The slow moving John Herndon (left), Jeff Parker, Doug McCombs, John McEntire and Dan Bitney are staying true to their well-chosen handle.
TORTOISE at the Mod Club (722 College), Friday (September 5), 7 pm. $18. 416-870-8000.
If there's any band that picked the right moniker, it's experimental indie rockers Tortoise. While the group released a covers album and a three-disc/one-DVD collection of rare tunes in 2006, they haven't put out a record of new tracks in four years.
"We should have had an album done sooner," admits Doug McCombs, the band's guitarist, talking on a cell from the studio where they've just started recording their follow-up to 2004's It's All Around You (Thrill Jockey).
"I wish we had a more prolific output or a quicker schedule, but in the end it's more important for us to be happy with all the material."
The Chicago-based five-piece have been trying for about three years to "be happy" with their new songs; that's how long ago some of them were written. And while they hope a new batch of sounds will hit stores in early 2009, there's no guarantee that will happen.
"We'll know by the end of this 10-day recording session if we're close," says McCombs. "I don't think it will be finished, but we'll know if we can get it done. And if not? Then it'll just be a while longer."
McCombs still has no idea what the upcoming disc will sound like, except that it will still be all instrumental and "it's along the same path" as their previous work.
He explains that while songs have been written, they usually morph into something completely different once the group starts recording. Some of the songs are "low-key, with a lot of synth," he says, while a few others are more up-tempo - "kind of like rock songs."
If it takes any longer to finish this disc, Tortoise might want to consider releasing another covers album. That one took them seven days to record. The Brave And The Bold (Overcoat), a collaboration with alt-country genius Will Oldham, featured the band's take on Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road and Mike Watt's It's Expected I'm Gone, among other lesser-known tracks.
Another covers album is something McCombs would be interested in doing, as long as he can find the right person to play with. "I'd love to collaborate with lots of different people," he says. "The reality is that it's not always easy to find the right combination of personalities."
But McCombs must have a collaborator in mind? "It would be awesome to work with Billy Gibbons," he says, referring to the guitarist and vocalist of ZZ Top. "He's into all kinds of music. I bet it would be easy to get him to step out of his comfort zone and do some crazy shit."
How does the new record sound?
Is it different that what you've done before?
If you have no timeline to finish recording, how do you know you're finished?
Why did you put out A Lazarus Taxon - your compilation of b-sides and unreleased tracks?