I first met Alex Kauffman through a friend I studied abroad with in Brazil back in 2008. That friend referred to him as “kauffy” if I remember correctly. It was 2009 and we walked into the certifiably dude apartment. I imagine it was full of furniture probably salvaged from street corners that was peppered with bowls of dried mystery food sitting abandoned in forgotten corners of the Como apartment. Maybe I’m making all that up, but dudes are dudes so it’s probably true. Anyways, I’m pretty sure there was a guitar in his hands, or at least guitar hero. Either way, he is here now with a handful of albums under his belt with his group Dichotomy. They just released their second full-length album Subterranean (that you can pick up here). Check out what 1/3 of the group Alex “Kauffy” Kauffman has to say about the songwriting process, Valleyfair and Mars.
1. How did Dichotomy get started?
Joe Laurin and I were roommates in Dinkytown a few years ago. I had a guitar and a violin, he had a keyboard. We just messed around for fun, but we did it every day to the point where we started to learn how to use blues scales and improvise. We eventually learned how to produce our own multi-track recordings, and then eventually got confident enough in them that we made them public and released them online. We started to figure out how to book shows for ourselves, and we’ve been a live act ever since. We joined up with Nick Shvetzoff about a year ago, he was the perfect compliment to what we already had going on. Joe and I were always able to play together really well, but we always had to plan out the backing track beforehand and that was a bit stifling. Nick can control and improvise percussion and other sounds along with Joe and I, so every piece of the band is interactive with one another live. It’s exciting to have reached that point.
2. What is your songwriting process like?
It can be different each time, and we are always coming across new starting points. It used to be a lot of recording a part, sitting back and listening to it, and then going back in and adding another part and then repeat. But a lot of it comes out of our jams too. We jam to get ideas and riffs out, and then we can hone in and build an actual track around the good bits. After the “meat” of a track is recorded/sequenced, we’ll usually just listen to it for a good week or two to see if there is anything screaming at us that is supposed to happen, or not. We are really quick putting out new ideas to start something but are pretty slow and deliberate when it comes to actually finishing the track and finalizing it.
3. If you could go to Valleyfair with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Jimi Hendrix. It would be fun to see what he’s like riding a roller coaster.
4. You just released your second full length album “Subterranean”. How has your sound mutated since the “Blue Flame EP”?
It’s changed a lot but it’s also kind of come back around again. With the early EPs, we had more of a harsh, urgent sound. Occasional vocals. It was more guitar driven at the beginning. Heavy beats. Then we started adding a lot more violin and piano, and it started becoming much more like modern classical music. Longer pieces with key changes and lots of parts and sections. Still dark most of the time, but slower and more drawn out. That was where we were at when we recorded “Nocturnal”. Since we’ve been playing with Nick and adding more synth and electric violin, it has shifted back more towards an urgent and heavy “live” sound. Sometimes it’s simple, sometimes more complicated, but there is an energy to the rhythm. There is much more of a live feel to it now than there was before.
5. I know it’s hard to choose between one of your latest sonic babies, but what’s your favorite song from “Subterranean” and why?
That’s tough…I’d have to say Tony Montana is my favorite as of right now. It has a good balance of catchy and weird. It’s has a nice melody to it, but at the same time you are never quite sure when the the loud and harsh sounds are going to lash out at you next.
6. What does the future hold for Dichotomy?
We want to try to play live as much as we can. In the cities or elsewhere, whatever we can get going. We’d like to make at least a couple more videos for the “Subterranean” album. As far as new music, we always have new stuff cooking, but we’re going to be doing more singles and EPs for the time being. We’ve spent a lot of the last couple years working on full albums so we are ready to change it up.
7. Would you rather compose a song alone on Mars or with a glass of whiskey with Frank Sinatra?
Alone on Mars all the way. I’m more into spacey shit these days. I like making music in solitude AND with a view, so that pretty well covers both. I would have loved to jam with Sinatra, but he notoriously hated loud rock music, so he probably wouldn’t want to get down with us, since we are more or less an extension of that. Maybe not though. Just an educated guess.