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Q&A With The Corduroy Institute

"The Corduroy Institute is a San Diego-based non-profitable institution specializing in sonic research and development. Our mission is to use modern technology to bridge the gap between experimental methodology and digestible product. Building upon a multi-disciplinary framework, we cite the findings of 20th century researchers such as David Bowie, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Eyeless in Gaza, James, Television, Björk, Negativland, Pet Shop Boys, J.G. Thirlwell, Kate Bush, Can and Stereolab."




When did you first become interested in experimental pop? 


S.A. Morin: Our interest in experimental pop began during our formative years. From the earliest listens to mainstream artists like David Bowie expanding what pop music could be, we saw the potential for accessible music to transcend into more artistic territory, beyond radio fodder. 

W. Ruiz: There are numerous forms of music we have taken in, many of which have been given the prefix “art.” Art rock, art pop, etc. However, when we discussed which genre we would consider ourselves to be, we chose the term “experimental pop” since it wasn’t as laden with the genre conventions of the past.

S.A. Morin: Furthermore, the “art” prefix, as much as it may apply to conceptually driven music like ours, might connote a level of inaccessibility which may alienate potential listeners. If anything alienates them, it should be the music itself, not the label! 

W. Ruiz: We are attempting to bridge the gap between the experimental and the popular. 

We want to maintain an experimental methodology without succumbing to its excesses or ending up in the creative cul-de-sac of music that is extreme for extreme’s sake.


When did you first begin making music?


W. Ruiz:  I’ve had a guitar since 2006 or thereabouts, and I spent the better part of a decade not learning how to play it. During that time span, I also experimented with digital audio noises as well as unstructured improvisational contexts. Then, I moved into the world of multitrack recording, both analog and digital. Finally, around 2016, I obtained a synthesizer and a drum machine. These revolutionized my interaction with music, giving me the ability to attain an expressiveness I never thought I could reach.

S.A. Morin: I began messing around with a guitar sometime near 2004. However, I didn’t take it seriously until 2009 or so when I joined a Ghanaian Highlife band fronted by a professor in the music department at my college. After that stint ended, I switched over to bass guitar and continued to play that as my main instrument for essentially a decade. In 2018, right before we formalized Corduroy Institute, I purchased a Squier Vintage Modified Bass VI, an instrument which hybridizes my guitar and bass skills and has become the foundational component of our sound. 




Who are your biggest inspirations, in music and in general?


W. Ruiz: Our points of unquestionable convergence are David Bowie, Eyeless in Gaza, Momus, The Cure, Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Soda Stereo, Echo & The Bunnymen, OMD, Can, Stereolab, & The Chameleons.

That said, other reference points do differ a bit. My musical rosetta stone was Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys. King Crimson, meanwhile, has been the band whose relentlessly forward-looking approach has influenced me the most over the years. Finally, early 70s jazz fusion springing from the Miles Davis school was so open-ended that it invited all possibilities while foregoing none. This, I find, remains a worthy goal.

S.A. Morin: On my end, Kate Bush, Bjork, J.G. Thirlwell’s many projects and the band James encapsulate the spirit of possibilities in music that I seek to embody. Additionally, a trifecta of 1970s musical scenes (German experimentalists, British industrialists and American punks) inspire me with their commitment to a DIY ethos and willingness to transcend conventions. 

W. Ruiz: Philosophically, the words of Brian Eno, the cut-ups of William S. Borroughs, and the intangibles of Carl Jung’s numerous concepts (synchronicity, dreams, and the collective unconscious) are major landmarks in our thought process.

S.A. Morin: I can’t pinpoint other specific individuals, but 20th century art movements, the concept of chance and the scientific method have come to permeate everything we do. 



What made you want to put a 6 hour time limit for you to complete all your music?


W. Ruiz: Deadlines are functional things for institutions. They spur action and necessitate effective conclusions.Without them, projects may simply stall or remain inconclusive. Our first session of 2018 had a definite time limit since I had work that day. An entire song was completed within a 4 hour time span. The benefits of timed pressure were immediately evident.

S.A. Morin: Part of our agreed-upon framework consists of our desire for each piece to encapsulate a moment. We want to avoid the debilitating perfectionism that arises from unlimited time. Instead, we would rather capture the raw expressionism of our sensibilities at that very moment, and have that guide the spirit of the track. 




What made you want to intertwine music and sonic research and development?


W. Ruiz: When we reconvened in 2018, we had spent the previous two years amassing an astounding array of gear: synthesizers, drum machines, samplers, effects pedals, guitars, basses, recording equipment, and microphones. We reasoned that not using it for sonic research would be a disservice to this incredible technology. The seemingly-infinite number of applications and permutations offered by these machines beckoned.

S.A. Morin:  Another major factor that pushed us to intertwine these elements was necessity. Due to the differing levels of musical competence between us, traditional approaches to songwriting and performance were not the optimal direction. Thankfully, as we both have an appreciation for non-standard and unusual approaches to music, this was the best avenue for which we could play to our strengths. 


How would you describe your music to someone without being able to play it for them?


W. Ruiz: A jazz methodology with a post-punk vocabulary.

S.A. Morin: Saudade.



What can we look forward to from you in the future?


S.A. Morin: Our current project involves random number generators that select two albums from which we will draw inspiration to create improbable hybrids. In a way, this is the closest the public may get to us “covering” other people’s music. The twist is that we are not playing any pre-written work; instead we are harnessing what we perceive to be the essence of that pair of records. We’re documenting the selections on instagram and hope to be releasing this music soon.

W. Ruiz: This year, listeners can expect more music. This is all we can guarantee. The experimental process is not amenable to precise predictions. We hope to be able to collaborate, particularly with artists outside of the music medium. In addition, we want our music to be broadcast across the independent radio airwaves. Hopefully we can generate enough interest to create more physical product. Finally, we are still trying to find the ideal philosophical midpoint for a live performance. The formula is still being refined, but we are inching ever-closer.



You can find their bandcamp here: corduroyinstitute.bandcamp.com and keep up with them on instagram @corduroyinsititute and on twitter @corduroyinst and follow them on facebook at facebook.com/corduroyinstitute/


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