The Ballet has been a band for barely over a year, and they only pressed 200 copies of their debut full-length, which comes packaged in hand-folded envelopes and is totally brilliant, full of adorable, infectious songs that toe a line between 60s bubblegum pop and stylized 90s indie pop. They’re fast becoming one of our favorite bands, and we recently had a chance to talk to frontman Greg Goldberg.
The L Magazine: You guys caught the ear of a few of the local music blogs, and I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that entire phenomenon, and how it’s impacted the career paths of bands who’ve come before you. In a weird way, it actually seems to fit with your aesthetic — that embrace of some of the more lighthearted aspects of online culture (myspace, etc). Greg Goldberg: Blog-promoted shows are fun, because they attract people with cameras. It can make you feel like the Paris Hilton of Ludlow Street. Everybody wants proof that they saw you before you were reviewed in Pitchfork. I like that somebody out there believes that the Ballet is going to the next big thing. So yeah — the Ballet totally endorses the internet. For boyfriends, Lost spoilers, prescription drugs from Canada, and PR.
The L: You’ve been pretty forthcoming about the band members’ sexuality. Why did you decide to be so upfront about it, and is it something you think is important for listeners to know? Do you ever fear that you’ll be pigeonholed? GG: Hey, I’m just trying to find us dates!
The L: Bands seem to appreciate the “twee” tag just about as much as all those nerds appreciate being called “emo.” It’s one of those makeshift genres that no one really wants to own up to. What are your thoughts on the label, and what do you believe are the connotations involved? GG: The T word. Ok, well I wouldn’t describe us as twee. For me, twee is weak on melody, and melody is very important to me. Also I associate twee with dumb, inconsequential lyrics. But if somebody called us twee I wouldn’t take offense. There’s not a lot of love for twee these days.
The L: I always laugh when bands complain about music writers comparing them to other artists, and obviously you guys have been mentioned along with Belle and Sebastian, the Magnetic Fields and the Smiths, all of which seem pretty right-on. Are there any artists people would be shocked to learn you’ve been inspired by? GG: Yeah that’s dumb, I will definitely not complain. Apart from the usual suspects, I listen to a lot of 60s bubblegum and 80s pop, but that’s hardly a surprise. Usually I go by song though, because pop artists are very inconsistent. I was raised on Lincoln- and Flood-era They Might Be Giants so maybe that’s in there somewhere. Really, it’s a mystery to me why the songs come out the way they do. Ask my therapist.
The L: Your new record, Mattachine!, was produced in a very small quantity, and packaged in a nifty little handmade case. Was it important to you to keep the packaging as minimal and DIY as possible, or was it more a matter of money? GG: The idea for the packaging came from a poster design that my boyfriend and I had been working on. I don’t think money was really an issue — mostly we wanted to make something quickly. And yeah, the DIY thing is important to us too. Ginger (violin) is a really talented visual artist and that definitely helped.
The L: The song ‘I Hate the War’ presents a refreshingly different take on the anti-war song. The juxtaposition of the upbeat “Na-na-na” chorus with the frustrating subject matter is both humorous and seemingly heartfelt. At what point did you decide to address the subject? GG: There are a lot of things that we all care about — what’s happening in Iraq is the just tip of the iceberg. But it’s hard to write a topical song. Maybe it was easier with ‘I Hate the War’ because frustration is a pretty simple emotion. Of course I also wanted to say “and it’s the Bush administration’s fault,” but that was too many syllables.
The L: What are your plans for the next couple months? Will you be touring at all? GG: Our momentum is slow — we’re in no rush. We’ve been lucky with booking shows. We usually get asked to play once or twice a month in the city, and that’s fine. We’re all pretty busy. My parents are going to read this and think, “Now why don’t you finish your dissertation?” We’ll also be opening for Voxtrot on November 6 or 7 at the Bowery Ballroom. And there’s been talk of a tour with Canadian artist Daniel Barrow sometime this spring.
The L: Has there been any interest from record labels thus far? Speaking of which, what is your take on the role of the record label these days, when, as we discussed earlier, there are so many new outlets through which bands are being heard? GG: There hasn’t been any real record label interest yet. Maybe we’re not headed down that particular path to success: touring endlessly, hiring bookers and promoters, getting signed. For us right now, success is making it through a show in one piece.