Cindy Lee Talks to Fine Place About Their “Classy” New Record

Patrick Flegel and Frankie Rose and Matthew Hord get into home recording, Chet Atkins, and more.

Fine Place is the new Brooklyn-based electronic duo of Frankie Rose and Matthew Hord; Cindy Lee is the Calgary-based “confrontation pop” noise project of Patrick Flegel. Fine Place released their debut album — This New Heaven, via Night School Records — at the end of 2021, so to celebrate, the three caught up about it and more. Here’s their conversation from last November.
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music

Patrick Flegel: Are you in separate places?

Frankie Rose: Yeah. I’m making enchiladas for Thanksgiving and I can’t leave.

Patrick: I’ve actually had your enchiladas and they’re fucking fantastic.

Frankie: I know, it’s too bad you’re not coming over!

Patrick: Hey, I listened to your record a couple times! You sent it to me the other day, and it sounds fantastic. It sounds classy! You just did that yourselves, yeah?

Frankie: Yeah! In my in my bedroom, I guess. Have you been recording at all?

Patrick: Oh, god, no. I tore my ACL, like, three months ago. And just as a cocktail with my normal state of mind lifestyle, I’ve just been super — I was one day at a time before, and now I’m just… But it’s OK. I mean, I put out music pretty often. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do it. But weirdly, I sprung for this pink and green XLR cable — where I was all smug was like, This is actually kind of cool — as soon as I plugged the last two chords in, I just didn’t give a shit anymore. I was like, Yeah, I’m good, and then I’ve just been watching TV. And playing guitar writing a lot, but I haven’t recorded shit.

I think it’s just been a mind fuck, this injury, not being able to walk. It’s just like one of those skid reminders where you’re like, Oh, right, get health care, you fucking clown. I did that when I rented a car on a European tour once — I was like, Well, I’m going to be thrifty, I’m not going to get a tour manager driver and I’m not going to get insurance. And the other person can’t drive, so I’m just going to drive the whole time.

Frankie: [Laughs.] Oh, no wonder you don’t like touring

Patrick: When I returned the car, it was riddled with cigarette burns and smashed in the side and tire was popped. I didn’t save any money, long story short. [Laughs.] But anyways, no, I haven’t been recording. Do you continually do it, or since you finished your record, you take a break?

Frankie: I personally take breaks. Or like, it took so long to put my live show together that I can’t possibly think about actually writing something in that time period. So it’s like cycles. I feel like even if you’re not writing, in my opinion right now, the fact that you’re just playing guitar — sometimes you just have to put everything down, and then inspiration will strike later. I don’t think you should pressure yourself.

Patrick: Yeah. And you’ve been at it for long enough where you know those kind of rhythms. Like when to push it and when to just accept that you’re not in the mode.

Frankie: Yeah. Well, now also with the whole pressing plant crisis, my records have been done for, like, six months and it’s not going to come out until next summer.

Patrick: So you can just kind of cruise for a while.

Matthew Hord: We can piece together some songs very slowly.

Patrick: I’m wondering how you track stuff. For example — I did some detective work here — “Tell Me A Second Time.” You know this song?

Frankie: Yes, yes. 

Patrick: Yeah, it’s on your album. What’s up with this dissonant piano on that song? It’s this really haunting piano, it doesn’t make musical sense, and it sounds really good. What I mean is, it’s not harmonic.

Matthew: It’s like our Royal Trux moment. It starts falling apart.

Frankie: At the end? Which part of it?

Matthew: The second to last song on the record where you play the piano part, and it gets kind of intentionally sloppy.

Frankie: Oh, that’s just my playing. I’m just not good at playing. [Laughs.] 

Patrick: Well, it sounded great, I really liked it. The other thing I wanted to talk about was, in the song “Cover Blind,” during the chorus, there’s this kind of spiky, brassy synthesizer. And then also in track one, “I Can’t Shake It,” there’s this electricity noise [just before] 1:40 — it’s a sound that only happens once, it sounds like I’m being electrocuted. Actually that song, by the way, makes me feel like I’m on my deathbed — it sounds like one of those heart rate monitors.

Frankie: [Laughs.] It does kind of, actually!

Patrick: But it’s also very chic. It’s a pretty sexy record, you guys. But what I’m getting at is, do you do an overdub over a whole song and then automate things to come in and out? 

Frankie: How did we do this? I feel like the process is totally different for every single song. Like, maybe Matthew will make a loop or something, and then I’ll be like, “Oh, let’s see what kind of melody can go over this.” And then maybe I’ll just mess around with it and be like, “Oh, this could be a chorus,” and then start overdubbing some synths that might happen during the chorus, or post-chorus. And then we oftentimes — or Matthew did, because he’s much better at it — comped it together to make a whole song. So a lot of it was very piecemeal. 

Matthew: Cover Blind,” actually, I rebuilt the drums. All the drum machine on that song is live, me playing it, because there’s these weird scatters of the high hat — like they go in reverse and stuff. It’s me using the Roland TR-8 drum machine, this neon green, really ugly 808 reissue they made. But it has this thing called a scatter, and you can manipulate and just completely destroy the high hats. It’s really cool. So it’s me almost doing DJ style techniques to a demo, and that became the drum pattern.

Frankie: What about you? Do you write songs all the way through?

Patrick: I feel like most of the shit I’ve written, it’s pretty obvious, is really just stacking overdubs on a guitar take. I’m no metronome — especially early days for Cindy Lee, a lot of stuff would just be built around a guitar thing or a synthesizer or something. It was done manually, and then I’d just try to play over top of it. 

Frankie: That’s hard.

Patrick: And then that’s fine. Yeah, and it’s weird because sometimes it’s good — like, the first time I played it, that’s the arrangement of the song. Which I was impressed by on your guys’ record, because there’s these nice introductions and instrumental passages and it’s kind of l-i-t-e. I mean, it’s a pretty dark record, but my point is the sequence of things is really nice. It’s not singing the whole time, which is something I try not to do on my own songs.

But yeah, I’ll just commit to basically the first take I do of a song on the guitar usually, and then just stack shit on top of it. That’s usually how it goes. There’s definitely some more metronome based ones like that, but I’ve never gotten good with loops or anything like that. And a lot of the synthesizers I do, I do manually. I’ll just be super speedy and do, like, a thousand takes of some arpeggiated bup-bup-bup-bup-bup-bup, or whatever. It is different for every song, but that’s often how it’s done. 

There’s some kind of Flock of Seagulls shit going on [on your record] that I was into.

Frankie: Really? Where?

Patrick: “This New Heaven.”

Frankie: I do love them. The early Flock of Seagulls records are classics.

Patrick: I guess it’s just delay, and then I’m just associating with something that I think is cool. But yeah, I like that first Flock of Seagulls record. That hit is on it, and they all kind of sound the same, which you almost like about it.

Frankie: Yeah. They really ruined their career with their haircut thing. That’s all anyone knows them for now. 

Matthew: That record is really good. I was going to ask, though, to digress: Are you still using that 24-track digital recorder?

Patrick: Yeah, I don’t know how to handle it. I don’t deal with success very well; I’m still adjusting to that, which is ridiculous. But yeah, everything’s set up, I’ve got a 24-track TASCAM Portastudio. I really actually just use it so that I’m not going to the computer. Essentially, it’s the same thing. It’s more just, there’s faders on there, which I like.

Matthew: Yeah. You can be more hands on, rather than in the box, as they say.

Patrick: Yeah. And I actually wonder — I’ve been doubting it lately. I’m like, God, should I just go into the computer? It’s ultimately the same thing. But yeah, I’ve been doing that, and then I’ll usually just dump the tracks to the computer and then mix them in Garageband from my 2015 MacBook Pro.

Frankie: Hell yeah. 

Matthew: Perfect. Have you been listening to anything good lately?

Patrick: Oh, I am in such a retirement zone. I’ve just been listening to Jimi Hendrix and Chet Atkins. [Laughs.] 

Matthew: [Laughs.] This is the juicy content we need.

Patrick: Chet Atkins, the radio transcriptions he did — I’ve been learning how to play like him, so I’ve been obsessed with that. But it’s like ice cream truck music from hell. A lot of the tunes are old school. But I don’t know, I’ve just been feeling really romantic about guitars… and it’s a bit of a Jarmusch effect where he’s just deadly handsome. So you’re just like, This guy’s a fucking genius… And then you’re like, Wait a minute, is this about—?

Matthew: [Laughs.] You’re drawn in by his aesthetic?

Patrick: Yeah. Chet Atkins is a heartthrob, but the point is, he’s a brilliant guitar player. So I’ve been listening to a lot of those radio transcriptions. They sound fantastic, the recording is really nice. It’s stuff he recorded, I want to say in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the ‘50s when he was starting out and getting this reputation as a guitar player. I think a lot of it is supposed to be backing for commercials, actually — like a lot of those old country shows were sponsored by some flour company or whatever. 

He’s just one of those people kind of in a Quincy Jones zone, where he’s behind all of these recordings because he went on to be a producer for RCA in Nashville. He’s just got his hand in everything, like discovering the Everly Brothers and working on all of these tracks that you just don’t realize. So I’ve been kind of obsessed with him. 

And then Electric Ladyland, which is just like pure hippie sex. I love that record. It’s so free and it just sounds incredible. 

Matthew: I have to revisit that. I haven’t listened to Jimi Hendrix in a long time.

Frankie: [Laughs.] Maybe since I was 11 or 12.

Patrick: What have you two been listening to?

Matthew: I listen to ambient music that sounds like an air conditioner most of the time.

Frankie: Water music, I call it. It sounds Like water dripping out of a faucet.

Matthew: [Laughs.] Lately I’ve been really into Blaine Reininger from Tuxedomoon, his solo records. Kind of Bowie-ish, like Lodger-era Bowie. They kind of have that operatic post-punk style, but it’s a little more glam. I’ve been really into Click Click, this Wax Trax group from the ‘80s who were kind of like  Depeche Mode lite. They’re really good, they’re catchy. My favorite my favorite contemporary group is CS + Kreme.

Frankie: They’re really good. 

Matthew: They’re a duo from Australia. It’s kind of like a mixture of Coil and Sade—

Patrick: Oh, that sounds good! 

Matthew: It’s smooth, but kind of droney and dark. I’ll send you a link to it, you’ll love it.

Patrick: What was with that pass off, Frankie? You were like, “I don’t want to answer this.”

Frankie: I just never remember! Whenever people ask me what I’m listening to, I’m like, “I don’t know, I don’t remember.” I don’t know what’s going on most of the time. I listen to whatever Matthew’s listening to. I do love CS + Kreme, that stuff is amazing. The reissues from that label STROOM are awesome — that Pablo’s Eye stuff’s amazing.

Matthew: You’re really into Belgian ‘80s music.

Patrick: Do you guys listen to — I got a bit of a vibe here — Section 25? 

Matthew: Yeah, the Factory Records band?

Patrick: There was a few moments on your record that really reminded me of them. I like them a lot — I don’t think they’re obscure for a reason, I think they’re one of the greatest bands of all time. I’ve been really obsessed with their music for a long time.

Matthew: That From the Hip record is sick. The one with the mountain range on the front. I’ve had that record for a long time. So yeah, maybe it’s seeped into our subconscious, actually.

Patrick: Yeah, it’s all just one goddamn song. 

I’m just going over my notes. Ok. High glamour, gold chains, high fashion, Lexus — that’s one of my notes. There’s something very chic about the record. It’s like, weirdly high class, but then I don’t know how to explain it… Greasy glam. Jewelry, fur coats kind of thing. I’m like doing, like, a slam poem.

Frankie: This is your impression of the Fine Place record?

Patrick: Yeah.

Frankie: Classy!

Patrick: Track two — “gated drums,” “distant bass.” I liked how the background instruments were quite low in that song. I don’t know what it is, but I have a thing about that. It’s almost like when you listen to those shitty old metal bands, where it’s so thin, it almost seems more dangerous or something. I like the mix. I thought it just sounded kind of aggressive. 

Matthew: That’s Frankie’s mix. 

Frankie: Well, you know, that’s also my fantastic bass playing — when it got any louder, it really fell apart. [Laughs.]

Patrick: Yeah, I really liked that one. I already touched on the electricity noise that happens for about two seconds in track one.

Matthew: Yeah, that’s my modular synth being chained to the drum machine. So it’s just the drum hits, and the modular is making these crazy signal sounds, like mimicking it. 

Frankie: I feel like it was definitely one of the more free, happy accident kind of loose recordings I’ve ever been a part of doing, on an album.

Matthew: It was truly experimental.

Patrick: It’s funny because I feel like it’s really well-recorded. It sounds pro. But then there are these weird things like that where it’s vital, like it just sounds like people made it. 

Frankie: It’s really my first attempt at recording something. I’ve always had other engineers that are really, really pros, for example, on my records, and I’ve been able to beat the recordings over the head with perfection. Which I don’t think is a good thing. I’m trying to really lighten up about that. So Fine Place was awesome because I was like my own recording constraint. I was like, Well, this is what it’s going to be, and that’s OK.

Patrick: Yeah. And who would know what you like better than you?

Frankie: That’s true.

Patrick: The whole thing is just kind of fucking bullshit.

Frankie: It is really bullshit.

Patrick: I mean, it’s wonderful to collaborate with people who know shit you don’t know, that’s amazing. But it particularly comes down to the money in my mind, just like, Are you seriously going to throw thousands and thousands of dollars at this? Like, you don’t need anything.

Frankie: Yeah, I’m on board with that. 

Matthew: Frankie can mix. She’s talented enough to mix our stuff moving forward, for sure. We don’t need a studio for our recordings.

Frankie: This is news to me, because I really was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” But does it make it good if you know what you’re doing? Does it make good music? I don’t know.

Patrick: Do you ever see those late night bands? You know, like David Letterman’s band, the Conan O’Brien band, et cetera. Those are the best of the best, and what the fuck does that sound like?


Fine Place is a new duo comprising Frankie Rose (Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls) and Matthew Hord (Running, Pop. 1280, Brandy). Based in Brooklyn, NYC together they’ve crafted a crystalline full length of nocturnal, electronic pop music that charts a way out the post-global, cyberpunk dystopian environment it was created in.

Their debut album This New Heaven is out now via Night School Records.