It is important for you to know, dear reader, that the Nightingale in the Sound of Animals Fighting is not actually a live bird. Though the male species of the nightingale bird are well known for their signing, the nightingale in the Sound of Animals Fighting is a human being, not a member of the Muscicapide family of birds.)
I usually conduct interviews from the passenger seat of my ’96 Honda Accord; lovingly, and not at all surprisingly, I call this my “office.” When I call the Nightingale, a member of the odd musical collective known as The Sound of Animals Fighting, he is also in a car. He is in a car going somewhere. I never ask where he’s going, and that sums up the feeling I get from listening to his music. I don’t know where The Sound of Animals Fighting are going, but I believe they are going somewhere.
The uncertainty about where The Sound of Animals Fighting are going can be attributed to their latest record, Lover…The Lord Has Left Us. While their first record, the Tiger and the Duke, was short and blistering, Lover…, is a lengthily collision between multiple sounds, languages, and musical styles.
“The idea for this new one [album] was to scale it back, and in a way we did and in a way we didn’t,” said the Nightingale. “We did scale it back as far as the core musicianship was almost all performed by the same group of four people, and then where we didn’t scale back was we had tons of vocalists this time. On the last album we had just tons of everything; if anybody wanted to come in and hang out, they could do it. But this doesn’t feel scaled back because even though the musicians were scaled back, the ideas were in overdrive.
“I think we just wanted to do something completely different [with the new record], and a lot of the stuff that we listen to is like Bjork. People do this in Bjork’s world, but in the “scene” or whatever you want to call it, kids aren’t necessarily used to hearing that sort of thing.”
The Sound of Animals Fighting’s unusual song-structures originate from an instrument not usually known for creating songs.
“For the first album, the drums wrote the songs,” explains the Nightingale. “I got the best drummer I know and sat him in a room and told him to just play. With recording systems as they are now [in] digital recording you can go in and just pop up tracks really easy; but you can do it with analog too, just actually cut the tape and tape it back together which takes forever. But when it’s on your computer, you can listen to six hours of drums and make songs out of all the best parts. It makes the songs unpredictable, because now the guitars have to write to the drums, which is a more intricate complicated instrument. It’s a rhythm and the guitarist has to write a song to the rhythm instead of just writing chords. The end result is a little more unique.
“For the new one [album] we did the same thing, pretty much, except we stared with programmed beats, a lot of which were done by me and a lot were done by the drummer. So he was involved with the drum beats one way or another.”
A short while ago, the various members of The Sound of Animals Fighting got together in California for a string of concerts. The concerts were not only the first time that the collective group performed their songs in front of an audience, but also it was the first time that most of the band have even met each other, said the Nightingale.
“The shows were pretty involved; we had a lot of different parts, a lot of different visual aspects going on during the show,” said the Nightingale. “There was a lot to organize in two practices, but I really can honestly say we pulled it off, at least to the best of our ability.”
The Sound of Animals Fighting opened the string of concerts with “The Heretic” from last year’s Lover… After “The Heretic,” the band tore through the first three songs from their EP, the Tiger and the Duke, before playing the rest of Lover… before coming full-circle and returning to the Tiger and the Duke’s “You Don’t Need a Witness.”
“Our motto became, however we need to play it to be able to pull it off live, we will,” said the Nightingale. “Even with some of the songs, like with the electronic beats, we didn’t want to go too much with the laptop. We had one up there for certain sounds and things but we didn’t want to just play along with tracks of the programmed beats. So we actually re-created some of the beats using more percussion and drum circles. Like “Skullflower” we programmed the drums on the album, but we had about four guys on stage with bass drums tipped to one side to try to re-create the sound.”
Perhaps more shocking than The Sound of Animals Fighting being able to pull off their intricate songs live after only practicing twice prior, was the bands choice to lift the veil of mystery surrounding the members of the band.
“We didn’t play with masks on,” said the Nightingale. “We played as normal dudes. Everyone saw it. We’d like to keep doing the aliases just because its fun.”
The concerts also featured live interpretative paintings from Los Angeles painter Norton Wisdom, who has painted for the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, and Cirque Du Soleit, and Oakland painter Aaron Nagel, whose most recent work includes the cover art for the RX Bandits’ And the Battle Begun.
The attendees of the group’s four California shows should feel lucky because the future of the band is always in an up-in-the-air state.
“In theory, I’d like it to go on forever, but because of the circumstances and everyone being as busy as they are, I don’t think that’s possible,” said the Nightingale. “I don’t know if there will ever be more shows – but one things for sure, I really do feel like things are good in threes. I like the idea of trilogies; Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, all of that, it just makes sense. You have the album that started it all, then you have the weird album that leaves people hanging saying ‘I’m not sure if I like this band anymore’ but they would still buy a third album if it came out, and then you can do the third album which is like ‘we’re going torock you like a hurricane like the old style, but we’re going to incorporate the craziness of the new.'”
If the third record the Nightingale is pondering comes to fruition, it would feature a shift to their personal side that the band has not tried before.
“We’ve discussed if there was a third one, it would be scaled back,” said the Nightingale. “It would probably be just the core (the Nightingale, the Walrus, the Lynx and the Skunk). And it would be less chaotic. It’d still be our signature chaos, but we won’t be out to drain everyone’s brain.
“This third one, if there is a third one, it will be the apocalypse.”
For a band that has incorporated a ton of musical styles and an equal amount of members into their peculiar songs, it makes perfect sense that the bands final statement would be “the apocalypse.”