Success on the road has provided the Orlando indie-pop duo Sales with access to better gear in the studio. This, in turn, has allowed co-songwriters and producers Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih to adopt a dynamic, widescreen sound that's crisper and cleaner than the band's more basic beginnings.
But they haven't lost the bedroom-project charm that has endeared them to so many.
"Jordan and I are both pretty confident that as long as we're producing the tracks, it'll always stay true to that original thing that made people like us in the first place," Morgan says. "We're going to continue to learn and grow and, hopefully, make better and better songs."
Sales was noticed after releasing the single "Renee" on SoundCloud and Bandcamp. The song was the catalyst for a 2014 EP that displayed all the characteristics of the duo's sonic signature — Morgan's nonchalant singing style; Shih's lo-fi, machine-made beats; and their guitar harmony. If the broader indie-rock scene were an extended family, Sales would be Beach House's eccentric step-cousin.
They gained a following the hard way: self-booking extensive tours and winning audiences over city-by-city. Now Sales is touring to promote its first full-length album, Forever & Ever, which dropped in July. The duo will play at Gramps Saturday, October 6.
Speaking to New Times by phone, Morgan says she and Shih recorded Forever & Ever in their respective bedroom studios, but she admits it's a decidedly higher-fidelity affair than the EP.
"We upgraded a lot of our gear, and we had fewer limitations," Morgan says. "We learned what we liked and didn't like. We're more conscious of putting more energy into the tracks, having them ride a little better so they're more enjoyable for us to play."
When they're writing, they work side-by-side and make decisions 50/50, with Shih typically driving the session from his computer. They don't give much consideration to how they'll re-create a song live.
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They started out performing as a duo with a drum machine, but now they've added a drummer, Malcolm Martin, and tour with sound engineer Michael Regina. Morgan and Shih both play guitar; they rely on programmed tracks to hold down the bass. "We're more of an electronic project, I guess," Morgan says. "The technology now is so cool... If you're not mixing preprogrammed sounds and live instruments, it's like, what are you doing?"
They remain entirely independent and self-managed. Morgan believes it's important that she and Shih retain total creative control over the project; otherwise, it wouldn't really be Sales.
In fact, they've tried working with an outside producer in a big-budget studio, and it didn't work. "We'll probably never do that again," Morgan says. "It was superstrange, Jordan and I being in the passenger seat. Our flow is pretty intuitive and pretty natural, and having someone else in the driver's seat really messed that up. It was a really good experience; we learned a lot, and [the producer] was superknowledgeable. But it definitely didn't have that sound."