Author Archives: Ally Jane Grossan

Senior Editor at Bandcamp

How E-Commerce and Cassettes Shaped Pica Disk

Pica Disk

Even while in Bodø, a small town above the Arctic Circle in Norway where he lived from 2016 until this month, Lasse Marhaug maintained an important, and presentplace in the global musical underground. Now living in Oslo and active since his teenage years in the late ’80s, the 43-year-old multidisciplinary artist has a Discogs page that’s 163 entries long, marked by dozens of distinctly experimental solo releases and collaborations with a who’s who of contemporary avant-garde music: Merzbow, Joe McPhee, and Jim O’Rourke to name only three. Marhaug keeps busy as a masterer and producer, too, lending support to albums by artists such as fellow Norwegian Jenny Hval, the Korean-born, New York-based cellist Okkyung Lee, and recently, the reclusive New Zealand electronic musician Clinton Williams, aka OMIT, whose mind-boggling five-CD box set Enclosures 2011–2016 came out in February via two labels, End of the Alphabet and Pica Disk, the latter of which Marhaug founded in 2006.

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Trekkie Trax is On the Pulse of Tokyo’s Electronic Underground

Trekkie Trax

Japanese electronic music label Trekkie Trax came together because a group of adolescents wanted to spin tunes somewhere—really, anywhere—in Tokyo. “I still remember my brother Taimei, who records as Carpainter, searching Twitter, looking for anyone who needed teenage DJs. We didn’t have any kind of musical connections,” co-founder Seimei Kawai says, from a restaurant in the Shibuya neighborhood of Japan’s capital. Continue reading

Story of a Song: Ian William Craig’s “A Simple Hope”

Ian William Craig
Ian William Craig

The Vancouver-based opera singer and tape loop devotee Ian William Craig deals largely in the art of destruction, using analog tape decks as a device not simply to record music but also to create it. He generates mountains of sound that, as they loop, deteriorate and dissolve in real time. For Craig, the journey of creating music is a celebration of this process, a combination of intentional decisions and the results of chance. “Tape decks are never quiet,” Craig explained recently in his cheery, book-filled office at the University of British Columbia, where he is a professor in the fine arts department. “Especially the way I’ve modified them, they spiral out of control more than they are supposed to.” Throughout our conversation about his compositional process and “A Simple Hope,” the lead single from his new album Centres, Craig waves his arms giddily, recounting the song’s four-year gestation process with more humor and laughter than perhaps his music would otherwise suggest. While Craig can recount his process in vivid, step-by-step detail, over the course of our conversation, it becomes clear that he has also kept certain parts of it hidden—even from himself.

Unlike many of Craig’s tape loop-based compositions, grounded in peculiar and captivating distortions, “A Simple Hope” was born five years ago as a vocal melody accompanied by guitar; he describes it, not entirely affectionately, as a “jangly” piece of music. Its straightforward nature, “[didn’t] sit well with me,” and in response, he recorded an array of instruments that transformed the elegant melody into an obtuse and ominous colossus of sound.

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Islands Return with Two New Albums

IslandsIslands by Christian Faustus

“I want to be like Alan Thicke, and make theme songs for sitcoms.”—Nick Thorburn

There may be two new records from Islands out today, Taste and Should I Remain Here at Sea?, but this is no Use Your Illusion I and II situation. The two volumes don’t comprise a double album, nor are they two parts of a single whole. They’re just two new Islands records that happen to have the exact same release date. As frontman and chief songwriter Nick Thorburn plainly puts it, “Two are better than one.”

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Jaye Bartell Premieres “Light Enough”; Talks Eileen Myles, Spalding Gray and the Books that Inspire Him

Jaye Bartell by Daniel Topete

Jaye Bartell wrote the 12 songs on his new album Light Enough, out Friday, in the confines of his Brooklyn bedroom. His inspiration came from books by writers like Eileen Myles, Spalding Gray, Robert Creeley, Sheila Heti, and others. Here, he discusses these influences, as well as hot air balloons, and finding words to live by.

Listen to the exclusive premiere of Light Enough

The Books That Inspired Light Enough: 

Spalding Gray, Sex and Death to Age 14 and The Journals of Spalding Gray

Most of Spalding Gray’s books are screenplays in reverse, refined transcriptions of tape-recorded performances. He would start with notes and a guiding structure, but would rely on live performances to hone and formalize the content. The collection Sex and Death to Age 14 compiles Gray’s monologues up to the popular Swimming to Cambodia, including the title piece, which recounts what the author/speaker remembers of those two situations up to age 14. As Gray describes in the introduction, “The monologues are a section of an ongoing oral history, within which I include myself, and all the others who have been part of ‘our’ story along the way.” While few of my songs explicitly tell a story, let alone a factual, narrative one, the quality of Gray’s work (and life) that I find most relatable is the pursuit of memory, and the patience to follow associations and the curves of experience to find life’s details—including the unflattering details. The story is found in the telling, and because I find it so difficult at times to explain myself—or anything—I’m relieved and uplifted by those who can, and I turn to them for a kind of permission to bring detail to the blankness that’s otherwise there.

My album cover is modeled after the artwork for the 2010 Steven Soderbergh documentary And Everything is Going Fine, which is made up entirely of footage and recordings of Gray’s performances and TV appearances before his death in 2004, functioning as a chronological, single monologue. The title for the song “Wake on the Way Down” and a few of its images and themes are taken from The Journals of Spalding Gray, which were published after his death.

Gray’s monologues settled some of the misgivings I felt toward what could generously be called my stage show—sitting with my nylon-string guitar and singing in a way that no one would describe as operatic. If Gray was able to provide 90 minutes of compelling stage time with minimal gestures and a natural voice, then I can do half of that, at least. And I have the added resources of melodies and cover songs.

Eileen Myles, Cool for You; Inferno; Chelsea Girls

I’m not much of a literary critic—or any kind of critic, or scholar or even a good reader. The most sophisticated point I can make about any given thing is that it exists, and I’m pretty sure I stole that line from Robert Creeley. There’s a book by American poet Louis Zukofsky called Barely and Widely, and that phrase describes my approach to reading. It’s hard to avoid sounding coy or willfully inept, but I don’t even like books—especially not for the sake of a good story or a plot or any formal quality. I look to the books I do value, as with music or paintings, for information on how to live. I say all of this to justify my statement that I just love Myles’ books, and the reasons are in the books, and the vividness of understanding I experience reading them. The stories of growing up in Massachusetts in Cool for You and Chelsea Girls provide a clarity and sense of unburdening—the sense that your story is being told, with variant particulars and circumstances, and with no exclusivity or possession. But there’s a pain to what’s untold that Myles’ work relieves. I don’t know how else to put it. I used a line from Chelsea Girls on the back of the record jacket, and it reads, “All my life I have waited for permission. I feel it growing in my breast. A war is storming, and it is behind me, and I am moving my forces into light.” This line describes how I felt after I finished the record, which I did while I was reading Chelsea Girls again.

Jaye Bartell by Daniel Topete

Balloons, by C.H. Gibbs-Smith

Falling Upwards, Richard Holmes

When I first started writing the songs for what would become Light Enough, I was working with themes and images based on flight—namely, hot air balloons, and balloons in general. A month or so after I moved here from North Carolina, I found an old book filled with color prints of hot air balloons on one of the sidewalk carts at New York City used book institution The Strand. It was only a dollar, because the binding was split, but the prints are nice. The images depict the fantastic, ludicrous ideas of flight in the late 18th century—mostly in France and England, where balloons were the peak of the culture’s transcendent aspirations. It was a period where science, poetry, mysticism, and religion seemed braided and interrelated, like with Mary Wollstonecraft’s Frankenstein or Percy Shelley’s The Triumph of Life—just a full-on hallucinatory pursuit of the full compass of cosmic power. I eventually got a book by Richard Holmes called Falling Upwards, which came out around the same time that I moved here, which is a full-spectrum history of hot air balloons, from the social/spiritual aspects that I described, to military and propaganda aspects. Early on, everyone died in twisted, public, fiery crashes. I papered the walls of my room with hot air balloon prints. Most of the images depict wildly impractical designs, like a gondola ushered by two sets of large albatross-type birds and buoyed by a few kites, or one of a soldier and his horse standing on a large wooden platform, held aloft by a ceramic dome. My room then was very small, maybe 10 feet long and  6 feet wide, with 12 foot ceilings. I lived there until just recently. It’s where I wrote all the music on the record. The balloon pictures, I thought, would provide me with a kind of sympathetic expanse—posted reminders of a more spacious plane. In any case, I did write a song called “Pictures of Balloons,” and there were a few others that dealt more directly with flight and anxiety, but they didn’t make the final cut. But early on, with the initial material and my informal research, the personal corollary at play was my effort, especially in recent years, to live in this world, this body, this person, however volatile and indeterminate those things truly are. In the concluding lines of Later, Creeley writes, “But now—/ but now the wonder of life is // that it is at all, / this sticky sentimental // warm enclosure, / feels place in the physical // with others, / lets mind wander // to wondering thought, / then lets go of itself, / finds a home / on earth.”

Jaye Bartell by Daniel Topete

Robert Creeley, Later; Words; Pieces; Life and Death

There’s a redundancy to citing Creeley’s writing as an influence on my songwriting, since his use of language, down to specific phrasing, are so inherent to my own daily thinking and speaking—this whole sentence sounds like second-rate Creeley! From the simple, maxim-like lines of, “To be in love is like going out- / side to see what kind of day // it is,” to the observational, thought-tracking sketches of “Pieces” (“Things / come and go // then / let them”), the rhythmic, musical quality of words was first shown to me through Creeley’s work. A song such as “Tuesdays” has a specific relationship to a few of his poems, including some direct references to certain lines. One is the seven-part poem “Later,” from the book of the same name, which I’ve come to love more every day since I first read it at age 21 or so. There’s a line that goes, “These days, call it ‘last Tuesday,’ / 1887, my mother was born…”. I was born on a Tuesday, as it happens, too. Come to think of it, there’s a whole section in the poem about his childhood dog, so there’s an added corollary. Another line comes from a poem called “So There,” where Creeley paraphrases Allen Ginsberg (I think), with, “What’s gone / is gone forever / every time, old friend’s / voice here.”

Jaye Bartell by Daniel Topete

Sheila Heti, How Should a Person Be?

Linda Rosenkrantz, Talk

Sheila Heti’s “novel from life” has been important to me since long before I wrote any of the songs on the record, but it remains a standard of what I value in writing. It’s fitting that the first time I saw her read, at The Poetry Project, was with Eileen Myles, at an event organized by Myles that also included Mira Gonzalez, whose work is also terrific and funny and specific. For Light Enough’s purposes, I followed Heti’s example of celebrating, if not enshrining, your friends, even if it’s only with a word or two. As with all of these books, the effect is intangible, and most likely undetectable, but the content and essences imbue all that I do. The other lesson from Heti’s book concerns humor and comedy, as in, “Where’s the funny?” And while I won’t say I failed to make my songs funny, they’re also totally not funny. Talk by Linda Rosenkrantz, first published in 1968 and reissued last year, is an elemental, granular version of Heti’s novel, although there’s no relationship or correlation between the two—just a sympathy. Talk is made up entirely of transcribed conversations among three friends over a summer, and I admire that the story emerges on its own, that what’s there is what’s there, unmitigated (if deftly refined and formed by the author). I’m making these books sound like James and the Giant Peach, but they’re unsparing, and true to the pains, embarrassments, absurdities, enthusiasms, etc. etc., of daily bodily life. As Creeley writes, “Tangible, they tell /the reassurances, / the comforts, /of being human.”

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Patti Smith, M Train

The Book of Disquiet is what I read during the first few months after my move to NYC, over the late fall and through the early winter. It was an ideal guide through the loneliness and uselessness that comes with being in a new place, and in my case, not having a job or many people to talk to. Most of Disquiet takes place in an office, but there’s not much interpersonal interaction. Pessoa wrote under a host of different names, and each name had an identity with its own constituent philosophy, attitudes, and writing manner. Disquiet is attributed to Bernardo Soares and is described as a “factless autobiography.” Soares/Pessoa finds company with his perceptions, or with the objects of his perception, and even the conditions of perception, such as light, fog, a languid afternoon—the materials of so-called poetry. But he characterizes it without the usual commemorations and sanctimony. It’s consoling for some who loves and adores the world and doesn’t understand any of it or know anything. It’s like they’re suffering from a moment-to-moment amnesia, but hollower, forgetting what you never knew, but felt you did.

Likewise, Patti Smith’s M Train has that melancholy patina, but at its center is a sense and reality of poetry that I respect. It’s based on relationships across time, and even material form, rather than tidy, ornate etchings of language that ignore the very people or things they’re meant to commune with—whether it’s Wittgenstein’s radiator, or a cable stay bridge.

Photos by Daniel Topete

Less Noise Is More on Greys’ “Outer Heaven”

Greys by Ebru Yildizphoto by Ebru Yildiz

“This was the record we kind of always wanted to make but we didn’t know how to do it.”—Shehzaad Jiwani

Toronto’s Greys try not to take themselves too seriously, but their new record Outer Heaven, out Friday, is seriously good punk rock. Each song seems to reach a few decades back to the days before punk had a clear roadmap. Each track is different from the next—some songs have wiry basslines and frenetic pace changes, others hinge on catchy pop riffs—it’s as if Greys have plucked each track from a multi-decade career that hasn’t happened yet. The foursome, which includes lead vocalist and guitarist Shehzaad Jiwani, guitarist Cam Graham, bassist Colin Gillespie and drummer Braeden Craig, have emerged from the Toronto noise rock scene to capture international attention and imagination. We caught up with these self-described nerds before they played a string of shows at SXSW last month.

Who are you excited to see here in Austin?

Shehzaad Jiwani: I’m really excited to see Weaves and Guerilla Toss. Oh, also Big Ups, we’re playing with them and they are always fun to see. I just found out the Deftones are playing. That was my first concert, Deftones and Incubus.

Braeden Craig: My first concert was Slipknot.

Colin Gillespie: Locust.

Cam Graham: Audioslave.

SJ: That’s not more or less embarrassing than the Deftones.

BC: Slipknot is not embarrassing. They are a great band.

SJ:  I guess the first concert I ever saw was the Rolling Stones, with my parents when I was eight or so. On the Voodoo Lounge tour. Literally the worst album title of all time. It means nothing. It’s a word that he just thought of. [In a terrible British accent] “It’s a lounge but there’s some weird shit going on in it. Skulls and whatnot. One of them dolls where you poke it and you feel it in ya arm, them. It’s a Voodoo Lounge, innit?” I would open a bar called the Voodoo Lounge. There’s also Bridges to Babylon. It’s like, I’m sorry, what does that mean? That album is kinda sick though.

BC: I think they just pick these words out of a hat. Goat’s Head Soup?

SJ: They had great titles and then everything after Some Girls is just okay. I think the tour they are on right now is called the Passport tour or something. They just ran out of ideas.

BC: [In an even worse British accent] “Oh right, got this passport here. Let’s get on with it then.” My accents are great.

SJ: But no, Their Satanic Majesties Request, that’s a great title.

What’s on the cover of Outer Heaven?

SJ: It’s a shot of the North Korean Arirang Festival. I saw an image from this festival, which is essentially an homage to the Supreme Leader, and it tells the story of how North Korea came into being. It’s this really ultra-patriotic thing where they get kids and teenagers to perform this extremely elaborate and ornate dance. They have extremely striking and colorful set design. I hate explaining it this way, because it sounds so pretentious, but the reason we chose it for the cover is because it represents creating this really beautiful thing, even though you’re being forced to do it. In, like, a shitty time, you’re still creating something beautiful. A lot of the imagery is war-related, and a recurring theme on the record is that it’s on the razor’s edge, end-of-the-world kinda thing, and within that you’re still creating something beautiful. This thing that is peaceful, a sort of calm before the storm. This particular crop of the image really spoke to me. You can kind of see it in their faces. They aren’t too thrilled about doing the thing that they are doing, but they are doing it anyway. It really resonated with a lot of the messages we are trying to put forth on the album.

Do you feel like this is the end times?

SJ: Yeah, definitely. I don’t think that the record is particularly dire, but a lot of the lyrics have to do with doing something in the face of something that’s not so great.

Does that relate to the song “Complaint Rock?”

SJ: No, not really. That title came about when I heard the term used to describe Pavement. First of all, Pavement aren’t even a complain-y band. Second, isn’t all rock music complain-y? Isn’t that what it is? That’s why it was created: to complain about stuff. The whole song was an exercise in the very idea that being over something is passé, and even commenting on that is sort of lame. Everyone keeps compounding that. It just goes back and forth. I just think everyone should shut up and chill out. So the middle of the song is finally some peace and quiet, and then it goes back to it. It’s kind of a big joke. Our music is a big joke and doesn’t mean anything.

Do you ever read the negative comments about your band?

SJ: Yes, definitely. Some guy, for no reason, apropos of basically nothing, recently tweeted “I hear Greys have a new song out, I will never listen to it and I hope I never have to hear it.”

BC: Someone on Brooklyn Vegan once wished we would crash our van and kill ourselves.

CG (bassist): Another person wished that we’d spend the rest of our existence dragging our carcasses around playing to no one. Which isn’t wrong. It’s foreshadowing.

How does that make you feel?

SJ: I’m not sure. I have a pretty thick skin. If somebody is that dedicated to letting someone know how bad they think we are, then good for them. I hope something nice happens to them. I just find it really funny and I always try to retweet it. Someone posted a screenshot of a comment from some website about some other band, and the comment said, “This band sounds like a bunch of jocks, which makes sense because they are friends with Greys, and the singer of that band bullied me in high school.” I was shocked because I looked like this in high school [pointing to self].

CG (guitarist): I knew you in high school, you weren’t bullying anyone.

SJ: I was really curious about who it was. I tried to find out to extend some sort of apology. I probably didn’t mean it. We have a real specific sense of humor. I did stuff myself into a locker one time. But we didn’t really have bullies in high school. We’re Canadian, we’re nice.

Do you think the music industry doesn’t have enough of a sense of humor?

SJ: I think the joke’s on us, if anything.

How long have you been working on Outer Heaven?

SJ: I think it came together in about six weeks. There’s the Repulsion EP. We finished touring at the end of 2014 and collectively felt like we wanted to move away from being a ’90s noise rock band. When we started the band, that wasn’t a thing, and now it is, so let’s not do that. We wanted to push ourselves a little bit. Repulsion came out as sort of an experiment to see what we could do. So we wrote a Krautrock song and that seemed to work. Then we tried playing the slowest song we could play, and that worked. Those songs kind of broke down the door for us. Immediately after that, we went on tour and spent the summer just writing. That EP helped push in that direction.

And all the songs are so different.

SJ: Are they too different? We just love a lot of music, and all of us are really big nerds and wanted to express that. We just didn’t want to be in that one noise rock vein any more. I hope it’s all cohesive. With the way people listen to music now, they’ll have a playlist that’s for a certain color or mood. With so many of my favorite bands, the songs are so different. “Machine Gun” and “Nylon Smile” by Portishead don’t sound anything alike, but it’s clearly the same band, and that’s the kind of band we want to be. Or Swell Maps, they have super poppy songs and super noisy songs. They can do it all, and that’s where we wanted to take this. This was the record we always wanted to make, but we didn’t know how to do it. All the ideas kind of converged and it came together. How was that? Was that okay? Not too rambling? It took me too long, sorry.

BC: No, that was a good one, not like the last one. That was succinct.

CG (bassist): Sometimes he’s not so horrible.

What is one weird object that you bring on tour with you?

SJ: Braeden. Braeden is a weird object.

BC: Well, my stepmom…

SJ: We don’t bring a stepmom.

BC: She’s a big believer in those bullshit crystal snake-oil things. On our first tour I ever went on, she gave me this good luck crystal. I should get rid of it, it’s not working.

Steady Holiday’s “Under the Influence” Pre-Order Sale

Steady Holiday by Philip Cosores

Steady Holiday’s debut album Under the Influence is out June 24th but you can pre-order it exclusively on Bandcamp for just $5 through Monday, April 25th.

We caught up with Dre Babinski, the principal member of Steady Holiday, just after her first Coachella performance to discuss her forthcoming album, her influences and flower crowns. Under the Influence is the kind of record that catches you off guard with its confrontational beauty.

Your Coachella appearance reads like a modern-music industry fairytale. Can you walk us through how it happened?

More or less, yeah. I feel very fortunate. Paul Tollett who is the festival’s founder, reached out to me via Facebook with an offer very matter-of-factly. He’d been casually following the project since I introduced it several months ago and took a chance, which I’m very grateful for.

What did you do during the day leading up to it? 

We played a 12:30 p.m. set, which meant getting to stage at 8 a.m. Prior to leaving the hotel, I had a 7 a.m. photoshoot for this interview (I love you, Bandcamp), so I was moving nonstop from about the moment I woke up. After getting ourselves and gear to the festival and stage, breakfast, then directly into soundcheck, we were left with about 40 minutes to decompress and get ready before heading back to the stage for our set. I didn’t have time to assemble my flower crown or selfie, but I’ll plan better next weekend.

What was that like, taking the stage?

It was a new and deeply satisfying feeling to take the stage for myself, as myself. The festival and stage itself, its implication and expanse—that’s not something that intimidates me. I’ve done this many times before, and am finally starting to feel like I belong. The sound was absolutely top notch, and hearing it billow and fill such a large space felt very appropriate.

Steady Holiday by Philip Cosores

What was the most surprising thing about it?

I’ve known how globally recognized the festival is, but now I understand this in a new way. After our set aired on the livestream, I had an influx of people reaching out from all over the world. Pretty surreal.

How long have you been making and performing music? What were your previous projects?

I’ve played the violin since age 10; playing/collaborating on the instrument is essentially all I’ve done in music until very recently. Songwriting and learning the guitar have only come along in the past six or seven years. I was a member of Dusty Rhodes and the River Band for many years, and a touring member of a handful of projects, the most recent of which was Hunter Hunted.

Steady Holiday by Philip Cosores

What does the title of the album mean? Who is under the influence, and of what?

In the past, I have felt like I was constantly living under the influence of something negative—whether that was a person, a circumstance, or a substance. Many excuses and justifiers, always a victim—which is incredibly irresponsible and arrogant. These songs were written from that perspective; very true to what I felt at the time, but a bit unflattering in hindsight.

Steady Holiday by Philip Cosores

How long have you been making music as Steady Holiday? How is this project different from what you’ve done in the past?

Some of these songs are up to a few years old now. It’s a ‘classic first record’ in that regard. There is a common thread that links this body of work in terms of mood, style and, particularly, lyrical content. Though it’s written about different people and experiences over a long course of time, they’re mostly coming from the fragile state of mind that I was stuck in. I suppose that made for a cohesive record in terms of perspective (bright side!), but I find it far away from the place that I am these days.

What other artists inspire you? 

Filmmaker/actors John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands are big ones for me. They made films that were important to them, uncompromisingly, which usually meant self-funding, being very adaptable, and  surrounding themselves with only the most present and willing [collaborators]. I love and relate to that. They’re both incredibly skilled actors too, it’s so cool to witness such raw, stunning performances.

Steady Holiday by Philip Cosores

Did you meet any of the other artists at Coachella?

Not a one! I had so much to take care of, which translated into sinking exhaustion. Next week, I plan to enjoy more of the festival, since I’ll have a better command of my schedule and Weekend One under my belt. I’m going to sleep until Friday. Goodnight and thank you!

Photos by Philip Cosores

Eskimeaux’s “Year of the Rabbit”

Eskimeaux by Richard Ginphoto by Richard Gin

“It’s always really exciting  when there are things that just happen to rhyme, and I tend to stretch what I think are the limits of rhyme.”—Gabrielle Smith

Gabrielle Smith, of the Brooklyn band Eskimeaux, is a triple dragon. According to the Chinese Zodiac, if you are born in the year in the dragon, the month of the dragon and the day of the dragon, you are a special human being. Her album, Year of The Rabbit, out today on Double Double Whammy, has little to do with the Chinese zodiac, which determines your fortune based on the year of your birth. But it’s full of perfect pop songs that recount the details of Smith’s relationship, which began during the year of the rabbit (2011). Her last record, 2015’s O.K. was an anthemic announcement that something exciting was about to happen; the much shorter Year of the Rabbit feels like a bookend, or the last chapter of a novel. Gabrielle Smith has been recording music for close to 10 years, and also plays with Frankie Cosmos. She is about to embark on a series of tours that will stretch through the summer.

Do you know your Chinese zodiac sign?

I’m a triple dragon. It’s the year, month and time. I was born in the year of the dragon, in the month of the dragon and, apparently at the hour of the dragon.

Why did you decide to call your album Year of the Rabbit? Does it have anything to do with the zodiac?

It actually doesn’t have anything to do with the Chinese zodiac, except for the fact that I was excited about the rhyme. It’s always exciting when there are things that just happen to rhyme, and I tend to stretch what I think are the limits of rhyme. The opening lyrics of the record are, “2011, the year of the rabbit,” and I thought, “Oh my god, that kind of rhymes, use it.” But 2011 is the year that my partner and I started dating, and while I was writing this song I was thinking about the things that we’re confronting now as a couple—both problems and things that are good. I was reflecting on when our relationship started, and trying to figure out if they were things that were consistent, or if they were new. And obviously the problems were not new.

Does each song reflect the entirety of that relationship? Is it set in the present?

The first song is set in 2011 and then it progresses through to now. In a way, it’s a chronological record.

The song “Drunk,” seems to be a about a very specific evening. Can you tell us about that evening?

I was walking around with my partner, which is such a simple, normal thing. It hadn’t happened in a really long time and probably wasn’t going to happen for a really long time because both of us are super busy. Us just getting to go for a walk together wasn’t that normal for our relationship, so it was very exciting to me. The whole song ponders other great things that would seem really normal. One of the lyrics is “Dinner date and a movie?/ Sounds amazing to me.” But it’s something that we never get to do, which is explored throughout the song.

You have been on tour so much. How has that been? Any rough patches?

When we used to tour we would play in these places that didn’t care that we were playing, and we’d often sleep there. These places were often really dirty and nasty, and the people are really intense and disruptive. Sometimes we would get into this kind of situation and feel like it was our only option. We couldn’t imagine leaving and staying somewhere that made us feel comfortable. But then touring with Frankie Cosmos showed me what standards are, and what you can reasonably expect or reasonably demand from yourself as far as comfort is concerned. These past few tours have been amazing and really comfortable, because I finally realized you don’t have to sleep at the venue. We’ve been playing at fancier venues too, where you aren’t allowed to sleep.

At this point are you supporting yourself through your music?

At this point I do not have a day job. Or I guess this is my day job. My mom always told me not to slack off in math class, because you’re going to need those skills no matter what you do, and I was like, ‘Mom, shut up I just want to be an artist,’ and she would say, ‘You’re gonna get screwed in the future.’ And it turns out, she was right. You do need math.

What music will you bring with you on this next tour?

That is a hugely important question that I need to figure out. My car is the car that we are taking on tour and it only has a CD player, and we’ve been toying with the idea of getting some kind of AUX cable installed. I watched a video about how to install it yourself, but I’m not going to do that because I feel like I’m just going to break it. The CDs that we have right now in our car are Alex G’s Beach Music, which I listen to like 90% of my life, and we have a Hall & Oates Best of the 80s CD. We’ve got a really scratched up Elliot Smith CD—self-titled of course—and that’s pretty much it. We also have Nirvana’s In Utero, but we like Nirvana more in theory than in practice.

What does that mean?

We’re like, ‘Nirvana is awesome and they rock!’ and then we turn it on we’re like, ‘Alright, I wanna listen to Alex G now, because this is too ‘blaaaaaah.’’ It’s really awesome to walk around to, but maybe not as much to drive to, because you’re trying to not hit other people and you get angry. Maybe it would be fine in other cars, but my car has a pretty trebly stereo system, so it’s kind of dangerous to listen to.

When you’re thinking about putting about a record. How do you imagine people listening to it?

Alright, here’s my ultimate scenario. I definitely think it would be the most dope to listen to it on vinyl, because that’s the nicest way. But I think, if it were me, as a new listener, I would like to be in the late summer. Your hoodie is up and you’re listening to it on some kind of mobile device, walking through the woods. Or, like, a very chill environment where you could be by yourself so you might break out into dance, because you know that nobody’s watching you. That’s my ideal listening format.

So this record is specifically for late summer in shorts and a hoodie? Is there a parka record coming out for winter?

I’ve already been through my parka record phase. O.K. was like, you listen to it right before the summer when you’re just excited about not wearing as much clothing. But Year of the Rabbit is definitely like you’re ready for your hoodie. But you’re still in shorts, because you’re a really optimistic person.