Interview: La Sera

La Sera is the project of Katy Goodman bassist for the Vivian Girls, her new album, which shows more of her melodic side came out 14th February. We met up with her on the final date of her European Tour in London.


First thing I wanted to ask is that I always see you referred to as ‘Kickball’ Katy Goodman just wondered where that came from?

My nickname has been ‘Kickball Katy’ for the last ten years because when I was seventeen I was a member of a super secret Kickball society, in Rochester New York but I’m not allowed to talk about it

Was music something you always wanted to do?

I never thought I could do music; it was never even a possibility in my mind. I went to for college physics, finished then college for teaching, I was going to be a physics teacher, then the month I was looking for jobs was the month the Vivian Girls took off and started doing stuff. My music career happened by accident, a happy accident.

This album is quite a different sound to the Vivian Girls, what were the influences for it?

There were no direct influences, I wasn’t aiming for it to sound like anything. Actually the first song on the album, ‘Beating Heart’, I wrote after hearing Fever Ray, so I was like I wanna make my own creepy sounding songs. That was the only one where I was aiming for a particular sound.

One thing for me was the record seemed quite nostalgic, some similarities to Real Estate and that scene.

Real Estate? I went to high school with them. I dunno I think making music like this is all I’ve ever known, people always say to me very nostalgic, old timey sounding. I’m like “what’s new timey sounding?” When people say it’s very modern or new, I don’t know, to me ‘modern sounding’ means techno. I don’t know how to make music that’s ‘today’; I don’t know what that means. I’m not sure I want to know.

You seem to play London a lot; what’s your impression of London?

My impression of London is completely formed by my relationship with Male Bonding. If it weren’t for them I don’t know how I would feel about London because I don’t know many other people but from the day the Vivian Girls first stepped foot in England, through friends, like through a friend of a friend, we got in touch with John from Male Bonding, he let us stay in his house. From that day on we’re best friends forever. Whenever we’re in town we stay with them, they make us feel like we’re at home its very nice and so I’d say that’s my main impression of London, is how wonderful the boys in Male Bonding are.

I saw you tweeted that you didn’t like the fact that you were compared to other Girl bands, which I think was to do with the Coke Machine Glow review. But more generally I was wondering about your feelings of being labeled a girl group?

It seems completely unfair because, there are so many bands in this world that are all male, they don’t get compared to each other just because they’re all male, that’s not something that happens, it just doesn’t happen. Just because a band is all girls, La Sera is not all-girl but it’s female led, I don’t think it warrants comparisons to other bands just because of that. I think it’s unfair, especially because that article was very harsh to Best Coast who I’m friends with, really good friends with them, so its hard to have people write articles about your friends and say, “your friends suck”. I don’t want to read that. Who wants to read that?

Lots of Girl Bands get asked “are you a feminist?” Does matter much to you, or the idea that you somehow represent or encourage other girls to get involved in music?

I don’t think that being involved in music and in a band is necessarily feminist; I would definitely say I am a feminist, however. I think its still crazy to be a girl in a band is a political statement. It should just be normal, it shouldn’t be seen as being any different than if it a male band. It’s true that being girl in a band it is its own statement, it’s a thing. I do want to encourage other girls to play in bands till we’re at the point where it’s not a weird thing to be a girl in a band.

Were there any particular females figures in music that made you think music was more open to you?

One of the main reasons I started playing, when I was twenty I was listening to Julie Ruin, which is Kathleen Hanna’s from Bikini Kill’s side project. She had this song called the ‘Punk Singer’, it was my favourite song the whole year, my number one favourite song. I realised that song was only four chords, repeating the entire song, the song does not change at all, it’s the easiest song ever made chord-wise. That’s when I realised you can do a lot with just four chords and melody and so that was my main inspiration to play music at all. I don’t need to be a virtuoso on guitar in order to make music that I like, definitely Kathleen Hanna.

One final question, do you have any plans for more making albums under the La Sera name?

Yes definitely. The second album is half written. Right now I am thinking how I want it to sound, I’ve kind of envisioned the record as a record, that’s where I’m at.

Interview: Flashguns


After dropping out of UCL, Flashguns have toured with the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, Jamie T and  Funeral Party; playing top-end venues in Paris, Amsterdam as well as numerous O2 academies across the UK.  Yet being the age of your average undergraduate, how has none of this has gone to their heads?

“You’ll probably want to wait to talk to Sam- he’s the lead singer” Olly Scanlon (bass, vocals) informs me when I arrive overeagerly early. Well dressed and welcoming, having just arrived himself, Olly masters his way through the bar to the main room as though he has already mapped out every music venue in the UK. He, along with Giles Robinson (drums) and Sam Johnston (vocals,guitar), who I am set to interview, make up the folk edged, thoroughly English, indie trio, I will simply refer to as Flashguns from here on.

Flashguns may have just come from their latest date in Birmingham but they are no strangers to London. It is where they are based, where Sam was studying philosophy at UCL before Hollywood (or in this case London and, perhaps more unexpectedly, Berlin) came calling, and where they lost their fourth member, in his decision to carry on in education.

Influences- or ‘inspirations’ as Sam would rather- “we are not trying to recreate anything”- include Nirvana, Biffy Clyro and Queens of The Stone Age. He emphasises that Josh Homme (lead vocals and guitarist for QOTSA, as if you didn’t know) has played a large part in his musical up-bringing, as did “..anything that makes me think ‘F***, I wanna be like that!’”.

Their comparisons, however, have been closer to Kings Of Leon, Mona, and how could they escape the gods of their Brighton/ London-based genre, Bombay Bicycle Club! They would generalise their sound somewhere in the midst of “rock, blues, maybe even metal… and pop.” Sam almost rectifies this last statement by adding “you have to appreciate people like Lady Gaga can write a good song.” So would he consider doing a cover of ‘Alejandro’? “No. I don’t do covers.” But then reveals “I have a list lined up for if we do a ‘covers’ album” then humbles himself, remembering they are still on the cusp of household-name-dom, no matter how fast they are hurtling towards it “you know, in the future, way down the road, I’d do ‘Man Who Sold The World’, the Nirvana cover..!”

Although they’re termed a ‘London band’ across the internet, there’s more to their UK identity than the somewhat clichéd Brighton and London. “Exmoor is where our creative influence comes from… Whenever we do anything creative, we go to Exmoor, there’s a national park there…” But we’ll have to wait until 28th March to see the evidence of this in their video for ‘Passions of A Different Kind’, and it should be well worth the wait, as the 3 lads (of a typical indie-build) roam the moors with large dogs and hunks of red meat.

Sam’s tips for a decent spot in London, if you’re already a local at The Fitzroy Tavern and Charlotte Street Blues, is The Gimlick in Shepherd’s Bush and nights by mates at Blue Flowers. But foremost “Ed’s! My favourite thing is pancakes and a plate of bacon at Ed’s Diner in Euston!”

But Flashguns have another half-life, nurtured by their German record label Humming Records. Independent and Berlin-based, it has offered Flashguns the chance to expose their music to an entirely new scene. But how did a British band go down in the country where young people stereotypically listen to techno and rap? As if to answer any of my concern, “…the response was amazing. It was a huge boost! The response you get there is more instant” Sam tried to explain, “music in Europe is less changing, not in a bad way – London is faster paced, people want a new type of music.” Random as it may seem “Germans just want ‘British music’” bringing up the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and other such monsters as examples of ‘British music’.

So is this true as to why are we taking longer to jump on the bandwagon? The songs take a few listens before the subtleties sink in, but this doesn’t mean they won’t get stuck in your head and hummed out at inopportune occasions – ‘Come and See The lights’ and ‘I Don’t Not Love You’ both spring to mind. And while the trio may not play up ADHD to get your attention – I feel it needs to be stated – man can they play their instruments! The originality of Sam’s voice I can only place somewhere between Johnny Borrell (of Razorlight) and Win Butler (of Arcade Fire).

Flashguns’ growing exposure is set to continue; so next time you hear their song on the radio, be patient and wait a few listens to let the background vocals creep into your subconscious. In a few weeks you’ll be singing ‘Racing Race’ uncontrollably in the shower.

Miranda Robbins

Interview: DELS

For people who haven’t heard about you before, describe your sound to them; what can they expect from you?

DELS: Hip-hop, raw, honest, experimental… that’s it basically. Simple.

What sets you aside from the other hip-hop artists that are around at the moment do you think?

I don’t know. It’s not something I really think about really, but I guess that with the producers that I’m working with it’s got like a different sound to what’s currently out there.

I wanted to ask you about your choice of producers actually because you’ve worked with some really interesting producers – producers I really like –so I was wondering were you involved with those choices or were they suggested to you by the label? How did that come about?

I’ve been working on this record years before I signed with the label last year and I’ve been friends with Micachu, Joe Goddard from Hot Chip and Kwes since like 2006. That’s around the time when I started getting into their music, ‘cos before I went to university I was straight like hip-hop, dancehall music, stuff like that and then when I went to uni I met different people and got into different types of music and I guess that’s the reason why my music sounds the way it does. I don’t really listen to hip-hop that much anymore and I spend time listening to other interesting sounds.

Micachu

So you mentioned you started way back in 2006 and then I think in 2008 you released a single with Moshi Moshi?

Yeah

So what have you been doing between that release and releasing ‘Shapeshift’ on Big Dada?

Well, after that in 2009 I had ‘Shapeshift’ ready. We shot the video in 2009. So we’ve been sitting on that for a very long time and I only got to release it last year in July. I was just kind of trying to work out my live show, cos now I’ve got like a proper band and I thought a hip-hop show can be a bit boring when it’s just DJs and a guy on the mic. I just wanted to build that process you know. And make sure that when I’m onstage I’m communicating something to the audience because I feel like hip-hop could be so much more interesting if you have some great musicians around you.  I’ve also been working on my record. I finally finished it at the beginning of the year and it’s coming out in May.

How has your live show changed over the course of writing the album?

It started off with me and a CD player, to me with a DJ, to me with a drummer and a DJ, to now with two keyboardists, singers, delay pedals, bass guitar. I’m really happy with it, but the next step is to add visuals; I want my instrument to be a visual.

How long ago was you and a CD player?

Last gig was in Hull in a dingy club with about four people looking at me and that was in 2009.

Wow, that’s quite recently. I was thinking it would have been back when you were in college.

No, no, no it was recently!

Why is the album called GOB?

Just because I like the word “gob”. It’s very British, it’s something that my mum used to tell me to shut up all the time like “shut yer gob”. My friend Kwes who’s producing on this album he made this track called ‘Gob’ and I just thought it was so punchy. It’s gonna be the next single.

Are you going to make a video for it?

Yeah definitely. We’re shooting a week Tuesday.

You do all your own graphics and videos and things don’t you?

Yeah. With another design studio.

Does that make you feel like you have greater ownership over the whole project?

Yeah for sure. That’s how I’ve always wanted it to be. I’ve always said that I wanted this DELS project to be equally about the audio and the visual, because the times that we’re living in now everything’s online and people are interacting with music in different ways. I think pushing the whole visual element is a really interesting concept for me and that’s something that I’ve been interested in for the last few years. And coming from a graphic design background it’s kind of like a natural progress.

And my music might not last. I might fuck up in a few years time. So I don’t want to go to an interview at a design studio in London and they’ll be like “Ok so what have you been doing for the last few years?” – “Oh I’ve been making music.” But they want to see evidence that I’ve still been thinking in a visual way. So that’s like my plan b.

So it’s like at the same time you’re building your portfolio.

Yeah, exactly!

What kind of themes can we expect to hear lyrically on the album?

Basically the album’s all about the coexistence between fantasy and reality and it’s like an exploration of that space in between.

Yeah that’s what I got from the track titles…

Yeah. ‘Hydronenburg’: that’s about alcoholic water and it’s all about changing. There’s a lot of things where I’m talking about changing objects or changing myself or changing things about other people and stuff like that. So it’s kind of like this distorted view of reality. That’s what I was interested in for this album; just because it lends itself to such a rich visual. Cos if you just base everything on reality it’s too regimented but with fantasy you can do anything.

Are you inspired by things you read?

Yeah things I read, I love Aruki Murakami, the way he writes, he’s a Japanese writer.  Also I love Hayao Miyazaki, he’s amazing; and I just love the whole story element. That’s why when I was growing up I used to like people like The Streets, Roots Manuva or even like Notorious B.I.G. just because they all told stories and that’s what I really like.

And you’ve got Roots Manuva on the album, how did that come about?

Yeah! Oh my god. To be honest that was quite random how that happened. I played his night at the Queen of Hoxton and he came up to me out of nowhere and was like “Yeah let’s make a song.” I didn’t even meet him yet! We were label mates but I’d never met him and he’s like “let’s make a song” and he’s talking to me like he knew me. It was quite weird but I was really excited at the same time. I was trying to compose myself. He’s one of my idols and to make a song with him was just amazing. That was done with me, him and Joe Goddard and we had a brass section. Yeah it sounds really cool.

So you’ve got many different producers working across your album, how do you think all of their different sounds and styles tie together to make the finished product?

Because the beginnings of the instrumentals that they sent through to me I picked them while keeping in mind “how can these all go together?” So I wasn’t just picking any old instrumental, I was thinking “Nah that’s not right, we need to work on this.” And then as the album was coming to its completion we kind of just tied the sounds together. It was supposed to be Joe Goddard producing but it ended up with Kwes producing six tracks on the album, Joe Goddard having three and Micachu two. So that was quite interesting for me. The project was originally going to be a joint project with me and Joe Goddard and we were going to come up with a name for it, but we couldn’t think of a name; we came up with all these shitty names. Then he said “you might as well just call it DELS” and I became a solo act basically.

Speaking of names, how did you get the name DELS?

It’s a nickname from when I was a kid. This teacher got me confused with this boy called Delroy and everyone started taking the piss, calling me Delroy every day and then it kind of stuck. My mum calls me Dels. I’d quite like for people to start calling me Kieran again you know? Cos it’s like, just lost in the mist somewhere.

How did you end up signing to [Ninjatune subsidiary] Big Dada? Were there a lot of offers coming in?

They were the ones that were really passionate about what I’m doing and I felt like they understood my vision. That was the most important thing for me. I also wanted to make sure that I have creative control over what I’m doing, that’s important.

I noticed on the b-sides to ‘Trumpalump’, the Joe Goddard remix isn’t so much of a remix; it’s pretty much a whole new song.

Yeah I know!

Do you end up with a lot of extra lyrics that you don’t use?

I thought about using the same lyrics again, but then I thought that would be cheating the audience. I wanted to give the audience something fresh. And it’s quite a heartfelt lyric; it’s about my granddad. I don’t know, I just wrote it. Joe said we were gonna do a remix and I always wanted to do something with my friend Ghostpoet at some point because I think he’s a great artist. He did his verse and when he did that I said to Joe that I thought we should do a quiet remix, stripped down, less crazy, and I just wrote that verse and then that was it.

I wanted to ask you about Ghostpoet because in a lot of the press I’ve read you two have been touted together as a “new wave of hip-hop.” So with his verse on that track did you meet him, do you know him? Or was it something that was hooked up?

No, he’s one of my friends. I met him… I met Kwes, Micachu, Joe Goddard and Ghostpoet… Sampha… I met all of these great producers and artists all on MySpace! So this was when MySpace was booming. I was always talking to these guys every single day and I’d never even met them. It was really weird. So when I saw Kwes – I remember bumping into him on the underground I was like “Whoa! You’re Kwes,” and he was like “yeah.” Then we kept seeing each other out at like gigs and stuff. But I’ve known Ghostpoet for a few years and I think he’s a great artist and I think he’s going to do some really great things.

Would you consider getting together again and doing another collaboration?

Definitely! We did a mixtape, we released it in 2009 and it had everyone on it. It was produced predominantly by Micachu and Kwes, and it had Ghostpoet on it, it had The xx on it, it had The Invisible, Golden Silvers, Man Like Me, just a crazy amount of artists and we all know each other through friends of friends. It’s called Kwesachu Volume 1 and we’re going to do a Volume 2 this year hopefully, just everyone get together and make music.

Are you looking to get the same lineup with big artists on the second mixtape or have you got some new people in mind?

I don’t know; I don’t really control the mixtape, but I’m sure there’ll be loads of new artists on there.

You mentioned Sampha. Are any of the tracks you’ve made with Sampha ever going to be released? Are they going to show up as b-sides?

Yeah I’m sure they’re going to be released in the future, we just need to finish them. He unexpectedly got really popular so then he got really busy and we couldn’t finish the tracks. I really wanted him to be on the album but I think we’re going to do something over the next month or so and finish it and put it out there because I think he’s just a wicked, wicked producer and he’s an amazing soul singer as well.

So you’ve got a few people featuring on your album, are you featuring on anyone else’s album?

Not at the moment, no. Not any hip-hop records or anything.

You still live in Ipswich and you’ve been commuting to London to record; if this album is a success will you move to London?

The plan is to move to London this summer, obviously I lived here before, I moved back to write the album. I just wanted to write it in Ipswich for some reason and it’s worked. I’m looking forward to moving back to London but to be honest I’d probably prefer to write my second album in another city like Tokyo or New York.

That’s really interesting because a lot of the press that I’ve seen says that one of the reasons your music is so fresh is because you took that step away from the “London scene” and wrote it in a different city, so is that something you’re going to try to do; write each album in a different city and see where it takes you?

Yeah I’d love to do that, that’d be a good excuse to go travelling! I’d meet loads of new people, make new friends, stuff like that and I’m sure it would have a massive effect on my music.

In 2008 you released ‘Lazy’; do you think you’re still lazy?

No I’m definitely not lazy, not anymore. <laughs> That was kind of like a reflection of my teenage years before I went to college and stuff like that.

I suppose we should whack this in: every press release I’ve read about you says you were in a two-step garage band that John Peel played. What was the band called and can people still hear the song?

No, no, you can’t find the song. It was a band before the internet age so it doesn’t exist, luckily. <laughs> We were called The Alliance Inn. If you go on the BBC website and search The Alliance Inn we don’t come up, it’s like a picture of these random four white dudes with beards. <laughs> So you won’t ever trace it back to that period.

If you take off it might come out on an old John Peel sessions CD or something.

I hope not!

Rob Hakimian, Tom Riste Smith

Interview: Stornoway

After a hectic year of touring, Stornoway returned to the capital for one late night before they head over stateside.  Under City Lights caught up with them for a chat before their gig at Shepherds Bush Empire.

You guys have been touring for a while now, how do you prepare for live shows?

Oli: We like to play hacky sack before a show, and lots of stretching as well.

Rob: We started our own yoga class, and it actually felt really really good, better than if we hadn’t.

Do you have any memorable gigs from the tour?

Rob: Birmingham was very memorable for me. My best friend was at that gig, and well I was going to go to Birmingham Uni but I’m not anymore. It was the first gig of the tour so it was a bit of a scary one but the audience were really nice, singing along to lots of the songs. It was a very good atmosphere.

You’re off to America soon. Have you been touring there before?

Oli: We went to New York in July, which was really fun. And surprisingly there were loads of people there who knew all the words to our songs, and some had travelled a long way to see us. Hopefully this time we will have an even more established audience there.

You did the festival circuit this summer playing the big ones like Glastonbury, and the smaller ones like Summer Sundae. Do you prefer the larger festivals or the more intimate environment of small ones?

Rob: Well we really like a sort of intimate atmosphere, small crowds and small gigs. But definitely playing at the big ones like Glastonbury, the second year we went, was amazing because that was the biggest crowd we’ve played so far at the Park Stage. Yeah, both of them have really good atmospheres.

Oli: The thing that illustrated, for me, the difference really well was at Glastonbury we played the park Stage at about 5 in the afternoon to about 8000 people, which was really fun and exhilarating but also nerve wracking and we had some technical issues. Later on, about an hour later, we played up the hill in an unplugged tent to about 60 people and that was what I preferred, the smaller venue. There’s a more individual importance.

Your album, Beachcomber’s Windowsill, focuses on nature and the outdoors. Is this a theme you think you’ll stick with?

Rob: Well that theme mostly comes from [lead singer] Brian. During his childhood he spent a lot of time in Ireland with his family by the beach, and he just loves the outdoors. He studied Zoology and Ornithology at university, so a lot of it comes from him. We’ve been described as nature kids before, which is quite a weird title but whether that carries on or not I don’t know. For future albums or EPs we definitely want to try some new stuff.

Is there a new album in the works?

Rob: Ideas, but nothing more. I suppose we’re still wanting more and more people to hear this first one, even though that had been in the works for 10 years before we released it. We’re playing one new track tonight, lots of ideas.

Do you like experimenting with your shows?

Rob: Yeah definitely, offering some new stuff. We’ve always been into that idea.

The band is named after a small Scottish town, and you played there this year. How did the crowd react, and was there pressure to do the name proud?

Oli: They were surprisingly friendly. I think part of it was just the fact that we were named after their town. I like to think that if we’d just turned up playing, I don’t know, quite generic indie rock and called ourselves Stornoway they wouldn’t have liked that. Instead they heard our music, which I think suits the landscape really well, and the kind of desolation of the island. The music is open to interpretation, so we didn’t steal their name and try to apply meaning to it. We just kind of used it almost like a faceless way to describe the music, but not imposing a meaning on it. I think they appreciated the openness of the ideas.

Rob: We also supplied them with a lot of whiskey.

Do you think you’ll be back?

Rob: Definitely, really love it. It’s a beautiful place. They don’t have any bigger venues but I’d really like to play the same venue again, the Woodland Centre. It had glass from floor to ceiling, and wood panelling, and really nice acoustics. Yeah, we’d definitely like to go there again.

The band started when you were all still at uni. Do you have any advice for bands at UCL about juggling work and their music?

Oli: Well, for me personally, I think the more time you can spend practising an instrument the better, so the time I spent at university was time away from my instrument and I feel like unfortunately it was time that didn’t contribute much to my music. I now think that most of my time could have been better spent. Although I got a degree out of it you have to weigh up the importance of the degree and the music. My advice would be to try to make as much time as possible, and be efficient, and get at least an hour’s practise or writing or just think about music everyday, so you don’t lost touch with the whole idea.

Rob: And listen to more and more different types of music. It happens to me a few times when I’m listening to a completely new band that someone’s recommended and I hear an instrument that I never thought of playing, that kind of thing where it inspires you to pick it up and learn it.

Oli: I think there’s a lot of dead time at university, where I occasionally would just sleep when I shouldn’t have slept, or go to the library and not actually do anything, or sit on a bus for ages just chatting to my friends. And those times are the times, with technology today, where you can pull out a laptop with some program and then just do a remix, or make an instrument or investigate some kind of idea, just using the dead hour in between study.

You mentioned picking up new instruments. Do you have a particular instrument that’s your favourite that you play?

Oli: I’m trying to improve on the double bass as much as possible. On this tour the double bass split open and we had to get it fixed. I basically had to put it down after a song and it was tangled around in a wire, fell off the stage and into the crowd. Luckily someone passed it back but it was in two pieces.

Rob: I’ve been learning to play the saw on this tour to play on one of the tracks because of the lack of a Theremin but it’s becoming one of my favourite instruments to play. You get lots of varied sounds.

Well thank you very much for chatting to me, and good luck with the saw and the rest of the show tonight!

Interview: Billy Bragg

Under City Lights and Rare FM headed down to the recent UCL occupations to talk to people about their views.  Whilst their, we bumped into the legendary folk singer, outspoken poet and activist, Billy Bragg, and managed to grab a quick few words with him about student politics and government cuts…


What do you think of the rise in tuition fees and education cuts being put forward by the government?

Well, I’m sorry that the Labour party brought them in.  But when they brought it in, it was their way of spreading the burden around a bit.  You can see the reasoning behind it.  What the Torys and Lib Dems are doing is completely the opposite. Its taking the burden of costs from the financial crisis and passing around society; amongst the powerless, the poor, the young, the old, the people who can’t defend themselves.  I think we all need to step up to support the students, support the homeless, support the disabled, and ensure that the people who cause these problems, the financial markets, are the people who take the strain.

You mentioned labour being the people who brought in these fees in the first place, and you’ve publically supported them in the past.  What do you think their move should be?

I think their move should be to define themselves against the coalition.  I think one of the problems we have in our politics is the amount of disenfranchisement that goes on, because the three main political parties cover the same ground.  I’ve been around at the Coalition of Resistance first conference today.  They just put forward a series of demands against the cuts.  25 years ago, the labour party would of put out that sort of statement.  Now the labour party don’t seem to be there anymore.  I know they’re in a moment of transition at the moment but I want them to see them taking on the issue of cuts and make sure they just don’t react against the government’s agenda.

One last quick question.  Do you have any messages for the student occupiers as well as the larger general student population?

Yeah.  Just remember that nothing really changes unless people organise.  Whatever your politics and backgrounds are, you’ve got to organise.  Then once you students have organised you’ve got to join up with other people in society.  You’ve got to join up with the trade unions, the public sector workers, the unemployed and those people who are trying to make a difference.  You’ve got to organise.

Thanks Billy.

My pleasure.

You can listen to this interview here, as well as Billy’s message to student protesters here.

Dasal Abayaratne

Interview: Titus Andronicus

Hey Patrick, how’s the tour going?

It’s been a great tour, probably the most enjoyable on of England yet. We’ve had some bigger audiences than we’re generally used to over here and we’ve had the hospitality from a lot of nice people that have invited us over to their houses afterwards. We’ve made a ton of nice friends. So yeah, it’s been really nice… apart from the cold. This has also being the coldest tour we’ve ever done.

Even colder than back in the US?

Dude, it’s cold. I think it’s colder. I don’t even remember any other weather.

You mentioned sleeping on people’s floors, how’s that been going?

It’s nice. Most of the time we end up staying up till some obscene hour, talking, laughing and learning about English culture. I’ve learned the most valuable lesson though is that people are all the same wherever you go … all assholes.. . JOKE.

You sound like a really positive guy Patrick, but your lyrics are sometimes really bleak.

Well you know, if I didn’t have the outlet for the bleakness, how could I maintain positivity?

So it’s some sort of catharsis then?

Well I dunno. There are good days and bad, as with anyone. Walt Whitman says that “contain multitudes” right?  So you can try and find good in the world even though you know there’s great evil. You’ve got to try and take the bad with the good. Though the bad is usually worse than the good is good. Also, how could I not be feeling up right now when the seminal UK punk band Television Personalities are supporting us?

How did that come about?

Well I would never have thought of it. In my mind they should be headlining stadiums. But Texas Bob, their guitar player, friended me on facebook and asked if they could support at our London show.  It’s really happening, it’s surreal.  It was kinda fortunate cos we were meant to be doing this tour with Let’s Wrestle, but they had to pull out.

How about Mazes, do you know them at all?

Yeah, they were supposed to support us in Manchester but they pulled out as well! We actually met their singer the first time we played in Manchester 2 years ago, and he gave us their cassette and we’ve treasured it ever since. Sadly, they couldn’t make it, for one reason or another.

You’ve got them here at least?

THEY’RE PLAYING TONIGHT?! Oh shit. That’s great news. Wow, what a great show. Sweet.

Sure.  Can we just talk about your latest record, The Monitor.  What’s the back-story to it?

Well it’s about the theme of disunion and organisations, communities and relationships that are supposed to have a certain amount of solidarity but actually don’t. We just end up pitting one against another. It all just seems to me that it’s just people trying pass the buck for their own happiness or unhappiness, trying to define themselves in relation to one another rather than trying to define yourself, positively. From that, the Civil War is an extended metaphor, seen as that was the largest occurrence of that in American history. The confederacy vs. the Union, that was pretty disharmonious. Though it’s pretty much just a different set of clothes on the set of problems we have today. You know what I’m saying? It’s also about me moving to Boston, which I did a couple of years ago, but then having to move back.  It’s about all these things and more.

What sort of musical influences did you have whilst making the record?

Well, The Television Personalities, you know. Big Country was another big one. They’re a Scottish band from the 80s. We listened to a lot of Trail Of Dead and Fucked Up in the studio.

But you seem to get lumped into a lot of indie-type stuff on sites like Pitchfork. Do you feel like you identify with any of that really?

Well I identify with plenty of it, and listen to it, but nobody likes being put in a box. It’s cool though. I guess we’re an indie rock band, to the extent that there is such a thing.

How about on the tour, what do you think of the bands that are supporting you?

There’s been some awesome bands. In Bristol we had Bravo Brave Bats, they were really an awesome band. They kinda sounded like McClucsky or something. The other night in Newcastle we played with this band called Oh Messy Life, they were really great too. They kinda sounded like The Mekons or Neutral Milk Hotel, but more 90s alt rock or something.

How about in the US?

Well we just did a tour with Free Energy and we really liked those guys. You should also check out a band called Spider Bags, they’re pretty much the best American band. There’s also this great Baltimore band called Double Dagger. They’re a cool 3 piece punk band.  Also check out my man Andrew Cedermark who used to play guitar in Titus Andronicus. He just put out his own record that’s really awesome.  Me, Andrew and Martin from Real Estate used to be in a band called Library of Congress at college, but at the end of first year they both transferred to other colleges.  Thusly, Titus Andronicus was born.

Talking of sleeping on floors, you seem to be quite into the DIY ethos as a band.  Is that true?

Yeah, sure. I mean, we have to be reluctant to say yes, because there are a lot of things we don’t do ourselves, and there are lots of bands that are more DIY than we are.  However it is important for us to break the fourth wall a little bit and demonstrate that we’re regular folks, who just happen to be in a band. We did one tour over here where we just stayed in hotels cos we were scared. It was just really depressing, everyday just felt the same. It was just too sterile and inhuman.  And you know we have to keep the overhead down cos it’s expensive to come over here. We can barely afford the plane tickets let alone the hotels without going into debt. I will say that these English are notoriously cheap with their fees… Like really stingy motherfuckers most of the time. Compared to mainland Europe, you guys are real tightwads… FYI. But it’s cool, it’s just funny money. I reckon we might just break even on this tour for the first time.

What’s the plan for after the tour finishes, what are you up to then?

Not really any real plans. We won’t be going out on the road again till springtime.  Probably just rehearse and learn some new songs, hang out and kinda take it easy. Mostly just refamiliarise ourselves with our civilian lives, spend time with loved ones, sleep in, eat food that’s not from a gas station.

You’re missing Thanksgiving today.

Yeah, that’s true. I’ve still got a lot to be thankful for though, like the Television Personalities! Definitely better than a turkey.

We were wondering whether the band has any sort of philosophy?  You’ve mentioned about the positive/negative balance and you’ve referenced writers such as Albert Camus in songs.

Yes, we are a punk band. Sure, we’ve got plenty of philosophies, but I guess the big one is that life in an absurd universe causes people to be mean, and people being mean makes me sad.

We were looking at [guitarist] Amy’s blog the other day and saw that she used to be in Riot Grrl bands.  Do you guys still stand for those causes?

Sure, she’s still a feminist, I hope she never gives up. Caring about people, that’s all that is. Just treating people decently, that’s the only ideology worth its salt. Just treat them like how you’d like to be treated. I mean it’s an old line but it’s still the truth. Old and cliché as it is, we humans still haven’t figured out how to implement it on any useful scale. But hey, what are you gonna do?

What are your feelings about US politics in general?

I don’t concern myself with that stuff. They’re all a bunch of liars and swindlers what ever side of the stupid aisle they’re on. I’m much more concerned with the stuff that’s going on on the ground. People that I can relate to, from one human to another. That’s where I think where people can do the most good.

Sure.  In the UK at the moment many people have become disillusioned over the Liberal Democrats [Explains tuition fees and university story].  A group of students at our university UCL, have occupied one of the main rooms in protest.  Do you have any messages for them?

I’m always happy to see the kids getting excited, but it sucks that it’s about money. There are a lot more important things in this world than money. It’s a good start though. I dunno, money… fuck it, but I like that they’re excited and standing up for themselves. It is bad that they’re trying to take all your money, that does suck. If it was about something other than money, I could be a little more excited, but I’m still pretty excited. Usually in America, you couldn’t get students to protest fucking anything, unless you took their Twitter away. It’s sad, but that’s the world in which we live in; ain’t that right boys? I say good luck to those students and get what they’re after, remember how good it felt to stand up for themselves and maybe they can continue to stand up for what they believe in in the future. Hopefully they won’t just get their money back and go on to being fat and lazy like the people who used to protest all the time in America. We’ll see.  It’s not for me to judge even though I just did.

Finally, on a lighter note, I saw you had a little funny video about Kanye West on your blog. Did you guys make that yourselves?

Oh, thank you.  Yeah, me and Eric, the drummer made that.  We were just staying up one night thinking about Kanye and we just hopped on the computer in a couple hours. We all really like the new record and have been listening to it a lot.  He’s funny, and always keeping things interesting. He believes in himself, a lot, which is a rare thing. He dares to be great. It’s always nice to see.

Thanks Patrick, good luck with the gig.
Edwin Shaw & Dasal Abayaratne

Interview: Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann from Answer Me This! podcast

Answer us this!

Rare FM meets Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann – Answer me this!

 

Interview by Sara Shulman

 

S: Why did you decide to do a podcast?

O: I was working in production for ITV on a show called ‘Confessions’, which was the lowest rated factual entertainment show of the last ten years in prime time ITV. I decided that after 2 months of exploring, in the most synical way, the dark underside of human endeavour, I wanted to do something else. At the time, I had just finished collating a play based on blogs for Edinburgh Fringe (2006) and thought it was really exciting and really enjoyed the autonomy and creativity. Because the play had been about blogs, lots of podcasters had interviewed me about it so I thought I could do my own podcast… So I decided to do a home-made show, which was about the time that The Ricky Gervais Show was getting big. There were a lot of American shows with men and women talking but there weren’t really many English ones, so I felt we had a niche. There seemed to be a vacancy for someone, who wasn’t a complete geek, to do a home-made show so I thought we could give it a go. It was an experiment, we didn’t really know what was going to happen. We will have done 160 podcasts by Christmas!

 

H: It was meant to be a hobby!

 

O: We don’t understand why we don’t have proper competition from amateurs. We’d like some competition!

 

S: So why did you decide to write a book?

O: We decided to write a book because there are some things you just can’t do in a podcast but that you can do in a book. We did student radio together – it was one of the first things we did together – and one thing we’ve always wanted to do is our own banter-driven music show.

 

H: I did a show on Rare FM after a gig once. It was with Jamie Paul and I went on with Josie Long and we sang songs…

 

S: How did you guys meet (Oxford?) ?

O: We met at St. Catz, Oxford, both studying English. There was a position on the JCR Committee for publications officer.

 

H: It’s where you poster things and write the guides for Freshers. We wrote the Fresher’s Guide together, which contained incredible advice for young people coming to St. Cats.

 

O: It had a lot of stuff we thought was funny (for the intended audience).

 

H: When I arrived, I got a Fresher’s Guide that was for people that knew each other but I wanted to make things accessible so that it didn’t feel like a club that you’re not in…

 

S: What do you remember most about being students?

 

H: What was amazing about it was just the fact that my closest friends all lived in the same building as me and I saw them every day, and they were at a really interesting point in their lives when they were really coming to fruition. When you’re at Uni, you can do whatever you like! You don’t have a job, you can stay up until 5am everyday… You never really have that level of conversation again.

 

O: I remember when I started University, people would say “What were your A Levels?”…

 

H: … or “What did you do on your Gap Year?”

 

O: But actually what happens for the rest of you life is people come up and ask you about your job, and in real life people just define you by what you do for a living. You find that on a daily basis a friend or acquaintance is suddenly religious, or gay, or is suddenly a broadcaster or interested in writing a novel…

 

H: …or manufacturing kites or taking drugs.

 

O: Being a student was a really great time to be able to try stuff.

 

H: Not that we tried most of those things… We didn’t really watch TV, and didn’t really have the internet.

 

S: So no Facebook?!

 

O: No Facebook!

 

H: The defining activity was hanging out with people…

 

O: …and socialising.. But lots of people meet online now before starting Uni – I suppose more knowledge equals less anxiety..? Actually, the two most common questions we get from students are either “I’ve just graduated and I can’t get a job – what do I do?” or “I’ve just started Uni and I don’t want to go clubbing or go to a particular drinks thing or a particular birthday thing – how do I make friends?”

 

S: So what’s your advice?

 

H: I found if you were capable of cooking you became popular, especially if you were capable of cooking late when most places were closed. Olly was popular because he had a television in his room.

 

S: In your book, there’s lots of stories about student life. Do you have any advice or tips for students?

 

O: We both had different academic strategies. We both ended up just scraping through with a 2:1. In Helen’s case by 0.7%

 

H: I was busy…

 

O: And in my case 0.5% away from a 2:2. I spent pretty much the whole of my second year doing student journalism, student radio, student theatre, filming stuff and making posters… just anything that wasn’t work! But that was the best experience in terms of getting a career in the media.

 

Helen: The extra-curricular seems to be much more helpful than the academic pursuits, enjoyable as those are as well. We both really enjoyed being students. We both said if we could re-live three years of our 20s it would probably be those three years.

 

S: Why do you think students would be interested in this book?

 

O: Well, it’s quite a studenty humour. A lot of our humour is quite juvenile. ‘Cerebral juvenilia’ was a quote by William Cook, who was a comedy critic in The Guardian, and I think that applies to our show too. We always thought our humour would appeal to a 16-20 year olds market. We talk in a silly way about clever things and a clever way about silly things. There’s a quite a broad range of people that listen to our shows from 10 year-olds to 60 year-olds. But the 10 year-olds seem to be quite academically precocious and the 60 year-olds tend to be unusually juvenile. It is to an extent the kind of Sixth-Formy kind of humour that people never grow out of.

 

S: Did you always want to go into comedy?

 

H: I don’t feel like I’ve got into comedy. My brother’s a comedian and I’ve done shows with people but I don’t really consider myself a comedian. Comedians work at it and do it properly and they’re expected to be funny.

 

O: I’d consider myself a writer and broadcaster, who does a funny show.

 

H: I’m socially amusing but it’s a really different thing to be able to write stand-up.

 

O: I actually find stand-up quite awkward. Often when I’m watching stand-up I feel like there are too many times when comedians will go for a cheap laugh to get the audience on their side or because everyone is drunk. Or I just get embarrassed because I’m watching someone do something very clever and almost always the audience isn’t really on side because they’re drunk.

S: What comedians inspire you?

 

O: When we were teenagers, Stuart Lee and Richard Herring were a massive influence for both of us. Personally, I’m interested in TV Comedy, I think I’m Alan Partridge Series 1 is the best sitcom of our lifetimes – I love it! I also really like some of the Americans as well, such as Joan Rivers, Mel Brooks and Robin Williams.

 

S: What’s been your favourite question and what’s been your favourite topic to talk about?

 

H: I like talking about when people have a weird emotional problem. We had this 17-year-old who said, “My 43 year-old married neighbour wants to have sex with me – should I do it?” and we said, “You shouldn’t, she’s married, her husband lives next door…” Then he said, “I decided not to because she texted me some pictures of herself and I didn’t think she was that fit after all.” So it was nice having that weird insight into his life. This other guy said “I’ve been offered the chance to be in a professionally done porno, should I do it?” These things have never really been a problem for us to decide so it’s nice putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

 

O: I like the funny questions – for example, someone asked us “Can you make black pudding out of menstrual blood?” Sometimes the question isn’t particularly interesting so it’s often what we do with it rather than the questions… We just make it up as we go along. The answers we give often have lots of different options but we like to give the most interesting or plausible answers. You can see the types of questions we’ve been asked at www.answermethispodcast.com/questions.

 

S: What do you want people to take away from reading your book and/or listening to your podcast?

 

O: We want people to be entertained. We wanted to write the best toilet book we could – we didn’t have any aspirations to write War and Peace – we’re both pretty proud of how it is. It’s an entertaining book with a gag on every page and that’s what we wanted, because that’s the kind of thing we like to read.

 

H: It’s nice to be able to give someone half an hour’s entertainment each week – to take their mind of their commute. We get lots of emails in saying that our show is their favourite 30 minutes of travelling to and from work every week, and it’s really nice to be that for someone.

 

Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann will be doing a signing and reading of their new book Answer me this! on:

Friday 26th November, 12pm at Rough Trade East on Brick Lane.

Saturday 4th December, 3pm at The Social, Little Portland Street

Check out their website http://www.answermethispodcast.com

 

If you want to buy their book, the cheapest and easiest way is from www.tinyurl.com/amtamazon

You can follow them on Twitter (www.twitter.com/helenandolly) and on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/AnswerMeThis)

Sara Shulman

Interview: For A Minor Reflection

I first came across For A Minor Reflection as supporting band for fellow Icelanders Sigur Rós in, of all places, Wolverhampton; and was pretty much blown away by the incredible wall of sonic delights that could be hurled upon an audience by a group of lads barely out of their teens. Two years later and the band bring, not for the first time, their uplifting sonic drapery and plaintive soaring melodies to the London smog.

Following an explosive gig, ears ringing happily, I put a few basic questions, to one of the guitarists, Kjartan Dagur Hólm: for instance, what have the band been doing since their last London appearance, at the Lexington near King’s Cross, nearly a year ago? “Touring,” I am told: Europe, Scandinavia; and, of course, the launch of a new album, Höldum í átt að óreiðu (Heading Toward Chaos), the party for which was held in Reykjavík venue Iðno and, the twenty-one-year-old tells me, was packed. He seems non-plussed by the cult success the band are enjoying, both home-grown and international.

All four members of the band are from Iceland’s capital, Kjartan himself having been more specifically raised in Vesturbær, the western portion of the town – where, incidentally, you can buy amazing ice creams. This he agrees with, and, more to the point reckons Reykjavík’s population to be around 150,000, surprisingly small given the amount of creativity that consistently seems to erupt out of it. Although purely instrumental, the band express the lyrical beauty of their mother tongue through Icelandic album and song titles, which, accompanied by the landscape evoked by their music, create an air of intriguing mystery to English listeners. So why the choice of an English band name? I wonder; and how did they come by it? “We wanted a long name,” the guitarists mediates, “And to use the word reflection: it’s a good word.” He concludes that the decision to adopt an English name was perhaps unconscious: “And we couldn’t think of anything cool in Icelandic.”

I ask about musical influences, wondering if he will here cite the well-known Sigur Rós, with whom, he tells me, they have worked. To the contrary he professes to be a fan of ‘heavier’ music, in particular of Blink 182. He muses that [guitarist] Gúffý is into jazz, then adds enthusiastically that, in fact, [drummer] Andri’s favourite musician is the drummer from Blink 182. We think for a moment. “Travis Barker?”; “Travis Barker. He likes Travis Barker.”


The remainder of this year’s tour will take them to Brighton, Newcastle, Manchester… finally coming to a close at the Iceland Airwaves Festival, where they will be appearing alongside the likes of Ólafur Arnalds and Seabear. Is it nice to return to Iceland after a lengthy tour? I ask. He admits that the air is much better; though perhaps at the moment there is more excitement to be found elsewhere, as next year’s recording and subsequent tour takes them around Europe and the US. “It’s my favourite thing,” the guitarist declares; “But it’s fucking exhausting.”

Holly Bidgood

Interview: Abe Vigoda

Last month, Abe Vigoda released their hotly anticipated new album Crush. Under City Lights caught up with their bassist, David Reichardt and drummer Dane Chadwick, to get the low-down on their new album, The Smell and DIY ethics.

Why did you choose to name yourself Abe Vigoda?

David: Abe Vigoda is an actor who’s been 100 years old for years now. He used to be on the Conan O’Brien show, which we watched pretty much every night when we were in high school. We came up with the name 7 years ago when we were all still young. We thought it would be really funny, and it just stuck for all this time.

Do you know how he feels about you taking his name?

David: Probably fine. I think I’ve heard that someone trying to get in touch with our band has contacted his people, and he was like “oh, you must want them, not me.” So at least his people know us.

Your new album is pretty different to your last albums. What influenced the change?

David: Well, it’s been a long time since we wrote material from Skeleton. We’re still growing as people, discovering tons of new music and taking it in to influence us. Since we’ve been in a band for a really long time, we decided we’d like to start working with keyboards and drum machines…

Dane: When you have the opportunity to work in a studio, it’s pretty amazing.

David: Dane also joined the band a couple of years ago, and he had more experience that we were able to use. We also had a really good producer, and a friend who was handy with analogue keyboards. It all just came together in a big way, into something that was really interesting and new for us to do.

Were there any other bands you were listening to that influenced you?

David: In 2008 we did a tour with Diplo. One of the other support bands was Telepathe, from Brooklyn, whose music was all synth drum machine based. They’ve been friends and an influential band to us for a while. Cold Cave use similar heavy synth stuff too that we like, as it’s still pretty melodic.

Dane: A lot of New Order too!

David: Yeah, we’ve always been fans of New Order and OMD, and I think that kinda comes through.

Sure, when I listen to the album I can hear a very 80s English vibe coming through.

David: Yeah, we’re all really into it, but it wasn’t like we wanted to make music that sounded like that. We made music, and our influences came through in it.

Dane: We’ve had these ideas floating around, but we’ve only just been able to actually implement them.

What’s it like being on Bella Union, a label founded by Robin Guthrie, from the Cocteau Twins?

Dane: Yeah, that’s amazing. The Cocteau Twins are a HUGE influence on us. We met him at SXSW.

David: He’s a super nice guy. The time we got signed, I wasn’t a huge Cocteau Twins fan, but I was aware of it. It kinda hit me later about how cool it is to be on that label.

In the US you’re on No Age’s label, Post Present Medium. What’s that like?

David: Yeah. We’re good friends with No Age. We’re going to start touring with them tomorrow for a couple of months. That’s very exciting. We’ve toured with them in the US a few times and they’re some of our best friends, so to get to hang out with them in Europe is going to be pretty fun.

You did a ‘secret show’ out in Dalston in a tiny venue, what was that like?

David: It was cool. It was a funny, scary thing.

Dane: It wasn’t that funny! We fried the microkorg that all the main melodies are coming out of right now. We plugged it into the wrong power source, and it just fried it. We’re just using Jonathan’s keyboard right now, which is meant for backing parts really, so we had to figure out how to recreate all these sounds on it.

David: We had a couple of hours where we were sat round this keyboard like passing around one set of headphones seeing if it sounded okay. It took a long time. The gig itself was really good though. We had support from a really good band, Girls’ Names.

Dane: They were good.

David: It’s always nice to come out here and hear a lot of bands you’ve not heard of before.

What do you think of UK crowds in general? How receptive are they compared to the US?

David: I always relate it to NYC, same kinda crowd. There’s always going to be a lot of…

Dane: Well-dressed individuals, lot of pretty girls who have boyfriends… fuck!

David: LA is cool, but it’s a lot more relaxed. It feels like a lot less pressure. You don’t really feel like you’re being stared down. Especially walking round this area of London [Shoreditch], I always feel like people look you up and down and just look away. But everybody we actually meet is always supernice.

How about Europe?

Dane: The crowds are definitely weirder.

David: They’re very reserved, but they’re always really interested. They just let us do our thing and just watch and get excited once a song is over. When we’re playing they’re not really going wild, I think they’re into it, but just don’t show it. Any banter just seems like it goes in one ear and out the other.

Dane: I think people are pretty much all the same. They start off reserved, but once someone in the crowd seems to be into it, then it gets everyone else going. It always takes that one person to get everybody engaged no matter where you are.

Over here the music press group you guys together with No Age, Health and Mika Miko as “The Smell” bands. To what extent is that a real grouping or scene?

Dane: It kind of is.

David: We don’t really play there that much anymore. This group of bands all got lumped into that. We all have similar ideals about music and DIY, but we have different sounds. It’s changing there now sound-wise, but everyone still has the same attitude. The Smell is for all ages, so loads of kids come out there. It’s a very welcoming place to all different types of music and people. I guess people just think of it as a club, but it’s more like playing at somebody’s house, but a bit bigger with no bar and no door guys.

When did you guys start going there? We don’t really have all age venues in the UK.

David: We were pretty young, probably 14. We all come from the suburbs around LA; so going to the city was a big deal. We just found this place that was very welcoming. You’d go out there and be scared of the big city, but you go there and you feel really welcome and safe, despite the fact it’s a pretty sketchy neighbourhood. We started playing there a couple of years after we started going.

We know that you’re a DIY band. In our magazine we’ve being having arguments over whether we should have advertising. What’s your attitude towards advertising?

David: We’re definitely open to advertising. More than trying to present this image of separation from advertising, we’ve just wanted to get our music out there and heard.

Dane: Why would you make music if you don’t want it to be heard?

David: The cash is a big thing also! We’re not going to act like we don’t want to get paid for doing something we love.

Dane: It’s funny when people are too punk. Obviously the attitude can be a bad thing, but having people hear your music isn’t bad!

David: Even the cheesiest commercial, we’d love to have our music on it, at least someone liked our music enough to want to use it. I’d also love to be a composer, scoring music for movies or TV.

As a DIY band, what’s your feeling on music being involved with politics?

David: We’re not very political at all. We just want to make music. If there was a new law that prevented us playing music, then maybe we’d get more political!

So is the DIY more about the fact that it gives you the ability to make music, rather than any particular statement?

David: Yeah, absolutely. When we started the band, we began with home recording. Then we wanted to sell the music at our shows, so we started putting it out on CD-Rs. Then from that we set up our own mini DIY label, putting out a hundred or so copies of a CD. Mostly it was just a necessary vehicle for releasing music. It’s totally possible for people these days to record music on their computers and release it on the internet, and that’s totally valid. We’re starting to move away from that now though, because we’ve finally got access to studios to make a really great sounding record.

Dane: We just want to make the best possible record we can with what we’ve got!

David: We never went for the lo-fi aesthetic. I think it’s weird to want to make lo-fi. I mean if you have a tape machine, then that’s all you have, so you record onto it. But some people take it too far, and record onto garage band and then just put distortion on it to make it “lo-fi”. It doesn’t really make sense to me.
It seems like a way for people to sound more punk than they really are, when really they’re just rich kids recording onto macbooks.

Dane: Its something we were kind of into. But now we’ve got the means to make a studio quality record, so we’ll do that instead; we’ve got no excuse!

David: The older records are kinda lo-fi but that’s because that’s what was available. Skeleton was recorded in our friend’s dad’s garage, which just happened to have pro-tools and a few microphones.

At this point, Abe Vigoda’s manager comes over to whisk them away for dinner with their record label. Check out their new album Crush, out now on Bella Union.

Dasal Abayaratne

Interview – Peter Broderick

How’s the tour going? You’ve just started, I take it.

Yeah, we left last Sunday, so almost a week now, and it’s been really, really nice, actually. Last night we played in an art gallery in Middelburg.  I’ve played a lot of small towns in the Netherlands that I’d never been to before. The night before was pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, in Holland, in a place called Bakkeveen. Just this one house, kind of out in the middle of a field, where they do one concert a month. And the same last night, they do one concert a month in this gallery, and the night before that was in this amazing old church in Gent, in Belgium. The turnouts have been great and we’ve been selling a lot of CDs, and people seem really happy. So it’s been really, really nice.

 

As for How They Are, your latest release… would I be right in saying that it was a record that seemed to happen to you, rather than one you searched out or planned?

That’s a really nice way to put it. I didn’t really think of it like that, but now that it’s released, and it’s finished, it kind of feels like that’s how it happened. I had this time off and that stuff just came out of it. It just all fell into place.

 

As a piece of work it feels very solitary, which I suppose is a product of the context in which it was written? [Peter had to cancel touring and album release plans after he was consigned to the “quiet life” by knee surgery in the beginning of 2010]

Absolutely. I was spending a lot more time alone than I had been in the previous years. In the studio it’s just me – there’s no overdubs or anything, it’s just what I’m capable of doing in a room by myself at once. I was really aiming for the solitary sound… a very stripped down, basic, honest sound.

 

I’m almost inclined to conclude from How They Are that, fundamentally, you’re an introvert – which would fit in with the tone of your earlier releases. But given that you are involved so often in collaboration, suggesting a highly social side, I was wondering whether that was really the case?

Well, someone was interviewing me the other day and he said at the interview, “you know, your music seems so sad but you seem like such a happy person” – that’s sort of a way to put it I guess. But I’m a really social person, I have to speak with people all day, every day, most of the time, but this was a time when I did spend quite a bit of time to myself.

 

In Human Eyeballs on Toast, you seem to be writing from the perspective of a battery chicken.

Exactly. I’m very glad you realised that because I read a review of the record a few days ago, where somebody thought I was talking about myself, and saying if I had a bigger brain, I’d surely find a way to take my own life, and I just thought that’s a shame, I really hope people aren’t thinking that.

 

Is it simply an exercise in writing from an unusual perspective, then, or something more than that?

I can tell you exactly why that song came about. I was reading a book at the time called Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Have you heard of Everything Is Illuminated? He wrote that book, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was his second one. The second one especially, I read that book and I just thought, this is one of the most incredible novels I’ve ever read. Then his third book that comes out is a non-fiction account of the animal agriculture industry and I just thought that was such a bold move from him to write that after having two really successful novels. And still, you go to the bookstore and they have his novels on display, but that one’s in the corner somewhere, y’know. I’ve kind of been a back and forth vegetarian my whole life, and always kind of searched for a real reason to make up my mind one way or another, and that book gave me some very clear answers. It’s a really startling, shocking book. So the song just came out, right in that time.

 

You always seem to have a lot of projects on the go. Is there anything particular in the works at the moment?

Well, there are some things in the works. There are some recording projects that I’ve already finished, that are coming out before the end of the year. One is a split 7” with my friend Johan [Gustavsson, aka Tsukimono] who’s playing first tonight. I think he’s mostly doing some pretty avant garde, electronic stuff, but on the record he’s singing and playing guitar. I wrote a song about him, and he wrote a song about me, and we also covered each other’s songs, so there are four songs total on the 7”.

 

So it sounds more like your work than his?

There’s me singing two songs and him singing two songs, so it’s kind of a big little mix up, because I’m singing a song that he wrote, but he wrote it about me. It was a really fun project. It was supposed to be ready for this tour, but it got delayed, so, I think we’re gonna get it in the next week or so, somewhere along the tour. And when I get back in November I’m gonna be recording a little collaboration album with my friend Nils Frahm. We’re going to Japan together next year, so we’re gonna make maybe an eight song album.

 

Is this the record you’d been working on before your knee surgery?

No, that’s another record which is already finished, but this one is going to be 50/50, both of our names: Peter Broderick and Nils Frahm. A collaboration album.

 

That record you have finished, to be released in 2011. You have said it’s a “monster album”, and “huge sounding”…

Maybe that was kind of a mistake! I think on my scale it’s a monster album, because I’ve spent more time on it than any other record that I’ve worked on and it has, like… you know, Home is guitar and voice, there’s others that are strings and piano, and this one kind of has everything.

 

Not the same restraint, perhaps?

No, there were no rules like, let’s only use these instruments, or anything. But there’s still some softer songs, there are some songs that get pretty loud with drums, and it’s a bit more all over the place.

What else can you tell us about the record?

It’s nine songs, most are based on the guitar. There’s one song where I’m singing in German. Each song is very different from each other, that’s the way I feel about it. Another song is a cover of a song my father wrote when he was eighteen years old, where he went into a studio when he was eighteen and he recorded this song. My mother found it on a tape and gave it to me thirty years later, and he had totally forgotten about it, so I did this thing as a surprise for him, covering his song. There’s a couple that I have played live – one that I play pretty regularly. There’s one that’s almost like a hip-hop song, a pretty hip-hoppy beat. I’m not really rapping but I’m more like speaking…

 

You gave away some random tracks online recently, including These Walls of Mine, in which you rap.

…yeah, very much a rap song. I’m surprised you know about that one! But, one thing I can say (about the new record) is that Nils Frahm produced it, and this doesn’t give you an idea of what it sounds like, but we focused not only on the music but the sound – each individual sound – so for me it’s a really sonically pleasing album. After a while I can’t tell if the music is any good or not, but I love the way that it sounds, probably because it’s the first time I had someone else step in and take over. Nils has a really special ear for sound, and he knows a lot more about sound than I do, so it really helped just to have him involved.

 

Where do you expect this record to take you in the long term?

I think I need to put a band together to play the songs, that’s one thing. There’s lots of layers. Home had lots of layers, and I play versions of it live, it’s not the same, but I can still get by with it by myself. But this one, it doesn’t make any sense to release it and then go tour by myself. I think I have to put a band together for it.

 

You’ve worked with some incredible artists. If you could collaborate with any musician – forgive me the clichéd question – who would it be?

I do have dreams of collaborating with other people, but nowadays I have more dreams about collaborating with different kinds of artists. I know I’m kind of getting around your question but there’s a couple of visual artists who I would really love to collaborate with. There’s a girl based in Berlin named Elín Hansdóttir, she’s an Icelandic girl, and I’ve kind of been chasing her down, trying to get her to collaborate on something for a while, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in the immediate future. But as far as musicians go… a lot of them are already dead I think. Like, Arthur Russell is somebody I would have just loved to sit in a room with and play some music, but, erm, I don’t think that’ll happen, so…

 

I’ve always thought you and Sam Amidon [aka Samamidon] would work well together. I know you have said you really like All Is Well, which is one of my favourite albums, too.

I was just talking about that to someone earlier, actually. I ordered that record online and I got it and I listened to it a few times – and then I ordered five more copies because I just thought I want to share this with people, I want to give it to people – and I’ve never done that with another record. I just heard it and I thought, “everybody has to hear this, it’s just incredible.”

 

You said you’re not listening to much new music, but is there anything, old or new, that you’re excited about at the moment?

Actually, just now I am listening to music, because in the car there’s just a CD player. One record that I am in love with is this band The Books, the latest one, it just blows my mind, I love it. Also with Efterklang we just did this tour in the States, and our support was a band from Brooklyn called Buke and Gass.  It’s quite different from anything else that I listening to. It’s a bit more rocky, almost like math rock sometimes, and there’s a girl singing with this crazy powerful voice and I fell in love with them after seeing them for a month, playing live. I’m listening to that record all the time. There’s a Dutch composer I’m listening to named Simeon ten Holt, the CD I have is this one piece that’s seventy-five minutes long, and it moves melodically, but rhythmically it’s really repetitive. It hypnotises you.

 

Tea or coffee?

I actually go back and forth, but most of the time it’s coffee. Tea is more when I’m sick, when coffee doesn’t seem like the right idea.

 

Thank you so much Peter, you’ve been an absolute pleasure to talk to.

Well, likewise, those were nice questions!

Shaun Russell

How They Are by Peter Broderick was released on 6th September by Bella Union.