by Sheldon Birnie
“Where the germ of the idea comes from, to me, isn’t very remarkable,” explains Nick Liang, of Conduct, one afternoon at Little Sister Coffee Maker. Liang, along with bandmates Rob Gardiner (drums) and Stephen Kesselman (guitar), are here to discuss their upcoming LP Fear & Desire, as well as their new split 7” with their pals and tour partners Tunic. “What I think is interesting is what we bring to the songs or ideas, which is completely collaborative.”
“But as far as the notes go,” Gardiner adds, with a grin. “Nick brings a lot of the notes, or sounds, to the table.”
“What I find interesting and compelling in music, particularly, is seeing the unspoken cues or seeing this very specific language that has been fostered between people,” Liang continues. “When I see a band live, what’s interesting isn’t seeing a band play a song by rote, it’s these unspoken cues, or things that aren’t even musical necessarily. I think those are the things that are compelling. And I think we’ve played music together long enough and have been friends long enough that I think we have a lot of things are second nature now, unspoken.”
Indeed, although Conduct is a relatively “new” band, the history between its members goes back years. You could even say that Conduct is a new “iteration” or dynamic that rose from the ashes of Departures, which featured Liang, Kesselman, and Gardiner, along with Tunic’s David Schellenberg on bass and Cannon Bros’ Allanah Walker on guitar and organ.
“It wasn’t really a conscious decision to switch gears,” says Kesselman. “It happened very organically and then we decided to change the name, according to the different music we happened to start playing.”
The songs on Fear & Desire are dark and haunting, at times brooding, almost claustrophobic, other times sharp and angular. Conduct’s live performances are powerful, loud affairs, band and audience buzzing with anxious intensity. It is outsider music, to be sure, but that’s the point. One thing that quickly becomes apparent when speaking with Conduct is that
“There were songs, the first half of [Fear & Desire] were played with Departures in different forms,” explains Gardiner. With only half an album worth of songs ready, Conduct booked studio time in Chicago with legendary producer and engineer Steve Albini. With the clock ticking, the boys buckled down and completed the remaining half of the songs on time.
“We figured it all out and it turned out well,” a satisfied Liang asserts, before explaining that the decision to book with Albini was one they hadn’t taken lightly. “If you’re gonna spend the money to record in a studio, it was a guarantee that that part of it wasn’t going to fail. And because he’s sympathetic to the kind of music we’re trying to create, there wasn’t time wasted in long discussions about certain ideas or how we want to behave, things like that.”
Considering that the band has only been operating as Conduct for a short period of time, it might come as a surprise to some that the band jumped not only into recording a full length album, but also undertaking a large US tour without a record. But you quickly learn that Conduct is a band that operates strictly on their own terms and with their own well defined, internal parameters for success.
“The intent of our playing music is trying to satisfy our own creative whims,” says Liang, “and that’s it. We really don’t pay any credence to outside considerations. The only opinions that matter are the ones within the band.”
“I think this goes for life in general,” Liang continues. “Having a direct relationship with the things you engage with is key to being content. Once you’ve booked the tour, and gone on that tour, that’s a success. All the rest is irrelevant. You want to make a record, the minute it’s recorded, that’s a success, whether anyone ever listens to it or not. We went and completed the goal we had. Once the vinyl is in our hands, then that’s another success. It seems ridiculous to consider outside things that are outside of your control.”
Check out Conduct’s the release party of Fear & Desire at the Good Will December 19 .