Vallery Jean | Mark Davis, Getty Images Fat Joe is wearing his heart on his sleeve…
- Posted on Mar 12th 2010 4:00PM by Nick Flanagan
What's new with the band?
Right now we're recording a 7" for a guy in Texas who runs a label called 13 O' Clock Records. He saw us at Teen Beat Takeover, this festival in Montreal. We thought we'd be underdogs down there, because of all the 1966 fetishism going on, but everybody thought we were awesome, which kind of took us by surprise and made me feel warm and tingly inside.
The band does have a decidedly '60s musical perspective, yes?
No matter how much you want to dress it up, I will always love that stuff. That and earlier stuff is all I really listen to. I play in another group that does 12th century music. That's taking retro to its logical conclusion.
Can you describe your sound?
I used to say things like 'twilight parlour music' and 'Middle Earth blues.' It's jug band raga played by a hobbit acid-rock band. It's that's sort of thing.
How did the band form?
I was playing in Flashing Lights and we split up, and all I had was this heavy equipment, this small apartment and a lot of songs that never got released that I wrote when I was living in Hamilton (Ontario) playing with my friends in an attic. So there was a backlog of stuff and I just tried to get people to jump onto my ship, which is tough. I was really getting into 19th century ballads and medieval music. I wanted to mix up a lot of influences: psych and beat music too. We play electric and it's medieval acid rock, folk rock stuff – but when we play acoustically we play sitars and mandolins and hurdy gurdys. It gets more medieval in approach.
Europe has been a receptive place for you.
Again, we thought we'd be the underdog playing this England-influenced music in the UK, but everyone kind of got into it over there. I guess here there's a lot of indie-rock pollution that clutters peoples' consciousness as to what they think they're seeing and hearing at any given moment, because of the press, people put so much gross hyperbole into the music. People were really into it – we got a chance to play the Green Man Festival on the main stage -- Pentangle played too. It was pretty awesome.
How did you come up with the band name?
I had some experience with Hare Krishnas, and they all wore saffron robes and were into Persian rice with saffron. I'm a big fan of curried rice and fragrant things. Also, Donovan's "mad about saffron," and he's a really formative influence on me. There's also a line in 'Karma Man' by David Bowie about saffron. I had heard tales of medieval pilgrims bringing back saffron hidden in staves so they could have it. It's the most expensive spice in the world.
What are your musical influences?
I like a lot of pre-war jug band music. I also play in that early music band so I'm into all that 12th-century nonsense. Various pastoral folk styles. I've been listening to a lot of music from Afghanistan lately -- they have a raga system that's more folk-based, and less classical. There's a pre-existing Afghani style that has a pre-Indian and Persian influence. I have a theory that it's a lot closer to the medieval style, especially considering since a lot of their instruments haven't changed since the 12th century. A lot of pop music too.
Probably curried spinach. Either that or marmelade – mango pickle marmalade.
Beatles or Stones?
Musical guilty pleasures?
I like the first Tears For Fears album. John McCormack – he's a tenor. He's one of those singing guys. It's operatic nonsense.
Most memorable moment on tour?
A drunken Welshman in Bwylche. We saw him punching hedge rows and we thought we'd ask him for directions. He was insulted by our pronunciation, and told us we were miles from our destination, when it turns out it was a village right around the corner, about a minute away. I thought he was going to murder us all – he had a murderous gaze and 200 years of vengeance in his eyes.
What are some of your favorite instruments these days?
I'm building a sitole, which is a 12th- to 14th-century stringed instrument that's kind of overlooked. I've also been playing this Afghan rubab that I picked up. I've taken up building instruments; rather than paying someone thousands and thousands of dollars for a recreation of an instrument, you need to do it yourself- it's sort of in tune with what they were doing back then, doing things for themselves. Troubadours made their own shoes, man.
Where would you rather be playing music: now or in the 12th century?
I like having a lot of stuff to draw from, so now is good. I'm rather fond of all 'mod cons,' so to speak. I don't know what I'd do without records or the ability to brush my teeth. I probably would have died or been killed immediately in the 12th century.