Sunday, September 13, 2009

CB Q/A #15: Jeremy Barnes (A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Neutral Milk Hotel)

These Elephant 6 folks just don't stop! Between the upcoming Circulatory System/Pipes You See, Pipes You Don't show at the Grog, the recent Apples in Stereo singles release, and the recent A Hawk and a Hacksaw release, Délivrance, featuring the accordion and composition of former Neutral Milk Hotel member Jeremy Barnes, I can't stop googling the collective one more time, just to make sure the 6 is enumerated rather than spelled out.

As busy as the folks that originally formed that collective keep me, they keep themselves even more so, which is why I feel fortunate that the aformentioned Mr. Barnes took a few moments to answer most of my usual survey (he left the space under the "which band/song would you most like to cover some day" blank - supply your own adjective to describe that decision. He also doesn't like to use capital letters or punctuation, for the record, so you have me to thank for proper noun-izing all those European references you'll see below.)

1) What are your influences on Délivrance, and how did they change from what inspired/shaped you on previous work? In particular, I'm interested in sources of inspiration other than other bands/musicians? I mean, is there a certain type of art or artist, idea, spirit, etc.?

Besides music, traveling influences us quite a bit. Traveling and books. In the case of Délivrance, we were doing a lot of trips to western Romania and Translyvania, and certain areas like Bihor, and its capital, Oradea, really influenced us. There is a great old hotel in Oradea, called the "vulturul negru"- the black vulture, that is a crumbling remain of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Qe also had some books on paganism in Romanian culture, Hungarian folk tales, as well as My Happy Days in Hell by George Faludy, a Hungarian poet who wrote about his escapes from fascism in World War II.

2) There is clearly an old world aspect to your music, though folks seem to be conflicted on whether is Eastern European or Middle Eastern. What's the origin, both geographically and also how it became such an important dimension of your sound?

I would say that the geographic area that starts at Turkey and then heads up north, through Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia, Romania and Hungary would be the musical area of interest for us. In other words, the old territory of the Ottoman Empire. There is a Turkish influence in that region, but there are also very interesting and unique things going on culturally in each country. The Ottoman Empire is like a great shadow over Eastern Europe, in the same way that communism now is, in that strange way that it sometimes feels like people can be haunted by history ... and history is never very far away in Eastern Europe. But many people there love Turkish music, and there is a lot of Turkish culture in these places that is completely embedded in the societies. That gray area between Europe and Asia is really interesting to me.

3) If you were asked by a younger musician about to embark on his/her first tour or recording session, what advice would you give him/her?

Stop listening to music recorded between 1990 and the present. Don't be afraid to destroy the song or the recordings. Don't be afraid to record songs multiple times. Don't spend a lot of money- spend a lot of time.

4) As the band continues to make music and evolve, where do you see your efforts going in the future - primarily in touring and recording studio albums, or continuing to make more efforts in multi-media settings? In other words, what's next for you folks?

We are recording some stuff this fall, possibly a full length record. We are hoping to go to Bulgaria/Romania in the winter. I would like to do more film stuff but it is more a matter of those people finding us, so we will have to wait on that.

5) Last but not least, any memorable Cleveland experiences?

I played in a band called bablicon a few years back. We had a gig booked in Cleveland and when we arrived at the venue after driving all day, the place was locked, and "canceled" was written all over the our posters.

We managed to get a hold of the promoter and he decided to let us sleep in the club as there was nowhere to go. We set up a makeshift recording space and did a recording session and then slept on the floor. It was freezing. Some poor girl had come down from Canada to see us and brought cookies. In the morning I believe we ate at one of those Bob Evans places- is that what they are called?

Be sure to catch Jeremy and Heather at the Beachland Ballroom this Monday night (i.e., tomorrow!). Doors are at 8, with opening duties going to State Bird and Lowly, the Tree Ghost. If Monday is no good for you, but you have a hole in your schedule TONIGHT, take the scenic drive over to Oberlin, where the duo will be playing The Dionysus Club.

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