Text: Andy Fenwick
Cover Photo: Richard Gin
Photo: Adrian Miles
How Infinity Shred didn’t land the score for Stranger Things could be one of the grand mysteries of the 21st Century. The first two minutes of the titular song off their 2013 LP, Sanctuary, released on the OK Go-founded Paracadute, predates the wistful menace of S U R V I V E’s theme by three years.
But when a zeitgeist moment arrives while good people are all making good music with good ideas, that’s how it goes. Like Explosions in the Sky investigating a Vangelis fetish, or like a fully-fleshed-out 8-bit orchestra, Infinity Shred’s Sanctuary and their 2012 release EP 001 (Gnar’s Dream) were sharp slices of cinematic chiptune with expertly threaded guitar matched to wavering analog synth melodies and typewriter percussion. After a three-year album delay, a drummer change, and some photos against the Irish Famine Memorial in NYC, Infinity Shred returns in October 2016 with their new LP Long Distance, on which their massive sound still falls from only three musicians: Clara Warnaar, Damon Hardjowirogo, and Nathan Ritholz.
Long Distance lead single “Choir VI” sports less of an 8-bit sound, yet that’s no loss, as electric guitar and keyboards elevate in relatively un-distorted tandem atop Warnaar’s live, deceptively simple drum pattern. “Choir VI” also argues a solid case for more pop-like brevity in synthwave instrumentals, given the novelty of anything tentatively ambient lasting fewer than three minutes. In their attendant, computer animated video for “Choir VI,” filmed in a mix of DAZ 3D and Cinema 4D by Jonathan Baken/Popcorn_10 of Cool 3DWorld, a hooded skater lands an unusual Christ-air for an audience of monk-like figures (Sunn O))) cameo?) haunting a pentagram-adorned church outfitted with glitch-y quarterpipes. It’s like a fictional, lost skateboarding scene from Tron. Which arguably nutshells Infinity Shred.
We asked members Damon Hardjowirogo and Nathan Ritholz about their upcoming album.
How did the Union Pool show go?
[Damon] So sick. Lots of friends. Lots of new friends. This dude Bill flew out from Vegas just for it which was insane, shouts out Bill. Playing all of the new songs for the first time felt surprisingly good too.
What’s your favorite/most novel piece of equipment used in recording Long Distance? Or used on stage?
[Damon] Recording Clara playing marimba was cool. Actually it was a pretty awful experience because two people in an adjacent studio were very loudly covering 90s alt hits so we spent a whole day trying to sneak in takes between shitty Nirvana covers.
Asif Siddiky does your cover art again for Long Distance. How did your collaboration begin with him?
[Damon] Asif is one of those people who is secretly good at everything. When I was in high school he had asked me to be part of a compilation release he was working on; none of us knew drawing / painting was one of his talents until he floored us all with his piece for the cover art.
With the cover for Long Distance complete it finally feels as if there’s enough to look back on to understand the value of having a long term collaborator. Infinity Shred is in many ways a project about growing as an artist and it’s rewarding to do so alongside one of our best friends.
How involved was the band in the serious art design for the vinyl LP, with translucent black vinyl, full color inner sleeves, and artists’ prints for each song?
[Damon] We’re very involved but can’t take all the credit by any means – for the most part we make sure the person we think best for each task is working on that one. Jean Kim helped with a lot of the layouts for type on the packaging, Adrian Miles shot the innersleeve photos, and Erik Carter did the custom Long Distance logotype.
The artist’s prints for every song will be really special. A lot of my friends are incredibly talented visual artists and this concept is mainly an excuse to collaborate with as many of them as possible in one shot.
Were your hats ever in the ring for the Stranger Things score?
[Damon] No, but I’m very happy for Survive; been a huge fan of theirs for a long time now and it’s nice to see them getting the attention they deserve.
Any plans to do more remixes; collaborate; be remixed?
[Nathan] Yes. Our friend Ian from Blue Sky Black Death just put out a great dark garage remix of “Choir VI” under the name Young God. Our next single will be accompanied by a sick remix from Makeup and Vanity Set, who we’ve been trading remixes with for years. We have a few more very exciting ones on the way as well that we can’t talk about yet.
Three-year layoff between albums – was it a search for your great new drummer, alone? Other projects?
[Damon] George moving to Berlin was a heavy blow but even before that happened we had lost focus. I took my first real job and was really content having more money and less ambition. The only songs we had written lacked cohesion and the majority of them were just simple hip-hop beats we were trying to give to rappers we like but eventually I think we realized it was disingenuous to pursue that as our only creative outlet. Clara joining the band helped us refocus our efforts and gave us the confidence to expand our horizons – we’re very thankful to have her.
Music related to yours has undergone so many permutations in the past 50 years, from Popol Vuh or Harmonia in the 70s, to John Carpenter and Vangelis’s 80s work, to Flying Saucer Attack or non-dubby Seefeel in the 90s, to Eluvium, Kavinsky, and M83 in the last ten years, and now even a range of metal bands incorporating synthwave (for lack of a better word) elements on a regular basis. Are you influenced by any one particular chapter in those 50 years? What music influences your songwriting that isn’t immediately recognizable?
[Damon] There’s no one chapter of music that’s been more crucial than any other but there is one key moment for me. In middle school I made a lot of friends on Xanga – that’s when I started learning about post-rock and some other things that helped me breach beyond the 90s Matador roster my sister had raised me on. The first concert I went to with a Xanga friend was with my friend Esther to see …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. The Octopus Project opened and I’ll never forget how important that set was for me. I was an obnoxious kid who didn’t appreciate electronic music because it had been stigmatized as lazy / less thoughtful to me, but seeing the Octopus Project immediately collapsed all of those notions and led me to discover more electronic based music.
We’ve collectively gotten into a lot more metal and trance the last few years – that will show itself in pretty obvious ways on this new album. As far as things that aren’t immediately recognizable, there’s a lot of influence drawn from contemporary R&B. Nate and I love The-Dream. Beyond how much we admire his music, the effort he puts in to the transitions from song to song on all of his albums through Love King is very inspiring and definitely pushed us to make Long Distance as seamless as possible.
Do you skate (often?)? Any favorite spots in NYC?
[Damon] I don’t skate nearly as much as I wish I did but recently I’ve been going to the new skate park at Cooper Park in Brooklyn; really cool spot. I’ve pretty much fallen off of street skating since I haven’t tried to film for a video in a few years but I’m eternally grateful for everything skateboarding has brought into my life.