interview in amazeine, august 98

r: how was it when you toured?

d: there were some good shows, like moncton. generally, eastern canada was like amazing. i think that was the best part of this whole tour.

e: all the parts i liked best about the tour weren't the shows but just travelling, so on that level...

d: ...fuckin' great!

e: we had a lot of odd times too and we weren't staying in hotels really so we had tents and sleeping bags and we got a campsite and it's like, it was great and we were playing music there and stuff.

d: and that was it too, it was less about what actually happened when we'd play music in a rock club. for sure it was all about playing music outside of rock clubs and just driving places and stuff.

e: and touring with ten people is great.

r: so you were all there?

m: it's weird that everybody could do it with all their jobs and stuff.

e: yeah yeah yeah, definitely.

m: you toured on the us east coast?

e: not really because cmj was happening then. there were like a hundred indie rock bands on the road doing little four city tours on their way to new york so pretty much every big city on the east coast was really booked up.

d: it's actually a good thing in the long-run to avoid all those cities.

e: on the east coast we played with jordi, grayson and bruce (one of the godspeed drummers). we went to the east coast with them 'cause they were planning on going there anyway and then grayson, who plays accordion and harmonium, ended up playing with godspeed. he just came down to the states and played the accordion with us.

d: for the most part we didn't really know any of the bands. we played this place called rhinecliff which is a small town in upstate n.y. the booker was like "yeah we're gonna get ex-members of mercury rev's new band and we'll put on a show with you guys" and stuff. it sounded like these mercury rev people all live in this little artistic small town in upstate n.y. and we were gonna play with them and stuff. it was gonna be great. it turned out that one of the guys was in mercury rev, in fact we still don't know who he was or what he was playing but it was more like "what were they?" they were like a klezmer or jazz band.

e: they were pretty good but we kept asking them (the amoebic ensemble) these cagey kind of questions to figure out what the mercury rev connection was. we didn't want to go up to them and ask direct questions so we ended up doing it in this really sneaky way but we couldn't find out anything; it was odd. we had played a show the night before in this horrible place in new jersey called longbranch and on the way to the show we got pulled over by the cops and they put a drug-searching dog through the van. it was awful and made us sort us paranoid and then we played this fuckin' show.

r: afterwards?

e: yeah like on the way there and we played this horrible show.

d: the show was like in a heavy metal bar, there were a lot of like sort of really loud fuckin heavy metal bands that didn't really like us much I don't think.

m: how did you do that thing with the flattened penny in each record?

e: for a couple weeks we just got out there after practice, all nine of us with a big jar of pennies and we did way too many 'cause we still have 500 pennies left or something. it was fun, it was great.

r: you seem to be really influenced by the railroads, or trains?

d: the railroads mean so many things to so many people...

e:'s because the place we practice at...

r: okay, your jam room...

e: yeah where three of us live, it's like right next to a train track and they're always going by when we practice...

r: you always hear the trains?

e: yeah yeah.

m: are you the three that live there?

e: ah no, it's just me, one of our drummers aiden, and thierry.

d: i don't know, the big thing for trains for me too is like it was weird when the whole crushing penny idea came about 'cause i remember i used to live in this apartment building and we had a railroad track right behind the apartment building. that was a big thing i used to do as a kid too and i just got a big resonance there like a childhood spent walking down railroad tracks and stuff on saturdays and like crushing railraod pennies and stuff but also too like just listening to people like hank williams who often sing about loneliness and just the railroads and the trains and stuff.

m: it's like a myth...

e: yeah, it's like a really beautiful metaphor for a lot of things. also, when you live in the city, railway tracks are the most open space you can find. there's usually no high buildings around and it's the place where you can see the most sky. i think that is what resonates for a lot of people in terms of childhood memories and death, you know what i mean? it's that kind of place where you can get that sort of horizon. i mean you can get that on the mountain too but it's not the same, it's not as far as you look you can't see anything but railroad tracks.

m: yeah i know, i also spent my childhood near railway tracks. it was a bit of a thrill knowing that a train could actually run over me (laughs)...

e: yeah yeah yeah

r: there's also that idea of travelling which is very evident.

e: it's true, like a train can take you away from a bad situation or it can take someone you love away. trains guess aren't the predominant mode of traveling anymore. back in the days when he (hank williams) was writing songs, that was like the main mode of transportation so that's a big reason why he sang about them. plus they sound really nice.

r: i was living near a train track last year, those things make an incredible sound, the craziest sound. it's really noisy but in a way its almost ambient.

e: yeah yeah yeah...

m: yeah and for 2 years i took the train each day to school. i always listenened to the noise the wheels make... it's this crazy rhythmic thing "ta-ka-tak, ta-ka-ta-ka-tak".

r: very cliche question, but don't take it cliche... what music do you listen to? it's more for me, i'm just curious. what do you personally listen to?

e: i'm trying to think of what i'm listening to lately...

m: it's not a trick question or anything...

e: yeah, no no no no... i know, i know, i know, um, shit I don't know...

r: just bands or persons or people...

e: dave? (laughs)

d: eh? yeah I'm thinking about that too, we're listening to hank williams a lot again because we got this other thing called the lonesome hanks we all play in as well...

r: oh, it's another band?

d: yep.

r: a new project?

d: no it's not, we play a train (laughs). no no no, it's just to say that we do hank williams songs but we play them really really really slow and really really really sad so we've been listening to a lot of hank williams but i started listening to some of those kranky bands recently just because i'd never really heard a lot of them before

m: ah really?

r: any that you like?

d: i think labradford is great but i had never really heard them before, i just wanted to know what we were getting involved with i guess.

e: from the moment we started playing, which was three years ago, we heard about labradford.

r: prazision.

e: yeah, well the one with the wrench on the cover...

r: yeah that's it.

e: but just out of curiosity, 'cause people kept talking about it, so and all of the other stuff. i still haven't heard a lot of that kranky stuff.

r: how did you end up recording for kranky?

D: we booked the tour ourselves on the phone and mailed lounge ax (in chicago) a tape. it didn't look like we were gonna get a show for a long time which is actually the reason why we mailed kranky. we were looking for a show in chicago. the people at the lounge ax really tried really hard to get us on a bill that happened to be happening around the time we were coming so they threw us on (w/ jim o'rourke and william hooker).

m: so at first it was only for that you contacted kranky? only to get a gig in chicago? they saw you live?

d: they were pretty weird at first. we were both, i think, suspicious and they just pretty much called to say that they really liked the record and i don't think they really knew what our intentions were and i don't think we really knew what our intentions were whey they phoned to say they really liked it. it was a lot of just kind of humming and hawing for a while and then they just asked us to do a record. we thought about it for a while and decided to do it, it's all pretty boring and simple.

r: do you see your music as folk music?

e: kind of...
d: sure. i don't know what folk music is, like, kind of like just someone just feeling a certain thing at a certain period of time and feeling messed up and singing something about himself, writing something that means something to them, i don't know. like, folk music is honest music or something, like being honest in music and just like telling a story. and that's a really big part of folk music, telling a story. and also like folk music is a way to keep yourself sane. i see a lot folk musicians just wrinting songs to keep themselves sane and if that's folk music then yeah we're folk music for sure.

r: and you're a lot more, i mean, a lot of parts are experimental too. you know, a friend of mine saw you in an art gallery a year ago, and you played a drone for an hour. I don't know how true that is but...

e: (doesn't look sure)

r: no? maybe he didn't really know what a drone was and he just told me that...

e: yeah.

r: is that something that you sometimes do or...

e: ah, we like drones.

r: you do?

e: a lot, there's always at least one instrument playing a drone and we do a part and if they're turned up too loud then that's what you hear first. we have these little ghetto blaster tapes from the tour that we made of live shows and that's what you hear; it's like "rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr" for forty minutes but yeah...

t: i think that particular gallery had concrete walls so the sound was bouncing all over the place with the big drone in the middle of the room, you know.

m: where was that?

e: it was a gallery... what was it called? it's that woman from france who goes to abandoned spaces and opens up galleries.

r: how did that come about?

e: um, i don't remember... it was an international super-8 film festival that was happening there in the basement while we were playing and they wanted bands. oh and the guy who was and is doing video projections for us was hooked up with them and so he said, "you should get this band", and they went, "okay", so...

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