In 2002, Trans AM released T.A. on Thrill Jockey Records. The album was panned by many critics and seen as a deviation from the standard Trans AM sound, due in part to vocals being featured on every track. The record prompted one Pitchfork reviewer to write “I’m not sure exactly what’s happened here– has Trans Am changed or have I? TA is, by some margin, the band’s worst record.”
Trans AM followed up T.A. with Liberation, a politically charged album without any lyrical content. The album was better received by critics and Trans AM fans, but still had people scratching their heads because Trans AM had released a “serious album”.
Seen as a sign of union, not division and largely considered a “safe” album, 2007’s Sex Change assuaged fans’ worries that the band was moving in directions they didn’t understand.
Here’s a few quick questions and answers with Washington, DC’s Trans AM:
When Trans AM were last in Halifax in 1997 (for the Halifax Pop Explosion), there were reports that they drove gearheads nuts by putting duct tape over the names of their keyboards. Was this a regular occurrence for Trans Am? Why?
Yeah. Companies obviously place their brands prominently on their
instruments. It looks cheesy. We pay for the gear and then advertise
it on stage for free? Bad deal. A band’s gear looks much cooler with
brands mostly eliminated. So tape over it! Or at least demand some
free gear to advertise it. (We have no endorsements.)
What would Trans AM change about the last three albums; T.A. (2001),
Liberation (2004) and Sex Change (2007)?
They were fine, but multiplying the sales figures by ten might have
been a good start. I think we could have done some things better, but
each album has its own area and time and place. We’re not too
precious about our “work” – we’ve got eight albums, so a few stinkers
is OK. It’s the only way to get anywhere new.
Was T.A. received the way it should have been?
Again, we were trying to make an 80’s pop record just before
electroclash really exploded and people figured out what they wanted
to remember the 80’s as. Our album is not as cohesive as I’d like. It
was also completed right after 9-11 which kind of put the “party all
the time” vibe in a weird light. But in retrospect, maybe more
partying and less fear would have been the “responsible” decision.
Does Trans AM, themselves, consider Sex Change a “return to form”?
Well, we didn’t do anything but try to make a Trans Am record, so
maybe in that way, yes.
Is it frustrating creatively to have critics/reviewer/fans decide
what is and isn’t Trans AM’s form?
We’re past that. We know what we sound like, sort of. I guess I’m
glad that a “return to form” is a positive.
Will there ever be another Trans AM/Fucking Champs project?
Well, we could easily do stuff with those guys, but The Champs aren’t
really an active band.
What is one thing about returning to Halifax after more than years
that excites Trans AM?
We’re hoping for the coldest and darkest Halloween ever. Also, our
second show at that festival we played last time was one of the few
where I remember us really getting our asses kicked by another band.
It was the afternoon, we were in poor form and the Mooney Suzuki
wiped the floor with us. So I’d like to get that taste out of my
Trans AM play the Marquee this Friday October 31st with Grand Theft Bus and the Jimmy Swift Band.