…are,like God’s eyes, always upon us. Unless you’re an uggo.
News, Media, Politics, Music, Culture, Gossip, In The 215 And The Great Beyond
NEW YORKER: Then came the news, early this morning, that Bob Dylan, one of the best among us, a glory of the country and of the language, had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Ring them bells! What an astonishing and unambiguously wonderful thing! There are novelists who still should win (yes, Mr. Roth, that list begins with you), and there are many others who should have won (Tolstoy, Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Nabokov, Auden, Levi, Achebe, Borges, Baldwin . . . where to stop?), but, for all the foibles of the prize and its selection committee, can we just bask for a little while in this one? The wheel turns and sometimes it stops right on the nose.
And please: let’s not torture ourselves with any gyrations about genre and the holy notion of literature to justify the choice of Dylan; there’s no need to remind anyone that, oh, yes, he has also written books, proper ones (the wild and elusive “Tarantula,” the superb memoir “Chronicles: Volume One”). The songs—an immense and still-evolving collected work—are the thing, and Dylan’s lexicon, his primary influence, is the history of song, from the Greeks to the psalmists, from the Elizabethans to the varied traditions of the United States and beyond: the blues; hillbilly music; the American Songbook of Berlin, Gershwin, and Porter; folk songs; early rock and roll. Over time, Dylan has been a spiritual seeker—and his well-known excursions into various religious traditions, from evangelical Christianity to Chabad, are in his work as well—but his foundation is song, lyric combined with music, and the Nobel committee was right to discount the objections to that tradition as literature. Sappho and Homer would approve.
NEW YORKER 1964: Five minutes after seven, Dylan walked into the studio, carrying a battered guitar case. He had on dark glasses, and his hair, dark-blond and curly, had obviously not been cut for some weeks; he was dressed in blue jeans, a black jersey, and desert boots. With him were half a dozen friends, among them Jack Elliott, a folk singer in the Woody Guthrie tradition, who was also dressed in blue jeans and desert boots, plus a brown corduroy shirt and a jaunty cowboy hat. Elliott had been carrying two bottles of Beaujolais, which he now handed to Dylan, who carefully put them on a table near the screen. Dylan opened the guitar case, took out a looped-wire harmonica holder, hung it around his neck, and then walked over to the piano and began to play in a rolling, honky-tonk style. […]
Dylan came into the control room, smiling. Although he is fiercely accusatory toward society at large while he is performing, his most marked offstage characteristic is gentleness. He speaks swiftly but softly, and appears persistently anxious to make himself clear. “We’re going to make a good one tonight,” he said to Wilson. “I promise.” He turned to me and continued, “There aren’t any finger-pointing songs in here, either. Those records I’ve already made, I’ll stand behind them, but some of that was jumping into the scene to be heard and a lot of it was because I didn’t see anybody else doing that kind of thing. Now a lot of people are doing finger-pointing songs. You know—pointing to all the things that are wrong. Me, I don’t want to write for people anymore. You know—be a spokesman. Like I once wrote about Emmett Till in the first person, pretending I was him. From now on, I want to write from inside me, and to do that I’m going to have to get back to writing like I used to when I was ten—having everything come out naturally. The way I like to write is for it to come out the way I walk or talk.” Dylan frowned. “Not that I even walk or talk yet like I’d like to. I don’t carry myself yet the way Woody, Big Joe Williams, and Lightnin’ Hopkins have carried themselves. I hope to someday, but they’re older. They got to where music was a tool for them, a way to live more, a way to make themselves feel better. Sometimes I can make myself feel better with music, but other times it’s still hard to go to sleep at night.” MORE
DAVID REMNICK: For Dylan, the greatest and most abundant songwriter who has ever lived, the most intense period of wild inspiration and creativity ran from the beginning of 1965 to the summer of 1966. (Yes, I get how categorical that statement is. If you’d like to make an argument for Nas, Lennon & McCartney, Smokey Robinson, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jacques Brel, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern … or fill-in-the-blank, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.) Before that fifteen-month period, Bob Dylan, who was twenty-three, had already transformed folk music, building on Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. Now he was scribbling lyrics on pads and envelopes all night and listening to the Stones and the Beatles and feverishly reading the Surrealists and the Beats. In short order, he recorded the music for “Bringing It All Back Home” (the crossover to rock that ranges from “Mr. Tambourine Man” to “Subterranean Homesick Blues”); “Highway 61 Revisited” (the best rock album ever made; again, send your rebuttal to email@example.com); and “Blonde on Blonde” (a double album recorded in New York and Nashville that includes “Visions of Johanna” and “Just Like a Woman”).
In that same compacted period, Dylan travelled the U.K. as a solo act, a tour which is memorialized in D. A. Pennebaker’s documentary film “Dont Look Back”; scandalized Pete Seeger and much of the crowd at the Newport Folk Festival, on the night of July 25, 1965, by “going electric” and performing raucous versions of “Maggie’s Farm,” “Phantom Engineer” (later known as “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”), and “Like a Rolling Stone” with members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band; and toured North America and the U.K. with the Hawks, a rootsy Canadian-American combo that soon became The Band. (The record of the U.K. tour, “Bob Dylan Live 1966: The ‘Royal Albert Hall’ Concert,” is, as a live album, in a rarefied class with James Brown’s “Live at the Apollo” and B. B. King’s “Live at the Regal.”)
Dylan was exploding with things to say and sing. As he later acknowledged, it was as if he were taking dictation from somewhere, from somebody. And, at the same time, he seemed on the brink of self-annihilation. Amped up on nicotine and speed and who knows what else, racing from place to place, thought to thought, song to song, and embittered by the jeering and booing he encountered from the folk-loyal fans from Newport to Manchester, Dylan was headed for a crash. One day, while riding his motorcycle near his house, in Woodstock, he was, according to one account, blinded by the sun, hit a slick in the road, and was smashed to the ground. The bike ended up on top of him. Having suffered a concussion and some broken vertebrae, Dylan “retired” to spend time in Woodstock out of the public eye with his wife, Sara Lownds, and their children. “I couldn’t go on doing what I had been,” he said later. “I was pretty wound up before that accident happened. … I probably would have died if I had kept on going as I had been.” MORE
Illustration by LIEZLS
NEW YORKER: There is probably no more touring ahead. What is on Cohen’s mind now is family, friends, and the work at hand. “I’ve had a family to support, so there’s no sense of virtue attached to it,” he said. “I’ve never sold widely enough to be able to relax about money. I had two kids and their mother to support and my own life. So there was never an option of cutting out. Now it’s a habit. And there’s the element of time, which is powerful, with its incentive to finish up. Now I haven’t gotten near finishing up. I’ve finished up a few things. I don’t know how many other things I’ll be able to get to, because at this particular stage I experience deep fatigue. . . . There are times when I just have to lie down. I can’t play anymore, and my back goes fast also. Spiritual things, baruch Hashem”—thank God—“have fallen into place, for which I am deeply grateful.”
Cohen has unpublished poems to arrange, unfinished lyrics to finish and record or publish. He’s considering doing a book in which poems, like pages of the Talmud, are surrounded by passages of interpretation. “The big change is the proximity to death,” he said. “I am a tidy kind of guy. I like to tie up the strings if I can. If I can’t, also, that’s O.K. But my natural thrust is to finish things that I’ve begun.” Cohen said he had a “sweet little song” that he’d been working through, one of many, and, suddenly, he closed his eyes and began reciting the lyrics:
Listen to the hummingbird
Whose wings you cannot see
Listen to the hummingbird
Don’t listen to me.
Listen to the butterfly
Whose days but number three
Listen to the butterfly
Don’t listen to me.
Listen to the mind of God
Which doesn’t need to be
Listen to the mind of God
Don’t listen to me.
He opened his eyes, paused awhile. Then he said, “I don’t think I’ll be able to finish those songs. Maybe, who knows? And maybe I’ll get a second wind, I don’t know. But I don’t dare attach myself to a spiritual strategy. I don’t dare do that. I’ve got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.” MORE
PREVIOUSLY: For the next three hours, he dispenses what amount to be prayers and we will need them where we are going. For he has seen the future, baby, and it is murder. Everybody knows the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost. Everybody knows the rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor. And, he says, there is a mighty judgment coming, though he might be wrong. But this much is true: we may be ugly, he insists, but we have the music. Because everybody knows the rich write history, but the poor write the songs. His mind is still sharp as a razor blade and he remembers them all: the one who gave him head in an unmade bed, the sisters of mercy with dew on their hem, the one in the famous blue raincoat who was gonna go ‘clear,’ the bird on a wire, the drunk in the midnight choir. All of them, the Great Man included, have tried in their own way, to be free.
We have paid dearly for this audience with the Great Man and he is eternally grateful for our sacrifice, humbled in fact. He delivers many a song on his knees, and doffs his cap with humility after every standing ovation, every exclamation of adoration from the back row of the highest balcony. “So much of the world is plunged in chaos and suffering, it’s remarkable that we have the opportunity to gather in places like this,” the Great Man says, his eyes scanning the Academy of Music’s gilded splendor. “I haven’t been here in a long time, it was 15 years ago and I was 60, just a kid with a crazy dream,” he continues, and we all laugh even though we know he is only half-kidding. “Since then, I’ve taken a lot of Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Ritalin and double strength Tylenol. I also plunged into a rigorous study of religion and philosophy, but cheerfulness kept breaking through.” Which is another way of saying ‘there is a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.’ Hallelujah. Amen. Over and out. MORE
PREVIOUSLY: “Leonard Cohen Is NOT A Great Man”
FRESH AIR: America has a long and storied history with marijuana. Once grown by American colonists to make hemp rope, by 1970, it was classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic. Possession of it was — and is — a federal crime, despite the fact that in recent years 25 states have legalized medical marijuana and four states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use. Author John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, traces the history of America’s laws and attitudes toward cannabis in his new book, Marijuana: A Short History. He tells Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies that the recent shift in public policy is, in part, a recognition of the drug’s medicinal value, which became apparent in San Francisco during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. “People were saying, ‘If I smoke this and I get the munchies, maybe it will help people dying of AIDS who are so nauseated that they can’t eat and they’re dealing with clinical anorexia as a result of that,’ ” Hudak explains. One significant argument in favor of adult use marijuana that not many people talk about is a simple one, and that is some people just like to get high. The grass-roots movement turned political, and in 1996, California became the first state to pass a medical marijuana ballot initiative. Other states followed, though the impetus for the movement grew beyond the medicinal. “One significant argument in favor of adult use marijuana that not many people talk about is a simple one, and that is some people just like to get high,” Hudak says. “I think in this policy debate, oftentimes seeing marijuana as a recreational product, it is frowned upon to discuss it, but it’s a reality. People enjoy it like people enjoy wine or people enjoy a good steak.” MORE
Artwork by PIERRE-LUC FAUBERT
BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS Pretend, for the length of this introduction, you are me. Your earliest television memory is Star Trek, back when you thought you could talk to the people on TV simply by yelling at the screen. In the ‘70s, Star Trek reruns ran in seeming perpetuity. You watched every episode many times over, your thirst for the show was unquenchable and you became the ultimate fanboy — an obsessive, jock-mocked, girl-repellent Trekkie. You still have your copy of the Star Fleet Technical Manual you bought at the mall with your paper route money when you were 10. Your father passed away that year and so from then on you learned everything you need to know about being a man from Captain James T. Kirk. This would prove to be a dubious choice of role models, but it’s too late now.
Years later you’ve grown up to be a mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper and one day — last Thursday to be exact — you get the chance to interview William frickin’ Shatner in advance of his October 13th appearance at the Keswick Theater where he will perform Shatner’s World, his hilarious and hugely entertaining two-hour journey to the center of the Platonic Ideal of Shatner. Where no man. Has gone. Before. (Sorry, had to.) You vow not to nerd out and ask him about boinking the green space chick or the trouble with Tribbles or why every time Kirk got into a fist fight his tunic always ripped in the exact same place (right shoulder, though occasionally underboob) and why did Star Fleet hand out such crappy shirts?
No, you are a professional. You will ask him the hard questions others are too chicken to ask. Like, how the hell does a classically trained Shakespearean actor wind up starring in Kingdom Of The Spiders? And do you know that The Devil’s Rain still gives an entire generation of Gen. Xers cold-sweat nightmares 41 years later? And were you flattered or horrified when GQ declared your squirrely midnight-black TJ Hooker rug The Greatest Hairpiece Of The 20th Century? Why does the entire cast of Star Trek seem to hate you with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns? Why would you write a book about your decades-long friendship with Leonard Nimoy when he refused to speak with you for the last four years of his life? And how can you not know, as you repeatedly insist, why Mr. Spock stopped speaking to you? But you don’t. Instead you ask him these questions…MORE
CONTEST: Win tix to see Shatner’s World @ The Keswick Theater Thursday!
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PAJIBA: Taking place in a phone booth in the middle a corn field — an image that evokes both the loneliness and the vulnerability of the immigrant experience — Miranda plays a Latino immigrant who uses a calling card to phone home to talk to his mother. He speaks in Spanish, except when referring to the huge, bizarre wonders of North Dakota — the marshmallow salad, Little Debbie snacks, big mounds of yellow and orange foods — and he tells his mom about the friend he made working as a dishwasher. Preston. He’s the QB of his high school football team, and Preston took him to watch the fireworks in the bed of his pick-up truck. He has dinner with Preston’s family. They’re full of American platitudes, and they make him feel at home. Miranda speaks of what a great country America is — big, wonderful, strange. It’s not a funny short (it’s more akin to the melancholy “Sad Mouse”) but it’s not meant to be, either. It captures the vulnerability of those who enter this country earnest and hopeful, who miss their families but who relish those new connections they make in America, connections that remind them of their long-lost connections to home. MORE
OPPO is our new agitprop wing. Full names is OPPO: The League Of Opposition Research. Our first video takes a hard look at the good old days, back when America was great the first time. Try it, it’s only one minute and three seconds of your life.
BIRTH OF A NATION (2016, directed by Nate Parker, 120 minutes, U.S.)
BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC I’m surprised how often I’ve heard critics and commentators sigh about, “another Hollywood film about slavery.” Has Hollywood really exhausted the subject? The 1975’s potboiler Mandingo, Spielberg’s overly-stately Amistad, Jonathan Demme’s mishandled adaptation of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Tarantino’s leering Django Unchained and Steve McQueen’s 2013 Academy Award-winner 12 Years a Slave; I’d say that is five major efforts over the last forty years. Like the Jewish Holocaust, the era is ripe with raw emotions and dramatic possibilities, but like the American genocide of the First Nations people, the history of American slavery is, if not taboo on screen, it is a subject that the public in general is not comfortable discussing. It’s almost seems as if people thought the ’70s mini-series Roots was mea culpa enough, the citizenry should now put the subject to rest.
Claiming the name of long-form narrative cinema’s racist genesis for his own, Nate Parker’s film Birth of a Nation has arrived with more hype, controversy, and cultural relevance than any mere movie should have to shoulder. Telling the story of Nat Turner and his slave rebellion might lead you to expect Nate Parker’s directorial debut to be as revolutionary as the true events it documents. It isn’t. Although watching black characters carry out justifiable violence against their oppressors may be rare in Hollywood cinema, Parker’s film is told with the sort of stock scoring and direction you might find in any well-mounted TV program (perhaps such stylistic conservatism accounts for the diminished roles for women as well). But what does feel revolutionary is the depiction the routine dark reality of slavery. Polite slaves have littered the silver screen since the invention of cinema but the dystopic vision of a world that turns on treating people like animals has the power to deeply disturb. Knowing that black citizens in America still channel this type of oppression is a fact with which a viewer cannot sit comfortably.
The film’s dominant emotion is sorrow, not anger. Nat is shown as a child, briefly knowing friendship with the boy Samuel Turner, who will grow up (as portrayed by an irritable Armie Hammer) to be his owner. Samuel may not share the sadism we see portrayed by country slave tracker (Jackie Earle Haley, using the repulsiveness that won him the role of Freddy Kruger in the Nightmare on Elm Street reboot) but Samuel is a hard drinker and far from Nat’s ally. Nat was taught to read Bible verse from a young age by Samuel’s sympathetic sister Elizabeth (Penelope Ann Miller) and reading allows him to place his people’s slavery in another context and see the injustice. This leads to fiery oration where Nat delivers sermons whose subversive messages of freedom are not lost on the slaves in his audience. Much of the film lingers over Nat’s observing one injustice after another in his travels, until violent recourse seems not just inescapable but a necessity.
When the violence finally does break, those who die at the hands of the rebellion have exhausted all sympathy. One is even shown to have a slave child in their bed, just in case you wondered whether they had it coming. But if this violence is mostly abstracted and off screen, the violent response from the mobs protecting the ways of the Old South are muted too. While Nina is singing “Strange Fruit” and the black men and women are hanging from trees, Parker himself seems to shy away from the horror underlying the picture, having them all serenely floating in the air like angels rather than hanging heavily from their necks. Maybe to bring these realities forward would have made the story into a horror film, maybe taking things that far would have lost the audience the film is designed to catch. Still, there’s plenty to trouble your soul in Birth of a Nation, if maybe just a little too much of a desire to keep its audience entertained. But there aren’t many movies out in theater right now whose stories feel so desperately necessary to be told.
Photo by JOHN VETTESE courtesy of THE KEY
“If you book them, they will come,” said the weird naked Indian in that one scene in Wayne’s World 2. This, apparently, was the mentality Project Pabst had when booking bands for the stacked Philly festival held at the Electric Factory yesterday. Project Pabst — which was supposed to be staged in the Electric Factory’s parking lot but was moved inside because of Hurricane Matthew — booked a variety of star-studded indie bands that put the Hollywood Walk of Fame to shame. And boy did the people come. Hop Along. Beach Slang. Animal Collective. Rebirth Brass Band. Mac DeMarco. Diarrhea Planet. Downtown Boys. Guided By motherFUCKING Voices. Say what you will about the corporate hipsters at Pabst Brewing (owned by Oasis Beverages, a Russian beer and soft drink conglomerate — just saying), they surely know how to book a festival. The highlight of the night, of course, was Guided By Voices who oddly enough wasn’t the headliner. The band went on at 5:30pm, the fourth to last band to play. Bob Pollard and company were by far the oldest guys on stage and somewhat paradoxically had the rowdiest audience, which was very, very young. The band powered through hits like “Glad Girls,” “I Am a Tree” and “Echos Myron” as the crowd moshed and jumped and scared the shit out of all the people who were mostly there to see Mac DeMarco. As extravagant as GBV was, Philly locals Beach Slang and especially Hop Along weren’t far behind. The energy on Hop Along’s set came closest of any other band to matching Guided By Voices’ set, especially during “Sister Cities” and “Tibetan Pop Stars,” the last two songs of the set. Animal Collective capped off the night with an eclectic stage layout that featured lots of avant-garde art. AC was a bit of an outlier in a festival stacked with guitar bands, and you could say the same about Rebirth Brass Band. Still, the crowd responded with enthusiasm to the diversity of the music, dancing, moshing and crowd surfing as necessary. The best part of the festival? There was almost no downtime. There were only brief 15-minute intermissions between bands, although in Mac DeMarco’s case that wasn’t enough because the band’s set was delayed due to technical difficulties. That combined with a few other delays forced the festival way off schedule as Animal Collective didn’t leave the stage until nearly 11pm, almost an hour after they were supposed to. The silver lining in all the Project Pabst festivals (there were three more in Atlanta, Denver and Portland, Oregon), all of which had killer lineups, is the prevalence of Philly bands throughout. Not only did Hop Along and Beach Slang play in Philly, but other locals Baroness, Sheer Mag and Santigold played in Denver, Portland, and Atlanta respectively, reaffirming Philadelphia’s spot on the top of the indie rock food chain. – TOM BECK
BY MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ Julianna Barwick’s music is reminiscent of her childhood, which was spent singing in and listening to Louisiana church choirs. These days, she recreates a similar sound using a synthesizer and vocal loops to create massive choirs of her voice. The result is a grand, ethereal sound with an obvious tinge of isolation. Most of her songs begin with a single vocal loop, setting the foundation for layers of lyrics intentionally concealed by waves of synthesized instrumentation. Her music vibes like a sonic dissection of natural environments, whether that’s magnifying the hum of the wind in a dense forest, or the moments that sunlight peaks through while passing under branches of tall trees. Barwick’s fourth and latest album, Will, covers sonic territory that will be familiar to longtime fans. Newcomers Will find themselves unwittingly hypnotized. In advance of her show at PhilaMOCA tonight, we talked about Myspace being a gateway to her career in music, the four drastically different locations Will was created, her lost potential as the star of an iconic viral video and whether she’d rather sing to an audience of humans or mountains.
PHAWKER: First off, you moved from Louisiana, where you had a background in Church choir. But you didn’t start to pursue music seriously until after moving to New York for school. As far as I know, that wasn’t for music education?
JULIANNA BARWICK: Correct.
PHAWKER: Is there a moment you can recall when you began pursuing music as a career?
JULIANNA BARWICK: Not until I started making stuff in my bedroom in like 2005 or so. I put it up on Myspace, and then had CDs made.
PHAWKER: What was your following like on Myspace?
JULIANNA BARWICK: I barely remember, it was pretty chill as far as I can remember. I started to get little positive messages from people. I was asked to do my first outside-New-York tour ever through Myspace. It was actually very, very futile.
PHAWKER: Considering it’s the most dead social media network now, I wouldn’t have expected it.
JULIANNA BARWICK: Right, but this was eleven years ago, before Facebook. It was really cool, but it wasn’t until I started getting nice feedback from people and people started asking me to play shows that I was like, “Oh, this could be kind of cool. I think it might be fun to try to do.” That was the beginning, and it’s been going ever since.
PHAWKER: I read that you started going to school for darkroom photography. Did you ever see that degree through?
JULIANNA BARWICK: I got my degree in darkroom, in studio art. My focus was darkroom photography.
PHAWKER: Were you ever balancing both for a while?
JULIANNA BARWICK: I graduated before I started making the music that would end up being kind of like, you know, the vocal-based stuff. I started doing that like right after I graduated. After I graduated, I worked at a photo studio for a while doing shoots and post-production and things like that. I had some musical stuff at home like electric guitars and pedals, but I didn’t really take it seriously at all. I was kind of just messing around. It wasn’t until I started messing around with loops that I got really excited about making music.
PHAWKER: Will is your fourth full-length album. Do you remember any specific goals that you set out to accomplish with this album that you didn’t think you could do with previous records?
JULIANNA BARWICK: I know I was going back to doing things on my own, so I wanted to see what that was like again. It had been a while, you know? I recorded The Magic Place on my own in 2010. Nepenthe formed in 2012, so it had been a while since I had made something. I wasn’t really sure what I was gonna do. The more I thought about it, the more I thought, “This is an opportunity for me to do some things that have been on my wish list that I hadn’t made happen yet. Those things were like, having a male voice on the record, having some cello on the record, and having drums. It was a good opportunity to make all of those fun things come true.
PHAWKER: How did you get an affinity for those things? Like, the cello? What drew you to incorporating that sound?
JULIANNA BARWICK: I’ve always loved the cello. Cello and piano tie for my favorite instruments. It was just something I’d thought about forever. Last year I played a show in the Netherlands with this dude named Martin. I just asked him if he could record some stuff for the record and he did. We just played another couple of shows together. We’re musical friends now.
PHAWKER: Cool. This album was recorded in at least four separate locations, including Upstate New York, Asheville, Lisbon and Brooklyn. Could you talk about the impact of each place on you, and the new album if it is incorporated.
JULIANNA BARWICK: Sure. The first place was upstate New York, and I was all by myself in my friend’s upstate house. I was all by myself and freezing, freezing cold. Very different from what I’m used to. I think it definitely had an impact on the way things sounded. And then the second spot was Asheville, North Carolina. I recorded at the Moog Sound Lab. I had already met those guys when I was on tour a couple of times, and they were at this festival called FORM Acrosanti. They had a Sound Lab set up there, and I was already friends with them. They asked me to do a demo on this new thing that wasn’t even out yet, the Mother-32. I did that, and they gave me one! I ended up making a bunch of stuff on that that ended up being on the record. In Asheville, I was re-recording the things that I was coming up with on the spot at Acrosanti.
PHAWKER: Those are already kind of polar opposites, being all isolated and cold in New York, I’m Willing to bet Asheville had super beautiful weather, and you were with all of these people…
JULIANNA BARWICK: Oh, yeah. It was like freezing, freezing cold Februrary, Upstate New York, and then sometime in July in Asheville. It was very warm. The last stop before I just pieced everything together in Brooklyn was Lisbon, which is like my favorite city. It means a ton to me. It’s like the first place that asked me to play outside of New York. Like I said, through this Myspace dude Sergio, who’s like still one of my best friends. He had me come over in 2007, and I’ve worked with him ever since. I’m super in love with the city.
PHAWKER: What do you like most about it?
JULIANNA BARWICK: I like the warmth of Lisbon. It’s an absolutely stunning city. Everyone is unbelievably down-to-earth and warm and amazing. There’s so much heart there, it’s unbelievable. And it’s just a stunningly gorgeous city on the water. The city is covered in these little white marble blocks that sort of glow white in the daytime. At nighttime, they have this beautiful yellowish glow because of the lamps. It’s just a stunning place. It’s really magical.
PHAWKER: I wish I could go, I haven’t been. Generally, could you tell me what your songwriting process is like? Sometimes I feel like when I’m listening to your songs, I get kind of hypnotized and I can’t really tell where I am or what my name is anymore. I’m wondering how you know that a song is complete to you?
JULIANNA BARWICK: It’s kind of a hard and easy question to answer. It’s just like, you kind of know. You’ve taken this away, you’ve added things. You’ve taken things away again, and then finally it just feels right. There’s no explaining that away. You just know when it feels good and you can’t take or add anything else.
PHAWKER: What kind of ideas do you start with?
JULIANNA BARWICK: With most of my records oftentimes it starts with a vocal loop. Playing around with vocal loops, and adding things on top of that. With this record there’s a lot of playing around with piano, and that becoming something. It just depends on what I start tinkering with first.
PHAWKER: I read about a couple of times where you said that you have brought yourself to tears just singing. Is there any specific moment you recall being so moved by the sound of your own music?
JULIANNA BARWICK: [Laughs] It’s not usually when I’m recording. It’s like when I’m out in nature singing. I don’t know. I don’t know if I can come to a specific time. Just some kind of beautiful sounding environment. I sing a little bit and start to feel it.
PHAWKER: I thought it was kind of bizarre so I wanted to ask. I imagined you walkingaround singing something and just bursting into tears.
JULIANNA BARWICK: HA! No, it doesn’t happen a ton. It happened a lot when I was a kid, to be honest. I would sing, and I would get very emotional.
JULIANNA BARWICK: Yeah, that would be a cool video.
PHAWKER: Who are your dream collaborators? What has been your most unexpected collaboration?
JULIANNA BARWICK: I would love to collaborate with John Wililams, who’s a composer. Another dreamy one would be Bjork. Another super-dreamy one would be Panda Bear.
PHAWKER: Oh my god, I looooove Panda Bear.
JULIANNA BARWICK: Yeah. He’s my all-time favorite I think. That’s who I can come up with right now on the top of my head. Ones from the past that surprised me was the collaboration with Ikue Mori. That was really out of left-field, literally. I wasn’t expecting that. She’s a total legend. I actually learned a lot just by researching her, and then being able to make a record with her. She’s a lot of peoples’ idol. It’s crazy. I honestly didn’t even know who she was until I was asked to do that project. It was just like, that lady is like, so cool and I am so honored to be working with her. Crazy.
PHAWKER: Who is your preferred audience: mountains or humans?
JULIANNA BARWICK: Humans.
PHAWKER: Aw, man.
JULIANNA BARWICK: I know. I’d love to give a Bjork answer, but I gotta be real. I like the energy of singing with people in the room.
Employing the same Buckeye ingenuity that keeps the Goodyear blimp afloat, Robert Pollard can polish a turd with Budweiser until it shines with 24-carat radiance, transmuting a tossed-off, six-pack idea into a classic rock artifact or at the very least a beguiling no-fi curio. As captain of the drunken boat that is Guided By Voices, Pollard built a cottage industry by churning out cheap, miniature melodic masterpieces with all the fidelity of a ham radio broadcast. He does it with volume — by which I mean quantity not loudness. As such, the discography remains daunting if only for its sheer scope. If you are new to the Pollard saga, know that he is hands-down the most gifted, beguiling and, by a wide margin, prolific songwriter of the indie-rock era. By his own count he has released upwards of 80 records, including 20 Guided By Voices albums, 19 solo albums and countless LPs, EPs and seven-inch singles from his endless string of one-off collaborations and side projects, among them Boston Space Ships, Airport 5, Circus Devils, Acid Ranch, Lifeguards, The Moping Swans, Lexo & The Leapers, Hazzard Hot Rods and Howling Wolf Orchestra. Pollard is a lifer. He shoots himself with rock n’ roll. The hole he digs is bottomless, but nothing else can set him free. Philadelphia has smiled on Guided By Voices ever since the band broke from the twilight obscurity of Dayton some 20-plus years ago, packing the Khyber time and again to watch Pollard baptize himself with Budweiser and belch out the greatest songs never heard — and for one beery moment everything still seemed possible. Which is why their set at Project Pabst tomorrow will invariably remind us why we fell in love with the mythology of scissor-kicking, wind-milling, power-chording, beer-pounding, ex-teacher old schoolers building four-track masterpieces in the basements of the Midwest all those years ago. – JONATHAN VALANIA
CONTEST: We have a pair of tix to PROJECT PABST – featuring GBV, Animal Collective, Hop Along, Mac DeMarco, Beach Slang, Diarrhea Planet & The Rebirth Brass Band — to give away to some lucky Phawker reader. Time is short so we will make this easy. The 42nd Phawker reader to email us at Phawker66@gmail.com with the correct answer to the following GBV trivia question wins: What do “Glad Girls” always want to do? Put the magic words GAME OF PRICKS in the subject line. Include your full name and mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!
From Remember Us To Life, out now on Sire/Warner Bros. Records. “The ‘Small Bill$’ video takes place in a magical world of bears, nesting dolls and mermaids,” explains Spektor. “We had fun green screen filming and exploring hand drawn animation, hair and make up transformations. Steven Mertens (who happens to be an art friend all the way back from college days at SUNY Purchase, and played bass in the Moldy Peaches along with my husband Jack Dishel) directed it in LA. Hope you have fun watching it!” The new LP marks Spektor’s first outing since 2012’s What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard Album Chart and her Grammy-nominated theme song “You’ve Got Time” for the hit Netflix show Orange Is The New Black. Spektor also recorded George Harrison’s classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” for the animated film Kubo and The Two Strings, which is in theaters now.