Encounters With Deities: The How to Dress Well interview
I have this certain nostalgia for the days when I used to find out about new music organically. Pre-MP3s & Youtube, when you heard a song--in a record store, on a friend's walkman/discman, or even in a music video, it was unclear whether you would ever hear that song again. So you had to hunt it down, ask around, form allegiances, sing it in your head so you wouldn't forget it. That is sort of the process by which I came across How to Dress Well, flipping through internet pages, catching one of his songs, losing the page, and misremembering his name. Someone posted a link to his stuff on twitter a few weeks ago, and then I made sure to acquire everything I could. Since then, I haven't been able to stop listening.
The guyismakingquiteanameforhimself , seemingly popping up everywhere on the net. I will forego the adjectives "ghostly," "lo-fi," "ethereal," and "hallucinogenic" that seem to always accompany descriptions of his music and just say that it is infectious. It was with great serendipity then, that I found out he linked to freedarko on his very own blog/trove of tunes. Turns out guy is a huge hoops fan, and humored me for an interview, which I present to you below.
Dr. Lawyer IndianChief: I know you've moved around a bit. i have a few questions related to that...do you have a home team or a favorite team? if so, what made that team your favorite?
How to Dress Well: my home team is, for better or worse, the denver nuggets. that's where i grew up, so those are my dudes. alex english, fat lever, hanzlik, and then dikembe, laphonso 'the fonz' ellis, robert pack etc. and fucking RODNEY ROGERS! ha, always good to take a trip down memory lane...
Dr. LIC: were you able to follow the nba when you were in germany? what is the interest in the nba over there?
HTDW: ya, actually--- the first thing i bought with my paypal earnings from cdrs was league-pass broadband, so i could watch the playoffs. no germans give a shit about basketball tho...
Dr. LIC: what would it do to the city [denver] if carmelo left?
HTDW: i've been thinking about this a lot. it would ruin us. it would put us back to where we were before melo--- i think we had the worst record in the nba the year before he came, like 18-64 or some shit.... it would be dreadful. the problem is, we're right on the edge now: if he stays, we could really put some shit together in the coming years. or we could flounder and it could ruin his career. so i appreciate his desire to leave, but i really hope he stays. if he goes, i hope he goes to chicago, where i'm living now. that team would ruin miami--- rose, corver, melo, boozer, etc. would be amazing!
Dr. LIC: because i'm from minneapolis, i have to ask where did you live when you were there? did you enjoy it? were you there during the kg years?
HTDW: ha. i was there for one summer in 2005. lived just across the highway from dinkytown--- like on the corner of SE 5th and SE 6th.
Dr. LIC: ...going to make the clunky move to asking questions about your music // basketball... i read that you have some background in the black metal scene and being in those types of bands. who in the nba is the most "black metal?"
HTDW: ha. good question. if he wasn't such a huge celine dion fan, ron ron would have to be up there. kristic just came out of nowhere, pumping his black metal quotient up pretty high with that chair throw in the Worlds-- tho that move is a bit more hard-core than black metal.
Dr. LIC: you talk about being influenced by a lot of 90s r&b. for me, new jack swing and the jordan years of the nba, go hand and hand. does this connection resonate with you?
HTDW: ya absolutely. i mean, for me it was all about my walkman and shooting the basketball in my driveway. it's also tight, by the by, that the nba is returning to some crazy kind of hey-day right now as the 90's are coming back full swing. i mean, htdw is not new jack swing and the Triami heat are not the bulls (get real-- chris bosh is as talented as one of horace grants legs), but there's some homologies popping off there.
Dr. LIC: your videos have a consistently dreamscape-like quality. if you were to create a video for one of your songs using nba footage, what would you use?
HTDW: oh man--- it'd have to be dikembe crying on the floor after the nugs beat the sonics.
Dr. LIC: one of the things that makes people gravitate toward your music is the intimacy of it. do you think this level of public intimacy is possible in sports?
HTDW: no, but that's because they're just very different domains, music or art more generally and sport. like, this is why stephon marbury became an artist with his youtubes and had to quit hoops.
Dr. LIC: ...some questions on current events...who do you like to win it all this year? why?
HTDW: i want to see denver (of course) or okc win it all, but i think it will likely be someone else. here's my bold prediction: i don't think the lakers or the celtics will be in the finals.
Dr. LIC: how do you think the miami experiment will work out?
HTDW: look, my only thoughts are: miami will NOT win the championship. i don't have a lot of faith in that crew. they'll finish 2nd in the east in the regular season and in the playoffs.
Dr. LIC: which team do you think has made the biggest improvement in the offseason?
HTDW: i'm moving to chicago, so i'm pretty stoked on their moves... they need someone like melo to take them to the next level though.
For those unfamiliar with J-Zone, there isn't a lot I can tell you that you can't find on his Wikipedia page: Producing for everyone from Biz Markie to the Lonely Island and E-40, dropping a string of classic albums, writing for Slam and for Dante Ross' website...The man played a seminal role in the (then-viable) independent hip-hop scene of the late 90s/early 2000s, rapping with as much personality as a young Eazy-E and cultivating "swag" before infants knew what swag was and consequently killed the term. He is perhaps best known for developing a distinct production style that follows in the tradition of Prince Paul, DJ Muggs, and Psycho Les, but is all his own. But beyond J-Zone's musical talents, he has also been a world-class tastemaker. His opinions on music, film, women, and fashion, have always been influential, and his hoops knowledge--which he often expounds upon on his must-check twitter feed--is critical. Zone was cool enough to give me his opinions on the recent NBA happenings, and what follows is our interview: Dr.Lawyer IndianChief: Why do you think that in the US, NBA basketball consistently been third in popularity behind the NFL and MLB for the past few years?
J-Zone: Because there haven't been characters in the NBA like they used to have. Basketball players are unbelievably bland and boring individuals. With the exception of Ron Artest, AI, Shaq and Delonte West, who is quote worthy? These dudes are 28 years old and all they talk about is playing X-Box and being a Drake fan. In baseball, you have Carlos Zambrano dismembering a Gatorade machine with a baseball bat, then have Pedro Martinez claiming he'd wake up the ghost of Babe Ruth and drill him in the ass, with a pitch. Then you have Pedro throwing old man Don Zimmer to the ground and watching him roll about 5 miles. Baseball players still have jheri curls, which is a great thing. Keyshawn Johnson gave the NFL some life when he left a voicemail to his exes new man saying “he as nothing but free time” to whup his ass. Entertainment. The NBA has lost so much of it because these dudes have zero personality. Dr. LIC: You've been pretty open on twitter about the Lebron situation and predicting he won't win a ring. Who do you think presents the biggest problem for the Heat? Do the Heat even make it out of the East? J-Zone: It's easy to say “we just wanna win”, and insinuate that there will be no ego issues. OK. That’s D-Wade’s team. Remember when everyone packed up and went to LA in 2004, only to get mopped by Detroit? Those guys weren’t on the same level as LeBron, Bosh and Wade in terms of individual star power, but everyone just gave em the chip after the trades went down. And now, teams will be anxious to whup Miami's ass after LeBron guaranteed a bunch of titles. Despite all that superstar talent, I still don't see them getting it done. I’d still want Wade to take the last shot too, and I can’t see LeBron rolling with that when the time comes. I'm curious to see if they can get past Boston or Orlando, let alone whoever comes out of the west.
Dr. LIC: What is Lebron's legacy now? If he does end up winning a ring, does he redeem himself? J-Zone: No. He's in a spot where he can't really win no matter how the chips fall. I don’t blame him for leaving Cleveland, but I thought just following the wave to Miami was a little weak. The difference in Jordan, Magic and Kobe -who I’m sure LeBron wants his name mentioned alongside- was they wanted to beat everyone, including their fellow superstars, with the help of one other key guy and a good supporting cast. Get some real help, but forming a dream team takes some of the fun out of it. I personally would’ve liked to see him in Chicago with Noah, Rose and Deng, but whatever. He’s fucked either way, it’s a Catch 22. If he wins, they’ll say he took the easy route and if he loses, he’ll be tagged as a bum. I’m sure he saw that going in though.
Dr. LIC: Any thoughts on LeBron thanking Akron, Ohio, but not Cleveland in his recent farewell newspaper ad? [Ed. note, this was before LeBron caved and thanked Cleveland in Akron]
J-Zone: Neither LeBron or Cleveland owe each other anything. Its like your first girlfriend, your whole social circle knows you as an item. But you reach a point where you hit a stalemate and break up before you marry. If the dude goes on TV and tells the world they’re breaking up before he tells the girl or if when shit goes wrong the girl tears him down, both are equally at fault. LeBron doing the whole ESPN thing was corny and arrogant in an unlikable way, but at the same time, grown ass men in Cleveland running around burning jerseys when they should’ve been at work or home with their kids is even stupider. It’s big business, players make moves all the time. If a 25 year old athlete is all your city has to be proud of, you’re in deep shit. Fuckouttahere. He leaves and the entire city nosedives? That‘s deep.
I knew he was outta there when the Cavs choked in the playoffs for the umpteenth time and they got booed crazy. And how many rings does LeBron have? Last time I checked, one, the one around his bathtub. So he, ESPN and everyone who felt indebted were all frontin. Only Kobe deserved that type of attention for a god damn trade and he probably wouldn‘t have even done that. Everyone involved was super corny. Unemployment is documented at 9%, and realistically its around 20%. At the time, oil was gushing into the Gulf. The amount of attention everyone gave that situation was disgusting. It warranted one day of headlines, no more. That shit was on the cover of the newspapers for a week straight. I thought Miami was a soft move, but at the same time this is a business. Fuckouttahere.
Dr. LIC: What are the Celtics trying to do stacking up old guys like Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal, following the signing of Rasheed Wallace last year?
J-Zone: Get endorsement deals with Ben-Gay and Motrin.
Dr. LIC: I know you've never been much of a Knicks fan, but for comparison sake, How can you contrast the D'Antoni style Knicks with Riley's Knicks with Van Gundy's Knicks, style-wise?
J-Zone: By their activities in May. Two of em are either still playing or explaining why they just lost. One of em has been done for over a month and is sampling D’Anillo Gallinari’s new summertime Cibatta bread.
Dr. LIC: Also, did you ever have any allegiance to the Knicks? If not, who did you follow growing up in NY? J-Zone: I used to like the Knicks, especially in 1991-92. That’s when Greg Anthony jumped off the bench in a Hawaiian shirt and got into a brawl. But believe it or not, I was always a Blazers fan. Clyde Drexler was my favorite player growing up. The 1992 finals when they played Chicago was when I gave up and finally gave Jordan his props as the best ever. You couldn’t tell me shit about the Portland Blazers. Clyde, Terry Porter, Cliff Robinson, they were fuckin legit. I knew I wasn’t a die hard Knicks fan when I was cracking up at Reggie Miller just killin em and throwing Spike the choker. I watched that shit live, and I was lovin every minute of it. I was rootin for Reggie because he had the balls to straight shit on the Garden. He left without crutches, so in that case, the Knicks deserved to lose. I would've broke his legs the way he shitted on us!
Dr. LIC: Does Amare Stoudemire offer the Knicks any improvement over last year?
J-Zone: No. Well, maybe if Steve Nash finds a way to join the Knicks.
Dr. LIC: How do you feel about Amare's well-publicized trip to Israel and his quest to find his spiritual roots in Judaism?
J-Zone: Hey whatever makes the man happy, that’s his personal life.
Dr. LIC: What happened to Allen Iverson?
J-Zone: He’s probably back in the studio to do a part two to “40 Bars” and doing an album with T-Pain. Now that he’s out of the league, David Stern won’t care. I respect AI but he's the NBA's greatest all-time 21 player.
Dr. LIC: What has to happen for the Knicks to go .500 or better this year?
J-Zone: A whole lot of forfeits in the Atlantic division.
Dr. LIC: Any thoughts on the Nets moving to Brooklyn?
J-Zone: As much as downtown Brooklyn has been gentrified in recent years, the Nets’ audience will be primarily comprised of Idaho natives that are thrilled to be in the hometown of that Jay-Z guy.
Dr. LIC: Ron Artest or Lamar Odom? Who do you roll with?
J-Zone: Artest all day! They’re both from Queens, Ron is from Queensbridge and Odom is from Jamaica. Odom grew up not too far from me, I live in Jamaica. But marrying a Kardashian is not hip-hop. Thanking your psychiatrist after winning a title is very hip-hop. Ron-Ron all fuckin day.
Dr. LIC: Any other predictions for this season?
J-Zone: Delonte West will get caught on a Harley hiding a 22 in the bell of a sousaphone. That's my main man though, and my twin!
DATELINE, me on the phone with Lou Williams — So last week, I'm interviewing Sixers guard Lou Williams for the revived Converse Yearbook. He's telling me that he didn't really feel like he could be an NBA player until he went to camp as a rookie and realized he could hang.
If you're like me, you have vivid memories of the 2005 draft, when Williams, Monta Ellis, and C.J. Miles all stayed in as undersized shooting guards. The thinking was, one of them would probably crack the first round (none did; did the glut hurt?), but three? It was like a game of chicken, one which, while it turned out okay for all of them, could have ruined their careers. If anything, I expected Williams to tell me he stayed in out of confidence, not something that was nearly the opposite.
Here's where we'll pick up the conversation:
Bethlehem Shoals: That’s interesting because you and a couple other young guys came out and everyone was confused why you did. And everyone assumed that you were super confident and could make it at the next level.
Lou Williams: Well, you know, just to have that opportunity and to even get mentioned and be able to go straight out of high school as a 6-1 point guard speaks volumes right there. I was like “okay, well if they think so, why wouldn’t I?” We had a meeting, like a big summit. We were all at USA Basketball. We all sat down, and I think Monta [Ellis] broke the ice and said “hey, I’m declaring, so we're all going." [laughs]
BS: Who was this?
LW: It was Monta Ellis, CJ Miles, Andrew Bynum, Gerald Green, and myself. We all sat in a room. Monta went first. It doesn't compare to LeBron and D-Wade and them all, but you know.
So there you have it. They all went pro not in spite of each other, but basically on a group dare. Solidarity when, quite obviously, they were each others' closest competition. I can't tell if this is really heartening or just absurd, but it's a pretty amazing bit of NBA draft arcana.
So often when SLAM has a cover feature they're particularly proud of, it gets an online preview. It's excerpts, a teaser, leaks, whatever you want to call it. However, the snippets Lang gave us of his chat with Rajon Rondo pointed in another direction. There were certifiable bits of gold in there, that, when isolated and melded together, give you the perfect composite picture of what makes Rondo Rondo. Why he's the folk hero heir to Garnett and at the same time, a demonic update on a popular Celtics icon. That could either refer to any number of great guards past, or the leprechaun himself. Most likely, in his cartoonish, self-taught brilliance, an equation that combines them all.
Here, then, is the boiled-down, purified, essence of that interview, which gives you only answers on that most fundamental of levels. I love it. And I can't wait to read the rest, so I can repeat this scholarly (or completely trivializing) task:
"People probably don’t even know I made the All-Star team. Some don’t, some do ... Bron was running the point. I was just out there (laughs).
"I went to Oak Hill, and I knew Josh Smith was going to the League. I thought, OK, if he’s going to the League out of high school, and I’m just as good as him and put up the same numbers, even though we’re different positions, I was confident."
"So I got serious and started working at it. That was before my senior year."
"I wasn’t a big NBA fan growing up. I didn’t watch it. I just knew it was the highest level of basketball you could be at, and I just wanted to be there."
(Lang asks what the closest NBA team was in Louisville). "Pacers. It’s an hour-and-half drive. I never went to a game."
"I didn’t watch the NBA until maybe my freshman year of college, because I was trying to get there. It just wasn’t interesting to me."
"I mean, I’ve never even seen Jordan play, really. I just didn’t watch it." (Lang gives Rondo props for his Dream Shake against the Cavs) "I’ve never seen him play, though. I’ve never seen Hakeem play, never seen that move. I always do that move, and Kevin always tells me it’s the Dream Shake. To me, it’s the Rondo Shake."
"I’m a little different. I’m never really in awe of people. I don’t get caught up in the moment when I’m playing with people."
"I feel like I’m the man, that’s how I put it. But if people don’t consider me that, I’m not bothered if you say I’m not a top five point guard. Every night I prove it, but that’s just how it is."
In my perfect world, I would have an Eames recliner. Also, there would be a band making music today that's influenced by old soul/funk without sounding derivative. And they would be into hoops. And there would be a serious record dude lurking in their ranks. The existence of such a band, and the chance to pick their brains, would be almost self-serving for me; I'm always knee-deep in NBA, and when I need air, I pretend to be a record collector. Which is, as some of you know, so much less stressful than following box scores.
As it turns out, dreams do come true. Not long after I first heard Milwaukee's Kings Go Forth, (late on this, I know), I got an email from their publicist pointing me in the direction of a Bucks vid using KGF's "One Day" as the soundtrack. I ended up sending some questions on NBA stuff for guitarist Dan Flynn, and record nerd queries for bassist Andy Noble. It might be the ultimate in narcissistic music writing, or the moment where I am made whole as a person (at least Internet-wise), but for real, you need to hear this shit. We'll even be running a contest: Send me your best pairing of a rare record with a semi-obscure NBA/ABA/Eastern League player, along with a little bit of explanation, and you'll be in the running to win a copy of Kings Go Forth's mightily-acclaimed debut, The Outsiders Are Back. Send entries to freedarko at gmail dot com.
Oh, and I got my chair.
Bethlehem Shoals: One of the things FD has been continually baffled by is the relationship between music and sports. Sometimes it seems merely aesthetic, other times,there's a deeper kinship there. I'm sick of being told that basketball is like jazz, and on the other hand, basketball = hip-hop is almost too fraught to get into. So, the blanket question: What do you think?
Dan Flynn: I think this question comes down to if you're looking at it from a player's viewpoint, or more a spectator's. I play both music and ball, and even when I'm watching/listening I'm doing so as an active participant—putting myself into the situation. I find a lot of similarities, and I think of both as forms of self expression through non-verbal communication. In each you have a framework; in basketball an overall game plan with some set plays and defensive schemes, and in music you have a song with a verse, chorus, etc. But over that song you can improvise. Take "One Day"—there's a basic drum pattern, conga pattern, bass and chordal pattern, but really the whole rhythm section is improvising over that framework, listening and playing off of each other. We've never played that song the same way twice. And [vocalist] Blackwolf never sings it the same way. It's group improv, which is very similar to say, running an offensive set in basketball. You never know what the defense is going to do and you need to adjust, you need to improvise.
Basketball is more relatable than any other sport because of the way it flows—few sports have the same motion. Maybe hockey and soccer, but definitely not football or baseball. Basketball's all about rhythm, and of course so is music. Especially music with some looseness to it like soul, funk and jazz, you can feel that push and pull, that ebb and flow.
BS: Kings Go Forth is a band that really reflects not only a respect for the past, but a real interest in the self-proclaimed "record guy" culture. After all, you have Mingering Mike doing the cover for the new record. You guys do have a very distinctive sound, one that's not just run-of-the-mill funk revival. I keep hearing, or at least hearing about, these random records that do cast a new perspective on a tradition. Any particular "unusual" records that really influenced you?
Andy Noble: Well, I'd like to think I'm on the front line of the record discoveries, as I am out there everyday digging, both traditionally and through talking to old artists/producers/etc. There's nothing I love more than uncovering something that was previously unknown and has musical validity to today's scene. Some of the things probably sound better today than when they were initially produced. But, as far as influence is concerned, it's not like there are magic rare records that I draw from that distinguish our sound from other groups'. I am equally as influenced by a Stevie Nicks' song that is playing in my girlfriends car as I am by some private-press, one-known copy spiritual jazz LP that I found last summer. Which is to say, I am influenced by all of it.
BS: Do you ever get anyone questioning the authenticity of soul/funk coming out of Milwaukee? It doesn't have quite the same tradition as, say, Chicago.
AN: Well, that's not really a matter of opinion, it's a matter of looking at my box of over 200 locally produced soul 45s from the 60s-80s and saying , yes, this was/is a thing. Hundreds of men,women, and children from this city entered mom-and-pop studios, probably inspired partly by the local successes of Harvey Scales and the Esquires, and cut some pretty great music. In my opinion, the sound of Milwaukee R&B would best be characterized as "low-budget" Chicago or "low-budget Midwest" Soul. We did not have the infrastructure of a Chicago or a Detroit as far as access to professional arrangers, string sections, etc., so the scope of the recordings are usually a little toned-down from what you would hear from those cities. I think that sound continues through our record, for sure.
BS: What players today would you say either match your guys's sound, or just generally the spirit of this style of music? Are the Bucks too scrappy and goofy? Can I cast a vote for Brandon Jennings as the lone exception?
Dan Flynn: That's kind of a tough question, I feel like I'm really reaching here. But it's funny, I'd say the scrappiness of the Bucks this year definitely fits us, and Jennings in particular. Another guy might be Manu Ginobili. We have a lot of excellent, seasoned players in our group, but at the same time I feel we often approach things with more of a punk/indie rock attitude. In fact the use of the word "janky" is pretty common amongst ourselves to describe what we're doing. That's what I feel separates us from the other groups out there in our style, as well as some of the older groups; we're not trying to be smooth. We're not afraid to be rough, ragged and raw—we don't care how we look doing it.
As far as style or aesthetics, he's not current but a year or so ago I DVR'd a bunch of early Jordan college and NBA games on ESPN Classics. I guess I hadn't remembered how hard he was rocking those Dr. J moves back then, and it was really interesting to see. He was somewhere between the style of the late '70s NBA and what he'd later become, which I think is pretty much still the modern offensive NBA style. You could see it was there, just hadn't developed yet. I guess that's where I see us, one foot in the past yet trying to see how to apply those classic elements to the present and future.
BS: Have you ever had stuff played at Bucks game, or gotten feedback from Bucks (or their fans)? That vid of Bucks footage and "One Day" worked surprisingly well.
DF: Not that I'm aware of. That video is a good fit though, but I have to say that song seems to be a good fit for all kinds of things. I occasionally play pickup games with Tony Smith, who does some commentary for the Bucks (and of course is a top player in his own right), I might ask him next time I see him. Actually I just wanted to drop his name. I remember a year or so ago someone mentioning a possibility of us playing at halftime, don't know what happened to that.
BS: How about some top five lists for the people?
Dan Flynn: For the record Steve Nash is my favorite player. But if I was putting together an all-time best as far as a team that would crush anyone I wouldn't pick him. Too much of a defensive liability. So at point, although not known for his D I'd have Magic. At shooting guard I'd have Oscar Robertson (yeah, I'm from MKE, but can you blame me?). Small forward MJ, gotta have him in there somewhere I guess (swing man?). Power forward maybe a healthy Kevin McHale. Wait, scratch McHale—I'd like to see Garnett and Bill Russell together. Defense.
Andy Noble: The five important records in my life:
-Love, self-titled debut LP. Soundtrack to my 20s. -Pharoah Sanders, "The Creator Has A Master Plan". Saved my life a few times. -The Impressions, "Mighty Mighty Spade and Whitey". I started digging for records because of this tune. -Little Beaver, "Do Right Man" 45. SAADIA. First "big boy" record in my box. -The Specials More Specials LP. Taught me that a "genre" band could completely break the mold and make something brand new out of a traditional form.
BS: Do you ever watch games on mute? If so, with what music on?
Dan Flynn: No, I don't. I no longer have cable, so when I'm watching it's mostly in the company of several others, or I'll have a game on the radio at work. Think I'm gonna have to get ESPN 360 next season. But I don't know if I'd like music at the same time, might take away from the focus/intensity.
BS: Describe your relationship to the past and the tradition, insofar as thinking about KGF's sound and style is concerned.
Andy Noble: Obviously we draw fairly heavily from the well of independent 60s-80s black american music, especially in the aesthetic department. I would like to think that the content, both lyrically and emotionally, of the music is as contemporary or "timeless" as anything else out there right now though. At least that's what I'm shooting for.
Thanks again to Dan and Andy for answering these questions, which were a lot more obnoxious in original form. Don't be shy about entering the contest! Or, save yourself the trouble and cop The Outsiders Are Back the old-fashioned way.
Not only is Polvo my favorite band ever, they're also arguably the biggest sports fans in indie rock history. They're playing the Crocodile in Seattle tonight, and you should see them if you live in my city. Dave Brylawski has done a ton of press lately, but hopefully there's something new in here. Oh, and sorry for the shortage of pictures, I wanted to get this up before tonight!
Bethlehem Shoals: Okay, so I guess we're going to try and do this formal interview now. I'm having trouble not just asking all the random fan questions I've stored up over the years.
Dave Brylawski: Well, ask them.
BS: That would be totally unprofessional. Like, should I ask what the hell the songs were generally about? The Recluse tried to convince me they were all about girls.
DB: Some girls, some mature life stuff. I don't know. Probably a lot of them aren't about much. Abstract feelings. We're not a topical band, songwriting-wise.
BS: Let me try something more journalist-y. How do you feel about now being referred to as, among other things, one of the defining guitar bands of the indie era? No offense, but I never realized Polvo had so much influence.
DB: Actually, we're in this weird zone. A lot of the press that's written about us now is about how small we are, and how we sabotaged ourselves and never really capitalized on [our success]. We're in this netherworld where we're not big, but we're big enough that we're still playing 20 years later.
BS: Do you think you've gotten bigger in death than in life?
DB: I don't know if we've gotten bigger, but we've definitely had some staying power that I never would've predicted when we stopped playing in nineties. The funny thing is, we stopped playing in 1998, and for a couple years, it died a very quick death, and you didn't really hear much about Polvo. But then a few years later, it started to get back to me that people hadn't forgotten Polvo, which was nice, and unexpected, and a little strange, actually.
I don't know why some bands get lost in time and others stay on people's minds, and we're fortunate that we did. There were a lot of good ones from our era, and I don't know why someone would remember us as opposed to, say, Unwound.
BS: It might have something to do with the trouble people have always had figuring out your sound. I always got annoyed when Polvo was described as "math-y."
DB: There’s a lot of math rock bands I really like. I think our umbrage with that descriptor is more that we didn’t feel like we were completely worthy of it. Polvo definitely has a primitive-ness that’s antithetical to math-rock. I think it’s just more like our stopping and starting within a song. Most of our songs are 4/4. Sometimes we slip in some extra some stuff, but we’re pretty straightforward, time-signature wise. We get asked about it all the time, though. I think because it's on our Wikipedia page.
BS: And before that there were the Sonic Youth comparisons.
DB: If you read our very early interviews, early 90s, one of the questions is always "who are your influences?" And it’s like so obvious who are influences are that we would say, “We don’t have any influences.” But it’s so fucking obvious that Husker Du, Meat Puppets, and Sonic Youth are our influences. We became more comfortable later on acknowledging how important they were to us.
The main thing we share with Sonic Youth is that they’re very much a rock band. As experimental as they are, they’re still at the core a rock band that pushes whatever envelopes they push and I think we share that element too. We’re a rock band. It’s not more mystical than that, unfortunately; there’s no mysticism involved. Two guitars, bass, drums.
BS: At some point after Polvo had broken up, I put on "Dancing Days" and was struck by how much it reminded me of Today's Active Lifestyles.
DB: I always sort of felt like Polvo was sort of a classic rock band, even in the early nineties. That was always a touchstone. To me, it was a continuation of the mindset of bands from the sixties who still wanted to rock but feel like we had the freedom to do some other things, other than than writing standard bridges and choruses. I don't like calling it "experimental," but just kind of pushing it a little bit and playing with it. Psychedelic, I guess. But again, to me we are just a rock band, I don’t think we’re that left field. But people seem to think we are. I don't know where that comes from, really.
DB: I think a band like Thinking Fellers or Sun City Girls, they're pretty left-field. Compared to them, Polvo's like a bar band.
BS: Okay, onto sports. So I hear you hate Roy Williams.
DB: No, I don't hate Roy Williams! I have a complicated relationship with Roy Williams. I definitely appreciate what he’s brought to Carolina. The whole Kansas thing two years ago was sort of tough. Like our friends who think about this stuff, we think having to play Kansas, Roy didn’t know how to deal with that. It got into the kids’ heads a little bit. There was a lot of leading up to that, Roy saying he didn’t know how to coach against Kansas, Roy saying, "Half my heart’s still in Kansas." You don’t want to hear that shit as a Heels fan. That game was crazy. That ruined Billy Packer’s career, I think. When Billy Packer said, "it’s over" like four minutes into the game when Kansas got up by like 26 (Carolina did get back in that game). But that left a bad taste in my mouth which was finally sort of cleaned out by last year, of course. I like Roy. There is something John Edwards-y about him though. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it's that "aw-shucks"-ness about them that feels kind of forced.
I miss Dean, is what it comes down to. There will never be another coach like Dean. Dean was a god growing up. I was 13 when they won in 1982, but I remember way before that, when they had Walter Davis and Tommy LaGarde and lost to Al Maguire and Marquette. I went to Carmichael to welcome the team home and everything. When you're young and a Carolina fan, those are the best years, even though they didn't win a championship. That's when I used to cry every time they lost. They'd lose to State and I would cry. God, Norm Sloan and those plaid pants.
BS: It was really hard for me to accept that UNC players didn't all go on to become All-Stars.
DB: Well, I'm older than you, so Walter Davis, Bob McAdoo, Phil Ford . . . they had amazing pros.
BS: But see, I thought Chapel Hill was the center of the basketball universe. If I saw Pete Chillcut on the street, I thought I'd had an important life-experience. Then to see guys turn into non-entities at the next level . . . it just didn't make sense to me.
DB: But maybe it's like Polvo. You get these mixed messages. There's Pete Chillcut . . . but there's Phil Ford. There's Pete Butko. . but there's James Worthy. There's always enough reinforcement there. I. When I was a young kid growing up at Carolina, they had the best basketball player to ever play the game and the best defensive football player to ever play the game. Carolina and athletics have always been sort of magical to me. [Polvo's bass player Steve Popson] is going to kill me, because he's a huge State fan and hates Carolina. He's a weird guy, though. His dad played for the Redskins and the Redskins are his least favorite team in the NFL.
I don't know why I'm linking this to Polvo, but it's that same kind of netherworld where there's just enough information to confirm your fantasy that Polvo is special and magical. I'm not saying Polvo is special and magical, but to me I can sit here and say "oh, we're just a rock band," but maybe there's just enough that . . . I'm not going to say transcends that, but lifts it out of it. We're not a bar band, even if I sometimes say we are.
BS: What would say was Polvo's most bar band-y show?
DB: Like our third show, I don’t know how, but we got $300 to play this club in Wilmington, North Carolina. Three hundred dollars at the time was exorbitant. After Cor-Crane Secret came out we would play shows and make $50 a night. I don’t know what they were expecting. We only had five songs and had to play everything twice. It was awful. They didn’t get their money’s worth.
I do have a lot of respect for bar bands. It's just as valid as anything Thinking Fellers does.
BS: Back to what you just said about Polvo and UNC: I'm beginning to think you don't have any perspective on Polvo whatsoever.
DB: I probably don't, because it’s a progression of what I’ve been doing since I was 13 years old, playing in my bedroom. I don’t have that perspective that it’s anything but expressing myself through my guitar and expressing myself with my friends. That’s another thing about Polvo too, is that we were friends for a long time before we played together. I hope that shows.
BS: The music has always been a lot less self-conscious than one would expect. Especially live.
DB: That's the thing about "experimental" that makes me bristle a little bit. I don’t think we see ourselves as wizards concocting magic spells. We really do just get in the van and play. We’re more in that lineages and that’s maybe because I read too many rock bios. But we’re friends that just started playing rock music and have fun.
BS: I've got to say, though, it did kind of creep me out that you were playing this fucked-up music but weren't particularly artsy or eccentric.
DB: I think people do sort of freak out on the fact that we're just normal, sports-loving guys. We're not frat boys, or conservative computer programmers, but I think it is a little head-scratching for some people that we're so normal.
BS: Well, that's why I found you a lot more disturbing than I did Ash. At least he seemed to fit the part.
DB: I think that's probably somewhat conscious. I never bought into the whole art vs. sports dichotomy, like that you can’t be into both because I really think sports is art, sort of. It’s personal expression and it’s very pure. I’ve always been a sports fan and have been able to see the transcendence of sports. How is that different than art? I’m not equating the two necessarily; I'm not saying LeBron James is equal to Michelangelo. But it’s personal expression and there’s a purity to it. I think my experiences with sports are more playing them. I always sort of fancy myself a decent athlete. The two times I’ve felt the freest is playing basketball and playing guitar. That element of mindfulness, that you’re in your head but you’re not actually in your head, analytically.
I do have insight into why that split happened because I think that a lot of people who are into art had bad experiences when they were young with sports. That’s why being from Carolina is so important. They’re basing that on elementary school or middle school being thrown in with a bunch of angry, misanthropic jocks and not being good at sports, having that imprinted like, “Sports is dumb and inelegant”. But growing up in Carolina, all the cool rock bands grew up loving Carolina sports. It was sort of more just something you did, like playing guitar.
BS: I wonder if there's any other general explanation for sports/indie rock crossover, or if it's sometimes just a function of the individual.
DB: There are so many similarities to music. It's personal expression if you're playing it, but there's also the social function of rooting for a team and going to games. Why wouldn’t you like both? In Chapel Hill, it's not like that. Even the music geeks like Carolina basketball because it's just what you do. But yeah, there is community aspect to it, just like the indie rock thing. You go to the Cradle and hang out and see all your friends, or you watch a Carolina basketball game and see all your friends. It’s like chocolate and peanut butter. They go together.
Allegory Gets Us Hot: Times New Viking Talks Hoops, Ohio
When the Cavs made their big trade last week, we knew there was only one man to turn to for analysis: Adam Elliot, former varsity basketball player and drummer/vocalist of Ohio lo-fi/noise-pop/shitgaze heroes Times New Viking. Even if most of the interview took place before the trade ever happened and he was in Canada at the time. FreeDarko: You mentioned [in an email] that Lebron is "the savior of pro sports/America." Is your love for Lebron based more in Ohio pride or just a general admiration for his basketball abilities?
Times New Viking: First, it is great to have a living legend play for your pro team. Lebron is a savior for Ohio in many ways. He is young, he is forward thinking, and he can take over shit. Did you see the Eastern Conference finals last year? Un-fucking-believable.
FD: How do you feel about Lebron's eagerness to turn himself into a multinational corporation?
TNV: Why not? Our band just turned down some contract because it didn't make sense for us. But why wouldn't what Lebron agrees to make sense for a young basketball megastar?
FD: Are you worried that Lebron's going to leave Ohio for New York?
TNV: Fuck no. Cleveland will get that point guard in the next couple of years.
FD: What do you think about the big trade? Is Delonte West that point guard? Do Ben Wallace and Big Z make sense as a frontcourt?
TNV: We are currently in Montreal so all it is is hockey. Been trying to figure out the exact trade in French. But fucking Ben Wallace is the shit. One of my all time faves for the NBA. The Cavs are a force.
FD: Would Times New Viking ever consider leaving Ohio for New York?
TNV: Fuck no.
FD: Are you guys into Ohio State hoops at all? Were you excited by the Greg Oden Era, or was it too fleeting to really make an impact?
TNV: I am an Indiana Hoosier fan at heart. But Oden and Conley were something to watch. Conley/Oden are also the future of the sport. Conley simply does not make mistakes, and Oden is effective in so many ways.
FD: Are you sports fans in general, or just basketball? If the latter, what is the reason for basketball's unique appeal?
TNV: I love sports. I love paying attention. For me though, basketball is first, baseball second. I grew up on Hoosiers/Reds. I always wanted to be a basketball coach that got to play in a Creedence cover band on the side when I was in middle school. As far as basketball, Tark, Coach K, Bobby Knight, they all made me feel a sense of tradition that has been lost on most of my generation.
FD: Do you run across many other people in bands who are into basketball? Any surprises?
TNV: Sometimes. I know Hart from The Hunches almost cried when I knew about the mid 90's Blue Devils.
FD: That's the second time you've mentioned Duke or Coach K. You're not a Duke fan, are you?
TNV: Fuck Duke. Hate them. I am a Hoosier/Bobby Knight fan growing up. Or University of Dayton. Western Kentucky. Any of these over Duke. Even Vanderbilt. FD: What is your take on the NME "shitgaze" article? Do you feel an affinity with the other bands mentioned? Are you afraid the notorious British music press is going to hype you up like the Strokes or whoever?
TNV: All of those bands are our best friends and friends of friends. If they hype us, so what? We will show up just like Lebron did in the Finals. If we lose four in a row, at least we got there.
FD: In the early 90's, people were always talking about how "post-modern" Pavement was and how they were "deconstructing" pop music by ripping off The Fall or Buddy Holly. By referencing Pavement, the Clean, and the Fall on your MySpace and naming your newest album "Rip It Off," you're opening yourselves up to the same kind of criticism. Are you just playing with these ideas, or is there moreserious commentary behind it?
TNV: Not so serious. We take plagiarism serious. We take postmodernism serious, but we don't take ourselves serious. Comments are simply that, not statements.
FD: Have you ever talked sports with Gerard Cosloy? Do you read his blog?
TNV: I have talked baseball with him, and sports. But he is a Mets fan. No comment.
FD: Do you know if the guys in the Clean are Sean Marks fans?
TNV: Not sure, I know they dig sport.
FD: I read on Wikipedia that during a Lollapalooza, Guided by Voices beat the Beastie Boys and Billy Corgan in basketball. Have you ever seen Bob Pollard play? Do you think Times New Viking could take GBV in their prime in 3-on-3?
TNV: I suppose. If we could get Ron House from the Slave Apts., definitely. Jared and I are both lefties and play a mean 2 on 2 match. Pollard's brother played my father. That is pretty fucking old school.
FD: Bethelem Shoals, FreeDarko's most prolific writer, once wrote that the guys who write for our site were "born under the dueling style signs of hip-hop and indie rock." Are any of you into hip-hop at all? I'm specifically wondering about the Scribble Jam scene, which seems to have attracted a large number of arty Midwesterners.
TNV: Luckily I work hip hop night in Columbus. Good fucking deejays. We are into hip hop being observational, fucking real life. But in many ways, I don't get underground hip hop so much. Talking shit about people not being positive isn't exactly positive either, but in Columbus this doesn't happen. Hip hop kids/punk rock kids all get together and deal with how boring our town is. No pretension.