Interview: PTTRNS

PTTRNS - Photo courtesy of PTTRNS

PTTRNS – Photo courtesy of PTTRNS

If you want to be specific, PTTRNS is a Cologne-based quartet playing experimental indie music and consisting of Benjamin Riedl, Hendrik Frese, Patrick Hohlweck, and Daniel Mertens. But if you want to be correct, PTTRNS is everyone and everything that it comes across, inspires, or is inspired by.

In short, the four members share a philosophy that music should be collaborative, and maintain that audience participation is vital to the the feedback process and the overall communal experience they seek to create.

“I don’t have a very concrete imagination of what that communal experience might be, but I can think of a couple of occasions…where I’ve felt [it],” Riedl said, referring to moments where he didn’t perceive any distance or distinct separation between the band and the audience.

Of course, passing out trays of pineapple – as was done at a recent Berlin show – is one way of breaking the ice with the crowd, but PTTRNS has also handed out percussion instruments at events and invited audience members to interact with the music.

Some of the intention is to get people moving and excited at shows, but on a deeper level, it’s also to add new layers to the music. This is because none of the members approach the songs as finished works, as there is an implicit understanding that each time a song is heard or played, it evolves into something slightly new.

“We’re different people every time we play these songs,” Hohlweck said. “So in that way, we kind of wanted to stress how dependent, like, what we do is on the people, you know, taking part in it and taking part in the concert situation.”

To date, PTTRNS has already released 2010’s debut, Science Piñata, and 2012’s two-part 12″ series, Love Quest, along with a series of 7″ releases, on Altin Village & Mine. The band has worked with the label since 2007, but describes the relationship as atypical, motivated by the love of music as opposed to being a purely business-based interaction.

“We just love the way they handle things, and it’s a very wonderful relationship,” Mertens shared.

And just last month, PTTRNS released its second full-length, Body Pressure, also with the label. But for this album, the process was not like in the past.

“The first record…was basically written over a really long period of time and it was more like a collection of songs that we just had written. So we just had these songs, and it was one song after another, and in the end, we decided…[to] record them,” Mertens explained.

As a result, he said that there wasn’t as much cohesion between songs on that album. Whereas with Body Pressure, the group wrote with intention, and made sure that the outcome matched up to what discussions leading up to writing and recording dictated. Additionally, it helped that the writing process was conducted over a shorter period of time, leading to more condensed discussions, thoughts, and influences, which were then revisited when it came time to record.

“What’s exciting to us about it [is our] exploring some new things with it in terms of, like, the writing process,” Hohlweck said. “For example, as opposed to previous releases, we didn’t go into the studio with, like, finished songs, necessarily. I mean, they were for the most part done and we knew what we wanted to do, but they weren’t like completely arranged already, so we spent a lot of time in the studio actually…just trying to re-imagine what we had. [And so] I think, on the first record, the songs were probably more similar to each other but still on the whole…in terms of like dramaturgy, and things like that, it wasn’t as tight as we, you know, tried to make the new record sound.”

Another influencing factor was also the producer, Jan-Philipp Janzen, who the band referred to as a final puzzle piece that helped complete the record and realize its vision.

“[He] made the whole thing, like, really fit together better,” Riedl shared.

Along with the album, PTTRNS released a music video for the song Strong Talk, something the members were initially a bit reluctant to do.

“The inspiration was more like a negative one in the first place maybe, because we all felt like music [videos as] a potentially very interesting…form [are] for the most part, you know, kind of reduced to a very limited amount of…options,” Hohlweck said. “There [are] only so many ways that people usually do a music video.”

Already, the idea of pretending to sing and play instruments to the music wasn’t appealing to PTTRNS, because it placed them in the spotlight and not the music. But it got the four started with a philosophical discourse about the relationship between human beings and objects. And then they happened upon a man in Berlin who owned a shop selling second-hand items, who has his own unique ideas about things which happened to fit the band’s vision.

Considering the amount of time and thought that goes into these things, the band members admit that the way they go about approaching writing, recording, presenting, and performing music is indeed complex. However, that aversion to the easiest, most straightforward route, is part of what makes PTTRNS so special.

“It’s a very conceptual way that we deal with things, and it involves a lot of going about things in ways that make it more difficult than things could be,” Hohlweck explained.

Yet putting more effort into it makes it so that every facet of the band is satisfying for the members.

“The whole process is very rewarding,” Riedl said.

PTTRNS play tonight at KuZe in Potsdam. The show begins at 20.00.

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