Kevin Winter, Getty Images T.I. and Lil Wayne are teaming up once again, only this…
- Posted on May 12th 2011 3:15PM by Cameron Matthews
You've often been described as having political lyrics. Have you been inspired within recent weeks and days on anything happening in the news?
Ha! Like what? Whatever could you mean? I haven't written anything about that -- yet. You know, I don't know that I will or wouldn't. I tend to write about social issues or my feelings about certain political ideologies, kind of more in a respective way than a reactionary way. It also tends to crop up in the context of discussing it and about, I don't know, life in general.
That story's so big, so complex. It would be really hard to avoid being oversimplified or trying to find something clever to say about it for the sake of saying something. I have my thoughts about it. I have my feelings about it. But so does everybody alive who's aware of it right now. I mean who really gives a s--- what everyone thinks about stuff like that? I don't know what I have to say about it is any more important than a 17-year-old girl who wants to write on her Facebook wall about it.
What's the concept behind 'A Part of the Whole?'
I was reading about [this] big condo that went up on Ludlow street and Houston street [in New York City], the gentrification, for lack of a less blind word. But what's happened to that part of New York and New York in general [is it's] becoming something more out of 'Gossip Girl' than what it was for a really long time. Places like the Pink Pony and Max Fish, they were probably seen as gentrifying agents at the time when they came up around the early '80s, but I would go to those places because they had a personality and they were part of a neighborhood that felt like something and didn't feel as whitewashed and homogenized. Those places closed down or are closing down because they can't afford to keep the rents open because the landlords can charge whatever they want.
[That's what led to] the part in the second and third verses, "While you're waving goodbye, crowds group with white flags/Prospectors lined up in cuffed jeans and messenger bags."
Watching these places close, watching these kind of cultural memory artifacts get sent out to sea felt like it gave the song a focus. I don't write really pointed [and] political. I write more about what it means in a person's emotional life, dealing with those discrepancies and being a person. You are somebody who has got to try to let go of the stuff you can't change, but also acknowledging that things do have to f---ing change. I don't know how to make it seem peaceful in my head sometimes. The song was about that. Then it [took on] a more specific shape as an example of that war inside yourself -- about watching all that stuff happen. Well, what am I supposed to do? What is anyone supposed to do about watching these places close down and watching the city change and become this playground for rich people? Because I also like to have these cool little cafes in my neighborhood, and so does everybody else.
Is this a major theme on the upcoming record or is it comprised of several themes?
The major difference stylistically is it's the first record I've ever made that is a full-band record. There's no song that's just me and an acoustic guitar. Some of the thematic differences are more apparent musically. There's definitely going to be some stuff that branches out and is more kind of spacey and atmospheric.
I wanted to make a really listenable record that teams up with the kind of lyrical content I deal with. I wanted to make something that was a 40-minute, 10-song record -- the kind you finish and want to start over again, like a Ramones record or a Strokes record or something. Not that the songs sound anything like the Strokes or the Ramones.
In terms of the lyrical content, I feel like that's what I've been writing about to varying degrees of sophistication and success and varying levels of specificity and at times intentionally avoiding specificity -- I feel like these are the kinds of things I've been writing about forever. They change as your experience personally changes. It changes when you get older. I've always written about what it's like to be a person and about the relationship between hope and despair and the relationship between the impulse to say "f--- it" and the impulse to say that I want to take on more responsibility of being a person in the world. So, iin a kind of loose way, I've been writing a new record for 10 years. I don't really write about a blind kid who plays pinball or something.
There are songs on the record where I kind of branch out a little bit. There's one song called 'Awake in the Dirt' that's about 'American Pastorol' by Phillip Roth. There's a character there, Mary Levov, who's the main character's daughter and she's kind like this prism through which he was writing about the change in America through the Civil Rights Movement to now -- some of the mutation and some of the darker parts of our collective consiousness. I wanted [to write about] that character who fascinated me.
I'm not like Colin Meloy or something. He reads these Japanese poems from the 16 century and it makes him write a whole concept record of songs. I don't do that. I was moved to write my perception of what this woman was, how she saw activism and terrorism. I thought it was a really direct parallel between this fictional character and those things in the current climate -- what activism and terrorism look like to one person. There are also love songs, and about lost love, and "when am I gonna get my s--- in gear and get my life together?" songs -- which are what I think a lot of people feel when they're writing.
You're playing residencies in L.A. and Portland over a three-week span. What do you have planned for them?
I've been doing it for an fair amount of time now. I still like to play music. I have a weird relationship with it at this point, where like the last long tour we did was last summer when we opened for Thrice. We left the tour in Edmonton to drive to play at Bonaroo, which is like a 38-hour drive or something like that, and we had two days to do it. I'm f---ing weird because I really like that. I like the insanity of parts of it, these bits of endurance that don't sound like fun but you end up having these really amazing conversations at 5 in the morning because you're wide awake and passing through some landscape that you've never passed through before, or stopping as the sun rises somewhere in Montana and going to some weird lake in Arkansas after you've been in a van for 22 hours.
And a residency that's just like ... cake. The coolest thing about doing a residency is that you can do something totally different every night. That's one of the things I'm most excited about about these shows. The first night I'm playing semi-acoustic with Holly Miranda, who I used to do a lot of shows with. Jealous Girlfriends, I haven't seen or played with in a long time, we're doing some of each other's songs. I'm playing the whole new record with Morgan [Kibby] from White Sea and M83. Stuff like that you can do in a residency because you have time to rehearse, you have time to make each show stand alone and be this special thing.
The second week I'm going to play with a full band of people I don't usually play with ever, and do a collection of songs from across the catalog. The last week I'm going to have some guests I'm not going to announce yet. But the oppourtunity to get to express your music in three completely different ways over the course of three weeks and have them kind of feel "lived in," have these special occurences that are only gonna happen one time is really rare, really something you don't get to do.