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Tanlines: Grown-Up Problems, With A Beat

Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm of Tanlines. (Courtesy of the artist)

Four years since they first began making music together, the Brooklyn-based duo Tanlines is finally releasing an album: Mixed Emotions, out tomorrow. The band is Eric Emm, who sings and plays guitar, and Jesse Cohen, who plays drums, keyboards and an assortment of electronic instruments. Cohen is also the chattier of the two.

"We use a lot of different drum kits that are in a computer," Cohen explains. "We also play a lot of stuff live, and a lot of time you can't really tell which is real and which is fake. That's sort of a thing that we like to play with."

The duo uses many elements of electronic dance music, but often repurposes them in a poppier context. As an example, Cohen points to the track "Brothers," which he says reminds him of a Bruce Springsteen song.

"It has a four-four kick, it has a rave synth, it has some of our elements — like that static sound that sounds like waves crashing. But the song itself is really like a melancholy introspective song," Cohen says.

During the making of Mixed Emotions, Cohen and Emm were evicted from their longtime studio. Though they eventually found another space to record, the event left each reflecting on uncertainty of what's next.

"I'm reaching the point where I'm wondering if that feeling is just life," Cohen says. "It's not, like, growing up. That's just a perpetual state that most people have accepted."

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Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REAL LIFE")

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. Now we're going to introduce you to a Brooklyn-based band called Tanlines. The duo first got started producing music back in 2008, and four years later Tanlines is finally releasing a debut album. "Mixed Emotions" is out tomorrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "REAL LIFE" BY TANLINES)

ERIC EMM: (Singing) For a minute I was lost, I looked away. For a minute I was lost, I looked away. I was looking for a home.

GREENE: The singer and guitarist for Tanlines is Eric Emm. His bandmate is Jesse Cohen, and he's probably the chattier of the two. Cohen plays drums, keyboards, and an assortment of electronic instruments.

JESSE COHEN: We use a lot of different drum kits that are in the computer. We also play a lot of stuff live, and a lot of time you can't really tell which is real and which is fake. And that's sort of a thing that we like to play with.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BROTHERS")

GREENE: All right. As maybe you can tell, this duo blends elements of electronic dance music into their songs. You can hear some of that in this track called "Brothers." But over the course of four minutes, it transforms into something more. Cohen says it reminds him a little bit of a Bruce Springsteen song.

COHEN: It has a four-four kick, it has like a rave synth, it has some of our elements, like that sort of static sound that sounds like a beach, like waves crashing. But the song itself is really sort of like a melancholy introspective song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BROTHERS")

EMM: (Singing) You're just the same as you ever were. You fight it, wonder why it makes no sense. I'm just the same as I ever been. But I'm the only one who doesn't notice it.

COHEN: It's a grown-up record, you know.

EMM: Yeah. We're not kids.

COHEN: We're not 22.

EMM: Yeah, but we're not 40.

GREENE: Not 22, not 40, Emm and Cohen are actually in their thirties. Neither is married, no kids, both still rent apartments in Brooklyn, and their lyrics focus on this changing face of adulthood.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GREEN GRASS")

EMM: (Singing) 'Cause there are a lot of ways there. I don't have a plan, I don't know why. There are a lot of things there, I don't understand, I don't know why.

Dealing with, accepting change, it's like having an uncertain future and finding a way to be OK with that.

GREENE: During the making of this album, "Mixed Emotions," Cohen and Emm were evicted from their longtime studio. Though they eventually found another space to record, the event left each reflecting on the persistent uncertainty of what's next.

COHEN: I'm reaching the point where I'm wondering if that feeling is just...

EMM: It's life.

COHEN: That's just life, yeah. It's not like growing up. It's like, that's just a perpetual state that most people have accepted at some point.

GREENE: Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm from the band Tanlines. "Mixed Emotions" is their new album. It's out tomorrow, and you can hear it streaming right now at nprmusic.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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