Shawn Rosenblatt, the wizard behind Chicago band, Netherfriends, recently hit the road to complete what’s he’s calling the “50 Songs/50 States” project. He literally gave up his home to travel across the entire country, bunking up with charitable neighbors and recording a new song in each state. Read what The Onion has to say about why he should succeed where others have failed.
In the midst of this cross-country journey, Netherfriends digitally released its new album, Barry and Sherry (named after Rosenblatt’s parents) and will play at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Ever intrigued by his passion and purpose, I was thrilled to ask Rosenblatt about the concept behind the new album…even if he didn’t get many of my ’80s, John Hughesian references.
1. As I was reading a bunch of press releases on Netherfriends, one line really stuck out to me: “We all try to defy our parents. Listen to different music, wear different clothes, do drugs, move/run away to a big city, meet someone your parents approve of, get a real job, get married, buy a house in the suburbs, have a kid, get divorced, get remarried, get cancer, die.” It sounds so Breakfast Club, those kids dying to escape the inevitable fate of becoming their parents. How does this concept come across in the songs on Barry and Sherry?
I never got into The Breakfast Club. I guess the songs on Barry and Sherry all represent me in different points of my life: past, present, and future. In my opinion, the future is scarier than dying. I avoid it at all costs. I figure music is what makes me happy because I am creating it right now. Everyone should give up a few things they can live without: coffee, cigarettes, booze, drugs, etc. and do something they really love. We are all going to die in 2012 anyway… Well, maybe not.
2. I’ve been following your 50 Songs/50 States progress on your blog. I hear New England sucks! What states are you most looking forward to visiting?
I am super excited for Alaska. I am going in mid-September during the Northern Lights, and I hear they are incredible! Playing states like North and South Dakota and Wyoming should be interesting, as well.
3. You’ve been without a home since April because of the 50/50 project. What are the pros and cons of being a nomad?
Pros: I don’t pay rent, bills, [or for] food (I have food stamps), and I have met so many amazing people who were kind enough to let me sleep on their couches and drink their beer.
Cons: I can’t think of any.
4. Does this project connect in any way to the thematic concept of Barry and Sherry? Shawn, are you without home to further delay your move to the suburbs?
Ha, yes. I have a feeling that after this year long project ends, I am going to start the 50/50 project again. I just wanted to do something unique and do the recording and touring at the same time. I meet and play with a lot of musicians that always have this dream of being famous or rich. I can’t say that I ever daydream. Dreams are what happen at night, and I can never remember any of them. This project allows me to not worry about life and just focus on art. It’s hard to balance the two, but working super hard on music prevents me from thinking about suburban family life.
5. Last question…hopefully you’ve seen The Breakfast Club. Which kid are you: the Jock, the Criminal, the Princess, the Brain, or the Kook?
I just asked my girlfriend, and she said I am like the criminal because I am grumpy.