Wednesday, January 8, 2014

1999 Lungfish Interviews-Asa Osborne portion

Above: Photo courtesy of Baltimore City Paper
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Asa Osborne
Oct 9, 1999
AM


So you’re painting?

I paint.

Have you ever had an exhibition?

No… never have. I have one in December in a new gallery in Baltimore, actually, so that’ll be the first. I’ve never really… I do it for fun.  Both Daniel and I paint. You can come see some of my paintings if we go to the practice house.

What sort of turns you on musically?  What do you listen to?

Contemporary bands, I couldn’t list a whole lot of, but always something pops up just when you start to… such as The Need, they’re from Olympia, Washington, just two women, just really focused, just electric, a live show.

What kind of songs?

Just weird songs. I don’t really know what to think of it. Really good. Strange time signatures. One woman plays drums and sings, and the other woman plays guitar. So that was just so fresh, to see that.  So definitely rock and roll music.

Rock and roll… is that what Lungfish does?

Yeah it is, pretty much, I would hope so, just plain rock music, as far as playing live, not too complicated or conceptual about it, and there’s nothing unique about what we do necessarily, it’s just basic instrumentation, songs start, middle, end, play another song, but I think at best, we do what can be done with rock music, you know… move you.

Talking to Daniel, he indicated that this is sort of a pivotal moment, for Lungfish, in a way…

I agree with that, and I think I know what he’s talking about. We’ve just stayed together long enough that we’re just seasoned or something, it’s allowed us not to worry about anything except playing music.  We started out jamming in warehouses and stuff, not having any songs, didn’t have anyone to please, didn’t have any goals in mind, and now after 12 years soon, still no goals, no achievements that we need to accomplish, nothing to prove, that doesn’t mean we don’t care about what people think, but it just means that we can still just play music. And we still like to play music, we’re not sick of playing music, we’re still doing it, so it’s bound to be liberating.  In a way, we can still do whatever we want to do. And we’re playing better, too. After all this time together we have this kind of telepathy.

How can you tell?

I don’t mean better like stopping on a dime, or writing more complicated songs or anything, it just seems better for some reason. When we used to play live a lot and tour a lot, we’d just get in a certain state where we’re playing together a lot, we’d intuitively know how to play as a band.  But then it starts to get rote, because you’re playing every night… but just practicing and playing music outside of shows and outside of anyone’s knowledge is really liberating for us. Just playing music.

Like people who play far off, no one is intending to hear them, such as Alan Lomax recordings of people who were never intended to be ‘heard’… do you see yourself engaging in music just to satisfy yourselves in a way?

Yes and no, I mean, yes for the reason that we still love to play, we can go play at our practice house all the time, it’s not a big deal, we just love playing together, we love hearing the sounds and stuff, so in that regards, it’s definitely just for us, you know. Or me, personally.  But over the years, we’ve played hundreds of shows, traveled all over, and met people, so it’s definitely, we’re sharing it too. We’ve made nine records not, or it will be nine, so it’s definitely for sharing.

How do you write your songs?

Just get together and make ‘em up.

But they seem to have a similar framework… is it something that happens quickly?

It’s pretty quick… I mean, there aren’t lots of parts, there is a riff… for the whole band to find the riff together, that might take a little while, but when we do, there’s Daniel finding words to fit with that riff, which isn’t immediate.  But it’s still just as exciting as ever, when his words fit to a song, because then it’s a song.  We know right then and there it’s a song. And we’ve always kind of joked about like if we come up with another part to that song, we just make it another song, so we get two songs.  And a lot of times people comment on our music being repetitive or monotonous and stuff, that’s probably our most common criticism, which is totally valid.

How do you take that criticism?

It’s totally valid criticism, or observation or whatever you want to call it, but that’s the way we make songs. There’s nothing we could do to make it different, and it might not please people any more if we had tons of parts, I mean we’re just one tiny, little band in the whole cosmos of song-making, you know, so I figure if that’s the way we like to make them, it’s just all we’re going to do. It just comes natural to us. They don’t all sound the same to me, you know. But if they do, I still like making them. It’s not like we’re going to add salsa beats or something just to shake it up.  I guess some people feel compelled to change their music, or make themselves change.

Why do you think they do that?

Some people might think it’s more sophisticated, but I don’t think they have a grasp of what sophisticated music is if they think it’s about making it more complicated.  I don’t agree with that at all. Maybe they do it genuinely to challenge themselves, in the context of the group, you can do something you haven’t done before, it might be challenging and it might work sometimes, and other times not.  It might be pressure from other people telling them, “you have to stay contemporary, you have to be aware of other music, your music should reflect the signs of the times.” But I think no matter what you do, you’re of your time, so the best case scenario is to do what comes natural to you.

There’s drone in Lungfish music that kind of charges ahead, that takes everything in its wake, in a way… are you conscious of a kind of style or sound to your music specifically?

Hard for me to say… I mean, there’s definitely… we sound like Lungfish.

For instance, “Space Orgy” doesn’t sound like anything you’ve ever done.

That song was a revelation, that was a bit of a revelation…and I don’t know why.  Just wrote it the same way we wrote all the other ones. After making each record there’s a period of kind of emptiness, sort of, everything’s been put into making that record. 

Artificial Horizon was pretty powerful stuff.

But we didn’t wait very long after Artificial Horizon, we didn’t waste any time, we just started writing songs for The Unanimous Hour. I don’t know, just some new kind of songs just came about.  Same process as always. Like, I don’t know if anyone else would pick up on it being that different from our other music, it just seems like a Lungfish song to me, but it was different.  It’s interesting that you notice that. 

Was it unusual to start so soon after?

We just used to give ourselves that time to be empty and kind of content for a little while, that we just worked hard on something, and rather than trying to write songs right away.  But there’s a definite pattern to our record-making and songwriting, like there’s not a lot of time between any of it.  We’re always making songs, let’s do a record a year, naturally.

I find it surprising that you’ve got something already on the way again.

Because we haven’t been playing live, we got to a point where we were practicing three nights a week, just to be playing and all these songs came up.  It came from not playing shows and not concentrating on trying to do that.  It’s a drag not to see people and play more, but it was good for us.  Just playing for ourselves.

When you started playing guitar, what kind of moved you?

My first record was the Beatles’ Abbey Road, it was a hand-me-down from my brother, but the first record I bought was the Ramones’ first record. I learned that whole record on a borrowed, home-made guitar. Then my mother bought me a Sears guitar, and so when I started playing guitar, I started playing punk music.

There are parts of that second side of Abbey Road, like maybe in the tail end of “Carry That Weight”, that revolving riff, that seems to be an influence, I mean it’s a recognizable sound that you have, where people can tell it’s your playing. How do you think that may have happened?

I don’t know, I just play the way I play, and… it tends to be repetitive riffs, for lack of a better description…

Do you like that?

I do, I mean that turns me on. I’m a limited guitar player for one thing, I can’t play scales and things.

Can you read music?

No, and I hear bands that are pretty amazing, like Spirit Caravan, they used to be Shine, just virtuoso guitar playing and stuff, that totally makes sense.

Do you enjoy bands like that, virtuoso musicians?

I do, I like listening to it, but I wouldn’t want to play that, I pretty much wouldn’t trade my playing for that, I feel pretty much satisfied with it.  You know, I can do my space travel, you know, just listening to things over and over and playing things I don’t have to think about too much.

Did you ever try and learn other peoples’ songs when you first started out?

No, I never had any ear for learning other peoples’ songs, really, even at the beginning. I mean the Ramones, that’s pretty empowering, for a young person to play a song from start to finish, that’s I guess how it happens.  I definitely couldn’t play Abbey Road, but I definitely listened to it, over and over, and I still listen to it. But it’s almost like I absorb music more than I can play it, or tiny elements that are relevant sound-wise.  That might be another element there, that I couldn’t play other peoples’ music, so I just play my simple little things.

Early on, when I first saw you on Dupont Circle, it was an obvious difference from other bands of the time… it felt like something different was happening.

I felt that we were different, I felt self-conscious at that time, I remember just wishing that we weren’t going to be playing shows at that time, anytime something came up, I was terrified in a way, I mean we definitely had an energy, but we didn’t have professionalism, even in a punk rock format or something. We never knew if we were going to make it through songs, and often times we’d stop halfway through a song.  We still do that, which now I get a kick out of, we still can screw up, we’re not professional musicians.  But back then it was terrifying doing a whole set of music in front of people.

What do you think was happening in DC at that time, looking back?  It seems like a really special time to have been there, with all those good bands… like New York in the 70’s or something.

I know, we talked about that on the phone… there’s definitely some good… I mean we were probably at some of the same shows!

[Coffee break]


I remember being here in Baltimore in about 1990, and seeing some shows at Hour House.  Danny and I talked a lot about Baltimore, and about how this is sort of a home base for you.

It continues to be that.  I mean, for being a city it manages this low profile, it manages to keep perpetuating itself, artists and musicians, writers of all types live here and work here, it’s a cheap city to live in… very few accolades beyond peer groups, which keeps things kind of percolating and simmering at this level where people are kind of doing things, compelled to do things, but you know you’re not going to be discovered here necessarily, there’s no one to impress, so it really keeps a realistic, humanistic tone to everything. It’s the way the music scene has always been here, it’s the way the artists have always been, it’s very underground just by nature.

I’m sure there might have been an opportunity to go away somewhere, you know, relocate, but you chose to stay here…

Yeah. Bands do move, to try and tap into something that’s going on there, they move to Seattle or Chicago, or Austin, or Akron, or wherever.  Which makes me think about the question you asked before I went to get coffee about what was going on in DC in the early to mid-80’s. I think it’s the same thing that was going on in many other places, we just happened to experience it here, in the mid-Atlantic coast, you know, DC, and for me Baltimore… that gestation of something… I don’t know, it was punk rock maturing in a way, it was people growing up, branching out, and doing different things, going away to college…coming back…

That transfer had a lot to do with it…

Yeah, and still vital things were going on, it brought people together who were just about to start stepping away from each other, maturing and going on… that’s the way I saw it, it was a joyous thing. Scary too. I would go to DC and go to shows and be affected by it, and I was here in Baltimore and being affected by it… but a different vibe was going on here.

In what way?

I don’t know…

Well I mean you had Hour House.  That was kind of radical, a living, practicing, gallery type of place…

Not unprecedented though… but it was probably something that didn’t exist in Washington.  I mean group houses were a manifestation of people coming together in DC just in general. There’d be parties, there’d be DJ’ing at parties or there’d be shows in basements, or there’d be just meeting, parties where you’d hang out with people, or just kind of getting together or making food, and having meals together.

Or a political thing?

Yeah, definitely that is not a part of Baltimore, a history of political activism interconnected with the music scene, necessarily… bits of that.

Did you appreciate that at the time?

Yeah, in DC, all those organizations, all the people who made a real effort to do that… it was always great, but we didn’t aspire to do that in Baltimore necessarily…we were never drawn to doing that, I mean we all have our opinions and stances on things.

Did it ever find its way into Lungfish?  There were some times where Daniel may have written lyrics that weren’t overtly about issues, but seemed to be political.

There’s a lot of content to Daniel’s lyrics that mean something, I mean they mean different things to different people, and I get to enjoy them as much as anyone else.

Has he ever written anything that you feel uncomfortable with?

Yeah, he has. [Laughs] And you know, he might again… we laugh about it, you know. I mean, how can you say, “don’t say that”… I mean, sometimes I think, “I don’t know what you just said, but it’s cool”.

How do you deal with that, I mean… talking with him, I wasn’t necessarily intimidated, but I felt like the whole time I was trying to convince him of the validity of even talking about his music or lyrics… I mean there are people who are interested in Lungfish and interested in knowing about the processes, and interested in knowing about you as people, and even those who read into the lyrics…

It’s weird to think that anything you do has any kind of influence or sway over people.  I mean, me personally, the things that have affected me, but I know that things that affect you are just bits and pieces, you know, certain people respond to cult-like dogmas you know, where they take everything literally and start to do that or emulate what’s said, but I think most people, things affect them, they absorb it, they may not totally agree with things that they find compelling or moving, or that’s just one tiny aspect of their life might be affected by it. If our music affects people, I can imagine the kind of effect it might have on people, and it’s like… it’s not flattering, it’s not frightening, it’s like just natural that things can affect you. It might be a part of someone’s life, and it might not be a part of someone else’s life. It’s something that is personal to you, you know.  A book moves you, or speaks to you, a record, even though other people have heard it, but it’s yours in that way that you can’t talk about, and that’s one of the problems of this whole process of doing an interview or something, it’s just that… we make music, we’re not good at trying to find the meanings behind.

I tried to avoid that, and I’m not really interested in finding meaning necessarily, although that is interesting to some people, but there is something that is happening in Lungfish that makes people want to check it out…

I guarantee if you do it for five years or something, that all of a sudden and you’ve played around, all of a sudden for some reason people will have connected with you, I mean everything is not for everyone, but once in a while, something strikes you, it just makes sense, it moves you… beyond your circle of friends.

Is there anything you’ve played or released you’re particularly proud of?

Well the records, they each have a place in my psyche, in the band’s time together, and definitely have emotions equated with each record, but none that I’m proud of more than others, I mean each one continues to be a good thing.  I just feel like we get a little bit better with each record.  Something about it, from the inception of the songs to making them in the studio, it’s just a little less static, or white noise going on, it’s more like very… direct nowadays. Like we make the songs, we record them, we know it can be a record, it’s just…there’s less of something getting in the way.

What that might be?

I don’t know.  I mean, definitely part of it is not playing live too much, there’s definitely something about just playing the music, and I don’t feel guilty about it now.  Because like I said before, we’ve played a lot. It’s interesting to see what happens if we just make songs. You know, I don’t know if we didn’t have jobs and made music every day how long that would last, it might now.  But something about the timing and the pacing of the band is allowing us to make songs, that I feel better about it than ever.

Do you like to tour?

At times… it’s a weird thing.  For the longest time that’s all we wanted to do, the experience of traveling the country, going overseas or something, it was amazing that we could do that with our music, because it was the vehicle for that, like we were in Dayton, Ohio, or something, for a reason, to play music.  It’s great, met a lot of great people, saw a lot of great bands…

Daniel mentioned that same city too, said that was a great show.

Yeah we’ve played there a bunch of times, and something sticks out about it. But I mean there’s so many others too.  And I do sometimes pine for it, and wish we could do more, if we don’t tour full-on anymore, I’ll be fine with that too.  It’s weird, just the kind of energy it takes for a band on our level, I mean we could still theoretically play for five people. Or for nobody.  Easy. It’s not like we’re, I don’t know… a famous band. I’m not saying I wish we were, I’m just saying that in the reality of traveling seven days a week… it’s really hard work. We would have to play a lot to make a living. It’s definitely a real endeavor.

What is it like for you to be together, cooped up, is it something you enjoy or dread?

Both. You know, the highs are extremely high, the lows are pathetic, it’s sad you know, but we’ve definitely been through all the permutations together, all of us being angry together, just totally in love with each other, all that kind of weird stuff about relationships, I mean we are just four people in a relationship together playing music, traveling is just… it’s all under a microscope. And it’s weird, we’re all older now too, for the four of us to sleep on a teenager’s parent’s club basement floor, it’s gone from being perfectly natural to being pretty weird. It’s not like we can each have a hotel room, which I wouldn’t want us to do anyhow.

Do you ever listen to the stuff that you’ve played live?

Never listened to the live tapes.  I have tons and tons that people send us.

I’ll send you my address!

Lots of videotapes that people send us.  But it’s all there in the informal archives, you know…

Why not?

I don’t know, I mean, maybe listen to a song here and there over the course of several years, just to get a taste of it. Not that I want to sound nostalgic or anything, but those recordings don’t represent anything to me in a way. I mean, they do a tiny bit, but they weren’t that evening.  I don’t know, it’s weird, seeing the videos…

That must be odd…

It’s odd, at least then you have two things that are stimulated, you know, your eyes and your ears, so you can bring things back, “oh that’s that skate park”, or that’s that place, you know… [laughs]

Skate park??

Yeah we’ve played a lot of skate parks, yeah…

I don’t see you as a skater type band…

We always end up… Daniel will always be out there skating with them, blowing their minds, like this caveman skating or something, you know… but he grew up, that’s part of what he did, he was a skater.

[break]


Who do you like, painting wise?

Hmm… Philip Guston… Giorgio Morandi… Yves Tanguy… most recently Balthus, just learned about his painting…

What did you try and learn about when you started painting?  Did you take art classes?

Yeah I did… it’s similar to what you’re saying, people trying to tell you how to do a certain thing, and rewarding you for certain approaches, and critiquing you or criticizing you for other approaches, which I saw stop a lot of people in their tracks because they became self-doubting, but also sometimes criticism is good.  It inspires you to continue what you’re doing despite the criticisms, that’s the case I think… continue what it is that you do, don’t let detractors take away your enthusiasm.  But also you need a wake-up call, if you’re living in a world that’s unreceptive to other ideas. Like the Visionary Arts Museum here in Baltimore, it’s a new museum. It’s an outsider arts museum, it’s about people that weren’t trained as artists, maybe they’re unaware of a functioning art world… a lot of the people, they discover their work after they die, or discover it in their back yard, and uh… I have a whole other tangent about that sort of stuff.

Please go on…

First off, that kind of spirit of people making art, outside of art training, like you were saying, that’s what turned you off about studying it, I mean these were people who weren’t trained as artists, but somehow managed with concrete, you know, or aluminum foil, straw, or paint, to make something that was completely their own self-expression, without any known reward other than the fact that they’re doing it, it may be therapeutic for them, or they want to share a message with someone, so it’s really pure art.  It really is, I find it interesting, and a lot of people do. And it’s become very fashionable also, and a lot of people with that mind travel around and try to unearth these untrained artists for one, maybe to draw the world’s attention to them, to give them some exposure, because their work’s interesting, or two, to make a lot of money off them, because their work has become very valuable, “oh you’ve never heard of this person, they lived their entire life in this apartment, and never left, but they made all this work, it’s great.”

Like an Emily Dickinson…

Exactly, like who’ll find the next Emily Dickinson, it’s like this treasure hunt, and like with folk artists and outsider artists, but folk artists in particular, there’s a lot more of them out there, maybe they’re just easier to spot because they make these things, like they don’t have a stack of little journals tucked away where they write every day, they would never tell someone, I mean you just never know. Some of these people, you notice what they do, and they might want to show it to people, and they make things that they want to show, but they don’t know that there’s an art world that people train in school, and hope to achieve art-world status.  These are people who… I could tie it in with our music.

Yeah, you’re not having to feel like you have to do things like videos and stuff, or be popular.

It wouldn’t make a difference for us. Making a living, not having to work jobs and stuff… I can see people be drawn to that, to get to play their music all the time, but it just seems like it’s wrought with disaster too.

Why?

Well say for instance, you sign a contract and you’re involved in something that’s an agreement, where somebody’s going to put your music out, you have parameters to work in, you’re told what to do at times, you’re told what you can’t do at times, you’re told when you can and when you cannot do things, and all of a sudden the fragileness of a band can’t withstand it, you know.  I can only imagine.  This is all theoretical, because I’ve never experienced it. But I can just imagine the pressures of people in the band wanting to do one thing and other people wanting the band to do another thing…

Many of those bands did something, they got something accomplished, but it’s hard to say what it was, but the way you all are doing it, you’re able to create something free from that…

We’ve been lucky, we’re not quite as cloistered, I mean we have a record label that puts out our records, like you can go and buy our records and stuff, we’re not completely… we’re underground…

Do you feel like a “local band”?

Yeah, I mean I feel like a Baltimore band, I don’t feel like a “world band” or something, I feel like we’re a Baltimore band, totally. I don’t feel like we’re any different than any of the other bands I go to see here or in town, or anywhere else, you know. Some bands I feel I’m simpatico with, others not. But I definitely feel like they’re my peers, you know.

Artists as well?

Totally.  If not the same, very similar paths. As far as stature goes, we might be a little more known than most local bands here in town, but not much. [laughs] I relate more to bands here than those who are living in a different world that I don’t know about. I imagine they are people too, and they have to deal with their own music and their… the confines of the “music industry” or something.  I mean maybe they approach that just like a job or something.  But I don’t know, it just seems tenuous, dealing with your music and making music, and trying to make a living at it.

Like your art, you have the choice of putting something out there.

There are bands that, they’re not “underground”, but not famous big bands, and they just tour, they tour a lot, and they sell enough records and they tour, and they make a living. It’s not impossible to do that and still be on a label, I mean you definitely can do that if you want to work at it.

Do you ever see yourself as a painter, getting commission, that kind of thing?

[laughs]

I mean I’ve done that, I’ve done public work, that was about as far as it got… DC Parks and Recreation had me do a mural in Southeast DC…

Did you like doing that?

I think I got $20 bucks out of it… but it was the beginning of something… would that attract you to more painting?

Hard for me to say, I mean I’ve painted since I was a little kid, painted and drew, and aware of the art world, and what you do and how that works, and sort of get an idea, I don’t know.  I don’t think I have the energy to sustain that. I mean I definitely would keep making pictures, I don’t know, if someone like yourself came along, say you ran a gallery or something and we got along, everything was right, I could totally do it.

Who’s doing the gallery thing you’re about to do?

It’s a fellow in town called Frank Perrelli, young guy, he’s been showing a lot of people I know’s work. We just went and saw one of his shows, good thing, has a nice space, he’s very approachable, I mean he’s showing peoples’ work that wouldn’t get shown here in Baltimore otherwise, there’s just no venues.  It’s just like having clubs and bands that play, which has always been a much more accessible medium here. You start a band, you get to do something in public.  An artist, probably not. Probably can’t see your work, not a regular place. This is one new regular place. So it’ll be cool.

What kind of stuff are you doing?

Um, just real simple geometric shapes.

Landscapes?

Yeah, landscapes with geometric shapes, not portraits, I used to do people a lot, these little narrative scenes. I don’t know, it’s weird when someone has something that they can share visually or experientially with people, and other people don’t have anything that they can share, it’s kind of a weird thing.  But I’ve always tried to rationalize it with music, you know, like if we were putting on a show, which is something that everyone can share, whether there’s five people at a show or whatever, something that we’re all sharing, it wasn’t for us, I don’t know… to have this private experience on stage.

There are people who get into that, like “so and so showed up”… I mean the attitude that it’s somehow better…

It’s a weird attitude, but it’s how people judge things, they equate attendance or response with their own abilities or something, which is a shame, it’s almost human in a certain way you know, like say set up a lemonade stand as a kid, and no one comes and buys your lemonade, you feel bad.

Like you’re not going to be hurt if no massive crowd comes and buys your paintings or something.

Having played music for one thing, like I said, we’ve played for one person, we’ve played for five people many, many times, and we’d have a really good show because those five people made a point of coming.

I mean are you ever disappointed?

Well to go back to the music, with the group, since we are talking about that and I base things on my experiences through the band often, and sharing that kind of realization that only five people had come to see you, it can be a bummer you know, but I always felt good that we actually played, some people would say “fuck it, I’m not going to play, it’s not worth it”, it’s humbling that you actually persevered and played for a few people. That’s part of the territory. Success is gauged by yourself, it’s not, I think, shouldn’t be other people tell you something’s a success, and you can’t tell me that five appreciative people don’t make for a successful evening. I don’t mean to sound noble with that, but I’m trying to be realistic. All in all, like I say, we’ve had good experiences with that, if we toured now really regularly, and five people showed up, it might feel disappointing, but you can’t make people come out. We can’t expect that. We don’t sell lots of records, we don’t generate hype. 

Any huge crowds you’ve played in front of?

Yeah, more rare than playing in front of really small crowds.  It’s unnerving, because it’s not like we’re the kind of performers that can bring down the house you know… [laughs]

Yeah you can!

But if you play for a thousand people, they want a show, you know? We kind of just stand there and play.

But that is the show.  Don’t you think that what you’re doing is, not necessarily theatrical, but it’s sort of transfixing, you know, to watch.

I think we’re a very good live band, when we are, we have nights when we don’t play well, but more times than not, we’re a pretty good live band, just you know… we do what we do the way we do, but I think it comes across pretty well live. And more times than not, people seem to enjoy it. It’s not the kind of thing that, we’re not going to do four encores, you know, we’re not going to make the place start pogoing en masse or something. But for forty minutes or so, it might be a pretty good thing to experience.

Have you ever had that kind of reaction?

Like a more raucous kind of crowd?

Yeah.

I mean, it’s just another manifestation, it’s better than an absolute still, bored crowd, you know, I mean people make a point of being bored at shows sometimes.

I mean I used to go see Moss Icon at times, and people would be just sitting down reading, and it just seemed like…

Yeah, I’ve seen people do that at shows, and it kind of interests me in a way, because they make a point of being there, but they’re not necessarily paying attention, and maybe they’re there to be seen, or maybe they’re there… I mean I used to go to shows where I wasn’t transfixed or anything, but I was there for the overall ambience for lack of a better word, there was an energy there, and some nights I couldn’t take my eyes off the band, and I had to be close, and I had to move, and it just grabbed you that way.  But you’re still a part of something, you’re still a part of this organism that, I don’t know… you’re there no matter what, some people call it a “scene”…

You don’t get into that though…

Well I’m too old for one thing, and even when I was young enough to be part of the scene, I guess I was part of the Baltimore punk rock scene, I was at every possible punk show I could be.

Younger people like it though, it’s an energy.

I relate to it…yeah…

There’s almost like a spiritual element going on in your music.

Music, to us, is our common spirituality.  And we take that pretty serious.  Music, and I don’t want to make it more than it is, but it’s a vehicle for spiritualness, for lack of a better word.

I mean, when you’re up there on stage playing, your eyes are completely shut… what’s going on?  I mean, when you’re playing?

It’s definitely something, it’s something… yeah… never really tried to put that into words or something.

I wanted to see if you knew what it was that sort of moved you to play like that… I mean, you don’t just listen to Clash albums, pick up a guitar and start playing like that.

Playing with who I play with is a big part of it, you know...

How so?

I mean, I can’t… I guess because we’ve stuck together this long, I’ve never wanted to play in lots of other bands, but I get everything I need musically from playing in Lungfish just, whether it’s just practicing, where no one hears us, it’s enough for me, but I crave it still, it’s enough until I’m hungry again. Which is for the next time. It definitely fulfills me in a way that’s beyond talking about music, or something, movements in music, or bands we like, it’s just something that we do, and maybe it’s the vibration of sounds that unlocks chemicals in my brain or something, or it’s a time when things are loud enough to drown everything out, or something, but that’s what makes playing shows worthwhile, that hour out of 24 hours that you’re playing music, you know… it’s a real honest chance for release, you know. It’s like driving across a desert or something when you’re driving for four hours and the landscape’s exactly the same, it’s like, you have this rare opportunity to just… think. Like you can go home at night after work and sit and have a cup of tea, and try to think, clear your head… but it’s hard to get to that place. Some people are better at it than others, I guess that’s why people meditate, do yoga, you’re looking for a place, you know, where you can remove the clutter. Music, for me, is one of those places, and our music is a steady, steady place I can go and lose the clutter. I don’t know.  There’s a drone that’s present in all these other musics like you mentioned before, you know, without trying to emulate that stuff, it’s definitely present for a reason… it’s a vehicle for contemplation and energy, and, I’m starting to sound hokey, but um… just like the release of energy and something… I don’t know.

There’s a kind of stillness in the manner by which you’re playing the songs, it feels like there’s a kind of balance… I mean, there’s some Lungfish songs that can be pretty relaxing, even if the song is loud… do you feel relaxed playing?

It’s hard for me to… feeling relaxed, it’s um… yeah, I mean both of those are possible when we play our music.

What else do you feel?

Introspective more than extroverted, definitely, even playing live, which is a weird thing, I feel like it’s a chance, selfishly or whatever, for me to have my mind travel, you know, it’s not a necessarily physical thing, even though I’m often exhausted afterwards… but um… I feel fortunate for the release, you know.  It’s why I can’t imagine going through the paces of choreography or doing things on cue, I don’t know, I feel sorry for those people who have to do that, but then again I don’t because they do.

You never have the desire to jump up and down while playing?

I’ve jumped up and down! [laughs]

Well I don’t remember it!

You know, probably not many times, but who knows.  I mean, we just do what we try to play the way things come natural for us, and I’ve definitely seen other bands that do similar things that I feel a kinship with.

Like Rites of Spring wasn’t sedate, but they were doing something that was just as passionate as you seem, in a different way… but with Lungfish it sort of feeds this misunderstanding that maybe there’s the lack of something, because you’re not that…

I mean, we’re not for everybody…

What does it feel like when people don’t understand? Like reviews or something?

Well normally it’s like, “this is not my cup of tea”, but we’ve gotten many more good ones than bad.  But of course, it’s like… it’s a weird thing to have to review music, you know… to get a dozen records every week and have to review it.  The bottom line is, everything is not for everyone… it almost seems like you should review things you like, instead of things you don’t like. But I don’t know. It’s kind of neat to see people react with enthusiasm. It’s kind of neat when someone says, you know, “this record rocks”. We’re not trying to come off as a high art band or something, I mean we’re a rock band, we’re a punk rock band, you know, that’s what we are.

Like when I watch and listen to Lungfish, I feel enthused about the process, and not just the end result… I mean, now that you’ve reeled yourselves in a lot, do you miss out on seeing people face to face, and performing?

I mean, I do… yeah… but I mean, the record… for myself, I haven’t seen most of the bands that moved me or I was interested in, but I have their record as a document, I mean I’m only experiencing that aspect of it, I haven’t had the option of seeing them live, I have the record and that’s all I have, so I don’t feel like… I feel like that’s enough, in a way.  I miss meeting people, seeing other peoples’ bands, talking, sharing those experiences, I mean I don’t want to talk about Lungfish the whole time we’re touring. But if people see a show, that’s all there was to it, they don’t need to meet us or something, but if they meet that’s cool, it’s nice to meet people on a person-to-person level, I don’t want people to consider us anything more than that, but if they’re there for a musical experience, that’s all there is to it.  It’s just a set of music. There’s nothing more to it.  I find that when I see bands, I don’t know what I would say to people even though I’m a peer in a way, somehow, some way, I just got what I wanted, I got to experience them play, and… I don’t know.  That’s all there is to it.

There’s this sense, on the part of some people, and maybe it fuels my apprehension with this article, that Lungfish specifically is sort of a mythical entity, that the gravity of what you’re doing…

I don’t know.  I mean, maybe because we don’t play a lot, because we’re not real accessible, some of that stuff starts to get fostered, but as you can see now, sitting on my front porch, it’s just like, you have a house, I have a house, gotta pay the bills, you know, I don’t know man, it’s just… that stuff is just natural.

Well in the context of stuff, like generally, people take you to be sort of apocalyptic, weirdness, if you even look at the cover art of your albums, you just get that vibe, it reaches almost a boiling point of how you are perceived…

I’ve heard about the Danielson family, I mean they come out in robes and stuff, I think I can speak for the band in saying, I mean we don’t… profess to be, or have any more of a clue than anyone else, I mean there’s no lesson or message in Lungfish music.  I’ll just say that point-blank so as not to make a big deal out of it, I mean, we’re living in the same times as anyone else, same year, same time, no one knows where things are going, got a clue where things came from, day-to-day living, making music, working jobs, I don’t know.  There’s no mystery there. I mean I could probably sit here until well into the evening and talk about some pretty weird things happening now, you know, project all sorts of things into the next millennium just for kicks, or out of fear, or just because we’re living in certain times, but I don’t know if that ties into the band at all, except that we’re making music at the crux of time shifts, it’s just by accident that we’re still a band.

But the sort of things you hear in your songs are… visions that you don’t hear in other places. To some people, those visions are…

I think so many people this time are trying to project some kind of apocalyptic vision, it’s become like, it’s cool to be a prophet, and to say “the world’s gone to hell in a handbasket”, and um… I don’t know.  As far as Daniel’s lyrics go, and as far as our music goes, and I can’t speak for Daniel, but I don’t see his lyrics being part of that “movement”, that cool, you know… corpses riding on the back of a rocket, you know, straight to the sun, you know, it’s like… I think it’s much more personal, I think his lyrics are more personal, and completely focused and committed without being… dogmatic, you know, they’re like... I don’t see how they could be.

It’s poetry…

I think people… poetry in music is not something a lot of people can deal with, they think of folk-rock or something, without thinking of Dylan, or Patti Smith, or other people that kind of do that, or do do that, plain and simple… I’ve been listening to Bob Dylan’s “Gates of Eden”, you know, an incredible song… I mean, there’s anti-content movement in music at all times too, it’s not cool to have anything more, like garage music.  I like garage music, you know. It’s just very simple, raucous music that doesn’t really say anything.

Like 60’s garage bands, Chocolate Watchband…

All that stuff. You know, it’s weird, there’s new garage music that all of a sudden I’ve gotten really sick of. Yeah, it’s just… there’s tons of bands doing it, nothing wrong with that, it’s fun. But it’s not like it’s the only kind of music, and that you can’t take it seriously.

I think that’s sort of important, people who perform music I guess can’t divorce themselves from the reactions they’re going to get, but they’re not responsible for them either…

I mean I think we just exist in the margins of rock music, you know. The bottom line is, I mean, maybe in the future we’ll be in a place where Captain Beefheart, or 13th Floor Elevators, or Stooges or something… it’s in the margins, you know, it’s like existing without making too big a deal.  I think when we stop playing, it’ll be because we want to, not because a record deal went flat or, you know… we honestly can quit because we don’t want to play anymore, which is a real, almost want to say luxury but it’s not, It’s just do the things we want to do, and nothing else. Not that everything we’ve done is great, but it’s close to what we want to do.

Do you have a title for the new thing?

Um, working titles. [laughs]

How about the songs?

Um… “Sex War”. That’s one of the songs.

[laughs] A good sequel to “Space Orgy”.

[laughs] Sort of.

I mean, I don’t really see any deep meaning to any Lungfish titles to begin with, but I can see how they are heavier than “Baby Don’t Go…”

You gotta call them something.  They gotta have a name I guess, unless we just numbered ‘em.

What are your thoughts on the single [“10 East”]? Do you like that song?

The three-song thing?  I like that a lot.

That’s one of my favorites.

I mean, we made that at a time, a definite point in our history, we made it in a different way. I feel like this new batch of songs that we’re doing now is sort of similar.

You used a different studio. What was that like?

Really good, it’s in an old supermarket, it’s down in Baltimore, and these young guys fashioned a studio in there, and it’s really raw. They have all this old recording equipment that they’ve pieced together, and we’ve always enjoyed making recordings at Inner Ear, this is definitely a rawer space, it’s allowed a different kind of energy to come through these recordings… I don’t know.  We felt really that we needed to find a rawer kind of energy. I mean, all the records we’ve done have been really quick.

Were there any that have been particularly harder to do?

Um… The Unanimous Hour was harder, I mean just like reeling in all the elements and keeping it cohesive, and putting less into the songs rather than more, as far as tracks and things. The trick has been for us to know how to keep the essence of the song there. It’s definitely part of our growth, to make better records in a studio. To make it recognizable to us, to keep the energy there… it’s not an easy thing to do. I feel like we’ve gotten a little bit better at that.  But that comes from just making another one, and making another one.  Not everyone does that.

How close are you to being finished with this new record?

I don’t know… pretty close.

When do you think it’ll be out?

Just after the first of the year, some time.

What are the songs like?

I don’t know… they’re different, in a way.  Maybe they’re different because they’re the next songs. [laughs] I mean, that’s part of like the studio experience for us, mixing records themselves, we mix them now, pretty much, we write the songs, play the songs, and now to mix them is kind of interesting. It’s very satisfying to see them all the way through.  Just keeping the cohesive thing, but now, dropping off from The Unanimous Hour to this new record, it’s really raw, the songs are a lot more live, so we’ll see. 

Do you record them live? Even with Daniel singing?

Yeah, I mean occasionally things don’t work with him singing, he will sing over top of the songs afterwards, but we always try and do it with him singing, and that means being in a room looking with each other, and we achieved that for this new record.  It’s a big, open old supermarket, and we definitely just kick ‘em out, you know.

Did you get a good effect out of that kind of space?

Yeah it sounds completely different, I think. It’s like, you have to “make” a room sound, almost, in other studios, you have to make sure all of the elements are in the same room.  This time, we’re all in this big room, it’s there – linoleum floors, ceiling’s falling down, water damage all over the place, it just sounds like this weird, dilapidated room.  To me.

It’ll be interesting to see if all that comes across…

I guess it’s bound to come across in the recording, I don’t know.  It’s just another Lungfish recording. It’ll be cool.

So what Beatles song was it that you covered?

“Why Don’t We Do It In the Road.”

[laughs] I need to hear that!

I probably have it on tape someplace if you want to hear.

2 comments:

sebastian E torres said...

I`ve recently found out about this amazing and almost hypnothic band. The more I listen the more I fall in love with them, especially the guitar parts. They are simple, melodic and they`ve got a sense of droning and repetition that I love.
Great interview.

Mark Pino said...

Lungfish music is incredible. Glad you enjoyed this interview post Sebastian.