Siobhán Kane talks mistakes, art school and Lindsey Buckingham with Times New Viking‘s Jared V. Phillips.
Times New Viking began life around six years ago, and since then they have released five records, with the last, Dancer Equired! released last year. Their lo-fi approach to music is pleasingly scuzzy and inventive, inviting comparisons to Guided by Voices, who they have supported at different turns, and who act as something of a ghostly hand, mystically guiding their musical pursuits.
There is a wobbly, lovely aspect to their songs, recorded with the accidental, but natural aspects of life in mind, and though their last record had something of a cleaner production about it (they used a recording studio), they retained a sense of the messy, which is even evident in their record title, which at first look seems somehow wrong, (“equired” is surely “enquired”?) but no, it’s just Times New Viking, making further plays on formality and language, and expectation and defiance of that expectation, something that can be traced from their Rip it Off days. Yet the joy that is present on the rapturous, harmony-led song ‘No Room to Live‘ shows that they are not really trying to make a point, just great music.
Siobhán Kane talks to the sardonic Jared V. Phillips.
With Dancer Equired!, how far do you think that you have reached into the distant past to get inspiration, and what did you find there?
All I reached into was my couch and i found two cigarette butts, a french fry, cat hair and a guitar pick, and that pick went on to be featured on……Dancer Equired! the new album by Times New Viking.
You once said that a dream producer would be Lindsey Buckingham, I don’t know if you were joking, but I love Fleetwood Mac and the atmosphere that he helped the band create – how about you?
I was kind of joking, yes. That would be comical though, Lindsey Buckingham producing our record, making me do five thousand guitar takes upside down in a zero gravity chamber. I think we were just listening to a lot of that at the time, that was the only CD in our the van last time we were in Europe and Uk, so it got a bit ingrained.
Dancer Equired! is your first record for Merge, how did that come about and how are you finding it being on that label, are there many changes for you?
I guess it just kind of happened – organically or something, like when the two ugly people at the dance find each other. It’s good, they’re all about business – there is not much of a change though, as they let us get on with our thing and dont try and meddle.
You produced this record yourselves, how long did it actually take to come together and do you think your process was slightly different from your last few records?
We had some help producing but we were still steering the ship. It was different as we did demos in the living room then went to the studio. The songs were more complete when we started recording. It took three days of recording, then a few weeks to mix. It feels like a long time ago. We could have made ten more records by now.
Do you think that you are very interested in production as another tool, or that you have a very instinctive sense of making mistakes and sometimes letting that sit on the record too, that it is a more true reflection of the music making process? I keep thinking of the progression around No Room to Live, and the studio recordings, was that a kind of leap of faith moment for you?
Yes, the production is just another instrument, like the vocals or anything else. We’ve done the scuzzy blown out sound, so we thought we’d try something else this time. I would say we definitely know when to leave mistakes in, that’s what gives music a relatable feeling. There is no sense in trying to be flawless. If we didn’t, we could just give Adam the boot and get a drum machine. Of course then he’d probably want to be the frontman and start taking his shirt off onstage, we can’t have that. I think it was maybe a bit of a leap of faith, but we had already done demos and knew where it was heading, so we were happy with the results.
I often think of you in relation to a bygone era, your love for things that are either out of fashion or not really practical in the saturated world of technology, though you embrace technology to an extent, how are you feeling about the state of people’s obsession with it at present?
Well I guess playing real instruments in a rock band and lugging amps all over the place isn’t really practical either. I think it’s mostly a bit sad that young kids don’t know what a tape is or how to play a record. The art of making album covers may be lost one day, but I suppose there’s enough of a record-buying public to keep it alive for a while. Perhaps we should’ve been doing this shit in the ’70s or ’80s, it would probably make more sense, but there’s no use crying about it. We just have to trudge on.
Over the years you have played with everyone from Mission of Burma through to Pavement, which has been the one you think you have enjoyed the most and why?
Hmm, well we have played with a lot of groups we admire but playing with Guided By Voices was the best. They’re Ohioans like us, so we felt like we were meeting some uncles.
Space seems of huge importance to you, how do you find playing festivals?
I personally hate festivals. music shouldn’t be played outside, it’s bad for you. They pay well, but it’s just a bunch of inappropriately dressed people littering, sweating in the sun, and not really paying attention to anything except the guy wearing green jeans.
How have you found performing your latest record? You might have a lo-fi aesthetic, but there is an honesty there that I think translates well live, do you do a lot of rehearsal?
We don’t really need to rehearse much. I figure we’ve played over 700 shows and all our songs are short and simple, so there’s no need. As for the new songs we’ve simply slipped them into the setlist and they’re going quite fine. The 50 foot inflatable Henry Rollins with wobbly arms needs to be patched up though.
How far do you think Columbus, Ohio is a muse of sorts for you over the years? It is a very pretty place – a good mixture of the urban and the rural.
Yeah it’s pretty. Pretty cheap! It’s definitely a source of some good music. There’s a good DIY tradition there that has helped us out in getting things done, it’s a very normal place, you can kind of get away with whatever there.
When you all met at art school, you were all more involved in visual art, print-making and such – was there always a love or desire for music-making? Did you sense that you were all instantly kindred spirits?
Yes there was a light…shining down from above, and I knew I was meant to be stuck in a smelly van for hours on end with these two same people for the rest of my life – beautiful. We were equally, if not more interested, in music than art. Art is too stuffy, it’s not fun enough.
At first there was a kind of post-punk aspect to your work, and now it is something a little different, more complex.
I hope we haven’t settled into anything. If we’re going to continue we have to keep trying new things, though nothing crazy like getting a bass player, that would be ridiculous.
There must be a real sense of satisfaction that in a way you are doing something very vital with your art, that perhaps is more relevant than hanging something in a gallery that a lot of people won’t see. There is something thrilling about music, and the communion with the audience in the live experience, what are your thoughts and do you enjoy it? What are your best and worst live experiences?
We collectively concur with everything you just said. That’s why we skipped art classes and went to play music. The worst experience was opening for Spoon in front of a bunch of jackasses. It was sponsored by Jack Daniels and we got reprimanded for mentioning Jim Beam onstage. Jim Beam is just better, sorry. We’ve had a lot of good shows but I’ve drank all the specifics away. Maybe playing with The Clean in Philly and NYC.
Are you working on anything else at the moment?
We always have songs on the backburner – maybe an EP. Mostly we’ve just been really poor and were sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting on the record to come out. The big fat 6.0 on Pitchfork made it all worth it though!