Which would you consider three songs important to you? And why?
“East St. Louis Toodeloo” (1926 Cotton Club version) by Duke Ellington, because it demonstrates an amazing balance of sophistication and playfulness and it is very linear, repeating only at the end. It also has amazing woodwind washes.
“Love in Outer Space” by Sun Ra, because it transports me to another place. It transcends jazz.
“Used to Be” by Weyes Blood is currently my favorite song. It really just comes down to the vocal melody on this one. Natalie Mering’s voice is so strong, and even though she sings these huge, soaring melodies, she never goes for belting it out like a pop star. She just has such great sense of how to present the songs.
Why do you often change musicians to work with? Is it a choice or a necessity?
I always try to play with the best musicians I know rather than only playing with people who can commit to “being in the band.” This means we record with a keyboard player who resides in New York, a bass player in LA, and a drummer in North Carolina. Everyone has a sense that they can play live with Lon (our drummer) and I as often or as seldom as they choose without compromising their position in the recording band.
Do you have a precise goal in your life?
I want to plant as many trees as possible, share the joy of embodying musical harmony (learning how to sing every interval from memory and how that relates to playing instruments) with children, and never go to the hospital.
If you could choose a period in music history what would it be? and where?
I’m excited about the present!
I read that you also install art exhibitions, in which way do you think visual art and music are in connection?
I studied film in college. I had an amazing professor named Ron Green who taught about aesthetics from the point of view that the look of a film tells a story as much as the narrative it contains. A Hollywood production tells the story of the grips, gaffers, CGI technicians through its production values. Even though they’re out of the frame, the evidence of their work is all over the film.
And music is much the same. A band with modest DIY aspirations can record at home and tour in a sedan and the sound will not only match their politics, but it can be easily achieved with a small amount of money and gear. To present a glossy performance of a studio album, you will likely need more people and nice equipment. So it’s very tied into economics.
I honestly don’t feel much of a connection between my gallery work and music, aside from perhaps the analogy that the dealer=record label, who you know is more important than your performance, and having the right publicist is everything.
It’s evident that you love experimenting with music, is this your way to express yourself or are you searching for something in particular?
I try to reach outside myself when I’m composing and arranging. I try to dream up something that I would want to be and then become the dream.
For example, I think that we need more wind instruments in rock and roll. And more instruments that don’t have a fixed pitch, like steel guitars. So you can expect us to make these arguments on our next record.