|Album cover for Local Natives' Hummingbird|
As we hang on to the last days of 2013, let's have a look back at some of the words that were by spoken by artists we've interviewed this year. From talking to Pegi Young on her tour bus, to speaking with Local Natives' Ryan Hahn via phone while parked in a Steak N Shake parking lot, here were some of our favorite quotes.
Local Natives' Ryan Hahn on their song "Three Months":
That song, lyrically, is about something very heavy. Kelcey wrote that about the time his mother passed away, so it was this really heavy time, obviously for him, but for all the band members. I think writing that song was a really helpful tool for Kelcey to cope with everything. And that song had a few different arrangements, a few different versions -- we couldn't really decide on how to present it. And finally, what ended up helping everything was this drum beat that was made out of sampled drums, so it wasn't a real drum set. And I just kind of took some samples that I had been working on and pieced them into that drum beat.
We had never done anything like that before, but Kelcey and I just kind of stayed up late piecing this song together in this weird, choppy way. And whenever we perform it live, which we don't get to do very often -- on this tour, I think we're going to -- it really does have a nice effect on the mood in the room. People quiet down, and it has this trance-like thing about it.
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on recording with Elliott Smith:
Well, (laughs) for a while there, Elliott was just kind of, hanging out. He seemed to always just magically be around. And it just happened to be at a time we needed some melodic backing vocals, so Elliott came by one day to record his parts, and did a few songs with us, and one that we recorded was a version of The Beatles "Yer Blues," with Elliott singing and playing bass, which, if you're familiar with that song -- is a pretty heavy song. Shortly after that, Elliott passed away, so now we have this tape that we'll never release because the song took on this whole new weird light, but it's this great version from this deeply troubled, but remarkable musician.
So, he's on a lot of stuff from the New York City sessions, and then we went to LA and spent three days in his studio, which had an incredible collection of gear. He invited us to just come jam, and work with him, and he was sorta...courting us, and he was like "I want to make a record with you guys, and I want you to be my band" and we were up for that, so we would arrive at the studio and we would just kinda sit around outside the studio and wait for him for long periods of time, so it wasn't a very productive trip...but he was a sweet guy and just an incredible musician, but just dealing with a lot of problems.
But it's funny because just last night Russell Simmons and I were talking about this, and after the tragedy of Elliott killing himself, there were a few books that came out, and one of them, (laughs) attacks us saying that we were a bad influence for him, saying "how could they have alcohol in the dressing room when Elliott was there!" And I thought that was just incredibly unfair, since the author knew nothing about the relationship between Elliott Smith and the Blues Explosion.
Tift Merritt on being alone:
I think that being alone is something that I think about a lot, and it's something that I feel a lot. I love having an afternoon by myself. I think being an artist is a solitary journey. I think being a human is probably a solitary journey at times. And then, being alone can mean being terribly lonely. I think it's interesting to think about both of those, and then the question of how to make meaning of it is, really: How are you authentic to yourself? And how do you find a way to participate? That's kind of a narrow path.
Delicate Steve on the idea of being mystical:
I feel very blessed to have been surrounded by so many good teachers from such a young age. I don't really resonate with the idea of being mystical because it seems like such an otherworldly sounding thing, and I think where it's at is right now, so meditating and all of that *spiritual stuff* is just trying to get you focused and tuned into this world right now.
Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit on the idea of "depressing music":
Well, the subject matter is fairly bleak and I understand that some people don't want that from music. Someone told me the other day that the song made them feel sad in a really wonderful way. The fact that a song makes the listener feel something is vital to me, and that's what I aim for when I write. I think it's important that there's a hopeful 'lift' at the end too, as otherwise it would be truly oppressive and perhaps a little depressing.
Kitten on performing with energy:
It's hard to explain, but I'm really not thinking about anything while I'm on stage. Which is why often times I forget to thank the headlining band for having us, or mention that we have CD'S in the back. The most extreme parts of myself come out on stage and I'm not sure why. So if I'm feeling particularly aggressive or angry that day, I'll probably end up punching one of my band mates. If I ate a spinach salad, ran a mile and feel like Beyonce, I'll probably bite my lip and shake my hips a little more than usual.
Kopecky Family Band on their song "Change":
That song...you're so right. I feel like...that song is the essence of Gabe and I's writing. We actually got to go to Dave Matthews' studio -- we were passing through, and they were kind enough to say, "hey, come on over and do some demos." So, we did, and we were writing so much as a group, and we would do these little breakout sessions, and Gabe and I got paired up again. And literally, we wrote that entire song, structurally, in like five minutes.
The idea of the song is actually a story of me being afraid of commitment, and marriage, and love, because my parents were so happy, and then they got a divorce. My mom always says that in the heat of the moment, things might seem that you should do one thing, but you really need to stop and think for a second. And then the other part of it is a reflection on my sister -- she's happily married and has two kids, and it's like, "please, God, let them have true love, she deserves it." And then my mom's advice at the end -- you'll know in your heart and with your intuition if it's the right thing.
But still, things change -- you can be an amazing lover, an amazing person to your spouse, but the minute that isn't reciprocated, there's not that balance anymore. And "don't you go and change for me" is like a plea -- stay true in this, and don't change.
Escondido on performing on Conan:
Tyler James: It was one of the best days of my life, honestly. You hope for that opportunity but never expect it. We got to run the song five times in the morning while they figured out sound, lighting, and camera shots and that really helped. I don't really get nervous playing shows but had some pretty serious stage fright when the curtain came up...was second guessing the chords I was playing, and my trumpet part. About and minute in I realized the band was killing it and i just enjoyed it from there. Everyone on the show was a class act from beginning to end. The sound and production folks were incredible...the crew treated us like friends...Conan and his band were incredibly nice. After we recorded they let us walk over to the mixing truck and make some tweaks...wasn't expecting that at all. We all watched it together later that night at a bar at Sunset Blvd. and were all hi-fiving...couldn't believe how good the audio and visuals turned out.
Jessica Maros: I’m so happy with the way it turned out. We’re such a new band that if it went south it could have been bad for us. I can say that now. I think before we did it, I went into it not thinking about the what ifs…I went in thinking we’re just going to be ourselves. They had requested us to do "Cold October" and we really wanted to include a trumpet. The song never had trumpet in the recording so we decided to do an intro…I’m so glad we did cause it gave us a chance to show the vibe of the a band. Conan liked my blue jumpsuit and wanted it for himself and I’m glad he liked the Mariachi hat we made for him.
Josh Ritter on whether or not it was hard to accept love back in his life again:
No. No, it wasn't. Because I love...I feel like I'm a loving, trustful person. That's who I am, and I would rather be trustful than jealous, and I try and stay that way. So, it was really good.
Leah Hennessey of Pornography on meeting Ryan Adams and Johnny T. Yerington:
I just met them -- just met them all at once, in one moment. We kind of knew some people in common, but it was just coincidence that we met, it wasn't through anybody. I think I met Ryan one time when I was kid, for a minute, or maybe that didn't happen. (laughs). I think I met Johnny one time...I don't know, we kind of pieced it together, but I'm not sure if we're lying to each other or not.
But, we met this time, and the next day they were like, "oh, hey, you want to come sing in our punk band?" And really, any other day, I would have said no, just cause, you know, normal, social anxiety -- why do something new? But, I was just in one of those moods, where I was going to say yes to almost anything.
So, I went in, and they were in the middle of recording all those songs that are on 7 Minutes, and they were half way through, and they were like, "oh, you want to make up some words to these?" And I immediately did all of them. So, that whole thing was recorded the second time we ever met, let alone the first time we ever played together. It was kind of amazing...it felt very destined. I t felt very faded and simple, and I didn't question it.
Jesse Sykes on intimacy in today's society:
Well, I think the thing is that the experience is less intimate now, and less organic, in these cases we are discussing. Before all the gadgets became the norm, it was just you deciding how YOU felt about something....the commitment to the emotional response was truly intimate because there was no immediate sharing. Whether it was a moving experience or not didn't depend on what others were saying, or going to say about it. I think it has everything to do with that inherent hole inside all human beings -- the need to be received, the need to be witnessed. We have a hard time resisting the opportunity to be witnessed. To me, it's all a metaphor for God and however you want to define God.. You might not be religious, or believe in God, but if you don't connect those dots somehow, every time you make a post on Facebook about some really anomalous thing that's not all that important....well, it's just that hole inside of you that's wanting to be filled, revealing itself, and the more frantically you post or search for silly things out there, the more obvious it should be that you are trying to fill the void. And the music, it's just an unfortunate thing that it gets scooped up in the mess of extraneous thoughts and whatnot that float about in the ether now. People are obviously still moved by music, but the problem is that it's so fractured and frayed that collectively it's not really the culturally shared experience that it used to be, which was a really cool thing. I don't know -- I feel like the Internet is alienating us from everything -more. We are just told it is doing the opposite because there are some obvious examples where it is a very positive thing. They need to sell more gadgets, so they need us all to believe it's elevated our lives....but it's our job to be discerning, and we mostly are not being so. We have forgotten it takes silence to connect with ourselves....but we rarely have that silence anymore cause we are attached to our phones and laptops. I do think that people should be more conscious of being hooked in all the time, what they post and why, and if they were they would learn a lot about themselves. We all need to take a step back and say, "does the whole world need to see this right now? Do I really need to post another self-portrait or meal, or insignificant thought? "Who am I really trying to reach"? Or :"what am I searching for, really?"
Pegi Young on life with her husband, Neil Young:
We're really normal. I'm in my garden. He's playing with his model trains. You know, I cook dinner. We live a very normal life, really, with very extraordinary moments mixed in.
The Staves on working with Glyn and Ethan Johns:
We'd be having lunch together and Glyn would start, "this reminds me of one time when John and I were eating and Paul and Ringo wander over...." The man has some of the best stories from our favourite era of music. Glyn and Ethan are both masters at working with tape, which is how we wanted to record, and they believe in getting live takes - warts and all. I think this has given the album the kind of honest feeling we always hoped it would have.
Seth Porter of The Blind Eyes on writing lyrics:
Writing lyrics is definitely the biggest challenge in the songwriting process for me. I know some songwriters have notebooks full of lyrics waiting for music, but I am always musically 3-5 songs ahead of my lyric writing. I think we play the kind of music that you can enjoy whether or not you pay any attention to the lyrics, but I hope that there is some payoff for those who do. Not to say that it is great poetry or philosophy or anything, but I have to sing those words at the top of my lungs, so I'd certainly prefer that they were worth something. I hope the words aren't entirely lost in guitars, but on some level we're a rock band, so it is just a different animal than the acoustic guitar/storyteller type stuff.
Jillette Johnson on her song "Cameron":
"Cameron" is about trying to figure out what it is you really are when you look in the mirror. I think that's something that I have certainly struggled with in my life, and I think that's a pretty normal thing for a human to feel. You don't really know if you really belong in your cover, you know? And I...I happen to be lucky enough to know someone who is very, very strong and has a very powerful story, and they are transgendered, and that certainly inspires the story of "Cameron." But, it really is a lot about the universal need to understand our own identity, and to not let other people tell us what that is supposed to be.
Lucius on their song "Don't Just Sit There":
That song was written at an interesting time, luckily Jess and I have experienced relationships on a similar timeline so when it came to writing a lot of these songs, we were able to relate to each other. This one was written in the space between breakup and new love, which is why there's a slightly sorrowful sentiment, but also hopeful. It could be a question to your previous lover, your new lover, yourself, your friend...and that in itself is why I think we just kept the lyric very simple.
Roman Remains' Liela Moss on simplicity and music:
I don't know if I can comment on strategies, and whether or not it's okay to get complicated. I actually think that everything is so simple, that we can't actually compare. Some of the best things I'm listening to are so simple. It's not really about a complicated articulation of a composition, I just think it's about naivety versus slick commercial news. And I think it's obvious every time when something is manufactured and it isn't somebody experimenting. And experimenting is the most fun.
GROUPLOVE's Ryan Rabin on the challenges during the recoding of Spreading Rumours:
Spreading Rumours is a bi-product of an intense amount momentum that was built off of three straight years of touring prior to this album. I think there is always an instinct for every musician to challenge themselves as they grow, and for us that definitely rings true, but our biggest influences are each other. So at times the closeness can turn into claustrophobia. On one side of the coin, we're best friends, and on the other side, siblings. We can't get enough of each other but we also spend every second together, so there is a general tension within such a close relationship that makes for great chemistry in the studio, and forced us to push the tangents we took on the last album even further -- sonically and genre wise.