In theory, Jimmy Tamborello is “promoting” Dumb Luck, his new album of sleepy glitch-tronica recorded under the nom de disc Dntel. But when said promotion results in comments like this, it’s easy to tell that his heart’s not really in it:
“I’m not gonna go out and play songs off this record … I’ll probably do some sort of release party or something like that, but that’s about it. I mean, I always feel comfortable with lessened expectations,” he sighed. “People can think what they want, but I just wanted to get this album out there, and now that I have, I’ll just keep working on other stuff.”
His attitude is odd, because it’s not like Dumb Luck (due April 24 on Sub Pop) is anything to be ashamed of. Boasting cameos from a who’s who of indie faves — including Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste — and powered with Tamborello’s slick-yet-threadbare soundscapes, it’s a somber, certifiably chilled affair that’d be right at home in both the offices of Magnet magazine and the Macworld Expo.
And, to top it off, it’s something Tamborello — who has collaborated on projects by Rilo Kiley, Azure Ray and others — has been working on for nearly five years now.
“It’s been a long time in the making, for a variety of reasons. There were a few people that I wrote for that didn’t work out. For some people, I wrote like eight different tracks. You kind of don’t know if it’s going to work out until it’s done … especially if you’re working with strangers,” he said. “When I started this one, it was right after I finished the first one [2001's Life Is Full of Possibilities], because once you’ve finished one thing, it’s on to the next thing.”
Yet even Tamborello knows that most people are already looking forward to that “next thing,” which in this case would be a new album from the Postal Service, the breakout electro-pop duo he formed with Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard.
In June, Gibbard told MTV News that he and Tamborello had begun work on the follow-up to the gold-certified Give Up album, but added that things were progressing “slowly” (see “Ben Gibbard’s Postal Service Prepping Next Delivery: Second LP” ). According to Tamborello, the pace of things has picked up in recent months, especially since he can finally put Dumb Luck behind him.
“We’re working on Postal Service now, and we’re just focused on that, because we’re trying to do it a lot quicker. … We wanted to try and have it finished by the summertime,” he said. “It’s hard to tell if we’re going to make it, because sometimes it’ll come real fast on my end and sometimes I’ll just have these fits of writer’s block, where I don’t feel like doing anything. Plus it depends on what I send Ben and what he feels like writing to.”
Tamborello said that the duo have roughly six new PS songs completed, and they hope to have a new album out by the end of the year. But he was quick to add that — at the moment — said album “isn’t nearly even 50 percent done.”
“If we don’t make the deadline we set for ourselves, we can extend it. Sub Pop has never given us a deadline, and we’re trying our best to make it in the same environment we made the first one: We have to keep reminding ourselves that we’re doing it for fun and trying to keep things casual,” he said. “And that’s pretty difficult to do, to be honest. I have to keep reminding myself that it doesn’t have to sound like a giant mainstream pop record just because the last one got to so many people. I have to remember how the last one sounded — lo-fi and in my comfort level of production — and I want to stay that way.”
As for clues as to just what the new Postal Service album will sound like, Tamborello advises fans to check out the lengthy list of studio gear he’s compiled on Dntel’s MySpace page (it’s under the blog headline “My Studio”). After all, most of the stuff on there was acquired thanks to the success of Give Up, and he’s used the equipment to create everything — Dumb Luck included — he’s done since.
“If anything, the new [Postal Service] songs are a little bit harder … more raw. It’s very analog-sounding, because I’ve bought a lot of equipment since the first [record,]” he said. “A lot of it is coming from the new instruments, and the kind of sounds you can get out of them. The first one was pretty much done on one sampler, and now I have more stuff I like to use. A lot more analog synths — the new Moog Voyager and a bunch of different drum machines.”
At the moment, the record only features Tamborello and Gibbard songs. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be guests, too. The duo have already sent tracks out to Jenny Lewis — who sang on Give Up — and they’ve even set their sights on landing another, rather, um, unusual voice for the album.
“A long time ago, I heard that Ghostface Killah liked ‘Such Great Heights,’ and when we started this one, we were talking about figuring out some way to get a hold of him,” Tamborello laughed. “If there were some way to work him into the album, it would be excellent. But we’ll see about that.”