At The Moment

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At The Moment

Daniel Stampfel is trusting the process. After former turns over the last few decades in bands like The Skastafarians and The Inevitable Breakups, the NYC songwriter is now out on his own under the moniker At The Moment. His latest EP, Monte Carlo, is a foundational trio of summery pop songs that shimmer in the way that only great songs can.

Stampfel says he’s learning to trust the music that comes while also trusting those around him — including Steve Schiltz of Hurricane Bells, who produced the album, and drummer Benjamin Cartel of KaiserCartel. Monte Carlo is a hidden pop gem, plain and simple, and we’re excited to highlight Stampfel’s work.

SSv: Daniel, I want to discuss the new music and even the EP. It’s interesting that you decided for just a three song release. Is it a way of putting the toe in the water, so to speak?

Daniel Stampfel: I guess I didn’t view it as a toe in the water. I thought about doing a full album and how I wanted to do it. When I was thinking about producers and Steve Schiltz came up as an option, I knew I wanted to work with him. One of the things that came up was his schedule was that he was releasing his second Hurricane Bells album. He was finishing the mix of that and then he had a window of time to record my own songs.

That streamlined the amount of songs we could do down to three, and as I thought about it, I realized it was a good thing. I thought, ‘We can focus on three songs, put it out and see how it’s accepted and hopefully build on it.’ I guess I thought of it more as a building block than a tentative step in the water. I guess I thought of the Strokes three-song EP and how they were able to capitalize on that. That sounds good to me. [Laughs]

With these three songs, I'm just trying to get back out there and get some attention built up behind it.

With these three songs, I'm just trying to get back out there and get some attention built up behind it.

SSv: What were you able to accomplish by focusing only on those songs that you couldn’t do perhaps if the approach was different?

Daniel: In the past I’ve gone into the studio in a studio in a two-week time frame and had to record 10 or 11 songs and mix them all. When Steve and I went into the studio, the way we worked it was to only do 3 songs and however long it takes, then that’s how long it takes. Mostly it just allowed us to relax. I mean, we were busy throughout that time, but it gave us that ability to relax a bit more.

SSv: I’m not sure how to phrase this, so I hope it makes sense, but there’s a great vibe on the entire EP. The songs have this great summery melody and feeling, but many songs can be described the same way. Instead there’s a great atmosphere on them that I’m curious whether it’s the live takes or…

Daniel: I don’t know. When I went into the process, I had home demos of these songs. I think I had 15 or 17 different songs, something like that. I was just recording at home when I could without any outside influence. The first track especially, “Still Love You,” had a vibe to it that I couldn’t describe either. [Laughs]

One of my musician friends told me the song sounded honest and vulnerable. I think some of it is that, but I think it’s also a fun, relaxed vibe. When I would finish the demo, I would send them to Steve and he realized that right away. He said, ‘I want to keep the vibe of those original recordings.’ So I think it was a conscious effort to capture that.

That’s one reason why I enjoyed working only with Steve for the most part. We had a drummer and the reason I chose him… Well, Ben plays drums and guitars in KaiserCartel. I saw them open up for Hurricane Bells at the Bowery Ballroom and he was playing right in the vibe that I wanted. We met after the show and it turns out we likely played the same in Luna Lounge with our old bands, so the owner of Luna Lounge was at the same show and introduced it.

So I think that’s why I wanted to keep this close-knit group because Steve and I knew what we were trying to achieve. I was trusting in his ability as a fantastic producer to deliver that. As a producer, he kept the essence of me and my sound and my songs but in a polished, finished way that should be from a professional studio.

SSv: How do you arrive at these three songs out of the many that you had written?

Daniel: I actually left that up to Steve.

SSv: You did?

Daniel: Yeah, I had recently did the home demos and I was just so close to each one and liked them all for different reasons. I was having trouble stepping back and selecting what’s best. I had an idea of songs that might be the ones, but I asked Steve what he wanted and he selected those songs and I thought, ‘Perfect.’ [Laughs] I knew I wanted to do “Still Love You”. That one was definite, but I would have been happy with any of them.

SSv: That seems like a lot of trust in Steve.

Daniel: Yeah, I guess it was. [Laughs] I was nervous about the whole process, but I thought that if I couldn’t go into it with a certain amount of trust… I have to trust what Steve is going to do. If I am worried about what Steve will do as producer, then I’m not focused on what I have to do in the studio. I also thought it would be one of those things nice for someone as a producer to offer up a recommendation.

SSv: You saw these songs are a cornerstone to build from, so do you have something in mind that you’re wanting to build toward?

Daniel: With perspective and time, your goals change. With the Inevitable Breakups, my goal was to sign with a major label and tour around the world and do all of that. Those are still great things to do but with the songs and the low-budget video that we made, I was just trying to find an audience who would be interested in those things and then grow off of that. I think the other songs that I have are in the same vein as these, so it’s natural to want to progress toward a full album. But with these three songs, I’m just trying to get back out there and get some attention built up behind it.

 


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