Chris Karman will never, ever, be faulted for lack of ambition.
As the frontman to the alternative space-rock combo Outer 7th, Karman has already carved out his own unique niche in the modern rock landscape, but with his side-project The List, he takes things even further. Formed with fellow guitarist Nate Cooper, The List was initially a musical project based around a sci-fi novel that Cooper's father had written. As time went on, however, the concept was eventually abandoned in favor of the dynamic sounds that Karman and Cooper were able to come up together as The List, ranging from the ping-pong guitar crunch of "STSD" to the hushed, wounded acoustic number "Disease", showcasing a unique brand of eclecticism that is markedly different from Karman's work with Outer 7th (though just as thrilling). With The List's debut EP due out August 25th on Satellite Star, we managed to pull Karman aside to discuss how it felt to have total free reign in the studio, why the sci-fi novel concept was eventually scraped, and why he doesn't mind having The List's debut be equated to that of a good breakup album (even if that wasn't the intention) ...
>>When you formed the band with Nate, you initially designed it as a way to create a concept album about a novel that Nate's father wrote. Though you eventually abandoned that idea, did any remnants of that concept wind up working its way into the List's music? If so, how?
We eventually abandoned the idea to create a concept album because it was so limiting and I was really looking for a project that would allow me to finally let some of the songs that don’t really fit Outer 7th’s mold see the light of day. Those songs just didn’t fit naturally into a concept album, especially a concept album based on a complex narrative. We really truly abandoned the original album altogether, instead opting for an “anything goes” attitude and a new set of songs. That being said, we may revisit the concept album on some future release. It is a great story that could easily translate into a pretty enjoyable album.
>>The thing that strikes me most about your initial recordings is how wildly eclectic they are, as "STSD" could get play on Modern Rock Radio while "Disease" could easily become a viral blog hit. What rules or boundaries did you guys set out when you began recording as the List? What works did you surprise even yourself by?
I wouldn’t say we really had any rules per se, aside from the idea that we both had to be excited about the material we used. Ultimately, there are a lot of boundaries in Outer 7th, not boundaries that have been consciously put in place, but we’ve been a band for a pretty long time and as a band we’re drawn to certain sounds and styles. I didn’t want to have to worry about any such concerns with the List. If we were both excited about a song, we were using it, we’d worry about where it fit on the EP later.
In terms of what works surprised me, that’s a tough one. Having never had free reign of a studio before, I had no idea what we were going end up with at the end of our sessions and most of the songs morphed to some degree once we started to record them. I was consistently inspired by the creative energy that was flying around the studio while we recorded. In a lot of ways, I was surprised by the outcome of the entire project simply because of how malleable the songs turned out to be.
>>There's assuredly a sense of longing on the lyrical content of this disc, especially on "Go Fly", with its constant reminders of being alone, which -- when added with the bittersweet, straightforward of "Disease" -- makes the List's debut EP feel almost, almost, like a breakup album. Where does the lyrical content from the List stem from, and how does that differ from your work with Outer 7th?
As a lyricist, I certainly have a style, a style present in any song I write be it for the List or Outer 7th. I think the music dictates a lot of the content in the lyrics themselves, so there is naturally a different shape to the lyrics I write for the List as opposed to the lyrics I write for Outer 7th. It’s not deliberate necessarily though. By and large, the lyrical content in the List’s songs is definitely personal and immediate, which isn’t always the case in Outer 7th. You certainly can make a case for the EP as a breakup album, it wasn’t really our intention, but the theme of failed relationships and a sense of longing does crop up on most of the songs.
Given the many moods and styles that the List fly through in these six songs, what proved to be the biggest obstacle when recording/engineering this beast?
The biggest obstacle we had was maintaining a sense of structure to the record while allowing ourselves to delve into different moods and styles. We recorded, mixed and mastered the record in two four-day sessions and they were pretty intense. We had a lot of work to do in what seemed like a very short amount of time and there was only two of us (save for the drummer we hired for the sessions). I feel like because we recorded the entire EP in such a short amount of time using similar recording techniques for each of the songs there are a lot of common threads holding everything together.
Lastly, what do you hope people will take out of listening to the List? What do you ultimately hope the band achieves?
Ultimately, I just want the List’s music to be challenging, but somewhat accessible, however that happens to manifest itself. Hopefully, despite the fact that we follow our whims and try to remain as open as possible, we retain a sense of cohesion (however scattershot it may seem upon first listen). And I hope people enjoy the music, of course.
Visit the List's official MySpace.