Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty One of rock's royal families has just gotten a…
- Posted on Sep 24th 2012 3:00PM by Melody Lau
Kevin Winter, Getty
Then came Saturday's second annual Pop vs. Jock charity basketball game featuring a team of all-stars versus the McGill University basketball team. The Pop team, as with last year, was led by the Arcade Fire's Win and Will Butler, and featured The Strokes' Nikolai Fraiture, actor Martin Starr and pro basketball star Luke Bonner, also returning for a second year. The half-time show was provided by none other than David Byrne, who performed with St. Vincent just the night before, where Byrne proceeded to perform a couple of songs including a cover of "That's the Way I Like It." DJ Kid Koala and Arcade Fire's Regine Chassagne (sporting an animal costume) also provided music during the game. Team Jock took home the title this year -- POP won last year -- winning 96-93.
David Byrne and Win Butler joined forces again later in the evening at the Ukrainian Federation to host a special conversation about Byrne's latest book, How Music Works. Mediated by Said the Gramophone's Sean Michaels, the three discussed the inner workings of performing music, projecting a band's image and fashion sense, and generally delving into details and aspects of music that one often looks over. Below is a cliff notes version of what was discussed.
On musicians vs. audience
Byrne: "We're really all playing together, everybody becomes one, sometimes just for a couple of seconds, but maybe that's enough."
Butler: "The more an audience wants something to be great, the more it enables something to be great. Whereas if they're against you then you're like, 'Okay, this is going to be shitty then.' As a band, our default setting was to be against the audience, at least early on. We'd be, like, eight people in a band playing to 10 people and those 10 people would not want to pay attention so it's like, 'Alright, we'll do war with you.' It was just awkward."
On large groups onstage
Butler: "People tell us we're a large group and I say, 'Have you seen a Justin Timberlake show?' There's 45 people onstage, not to mention the people hiding under the stage."
Byrne on his post-Talking Heads Latin band
"Right after Talking Heads parted ways, I went out with a large Latin band and lots of people were curious to hear what I was doing. So I was booked at a lot of rock festivals and Soundgarden would be playing just before us and then I'd go on with this Latin band... and then it would be Pearl Jam. I felt like I've either made a huge mistake or my booking agent made a huge mistake! The audience was just not going for it. It was career suicide."
On choreographed moves onstage
Byrne: "A lot of really great performers have created elaborate acts that they have incrementally created themselves. They didn't hire a choreographer. They are choreographed, but they emerged organically out of their performance."
Butler: "I can imagine James Brown the first time he did the cape thing, he was like 'That really worked... I'm going to do that again – for 65 years."
Byrne: "If it's done right, it works. Even though it's a completely worked out thing, there's a fuzzy line between 'Is that real or is that a show?' It's both."
Byrne: "I kind of like something that goes towards a uniform. I had a really nice designer jumpsuit and I thought it was really nice and that it would make us all sort of uniform, but kind of contemporary-looking. So I had this jumpsuit copied, but in a different material, and it ended up that everybody looked like they were wearing onesies, getting ready for bed."
Butler: "Here's daddy David, going to tuck you in... enjoy Pearl Jam!... As a non-skinny dude, you kind of have to be a skinny dude to pull off a jumpsuit. I tried one on before it was just, fat Elvis. There's a fine line between hot Elvis and fat Elvis."
Byrne: "When I first started performing, I thought I should be as normal onstage as I could possibly be so my clothing doesn't say anything and it would let the music do the speaking. I will try and be as anonymous as possible. So I went to a discount store and got a cheap suit because I looked around the streets and saw that most of the men were wearing suits; that's what I should do. It gets warm onstage. So I'd go home and throw it in the washing machine... and polyester really shrinks in the wash! It's basically good for one wear!"
Butler: "For us, our kind of initial thing was, for me, was wearing my Sunday school clothes. Like, what's the least cool thing you can wear? Sunday school clothes. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was very hot."
On the perfect set length
Byrne: "The show I'm doing now with St. Vincent is 90 minutes. There's no opening acts so in the promotions, they call it 'An Evening With...' Like it's saying come over to my house or something."
Michaels: "For no more than 90 minutes."
Butler: "No touching. You can stand, but no touching."
Byrne: "I think it's not a surprise to anyone that we do plan for encores. I think 90 minutes is good, it feels like everybody's gotten a good taste of what it is, but not oversaturated."
On technology at shows
Byrne: "I don't mind people taking pictures or whatnot on their phones, but when they take out those iPads..."
Butler: "It's like bringing your TV to a show."