The L: The EP’s title is very evocative. It made me think of Timothy Leary or something. Does it have a specific meaning?
JB Townsend: I like it a lot, but the lyrics are personal just to the singer, Brad. The sound on this one is a little bit warmer, but that’s kind of an accident. When some sort of theme starts to happen accidentally, Brad sees that. I don’t always. So he’ll choose a title that contrasts with other titles a certain way to create an overall image.
The L: But it’s not like you guys sat around and consciously said, “we’re going to change our tone” or whatever? In my head at least, that could ties into the title. “Here’s this lighted space that you can open and enter.”
JT: Right, I can see that. But it’s just the way it went. Not to make it sound less exciting.
The L: Do the songs still start with you on guitar and then get fleshed out by the rest of the band? Do you have different approaches?
JB: There’s different ways. Sometimes I’ll have a song that’s almost completely done that I’ll write on guitar for myself, and then I’ll bring it to them and they’ll write their own parts. There are some songs that we’ll kind of write spontaneously all together. Like, “Dark Eyes” is kind of a simple song, but we kind of just wrote that one together. I like it a lot that way. It’s less pressure on me.
The L: Are you guys all big Lee Hazlewood fans?
JT: Yeah, definitely. He’s a pretty big influence. It’s country, but it’s kind of like “caveman country” or “Mod country.”
The L: He always sounds like he’s chiseled out of rock. He doesn’t seem like a living, breathing man.
JT: Yeah, he’s odd. He was really real though. He’s such a simple songwriter. I think that’s a big part of our thing.
The L: Is there a common thread between Lee Hazlewood and the Blue Orchids cover on the EP that you can identify as being related to the music that you want to make?
JT: We chose the covers on the EP because they are so different. They were written 25-30 years apart from each other. The Blue Orchids are from Manchester in the early 80s, and Lee Hazlewood is from Oklahoma in the 50s. I like the idea of having two things that are so separate covered by one band; two different threads coming together.
The L: Have you seen much of a change in the Brooklyn music scene over the past 5-7 years that you’ve been living in it?
JB: Yeah, there definitely has, especially the last year or two. When we first started there weren’t a lot of likeminded bands, and then all of a sudden there were tons. Now, I feel like a lot of bands that were my friends’ bands are kind of on a decline as far as putting out records. It’s shifting a little bit right now. It seems kind of in limbo. It’s a little bit scary.
The L: Where do you see the Brooklyn music scene going in the next five years?
JB: I really don’t know. There’s always ups and downs with every place. There wasn’t a lot happening here ten years ago. Then there was a thousand bands that wanted to sound like the Strokes. Then everything got really hippied out, maybe six years ago--everything got really tribal and shit. It takes a little while to really know where things are going. Right now it’s pretty varied, it’s all over the place. There are indie bands that are trying to sound like Top 40 pop bands.
The L: We’re still in the relatively early days in the Internet era. We don’t really know yet how this music climate is going to play out in terms of bands forging a career. How do you go about making a continuing catalog of music?
JT: In the small world of indie music it’s kind of the same thing as number 1 records or Top 10 Billboard records. If you listen to them all together they all sound very similar. They all have one weird keyboard sound that everybody uses. Most bands that I like don’t really look to that. They kind of just play based on whatever their record collections are. Whatever they think sounds good. I think that holds more water.
It’s strange nowadays. A big number of people can know your band, I feel like a lot of people have our records digitally. But, I buy a lot of older records, and they’re not rare, but they’re not really easy to find, either. And they made 500,000 copies of them! Now it’s invisible files on somebody’s computer. If it crashed they’d just be gone. 20 years from now, it might be hard to find some of these records.
The L: Brooklyn bands, the Brooklyn DIY bands at least, seem committed to putting out tangible objects. Do changes in format end up changing the art itself?
JT: Maybe. Especially a couple of years ago, bands like Wavves, just recording an album at home on Garage Band and overnight becoming totally buzzed out. It’s just easy and quick. I think the speed with which things can be out there, can contribute also to the speed with which they are forgotten.