Inspired by the 1988 Bill Murray movie of the same name, we bring you the first in a series of interviews called Scrooged.
130-BPM: So this is the first of a new interview feature. It’s called Scrooged. Are you familiar with the film from the late ’80s?
Jason Kelly: Fuuuuck yeah, that movie rules!
Yeah, so it’s gonna be a series of questions relating to your musical past, present, and future. So start off telling us about your early musical experiences and what you musical exposure was like as a child.
Andrew Savage: My father was really into music. He was a vinyl collector, a big jazz listener… and regular Dad-music like The Beatles, Zepellin, Steely Dan, stuff like that.
My Dad-music was John Denver, so I don’t really relate to having decent Dad-music.
Andrew Savage: Yeah…
Was the desire to create music, or be creative at all, something you recognized at a young age or something you grew into?
Andrew Savage: The first time I realized I wanted to create music was probably listening to The Beatles all the time.
Jason Kelly: What did it for me was my parents bought me three or four cds when I was 10 or 11, and they were like the first Cake record, and like a Prodigy CD, you know, with “Smack My Bitch Up,” and uh… Green Day Dookie. I had acquired a pair of drumsticks, I don’t really remember how and I had this basketball and an old army bullet case thing and I laid them out in my room, realizing I could play along with the beat pretty well. My mom walked in and saw me, which was really embarassing but I guess she thought I was okay because my parents decided to buy me a drum set that year for Christmas. And that’s really what did it for me.
That was smart of them, to recognize a passion and interest.
JK: The funny part was they had no clue about drums and they didn’t buy me any cymbals. They just bought a kick drum and a snare and a floor tom, and I was like, “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?”
That might have been planned out to keep the noise down. Parents generally don’t like cymbals.
JK: I did end up getting some really crappy cymbals a year later.
Do either of you remember writing your first song? Or I guess what I want to ask, is after you write that first song, what kept you writing more?
AS: I remember the first song I wrote! It was in this punk band that I had with my friend Mike growing up. I can’t remember the name but I can still remember how it goes. It was the same four notes over and ever (sings ‘na na na ba da na na na nah’), and it was like, it was so easy that I didn’t even know I had written a song. And once I found out how easy it would be to write a song, I just kept working at it and trying to get better. And I still am, really.
JK: Yeah, it was pretty much the same thing for me. The first song I ever wrote I know I wrote on one string because I had no idea how to play chords yet.
AS: Same here, actually.
JK: Yeah, one of my friends left a guitar at my house and I played one string. I was like, “Hold on, this sounds so cool.” It was like three notes. But then from there, it was like I couldn’t stop.
Were you guys raised in Denton, or did you move there?
AS: I lived there half my life, but I wouldn’t say I was raised there.
What was the music scene like there, because all I know from there is The Mountain Goats.
AS: Well, to give you an idea, there’s not a whole lot to do in Denton, but there are a lot of musicians there. I mean, because there isn’t much to do besides drink and party. People start bands and they are able to practice a lot and they ended up getting really good. There aren’t neccesarily a lot of good songwriters from Denton, but the musicianship there is good. The environment, when you can practice in your house or in your shed or in your yard, is condusive to making music. But yeah, it’s dull but a lot of good bands end up coming out of there. Bands like The Marked Men, who are one of our favorite bands, they inspired other people to start bands and those bands started getting good. There is a lot of good stuff that has come out of there and probably still will.
Most of the stuff I read about you guys talks about your influences, talk about some of the music you like that hasn’t influenced your sound.
AS: It’s hard to say what doesn’t influence us, because of all the subconcious stuff there. But besides the obvious pop and rock, I listen to a lot of jazz and have been getting into some 20th century avant-garde composers.
JK: I like a lot of hip hop which obvioulsy you can’t hear on our songs. And a lot of weird stoner metal. But I like all kinds of music, just depending on my mood for the day.
So the album comes out, like, now on Hardly Art. I reviewed the album and I really liked it. How did you get hooked up with Hardly Art, and Woodsist before that with your earlier singles, because those are both bigger indie names?
AS: It’s not really that exciting of a story really, they just sort of asked us to do it.
Was the album completed or did you record it for Hardly Art?
JK: Oh we had it finished, they were just sort of the label it wound up on. Actually, we had other label offers, I won’t say who, but they gave us some negative feedback and told us we should change the track order and write poppier songs. And we were like “Fuck that, we’re done with this thing, we love the way it sounds.” Then Hardly Art heard it and they loved it, which was great because they are a label we truely respect, but also they have been our friends for a long time.
AS: Yeah, I mean, they gave us full creative control. Some other people interested were not going to allow that.
Which is kind of lame, because that’s why bands work with indie labels.
AS: Yeah, I couldn’t imagine doing a band if I had to compromise something like that.
Clue us in to the actual song writing process. I saw that you each have individual credits to songs on the album, so do you write by yourselves or are you involved in the conception of each-others tracks?
AS: Yeah, we write independently of each-other… well, at least we did on this record, we haven’t really started anything else yet. But yeah, I like to think of the record as two solo projects as one.
“Wanna Know What I Would Do” is a particularly interesting track. I mean, it’s funny, but also critical of the scene that will hopefully embrace you. What were you going for with that song, did you have a point to make or is it just a joke?
AS: Well, yeah, of course I was trying to make a point. It’s not critical of the scene because a scene is something that cares more about art. What it is really critical of is this new thing where independent rock music or outside artistic efforts are an industry now. It’s not critical of anybody that is embracing us because no one… I dunno. I don’t want to get too heavy, but basically independent music and the mainstream are merging and it’s not the counterculture that it once was. And, I don’t think it’s really being explored or talked about in rock music right now. I wanted to write a song that was self-aware and about how we exist in this industry, that some parts of it are completely bogus. But, it’s a tongue in cheek sort of song and it’s supposed to be funny, which it sounds like you got.
Feel free to get heavy whenever you want.
AS: I have the tendency to be a little bit longwinded, but you are getting lucky because we are kind of tired right now.
Well I agree with your point, anyway. I mean, I’m reviewing the new Iron & Wine album and it’s a fine album, but the thought keeps coming to my head “what makes this different than Jack Johnson?” Like, what makes it special. And I don’t know if I have the answer to that, yet.
AS: I think what makes it special is if you make something new and inventive and try to run with it and do something creative, that’s basically what I was trying to do. It’s almost self-critical, because I do realize I am involved in this independent rock music scene, whatever that even means. If you create something that is new and fresh, then that is how you keep it alive.
And you mentioned ‘tongue-in-cheek’ with that last song. Though I didn’t get a physical copy of the album, I did get a chance to check out the CD art, where it says “You still buy CDs?” and it’s funny, but it’s also mildly depressing. Do you go into this album release with your eyes wide open, knowing that most people won’t pay for your music and will get it illegally and how do you come to terms with that as an artist?
AS: I think it’s awesome that people will steal our music. Actually, on the CD and vinyl there are actual tips fow how to steal our music. That was written as more of a personal grudge with CD as a format, where the industry sold the consumer on this inferior product that was the compact disc, and told them that it is way better than the casette or vinyl, and that it’s more accessible, which only turned out to be true when they stopped making as many tape decks and turn tables. It’s such an inferior product, I really don’t know why anyone buys them. They scratch within a month, the fucking jewel case is a joke. I mean, you step on that in your room and the thing is done. I doubt anyone will really buy our CD, but the vinyl has already sold pretty well.
One day they should make a car record player, that would be sweet.
AS: I’ve seen some prototypes.
Do you think Tomboy is going to be any good?
The new Panda Bear record, do you think it is going to be good?
AS: I actually have no idea what that is.
AS: I’ve heard of them!
JK: Is the new Animal Collective record gonna be any good? I have no idea. Honestly, a few years ago I finally got around to listening to Animal Collective and I wasn’t feeling it and I haven’t really gone back since.
AS: You picked the two wrong dudes to ask about that band.
That’s kind of awesome. You are the first band I’ve talked to in a while that would answer like that.
AS: Is that a question you ask every band?
No, no, but I figured, you know, for the future section of the interview, it would be a funny question to ask. I was thinking it could be like a running joke.
What’s the next step after this record, tour then record indefinitely?
AS: Well, I think we are retiring from music after this actually.
It’s a horrible industry, I’d recommend it.
AS: Well, conventional music, anyway. Jason has a rap project that he’s pursuing. And I’m not going to be writing music anymore but communicating through sign language.
JK: Well right now we are gonna ride out this Fergus & Geronimo thing and milk it for as much as we can. But I just wanna say, my record in no way will be like Joaquin Phoenix. If you were gonna compare it to someone starting a random rap career, it would be more like Dee Dee King.
Alright, if you could ride the coattails of one of your contemporaries… I mean, I just saw that Facebook movie and there were all those guys who are billionaires now because they knew him, but yeah, one of your contemporaries, whose coattails would you ride on?
AS: I’d probably ride on the coattails of Grigori Perelman, the reclusive Russian mathematician who solved the Poincare conjecture, just to ride his coattails into hermitude and human loathing. And refusing million-dollar Field Medal prizes. That’s probably what I would do.
As a band that mines the past so much for their sound, what does music’s future mean to you?
AS: When I think of the future of anything, including music, um… I dunno, we are slowly being taken over by robots. You might not have realized it yet, but it is happening. In every sector of human life. Banks, for one, are doing robots now. Manufacturing is doing robots. And the next thing is the entertainment industry. It’s slowly happening now with all those Pixar movies and Avatar. And live, bands are doing performances on iPhones and shit (JK starts laughing) and that is the first robot wave.
Robots are already taking a lot of manufacturing jobs. They are already taking a lot of academic jobs, at universities, there are so many robots in there. So the next thing is the robot takeover of the music industry and eventually there will be no musicians left except robots. Listen to current million-dollar selling pop records. They are completely inhuman. There are still humans involved, but like, there are still humans involved in chess, too, but it’s mostly Russian and Chinese robots.
I think if there is one thing that Fergus & Geronimo stand for, it’s that we have a very strong anti-robot sentiment.
Which is good, and healthy. Daft Punk’s a bunch of robots too, and they are like the biggest band ever. Everyone goes crazy for them.
AS: Seriously, this is something to think of with yourself, as a journalist, that your job is going to be taken, eventually, by a machine. Maybe not in your lifetime, but robo-journalism is a real thing.
It’s kind of true. There are those robot Twitter accounts, I mean, you barely need a human being to create a music blog at this point.
AS: True. So that is why, after this whole Fergus & Geronimo thing ends, I’ve got this land up in Montana and I’m going to live there, schooling-up on Uncle Sam and his cyborg governement.
I have guns, can I come?
AS: Anyone that’s down for the struggle can come. I mean, no robots allowed, obviously. We’re going to grow our own food, we’re going to have our own currency. No silicone chip is allowed on the property, though.
Are you going to have a pet policy? Is an extra deposit required for pets?
AS: Oh, animals are fine. Animals are completely organic and pure. But no animals with V-Chips, though. Like if you put a V-Chip in your dog, he can’t come.
JK: Yeah, if you have a drivers license or passport, you’re gonna have to burn that shit.
AS: Because passports already have V-Chips in them now.