Tag Archives: Interview

Mount Eerie on Intimate Grief and the Creative Impulse

Mount Eerie

Mount Eerie/ Phil Elverum. All photos by Jordan Stead.

Not long ago, Phil Elverum’s primary focus was on crafting the deeply atmospheric, expansive music that marked the records he released under the moniker Mount Eerie. He and his wife Geneviève, a visual artist and musician, lived blissfully intertwined creative and domestic existences, recently welcoming a daughter. Then, Geneviève was diagnosed with cancer. Her treatment and subsequent death in July 2016 changed Elverum profoundly, which naturally changed the music he makes.

Elverum himself was surprised that he was able to write and record the new Mount Eerie album, A Crow Looked At Me. Gone are the atmosphere and noise. Instead, narrative lyrics about the painful details of Elverum’s loss are front and center. Elverum recorded the album using Geneviève’s instruments in her music room, down to using her guitar picks and writing the lyrics on paper he found there. The production is kept sparse, laying all the details of grief painfully bare.

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Parlor Walls on Distress, Uncertainty, and Freedom

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Brooklyn trio Parlor Walls burble with an agitated energy. Their songs lurch from movement to movement, but not without grace; a rumbling, thrumming, rhythmic section cedes to a no-wave freakout, which barrels forward full-force only to shatter into glassy post-punk shards. Guitarist Alyse Lamb’s clear, sweet vocals circle the discord with enough pop melody to lure the listener in; beneath, there are layers of uncertainty in her guitar lines, in Chris Mulligan’s spitfire drumming, in Kate Mohanty’s saxophone, which soars as much as it needles.

Given all of the urgency in their music, it is perhaps no surprise that they’ve been remarkably productive as a group; in roughly two years they’ve put out two EPs and now their first LP, Opposites, which demands more of its listener than one might expect at first blush. Lamb’s lyrics are not didactic chants but open-ended questions; one can listen to tracks like “Birthday” and “Cover Me” and find new things to marvel at on each listen.

We spoke with Parlor Walls about constant distress (in their music, in the world at large), the power of improvisation and collaboration, and one of the worst questions to ever ask anyone who makes music.

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Art-Pop Genius Oblivia on Martyrdom, Sainthood, and Stripping to Cat Power

Oblivia

Incubated in New Orleans’ DIY queer punk scene, where trash and glamor are two sides of the same coin, noise artist Oblivia manages to be beautifully sincere without being self-serious. Armed with a voice modulator and a drum machine, Local Honey, the trans femme performance artist behind Oblivia, says that her music aims to invoke sonic womanhood—weaponizing femininity to heal the wounds of patriarchy.

Her self-released second album, Martyr Complex, is a queer take on sainthood. The title track starts with a straightforward, upbeat acoustic guitar, but things get weird quick. A piercing, high-pitched noise sweeps in alongside an ethereal vocal so heavily drenched in reverb that the lyrics are mostly indecipherable. Listen closely, and you hear a bored voice moaning “I’ll die for you any day.” The sentiment is buried so deep under an avalanche of noise that it seems hard to trust—the singer sounds like she’s already in her grave. Elsewhere, a vindictive socialite shrieks that she’s “young as fuck” over and over, before glumly pondering what people must think of her, now that she’s a ghost.

Those two songs are a good summary of Oblivia’s aims: to challenge her audience to stretch themselves beyond the earthly realm, and to not feel limited by their material bodies. The liner notes to her first album, I Fell Asleep Like This, expand the title into an emboldened credo “I FELL ASLEEP LIKE THIS AND I’M JUST GETTING STARTED.” It’s a protest slogan for the queer misfits Oblivia represents—a crew of outcasts and weirdos exploring their own gender excess through messy sex and messy lives. Working with dissonant sounds and harsh noise, the artist makes music for people and experiences that defy categorization. Or, in her own words, “It’s a symphony of messy faggotry playing the soundtrack to your crumbling empire.”

Below, we talk with the noise diva herself about her teaching herself to play and perform music, reclaiming cliche, and stripping to Cat Power.

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Spiral Stairs’ Long Ascent

Spiral Stairs

Scott Kannberg didn’t plan to go eight years between albums. But after releasing his first solo record as Spiral Stairs—the nickname he originally used as a founding member of indie-rock legends Pavement—in 2009, life intervened. Pavement reunited and toured, Kannberg got married and moved to Australia, then had a daughter and relocated to L.A. Once he finally found time for a new album, he wanted to move fast. “The early Pavement records were made in like three days,” he says. “I itched to do that again, and I had songs that could be done that way.” Unfortunately, there were more roadblocks ahead: Kannberg’s good friend and bandmate—drummer Darius Minwalla—passed away unexpectedly.

The shock caused Kannberg to slow down once more. Over the next few months he rewrote a few songs, penned some new ones, and gradually assembled an album. In the process, what was meant to be a back-to-basics rock record became something more complex. Though the tunes on Doris and the Daggers are immediate and direct, they also feature extra touches like string sections and horn accompaniments—the sort of embellishment that needs time to grow. The album also includes several guests, including Kelly Stoltz, The National’s Matt Berninger, and Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew.

Still, this is clearly a Kannberg album, filled with simple melodies and his most personal lyrics ever. Many songs include autobiographical details about travel and family, including a super-sweet gem about his daughter, and a poignant tribute to Minwalla. Kannberg recently spoke to us over the phone from his family’s new home in Mexico.

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Qui: The Simpatico Punk Duo

Qui

Qui—the weirdo punk duo from L.A., comprised of Matt Cronk (guitar, vocals) and Paul Christensen (drums, vocals)—are still on tour. They’ve got two months in Europe, including more than a dozen shows in Italy and a number of dates in Slovenia, Austria and Slovakia before crossing back over to Germany and finally ending in France. Cronk and Christensen started the group back in 2000, expanded it to a three-piece with David Yow from The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid for a few years, retired it in 2008, and then resurrected it in 2012. Since then, they’ve released one LP, nine 7”s—including splits with Mike Watt and Dale Crover, amongst others—and most recently a 10” on Dutch label Geertruida. And there’s more coming soon.

This was the band’s first trip to Europe … since last spring. Clearly, they are used to this. Cronk talked to us about what Qui has been up to, the pros and cons of the duo, being an American band on tour in the age of Trump, and what we can expect from them in the future. Spoilers: more releases, and certainly more time spent on the road.

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