Dan Friel‘s music acts as a literal definition of the oft-used phrase “noise pop”. His solo work, including 2004’s Sunburn and last year’s Ghost Town, achieves a near-perfect medium of frayed sounds and memorable hooks. As a founder of Parts & Labor, he has seen the group evolve from the aggressive abstraction of their early work for the more refined but no less experimental approach heard on 2008’s Receivers, built around a collection of field recordings and samples. And as one of the owners of Cardboard Records he has also helped to release work from the likes of Gowns and Pterodactyl, likeminded artists memorably working the boundary between squall and bliss.
[Previous interviews in this series can be found here.]
Sunburn‘s packaging struck me as extremely utilitarian, with the CD itself serving as its own artwork and liner notes. Ghost Town, by contrast, has a much more abstract approach; was this something you had in mind from the start?
Sunburn‘s whole feel is pretty utilitarian. I tried to make the best looking package I could make without any actual packaging. Just a simple way of getting music to people’s computers/iPods/etc without waste or bullshit. Â Fun fact: my friend who released it got several hundred of those used jewel cases from CDs that were being thrown out by Pitchfork.
With Ghost Town I wanted something that represented how busy and bright the album came out. Â Shawn Reed’s art always struck me as being its own universe with its own language, and I was shooting for that level of cohesiveness with the album.
How would you describe Ghost Town‘s overall sound in comparison with Sunburn?
Ghost Town is a lot more dense and more purposeful, which is not tosay that I like one better than the other.
At this point, at least three of the members of Parts & Labor also have solo projects. Do you find that having more of a presence for your own music affects your part of the songwriting process for Parts & Labor?
I find that the two processes feed into each other really well. Â I have a pretty short attention span, so I’m constantly burning out on either the all-electronics mode, or the rock band mode, and falling back on the other.
Do you view the sample/field recording-based songs of Receivers as a one-off experience, or has this had a permanent effect on the way you conceive music?
I wouldn’t do the same thing for another record, but I would consider some comparable participatory theme for future records. Â That collage style has always sounded good to me. Â It was really fun getting to hear what people sent and interacting with friends and fans and total strangers in that way.
Besides your work as a musician, you’ve also been involved with releasing music via Cardboard Records; how has that affected your experience of being in a band?
Hmmm… I don’t know that it has. Maybe it’s given me a little bit more sympathy for all of the long running indie labels that are going under these days.