- Posted on Feb 28th 2011 5:30PM by Ciaran Thompson
Download Wye Oak's 'Civilian' (MP3) off 'Civilian' Free
When did you know music was going to be your career?
JW: I still work at a restaurant, so I humbly refuse to admit to music being my career just yet. I consider it my passion and what I'm best at and my calling in life, but I think very few people are fortunate enough to really make a career out of it. I hope someday to make a career out of music. That just takes diligence, commitment, sacrifice and all those things for any sort of career. If nobody ever heard it, I'd still be writing songs and making music, because I think that's something that's born into me. I'll be doing this for the rest of my life, whether people are paying attention is another thing.
AS: It seems like one of those careers you can't really claim to be one until you've been at it for awhile. It's still pretty new for us, and our toes are still in the water of some other professions.
What was it like growing up in Baltimore?
AS: We technically grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore. From high school on, we were spending a fair amount of time in the city. I think in the last ten years or so it's really come into its own in terms of a music and arts scene. There was definitely stuff going on there before, but it's really exploded, so we've been fortunate enough for the past six or seven years to be living right in the middle of it and experiencing that. When I think of the person I was when I moved into Baltimore city, I had much different taste, and I've grown so much based on the people I've met.
JW: Baltimore is a major part of who I am, and my whole family is from there. I guess I never realized how much was going on in Baltimore artistically and culturally until I left, because I think most kids growing up kind of wished they were somewhere else. I wanted to get away as far as I could from the place I had grown up, but when I left I realized that it's a special place and has a really unique group of people. I think it's the place I'm supposed to be right now, and it just so happens to be the place where I was born.
Who do you consider to be your heroes in music and why?
AS: We did a tour last year with Lou Barlow. That guy is so inspiring. He's been in the kind of community we want to be apart of from the ground floor, but he also is so humble and sort of unaffected by whatever the business/garbage side of music that's constantly swirling around. He has evaded the negative aspects of that and continues to have so much integrity and be a really sweet guy.
JW: I'm just going to tell you about a record I listened to today that I love, which is 'World of Echo' by Arthur Russell. It's pretty much one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. I have a lot of heroes, but I'm definitely the kind of person who thinks that whatever I'm hearing at that particular moment is the greatest thing I've ever heard.
Is there a certain song that makes you think about your hometown or teenage years?
JW: I heard 'Fantasy' by Mariah Carey on the radio the other day, and it pretty much shot me straight back to childhood. Having my little walkman, headphones and rocking out to my cassette tape. I always think of Guided by Voices when I think of discovering songwriting and music and just kind of having my whole world blown open by that band when I was 14 or 15. Similar bands like Yo La Tengo and Pavement with that age, for sure.
How do you think people will react to hearing 'Civilian' in comparison to your other albums?
AS: I will stand by all of the recordings we've made on some level, but I think there's a sense, for both of us, almost like this is our first real record. The other two were just practice or something.
JW: This whole career fell into our laps at an incredibly early age with really the first set of recordings we ever made being released on Merge, so I guess we've been growing into the musicians that we are. I definitely feel like this is the first record I'm 100-percent proud to release, and I feel like we really achieved what we set out to do. This is finally a really good example of what we're capable of and the kind of band we are. As a set song cycle, it's probably the best one I've ever written, and so I feel really happy with it and excited to share it.
What's the origin of the 'Civilian' cover art?
AS: It's a photograph that was taken by our good friend Mike O'Leary, who is a Baltimore photographer. He's got a magical quality to a lot of his stuff. That was an underwater photograph, and we actually had that cover selected before we stepped in the studio.
JW: It was really odd because we had been talking about Mike's photography as potential cover art for awhile. Andy just happened to see that on Facebook, and we both immediately said, "That's it." I had the cover and the image floating around in the back of my mind pretty much the entire time I was writing the record. I strongly associate it with this batch of songs.
Catch Wye Oak's SXSW Set on Friday, March 18 at The Parish (214C E 6th St.) 11:45PM.
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