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Broken Spindles


New Press Bio for Kiss/KIck:
Kiss/Kick is the latest album from Broken Spindles, and the second release from The Faint’s blank.wav record label. Although Broken Spindles’ sole member Joel Petersen has done remixes for  Of Montreal and AFI and is also a member of The Faint, Kiss/Kick is a strictly “No Eyeliner” record. It is more No Wave than New Wave.

The new album was made in Omaha’s Enamel, the studio owned by The Faint. With the entire studio at his disposal, Petersen used a live drummer more than on his previous Spindles records. Petersen says, “I knew that finding the balance of opposites was key to making sense of it all, to get the right mix of human and machine, acoustic and electronic, analog and digital, spontaneous and premeditated.” This combination is heard clearly on the song “Introvert” which features programmed live drums, keyboards that hold down the rhythmic center and a guitar sound that careens out of control.

Lyrically, the album explores human fragility, both in body and mind. Songs like “I’ve Never Been This Afraid” and “We All Want to Fit in” show Petersen observing others and himself — a constant theme in all of the Spindles records.  Kiss/Kick is a record that takes the place of that late night journal writing session where the writer reveals more than what he knew was inside.  As Petersen says, “For me, there has always been truth somewhere in the midst of extremes, and lyrically, this is where I wanted to be — open, honest, and truthful. ”

Kiss/Kick is Petersen’s strongest work to date. With four Broken Spindles albums and five Faint albums under his belt, he has found his voice, as well as comfort in being the observer of our inherent discomfort with ourselves and our relationships. He has learned how to reduce songs to their basic parts without losing the power and excitement of great production.


Broken Spindles started as a favor to friend. He wanted unreleased, instrumental music for a video project and asked if I would write a track for him. It had been quite a while since I’d thought about writing songs outside the collaboration of a band, so this interested me. Soon thereafter I began writing and something unanticipated happened; a surge of ideas started pouring out of me, which lead to three tracks, instead of one, with still more wanting to be born. So, after a few months of just getting them out of my head and into my laptop, I had what I thought to be an album, but in my haste I knew I had skipped the important part of making them sound a hundred percent. For this final step, I called and asked Mike Mogis if he would help me finish what would be my first album. Here is a summary of what I wrote in the liner notes:

“This album was mostly written during the last couple months of 2001. It was then reworked and mixed by Mike Mogis at Presto! Recording Studios in May of 2002. AJ Mogis and Eric Bemberger played some guitar on some tracks.”

Upon completion of the album I wanted to play the songs live. This was much easier thought of than done because everything was initially composed on a computer, then laid down in the studio with the help of a few friends. There was no feasible way to reconstruct the music to be played by a live band, so I ended up choosing to play certain parts along with prerecorded stuff. With that in place my intent was to create an unfeigned experience for myself and the audience and since Broken Spindles started as a video idea I thought maybe I could carry that on into the live performance. I wrote out a basic story line, learned how to use some video editing software, then made a narrative based video accompaniment for the entire set. The tour was a huge success. Well, not really, but it was interesting to see how people reacted to a large video presentation in bars and clubs that normally hosted live rock bands. There seemed to be a love it or hate it reaction to the show. My favorite art has always evoked this dichotomy so this pleased me and got me thinking about the next album and video.

I started off writing Fulfilled/Complete with some things in mind; I wanted to incorporate more acoustic instruments and I wanted to make everything more specific, more detail oriented. A track or two was written, but then yet another unforeseeable happened; lyrics. I started thinking of what I hadn’t thought previously of doing and it ended up turning into, “to die, for death”, which I still think in many ways is one of my truest, purist songs because I had no intentions of actually having anyone hear it, there was no consequence attached to it. What this did was liberate the rest of the process and from that point forward I tried to let the songs happen as naturally as they could without trying to impose vocals and lyrics. The result was an album with half lyrical songs and half instrumental. And like the first album, I once again called upon Mike Mogis to help finish it up, this time around adding a string quartet and lots of studio trickery.  Here is what I wrote in the liner notes:

“This album was produced, engineered, and mixed with Mike Mogis at Presto! Recording Studios in December 2003 and January 2004.  String arrangements and piano playing by Nate Walcott.

With a completed (pun intended) album in hand, it was time to get the live show in order. I wanted to focus on the video aspect again, but also felt I wanted and needed some assistance to make it better and more focused than last time. I asked my longtime friend, Steve Berra, to work with me on it. We came up with a basic storyline, then divied up the workload.He would deal with the non-vocal songs, which video-wise, would focus more on the story, and I would do the vocal songs relating to the song’s lyrical content. We spent the next month or so working separately, he in Los Angeles, me in Omaha. In hindsight I think the final result ended up being pretty special due to the closeness of our personalities and the physical distance of our work studios. Once again, there were mixed reactions to watching a 35 minute long video while the musicians took a secondary role.

I wrote most of inside/absent in the fall/winter of 2004 while touring the U.S. and Europe with The Faint and Beep Beep. I sketched out ideas on my laptop after shows and before soundchecks. Touring with a band, most of what you do is for the greater good of the group, so personal lives tend to take a back seat. Writing this album was a reaction to that. I decided early on not to let anyone hear any of it until it was done. By relying totally on my own ideas and not having anyone else’s outside opinion or influence, it was my way of keeping a part of myself going. The separation from other people’s input shifted my writing style. I found myself keeping things more elemental; steering away from programming, opting for sparser percussion, and keeping instrumentation as minimal as possible. While writing continued, I was hearing and experiencing a lot of outside art and music that made no emotional impression on me so I wanted to at least make myself feel something through music, and it seemed that the best way to do that was just to be as real and honest as possible. The lyrics became a lot more direct, and the vocal style followed suit. It didn’t seem appropriate to layer words said in bare, straightforward terms with a ton of effects and overdubs. When the time came to record, I was the only person who knew the album I wanted to make, so that process changed as well. It made the most sense to refine, record, and mix at home. That was in March and April of 2005. I wanted to do more shows but I didn’t think taking a back seat to a video would be right for the ensuing touring so I decided to get a real band together and to do everything live, nothing sequenced or prerecorded. This ended up being a really enjoyable experience for me, to hear what I had created adapt and evolve with other people’s input and experience.