The name Midnight Snack brings to mind an impulsive sojourn to one’s refrigerator in the dead of night. Contrary to that sense of instant gratification, the Asheville art-pop band that goes by the same moniker took its sweet time crafting its new LP, Child’s Eyes, a process that produced more of a late-night banquet than a simple side item.
The group’s follow-up to 2014’s The Times will be launched Saturday, April 15, at Isis Music Hall. It’s the quintet’s first such show since relocating from Boston nearly three years ago and celebrates the ensemble’s evolved approach to making music.
“In the past, we’ve always tried to track a record in a big, epic recording binge that lasts a couple of weeks and where everyone is working nonstop,” says frontman Jack Victor. “This time, we mostly worked on the record four days out of the week and took three days off to do other things, and those breaks were very helpful.”
Choosing to craft the songs in Midnight Snack’s home studio and at the WAVL Industries Studio space run by Peter Brownlee (bass/engineering) and Mike Johnson (guitars/synthesizers/mixing) was crucial in establishing that freer schedule. Minus the pressure and constraints that come with paying for expensive recording time, Victor says the band “had a seemingly infinite amount of time to work on the project” and get his creations just right.
As its title suggests, many of the songs that make up Child’s Eyes address the transition to adulthood, while others reflect on falling in love. Acutely aware of those well-worn topics’ universality, Victor feels that the intersection of the two themes helps set the lyrics apart. “It takes a certain amount of personal development and maturity to really love someone. I wanted to write about how being in love has helped me grow as a person,” he says.
Multiple rounds of demos for most of the songs encouraged plentiful experimentation, part of an overall elevated openness encouraged by an increased sense of environmental comfort.
“On the other hand, the spaces where we were working weren’t always the most conducive to recording, and we had limited access to microphones and other recording gear,” Victor says. “These limitations put us in a problem-solving mental space, which I believe ended up yielding more creative results. For example, we were really struggling to get great drum sounds at Pete and Mike’s studio, so Mike just fully committed to a retro/lo-fi sound for the drums with his mix. The album has lots of little artifacts from our recording environment that I think give it character.”
Among those quirks, Victor singles out the discovery of a hallway in the house with “nice natural reverb,” which inspired him and his bandmates to set up an extra mic there while they tracked vocals. However, there’s a good reason he’s quick to discuss the percussive qualities of Child’s Eyes. The album is Midnight Snack’s first where Victor’s on a drum kit, but the instrument has always been his primary one. Before the new record, Victor played keyboards for the band, an extension of writing songs on piano. There was also the fact that a talented drummer was already in place — Brad Bahner played on the group’s early EPs and first album before Jacob Burnstein took over for The Times.
“In a way, I think I wasn’t ready to be the drummer at the beginning, and those guys helped show me how it was done,” Victor says. “It never occurred to me that I could play until Jacob left the group, and I think the crisis of having a vacancy in the band caused the revelation. I also wanted to maintain my energy and delivery to the audience as a singer, which is why I decided to play standing up for Midnight Snack. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Fans who attend the Isis show will witness that arrangement, which also includes vocals by Katie Richter (trumpet) and Zack Kardon (guitars). In addition to the promise of a few surprises, the crowd will likely be treated to another rarity as well. Victor says there’s a strong possibility that the band will play Child’s Eyes in its entirety, from start to finish, at some point during the set, something unlikely to be seen on Midnight Snack’s forthcoming tour dates.
WHO: Midnight Snack with Emma’s Lounge
WHERE: Isis Music Hall, 743 Haywood Road, isisasheville.com
WHEN: Saturday, April 15, 9 p.m. $10