Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Mar 9th 2010 5:22PM by Nick Scott
How did the band form?
Andy [Stack] and I met in high school and played together in a few different bands. As we got older, we were the only two left who were serious about taking this forward. At first we were a bit concerned about being a duo. But when Andy invented the live setup we have now, we realized that it wasn't a limitation but rather an interesting performance style we could learn from.
Was there an exact moment you realized it really worked as a duo, or was it a gradual transformation?
Well, I was skeptical when Andy had the idea of a duo. But the first time I saw him do it, it hit me there was something to it. It's great when he gets something in his head. He can accomplish remarkable things. I'm constantly being amazed and surprised.
Who would you cite as musical influences?
Tough to say, so many people's influences grow gradually. I could cite people who I would want to say were influences. But it's probably the case that I have accumulated sounds and ideas then unconsciously regurgitated them into our music. I have lyricists who I admire: Bill Callahan, Kurt Wagner, and Biggie Smalls.
In that case, would you say that your surroundings -- specifically, Baltimore -- were more of an influence than certain artists?
The greater influence of Baltimore is that it doesn't take much effort to be surrounded by inspiring musicians and artists. There is a certain openness to what people allow themselves to participate in. Plenty of people will play in a rap group and in a country group, even a metal group. I have lived here my whole life. It's a huge part of who I am. I love to travel and tour, and I always see myself returning here. The scene is icing on the cake.
What is it about Baltimore is so important for you and your music?
I think Baltimore is a very real city and it's very easy to feel connected to different kinds of people. My neighborhood, for example, is on the up, on the gentrification scale, but you still get the sense of living in a blue collar community. It doesn't disappear in the face of the growing scene. A lot of cities have this gentrification, but most seem to separate the hip and rough neighborhoods.
With all of this in mind, how would you describe your sound?
That is a tough question, one I struggle with. I have a hard time putting it into words. I think -- I hope -- we make honest and interesting music. I feel like the songs I write are true to myself as a person and what I am thinking. It's important for me to take chances in arrangements to try and make more than simple, straightforward songs. We get drone, we get folk, and we get shoegaze. I have a hard time pinpointing an exact sound.
What is the story behind your name?
It's the Maryland state tree. It was a specific tree, in fact, in Talbot County. It was the largest and oldest white oak tree in the country, and I used it to represent our state and us.
Now I'd like to go back to your discussion of your live show. How much did the development of the live act influence the sound of 'The Knot'?
It was one of the biggest contributing factors. We had these working arrangements and how we are going to perform them. The songs were sculpted and crafted with that in mind. Also, these songs had been written over the course of sessions, versus our first album that's just a collection of songs that came from a lot of different places. These were crafted for a specific band to play.
This album is on Merge, and they actually rereleased your debut. How did it feel all of sudden having 'If Children' be seen as your Merge debut?
That was something we put a lot of thought into. We didn't want that record to define what we are on Merge. But a lot of people had positive things to say about it, and everyone at Merge really liked it. It was the right decision in retrospect. I was hesitant at first, but we are going to be doing this for a while, and that record was and is accurate of when we started and no reason why we shouldn't let them put it out.
Were you a fan of Merge growing up?
Yeah, I have a history of listening to a lot of their music, actually. Though growing up, I was very aloof in my music listening, didn't have large knowledge of labels. I didn't really start to put the pieces together until we started working with them. I went back and looked through their catalog and realized I listened to a lot of the artists.
And what about their artists -- any favorites?
If I had to pick one act, definitely Lambchop. That band is awesome. The most remarkable thing about them is they are both within and without the confines of so many different genres.
So is this going to be your first SXSW?
We've played before, right after 'If Children' came out. It was an overwhelming experience.
Finally, what would we find in your festival survival kit?
Kombucha -- I just love it. It hydrates you and everything. I guess hydration in general; I didn't hydrate too well the last time. It's March in Texas and little old me going down there in my March clothes unprepared -- not this time.
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