Sep 19, 2005

The Wrens / Kathryn Yu Interview

Charles Bissell / photo credit: Kathryn Yu

The trials and tribulations of New Jersey indie rock machine, The Wrens, have taken on near mythic proportions in some circles. From being signed to one indie label and then 'leaving' to sign with another after the former became the type of outfit that followed a completely different 'Creed'; the men of The Wrens soon enough began recording. And recording, and then re-recording and again re-recording, the outstanding songs we would come to know as one of the top indie rock albums of 2003, The Meadowlands. Now, between countless tour jaunts, hour upon numbing hour in a claustrophobic van, and living before the glassy gaze of documentary cameras, The Wrens are beginning to record again. Charles Bissell, The Wrens lead singer, took some time while travelling home by train to type up some answers posed by *sixeyes blogger and betterPropaganda contributor, Alan Williamson, below are the results of Charles Wren's fingers tapping the keys.

*Sixeyes: I read that you are releasing an expanded version of the Abbott 1135 EP, so how is work going on the re-do/re-mix/re-hash, as you put it? And why take the time to re-work these old songs?

Charles Bissell: Hmmm... work has been somewhat stalled for a while, ironically (in the more mod meaning of ‘ironic’, I guess) because we’re ramping up to start the next album which as I type this (later at night, Monday, 9/12/05), should be starting in the next week or two. So progress is mixed – exciting to be finally starting something new (even The Meadowlands songs were a year or two old when that was started in January of ’99) but also, being ready to do that means we can get back on track with finishing the ep redux.

With that in mind, I guess ‘why’ is a pretty good question. If time is kind of crucial why waste it re-doing old stuff? I guess part of it is because we can (because it is there?). Camille Sciara, who originally signed us to our first recording contract thingie with Grass, and who we later did the EP for in ’97 after we had all left Grass as it morphed into the evil empire of Wind-Up, was kind of to allow us to have the rights and to re-release it.

The re-doing comes in because those songs were never quite finished the way they should’ve been - mostly ‘cause I just had WAY less idea what I was doing then.

Another wee irony being that originally re-releasing this was Cory Brown, our Absolutely Kosher label guru’s idea, as a way of having something done sooner than later to put out before stressing on a new album. Now here we’re starting that and the ep is still in limbo land. Ironique, non?

*Six: I also heard there would be additional tracks on the EP. Are these new tracks or are you saving the latest work for your next complete full length?

Charles: Yeah, they’ll be tracks written/recorded around the same time as the original ep that just never saw the light of day. Whether they’ll be worth it….? Debatable. Or I guess, we’ll see. That’s where some of the bogging down has come up – not just which songs but also, if we’re redoing the original six, should the bonus ones be redone also? Who knows/cares. We’ll see.

*Six: Has work begun on the new album? And is it true you had no new songs to take into the studio to begin recording the new record? Do you have any now?

Charles: I guess I already covered some of this above, but yes, it’s true that I didn’t – and still don’t – have any new songs to start with. Kev however, has a lot, I think. But songs or a lack of songs has never been a problem. That probably sounds not the way I intend and it’s not like I can sit down with a quill and an inkwell and scratch these out on parchment at will. But it’s more that, in my experience, thinking of the song as just the melody and chord progression is too something... too reductionist? Is that the right word?

It’s only a part of the picture. The arrangements, tempo, various guitar/keyboard/vocal parts, drum sounds, recording choices, reverbs, overall color etc. count for just as much. Maybe it’s that we’re not songwriters in some kind of Brill Building way, per se, where all the effectiveness comes from how the melody moves through the chords and at what rhythm & tempo. But then again, who is any more? Even the Brill Building writers were dependant on those amazing recorded versions, you know? Each one as identifiable and as important as the original ‘song’, you know? So I guess, I just think of us as making records – albums specifically – and the ‘song’ is just one part of that.

*Six: With a band like yours, which tours so often, I'd think that you would knock out an album in 2 or 3 weeks, but that doesn't happen. Are all you guys' perfectionists, or what? And if not all of you, who is the perfectionist in the band?

Charles: Ha... you’re emailing with him. It’s also that recordings and live are essentially very different or at least for most bands, and ours especially. Part of it’s dependent on how you work – as a band, I mean. But looking ahead, maybe talking about that’s already built into the next question….

*Six: Your recordings are so dense, so full to the brim with sound and ideas, was there a specific band's music which influenced the path you've taken to get The Wrens sound to where it is today? And come to think of it was the sound you've found a deliberate thing, or was it happenstance?

Charles: Thanks very much – truly. The recordings are dense for some of the same reasons that we don’t pop a newborn album out in even nine months. Hopefully, on this next one, some of that will change, but in the past and on The Meadowlands in particular, the album was arranged and recorded relatively quickly – between January and say, March or April of 1999. But even by June or July, as overdubs continued (getting a better guitar sound, an ‘official’ lead vocal take etc.) it became increasingly obvious (to me, at least, or maybe me at first) that we were dealing with an... um... album that was not coming out as planned.

So over the next 3 and a half years or so, as I figured out where I was going wrong and refound (refound?) my bearings or whatever, and as we all kind of did the same thing, the album progressed and changed over and over through overdubs. Some songs less than others but some almost completely. Where the original full-band song that was recorded was gradually scraped away over time and changed bit by bit until, by the final version, only the original drum take remained. Everything else from the melody and/or chord progression to what instruments we're playing was different than what had originally been written, rehearsed and recorded. A stupid way to work, I know and not recommended, young ones.

That’s The Meadowlands. In general though and to answer the second part, I think one of the ways that seeing live music vs. hearing an album differs, is maybe in the word ‘seeing’. Like we all say, ‘I’m going to see this band’ etc. And I think it’s because purely the music, is only part of the whole deal. We’re still animals and seem to me to be wired to respond to a huge number of signals in any kind of interaction with the other apes, if that makes a certain David-Lee-Roth sense.

So that when one hears just the music extracted from a live show, sometimes it doesn’t measure up to the experience of being there because you can’t see all the million subtle things we respond to in a human way – the performer’s facial expressions (maybe they’re sincere, maybe they make it seem forced or pretentious), the gestures and body language, the effect of the lighting hitting guitars, or whatever. All of that ‘counts’ insofar as all of it has an effect on us when we’re experiencing it in addition to (and additionally having an effect on) ‘just the music’.

So in a recording, the things I respond to and value, are those things that seem to help take the place of the fact that the performer isn’t standing there in front of me. I kind of think of it as having to get our personalities down on tape but in lieu of a grimacing singer, there might be a guitar part that – to me at least – gives me a similar sensation when I hear it. In lieu of some big Rodger Daltrey/Bob Pollard mic spin at the last chorus, there might be a back-up vocal part that gives me a similar feeling instead. It may not take much (just a certain guitar reverb) or it make take a lot of those. As long as when I hear the song for the thousandth time writing/recording/mixing it, I still get that feeling like, ‘damn, I wish I was in THAT band’. Sounds dumb, cause we are in ‘that band’, obviously, but we aren’t in that song that at best, happened once that way or more likely, never happened that way – the way it appears in the recording. And the virtual/fake me that’s on there playing the maraca isn’t doing it with that pretend full band in a room somewhere. That band is an illusion and never existed in real time. Kind of sad, really. We’re not even in our band. If that makes sense. Does that make sense at all?

I guess also, songs I’ve liked the longest, or for my whole life and that I’m happiest when I stumble on on the radio or internet, are the ones that I can’t quite recreate in my head. So I’ll tend to get tired of ‘just’ a catchy melody over a relatively simple chord progression if only ‘cause I can hum it and whistle it and wear it out. But songs that have more parts, or a different chord progression in them (or just a poop-load of lyrics - ha) are harder to kind of recreate to myself just by humming so I can’t wear ‘em out as quick. And I assume, if it works that way for me, it must work that way for some other folks kind of like me (poor, poor folks).

*Six: When working in your home studio, is it a very isolating experience? I mean, does it become it's own little universe where you lose perspective... perhaps even of your own music? When you've got something new down on tape who do you trust outside of the band to play it for to get a different perspective?

Charles: Man, even as guilty as I feel for taking so long to do this interview (and again, my apologies), I’ve REALLY prattled on here. So keeping it short and I guess I’ve already answered some of this but just to add that, yeah, the studio in a way, is very isolating and one definitely loses perspective. I’ve come to think though that one of the things it’s up to me to be good at is not losing perspective. And also adopting the principle of ‘if you have to ask if it’s good, it’s probably not’. I figure that if I still want to hear it on the thousandth time of writing and recording it, maybe someone not involved would get along with it for at least a few times.

*Six: Okay, now onto being film stars: What about the documentary being shot by Kathryn Yu, has she finished shooting? Or is it still being shot? It's just that I imagine her lugging a camera after you guys 24/7.

Charles: Haaaaaa…..they have not finished shooting, no. And yeah, they have a LOT of footage (yardage? mileage?) at this point. It’s definitely very much Kathryn and company’s project and I wouldn’t wanna speak for them, but I think they had a rough plan at one point of film for a year and edit for a year. Maybe The Meadowlands curse is infectious and they’ll be working on this thing for four or five years. Yikes, I hope not. For their sake…sorry, Kathryn.

(The Kathryn that Charles Bissell refers to is Kathryn Yu, budding filmmaker and media savvy woman about New York, who is the visible force behind Little Quill Productions. A group of friends with the education, talent, and skills to accomplish the overwhelming feat of documenting the lives, onstage and off, of a constantly touring indie band like The Wrens.)

Kathryn Yu graciously took some time to answer questions about the project.

*Six: Why did you choose The Wrens as a documentary subject?

Kathryn Yu: I personally, am a huge fan, and sort of subjected my friends to it by proxy in late 2003, when I was seeing the Wrens play lots of shows in New York City. It was right after The Meadowlands came out. It wasn't so much choosing the band as a subject, but rather, their story is just too good NOT to be documented. I'm fond of saying that it's a story about rock'n'roll, the American dream, and living in New Jersey. It's about those moments in your life where you stop and wonder how the hell you ended up where you are.

One of my Little Quill cohorts, Michaela, kind of blurted out the idea to all of us after seeing The Wrens play SXSW 2004, and it stuck. She's got a Radio/TV/Film degree from UT-Austin, Christine has a Film & TV degree from NYU, Dan's been working in audio for and is currently studying radio/audio at Emerson. ...And the rest is history.

*Six: When did you start shooting and how do you know, when shooting a doc, that you've got enough footage? Is this your first attempt at documentary film making?

Kathryn: We made a rough plan of the types of stuff we wanted: live shows, formal interviews, friends/family members/industry types, practice/in-studio time, candid footage, etc. in April and May of 2004, and went from there. Production began in June of 2004. It's very much based on what's happening with the band at any one moment -- for a while we were shooting almost every show they played -- as well as who we can track down for an interview.

I can't say much about knowing when you have "enough" because our situation is such that we can always go back and fill in the gaps. I'd say it will probably be a combination of "gut" feeling and knowing we've covered most of our original plan. Also, this is my first attempt in documentary-making, though everybody else has previous experience elsewhere. And it's our first time working as a team. We were friends first, then collaborators.

*Six: I would guess that money would be the biggest road block to getting the film completed, what are some of the other things that have gotten in the way that have surprised you?

Kathryn: Definitely money! The response we've gotten from our amazingly generous contributors has been astounding. It offsets costs but not 100%. A good chunk is coming out of pocket. And we work around the fact that we all have jobs. Vacation time, travel time and expenses. When the Wrens "tour," we end up on essentially the same schedule as them. And then it's back to work or school as soon as we get home! Christine and Dan have clocked in a good number of hours driving the van with Charles, though some pretty desolate parts of the country.

Another thing that surprised me was realizing just how shy many musicians are, particularly if they're talking a band that's not their own. Talking about your own work is a necessary evil, of course, and most music journalism is in the written form, so it requires a shift in gears. But some of folks we've talked to are actually very eloquent, enthusiastic, and relaxed, like John Vanderslice, or Will Sheff and Jonathan Meiburg of Okkervil River and Shearwater.

*Six: With regards to this earlier Charles Bissell's response:
"Haaaa…..they have not finished shooting, no. And yeah, they have a LOT of footage (yardage? mileage?) at this point. It's definitely very much Kathryn and company's project and I wouldn't wanna speak for them, but I think they had a rough plan at one point of film for a year and edit for a year. Maybe The Meadowlands curse is infectious and they'll be working on this thing for four or five years. Yikes, I hope not. For their sake... sorry, Kathryn."

Kathryn said: Little Quill has captured over 125 hours of footage from all over the country. We hope (fingers crossed) to be done (or nearly done) with production by the end of the calendar year. Our original plan was to have a final cut by 2006, but that's obviously not set in stone. DiG! took seven years to complete. Some Kind of Monster was filmed over the course of three, and they ended up with 1600 hours of footage! We realize that this could drag out much longer than anticipated, and have a pact amongst ourselves not to let that happen.

It's said that for any given project you can choose two of "Good, Fast, and Cheap." We've chosen "Cheap" and "Good." So there you have it!

*Six: Do you see the daylight at the end of the documentary movie tunnel? Do you have a target date for completion, or is it more a 'hand-to-mouth' thing?

Kathryn: Our current plan is to wrap up production in a handful of months, go into post, and then hit up the festival circuit from there. After that, who knows? But there's definitely light at the end of the tunnel. We've never doubted that -- people love the Wrens, people are hungry for more from them, and theirs is a story that resonates with nearly everyone.

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From The Meadowlands + Everyone Chooses Sides

Sample the album digitally though eMusic's Free Trial Offer of 50 mp3 downloads.

Aug 17, 2005

Hipstereo Interview: Destroyer's Dan Bejar

Destroyer's Dan Bejar: Interview

Dan Bejar is taken by most to be Destroyer, although Bejar insists that Destroyer is a band project and always has been. Within the shifting ensemble that has made up the band on the seven albums released, including 2006's Destroyer's Rubies, Bejar is certainly the central figure. His mind and hand draw out the words, the poetic images, the melodies which entrance. Songs such as "European Oils", "Painter In Your Pocket", and the epic "Rubies", breathe fragrant melodies, melodies that bear the stamp of art and the shapes of poetry. Listening to Destroyer is like listening to the charismatic leader of a strategic European country... one delivering a speech in his own tongue. You don't understand it, but you know it's important. And that's okay, you're just visiting... a vacation into a land of poetry, melody, and wine.

*Sixeyes comunicated with Destroyer's Dan Bejar via email.

Please SUBSCRIBE to *hipstereo.

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*Sixeyes: You described, quite succinctly, your last album, Your Blues, as being European Blues... what would you call or what genre would you create for the music of Destroyer's Rubies?
Dan Bejar: Don't know if the person who wrote the Your Blues one-sheet was naming a genre to contain Your Blues, when they said something about European Blues... The enre that this record skirts around would be the "rock" genre...

*SE: You have written the bio for fellow Merge Records artists, Tenement Halls, the band fronted by former Rock*A*Teens, Chris Lopez, and in it you finish up by asking the reader to, "... just listen to the whole record repeatedly, and it will make sense. Not that it needs to." From that, I am wondering if you want your own records to make sense to the listener? A repeated refrain in articles, or interview preambles is, "He makes records that no one understands".. do you want people who listen to understand? What would you like the listener to or get out of a Dan Bejar record or song, out of the new record, Destroyer's Rubies?

DB: An emotional response is always good... After that they can, and will do, whatever they want with it. They can do whatever they want with it before that, as well... I don't understand - which are these totally legible records beside which Destroyer records stand as complete garble... Who wants to understand a record, anyway? Me, I just like listening to them...

*SE: Are the lyrics important to you? The meaning of the words, I mean... or is it the sound of them, their pronunciation, which is of more interest?

DB: If by "meaning" you mean intention, then yes... If by "sound" you mean effect, then most definitely... I also find both those things interchangable...

*SE: Have you developed a method, or process, for writing? I mean as far as environment or time of day is concerned? Are there any little tricks that you use to kick start yourself when the muse goes missing?

DB: Don't know how to kick myself, would like to learn... Being stuck on an airplane helps... Wine is good... Night time is usually the right time... Lots of writing and then the eventual showdown with the guitar, and then to the band/mangler for some real form...

*SE: When you started to write songs, was it a matter of fitting the words to the music, or the other way around?

DB: When I started, it involved a lot of idle strumming of the guitar and fitting words to music, yes... Then it morphed into idle word-stringing and idle guitar-strumming happening concurrently... That was good, handy, prolific... Then a steady process of the words and music drifting apart again, the guitar gathering dust, everything becoming less idle...

*SE: Along the same lines... Is your idiosyncratic vocal delivery a style you wished to develop, or is it the end result of your word heavy, image thick, and intricate lyrics?

DB: I guess you can shrink from the fact that your voice isn't particularly welcoming (first Destroyer record) or give recent college grads a reason to use the word "acrid-voiced"(destroyer music after first Destroyer record)... Lay into your weakness, which in this case is the sound my voice makes when I belt things out... Not good at sustaining notes so having vocal melodies duck and weave like the words is handy, which means having lots of words on which to hang a melody is also handy... The barking, spoken-word tip hinted at on This Night, abandoned on Your Blues, and fully embraced on D's Rubies, seems like a natural progression of of all that...

*SE: "It's Gonna Take An Airplane" from Your Blues, a favourite of mine, has a very slack, laid-back 60's 'Euro Pop' feel. The song's opening conjures for me arty French movies starring Jean-Paul Belmondo. Do you ever write songs trying to capture a 'feel' that you've felt from other music or film?

DB: "Flutes" and "strings" can really make someone think "60s french movie", especially fake ones... This Night had Thin Red Line on the brain... Your Blues, Visconti... etc...

*SE: Were all the songs for Destroyer's Rubies written at the same time?

DB: The "Sick Priest (learns to last forever)" has been around a long time... Everything else is more or less recent...

Destroyer's Dan Bejar: Interview

*SE: What about inspiration? Do you find it easily, or is it something you chase like a missed bus? Did any specific work of art inspire you as you were writing the new album?

DB: I get inspired by specific works of art all the time... All the awesome poets of the world... That weird Russian Hamlet movie (ED: Grigory Kozintsev's 1964 version)... Camaron (ED: I believe he is referring to flamenco singer El CamarĂ³n de la Isla)... I don't chase busses, more like driving through yellow lights... I usually need other people to inspire me musically, that's gotta get said...

*SE: After you've written a song, can you ever relax and feel proud of what you've done, or are you constantly worrying away at bits and pieces of it...Are you ever completely happy with what you've done, or is a nagging doubt what drives you to continue writing?

DB: I don't fret about writing or how we play a song... I sometimes fret over capturing a performance, and the sonic quality of that capture... But that's studio stuff that everyone bangs their head against... Trying to hone in on an idea that you never quite nail is what drives me to record more records...

*SE: Did you sweat over the details of Destroyer's Rubies release, such as the cover art, the track sequencing, the title of the album?

DB: Holy shit, no!!

Can you remember what albums got you excited about music when you were a kid? What music opened that door to show you a new musical world?

DB: If by kid you mean 12 or 13-year old, which is when I started getting really into music, I'd have to say popular UK new wave (Echo, New Order, The Smiths, The Cure), and then the Jesus and Mary Chain and their noisy followers, cause they had moppish hair like me, looked cool and Psychocandy was noisy and bad-ass but tuneful, stylish and detached, not like the Minutemen or Husker Du or some shit like that... This all leads to the Velvet Underground, of course, and then it's all over...

*SE: And finally, what does the coming year hold for you? Touring, recording, writing?

DB: Touring in March... Hopefully a little more in May... Writing in some form or another would be nice...

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Destroyer's Rubies will be released February 21st on Merge Records.

Hipstereo Interview: Devendra Banhart

(This interview first appeared on my other blog, Sixeyes)
Devendra Banhart is a young man who comes to us from Texas by way of Caracas, Venezuela. Barely reaching into his middle twenties with long spindly fingers, Banhart has already carved out a mythic niche for himself through shamanic charisma, child-like artistry, and media hysteria. A potent combination that if befell a mainstream performer, would either kill them, or brand them the next Elvis. Banhart is far from the mainstream current, you'll find him floating on his back in a tiny, rocky stream, slipping over the rocks like a long slender leaf; a verdant green in the steely blue water. With a voice characterized as "a quivering high tension wire [src]", "beautiful [src]", and as "a strange and ineffable instrument [src]", Banhart can divide and conquer listeners with his voice alone. Divide into 'for or against' camps, pushing the 'against' down the stairs and out the door and drawing the 'for' closer into a world of little yellow spiders, friends named Will, dogs, beards, and sexy pigs.

With his fourth proper studio album and fifth recorded work, Cripple Crow, set to be released (Sept. 13/US) on his new label home, xl recordings, Banhart took some time out to answer a few questions.

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*Sixeyes: Let's get right into Cripple Crow... what specifically inspired the songs on the new record?

Devendra Banhart: Dee Brown's [book], Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.

The Music and words and allness of:
Simon Diaz
Atahualpa Yupanqui
Robbie Basho
Caetano Veloso
Secos E Molhados
Fajar Di Atas Awan

The friendship, love, and guidance of:

Thom Monahan
The Bunnybrains
Currituck Co.
The Espers
The Metallic Falcons
Tarantula A.D
Noah Georgeson
Lorandrew Georgopabaker

and Everyone and Everything ever.

*Six: Tell me... what was the biggest difference between how you worked on Cripple Crow as opposed to previous releases? Was there a difference?

Devendra: The difference was that even though there were definite themes and actual songs pre-written upon entering the studio, the whole things feels like a strange by-product of being in the Bearsville woods surrounded by our family [*six: Bearsville, NY, where Cripple Crow was recorded] .

*Six: There is a generous amount of songs on Cripple Crow... did you have many songs to choose from, are you as prolific as it seems? And do you find the process of picking and choosing tracks for a new record difficult?

Devendra: What makes this record not so good is the tiny amount of time we had to work on each song. We had one month to record 45 songs... it was too much, I should have kept it to 18 or so, lots of getting rid of songs, a bummer it was. We ended up with 35 at the end of the month, 22 for the record, the rest b sides, I couldn't save the rest for another album because they all came together, all came under the Cripple Crow source.

*Six: If you could make me a mixtape of what you think I should hear... what would be on it and why?

Devendra: You should hear Gordon Lightfoot covering Joni Mitchell's songs, some people can't do it, but holy cow can he! Also, check out Bobby Charles, he's the person who brought us to Bearsville.

*Six: From some articles I have read about you, you appear to harbor a stronger love for female singer/songwriters than male. Is that fair?

Devendra: I think its equal and I certainly don't think its because they are female, they simply happen to also be female, and then again, I wonder if that's true, female singer/songwriters might be in my opinion much stronger, less clouded, clearer, closer to themselves.

*Six: There is a blues feel to many of the songs you have penned, is this influence linear, or is it more a type of osmosis from listening to others with 'stronger' blues influences?

Devendra: Must be a seeped into me (osmosis) thing, I listen to lots of "Blues" stuff, but holy shit! I cant ever imagine people like Charlie Patton, Blind Willie Johnson, Bo Carter, Fred McDowell, Memphis Minnie, etc., ever seeping in. If anything it's seeped in to the danceable songs, I don't think it's for me to sit and use a blues structure in a me and guitar setting, naw that don't feel right for me, but chicken dancing and some blues go wing and wing.

*Six: What was the first song you wrote that made you think, 'Hey, this isn't bad'?

Devendra: I dont know.

*Six: The raven black crow is at times too smart for it's own good and branded by some as a symbol of death... Do you feel an affinity with the crow? And why title the album, Cripple Crow?

Devendra: Well, I said to myself, "What's the title?" and I heard from myself, " Look in books, think... feel words, extract the words from the songs, condense the record into a word or a couple of words, etc". Then I said to the creative spirit, "Whats the title?" and i heard, "Keep looking in all those places you told yourself to look, keep looking diligently, though it will not come from there, i will bring it to you if you keep looking in all the wrong places". And as I looked I began to hear, "I Am Cripple Crow, I Am Cripple Crow", so i was gonna call it, I Am Cripple Crow, but I thought it would look like I was saying... I, Devendra, am Cripple Crow, which I am not , Cripple Crow is the album, so I got rid of the I Am.

*Six: Do you love simplicity in song... the kind you find in children's songs, such as Itsy Bitsy Spider?

Devendra: Yes, I do, simplicty, essence, that's the goal. "Mister Rabbit Mister Rabbit"....perfect song that one.

*Six: Do you feel your songwriting is heading in a more simplified style, or are you craving to spin out more complicated songs?

Devendra: I dont think I'm capable of getting too complicated, though I do hope to string lots of little songs together in the future, still I don't want to never return to where I began on, Oh Me Oh My, or as a little kid writing songs for my dogs.

*Six: If it's true that 'you are what you eat'.... what are you?

Devendra: Seaweed.

*Six: And finally... What are your plans for the rest of this year and the coming year?

Devendra: I hope to go to Bahia and make a record with Vetiver and Arto Lindsay inspired by Caetano Veloso and Gal Costas fist record Domingo.

Releasing tunes by Jana Hunter (Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom, October 4th) on a label just formed with Andy Cabic from Vetiver and Gary Held from Revolver called, Gnomensong . Raising a garden and chicken dancing.

(*sixeyes thanks Howard Wuelfing, of Howlin' Wolf Media, for his assistance in securing this interview.)

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You can stream Cripple Crow right here.

Devendra Banhart MP3s
from Rejoicing in The Hands
+ will is my friend
+ the body breaks
from Nini Rojo
+ be kind via
Live Radio Performance: KVRX

All of Devendra Banhart's released albums and his EP can be downloaded from eMusic.

May 22, 2005

Interview: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Alec Ounsworth

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are an eccentric outfit from Brooklyn which boasts five members: Lee Sargent, Robbie Guertin, Tyler Sargent, Sean Greenhalgh and Alec Ounsworth. Just how eccentric only time will tell, we've really got to see, and hear, what comes next. Not only on record, but also in aberrant behaviour. Like... who will hole up in a suburban-esque house in, oh, somewhere like Philadelphia, while the rest of the band slugs it out in Brooklyn? And which of these guys will live with a couple of dogs? That's two dogs, people... just a step away from being a cat lady. Well, it turns out CYHSY lead singer/songwriter, Alec Ounsworth, does live in Philadelphia with two dogs while the rest of the band call Brooklyn home. This isn't very eccentric, but the music is. Especially if you think of eccentric as unconventional, then this is a beautifully eccentric group, so much so that their s/t debut seems flamboyant even when it isn't especially.

Alec Ounsworth was kind enough to let sleeping dogs lie and answer some questions I posed.

Alec Ounsworth

*Sixeyes: I hear you are going to tour with The National, how did that come about?

Alec: We had played a show with The National at the Mercury Lounge a little while back and got to talking. A little later they headed out on tour and one day I got a call from Aaron (Aaron Dessner of The National) who suggested we tour together and I said, "That sounds like a good idea."

*Six: To try and get an idea of where you are coming from musically... 'What albums were the most important to you when you were growing up?'

Alec: I don't know really. There were many. Those that stick out for me... from my folks' record collection... are Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles "Going to a Go-Go", Michael Jackson's Thriller, and others. I remember listening to these when I was very young. Around 9 or 10. I listened to "the oldies"... on the radio usually... all the time when I was growing up... The Temptations, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, The Ronettes, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Little Richard, the Sun Records' people, etc... I studied classical piano around then, so I guess music like this was an outlet of sorts. In high school I listened to a lot of music like Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Husker Du, and the Velvet Underground, etc. I also took "jazz" guitar lessons in high school and was really into Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and Miles Davis... mainly the "compositional" stuff like Miles/Gil Evans and Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way, etc... and John Coltrane. This was all very important to me and still is... there's a lot I haven't mentioned.

*Six: That's a great answer, it really gives me and the reader a good idea of where you are coming from... well, what are you listening to these days?

Alec: Today I listened to Neil Young's Zuma, John Coltrane's Sun Ship, The Ramones' Rocket to Russia, John Cage's early works for piano, Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, Gang Starr's Daily Operation, and Roots and Blues Retrospective - Disc 4.

*Six: The comparisons that I come across most often, regarding your music, are to Talking Heads, David Byrne, and The Cure. How do you feel about these comparisons and these artists?

Alec: I don't pay attention to comparisons of this sort.

*Six: Are the songs on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's debut culled from years of writing (and if so, which ones are the oldest), or were they written for this release?

Alec: Sure... A few of the songs on the album I wrote about four or five years ago (e.g. "Heavy Metal"). Others are more recent.

*Six: While tracking you and the band down online, I came across your personal, or solo, website. Do you still write songs for yourself, or do all energies go into the band now?

Alec: Generally I work with whatever pops in/comes out (to a point) and sometimes it falls into what might work with the band and when it doesn't I try to find other ways of bringing it forward. I don't usually/consciously write songs for one project in particular.

*Six: Which do you prefer, performing live or recording, and why?

Alec: At this point probably performing live. Maybe because it is not as painstaking as recording.

*Six: How is the band live? Have you done enough gigs together to know what each other is going to do onstage?

Alec: I think we're good live. We have the songs down more or less. Every so often I like to add new songs to the set with which not everyone is exactly familiar to keep things suspenseful and for practice but on the next song or so we return to what we know so everyone can get his footing.

*Six: What is in store for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah for the rest of this year?

Alec: We're touring with The National and doing some dates by ourselves from Sept. 7 to Oct. 22nd (i think that's right). Then I'm pretty sure we take a break and head to the UK for a short stay I think.

If you can't find the album in your corner shop you can purchase it online. Recorded partly in Providence, Rhode Island at Machines With Magnets with Keith Sousa, and a few tracks in Brooklyn at Fireproof Studios with Adam Lasus, it can be bought from the band here and from

+ In This Home On Ice
+ Over and Over Again (Lost & Found)
+ Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood