Two years ago, Teepee mastermind Erix S. Laurent was poised for a breakthrough. He took his critically acclaimed 2009 LP, Morals, on a national tour while aslo being heralded back home as a true Miami original.
Laurent had been renowned for his intense solo performances. He'd sing, play guitar, control a drum machine, and clamp down keyboard notes with saxophone reed holders. But then, just when more ears were tuned his way than ever, Teepee disappeared.
A pillar holding up the weird end of the Miami music scene, his absence made for a very noticable void.
Now, however, Teepee is releasing an excellent new dream-pop single, "Time Meant Nothing." The flip side of the single, "Let's Go All the Way" refines his drone-rock into a fuzzy knockout that might even get you dancing.
Last week, Crossfade sat down with Laurent to find out where he'd been, the recording of his new album (out in November), and what it's like to be back.
Where he's been for two years:
"Music is all I do. All I was doing is music. I would go home from the studio and go on the computer a little and eat and all that stuff. There was some traveling here and there. Not on purpose at first, but I ended up staying away from the scene until I became completely separate from it.
"I wanted to focus what I could put on tape. Going out is too distracting, especially here in Miami. I had to wake up early and eat well.
"I came to a weird regimen. I'd wake up around seven and then meditate. I'd plan out what my day was going to be in the studio and manifest it. I'd be in the studio all day with my producer. His name is Albert Ovadia and he's very meticulous about everything. The equalizers and making sure all the frequencies are right. He and I are perfectionists, and that's why it took so long. We had the sound and vision in mind and it took as long as it did."
The other hours of the day:
"Outside of the studio, I was with my girlfriend at the time. I was spending time with her. I was trying to develop myself as a person. Trying to get my health right, my fitness.
"That led to me becoming a fruitarian. I pretty much became a raw vegan, focused more on health and family. Just getting to know my family. Before, I was always out playing music and coming home late. You don't see your family until I don't know when, and then you realized you've missed out on them.
"I grew by abstaining. I see it everywhere. An example: when you travel and you're in a relationship. You travel and by not being with her, you tend to grow more for her, you can have more love for her because of it.
"That abstain to regain happens. The Buddha escaped from society, had his revelation, and then came back and did his thing. By removing myself, I was able to grow."
Changing his name to Erix S. Laurent
"I wanted to separate my birth name from my artist career. I just wanted it to be a completely different persona, in a sense. So I guess, as an artist, I could act differently, I could be someone else on stage. I don't know what I wouldn't do that Erix would do at this stage, but it's a mental thing for me. It's a way for me to be more creative and get away from my personal life. But it's really just me. The name, Erix S. Laurent ... I don't know, it just reminds me of a French New Wave film."
His new healthy lifestyle:
"I eat more fruit than anyone I've ever seen in Miami. Like 2,500 to 3,000 calories of fruit per day.
"For breakfast, I have about ten bananas. Each banana is about 100 calories, so that puts me at 900 to 1,000 just from breakfast. I've been doing it for ten months now.
"Dates are high-calorie fruit that I like to eat. I treat fruit like a meal rather than a snack. I also like to have mono meals. If I'm eating strawberries, I like to eat only strawberries. I don't mix them.
"Lunch is a pound or two of dates. I'd snack in between meals on grapes or blueberries. It's hard to get full off those. Comes dinner, maybe I'll have more bananas. Or I'll have more dates. Or what's in season, like mango or mamey. For dinner, I top it off with a big salad. But 95 percent of my diet is fruit.
"I'm in tune with nature, I guess. If you're in nature and you're surrounded by an apple tree, then that's all you'll eat until you're full and that's it. So I try to incorporate that into my life."
Weirdest fruit he eats:
"There's this fruit called durian that I'm addicted to. It comes from Southeast Asia. It's this huge fruit with a bunch of spikes and it smells really bad, like someone's armpit. But it tastes so good, like custard. It's a mix between almonds, pineapple, cheese, and bananas. You can only get it in Asian markets. Or sometimes, the farmers markets will have it. But it's insane and I'm addicted to it.
"Other than that, it's biking, running, cardio. I'm not crazy about lifting weights. I just need to be able to pick up the guitar.
"In a weird way, this lifestyle has been playing into my artistic career. "I Told You So" off Morals has a line about durian, about not standing under the durian tree. There have been cases of people who've died from that. Imagine, this huge fruit with spikes falls on your head. It really messes you up."
Why else the second album took so long:
"One reason was the mastering. I used Brian Lucey, a mastering engineer from Columbus, Ohio. He got a Grammy for the Black Keys' Brothers album. And it took a while sending everything back and forth. That was one reason, and the producer and I being perfectionists was the other.
"But I'm happy with what we did and on the next album, I want to get the same team to work on it. I want to stick with that production for a few years. We learned a lot little things like mike placement, mixing-wise, EQ-ing, how far to sing away from the mike, how to mike the guitar, how to tune the guitar. maybe de-tuning the guitar so it fits right. All these things. Little things.
"I'm not that picky live-wise. That's about the performance and the type of energy we give off. I'm not that crazy of a gearhead, I just want to make sure it sounds right. Records are going to be the way you make them forever."
How the new music differs from his old:
"It feels different, completely. I think I lost a section of my fanbase that used to collect my older stuff. My older stuff was lo-fi and noisier. Now the production is better. Now I'm slowly maturing. They might say, 'Oh, he's changing or he's overproduced.' But I want a better production for people to hear. My limitations before never really allowed me to bring out what was in my head and put it to tape. But now, with the better production, I can do whatever I want.
"It's not that similar, to be honest. I mean, I have Sarah from Little Beard singing on two tracks and they're really beautiful. I think it's a beautiful record. I think it came out nice.
Reconnecting with old fans:
"I'm not as connected to my fans as I used to be. I disappeared completely. I went as far as deleting my Facebook so I could focus. I was barely on the Internet. To focus.
"Now that I'm popping up a bit, I'm sending out my music to older friends and a group of kids who used to like my music. Before, it used to be more detailed in their reactions. Now, it's 'cool,' I guess. But it's fine, I don't mind so much.
"You win some and you lose some. It doesn't really hurt me. But I noticed now what happens when you start to change your sound and how other people are affected by it."
His newer lyrics:
"The lyrics now deal more with reality. Before it used to be about fictional things and abstract things. Or at least that was the way I saw it in my head. But now the new album deals with relationships I had in the past and relationships those people had with other people. The love, the love I had for them.
"People like it. But it's not the kind of music you go out to dance to the way you would in the clubs or straight-up garage rock or hip-hop. It's hypnotic droning, peaceful music.
"You can dance to some of it, I guess. I wouldn't mind if people danced to it. I go to a lot of the shows and it's dance-y, but not at mine. No one was ever really dancing at my shows. But it makes sense, given what I was playing. Maybe I should be writing dance music instead, though. Nah."
Writing the new album:
"I wrote it all like within a month. All on acoustic guitar. little by little, in the summer of 2009.
"I'm always writing. I've already written the third album. I can't talk about it now, because I'm still developing the ideas. It's similar to the new stuff but a little darker."
The three-year disconnect between writing the new songs and playing them:
"It's a disconnect for sure. I already want to play the new stuff. I want to play it. If I had to play them by myself, though, I'd be like, 'Fuck.' But the band really helps, because being by yourself, you don't get to have that relationship you have with the band. Now I meet with people or perform, there 's a vibe and energy going. I think that's beautiful, that vibe.
"The band itself is always changing. It's whomever I can get at the time. Right now, I asked Deaf Poets if they can come on the tour, but they have to stay here for their own band stuff. But we've played together and will play together again."
How Miami garage rockers Deaf Poets became a part of Teepee:
"I was just looking for a group of musicians who play a certain way, with an intensity and with a really cool vibe. I saw them play once and I thought they'd really fit my music. Really intense and loud. In a weird way, I always felt I was on the left side of Miami. People didn't understand my music. I guess the sound and what I was trying to do. But they really seemed to fit."
What the new version of Teepee will be playing live:
"A mix of the new material and the old stuff. There's a lot of older songs that I'm still in tune with and like to play live. And a lot that I really haven't played before. Some songs from the early cassette tapes, the older seven-inches that didn't really see a lot of live airplay.
"Playing these songs with a band is really cool. And with an older song, it's a new take. It feels like a new song. I might even re-record a lot of the older stuff for future EPs and LPs."
Future recording plans:
"It's already all categorized in my head. That's the beauty of being a solo musician: I don't have to go to anyone and say, 'Do you think we should we do it like this?' I can do it all, now."
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Producing other people:
"I just produced my first other group, one of my producer's bands. They're called Red Traces and the album is going to be really badass. It's reminiscent of like Blonde Redhead, a little bit of Portishead, and some Depeche Mode."