Like most in the pandemic, the LA duo No Swoon found themselves in unexpected, strict isolation in early 2020. “It was us dogsitting in a home for the longest time, but there was a certain beauty in being alone”, singer Tasha Abbott shared over Zoom in celebration of their new album Take Your Time, which was finally released last month. Take Your Time is a masterclass in dream-pop — fans of Beach House and Chromatics should take note of the incredibly textured and hypnotic sounds of Abbott and partner Zack Nestel-Platt. That idea of being alone rings throughout the entire album, but moments of stadium-sized shoegaze break through the sparse nature to create a compelling sound that makes No Swoon immensely rewarding to listen to. Currently amidst a weekly residency at LA’s Silverlake Lounge (this Wednesday’s show features PENDANT, who is also becoming an AOTY contender with me), I chatted with Tasha and Zack about the experience of making Take Your Time and the stories that were told on the album:
One thing I love about your sound is that it hews close to the typical sounds of dream-pop in its delicate nature, but there are also these moments of intensity that are remarkably orchestrated. Being as it’s primarily the two of you from beginning to end, I’d love to hear about your creative process in constructing these songs.
Zack: It always feels like from this point looking back, it’s hard to dig through how it happened. It’s as if we woke up from a dream to see a laptop with these finished songs, and it’s like, “how the hell did this happen?” (laughs) Going from 0 to 75% is quite mysterious. I really don’t know how most of these started.
Tasha: Some of them started more traditionally with me playing on guitar and slowly writing lyrics — but some of them are, like, demos on computers that somehow along the way became songs.
Zack: I don’t even know how recognizable they’d be to the songs that are out now. Some of them are from the same Ableton file that we held onto for six months, but everything in it could have changed at any point. We have, like, zero file management skills. (laughs) It’s like a straight line through Ableton sessions until we change the names from whatever their working names were to the names on the record.
With that in mind, when do you know that it’s done?
Tasha: We feel pretty similarly – when it’s out in the world, it’s done. This was a longer process for us than our first record; it’s interesting because it was rushed, but it took a lot longer. We started this album during COVID when we were heavily isolated and staying in a family home. We weren’t really ready to make a record, so in that sense, it was rushed — but after that, it slowed down tremendously. There are definitely songs on the record where I wish we had one more day, you know?
Zack: The idea of finishing a record is interesting, too, because sometimes to get to a finished product you’ve got to work backwards and remove things that you spent months adding to a song. The first song was written by Tasha on the piano in 2019 at a studio in LA, and over time, until we were sending stuff off to be mixed, we were continuously adding tracks and sounds, and removing sounds. I’m sometimes really jealous of people that are like “let’s spend a week in a studio” because the home studio/DIY concept enables you to keep opening up the sessions and there can be a danger in that.
Your music has a worldbuilding quality that I really appreciate. What were you listening to as you were constructing the world of Take Your Time?
Tasha: I love that you feel that, because I remember driving around with my mom as a kid and listening to The Beatles and really feeling like another world was being created. We were listening to a lot of Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten, and then Perfume Genius’s album that came out during the album was seriously addictive.
The music videos for the album tend to stick to the same themes as the album; they’re remarkably sparse and dreamy, while really honing in on just the two of you. How did the videos come to be?
Tasha: We did everything ourselves. There was a video camera lying around the house we were staying at, and we just had to follow our instincts and reflect our songs in a visual form. For “Beside”, I had this crazy dream about these cult-like people alongside multiples of us singing the song. I remember waking up and talking with Zack about how we could make that actually happen, and we just did it — we set up the camera on a tripod, he edited like crazy, and we created something that we are really proud of.
Zack: Our process of music video-making was essentially YouTube tutorials (laughs). We had no experience about filming anything.
Tasha: We learned how to use Adobe Premiere, and we learned how to use a camera. (laughs) For all of these videos, we had multiple concepts and filmed many versions, and we just had to make it as simple as possible so that we could actually do what we wanted to do.
How do you hear your experience of isolation in this home throughout the album? To me, this album is a “nighttime, driving solo” album that I think really rings home the experiences you two had while creating it.
Tasha: I love that question. I definitely think that we were super intentional with the sounds and arrangement of the album; everything had a strict intentionality to it. I hear it in my voice — I was singing a lot softer than I was on the first record, and I think that really paints the picture of being isolated in a home and singing to yourself rather than fronting a band.
Zack: I hear it in the stories that we’re telling in the songs. Talking to friends throughout the pandemic, there was a lot of time on our hands to think and overthink things, and that switch was turned up through isolation. We took a lot of time to think about where we were at in our lives and staying in reflection for what life used to be, and I think those stories on this album exist within that space.
I long for the day when I can stop talking about COVID and its impact on music, but I love that idea about stories and songwriting existing within a specific space — in this instance, the isolation that came from the early pandemic. It’ll be fascinating to look back a decade from now and holding everything that’s been released in regard to what we’ve lived through.
Tasha: Yeah, and everyone’s a little different from each other. People process things differently, and other people were physically impacted more than, say, myself. Some records could be loud and angry, and some are softer and quieter, but we had this massive shared experience that truly impacted everybody.
Buy/stream Take Your Time here.