Line & Circle
Formed by Ohio-born Brian J. Cohen (vocals/guitar) and Brian Egan (keyboards) while both at the University of Michigan, Line & Circle has since moved to LA and picked up Eric Neujahr (guitar), Jon Engelhard (bass), and Nick Cisik (drums). Working with producer Louis Pesacov of White Iris, the band has released their 2012 debut album Roman Ruins / Carelessness, a 7”, and 2014’s Line & Circle EP. They are currently at work on an upcoming full-length album.
Born in Akron, Ohio, Joseph Arthur is a rock musician known for his solo work and as a member of Fistful of Mercy and RNDM. He was discovered by Peter Gabriel in the mid-1990s, released his first album Big City Secrets in 1997, and has been recording since. Also a visual artist, Arthur owns a gallery in Brooklyn – the Museum of Modern Arthur, or MOMAR.
Brian J. Cohen and Joseph Arthur were born across the street from one another in Akron, Ohio – a place so steeped in the conventional it drove them to just the opposite. Both got out and set their sights on music, Arthur since the mid 1990s when he was discovered by Peter Gabriel, and (a decade or so later) Cohen post-college when he moved to LA with his band Line & Circle.
Still close friends, Joseph Arthur and Brian Cohen chat about the progress of Line & Circle, how Ohio still shapes them, and the power of minimalism. And, in an Issue exclusive House Arrest, Line & Circle plays a live version of “Wounded Desire” for us at their Echo Park home.
Joseph Arthur: My first question is why did you choose me to interview you? Is it like an admiration thing? You don’t have to go on too long, but I thought it’d be a good place to start. (laughs)
Brian J. Cohen: Definitely an admiration thing.
JA: We talk so much, it’s hard to know what to discuss. I think your approach with what you’re doing is pretty interesting. You’re also coming from a very different time, in a way, so it’s interesting watching you sort of maneuver through the music industry. What’s been happening over the past couple years is your stuff has gotten stronger and stronger and it looks like you knew what you were doing the whole time. I feel inspired and like I can actually learn from you. Like the student is now the teacher!
So I guess my first question is, did you know what you were doing the whole time or are you baffled at how well it’s turning out?
BJC: The short answer is yes. I knew I was getting better and I was starting to like what I was making more. I didn’t want to be in a hurry to put stuff out that I wasn’t in love with. When we made our first single “Roman Ruins,” for the first time I was really happy with something and excited to get it out, and after that things have sort of started to fall into place creatively.
JA: It’s better if you actually like what you release! Does any part of you still listen to “Roman Ruins”? I know it’s going to be on your first album, which isn’t out yet, but it’s already out as a single. Are you still totally in love with it? Are you self-critical?
BJC: I’m very self-critical but I’m 100% comfortable with that song being out there the way it is. There are always little sonic things or production things, but I’m okay with it. Proud of it.
JA: Are you going to remix it for the record? I think it’s great.
BJC: We have remixed it already actually. It’s ready to go. Subtle changes.
JA: See, your process is super fluid – you’re releasing parts of your first record and at the same time still working on it, and that’s really great, because you can bring all your inspiration and current mojo to the process. I feel like it’s more seamless.
BJC: It’s true, we’re fortunate in that way – that we have that chance. It’s not lost on me. I’m excited to still be able to affect the outcome of the record creatively.
JA: The other part of your story that I like, and that I like to vicariously live through, is your sort of LA-ness – there’s part of me in an alternate universe that’s totally LA-based. But you’re LA-based pretty strongly I’d say. How do you think that affects what you do?
BJC: It’s been a process. When I first arrived, I felt really far away from what was happening here.
“There was a lot of learning
what not to do.”
— Brian J. Cohen
JA: You were an alien.
BJC: Super alien. There were only two bands I liked in town. The bands have since broken up but I’ve remained friends with the people. There was a lot of learning what not to do.
JA: Give me an example of what not to do.
BJC: Well you’d see these ultra stylish bands that were in a real hurry to ‘make it’ and would play like two shows, or do a residency, then get a booking agent and go on tour without really having any songs. And none of them are around anymore.
JA: So part of your approach, of taking time and allowing yourself a chance to evolve, came from observation from living in LA. And another part of it is the relationships that manifested out there?
BJC: Yeah, that’s true. We’d write and demo songs, play them for people, and that would sort of lead us to new people, and then the next opportunity to record something would come out of that. It was sort of slow and organic.
Composer, musician, producer, Lewis Pesacov is a founding member of the LA afro-pop band Fool’s Gold, and a former member of Los Angeles-based Foreign Born (now on hiatus). As a producer, Pesacov made Best Coast’s debut album Crazy for You, and has worked with a range of other White Iris label artists.
JA: Let’s talk about some of those people. Who is Lewis?
BJC: Lewis Pesacov is a friend who was in a band called Foreign Born out here that I really liked. They were on Startime and eventually on Secretly Canadian. He wound up producing Roman Ruins and then put the 7” out on the label he co-owned called White Iris. He also produced the new EP that we just put out at the end of October, and he has produced another 8 or so tracks for the full length as well.
JA: Was he the guy that said you should use tape?
BJC: Yeah, he had been working on tape for a while and I had been watching him and my then-roommate Ariel use it to great effect, and I began to develop a preference for it.
JA: I remember you saying about a year ago “I’m never gonna make a record on digital again, I’m just gonna use tape.” Do you still have the same strong feeling or have you lightened up on that a little bit?
BJC: No, I still feel that way!
JA: Alright, I’m gonna remember that. Next time I see you making a record on Pro Tools, I’m gonna be like remember when you said…
BJC: That’s right! I mean, I’d like to take it even further and be in a situation where we could do it with as much solely analog processing as possible, but I think we’re a ways off from that. It would be fun to do.
JA: What are some other bands Lewis produces?
BJC: The thing that first got him attention as a producer was the first Best Coast record.