Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jay Reatard! New Interview!

Photo by kirstiecat
Jay Reatard sporting an Oblivians t-shirt at the 2008 Pitchfork Festival

By Rich Tupica
After thirteen years of evolution, Jay Reatard’s brand of obnoxious drunken-punk has transformed into a tight explosion of effects, feedback and pop harmonies.
His life is vastly different today than it was back in 1997, when Goner Records released “Get Real Stupid,” his sloppy debut 7” single.
From his troubled “Teenage Hate” days in Memphis to his upcoming, twee-inspired album, he is now playing festivals in front of thousands of people and gigging with Beck.
In recent years, Jay hasn’t stopped touring for more than a few weeks at a time — though his hard work is paying off in the form of a multi record deal with Matador and coverage in national magazines.
After a successful series of Matador singles and a sudden burst of attention, is Jay happy with his life? Nope.
To find out why he isn’t satisfied and details on his new “wimpy” album, which he plans to finish recording by January 2009, read on.

What’s up with your next full length album?
I’ve recorded half of my new album already and I’ve got about 20 songs written. When we go home from this tour, I think we have like ten days off before we go to the UK, I’m going to try to finish a couple more songs. Then in November, after the UK tour, I think we have two months off, so I’ll just finish my entire record in that two months.

Will your new album sound similar to the Matador singles?
I think more so, I’m going to go even wimpier.

What styles of music have been influencing your new songs?
I guess some people would call it twee music, more wimpy stuff. I really like that style. I’ve really been wrapping my head around it and trying to interpret it. I’m trying to inject that style with more energy.

What is your new album going to sound like?
My whole thing now is I’m trying to write songs that sound cheery, but obviously aren’t. I don’t know, this next record is going more in that direction.

Will it have a bigger production than your previous records?
It has a lot more auxiliary instruments. It’s got organ, some mandolins, a cello, a lot more back-ups and harmonies. It’s big-small. I like putting all these things that could make it sound really big, but it still sounds small and not like orchestral-pop music. I don’t think I’m Phil Spector or anything. The stuff I’m working on now has melodies intertwining in-and-out of each other, but live that is never going to come across. I just approach live shows differently. I just want it to be like an assault live, and softer on records.

Are you satisfied with where you are at in your life right now?
I can’t ever allow myself to be satisfied. I can’t ever allow myself to be content with the situations I’m in or I’ll lose my ambition. A while back I was getting a little too content with the lifestyle and being financially comfortable for the first time in my entire life. As far as my music being to a point where I envisioned as a kid, where I wanted it to be - honestly it doesn’t feel any different from the first show I ever played. I always got this hole in my stomach that makes me want something more than what I have. Not Lamborghinis and fucking HD TVs or anything, I don’t know what it is, but it’s something that keeps me driving. I tend to beat myself up so I don’t get lazy.

How is it working with a bigger label? Is it different than dealing with In the Red Records?
Yeah, they operate differently as far as their strategies on how to sell records. In the Red is a label ran by one guy, Larry - he’s doing everything himself, so a lot of times records on his label have to be real word of mouth, a real grass roots thing. Matador has the man power and funds to try to expose you to a crowd that wouldn’t normally stumble upon you. They can expose you to, dare I say, more normal people, who might discover your records, aside from the hip indie kid or punk rock guys.

Photo by Brian Jenner
Jay playing a show in Toronto on Oct. 3

How is it playing to bigger crowds?
It all usually feels the same. The only time it feels weird is when there is a huge barrier. I did a tour with the Black Keys where every night there was an eight foot barrier between the stage and the audience — that was a bummer.

Why did you decide to put out a 7” singles collection with Matador rather than just an LP?
I was talking to five or six different labels. So in the mean time I wanted to light a fire under all of their asses. Everyone was dragging ass to get offers in to put out our LP, so what better of a way to scare major label dickheads than to do six records with one of the bigger indie labels in the world. It kind of confused them all. Eventually I ended up digging the Matador dudes and decided to work with them permanently or at least for the next five years or so.

Now that you’re with Matador, will you ever do any singles with other smaller labels?
I could do singles with other labels, but I don’t really see what purpose it would serve. Unless there was a label I really wanted to maybe help get some exposure, I’d maybe do a single for them. Otherwise, Matador probably has some of the best distribution out of all the indie labels in America. They work really hard on Matador Direct, where they sell direct to 250 mom-and-pop stores. They carry everything from Goner Records and In the Red releases and sell those direct to these stores as well. So basically, if I was to do a record on a smaller label, Matador would likely order it and sell it for them anyway.

Have you made a video for any of the Matador singles?
Yeah we made a video. It’s still being edited so I have no idea how it’s going to turn out. I think that anybody in the post-Devo world who tries to match up images with their music is going to fail miserably. I think everything Devo did was just perfect.

Did you try to make your video similar to something Devo would have done?
No, our band doesn’t really have such the message that Devo has, that comes across with their images in their music - they are just perfect at tying stuff together. I just don’t like videos, I don’t even like watching them. Basically, for the video, we just got drunk, goofed off and had a film crew film it.

Does touring constantly stress you out — do you need a vacation?
I could feel stressed out if I was on the fucking beach with nothing to do, you know? I was just wired that way.There is no ‘on or off’ anymore, it’s cruise control pretty much. Everyday I wake up and have to work on something. If I stop I get so far behind. There is just no reason to take a vacation, because when I do, it’s just two weeks of work building up. Then when I get home all the relaxation I got in is just negated by how much stress I have to deal with to catch back up.

What does your family think about you being in national magazines and so on?
My parents borrow money from me now, instead of the other way around. I figured they spent a lot of money on me when I was a kid, so it’s cool to give back, actually.

How has your music evolved in the past two years?
Live, it’s getting more and noisier I think. I have started adding too many effects pedals, to the point where I am tap dancing now. I don’t want to add extra people to the band, we are going to avoid that as much as possible, but I think we are going to add another guy next year just to play organ, acoustic guitar and back-up vocals. I keep hearing something bigger in my head, sound wise. There is no way to do that except now, on stage, I have to pre-record all these parts on stage (with guitar pedals) and turn them on with my feet.

What are some common misconceptions about music?
I think 99 percent of my media profile, for lack of better expression, is based on bullshit and completely off. It doesn’t bother me, I don’t let it. The last thing I should do is sit around and cry over blogs or whatever, you know, like, ‘This Brooklyn vegan thinks I’m a butthead,’ or whatever. The misconceptions come in where people try to figure out if its punk rock, indie or whatever. I don’t know, man, it’s really weird in this post modern world, no one knows what to do when they’re not told what something is.

So you think a lot of people only like what they hear is hip?
People have to be told what something is because their whole personality is based on what they are being told. How can they be an indie rocker if they are not told, ‘That’s indie rock!’ Their identities are created by what they consume. We could be playing the same exact songs, but if you tell some dude with a mohawk we’re an indie band he’d call us pussies - if you tell an indie rocker dude that we are punk, then he thinks we suck.It’s just all labels. I just think its noisy pop music. I’ve got influences from the 50s to the 80s — even the 90s.

How do you approach lyric writing?
I always think about lines. I came from The Ramones school of lyrics. I’m not into storytelling lyrics or anything like that. If I convey a message it’s more of a mood or something. I try to get a mood across and normally it’s a pretty negative one.

Are you going to continue doing smaller tours, or would you consider doing a huge tour as an opener?
We’re starting to play more and more big festivals, we’re flying out to play a show with Beck in a couple months. Just doing random stuff like that. I don’t know if I would ever want to play for an arena band or anything like that, but I haven’t done it, so I can’t really knock it either.

I hear you are producing and recording your band mates other band, The Barbaras, new album (In the Red), how is that coming along?
It’s about half way done. It will probably wrap-up around the same time I finish my album. We have been working on both albums at the same time. We will probably correlate the release times. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I tour so much The Barbaras don’t get to do much, so I think correlating will really help people hear that band too.

Will the album sound like The Barbaras singles?
It’s a lot different. Their singles are kind of just like a wall. With the production I tried to put everything in its own space. It’s a lot more dry, it’s more … not punk sounding, but more of a Beach Boys and Urinals thing rather than just a Beach Boys-garage-reverb-blown out thing.

Will you ever play with any of your past bands again, like Terror Visions, Persuaders or Final Solutions?
I don’t really have a desire to. I think with this band I’ve been able to explore and take everything I’ve liked about every other band I’ve been in and properly use it. I’d just feel like I was going backwards if I worked on anything else. This is a band, it has my name on it. I feel a lot more freedom as a solo person to just do what I want to do, sound wise. I think I’ve started to achieve the goal I’ve always wanted since I started playing music, which was to break the genre mold.

Jay Reatard 2007 Turn it Down Interview (#1)

Reatarded Links:
Jay Reatard on MySpace
Jay Reatard's blog
The Barbaras on MySpace
Matador on MySpace
Goner Records

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