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- Posted on Mar 16th 2010 12:24PM by Gina Grinstead
Can you describe your sound for us?
I'm steeped in traditional American music, and use it kind of like a platform to display the linguistics that I'm interested in, and then I make melodic choices that i think are tasty or something. At times I did a lot of cabaret- and French-influenced stuff. This record is pretty much a folk rock album stylistically. But I've never seen my music as part of any kind of thing. It's really cerebral. If anything the way I want it to be is more like paintings are. I'm really interested in visual art, and that's where I'm coming from. I feel like things poke out because I've been touring for 10 years. That's not an adult life. I'm basically like someone who grew up in the library.
How old were you when you started making music, and how did you get into it?
The first time I made songs and attempted to show them to people was when I was about 12. But I've found tapes of me from long before that wandering around the house singing into a tape recorder. I was singing and making up songs throughout my whole life. The basis and how I learned was I'd take some jingle I learned from a commercial and keep singing it until the lyrics and the melody change and you don't realize it came from a commercial. Advertising has played a big role in my music. Like how Iggy Pop said he took 'Lust for Life' from a German game show theme.
So how do you feel about indie artists having songs on car commercials?
I like it. I've grown up with people thinking that's not good, but it depends on the product. Like for instance the Moldy Peaches song 'Anyone Else But You' was used in an Atlantis resort commercial, but they changed the lyrics and had different singers. It was better than our version so I'm pretty psyched when it comes on. I wish that we had thought to write about a resort.
What are your musical influences?
I grew up listening to Nirvana, Beck, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Palace Brothers, Sebadoh. And a guy named John Davis -- I try to copy his drum line. He hasn't made a record for probably at least 10 years. He was one of my favorites. Also a lot of '60s music. And there's a poet named Steven Jesse Bernstein. He had a spoken-word album that came out on Sub Pop, and it made me feel like I could write about anything because he was really explicit. Also American folk like Leonard Cohen. And Serge Gainsbourg. I wear it all on my sleeve. I feel like my records are kind of a collage of stolen stuff, and the lyrics are my personal idiosyncrasies.
Would you say your records are lyric-based?
Something makes people feel like the focus is on the lyrics. Partially I mix them loud, and hopefully they're engaging enough and that's why. But I spend a lot of time writing the music, probably an equal amount of time on both. It's not so easy to write music.
What's your biggest vice?
I don't know. Isn't it like you push it in some place and it pops up somewhere else? Like, you quit smoking, so now you eat a lot, or you quit drinking, so now you have to go to AA every day. At this point,don't have too many vices. I pared it down to just drinking a little bit, and I don't know if this sounds contrite, but writing is becoming a vice. I don't have any crazy vices anymore, I mean at the moment. Just a few months ago, I did heroin. But I'm not doing that anymore. I was never a real junkie. But I'm actually scared to see what my life is gonna be now. Hopefully no more vices.
What's in your festival survival kit?
I just try to pack well. I've been touring since 1999, so that's 10 years, and I'm 28, so it's a significant amount of my life. I don't really think about it as anything weird. I'm like one step closer to a normal life than a carnival person.
And what's the deal with some of your outfits?
There's a lion tamer that I really like called Gunther Gebel. And I remember his costumes, and I'm trying to emulate them, at least I was for the Sixes and Sevens tour. The closest I could find was a cross between that and what Ozzy wore for the Blizzard of Oz tour. It made me feel like I was a Vegas act and that was a little bit weird for me. Because at this point in my life, I'm not like a Vegas act at all, so it's funny trying to wear that skin. Also I've always played the game of pretending I was older since I was like 12. At some point, I became like a fat Elvis on stage.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
Nicole Eggert from 'Charles in Charge.'
What's your musical guilty pleasure?
Neil Diamond. I'm pretty aware that people don't respect him very much. And Girls With Attitude is a band of little 8-year-old girls from Canada. That's one of my favorites. For a while I really liked Iggy Pop's music from the '80s, but every time I'd put it on, everyone would hate it. I always like Jim Morrison, and people think there's something distasteful about liking the Doors. And I always liked the Grateful Dead a lot. And Garfield the comic has been a lifelong thing for me. I just collect Garfield stuff. I have like everything in the world that's Garfield. When it's my birthday and I get a present, it's Garfield. I sleep in Garfield sheets.
Gina Grinstead is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.