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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

interview with a rockstar, part two

I did this interview for my friend's site. It's not posted yet, so I'm cutting and pasting. When it's posted, you should check out the site: Wheelkick Records. You should also listen to this band: Bishop Allen. And finally, you should leave comments on my blog on a daily basis because I get lonely.

*****

Bishop Allen photo

I first heard of Bishop Allen about a year and a half ago when I went to visit a friend in Boston. Within an hour of my arrival, Gina had loaded Charm School into the CD player and was bopping around her apartment telling me each one was her favorite song. I was pleased enough with their melodies to join her in bopping. Bopping progressed to full-on dancing when we managed to see Bishop Allen twice during my five-day stay in Beantown. It was during those live performances that I fully appreciated their energy, sound, and musicality. They’re great on CD, but they’re nothing short of spectacular live. (And I’ll throw in an apology to Jack, the scorchingly hot drummer for being his token sexual harasser for the evening—I imagine he doesn’t remember, but I certainly recall drunkenly stumbling as I offered to help him lug his gear to their van. He declined.)

A few weeks ago, I saw them for the third time at their April gig at CBGB’s. There has been talk of the much-awaited live album and I was pleased to hear some of these new tunes, maybe even catch some rumors on when to expect Clementines on the streets. Their velocity and vibrancy was as I’d expected, so after a few beers and a sustained excitement for their music, I approached Justin Rice, front man of the group, and asked for an interview. I lingered creepily beside him as he was in the midst of a conversation with who must have been another eager fan. Quickly realizing that this method of indiscreet stalking wouldn’t pay off, I aborted my hovering and tapped him on the shoulder. Maybe I interrupted the closing deal of his new record label or maybe I saved him from a creepy chatter. I like to think it was the latter because, remarkably, he complied. And here’s what Justin, singer and guitar player of Bishop Allen (not to mention his new acting appearances), had to say:

I was told your band name came from the location of an old apartment. True? Did you really toss furniture off the roof there?

Central Square. Cambridge. We crowded in there for a while. We lived on the top floor, and walked up four flights of stairs every day to get there. There was a back stairway we'd take up to the roof. We threw ice after a party. Then fish sauce. And, eventually, furniture. A busted
chair we'd picked up from the alley below, a desk that was missing a leg. There was an empty parking lot behind. It belonged to Genzyme. There were all kinds of weird biotech companies in Central Square, and they all maintained empty parking lots.


And now you're in NYC. What brought about the move? Do you miss Beantown or are you completely and utterly thrilled with The City That Never Sleeps?

Almost everyone we knew lived in NYC. It draws people like nowhere else. If you're not going home (say, like me, you were born and raised in Dallas, and you can't really imagine heading back), it's easy to end up somewhere where no one is really at home. I miss Boston. I miss the
bookstores. And I know so many great people there. And it's great during daylight hours. But when I go back, it seems small and cold and dark. Hell, even New York starts to seem small after a while.


You all toured relentlessly last year and, from my strategically placed informants across the globe, I hear you gave it your all at every gig. How do you keep your energy up?

Spend five hours every day in the car, and you'll understand. The best thing about being on tour is playing. The rest of the time you're just getting somewhere. When you finally get to play, it's amazing. When that ceases to be true, it's time to give tour a rest.


When I'm trying to explain your sound to virgin fans, I'll often describe you, roughly, as having a Modest Mouse or Pixies sound. Do you get that a lot? Do you ever find it annoying?

I've heard those comparisons. But people rarely say things like that to me. They rarely try to describe our music to me at all. It's not annoying. I like Modest Mouse. I'd cite the Pixies as an influence.


Christian [guitar, vocals] has claimed himself to be more of a songwriter than guitarist, yet he has a distinct sound. How did he decide on, or come upon, the tone he uses? It's distinct, yet simple and defines quite a bit of the band's sound.

Christian plays a Gretsch Nashville Junior through a custom Fender Deluxe. The amp has a Jensen blue back speaker and lacquered maple instead of tolex. That's all I can tell you.


I know at least Christian is a fan of the Strokes. Other fans? What are your thoughts on their newest album?

Truth is, we all like the Strokes. They're an easy band to hate. Or at least they were. I don't know how often people think about them these days. But their songs are good. Catchy as hell. Interesting guitar parts. At times even gutsy. I like the second album better than the first. It goes a bit further. There's rarely a moment that shouldn't be there or an instrument that's doing something gratuitous.


What are you listening to right now; what gets your groove on?

Working on a record makes it hard to listen to music. I only listen to things I know right now. Otis Redding. CCR. The Yummy Fur. The Velvet Underground. When we were on tour, we listened to the Fiery Furnaces non-stop. And, of course, We Are Scientists, who are about to truly take the world by storm.

Have you ever heard of Newburgh, NY? How about Poughkeepsie? (Did you know that Newburgh has a higher crime rate, per capita, than NYC? My local high school has sweatshirts dubbing it the 6th Borough. Do you want one? If so, what size and color?)

Last week, someone told me Poughkeepsie has the highest murder rate in the country. I used to know people who went to Newburgh Free Academy. Is that in Newburgh? I think so. Yes, please on the sweatshirts. One extra small, two mediums, one large. Pink, pink, pink, and black respectively.

After most of your gigs, you all can typically be found hanging out with fans in the bar. I'd like to know how you deal with awkward situations that may arise when you're stuck with someone that's kind of creeping you out.

"Kind of creeping you out" isn't the problem. It's when someone's *really* creeping you out. Owens is likely the most susceptible to this. But there are four of us. And finding the others is always an excuse. And finding the others always solves the problem. Running for cover, circling the wagons. Mostly it's nice to talk to people who like our music. It's exciting to hear that somebody cares about what we're doing.


So is the due date for Clementines still somewhat up-in-the-air? Have you chosen a label yet? Are there any still groveling at your feet?

We've been chatted up by a few folks, and we'll figure it out as soon as we have to. Today we recorded more. So even if someone wanted to put out the record, they couldn't. It's not done. There's nothing to put out. The details of negotiatons are top secret. Negotiations.


Does the name of the album have anything to do with that movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?

No. It's from a line from one of our new songs: "Though the years have been unkind, like a winter clementine, we can only come of age in the cold." I believe that clementines are in season in the winter. Little, tiny, sweet, orange, happy moments in the midst of the grim, horrible,
freezing doldrums. If that's not true, and they're not in season in winter, I'm just going to say they are. Oh, my darling, oh, my darling, oh, my darling . . .

Sad part is, we prolly started working on the record when that movie was still a glint in Charlie Kaufman's eye.


Where was the album recorded? Will there be any hidden sounds (rain? trucks?) we should try to listen for when we're stoned?

Car alarms, burglar alarms, cursing and spitting, "Learn to Speak English" tapes. Most of it we recorded at home or at the practice space. A band called Longwave practices next door. We're doing our damndest to keep them off the album. They determine our recording schedule. Gotta get in whatever we can before two in the afternoon.


Any plans for videos in the near future?

Yes, yes. Hold your horses. I promise there will be at least one. Prolly several. As many as we have time to make. Maybe even one for every song. I want to shoot something at the horse races. And in outer space.


I've heard there's going to be piano, some horns, and other new and exciting things on the new record. And a lot of time has passed since Charm School. Would you say that your sound has changed much?

We make songs that have more energy. Charm School was recorded by Christian and me, and we didn't have a drummer or a bass player, and we'd never played live, and nothing sounded right that required a drummer or a bass player. Now that we've got songs with more energy, we want to muck with them, figure out what they sound like with this and that thrown in just for the hell of it. My, how we've grown ambitious.


Who are your top three most annoying celebrities? Musicians?

Dave Matthews, Anthony Keidis, Perry Ferrell. George W. Bush.

If Oprah ran for President, would you vote for her? (I totally wouldn't; in case you were wondering)

Ugh. On the way to a show, we stopped off at a Manhattan polling booth so that someone in our band could vote in the presidential election. We were running late. That person voted for the communist candidate. Why? I don't know. Not because we're communists. I guess that person wanted to prove a point at the polls. An anonymous point. If Oprah ran against George W. Bush -- or his ilk -- I'd vote for her without blinking.

How'd your spot on the flick Saved come about? Is one of you secretly working in big Hollywood, and, in a strange series of events, lead to the major rift between Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie?

The phone rang, and it was someone from the movie. They said they'd had a hard time tracking us down. I was in Hollywood last week. I think I just missed Paris. Christian Owens is friends with her, I think. She seems to know everybody.

Also, our friend, Andrew Bujalski (who lived with us on Bishop Allen Drive) just released his movie, Funny Ha Ha. It's playing in theaters in selected cities. New York, LA, Dallas, Houston, Austin, etc . . .

Christian Rudder is one of the stars. I'm in it. Briefly. Covered in dirt.


It's obvious that you all work very hard to maintain a kickass band. Are you happy with results you've seen?

We're in limbo at the moment. I think I remember when we were playing show after show, and people came to see us, and they were happy, and we were happy. For the past six months, we've been wrestling with a record that just won't seem to give in. I like the way the songs are sounding. And tomorrow I will wake up and take some small comfort in the fact that I like the way that the songs are sounding. And I will wrestle some more with those same songs. But results? It's hard to see around what's consuming us right now. It's hard to imagine that anyone will ever hear what we work so hard on. It's easy to get lost, and to forget that there is any such thing as "results." We're like 3 weeks into a 3 month diet.

When I was in LA, I saw some friends play to an audience of 10,000 people. You stand in front of that many people, and it's something. It's : "HOLY SHIT." Everything that happens to us happens so slowly. Every time you look in the mirror, you're a little older. But do you notice?


How will you maintain continuous forward movement?

It's time for a frantic push. When we're done with this record, we're going to play in every damn city in the world. Three times. And again. And again. The whole time working on new songs. The pace will only increase until we fall down dead. And then we will take a nap and start again.


What do you do on your down time? (assuming, of course, that you have occasional down time)

Frequent naps. Summer barbeques with all of our friends. We still have friends, though we don't see them as often as we like. Wednesday night poker games. There's a bar in Brooklyn where, when you order a beer, you get a free pizza. I walked across the Williamsburg Bridge yesterday.

Have you caught any good shows lately? Baseball games? Movies? Amateur strip clubs?

I'm going to the Metropolitan Opera tomorrow night. I like to go once a year. To prove to myself that I can. That, yes, I live in New York, and yes, there is culture here. And yes, I can sit through something that comes from another century and that I don't really and truly understand. It's a test. Of patience. Also like a sweat lodge.

Movies: note the above about Funny Ha Ha. Not bad at all. Not bad at all.


Do you enjoy the smell of Windex (or similar cleansing products)?

Amonia smells like cat piss. I like dryer sheets. Now that's fresh.


My other job, besides interviewing rockstars for incredibly prestigious and prolific Internet publications, is educating high school students. Often, they will use "hip" terms that I am not familiar with. As a rockstar, are there any "hip" terms you can share with me that I can use
to impress or even baffle my students with during tomorrow's grammar lesson? I'd appreciate it if you included definitions.


raff: lackluster, listless, characterized by tongue thrust
bunk: bored out of your fucking skull
steve: anyone or anything, used with disdain
deked: decoyed, as in shang-haied
Rough Rider: I don't know, but the kids on the street used to call us that
in Cambridge

Those are the real deal. All I can think of for now.

Ok, let's end with a bang, people. I want to hear a funny story (preferably involving all four of you) that happened recently. Us fans get fulfillment from feeling like one of the gang, and if I ask for all of them, then you only have one stalker instead of thousands.

The story I'll work on and send you soon . . .

6 Comments:

At 5/18/2005 08:05:00 PM, Blogger Jehza said...

You asked me for a brutal critique. Okay, where to start. First of all, you asked some pretty good questions. You asked essentials: what's going on with the new album; how'd you get to nyc; where is the band headed? You asked the occasional blockbuster question, like: Are you happy with what you've achieved thus far? And you kept the spirit light.

But now it's time to edit. The witty jokes are entertaining in moderation, but this is a lengthy interview, and could use a little trimming of the fat. it's funny here, but once this hits your friend's website, does the mass public need to know if he's heard of NFA? Or does it matter if he'd vote for Oprah, or even that one of the band members voted for the communist candidate? Who cares who he thinks is annoying in Hollywood?

I'd say that by going for the joke a little less, trimming out the sections that kept the real interview going but bogs down the print version, and by possibly reordering your questions so that you have items roughly organized by category will give you a stronger interview overall.

This is an enjoyable read, even though i can't say I dug their tunes they have online very much. But I think you'll feel better about it on Wheelkick Records if you get happy with the cut function on Microsoft Word.

Keep up the great work!

 
At 5/19/2005 10:32:00 AM, Anonymous g said...

So whatever that guy said gets thrown out the window because he didn't "dig" their tunes. They rock! As do you, my dear! And there is always stuff that could be trimmed (isn't that the editor's job? hehe), but it's better to have too much than too little, too witty than to boring, etc and so on.

 
At 5/19/2005 10:39:00 AM, Blogger Jehza said...

Just cuz you can't "dig" doesn't mean you can give me a dig for it. Miss K does rock. But since she personally asked me to put on a one-man masque as editor, bring on the scalpel.

A person's taste in music does not an editor make. You dig? Pax.

-jeremy

 
At 5/19/2005 10:58:00 AM, Blogger kristine said...

and *that* is why, if i were gay, Gina would be my lover. maybe even if i were really drunk. but i did specifically ask for a brutal critique from Jeremy because he's hot...oh, and he is almost as smart as i am (i know, it's really fucking surprising). plus he made sure to rebuild my ego immediately after. i think he has a point about the NFA thing. and maybe the windex. *maybe* but G, i am in the process of finding out who Justin knows. i bet you $20 it's your mom.

i love you both.

 
At 5/19/2005 11:24:00 AM, Anonymous g said...

oh, no worries both of you. Just messing around. Criticism is good..and it was a good critique. I was just stroking Miss. K's ego to make sure it wasn't bruised! ew..doesn't that sound gross?! And I bet you $20 it's YOUR mom. That's the only come back i have. wow, need more coffee.

 
At 5/19/2005 11:26:00 AM, Anonymous g said...

Oh, and you could leave it up to the "editor." I'm sure "Jason" wouldn't mind doing a little editing; he usually does anyway. And I like the windex because it's in all your interviews. The NFA thing can of course go, but will always be in my heart..*sigh*

 

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