Sunday, October 18, 2009

CB Q/A #18: Paleface

Remember how awesome college radio used to be? Maybe it is still that awesome today, I dunno. With the internet, it seems like the information we relied on a few intrepid college DJs to keep track of for us is evermore at our fingertips, so the need just isn't there (though we should still support what remains, naturally). But remember back when we didn't have this fancy series of tubes and whatnots that brought us internet through etherwhatsies at the speed of light (or a braking train, depending on how your internet provider decides to screw you on a given day)?

Back then, we totally needed those DJs. And back then, they found us folks like Paleface. I reconnected with my love for this dude's body of work a few months back when I saw he was coming through town for a gig at the Beachland. At first I didn't put 2 and 2 together, but rather my attention was snagged by a Daniel Johnston reference. When I saw another Beck reference, things began to click, and I said to myself, "Wait a minute ..." followed by, after looking at the band name again and having memory crack new dawn,"All right!"

I picked up Paleface's latest record, The Show Is On The Road, and boned up on what I could find from the old days, and got stoked for his show. And my effort to reconnect was rewarded, as the night proved to be one of the best experiences I've had in a venue this year. (Check out my review of the show here.)

When I saw that Paleface and Mo, his touring partner and drummer, were making a return trip through town this month, the stokedness returned. Not a lot of folks were able to catch the genius of the last show, so I wanted to do my part to make sure that you didn't miss out on this chance. Be sure to hit up the place that used to be called the Matinee on West 25th Street tomorrow (Monday) night. (I think the joint is called Cranky's now, but I'm not sure.) In the meantime, before you yourself start up a remedial Paleface refresher course in anticipation, check out our micro-interview below!

1) What are your influences on The Show Is On the Road, and how did they change from what inspired/shaped you on previous recordings? 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.?

We had a bunch of songs and recorded 30 of them. I was trying to figure out what to do with this new set of circumstances, living in North Carolina and we were bouncing back and forth between recording and road shows, and it was just a frantic search for what would work. I don’t know if it’s a destination, it’s just what happened along the way. We could have picked ten different songs and it may have been a completely different record. You don’t always succeed as an artist but you do it anyway. I think "the great unveiling" type of art/artist is kinda silly and somewhat pretentious. Maybe for painters or something. I've seen bands rehearse for months and months before playing and find out 8 months in that the singer can’t sing. Whatever-just do it the best you can and put it out and move on. You’re not Mozart but you might be if you keep making records and doing shows and finding out what works and what doesn’t. This is just what we sounded like putting our best foot forward at that time. Hopefully we've gotten better and not worse.

2) I saw your last show in Cleveland in May and was struck by how in sync you and Mo are. Was it a natural evolution to go from one-man-band to a duo or did it take time to get on the same page?

Well, when I started with Mo i invited her to join a project I was doing. We had bass, lap steel, electric guitar, acoustic guitar and drums. It was a major adjustment when we left Brooklyn cause all of that was gone and it was just the 2 of us. That was also something that shaped The Show Is On The Road cause the songs were just with the two of us and anything added was just friends putting stuff on top later on. I had to hold back arrangements and try to keep it as basic as possible.

3) What's your favorite song off the new album to play live? What about from the back catalog?

It changes week to week so I couldn't really say....sometimes you just get sick of a song and it fades out for awhile until you rediscover it. It also depends on the mood of the show-a rowdy audience is gonna like "The Show is On The Road" and a mellow audience is gonna prefer "Traveling from North Carolina."
I don’t use a set list so it sometimes gives me the freedom to suss out an audience. I’ve stood on stage sometimes in the middle of a show and just looked at the audience trying to gauge what to play next.

4) You've done a lot of work off-label. Now that you are back on a label (Ramseur), what's the difference (pros and cons)?

The label doesn't enter into the creative process (hopefully)’s only after it’s done that there are differences. The only creative difference I can see is the really raw recordings that I like are not for label release. I can’t really ask a label to release something like Se La Voo cause I know it’s too raw for most of the audience to get to. Man I’ve had A n R dudes who couldn't hear a song if I demo-ed it raw like a tin can, and they are supposed to be professionals! People say they can but 9 times outta ten they can’t. That’s really the biggest difference.

There is also a huge difference in labels from pre-internet times to now. I think the LP as art is kinda getting lost, which is too bad, but I don’t have much love for the overly smug arrogant corporate label system. They kinda had it coming. It’s too bad that artists have to suffer, too, especially the ones that are coming from an honest place and not the crummy sell-out types whose music and videos scream "I'LL DO ANYTHING FOR MONEY".

It’s always better to make music from an honest place I think whether anyone likes it or not cause you can’t control that anyway.
Ramseur is a small label so it doesn't have that same kinda bureaucracy, but the music biz is in a real state of flux as a whole. Whoever can see what’s coming next will be the one who gets the prize, if they act, but it ain’t me. I’m clueless.

5) Any favorite artists/songs out there you'd love to cover, but just haven't done it yet?

Nope. Maybe someday I’ll have an epiphany but nothing so far.

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

Back in the day I did a show in Cleveland and backstage before the show the pizza we had ordered was late. I was trying to get a bite before I went on stage and this really pushy stage manager was yelling at me "Now!" and I was like "can't I just get a bite or two?"
I had this song "lift yourself up slowly" and I started the set with it and as I began the song my brain just popped and the opening lines came out "Eat your pizza slowly oh yea oh yea....."

Be sure to catch Paleface and Mo on MONDAY at Cranky's (formerly The Matinee on W. 25th). You won't be disappointed!

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