People Get Ready is: Steven Reker (vox/gtr/keys), Jen Goma(vox/keys/gtr/bass), James Rickman (bass/gtr), and Booker Stardrum (drums). Their second album, Physiques, came out on Brassland in June. They have presented their music and performance work at the Watermill Center, the Kitchen, BAM, the Skirball Center, the Andy Warhol Museum, Glasslands Gallery, Death by Audio and others. Follow them here.
“Our idea is to listen to something none of us has heard before, take extensive notes, and see if we can create a coherent piece together.”
— email from People Get Ready to the Talkhouse editors
IAN: Are we allowed to talk while this is happening?
JAMES: Oh yeah. Just say what’s on your mind.
JEN: Grapes. Squeeze the sweetest juices.
STEVEN: “Squeeze the Sweetest Juices” — an album review by People Get Ready. Alright, here we go.
[Album begins. No one talks for 27 minutes.]
STEVEN: This is prepared piano, right?
IAN: It’s not prepared. He’s doing everything with his hands. This transition is really fucking cool. It’s basically Swiss watch city.
JEN: The transitions are so much more noticeable because they make you get that groove in your body and then they change it on you.
STEVEN: But it’s always subtle.
IAN: It’s pretty wild knowing that it’s just piano, bass, and drums, no overdubs.
JEN: I didn’t know that. You just blew my mind.
IAN: I’ve seen them play and this is what it sounds like. They’re very much into being a live band that’s taking a lot of influence from things that aren’t done live.
JAMES: But that must be a completely different experience. What I was trying to think about — after I was like, wait, that’s totally a guitar, so they’re a four-piece — was, but why does that matter? We’re not watching them, being blown away by how tight they are or, like, wow, they’re making all those sounds with acoustic instruments. So if you take that live experience away, what do you have? What is the music?
JEN: I feel like their band name means that is important — the way it’s recorded and the way it’s experienced is important to them. The name’s kind of referential to the tools that they use.
IAN: But James brings up a good point: a lot of this stuff is context. When you strip it away, the music itself is super meditative. But what function does this music serve? I’m not sure.
STEVEN: I can see so many roles for that kind of music, actually. I can see it in concert dance — there’s a lot of structure and a lot of repetition that lends itself to landscape — and I can see it in soundtracks. I wrote a whole story [while listening]. That’s all I did. I wrote a rough narrative of what a film would look like if it was soundtracked to this album.
JEN: I drew a lot. It makes you interact with it.
STEVEN: With this, it’s just so much structure and so much architecture that you can’t help but imbue it with your own narrative. Wherever you’re at, you’re going to deal with what you’re dealing with.
JAMES: I made a plaster bust of Lionel Richie’s head.
STEVEN: Is there ever a three-note melody? It’s always shifting between two notes.
JAMES: There was a piano melody that was, like, six notes, that was still shifting, because other things were changing at different rates.
IAN: That might’ve been Track 5.
JEN: I think that was the single.
JAMES: That was the fucking summer jam!
JEN: But that’s what I mean. I remember so clearly, five minutes ago, I looked over at the track numbers, and I was like, what do those even matter? But the changes and transitions — that was the most fun part. And that was another thing: I hadn’t thought about the words “verse” or “chorus.” Even way later, I was like, oh yeah, there’s no vocals.
IAN: As something that’s meant to be played through, it’s very demanding — no clear melodic content, the grooves can be interpreted differently. It’s hard to talk about how the music makes me feel, ‘cause we’re musicians. I’m just listening to the information.
JEN: I also thought it was commanding: when you put it in, you can’t not pay attention to it.
JAMES: Was there a single major-scale moment?
IAN: The feeling it gives me is very pentatonic. It’s super open-sounding.
JAMES: It’s mostly a somber, subdued sound, but then there’s this incredible tension in how tight they’re playing. It creates this openness, like you said, that you can fill up with whatever you want.
JEN: It’s kind of like an inkblot. And that started in simple places — like how we all came from the studio earlier today, so now we’re, like, what instruments are these? What devices are they using?
IAN: It’s funny since we’re in recording mode now. It kind of reminds me how [PGR’s producer Greg Saunier] is totally down with, like, when we’re recording and there’s some weird artifact like the walls shaking, he’ll be like, “That’s cool! Let’s keep it in!”
STEVEN: Play it like it lays, you know?
STEVEN: You know what’s kind of great? This is all memory for us now. Once you’re engaged with it, the intimacy involved is so present, and then once it’s gone, it’s gone — a memory that holds certain little landmarks for you, some idea of how you felt about it.
JEN: What’s a memory except a list of details? And when it’s that subtle, how’re you supposed to say what happened?
[Thirty seconds before album ends.]
IAN: Is this how the record started?
STEVEN: I was going to say…
JEN: Do we go back and find out?
[We restart the album.]
IAN: Different key, but I think it’s almost the same.
JEN: I wonder if they had to check when they came up with that groove. Were they like, “did we already do this?”
JAMES: I don’t even know, man!
STEVEN: You don’t remember how it starts or how it shifted, but you know it was all built in the same house.