Jack: They really should be ashamed of themselves. [laughs]
MI.net: I'm sure that hypothetically this person would be.
Jack: Who wants to take a shot at that? That's probably one of our biggest challenges, describing our music. It doesn't fit into typical parameters, although it's not that far left field. David or Clare, you wanna give it a shot?
David: Eclectic electronic ambient pop. In a nutshell.
MI.net: How did you guys get together? Did you know each other before you started playing music?
David: Clare and I met working in the East Village in a vegetarian restaurant called Angelica Kitchen way back when. We slung tofu together for a few years, and we kept in touch, we kept calling each other from job to job. We ended up working together in another company, and I believe one day I was with Clare in an Indian restaurant and I said, "Hey, we should put a band together. We could probably come up with something cool." That was the kernel of it all, and then we knew we needed more musicians, or at least one more musician, and I had a conversation with Derek Sivers, who you might know as the owner of CD Baby today. He was playing guitar and had his own band at the time, and he said, "Oh, yeah, here's a list of a couple of drummers I met that that I thought were cool," and at the top of that list was Jack's name. We called Jack and we hit it off on the phone, we hit it off in person, we met at that same Indian restaurant, and the band 46bliss was born subsequently.
MI.net: How long ago was this?
David: This would be 1994, I think.
MI.net: Wow, so you guys have been together for 11 years.
David: Yeah. Wow.
MI.net: Did you not realize that until just now?
Jack: Just barely.
Clare: [laughs] I mean, over the last year or two, we've realized that. Actually, it's an amazing thing, because we still really enjoy each other, and it just keeps getting better. It's great. It's amazing what happens when you stick to it.
Jack: We have a CD [Pistachio Home] that came out before the one that you've listened to [46bliss], and that came out I guess in 1999. So that one was a few years in the making, and then we finished that one and were promoting that. And then this one took us more than three years to make. We're very meticulous. [laughs] And so somehow eleven years go by very quickly, like time is speeding up right now. Good things are happening.
MI.net: Is 46bliss your only musical project, or are any of you in other bands?
Jack: I would say it's our main thing. We have other musical things that we're involved in in different ways, and some as 46bliss, like we've done some remixing as a team. There was a thing where we did a remix of a jazz version of "Silent Night" by Mahalia Jackson that was put out on a Christmas CD. And we've got some more things like that coming up with the same company that produced that CD. But also, I do some session work as a drummer over the internet, where I do drumming for people without being in the same room, and that's my main other involvement. But the band is priority for me, and then David's got another project going.
Jack: Oh, Sounder. Yeah, also I wrote a piece of software called Sounder, which is an ambient music generator. That's for sounder.com. I did that two years ago, but it's still selling.
MI.net: Yeah, actually, I just discovered that about two hours ago and downloaded it. I haven't had a chance to play with it yet. But I'm keen to see what I can do with it.
Jack: Cool. Well, I hope you enjoy it.
MI.net: Is that a substantial revenue stream for you?
Jack: It's more of a sideline for me. At the time when I wrote it, I was hoping it was going to make me into an instant millionaire. And that didn't quite happen, but it got some good reviews, and every now and then I get a sale from Italy or Russia or Germany or something. Or Canada. And it's always satisfying to see. There's kind of a steady stream of people downloading the demo and a certain number that buy it. I actually have just let the band be much more of a priority, so I haven't updated that software in a long time. If I had the time, there are a lot of things I'd like to add to it, featurewise. I've also used it, actually, in its original form. We use it sometimes to generate some of the music on our CDs. Both CDs have some stuff that we generated using Sounder. "The Way You Are (part 2)" is Sounder triggering different sounds, including samples of Clare's voice from "The Way You Are," the one that's on Veronica Mars.
MI.net: Cool. Well, you mentioned that you do some session work over the internet. The press info you gave me said that you guys basically weren't ever in the same place at the same time when you were recording; you were doing a lot of two-at-a-time and passing it over the internet. How difficult was it to work without ever being in the same place at the same time?
David: Well, Clare and I both live in Brooklyn. At this moment, we both live about a block away from each other, which is great for getting together and doing vocal rehearsals when we can make that happen. And Jack lives up in Katonah, which is a good deal away from where we live, so sometimes it was just more efficient for putting this record together for things to happen in Brooklyn, like things that I know I can do in Brooklyn, while Jack was simultaneously working on things up in Katonah, And then we would just send either MIDI files back and forth to each other or Cubase files back and forth to each other or upload and download audio files and send them to each other, and one person could work on something while the other worked on something else. And we also did meet in person when we required all sets of ears. But a lot, we found out, could be done remotely, without being in the same room. So because we're all busy and we don't live near each other like we used to, it just was easier, quicker to get things happening that way. Also, a couple of our songs, Clare and I have never met the musicians. The bass player on "Desire Give Way" [Michael Kay] lives in France, and he did his guitar in France and emailed it to us. So we've never met him. [laughs]
MI.net: How did he end up on the record?
Jack: He's actually an old friend of mine from high school. I haven't seen him since high school. And we'd lost track of each other and then somehow hooked up using email or whatever, we caught up with each other. And when I knew him, he played guitar, he didn't even play bass. So I found out he played bass and he moved to Paris, where I used to live also, but he'd been to America and moved back to Paris and was there recording demos of new songs that he wanted to try to sell in France, and I said, "Well, I could drum some if you want." And so I started helping him out and then we needed some bass playing on a couple songs, so we asked him if he'd want to do it, and he did this fantastic fretless bass on "Desire Give Way," and he also plays on a song called "Kalimba." But I haven't laid eyes on the guy in ages and ages, and he's never met David or Clare. A couple other songs have musicians that I met up here in Katonah that David and Clare haven't met yet. [laughs] We have to hook up with them one of these days.
Clare: Yeah, we still haven't met them.
David: You need to have a party.
Jack: Yeah, yeah. Actually, we're finally putting together a live act – well, re-putting together our live act – because we haven't gigged behind this CD yet. We're gonna play in New York at the end of September. The gig is officially on September 27th, the day of the CD release, at Satalla. So it's probably gonna end up being a celebration of that release as well as our own CD. I'm told that since it's a restaurant too, minors are allowed, though there's a $12 cover and possibly a drink minimum, we couldn't get them to reduce that. We might do something like give away a CD to the first 25 people, too.
MI.net: How long has it been since you've performed live as 46bliss?
Jack: Three years, right?
Clare: After 9/11, we were part of a benefit here in the city for the firemen, the children and families of the deceased firemen. And that was in October of 2001.
MI.net: What's the biggest difference between you guys on record and on stage?
Jack: The spandex, probably. Don't you think?
MI.net: The smoke machine and the lightning bolts?
Clare: Yeah. Different, hmm... well, probably the vocals. It depends on the club, too, you know? We used to play out a lot on the first CD, and it really depended on the club, on the sound system, and if we had a sound check. Really, to me, that was the most important thing. It depended how good the monitors were, etc., and if we had a good sound check, then we sounded pretty good.
Jack: Yeah, Clare and David are up there singing, and there's something, a certain kind of feeling that people get watching us play. We tend to do just the three of us. We're adding a bass player for this gig. Sometimes we've added other people, sometimes we use just the three of us. But it's just a kind of vibe that people get when we play.
MI.net: Where did the name 46bliss come from?
David: [laughs] I was riding the #7 train, which you may know of, in Queens. I was riding up to an appointment way at the end of the line, and I was kind of just dozing off, looking out the window, half-falling asleep, and the conductor said, "Next stop, 46 Bliss, 46 Bliss." And I don't remember there being a station called 46 Bliss, and I looked up and was like, "46 Bliss? What is 46 Bliss?" And I looked up and the name of the station was 46th Street/Bliss Street. But the guy just made his own little abbreviation of it, and he said, "46 Bliss." And at this point, that train station no longer exists, it's just called 46th Street. But the name stuck with me, and it was probably about a year, it just was in my head, in the back of my brain. And we were having a band meeting, saying, "You know, we really need a name," and it just popped out, like, "What about 46bliss?" So that was the introduction of it to these guys, but it had sort of been just bouncing around in my head for a little while, and that kinda was the birth of it.
Clare: It turned out that Jack had actually lived at that train stop once upon a time.
Jack: Oh, right.
Clare: And that David's grandfather had a bowling alley there.
David: Had a bowling alley right there. [laughs]
Jack: It's a spiritual power spot for us, I think. Intersection... [laughs]
Clare: It doesn't exist anymore, but we went out there and took some pictures on the subway, it was an elevated train platform, and it was kinda cool. And, you know, New York is a big city, but Queens, I don't know, nobody really recognized it, except one time we were doing a gig in Grand Central. We were performing there for the grand opening after the restoration of Grand Central, and there was this big event, and there were lots of things going on. And we performed, and there were these cops and one of them came over and he said, "Where'd you get that name?" [laughs] We said, "Well, where do you think we got it?" I said, "Did you live in Queens?" And he said, "Yeah, I know where that is." [laughs]
Jack: [laughs] I forgot that.
Clare: Funny that that was our name. But he's the only person in all these years who's ever recognized the source of the name. It just goes with our music, and also, we went through the numbers, and 4 and 6 is 10.
David: Which is 1.
Clare: Basically 1, in terms of numerology. That was a pretty good number. And especially our first CD, it was just a very important goal of ours was to induce some sort of blissful state through music. Our first CD had a pretty strong sort of spiritual, for lack of a better word, kind of a otherworldly and worldly, world-musicky kind of exploration. It was like a journey. It's kind of cool, actually, that first CD had some really beautiful stuff in it. Two songs have Latin, but one is Latin and French. And so, you know, it was this kind of real blissful kind of beginning.