TT with HD: Brooklyn Revue Ching Chong Song (Julie LaMendola, Dan Gower) Creaky Boards (Andrew Hoepfner, Darwin Deez, Eric Wolfson)
HD: Some of you will have to dismount. You can all talk.
EW: I think we should leave Andrew and Julie on there, if we can do that.
HD: That'll work. Let me uh ...
JL: ... splinters, no!
HD: If I just add these [barbell weights], I'll be fine. Shall we? Wow. Actually you guys can go back a little bit!
JL: Whoo! [laugh] Whoah!
HD: Yeah, I've got plenty of leverage.
EW: What'd the mayor think of this?
HD: I'm not sure of what he thought of this per se. He thought enough of it that he came and rode.
EW: Yeah, that's what I heard, I think that's real cool. It's like Nixon going on Laugh-In!
HD: Let's see if we can get the board to creak, because one thing I wanted to do was get some creaking noises. [barely audible creak]
EW: There we go.
DD: Oh yeah!
HD: The last guy who rode, it was right after it had rained for a week, so there was so much creaking going on that I could barely hear the recording for the transcription. And for some reason, today, when I want it to creak, just for the effect, it's not creaking hardly at all. Oh, well.
DD: Try slower.
JL: Push it.
EW: Do you play the interview verbatim on the ... ?
HD: ... I start with a verbatim transcript and I clean it up just for --there we go.
JL: So we gotta go a little sideways. [CREAK]
EW: Oh, there you go. There's a creaky board if I've ever heard one. [CREAK]
HD: Yeah! That's good enough for my purposes. Anyway, I clean this up for readability, but not for content.
HD: So did you guys have an easy drive over from Ypsi across all the football traffic?
AH: It was totally easy.
JL: There was none!
HD: There was none??!
AH: There was none.
JL: Well, I don't know, because I was in the back, where you can't see anything ...
HD: ... I was out earlier this morning because I needed desperately--well not desperately--but I had a sense of urgency about the mission, to get a big long piece of metal, and there's like a wholesale outlet down on South Industrial, which is near the Stadium, and I sort of had to fight my way through the traffic. And it was as to be expected. So you didn't have any problems?
AH: No, it was smooth. You know, there was a taste of it on Main Street, and we just swerved right off.
HD: So Julie, you're enjoying yourself!
HD: Quite a lot.
JL: [laugh] So far.
HD: And as I understand it, your band is not Creaky Boards, it's ...
JL: Ching Chong Song. Me and Dan.
HD: Oh! That's you guys. So I had parsed [Dan] as in Creaky Boards.
JL: No, he's in Ching Chong Song. We're Ching Chong Song.
HD: So in that band, you play the saw?
JL: Mmm hmm.
HD: And there's this song Ghost Clock that's on your MySpace page that I listened through. The saw, is it that sort of theramin-sounding sound, towards the end of that--that's the saw?
JL: Mmm hmm, I guess it's not as theramin-sounding if you play it with a theramin. It's actually really different.
HD: Oh, you mean if you listen to it side-by-side with a theramin, it doesn't sound at all like a theramin.
JL: No. But yeah, I think that's the closest thing to compare it to.
HD: So you play it by wedging it between your knees and you bow it, is that the deal?
JL: Mmm hmm, yeah.
JL: I can get it if you want me to.
HD: Oh, you have it right there in the van?
HD: Well sure, if you want to go grab it. I'll just need to ditch the ballast--oh, you're [Eric] going to climb aboard to help balance out?
EW: I'm curious to try this. I haven't see-sawed since the Reagan administration.
HD: [laugh] So you were alive during the Reagan administration?
EW: Yeah, well, technically I was born at the tail end of the Carter administration.
HD: And just to refresh my memory, your name is Eric, right?
EW: Yes, I play bass in Creaky Boards.
HD: Okay, got it.
JL: [faintly from the vicinity of the van] Need keys!
EW: I might have the keys, actually.
HD: She mentioned you can't see out, there's no windows in that van. Is that an issue driving? I mean just the claustrophobic effect of that?
DG: I get a little claustrophobic.
HD: Yeah? Do they let you drive from time to time, is there a rotation you've got going?
DG: Yeah, kind of. We all take turns.
AH: I rented the van from a website and it said '11-passenger cargo van'. When I showed up, they said, How many people are you going to be driving with? And I said, Six! And they said, Oh, come check out the van! And they opened up the back, and it was just a passenger and a driver's seat and an empty back. So we put an air mattress in the back, and four of us lie down for the whole trip.
EW: It's actually a lot more comfortable.
AH: Like a moving slumber party.
HD: But that's not where you're actually sleeping, crashing overnight?
AH: That's where we crash during the day. But my parents live in Michigan, and Mike, the drummer's parents live in Michigan, so we've crashed there so far. And we crashed at a stranger's house in Toledo.
HD: Just a complete stranger??
AH: A show-goer.
HD: Okay. And did you sort of let it be known that you needed a place to stay, or was this a person who figured you probably needed a place to stay and figured they could score major cool points by having 'the band' crash at their place?
JL: I think she wanted to get some!
EW: She had some mixed messages she was sending out from center control.
AH: She was really flirting with me and Darwin and a little bit with Eric.
JL: Miriam! Her name's Miriam!
EW: [speaking directly into the microphone] That's Miriam.
AH: I was playing footsie with her and ...
EW: ... show him your nails!
AH: And she painted my nails pink. I had my hand on her thigh. [Ed. note: JL begins playing the saw.] And then it turned out that the boy roommate, who was sitting in the same conversation across there on the couch, was her boyfriend. And we found that out towards the end.
EW: Towards the end, like he went to bed and then she's still hanging around with us and she keeps almost leaving and then being like, Do you guys need anything else? And everyone was like, No, that's okay! But I'm like, Well, tell us a story!
DD: What we should have said was, Yeah, I need to be made out with a little bit!
EW: She probably would have been quite receptive, I imagine.
DD: That's more of a 'want' than a 'need' though. So it's hard to answer that question.
HD: You know, this illustrates the difference between 'being in a band'--which you write a lot about, I mean there's this long essay about what it means to be in a band on your website, right?
AH: Mmm hmm.
HD: And then there's 'being in the band'. When you're on tour and you're performing, you're the band, there's a special status to that, that's completely different and perhaps even better than this ongoing process you describe as 'being in a band'--this community of music-making and sharing of music and whatnot.
AH: It's true. When you're at the venue and you're performing, you're the band of the night.
HD: Right. So how crucial is that aspect of being in a band? From time to time you have to be in the band, right?
AH: Uh huh, I think it's totally crucial.
HD: [Ed note; DG abruptly scrambles to his feat.] What? Are you ...
JL: ... there was a spider, he doesn't like insects.
HD: Huh. That's just a regular cross-cut saw?
JL: Mmm hmm.
HD: That you could get in any hardware store?
JL: This one's actually a Mussehl and Westphal. I had to buy it, because you can't find long hand saws anymore. People don't use them anymore.
HD: I've got a handsaw like that, somewhere in the garage!
JL: Yeah. Is it really stiff, or?
HD: Well, I don't know.
JL: So it's in the garage?
HD: Well, you know, I don't know for sure where it is exactly.
EW: Did you have to drill that hole through it, Julie?
JL: No, it came like that to hang on a nail.
EW: Ohhh, clever.
HD: Is that in fact a cross-cut saw, or is it maybe a rip saw?
JL: I don't know. The teeth aren't--it's not had its final ...
HD: ... sharpening.
JL: So I don't really know.
HD: And that's a Phillips-head screwdriver you've got, but that wouldn't really matter.
DD: You could use a flathead.
JL: But flatheads are usually too thick.
EW: Oh, because you can't fit it through the hole?
JL: And then a very cheap violin bow. Almost every time I travel, like on a plane, they keep it at the airport and inspect it, even though it's a handsaw and it's in that beautiful case!
HD: Yeah, I would absolutely confiscate that if I were in charge of security.
JL: Even checked through??
JL: Really?? You'd be like, It's too suspicious, why does a person need a saw in another place??!
HD: I think it'd be a case of if something did happen, then I'd be the guy who let something as obvious as a saw ...
JL: ... it's not like it can blow up!
HD: That's true, but you could wield it as a ...
JL: In the airport??
EW: In the plane. That's the whole box-cutters thing.
JL: But I check it in, I check it through, it goes in with the other luggage. And they still keep it and inspect it. One of the guys at security told me to put a note in there that said, This is a musical instrument.
HD: I don't think that would make any difference.
JL: He said that would make a difference.
HD: Is the bow in the case?
JL: No, I take the bow on, because the bow is so fragile.
HD: Did you have that case custom made?
JL: Yeah, the Trachtenburgs made it for me.
HD: Well that's pretty cool.
JL: It's perfect.
EW: Julie, do you want to play the saw on the teeter totter?
JL: No. They put this [stiffener] in so that it wouldn't cut the ...
HD: ... to stiffen it up, yeah. Wow. Now, who are the Trachtenburgs?
JL: The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. They're a band. They're a family that travels around and does a slideshow. It's a like a 12-year-old daughter--she plays the drums--and the mom does the slides, and the dad plays guitar.
HD: Wow, this is braided leather.
JL: Yeah. Or pleather.
HD: Very cool.
JL: It's very nice.
HD: So back to this woman who gave you lodging last night--was it last night?
AH: No, two nights ago.
HD: Okay. I didn't really know what to make of this, whether it was just marketing, or if it's in fact true, but allegedly Ching Chong Song performances leave the audience feeling 'horny'?
JL: Yeah, it's true!
HD: So was that a contributing factor with Miriam ...
JL: ... probably.
AH: I think definitely.
JL: It breaks down some sexual walls. I think it was probably a factor.
AH: I think the girl, the way she invited us to her house was sarcastically saying that we should go back to her place and have a five-some, right?
EW: I missed that part.
AH: Thank you, Ching Chong Song!
JL: You're welcome, Creaky Boards! [laugh] We give you Miriam! Do with her what you will! [laugh]
HD: So what's the [Elbow Room] bill tonight? Is it Great Lakes [Myth Society] starting off, then Creaky Boards, then Bathgate, then Ching Chong Song--you're finishing up the evening?
JL: I think so.
AH: I don't know what the order is going to be. But I bet it'll be pretty friendly, casual. We'll just do whatever the crowd will most happy with.
HD: Have you ever been to the Elbow Room before, or will this be the first time?
AH: I went there a ton when I lived in Ann Arbor. I played two really fun shows there in the old incarnation of Creaky Boards, and I also went to a weekly Monday dance party there, called Stephanie Says.
HD: Stephanie Says--S-A-Y-S or S-E-Z?
AH: S-A-Y-S. It was my friend Stephanie, and the name of the night was based on a Velvet Underground song.
HD: I've never been to the Elbow Room. And my wife and I, we talked about how we were going to spend the rest of the day, and what we've got at 7 o'clock tonight--and I don't know if this'd fit into your schedule as well--but at the Saline Community Fair, they've got a demolition derby.
JL: That's awesome.
HD: And it's not just any demolition derby--it's the state finals.
AH: Wow. Is Saline north of here?
HD: Saline is south of here.
AH: I went to Dexter ...
HD: ... that's west of here.
AH: West of here. Okay. I've never been to Saline, though.
HD: It's worth a look. Have you ever been to a demolition derby at all?
AH: I did. I went to one, what was it--Armada. Armada, Michigan. Which is about an hour north of Detroit. I went the Armada State Fair Demolition Derby. It was pretty thrilling.
HD: Yeah, I think you've got to see at least one, just to see what it's about, even if you're completely horrified and you think, Wow, that's something I'm definitely not going to do ever again. [Ed. note: JL inspects a garden whirly-gig made from an old bicycle wheel, which stands next to a toilet-planter] Yeah, that's a piece of art.
JL: That's nice. Is it meant to catch rain?
HD: No, actually it's meant to catch wind.
JL: So then it spins?
HD: Yeah, it used to be more balanced. There used to be all kinds of other things affixed to it, but it's old and things have fallen off.
JL: It's old?
HD: Yeah, and so it doesn't really function any more.
EW: You've got the toilet thing going, too. Is that after Hemmingway?
HD: No, what's that reference?
EW: His summer house--the bar he used to like to go to all the time, he came home in a drunken stupor once, because they were taking apart the bathroom, and I guess he was like, Oh, my god, they're taking across the bathroom! And he grabbed one of the urinals and brought it home, much to his wife's disgrace ...
HD: ... and you're sure it was a urinal, not a toilet?
EW: Yeah. It wasn't a toilet, no sir, it was a urinal. And so the wife gardened it up as nice as she could, so it looked just like some sort of a tile fountain.
JL: And that's where Duchamp got his idea for the urinal.
HD: That might be the reason why--whoa! [Ed. note: The barbell weights HD is sitting on slide unexpected, nearly causing an involuntary dismount.]
AH: You alright?
EW: Are you okay?
HD: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I just lost my counterweights.
EW: No wonder they banned these [teeter totters].
HD: Hang on one second.
JL: The creak was really getting going.
EW: Julie, do you want to get back on?
AH: The creak became too powerful.
JL: It's not too bad. I don't care.
HD: Okay, what were we talking about?
EW: Oh, Hemingway's urinal.
HD: Yeah, exactly. Because somebody set that out by the curb, and you know, sumpthin for free, you grab it and we thought, We'll make a planter, and that'll be very avant-garde and very cool and we'll be the only ones who ever thought of this. And you know, people's reaction was, Oh, one of those, seen that before. And so you realize, Okay, it's not an original idea after all, it's a fairly common ...
JL: ... people do it with bathtubs, too.
EW: Oh, I didn't mean to shoot it down or anything, I thought it was an homage ...
HD: ... oh, no, you were absolutely not shooting it down.
JL: That's the same thing with everything, though, usually when you think you have an original idea.
HD: Do you ever have the fear that when you, say, compose a song and write lyrics, you think this is so kick-ass, that how could somebody not have thought of this before? And maybe I'm subconsciously taking somebody else's work?
JL: Yeah, we were just talking about that this morning. Referencing, and accidentally ...
EW: ... what crosses the line and what doesn't.
JL: What crosses the line. And I guess that's the whole problem with being a purist--artists who won't listen to ...
HD: ... they don't want to have any 'influences' listed on their MySpace page.
JL: I mean, it's impossible, because then you can make up something that's totally been made up. You need to know what's out there to inform you.
EW: All the best artists stole anyway. You look at Picasso, or Bob Dylan or whoever. They were just scrapping everyone else's ideas.
EW: Milton Burle.
DD: Even if it happens subconsciously or not.
HD: You said, Even if it happens subconsciously, Darwin?
DD: It's either going to happen consciously, or if not, then subconsciously.
HD: I think maybe better to do it subconsciously than consciously, because if it's consciously, then I think people attach the label 'plagiarism' to that.
JL: But then if you're consciously doing it, then you can manipulate it in a way that it's not so much like it.
HD: What was that you said, Darwin?
EW: Darwin, you should come over here!
AH: If you're going to participate!
HD: I'm just repeating what you're saying, so that I can transcribe it as easily as possible.
DD: I just think a lot of times I consciously steal stuff, but I just cover my tracks. Because I figure if I don't steal it consciously, then I'm going to steal it unconsciously.
HD: And how do you go about covering your tracks?
DD: You just change it a little so that it's not so recognizable where you stole it from ...
JL: ... you make it more yourself. Then it's not really a rip-off
DD: Then you end up filling in the rest of it with other things that are totally unrelated and are totally you.
JL: Then you're the only one who really knows where you got it from.
JL: Hopefully, yeah.
HD: So anyway, back to the demolition derby. That starts at 7:00.
JL: How much does it cost?
HD: It's ten bucks, but it gets you into the whole fair, so it's kind of pricey.
JL: Is there a roller coaster? [asking AH] When's load-in?
AH: I don't know. I assume it's like ...
AH: 7:30 or 8:00.
EW: What time does the show start tonight?
AH: I'm not sure.
HD: I think, reading the Elbow Room website suggests it'll be between 10:30 and 11:00.
JL: So maybe we don't load-in until 9:00.
AH: I guess I'll call them.
HD: That'd be a good idea.
JL: Andrew's cell phone got eaten by a dog this morning.
AH: Mike's parents' house, there's a hyper dog, and I thought the phone was fine, but it turns out the speaker's broken.
EW: We can hear him, but he can't hear us. It's like the government.
HD: So when you say, Eaten by a dog??
AH: He chewed it up. He was using it as a chew-toy.
HD: And what was he using as a chew-toy?
JL: The phone.
AH: The phone.
HD: The phone, oh, okay, I missed that part.
AH: [inspecting phone screen] Uh oh, now I've missed two calls from Mom and Dad.
HD: See, if you didn't have that, you wouldn't know you missed them! What I was going to say, is our master plan is to go to the demolition derby and then see how we're feeling, and see if we have enough stamina tonight to make it to the show at the Elbow Room. Because we've never been to the Elbow Room. And you figure ...
JL: What kind of club is it?
AH: It's fun! It's a nice place.
HD: I don't know, because I've never been there. You recognize the name, Elbow Room, Oh yeah, that's in Ypsilanti, bar, club, whatever. But we've never been. I mean, I hadn't been to the Blind Pig, which is like three blocks that way ...
JL: ... just because nothing there interested you?
HD: It just never occurred to me to go. But then I had a couple of teeter totter guests who were performing there, and I thought, What better excuse to go to the Blind Pig than to just go see their show later tonight! And what I discovered there is that I was older than everyone there by a factor of two. I mean, I was twice as old as the ...
JL: ... did that make you feel weird?
HD: Yeah, a little bit. It made me wonder, What do they think I'm here for? Are they thinking, Wow, creepy old dude! Or are they thinking, It's nice that the older generation appreciates the younger independent music scene!
JL: But I wonder what they thought you were thinking about them? I bet they were thinking, Woah, I bet this guy likes this band.
EW: I bet they didn't even notice it half as much as you thought they were noticing it. I mean, if I saw someone your age at a show and you were the only one, yeah, I'd notice it, but I wouldn't think, Oh, he must be creepy.
HD: You wouldn't be like studying and overanalyzing ...
JL: ... I'd be watching the band.
EW: I'd probably just think, That's some guy's dad.
HD: See when I go to a show, I expect that everybody's wondering why I specifically am there, because it's always all about me, all the time, right?
EW: At least you can admit it!
HD: Yeah, so. But before the demolition derby, right after we get done teeter tottering, my plan is to watch the game.
JL: What game?
HD: [laugh] That's perfect. The game, you know? The game we were talking about earlier with the traffic?
JL: Oh, football? I didn't even know football was still going.
AH: The University of Michigan Wolverines.
EW: I thought football was in the fall.
JL: It's the fall now.
HD: Yeah, look at all the leaves on the ground.
JL: Wait, when's basketball?
JL: Basketball's winter? Does football end before basketball begins, or do they overlap each other?
AH: They overlap.
EW: They overlap.
HD: They overlap.
JL: So you're going to the game?
HD: Oh, absolutely not. Unless you've got season tickets, that's pretty hard.
JL: Oh, you're watching the game.
HD: On TV.
JL: On TV. Cable? Public access?
HD: Well, that's an interesting question, because there's something called the Big Ten Network now. The Big Ten Conference now has their own network. And that network can do deals with people like Comcast and Direct TV. And they have a deal with Direct TV, but they haven't been able to do a deal with Comcast yet. So a lot of people who have cable, like us, can't get the games.
HD: So you've got to find a bar, which is not such an onerous thing to have to go to a bar.
JL: No, boo hoo.
AH: What bar are you going to go to?
HD: Well, last week we went to The Arena.
JL: Do you know that one, Andrew?
AH: I don't.
HD: That's new probably since you left. You remember the old Metzer's?
AH: Emm mmm.
HD: Metzger's the old German restaurant downtown, on the corner of Washington and some numbered street. Metzer's left and they're in a new location now out on Zeeb Road. Now where was I going with this? Oh, yeah, we watched the first half at the bar and then imposed on a neighbor who has Direct TV to watch the second half. And you know what happened last week, right?
AH: ... with the Wolverines?
EW: Is football where you throw the ball?
JL: It's called a pigskin! And hey, in last month's, no in this month's National Geographic, they were showing all these things about how they're fixing up the outfits so that they're more--ahh 'better'. [laugh] They have these helmets now that have a super-duper protective thing and air-conditioning in them ...
HD: ... like air vents?
JL: They have these tubes that go down from the shoulder-y thing that goes on, and then the guys when they come to the sideline, they hook into like an air-conditioner, and it cools down their core temperature.
HD: Is that maybe like just for professional teams, like the NFL? I don't think ...
JL: ... they were saying for high school they wanted to do it, because most of the football deaths are on high school teams.
HD: Hmm. So this is experimental? [Ed note: DD picks up the video camera, which serves as the backup sound system as if to mess about with it.] You know, that's going! That's my backup sound.
DD: This? Oh, sorry, I thought this was yours, Andrew!
EW: Way to screw up the whole interview! [laugh]
HD: You know, actually, that's a good occasion to introduce this thought. The last guy who was on, it was a nice long talk. And my primary sound recording system failed inexplicably around 55 minutes into it. I don't know what happened.
JL: It was that long??
HD: It was actually just a little bit longer than that, around an hour and some. And the backup sound, which is the video camera, it only has an hour's worth of tape, so the tape ran out. So there's about six minutes worth of talk that is lost forever. I mean, I sort of have a vague recollection of what was covered. And given that we talked for around an hour, it wasn't like, Oh my god, the entire event is lost! Most of it, I got. But still, I thought, Wow, it's too bad that that little bit that I wanted to document is now undocumented. And I was wondering, do you guys, during rehearsal or even when you're playing a live show, do you think, Wow, it would have been so great to have some recording equipment going, because that was just so perfect?
DD: I feel that way about the jokes we come up with in the van.
HD: Oh yeah?
HD: Can you think of one in particular, or is a kinda deal where you had to be there?
DD: They're just magic moments that happen where we make each other laugh. And somehow when we turn the camera on--if we're playing with Julie's doll or whatever, somehow ...
EW: ... it's not as funny.
DD: ... the magic gets lost.
HD: You have a doll?
JL: I have a bear.
AH: Yesterday, I was playing piano, and she was singing, or we were just singing around about a donkey, and then after we did it for about a minute, I grabbed the camera and Julie was like, No, we can't do it now. And I had to coax her back into it.
JL: But it wasn't the same, then!
AH: It wasn't as good.
JL: But you can't document your whole life.
AH: You've got to let some of it go.
JL: You can, but I mean that doesn't mean it didn't ever happen. The feeling is the most important thing.
HD: Yeah, I think it's definitely impossible to recreate something that was so magical. What I've learned to do when people come over to the house to ride the teeter totter--of course there's this natural inclination that you want to talk to the person immediately, right? There's certain social conventions that you have to honor, you can't remain mute.
JL: [laugh] Like, Want some water? [Ed. note: JL heard this question several minutes earlier.]
HD: Right! And I try to fill the time before tottering with stuff that's fundamentally uninteresting, because so many times I've found that a wonderful, interesting conversation or repartee has developed, where I think, Damn, we're not on the teeter totter, it doesn't count! And there's no way you can really go back and say, Now, before we were talking about this, let's talk about that again. So anything else you guys have on your minds? I mean, how's it going so far? You're roughly in the middle now, or is it still more towards the beginning of the tour?
JL: This is the third show.
EW: This is technically halfway of this leg.
AH: Halfway on this leg. The tour ended up being a bit smaller than we thought it was going to be. So it's a week and then a three-day weekend. The three-day weekend is a little bit later in September. So we're about forty percent through this leg.
HD: And so you'll be going back to Brooklyn between now and the three-day weekend?
JL: I dunno, being on tour kind of condenses a bunch of things, like we've become, I think, way better friends in two days. Of course, being in a van that doesn't have seats in the back, so there's just a bed in the back, I dunno. And also I think just being on tour just makes people pretty close pretty fast.
HD: You either become very close or else ...
EW: ... the band would be broken up by now.
JL: Totally. Dan had his birthday on tour!
HD: So did you have cake? Did you symbolically commemorate the event, or was it just sort, Cheers, it's my birthday?
DG: It was more that.
JL: We were going to go out to a nice dinner, but then Wolfie got sick and puked ...
EW: ... I didn't know we were going to go out! Are you serious? You should have just left me ...
AH: ... well, if we would have gotten out of the house earlier, we would have gotten to the thrift store earlier, and we would have gone to La Shish.
EW: Oh, I didn't frickin' realize that, ...
DG: Not your fault.
HD: ... see, they do love you.
JL: Not your fault. And, Dan, how was your birthday?
EW: When they brought out the sandwich platter, I thought the sandwich platter ...
JL: Yeah, the sandwich platter was birthday lunch good. From a mom!
EW: I was promoting your birthday harder than anybody else!
DG: I know!
EW: Every waitress, I was like, It's his birthday! And they'd be like, Mmm hmm. They didn't care. They'd be like, Ya hippies!
HD: So waitresses where? Like what kind of places? La Shish?
AH: We went to Ram's Horn.
JL: Yeah, we went to Ram's Horn. We wanted to go to La Shish. We went to I-HOP the day before.
EW: That was awesome.
HD: So you go grocery shopping at all for just stuff like Cheetos, and just pure junk food to have in the van?
AH: We did yesterday. We had hummus--stinky hummus.
JL: We had garlic hummus. Junk food's just not good for you, when you're on the road for a week. You just get sick so easy, just playing a show giving everything that you have every night in a different town. It takes more out of you than you'd think, I think would be probably something that a lot of bands would say. I like to have Emergen-C, you know that Vitamin C stuff? Michael David bought some Vitamin C stuff. But it's nice to take care of yourself when you're on the road.
EW: Yeah, that's why Mike's not here right now, is because he was feeling a little ill.
HD: Do you smoke less when you're on the road, then?
JL: No, I smoke way more and drink more.
JL: That's why I've got to equal it out!
EW: I wonder if there's a correlation we should try to figure out.
JL: Every night I have to smoke at least 20,000 cigarettes and drink a bottle of whisky!
HD: You know here in Michigan they're discussing the possibility of having a statewide ban on smoking in public places, which would include bars, clubs ...
JL: ... oh, you can still smoke in bars here. That was different. I don't like that. I like it when there's a ban on smoking inside bars.
AH: I do, too.
JL: It's nice.
AH: Would public places include the sidewalk?
HD: Mmm, who knows? I'm sure they'll debate that, they'll figure it out, and it'll all be squared away. Right now, I think it's still under discussion.
JL: The whole ban in bars and restaurants thing is not that bad.
HD: So that's the way it is in Brooklyn?
JL: In New York City, it's like that.
EW: Boston's like that, too, now.
JL: And Boston, and Brooklyn.
AH: Toledo is like that.
JL: Yeah, Ohio is like that. And Germany is like that now.
EW: Das ist gut.
HD: Speaking of Germany, you guys are playing a porn film festival in Germany, is that right? That's not a joke?
JL: No, no, that's true. We've toured in Germany a couple of times before and the last time we were on tour there, we met this woman who was like, You have to play at this porn film festival, you have to. It's like a feminist porn film festival ...
HD: ... that seems like a contradiction in terms?
JL: It's not actually. A lot of feminists love porn and make porn. And they're even putting us up in a hotel for three nights ...
HD: ... so you are going to be the band, for sure!
JL: Yeah. I mean, yeah! And I think we're going to be staying with a bunch of porn stars in the hotel!
AH: Wow! That'll be exciting.
EW: Just like you always dreamed.
JL: Just like I always dreamed!
HD: So are you going to have something special prepared ...
JL: ... like nudity?
HD: Well, I wasn't thinking of that in particular, I was thinking more musically, but are you planning to embellish the performance in a special way?
JL: I don't know, I don't think so. We weren't talking about that yet, but maybe that. Maybe playing at a porn film festival calls for something like that.
AH: You should play naked.
JL: Yeah, last time when I was playing Art Basel, I was really close to playing just with this skirt on, and no ...
HD: ... Art Basel, is that the name of a club?
JL: It's an art fair. Like this world art fair.
AH: In Switzerland.
JL: In Basel, Switzerland.
HD: So do you speak German at all?
HD: You studied it in college, or?
JL: Well, I lived in Germany for a year, I was a nanny. So I speak it ein bissle. I lived in Nuremberg, that's all wacky, but it comes back. But Germany has a pretty strong connection with the Antifolk scene in New York. I feel like they're really supportive of the Antifolk people. And there's a bunch of places that totally welcome Antifolk musicians. We're both Antifolk bands.
HD: How would you describe what that is as a genre exactly?
AH: It's pretty much a community of musicians that hang out at the Sidewalk Cafe.
HD: So it's defined geographically?
AH: More, mmm, yeah.
JL: More or less. There's like an idea, though ...
AH: ... an aesthetic ...
JL: ... of do-it-yourself-ishness. [laugh]
AH: And there's an aesthetic. And there's bands that are kind of looked up to. And influences. But pretty much anyone who hangs out at the Sidewalk and plays is loosely Antifolk.
HD: It's interesting that the musical tradition has a deep connection to a specific place, because just looking through Creaky Boards song titles, you've got a lot of them that have a concept of place very prominent in them. You've got The Beach. Brooklyn is an obvious one. Stranded on the way to Tennessee. Mmm, what are some others ...
AH: We've got one about Savannah.
DD: Let's Go Live on a Farm.
AH: We've got one about New Orleans.
HD: Right, Phone call from New Orleans.
AH: Phone Call from New Orleans. We've got one about Detroit.
HD: So place is somehow, I don't know, intrinsic to your artist muse, would you say?
AH: Yeah, I think it definitely was for the last three years, I don't know if it's going to keep going like that. But I got really restless being in Michigan for my first 21 years. So in the last three years of songwriting, which is where the majority of Creaky Board material came from, I was very inspired by movement and new places. But as far as everyone in Antifolk, I don't think there's any obligation to sing about places.
AH: It's pretty much just us.
JL: I doubt it's just you! [laugh]
AH: [laugh] It's not us, but it's not a majority.
JL: The Antifolk scene definitely has an aesthetic, it does.
DD: It can be really hard to pin down. I think one aspect of it is: Antifolkers tend to be very direct at times with their lyrics and very--I want to say unpoetic, although there's a poetry to it, but.
HD: Maybe 'blunt'?
DD: Yeah, I feel like Dan Fishback's songs are pretty blunt.
JL: Cheese on Bread. But it's not adult contemporary, too. That's what I noticed about going to other open mics is that a lot of open mics feel like you're listening to adult contemporary music.
AH: Norah Jones.
JL: And it's not like that at the Sidewalk. If you go to the open mic and you sit there all night, you're going to see at least a couple of people you're just totally inspired by. And it's not going to sound all the same. It doesn't sound all the same.
HD: And it doesn't necessarily have mass appeal either.
JL: It's subversive in that way, I think. There's so many different people.
AH: Like Joie/Dead Blonde Girlfriend, which I would say is really somebody who's Antifolk, who you could call Antifolk without even--you know, it sounds like punk folk.
JL: Yeah, that's like old-school Antifolk.
EW: That's like old-school Antifolk, it's punk rock on acoustic guitar. But then you've got people like Erin Regan who are like singer-songwriters.
AH: And you've got Huggabroomstik, which is like noisy, you've got The Bowmans, which is kind of like adult contemporary, but they hang out there.
DD: But is also like folky.
EW: But you've also got like straight up folk, like Debe Dalton.
AH: Debe Dalton and The Wowz.
EW: The Wowzs are almost like early rock.
JL: Like rockabilly or something.
DD: At this point, there's so few people that are famous from it, I feel like the way it will eventually be defined will depend on the people who become the most notorious.
JL: Yeah, everyone's still like, Oh, Regina Spektor, Beck!
AH: Moldy Peaches.
EW: Nellie McKay.
DD: There's a core of songwriting to that. Songwriting is heavily featured.
EW: I think it's more punk.
JL: Punk in a new sense.
EW: Someone described it to me last week as the modern equivalent of what was happening in Greenwich Village in the 60's. And I'm not saying I necessarily agree with that, but I thought that was an interesting model. Like as in that there's this interesting mix. It's easy to be like, Oh, acoustic folk music! But if you go back to what was happening there, there was actually a big mix of stuff. Not everyone was sounding like the Greenbriar Boys or whatever.
DD: A lot of it is really playful and jokey.
JL: Phoebe Kreutz.
DD: Phoebe's stuff is all really jokey and fun.
JL: Joke-Folk. She calls her stuff Joke-Folk.
EW: It's so smart, though.
DD: Ching Chong Song, I thought you guys were hilarious when I first saw you.
JL: You did? Not anymore? [laugh]
DD: No, there are deeper levels to it.
AH: Sometimes your set can seem like humor is the prominent feature, and sometimes it seems like transcendence of your bodies is the prominent feature. It's weird, because sometimes you'll play the same songs, like Old Man will just seem like this quirky silly thing and that'll be the prominent feature and it makes you laugh and smile, and then sometimes the altro will be the prominent feature.
HD: The what?
AH: The altro, which is this beautiful mind-blowing ballad with really spiritual lyrics, but I don't know what's the factor that ...
JL: ... makes the focus different.
AH: That brings one to the front or the other.
EW: The cool thing, too, is that more than, This is the sound, and you can put it in this box or that box. With Antifolk there's a real community with it. It's sort of amazing just what a great, supportive scene it is in a lot of ways. You think New York City music, stereotypically, you just think 'backstabbing' and ...
JL: ... pay-to-play ...
EW: ... because Darwin and I have our own separate projects, but we also play with Andrew.
DD: ... and so does Mike, our drummer. We all sing in our own bands and write our own songs.
JL: That's how Huggabroomstik is, too.
EW: Totally just like back-scratching. Andrew played organ on my record and I play bass in his band. Some people joke like you've got seven people and it's like twelve different projects. But I think it's like if that were the case, then everyone would sound the same. And you wouldn't have the variety, so I think that's just bullshit. I think people are just supportive and happy to fill in for each other.
HD: So in one of the chunks of essay you have on the website, you talk about how you crave approval from 'extreme characters'.
AH: Oh, yeah!
JL: Yeah, I like that.
HD: Is the Antifolk scene composed, would you say, of predominantly extreme characters? So could that be translated into pretty much a completely normal thing--that you crave approval from the folks you hang around with?
AH: Yeah, yeah. I think that people in the scene are more extreme than the average person in, I guess, a creative way.
JL: It's totally true.
AH: And I do love it when eccentric, creative people who I admire smile back at me.
JL: You know what you were saying about going to that show at the Flying Pig or whatever?
HD: Oh, Blind Pig.
JL: Blind Pig. About how you felt old? I like that about the Antifolk scene, too, that there's a huge range of age in it, and different types of music. It's a really, really diverse scene.
DD: It's wide open right now.
EW: People in all sorts of phases of their career. There are people who are at our stage, and there are people who are a couple of notches up or just starting out. By the same token, I feel like there are also older people who have picked up music later in life and are just looking for a venue to express it.
JL: And there's some really young kids, too.
EW: There's some high school kids.
JL: Yeah, Max. Like Max is fifteen, I think.
EW: Max Miller, yeah, he's in high school.
JL: He's in high school and his dad comes with him to the open mics sometimes.
EW: It's like an all-ages venue, so.
DD: And something that I think a lot of people might not know is that there's a lot of open mics in New York ...
JL: ... a lot ...
DD: ... but none of them has this amazingly positive energy, not to mention the turnout, of this one particular open mic ...
EW: ... which is the longest one right now.
JL: When did Lach start? In '82 or something?
HD: And this one you're talking about is ... ?
AH: The Sidewalk.
JL: Sidewalk Cafe.
EW: It's now at the Sidewalk, but it's moved locations over the last four or five years or so. He calls it the Antihootenanny after the 60's hootenannys--that's where it comes from.
DD: So this guy, Lach, has been running this open mic for, I guess, around 25 years. And his presence is so positive that somehow he's just--I think he's a big factor in making it such a positive place. The audience there is always so good.
HD: Sometimes things that are billed as open mics aren't really open mics in the sense that in advance you have to arrange to play. So that one, you just show up and you can play?
JL: You just show up, and you draw a number, and he puts you on a list.
EW: It's the only place I've been where the numbers are random, too.
JL: Usually it's first-come-first-play.
EW: Like Bar 4 has a open mic that ...
JL: ... I've been going to that one. Talk about adult contemporary!
EW: It starts at 9:00, but I quickly learned that if you don't show up before 7:30, then you're probably not going to go on in the first two hours.
HD: But if you show up, you're guaranteed to get on at some point?
EW: Yeah, at Sidewalk, everyone gets a chance to play guaranteed.
HD: Is it one song, or some number of minutes?
JL: It's two songs, unless you're in the One Song Wonder round, which is like 10-11:00 and then 1-2:00 or something like that.
HD: And it's called the One Song Wonder round?
JL: Yeah, because there's usually like 65 or 70 people showing up and signing up to play.
DD: Sometimes more.
EW: Sometimes it gets in the 80's.
JL: Yeah, it's packed.
HD: This is just people who want to play??
JL: Just people who want to play and watch.
HD: What's the size of the audience who have no intention of playing at all and are just there to hear the music?
EW: [laugh] Several.
JL: That are just there to hear?
EW: I'd say like five percent, maybe.
JL: Yeah, it's all musicians watching and seeing what's going on.
EW: Even when somebody just comes by to visit, like if Julie comes in, the person setting it up will be like, Let's put her on the list!
JL: I mean a lot of people from different towns and cities come to play the open mic there, and they usually bring their friends and stuff. Because I think it's kind of like if you know about the scene, you respect it, and know about it, and you've heard about it, and you go to New York City, and you play at the Sidewalk. It's a big deal!
HD: It's a point on your resume?
JL: It's a point in your heart.
HD: That's a good final word.