Concert Crap: Who is Makeunder? Can you give a brief history of the band please?
Hamilton Ulmer: Makeunder is my songwriting moniker. I write & produce the music and I have friends and colleagues record & perform with me. I’ve written music for as long as I can remember, but began signing my recordings as “Makeunder” about six years ago. I recorded my first EP, Radiate, Satellite, in my childhood bedroom, on a violin and saxophone I had just inherited from my grandfather, only using my laptop’s internal microphone. I discovered that if you turn off the noise reduction filter on a macbook, the microphone feels steadier. It’s still lo-fi, but the microphone doesn’t sound like it’s submerged in water. Great Headless Blank was a study in making a song feel like a dense layer painting. Each song feels like an entire ecosystem of sound & timbre.
CC: What does “Makeunder” mean?
HU: I think it’s just a fun, poetic three syllables. There’s no deep meaning. It’s fun to write out, it’s relatively well SEO-optimized, and it has a natural music to it if you say it aloud.
CC: Your video for the song “Great Headless Blank” is an artistic masterpiece. Can you talk about the direction and animation of the video and why it goes along with the song? And can you describe the video for those who haven’t seen it yet?
HU: That’s very nice of you to say. The video was a collaboration with Carine Khalife, a brilliant painter living in Montreal. I cold-emailed her asking if she might want to do a video for the title track of the EP, thinking that it’d either cost a minor fortune, or that she wouldn’t have the time and inclination. I got an enthusiastic response from her within ten minutes. Her method for making the video: she paints oil on glass, then uses a lightbox to illuminate the image, then photographs it. She painted about 90 frames a day. It took her a few months to make the video. I gave Carine full creative control over the direction and story, and she really delivered. One of my absolute favorite parts of Makeunder is jumping into collaborations like this, especially with artists whose craft demands meticulousness and tedium.
CC: What are the best and worst things about being a musician trying to make a name for yourself?
HU: Everyone’s mileage varies, but being an artist is better than not being an artist, if you prepare yourself for the occupational hazards. You have to get acquainted with the inevitable self-doubt and discomfort. You have to learn to accept others’ confusion and indifference about your work, even loved ones’. You have to be waterproof against the trips and projections others put on you. You have to come to terms with the inanities of the music industry. You have to learn to navigate rotten working relationships and weird feelings towards others when they arise, many of which may turn out you are responsible for. You have to be okay with working alone. You have to maintain your relationships with others. You have to stay alive to a little bit of chaos. You have to learn how to work on something until it feels transcendent. And you have to be okay not having much money. The best things are everything you’d expect.
CC: What does the rest of 2016 have in store for Makeunder?
HU: The rest of this year is devoted to finishing the next album.
CC: Is there anything else you would like to say to your fans or anyone that may be reading this interview right now?
HU: Read Ken Goldsmith’s Wasting Time on the Internet, and Helen DeWitt’s virtuosic novel The Last Samurai.
All questions answered by Makeunder / Hamilton Ulmer.
Post and interview by Corey Kleinsasser
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