Stars’ Torquil Campbell on Touring, Loving and Hating New York, and the Cult of Larry David

“Ask away,” says Torquil Campbell casually to me on Monday after our long distance call is connected. Ultimately, the lead singer of Canadian indie pop band Stars proves disarmingly entertaining. Between his tweets and his demeanor during interviews (at least ours), there’s no lack of laughs. A few questions in, the line cuts out. Upon being reconnected, he teases, “I just gave, like, a ten-minute answer and, at the end of it, there was nobody there. You missed some amazing shit, man. Never to be repeated. That’s too bad. That’s it.” I like this guy. (And, for the record, I got some other “amazing shit,” so not to worry.)

The forty-year-old singer-songwriter and actor, perhaps best known for his membership in Stars, but also other notable ensembles such as Broken Social Scene, is gearing up to tour pretty consistently through most of next month. He and his fellow bandmates—comprising Chris Seligman, Evan Cranley, Amy Millan, and Pat McGee—who released their seventh album in September, kicked things off on Wednesday and make their way to New York City today. Catch them in Brooklyn, to be exact, at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, where tonight and tomorrow they’ll split the bill with L.A.-based band Milo Greene.

In the half-hour allotted to talk, Campbell didn’t hold back, opening up about making music, growing up, picking battles and taking revenge. From his distaste for touring to his stance on fame, his love of Larry David to his dream of limo driving, this Vancouver-based artist bears all, including the fact that this path is not technically what he wanted.

Did you approach The North differently than past albums, or is it sort of a consistent process?
It’s both. After 13 years and so many records, we definitely have a method and a system that works. It changes a little bit every time, but now I think we’re pretty set on the way we do it together. In terms of the methodology, it wasn’t that different. But every time you make a record, you choose different gears, different places to record, and different things are happening to you in your life. You’re a different person. So, those three things always inform the same methodology and that’s what changes: the filters through which the work passes. Sometimes they bear a striking resemblance to the last time, but, this time, I knew it was 180 degrees [different]. This was definitely the most fun, least painful project ever.

The most fun and least painful?
After 35, or after you have kids, it’s like, “Well, who really gives a shit, ultimately?” Am I really going to go to war with this person I love and lose sleep and have fucking anxiety attacks just because we can’t figure out what bassline works? As a young band, it’s the only thing that matters to you. Then, time passes, and so many other things mean so much more. It’s not that the work isn’t important; it’s just that it’s in the context of the rest of your life. You learn how to calm down and get on with it. So much of life is learning that you lose about seventy percent of the battles you choose to fight. That’s the average. There’s no point getting upset about it.

Going back to your time together, what’s that kind of longevity like? And what do you foresee for the future?
It’s amazing. I think it’s something we’re all very proud of. We’re proud of the music, but I think we’re prouder, in a way, of this co-existence we’ve built together. All the things we’ve been through together. [Laughs] It’s an endless parade of bad decisions and big mistakes, and yet nobody pulled the plug. Nobody ever did that. At one point or another, every single member of the band has had a right to do that or been the cause of someone else having a right to do that. And yet we haven’t. In that respect, it’s a lot like marriage. It’s hoping for the best. [This is the point at which we were disconnected.] As for the future, we’re going to keep going and probably play fewer shows.

But you love shows.
Oh yeah. I love playing shows. If everyone could just come here, to Vancouver, I would play, easily, 300 shows a year. No problem at all. But, I think being on the bus and being away from my family and that aspect of it, it’s fun for, I don’t know, let’s say ten years. And then, after that, it’s like, “Okay. This is a fuckin’ ridiculous way to live my life. I’m spending an hour-and-a-half looking for my sock. Where am I going anyway? Why do I need socks? It’s not as if anybody knows whether I’m alive or dead, until 9 PM tonight. So, why don’t I just not wear socks?” It’s just a pointless way to exist. And then you play a show and you’re like, “Oh, life means something and, god, I love my job and it’s so great and aren’t we lucky to have people cheering for us?”But, then you wake up the next day and you’re in the middle of nowhere without your family. So, that aspect of it is getting old, for sure.

I hear that. Makes sense. So, how do you feel about fame?
Ever since I was a kid, people have been telling me I’m going to be famous, all my life, and I never have been. I’m not famous at all. Nobody knows who the fuck I am. I’m nobody. First of all, obviously—it goes without saying—I’m in a tiny indie band [that] nobody gives a shit about. But, even people who give a shit about us, I’m just some forty-year-old guy. The only time I’m famous is when I’m singing those songs. Other than that, I give myself a solid 4.7 out of 10 on the human impact scale.

If you say so! How do you like returning to New York?
Well, I lived in New York for ten years and the band started in New York. I like coming to New York like a New Yorker likes to come to New York. There’s a part of me that loves that place and it’s very deep inside me. To this day, my wife still says that, even though I was born in England and I grew up in Canada, I act like a New Yorker. That was where my personality came into full fruition, where I found 11 million assholes just like me. [Laughs] I feel very at home there. On the other hand, I hate New York. Like everybody does. New York is a reflection of you. It’s whatever you imagine yourself to be. On a bad day, New York is a bitch. And, on a good day, New York is an angel, I think. I like coming to New York and having something to do. I like the fact that I come to New York and play shows and people come to the shows. There’s an element of revenge I enjoy. I think a lot of people end up living in New York to try to get revenge on New York for all that New York has done to them over the years. People are motivated by revenge. I feel that. It’s satisfying to come and get a little revenge on New York every once in a while.

Revenge, huh?
It’s about my personal relationship with New York. The experience of ten years trying to make it work there. Sometimes it did work, but a lot of the time it doesn’t work. New York is so tiny and there’s so many people doing amazing things; if shit isn’t going your way, it’s very palpable, and you feel very much left out of the shit that is going right. It can be a cruel place. I love it.

Ditto. What do you get into when you’re here?
Well, we work most of the time. I’m a person who just goes to the same place, no matter where I am in the world. In New York, I still go to the bars I went to in 1996. I have no idea what’s happening in New York. I just go to New York and I recreate 1996.

In another interview, Amy Millan claims Stars is like Seinfeld. She says, “If you really looked into the deep psyche of Stars, it’s like Seinfeld, but Larry David is actually in Seinfeld instead of behind the scenes writing it. That’s my life. I swear to God we are a Seinfeld episode in normal life, like there’s the glamorous aspect of getting up on stage and writing amazing music, but then there’s the daytime stuff that’s pure Seinfeld.” Can you speak to this?
[Laughs] All I can say is, I think Larry David is a big person in all our lives. I have a t-shirt with his face on it. That’s how much I love Larry David. I suffer from anxiety. When I’m in the throws of anxiety attacks, I don’t have a prescription for Xanax—I just watch Curb Your Enthusiasm. Or sometimes I just listen to it on my headphones. I’m obsessed with Larry David and the work of Larry David and I think everyone else in the band is pretty obsessed with Larry David. The thing about Larry David is, he’s a dark motherfucker. Like, he doesn’t care how dark it gets, as long as it’s funny. I think, in Stars, that’s the kind of people we are. We really don’t care. There are things we would never say in public, obviously, but there are jokes made in our band that are truly morally reprehensible. But, if they’re funny, everybody has a good laugh. At least half the reason we’re in the band is just for jokes, just to hang out and wait for punch lines. The one thing we all have in common is, we share a fucked up sense of humor. And our cult leader is Larry David. We would follow him anywhere. We’d do anything for him. We worship him. We think he’s fucking genius.

Same.
Oh, we’re not alone. We’re among the legion.

What would you be doing if not this?
The only job I can think of that I would actually be able to do would be driving a cab or, like, driving people to the airport in a limo. I could do that. And I would like to do that. I really would. People think I’m joking and I’m not joking. I think it would be awesome. You just put on the soft rock station. You have water bottles—my car would be fucking awesome. Like, I’d have Evian bottles in the back, maybe a couple of newspapers to read. If you want to talk we can talk. If not, I’ll leave you alone. It’s fine. We don’t have to talk. And I would drive very smoothly. If you’re in a rush, I’ll drive fast, but I’m not going to go crazy. I’d be really good at that. Wouldn’t that be a great job?

[Laughs] Can you please make a music video where you’re the limo driver and the rest of the band’s in the back?
That’s a great idea! Actually, that’s a very good idea. Yes, we can. I’m going to do that for you. I’ll get right on that. I’m going to steal that from you.

Yesss. [Laughs] Lastly, have you always wanted to make music and act?
No. I’ve never wanted to. I’ve never wanted to act and I’ve never wanted to make music. I just had to. I couldn’t do anything else. I didn’t want to do anything else. So, by elimination, that’s what happened. That’s what I am. It’s what everybody in my family is. It’s what my father was, what my mother is, my brothers, my sisters, my wife, my child. Everybody in my life is obsessed with art and is a performer of one kind or another. There’s not a single person I love who isn’t in that field or doesn’t have that within them. Even the people I’m close to in my family who are not performers, that’s our religion. We’re fundamentalists. I was raised in a house where groceries were bought [with] money made from art. Art was the Bible and art was the devil and art was everything in between. I was told art could change people’s lives and you could change the world and you could start revolutions with it. That’s my fate. I have never wanted to. It’s what I am. 

Photo by Kevin Barnett

Bands You Should See in New York This Month

Here are our recommendations for May shows with a few videos for your perusal. 

TIMBER TIMBRE (opening for Feist)
May 5

Radio City Music Hall ($40)
Show: 8:00 p.m.

Feist fans will have the chance to discover Timber Timbre at Radio City Music Hall on Saturday, when the Canadian blues-folk band (who recently supported The Meat Puppets) takes the stage opening for the fellow Arts & Crafts-signed-singer-songwriter. Timber Timbre, composed of Taylor Kirk, Mika Posen and Simon Trottier, have been on the road since the release of their fourth record, Creep On Creepin’ On, in April of last year. Their atmospheric sound is dark, haunting and worth a listen.

 

SPIRITUALIZED (with Nikki Lane)
May 7

Terminal 5 ($30 Advanced/$35 Day of Show)
Doors: 7:00 p.m./Show: 8:00 p.m.

The Englishmen are back on tour following the April release of their seventh studio album Sweet Heart Sweet Lights. “I always shy away from anything I write that sounds like a pop song […] This time I’m embracing songs like that and seeing what happens. I’m not fighting it any more,” Spiritualized mastermind Jason Pierce told NME during the making the new record. Critics have praised the results, calling it the band’s best work since 1997’s acclaimed Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. You be the judge.

 

TY SEGALL AND WHITE FENCE (with The Strange Boys, The Men)
May 16

Webster Hall ($15 ADV/$17 DOS)
Doors: 7:30 p.m./Show: 8:30 p.m.

Don’t miss your chance to catch garage and psych rockers Ty Segall and White Fence (Tim Presley) when the Californians present their Drag City collaboration Hair, a brilliant 60s lo-fi psychedelic revival record that’s begging to be heard live. The LP features Presley on lead guitar and bass, while Segall plays drums and rhythm guitar.

 

THE DIG (w Taurus)
May 20

Glasslands Gallery ($10 ADV/$12 DOS)
Show: 8:30 p.m.

Brooklyn’s The Dig have all the elements of a power-pop band; they’re four guys – David Baldwin, Emile Mosseri, Erick Eiser and Mark Demiglio – on guitar, bass, keyboard and drums. Their new record Midnight Flowers comes out May 29th, following their catchy debut LP Electric Toys, released in 2010. Give them a listen and check them out, so you can say you “saw them back when they played Glasslands.”

 

THAT DOG. (with Kurt Braunohler, Baron Vaughn)
May 25

Music Hall of Williamsburg ($20 ADV/$25 DOS)
Doors: 8:00 p.m./Show: 9:00 p.m.

The L.A.-based punk-infused power-pop band known as “That Dog.” (Anna Waronker, Rachel Haden, Petra Haden and Tony Maxwell), who formed in 1991, dispersed in 1997, only to reunite in 2011, are playing their first NYC shows in 15 years on May 24th and 25th at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. As expected, their first show sold out, but wait – there are still tickets available for the second night.

Jim Jones on His Revue, New Album, & His Dream Collaborators

Known for highly-charged live shows that hark back to the good ol’ days of rock and roll, The Jim Jones Revue is about to take New York by storm. With their second album, Burning Your House Down, the five-member band pump out the same visceral and thrilling music as their previous self-titled album, but with a more polished sound. On Saturday, the English troubadours will take the stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. After a crowd-pleasing performance on David Letterman this week, it feels they may have finally broken through Stateside. We caught up with Jim Jones himself to find out more about the new album, rock and roll in today’s world, and his dream collaborators.

How would you describe your sound? We’re not trying to do something nostalgic in a way that a lot of people are, even though that stuff is fascinating. Those were more innocent times and the drive and aggression of that music, in those days, must have been quite shocking, whereas today we live in a world where pretty much if you can think of something disgusting, someone’s probably already done it, and there’s very little shock value to be had. So we’re just trying to appropriate that today and use anything at our disposal to try and put our music across with the same ferocity.

So is live performance and touring something you thrive on? Yeah, it’s pivotal. I’d say that everything else just hangs around that, and the live show is really what it’s about. You can listen to records and watch live footage, but when you actually arrive at a concert, there’s something that just doesn’t completely translate into a recording or a film, because you get the human experience if you’re there at the concert.

Do you have any favorite places you’d toured? I quite often like to mention the Basque region in northern Spain. It’s sort of a fiercely independent area, and they seem to be immediately in touch with their passionate side, so when you come on stage there they’re already crowd surfing . In terms of audience, they go up to eleven.

Tell me about your new album. How is it different from the last one? The first album was pretty much just made on a complete shoestring. We basically booked a rehearsal room that was very small for two days, and recorded it live. It ended up sounding quite distorted, to try and capture that excitement. So the next album we wanted to maintain the excitement and the ferocity that the first one had, but just with the benefit of a little bit more depth of sound. We pretty much played live, except this time the album was done over the course of a week rather than just a couple of afternoons. A couple of the songs on the album are just one take.

Were you worried at all that having this sort higher production value would take something away from the rawness of your sound? Exactly. That was something that was important to us going into it. We had talked about that and that’s what we wanted to avoid. We didn’t want that to happen. The first album was made so brutal sounding because there’s just no point in doing anything mediocre. It’s either make it really good or just make it really aggressive or noisy. It has to be really something, it could be average but what’s the point? There’s loads of average around and I always think if you try and avoid mediocrity, you’ll generally be alright.

Is there anyone you’d love to maybe tour with or collaborate with? On the impossible wish list: Tom Waits is a great person. He’s always stood for integrity, and he manages really interesting and great imagery, and at the same time, seems to have this warmth about him. And someone like Andre 3000 from Outkast, or Jack White perhaps.

Photo by Steve Gullick.

Terry Casey Talks New York Nightlife

My old friend Terry Casey is getting a little older and will celebrate his birthday at Home Sweet Home this Thursday. He isn’t getting any wiser, apparently, as he has asked me to DJ for an hour. I will be sandwiched in early around 8pm between Rocco Ancarola and veteran spinner Walter V. That’s like 80 years of club experience throwing music that isn’t muzak at you. Terry is one of those bright, go-to guys that I go to for advice or insight on what’s going on. He can be seen everywhere as his taste in nightlife is as diverse and eclectic as his grasp on music. I am honored to play for him.

Tell me about your upcoming birthday event. My birthday event is a fun, non-serious affair combining music, art, and fashion. There will be DJs, an art show with great artists (courtesy of Javier Leonard of Leonard Tourne Galleries), and a small fashion show. The venue really helps with this, as it has a real gallery with a cool cocktail bar attached. Artists want the best setting for their art and Home Sweet Home’s new gallery space offers that. They don’t want just a few walls in a nightclub/bar/lounge setting with bad lighting. I picked a wide selection of DJs and friends to do two rooms of music. It’ll be everyone from the bottle/social scene to the DJs playing the Brooklyn warehouse parties—I like to connect the groups (dots). I asked you, Rocco Ancarola (Pink Elephant, Lavo) and Walter V (Studio 54, Danceteria) to play music in a gallery setting and what more experienced nightlife crew could I have found for a 3 hour opening session? The crowd will get to hear these people play songs they want to play and not just the radio or karaoke/wedding DJ songs like most spots in NYC. Later in the evening we’ll open two rooms, with one for indie dance music and the other with electronic DJs like Varick, Carlos Mejia and more from the techno/minimal/warehouse party scene. That includes parties like Sheik N’ Beik (Julio Santo Domingo’s), Blkmarket Membership (Taimur and Fahad), Low Pitch Orchestra (Carlos), Flawless (Jen and John), Made Events and many more. These parties introduce new acts before they become mainstream and bring culture to the New York scene.

Since you closed Le Royale, what have you been up to? Is there a venue in your future? Le Royale closed when it was still very very busy, with four months worth of bookings and global acts coming to play a 150-person DJ room. That’s not a good or normal reason to close a club but it’s also not normal for your business partners to not show any accounting for the business. To this day I have not received any accounting from my former partners, David Baxley and Elaine Romagnoli. The issue will hit the courts in the next few weeks and they can explain their actions to a judge. Their actions were damaging to staff, promoters, vendors, and to me who all lost a lot of money and two years of my life building a strong brand. Their actions were dishonest and I expect to be able to show their actions were not in good faith in a court. At first, I took a year off doing no events and just listened to lots of music and worked on a few small projects away from nightlife; I was not sure if I wanted anything more to do with clubland. The ugly side of this business left a bad taste in my mouth, it was a sad experience. But it’s made me a lot wiser and I have already pulled out of deals with similar characters trying the same type of stuff. I understand that clubs and bars are a business and expect them to be run with honesty and care. My love comes from the inspirations of music and creative people, and combining those is so much fun; nightlife can be such a creative avenue for people and it caught my heart many years ago. Will there be more clubs from me? Yes. I expect there to be more ventures but it needs to be the right deal and a place that can make people feel at home. I’m working on a few things now but talk is cheap, as we all know.

Tell me about technology and the changes DJs are adapting to. What I have been doing since Le Royale is listening to lots of new music to make myself happy. My favorite is a new music style called electro swing which combines old swing music with electronic beats like house and hip-hop. I recently DJ’d a night of 90 percent electro swing music to see what people thought and was pleasantly surprised. There are pockets of people in many cities around the world making this music and sending it to each other and spreading the word globally—how fun is that? I’ve also been checking out new DJ technologies, which in recent times has moved to a new level. I came into the music business from being a DJ and I started out in London at 16-years-old, buying import dance releases from NYC, Chicago and Detroit. It was mostly house music at that time, but over the years my taste expanded as I grew musically and learnt more about music. Now I’m open to everything from dubstep, to classic rock, to world music and everything in between. At the moment I’ve been excited by DJ Controllers and Midi Controllers—I hate to say it, but CD players and turntables are going to be history in clubs soon enough, because the future is here. I currently use an S4 Controller by Tractor and it just blows my mind. I don’t need anything but the controller and it does more than a CD or turntable ever could with music. I have to thank DJ Kris Graham (Diva) for turning me onto this. Kris is a nerd surrounded by beautiful women, but he’s a nerd, I’m calling him out on it right now.And of course, the Technics SL-1200 is still an amazing piece of engineering.

What are the positives and negatives about the current New York nightlife scene? I think the positives are that social clubs are booking and promoting new music, not just booking people to play the radio. I believe that’s partly because of YouTube and other outlets promoting new music, which now gets to the masses and not just DJs. At this time there’s no need to wait on radio stations and the losers at MTV to play new music. MTV wanted us to believe that reality TV was bigger than music and more profitable to shareholders but I think it’s safe to say that YouTube has a brighter future then Viacom. You only have to look at Lady Gaga’s career and how the web took her to new highs. Then, if you look at Lavo, Provocateur, SL and other socially/bottle-driven clubs, they have taken a serious approach to booking the established and rising stars in electronic music.

In Brooklyn we have world-wide sensations and New Yorkers need to be proud that we have such a creative force in our hometown. We also have a new rising star in festivals with Electric Zoo and you have to give it to Mike Bindra for taking that chance and seeing the vision in doing a purely electronic music festival. We are also lucky to have Bowery Presents in NYC and great live music shows at Bowery, Webster Hall, and Music Hall of Williamsburg. Le Bain has a great music policy now, with Jerome and Neil Aline and Cielo is a stable for house heads. On Fridays, Webster Hall Friday is dubstep heaven and draws the biggest acts from dubstep and electro. The brunch/restaurant parties in NYC are off the hook, day and night, including Lavo and Bagatelle. Rocco Ancarola’s Sunday night is my favorite party at the moment and the DJ plays almost no house and no hip-hop, so that’s rare. There are lots of performers and it’s held in a restaurant so you see people like U2, Paul Oakenfold and movie stars dancing on tables to world music.

Negatives, well that’s easy: Some aspects have not changed much, including bottle service, door policies, a lack of diverse crowds, too much focus on money and no culture, to list a few. Also, rent is too damn high, as our friend who ran for mayor said.

Where is Brooklyn headed? Brooklyn can only get bigger and better, it’s where the youth of NYC look to live, not Manhattan. It’s very international especially Williamsburg and Dumbo. People used to move to places like Williamsburg to save money on rent and now they live there because they want to be with friends. To me, Williamsburg offers what Manhattan is not able to offer—a real community. Manhattan is becoming very generic, which is not cool to watch because there are still areas that feel like community, for example the West Village. But most people can’t afford to live in those areas so it’s a luxury for them. More people will move to Brooklyn from all over the country and the world before even touching down in Manhattan. There’s already more people living in Brooklyn over Manhattan so it can seen as its’ own city or even funnier, Manhattan as a suburb of Brooklyn (that’s a joke). Brooklyn can expect some of the issues from Manhattan over time, like more chain stores (Starbucks, etc) and rising rent costs. Rent prices have gone up a lot over the last 10 years, and more than doubled and tripled in some areas, but there’s been great progress for the communities in Brooklyn and Queens at Manhattan’s cultural expense.

Are you British, or is that a speech impediment? And why are you in New York? I’m a big city guy, born in London and was very lucky to be born in what I’m told is the music capital of the world, although NYC and Brooklyn are fighting back strong.

May’s Key Events: Met Ball, Beastie Boys, Cannes Film Festival

May 1: The Met Ball celebrates the launch of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Watch your step, Paz! May 3: Scary Spice: Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, Beastie Boys’ first album in four years, is released today. May 4: Kylie Minogue plays Hammerstein Ballroom, which is probably the size of her dressing room in England.

May 6: Let the Natalie Portman authenticity debate continue! Thor, starring Chris Hemsworth and the Oscar-winning body-double enthusiast, comes out today. May 10: Rob Lowe releases his memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography, a book that, unless you’re Rob Lowe’s friend, is totally blank. May 11: Yes we Cannes! American directors invade the Riviera as Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Gus van Sant’s Restless, and Jodie Foster’s The Beaver screen at the prestigious film festival. May 12: Sleigh Bells play the Music Hall of Williamsburg to a crowd of people who discovered them first. May 20: Serious actor Johnny Depp continues his adventures in moneymaking with Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. May 23: Lady Gaga releases Born This Way, the first and only concept album about a cesarean section. May 25: No! More! Ooooooprraahhhhh! Harpo Studios says goodbye to screaming moms and toaster ovens when Oprah Winfrey airs her final show. May 26: The Hangover II, in which the guys go berserk in Thailand, hits theaters. Haven’t they ever heard of Gatorade? May 27: CGI dinosaurs meet real-life dinosaurs in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.

Twin Shadow on Coachella, Opening for the Strokes – & that Hair

George Lewis Jr. is about to have one hell of a summer. The Dominican-born, Brooklyn-based musician, who plays under the moniker Twin Shadow, has a king-making trifecta of festival slots this summer that will surely skyrocket his fledgling profile. Kicking off with this weekend’s Coachella, he’ll then head to Washington for Sasquatch, and then down south for Bonnaroo. It doesn’t get bigger than that. Lewis made waves back in October, when his debut album, the synth-laden, ’80s New Wave-channeling Forget (produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear), garnered critical praise. We spoke with Lewis as he wandered the streets of New Orleans (possibly while intoxicated) about opening for the Strokes at SXSW, strange subway encounters, and his famous ‘do.

You’re walking around New Orleans right now. Are you drinking one of those hurricane drinks? I’ve had four of them already.

How does it taste? It’s terrible. I can believe people do this to their bodies. Oh wait. A horse in a carriage is running down the street and not really paying attention to any of the cars. The driver is screaming. And I get this weird feeling that I am standing outside of Trent Reznor’s house. There’s a gate with a chain.

When I was waiting around for you to call me back, I was listening to your record and sort fell asleep at my desk for a minute. Please do not take this as a diss. Does this happen every time? Is this a Pavlovian response to my music?

This does not happen every time. But it does relax me. I will say it’s a woozy record. It’s kind of like that Chris Isaak song [“Wicked Game”], which used to put me to sleep as a kid. I think of the record as a small pop record, actually. It’s pop.

You had a really good SXSW with the Fader Fort and opening for The Strokes. It was a busy day. It was hard for me to remember that set at the Fort.

What do you remember? There was more pot smoke than I ever could have imagined. Waves of it. And I remember some people responding to the music. And I remember this one guy in the front row had his middle finger up during the entire set.

That’s a positive sign in some cultures, no? I looked at it like he was giving me the devil horns, but was missing a couple fingers.

And opening for The Strokes? It was a trip, playing in front of 20,000 people. Recently [before SXSW], Albert Hammond Jr. came up to me and said he had seen me play at Music Hall of Williamsburg and had loved the show. So we exchanged numbers and I invited him to my studio for the day and we hung out. Sounds like a dude date. We had a dude date! But there was a girl there too.

Lucky girl. It was actually Oh Land. It was kind of a dream, like we were starting some sort of new Brat Pack. We were just hanging out, and Oh Land and I were working on something. It’s all super casual.

You’re playing Coachella this weekend. What are you looking forward to most? Playing a big festival and seeing how many fans we actually have, I suppose. I’m excited to see Kanye.

What’s playing in the van on the way to Coachella? It’s mostly Dirty South hip-hop. Today we listened to a lot of 2 Live Crew and Mystikal. Thin Lizzy has been popping up a lot. And you know the best Pandora station, believe it or not, is Barry White. It’s opened my eyes. He goes so far beyond the pillow talk thing. You’ve lived in Copenhagen and Berlin. What does an American musician gain from living in those cities? Experiencing the European people and establishing relationships with them, one of which was my girlfriend—which was on and off for four years. It changed the way I thought about music. I was stuck in all these American, indie-slash-punk-rock ideals, which ended up building walls around me creatively. When I got outside of America, and realized there isn’t so much of this “I’m a punk” and “I’m a hood rat” label system, the attitude made me open my head up. I had put all these restrictions on myself.

What bands were you listening to over there? The Knife really excited me, even before I left for Copenhagen. I was immediately inspired. And from there, I researched what stuff they were into. All of a sudden I got into the Kate Bush “Hounds of Love” record and Kraftwerk and a bunch of the krautrock bands.

And this girlfriend. She influenced this record, obviously. Of course.

Are you on or off? It’s pretty much off, but she is amazing. A very special person, and I think she will be in my life for the rest of it. The distance thing is hard and my life choice is also really hard. I don’t have many working relationships, even with friends these days. It’s near impossible.

How did you hook up with Chris Taylor from Grizzly Bear? I was recording the record on my own and my manager and I had several conversations about getting somebody to come in from the outside—to give some perspective. It was more my manager’s idea than mine, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. I felt, at times, a bit stifled. So I had two people in mind—pretty much anybody from The Knife or Chris Taylor because I had been listening to Veckatimest a lot over Christmas, and was mostly into the production. I loved how lush it was and that you could still hear everything. I don’t think my music is at all like Grizzly Bear, but I thought there are a lot of layers to my music and that sometimes there is too much going on. It needs clarity and I heard clarity in Chris’ production.

What turns you on? Dinosaur Jr. turns me on!

J has that hair. He can really play that guitar. And the hair is really good—that peppered Addam’s Family Cousin Itt look.

Speaking of hair, yours is ridiculously good. It changes a lot. I get bored with it. I kind of treat my hair like a woman. I like to do as much with it as I can, and before it disappears.

Do you use some special hair spray of gel? I go to a Dominican or black salon and they usually blow out my hair with a blow drier and a comb. It gets really straight and flow-y and beautiful. My keyboard player will do my hair sometimes. You can catch me, sometimes, looking like a mess. If you look at James Brown, he sometimes looked like a mess. But it didn’t matter.

Do you shop on tour? I’m always picking up clothes, but I’m trying to move out of vintage land. I’m kind of aspiring to having a tailor who makes me all my clothes. That’s my mission. Have you ever modeled? As a kid I modeled in a Wal-Mart advertisement. I was modeling sunglasses. I don’t think anybody will find that.

Last random encounter on a subway? The other day these two girls noticed me and, very loudly, started talking about me as Twin Shadow. I assume, because I had my sunglasses on, they felt it was okay to go into a conversation like I wasn’t there. At some point it got personal. There was a comment about the shoes that I was wearing. Something like, “He wore those shoes at the Brooklyn Bowl show the first time they played there. They are kind of beat up.” Eventually it got so ridiculous that I stood up and said hey. They kind of just gulped, and the subway door opened at Bedford Ave. and they ran out. That was weird.

Lauryn Hill Announces New Tour

Lauryn Hill is making a comeback these days. Sold-out shows this winter at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, a new track (possibly), and now she’s announced a tour beginning next Wednesday in Orlando. Unfortunately for us, she doesn’t seem to have any more dates in New York.

Here are the dates for the new tour:

3/16 – Orlando – House of Blues 3/19 – Miami – Jazz in the Gardens Festival 3/23 – Tampa – The Ritz 3/26 – Myrtle Beach – House of Blues 3/30 – Atlanta, GA – Center Stage 4/3 – Oahu – Aloha Tower 4/9 – Portland – Arlene Schnitzer Hall 4/12 – San Francisco – The Warfield 4/15 – Indio Coachella Music and Arts Festival 4/18 – Los Angeles – Club Nokia 4/23 – Denver – The Fillmore 5/7 – New Orleans – TBD

She’s also joined Twitter, although she hasn’t tweeted yet. Does this we’re mean seeing a full-scale Ms. Hill comeback after years of silence? Back in the fall, she said she was nearing completion on a new album, and that’s pretty much the last I heard about that. We’ll see. In the meantime, some vintage Lauryn during her Miseducation days:

Gig Guide 2/15 – 2/21: NYC’s Top Indie Rock Shows

Lady Gaga is coming to town, but before you participate in that HBO-documented debauchery, catch Ween and the Walkmen, new indie darling Darwin Deez, Interpol, and Crystal Stilts make their way to a music hall near you. Les Savy Fav, Lou Reed, and the Church round out this week’s Gig Guide.

Tuesday, February 15th

Who: Wild Nothing, Abe Vigoda @: 285 Kent Avenue, 8:00 PM Tickets: $10

Who: Drive-By Truckers @: Bowery Ballroom, 8:00 PM Tickets: $25 Details: DBT hits the road in honor of their new country/soul album, Go-Go Boots, (Feb. 15th) which the Wall Street Journal says is “awash with the primordial soul sounds of the Muscle Shoals, Alabama region—home to a majority of the band—which rose to fame in the 1960s when musicians such as Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and The Rolling Stones recorded in the area’s studios.”

Who: Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Buke and Gass @: The Stone, 10:00 PM Tickets: $40 Details: Not only have they been curating the February performance line up at The Stone, they’ll also be playing the venue tonight. Prior to, get in the Lou mood by catching MoMA exhibit Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures, and think back to the days when Andy used to boss Reed around as the manager of The Velvet Underground. The show runs until March 21, 2011.

Wednesday, February 16th

Who: Les Savy Fav, 1,2,3, Big Troubles @: Bowery Ballroom, 8:00 PM Tickets: $15 Details: New York City based indie/art rockers Les Savy Fav have a post-hardcore edge that is awesome to see unfold live. Here they are at Solar One: A softer track, “What Would Wolves Do?” has been their calling card:

Who: The Church @: Highline Ballroom, 8:00 PM Tickets: $39.50 Details: If you don’t know The Church, here’s a crash course: Australian rock circa 1980. Early influence was New Wave, morphed into psych-rock, and now sounds more like progressive rock—with extended jams that sound like all of the above (The Psychedelic Furs and Echo & The Bunnymen are contemporaries). Because of a special edition reissue of four albums—Starfish, Gold Afternoon Fix, Priest = Aura, and Sometime Anywhere—the Sydney band will be playing three of the four albums in full.

Who: Fitz and the Tantrums, Devin Therriault @: Music Hall of Williamsburg, 8:00PM Tickets: $12 advance, $14 door Details: Think Maroon 5 (whom they’ve opened for) with a little more funk/soul.

Who: The Silent League, ARMS, Inlets, Your Youth, Thunder and Lightning @: Pianos, 6:00PM Tickets: $6 Details: The Brooklyn charmers are so “awww.” See?

Thursday, February 17th

Who: The Beets, German Measles, Big Troubles, The Beach Arabs @: 285 Kent Avenue, 8:00PM Tickets: $8

Who: Dream Diary, Gypsy Death & You, Telenovelas, Young Boys, Dutch Treat @: Death by Audio, 8:00PM Tickets: Free!

Who: Tamaryn, Religious To Damn @: Don Hill’s, 8:00PM Tickets: It’s Don Hill’s! Pay for your booze and listen to the smooth crooning of this San Fran chick, Tamaryn.

Who: Interpol, School of Seven Bells @: Radio City Music Hall, 7:00PM Tickets: $29.50 Details: Paul Banks and company didn’t get the best reviews for their recent self-titled offering, but their live show reviews have been stellar.

Friday, February 18th

Who: Crystal Stilts, Beach Fossils, Widowspeak @: 285 Kent Avenue, 8:00PM Tickets: $10 Details: “Converging in Quiet” is the track by Crystal Stilts that best describes their sound: rolling lazily along in a tempered tone until it suddenly becomes buoyant with energy. Does that make sense? If anything, enjoy their drummer’s stylings: he prefers to stand-up, taking after The Velvet Underground’s drummer Maureen “Moe” Tucker. We’ve already waxed poetic about Beach Fossils, so go to see them both.

Who: Le Mood, Des Roar @: Santos Party House, 7:00PM Tickets: $10 Details: Florida natives Le Mood have been on the New York City scene for years—and their following proves it. Their debut full-length LP “Adventures In Stereo” has been described by Outright Rock as “a perfectly crafted indie pop record – upbeat, insightful, infectious, retro, and even a bit psychedelic. The songs are deeply melodic, full of energy and feeling, and showcase the band’s superb songwriting skills.” We agree!

Saturday, February 19th

Who: Darwin Deez, Friends @: Bowery Ballroom, 8:00PM Tickets: $13 advance, $15 door Details: If you’re into that whole “next big thing in music” scene, you do not to miss Darwin’s show. Same goes for folks into dancing around in a hippy-clappy, fell-good way.

Who: Peaches, Creep @: Good Units, 10:00PM Tickets: $15 advance, $20 door.

Who: Celebration http://www.myspace.com/celebrationcelebration, Microkingdom, High Life @: Death by Audio, 8:00PM Tickets: $10 Details: Celebration, a Baltimore-based band, claims it’s significantly influenced by cabaret culture, but sounds a bit more like a cross between soul and psych rock.

Who: Yann Tiersen, Breathe Owl Breathe @: Highline Ballroom, 7:00 PM Tickets: $25 advance, $30 door Details: Yann Tiersen plays pretty music, and conducts a sort of indie symphony that huge crowds go wild for. Fans of the film Amélie already know his arrangements:

Sunday, February 20th

Who: Air Waves, Easter Vomit, The Sanctuaries @: Bruar Falls, 8:00 PM Tickets: $7

Who: Gene Ween (of Ween!), Hamilton Leithauser (of The Walkmen!), David Dondero (formerly of Sunbrain!) @: Cameo Gallery, 8:00PM Tickets: $21.78 Details: Noncerts (a charity showcase with all proceeds going to Brooklyn’s public schools) brings together the awesomeness of Ween with the awesomeness of The Walkmen. Legends, I tell you! And let’s not forget David Dondero, whom NPR‘s All Songs Considered once named as one of the “best living songwriters” alongside Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Tom Waits.

Who: My Teenage Stride, Widowspeak, The Poison Control Center, Crinkles @: Mercury Lounge, 7:00PM Tickets: $10 Details: However ironic it is that My Teenage Stride calls themselves both “glam” and “minimalist,” the characterization works for them. They’re both twee, and fake English, which sort of gives them a posturing persona akin to Joy Division, The Smiths, and Jesus & the Mary Chain.

Monday, February 21st

Who: Lady Gaga @: Madison Square Garden, 8:00 PM Tickets: $54 Details: Perhaps the only show you’ll see this week since you’ll have to save up $54 bucks, but isn’t it worth it?

Gig Guide 2/8 – 2/15: NYC’s Top Indie Rock Shows

For some, this week marks the start of Fashion Week, a time when “front row” means sitting stiffly next to editors and celebrities as a barrage of waifs cascade down a lit runway. For music lovers, “front row” this week will mean getting sweated on by The National, Huey Lewis and the News, and Theophilus London. Here’s the best of the week’s musical acts.

Tuesday, February 8th

Who: Deerhoof, Ben Butler & Mousepad, Buke and Gass, Nervous Cop @: Europa Tickets: $15

Who: The National @: The Studio at Webster Hall, 8PM Tickets: Sold Out Details: The “MTV Live in NYC” show sold out in 1 second. Good luck scalping at the door!

Who: Gang of Four, Hollerado @: Webster Hall, 7PM Tickets: $37

Wednesday, February 9th

Who: Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea, The Gay Blades, Mon Khmer @: Bowery Ballroom, 8PM Tickets: $16 advance, $18 door Details: After making some adjustments in her band, which now features Christopher Donofrio on drums, Brad York on guitars, and Anthony Chick on bass, Nicole Atkins has changed the name from “Nicole Atkins and the Sea” to “Nicole Atkins and the Black Sea.” On top of the shuffling, Atkins has severed ties with Columbia Records, and has released her newest album, Mondo Amore, on Razor and Tie Records.

Who: Huey Lewis And The News @: Gramercy Theatre, 8PM Tickets: $49

Who: Soft Landing @: Matchless, 8PM Tickets: Not Listed Details: Here’s a little live bit when Soft Landing played Lit Lounge. Thursday, February 10

Who: Free Blood, Lymbyc System @: Brooklyn Bowl, 8:00PM Tickets: $5 advance, $7 door Details: Brooklyn New York’s Free Blood formed in 2003, and is in the RCRD LBL family. Their catchy dance tunes are more arty than poppy, and are almost sinister in some effect. Bonus point: Their music is featured on the 127 Hours soundtrack, and in this trailer:

Who: Titus Andronicus, Care Bears On Fire, Toy Sugar, Deux Chattes @: Mercury Lounge, 7:30PM Tickets: $20 Details: Shoegaze/Punk rockers Titus team up with the teen rock group, Care Bears On Fire (who started their band before they were 12 years old) for the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls Benefit tonight.

Friday, February 11th

Who: Josh Joplin, Jill Andrews @: 92Y Tribeca Tickets: $12 Details: Josh Joplin’s crooning sounds nearly identical to REM’s Michael Stipe. It’s a little creepy.

Who: Javelin, High Life, Monster Rally @: Glasslands, 8:30PM Tickets: $10 Details: Pitchfork accolades for Javelin, the “Punk/R&B” Brooklyn band, include: “Rising” artist, one of the “Albums of the Year” and has been mentioned under Pitchfork’s “Best New Music” category. They headline Glassland’s “Stuff Hipsters Hate” party.

Who: Colour Revolt, A Great Big Pile Of Leaves, Your Skull My Closet @: Knitting Factory Brooklyn, 8:00PM Tickets: $12 Details: The Mississippi band, Colour Revolt, play pretty, expressive indie rock widely considered to be underrated, which has earned them an enthusiastic following. This is their “music video” for “Mattressess Under Water.”

Saturday, February 12

Who: Sun Airway, Nightlands, Warm Ghost, Dinowalrus @: Glasslands, 8:30PM Tickets: $8 advance, $10 door

Who: Screaming Females, Laura Stevenson & The Cans, Shellshag, Lemuria, Byrds of Paradise @: Music Hall of Williamsburg, 7:00PM Tickets: $10 advance, $12 door Details: Don Giovanni Records Showcase

Who: The Forms @: The Rock Shop, 8:00PM Tickets: $10 Details: Mac Randall of The New York Observer described the band as “aggro-artsy trio fond of awkward time signatures, sly rhythmic manipulation, curlicuing vocal lines, and giving one song two separate track numbers for no obvious reason.” This is their album release party for “Derealization + Icarus.”

Who: Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band @: Webster Hall, 7:00PM Tickets: $25

Who: The Library Is On Fire, The Party of Helicopters @: Tliofhq Loft Space, 8:00PM Tickets: Not Priced Details: Loft party alert! See the swaggering, concrete punk rockers, TLIOF at their head quarters: The Tliofhq Loft Space at 114 Forrest St. 3c in Brooklyn!

Sunday, February 13th

Who: Wild Nothing, Abe Vigoda, MINKS @: Bowery Ballroom, 8:00PM Tickets: $13 advance, $15 door

Who: Bear Hands @: In Vino Wine Bar, 7:30PM Tickets: $25 Details: Tickets to see this post-punk/experimental/indie rock act includes 4 glasses of wine.

Monday, February 15th

Who: Theophilus London, PoPo, New Look @: Music Hall of Williamsburg, 8:00PM Tickets: $13 advance, $15 door Details: Theophilus London is a mixtape man (This Charming Man tape mashed up The Smiths and Elvis Costello) and joined Mark Ronson to form the band Chauffeur.