The Daily Swarm Q+A: Autre Ne Veut Discusses Raving in the ICU, Ambition, and Lifting From Medieval Hair Pins...
Meeting with Arthur Ashin – AKA one of the more uncategorizable indie concerns in recent memory known as Autre Ne Veut – was one of the many highlights of our coverage of Pitchfork Music Festival. Indeed, Anxiety, Autre Ne Veut’s lush, wonderfully strange, ultra-compelling album from earlier this year, continues to beguile with its forward blend of plastic soul and electronic passion. In our candid chat, Ashin discussed his feelings with us about making it to Pitchfork, rising to the spotlight, his unique vision, and the significance of his unique name.
The Daily Swarm: Anxiety proved one of 2013’s pivotal releases. What was your approach to making that record?
Arthur Ashin: All of my previous records were total bedroom recordings – stuff made at home with ProTools, Reason, and an SM58 microphone. Then, my good friend Dan Lopatin, who does Oneohtrix Point Never, basically offered to put me in the studio for a month and a half. I really wanted to take advantage of that technology to make a record that sounded bigger, cleaner, and that didn’t rely on the odd techniques I was employing on my first recordings. So, instead of using an additive approach to composition, we would throw everything into the kitchen sink, and then just pull bits of it away. As opposed to building something from scratch, it was like taking a slab of marble and chipping away until the form was there.
The Daily Swarm: From where did you derive your unique style?
Arthur Ashin: I’ve always been really into histrionic music forms, from Wolf Eyes, Aggressive Noise, and Joni Mitchell, to even Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks – you know, soulful music from people who really sing when they sing. I think I was really doing my best to take a lot of the different types of music that I’ve liked over the years to form a new hybrid.
The Daily Swarm: Your track “Counting” was one of my 2013 anthems; especially the version with Mykki Blanco. What was it like, collaborating with him?
Arthur Ashin: It was great. The track was done, and I’d been a fan of Mykki’s for a while – through friends and family, actually – and I felt like he would understand a larger array of emotional sentiments. He did such an incredible job of tapping into the ethos of what I was going for in that track without sounding like I was a corny brand of sentimental or anything. He did the music video with me too, which was really fun.
The Daily Swarm: Can you tell me a bit about that video?
Arthur Ashin: In my head, it was a $20,000 music video that was necessarily toned down to a $2,000 music video. The idea was to create a sort of “rave scene” in a hospital ICU; I’d spent a decent amount of time there over the past few years and had some impactful experiences, so I was trying to create the fantasy tension around that space. This was more of a symbolic iteration of a kind of Terrence Malick,, wide-shot Scandinavian hospital video that I had in my head, and Mykki performed fantastically.
The Daily Swarm: Why did you come up with Autre Ne Veut as your name?
Arthur Ashin: I think the translation is loose. There is a hatpin at the Cloisters and those words were engraved on the back of it. Before I saturated the Google search for the name, there were ring companies that would engrave it on the inside of the bands. They say that it translates to “I want no other” or “I think of no other.” I don’t think it’s a “real” phrase, even though those are real French words. But it was a medieval hat ornament, which may explain the translation.
The Daily Swarm: Have you had any challenges thus far, amidst the success?
Arthur Ashin: My ambition may be one of my challenges, with that fantasy of always wanting more in the future while I don’t even have the clearest picture of what “more” looks like.
The Daily Swarm: How do you feel about playing Pitchfork?
Arthur Ashin: Well, when I found out, I was jumping up and down like a fucking schoolgirl! (Laughs) It’s been really special to just get here and have that stamp of approval. I mean, it’s made a career for me and it’s been really incredible.
The band Woods truly lives the independent part of “indie,” running its own label, Woodsist, to release its own records. In its eight year existence, Woods has released six albums of odd, often eerie, sometimes collagist, always compelling folkie-inflected psychedelia, raw and homemade in its own image – the latest being 2012’s acclaimed Bend Beyond. As well, during that time, Woodsist has become a true force for uncompromised music, gone on to release key records from the awesome likes of Kurt Vile, Sic Alps, The Fresh & Onlys, Wavves, Vivian Girls, Real Estate and more. We took a break from the scorching heat of Pitchfork Fest 2013 to cool off with Woods’ guru of various instruments and sounds, Jarvis Taveniere, discussing everything from hidden meanings to new music, to the ups and downs of D.I.Y., and beyond…
The Daily Swarm: Jarvis, several weeks ago, we got to hear the new Woods EP, Be All Be Easy. Wasn’t there a hidden meaning behind the record?
Jarvis Taveniere: When Jeremy and I first moved into Brooklyn, we moved into a house together and just did everything from recording to practicing there. We stayed there for about ten years. But before we moved out, we recorded two songs – for fun, really. “Be All Be Easy” is one of them; it’s a cool song, but the way we play it live is much different from how it sounds on the record. We’ve already starting recording our new album; we’ve actually been playing some of the songs live. Jeremy and I typically record our records ourselves, with the input of whatever friends are around; this time, we went in originally with a full band, and that’s going to come through on the album. It was cool to do this in an actual recording studio, where I could just go and be a musician.
The Daily Swarm: I know [Woods frontman] Jeremy Earl runs the Woodist label that the band releases on. What’s it like to put records out on a label that close to home?
Jarvis Taveniere: You know, it’s hard to run the label in the van, even though you try to – sometimes you can’t be everywhere at once. But it’s pretty amazing, as we record all of the records ourselves in that Brooklyn house that I was telling you about, or at Jeremy’s new place. But between recording and releasing everything ourselves, and then still being able to play at places like Pitchfork, we’re proud.
The Daily Swarm: Have you noticed a rise in musicians doing everything themselves?
Jarvis Taveniere: Not really a rise, exactly – when I was in high school, there were so many cassette labels and small-run vinyl projects; I feel like we just did an extension of that. Success doesn’t kill people’s motivation: as long as people want to make music that maybe isn’t for mass consumption, there will always be D.I.Y.
The Daily Swarm: Were you anticipating seeing any other artists at the Pitchfork Fest?
Jarvis Taveniere: Yeah, Belle & Sebastian – they’re such a great band and I’ve never seen them live. I think what’s fun about playing festivals is that there are artists that maybe you liked ten years ago, or maybe you only know a few songs of, or maybe you fucking worship. You just find yourself going, “I never thought I’d be at a Björk show, even though I love Björk.” That’s kind of what’s unexpected and fun.
The Daily Swarm: Do you have any advice for artists following in Woods’ footsteps?
Jarvis Taveniere: I don’t really have general advice. People’s motivations are different; the end goal is different for everybody. Sometimes people just miss the point of why they’re making music – at the same time, I really like when people don’t care and they’re making music because they just need to. And sometimes the lines blur, which can be frustrating. Just do what you want to do, don’t waste a bunch of money, and don’t be afraid.
Pitchfork Fest Q+A: Frankie Rose on Making New Music, Going Solo, and Getting Caught in the Brooklyn Spiral...
Frankie Rose opened the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival, which is where we caught up with the acclaimed Brooklyn-based songwriter/performer and former garagiste extraordinaire in cool-ass bands like Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, and Vivian Girls. In our freewheeling chat, Rose opened up about a much anticipated new record, her career shifts from sideperson to solo, and occasionally getting sucked into the miasma that is Brooklyn…
The Daily Swarm: We’ve been hearing rumors of an upcoming Frankie Rose announcement. Indulge us.
Frankie Rose: I have a new record coming out in the fall, so it has to do with that. But I can’t say any more. [Playing] Pitchfork, for me, is really the turning point of when I really start to think of the record in its entirety, though.
The Daily Swarm: What was your main inspiration making this new record?
Frankie Rose: It was really inspired by the old one, actually; this one is a little darker, though. I also wasn’t sure if I was going to make another record after [Rose’s second solo effort from 2012] Interstellar. Things were slowing down, but then, all of a sudden, I wrote a bunch of songs, signed on to Fat Possum, and now it’s done!
The Daily Swarm: Are you glad to be doing the solo Frankie Rose thing now?
Frankie Rose: It’s really bittersweet. I mean, I really couldn’t do it without the band mates that play with me. In the solo act, everything falls on you. But as they say, “high-risk, high reward.”
The Daily Swarm: What is it like to be based out of Brooklyn?
Frankie Rose: Most of the time, it’s awesome. Sometimes though, you can get caught in a Mercury Retrograde spiral, and it can be a nightmare. For instance, my beautiful bike got stolen last week, the one I’ve had for ten years. But most of the time, it’s incredible and the best place to live.
The Daily Swarm: Many had praise for your “Gospel/Grace” video. Can you tell us a bit about that process?
Frankie Rose: One of my best friends, Hannah Lew, was in a band with me earlier, and she really made me comfortable with her vision in putting together the video. She really knew how to make me feel comfortable in front of the camera.
The Daily Swarm: What was it like to play Pitchfork, and actually opening the festival?
Frankie Rose: Honestly, to be playing first, I can’t imagine a better scenario. You know that they came early to see you! It felt amazing, looking down at the sea of sunglasses. (Laughs) It sounds corny, but I really felt the love. I really could not have asked for a better show. And I was really excited to see Björk and Joanna Newsom. I kind of grew up on Joanna and that Milk-Eyed Mender record.
The Daily Swarm: Do you have any advice for the artists who are just starting out?
Frankie Rose: I mean, just do it! If you have to put out your own seven-inch, do it! Get it out there, and don’t make excuses. I mean, I never thought I was going to be a musician.
The Daily Swarm caught Gemma Thompson, lead guitarist of the British neo-post-punk group Savages, immediately following the band’s set at last week’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Combining the hardcore sound of current and classic eras with a fresh, individual brutality, Savages’ debut album Silence Yourself – along with an incendiary live show – has made this all-female quartet one of the year’s most provocative new presences. Here, Thompson details what goes into Savages’ unique brand of iconoclasm…
The Daily Swarm: Savages really made an impact on the scene with the new album, Silence Yourself. What inspired it?
Gemma Thompson: When we formed together, it was via a lot of different projects. With the name Savages, and the idea behind the lyrics, we were going to play our music for performance, and really think about the intent behind each instrument. What sounds could we get to represent each song? Our main influence was that New York sound of the late ’70s; of course, there are films and writers that influence what we do, too.
The Daily Swarm: What was it like making your U.S. debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon?
Gemma Thompson: I felt like I was in a surreal dream. It was just like a scene from a film – until I realized that I was right in it. (Laughs)
The Daily Swarm: How do you think your music has been received in the U.S.?
Gemma Thompson: It’s different from Europe and the U.K., completely. I found the reception’s been unbelievable. The last time we came here, we played Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland and those shows made me think that I couldn’t believe we’d been together this long, and that we had crowds like that. Really great crowds.
The Daily Swarm: What is like being part of the Matador Records family?
Gemma Thompson: They are all great people to work with. We keep what we do very close, and we always try to work on the aesthetics and artwork ourselves. We wanted to find people to work with who would respect that.
The Daily Swarm: How do the backgrounds of Savages’ members compare?
Gemma Thompson: Each of us has quite a varied background. We inform each other with what we listen to; it all comes into effect in the final project, though. I started playing guitar to try making a soundtrack to something I was working on at the time. My influence comes from seeing what sound I can get out of it, rather than wanting to play a certain way.
The Daily Swarm: Do Savages have anything in the works for the coming year?
Gemma Thompson: We do have a couple of videos that we’re working on. We’re always writing, so we always have new songs in development. We play them every chance we get.
The Daily Swarm met with the rising Montreal duo known as Majical Cloudz before their Friday evening set at this past weekend’s Pitchfork Music Festival (you can also check out a great recent performance on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic). In a frank chat, the band’s two members – frontman Devon Walsh and musical collaborator Matthew Otto – opened up about their breakout new record on Matador, Impersonator, and the honor of playing not once but twice at P4K 2013, as well as offering insights to musicians only just entering the indiescape…
The Daily Swarm: To start, what can you both tell me about Majical Cloudz’ new record?
Matthew Otto: It’s our first full-length album as a duo. I can say that I am relatively proud of it, and don’t really want to critique anything.
Devon Welsh: We released it on May 21, 2013 on Matador Records, it’s ten songs long, and a product of about a year’s worth of writing and playing shows in Montreal.
The Daily Swarm: What is it like to come down here to play at Pitchfork?
Devon Welsh: It’s definitely an honor. I’ve always considered it the kind of place where the best bands play, and being here really validates what we do. The pre-party last night was also really fun for us to play.
The Daily Swarm: Did either of you have a specific influence that contributed to your work on the record?
Devon Welsh: There’s probably a lot that crop up. In terms of writing, the conscious approach was less about combining influences, or genres, and more about the effect of how the music sounded. I really wanted the tracks to relate to people, and to function in a live context.
Matthew Otto: Yeah, I would have to say the same thing. I just took the songs for what they were and envisioned what they needed to sound like. Anything that went into them would’ve been from an aesthetic consciousness, but otherwise, there was nothing direct.
The Daily Swarm: Do either of you have any advice for the incoming generation of musicians?
Devon Welsh: Yeah I do. Without seeming like I’m on some high horse – which I’m absolutely not – I think the thing I’ve always appreciated is having a clear and coherent picture of the music in its total context. You should think, “What am I delivering to the audience? How do I want them to respond to your music?” I think the things that turn me off most seem to be a bit vague about what the music is trying to express. The audience’s needs need to be taken into account. Are they supposed to dance to the music? Are they to sit silently? That needs to be something clear. That’s really my perspective.
Matthew Otto: Yeah and once you have that figured out, just go through the motions of doing. And there’s the idea that it is very rare and difficult to make a living off of music and it actually is. But, it’s not unattainable. It’s really about investing your time and not being afraid to go for it. The only way to do it is to go full on.
The Daily Swarm: Do either of you have any thoughts on the current state of music?”
Matthew Otto: There is the advancement of electronic music and the accessibility of software for people to make it on their own. Pretty much anyone can make music in their bedroom, even if they never had training. You can really just follow your instincts, and easily turn your musical ideas into a finished product.
Devon Welsh: Yeah and at the same time, music made on computers can be incredibly boring in a live context, so I’d say look for the theatrical to make an entrance. Purity Ring, for example, make electronic music, and their light show goes on like what a rock n’ roll band would have. It could even return to vaudeville, or something like that. Again, without sounding like I’m making a pronouncement, I feel like music is always changing. There’s been this successful paradigm in music for the past forty years, especially in rock 'n’ roll, and the things that come out of it. There will really always be an audience for it, but it may turn back on itself into a retro style of music. I feel like the future of music may be avoiding that musical setup, and doing things a little bit different. I look to older bands that were anomalies in their time, like the band Suicide, which parallel the way we’re setup. Bands like Dirty Beaches are good examples of those who transcend the standard approach of rock. I just think you’re going to see more alternative setups beyond the rock method.