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Les Savy Fav: Part Two

[Part 2 of 2]


Here is the second part of the interview with Les Savy Fav.


 

[more:]
Prefix Magazine:
Can you tell me about French Kiss and how it started?

Les Savy Fav: Part Two:
Butler: Basically we recorded for a bunch of different labels, and none of the offers felt right. Sub Pop was the one we were closest to going with, but in the end we just decided it wasn't going to work out. Les Savy Fav was sort of caught in the post-Nirvana -- bands were being signed left and right, and they weren't. And that's when we moved to New York.

The kind of music we were playing people weren't signing. French Kiss started 'cause every time we would go on tour, we would see all these bands. We were like "They don't have a label?" It was sort of a five-year cycle of no one signing bands, and there were all these great bands out there. So we pretty much got a credit card in the mail and started calling people and making contacts and started taking as much information on how to run a label as possible. In 2000 --

Jabour: It was '99 though, when The Cat and the Cobra came out.

Butler: Technically, I incorporated on August 26. The second was Lifter Puller. The third was this compilation CD of different deejays. But there are people on that record that have signed to a major label, and the label has not given the rights to that person, so the project kind of stalled. After that it was the Apes.

PM:
Is it a full-time job now?

Les Savy Fav: Part Two:
Butler: Seth is a professional illustrator. Tim and his fiancee are getting married; they just started a textiles company. Harrison and his future wife are starting an art gallery in North Carolina. So we're all very busy.

PM:
Does that mean no tour for this record?

Les Savy Fav: Part Two:
Butler: No, we're actually gonna tour in September. Harrison's getting married in October, so we're planning the tours between Tim's wedding and --

Jabour: We're gonna give him one more taste of the road and see if he really wants to seal the deal ... [(Laughs in Harrison's direction, who's fussing with some lights.] What's her name again? Clarence? She's pretty sweet. [Laughs.]

PM:
Recently Derek Fudesco of Pretty Girls Make Graves told Prefix you guys are some of his favorite people to tour with. So other then PGMG, of course, who are your favorites?

Les Savy Fav: Part Two:
Jabour: I have a blast with Modest Mouse. I like touring with the bands that we toured with when we were first starting. I think we have a kinship with these bands, 'cause we kind of grew up together.

Harrison: Touring with !!! was fun, Enon, Modest Mouse was a blast. They've got this stage persona, and then after shows, they're so fun.

PM:
The first time I saw you was with the Make-Up, back when Tramps was open.

Les Savy Fav: Part Two:
Butler: Trans Am and the Make-Up were our first tour. I grew up in D.C. and had a connection with those guys. And we planned this tour, played a couple of shows with the Make-Up and were supposed to meet up with Brainiac on the West Coast and play with Trans Am out West. We toured with the Make-Up out to the West Coast, and all the shows fell through, so we were stuck with two weeks off. We camped our way through makeshift shows. They are definitely a bunch of bands we feel a kinship too.

PM:
Can we talk about the songwriting process? Do you guys write lyrics and the song together?

Les Savy Fav: Part Two:
Butler: We tend to get into the practice space and make a bunch of noise. We have practice tapes, and we decipher what we like from those tapes and put some vocals over that.

Harrington: We develop all the source material and then cut and paste that into the song. In a lot of ways, we'll spend a lot of time with no songs, just be writing parts and parts and parts. And always saving those parts and breaking them apart and cutting them. Sometimes it's like a computer putting them together, like critical mass, where everyone's memorized all the parts. And suddenly we say part one goes with part forty. We cut those things together and start with arbitrary structures, being like four, eight, four, eight. And then we cut that into what will be the final arrangement of the songs.

Jabour: Out of that, what usually develops is something that -- we'll come up with a bridge or a part that will hold the whole thing together. It's a little more organic. It's not like we run it through a cycle and it spits out a song.

Harrington: Put all that together, then one person changes their part, the other person changes their part, and in the end the whole thing is not there.

Jabour: And it's fun to listen to a Minidisc six months prior to a song's completion and thinking, Later this became "Tragic Monsters."

PM:
On your press release it says that you guys are "The Godfathers of the Brooklyn Sound."

Les Savy Fav: Part Two:
Harrington: Word, word. [Laughs.]

Jabour: Sound? [Laughs.] Yeah, we broke our Casios, so ... yeah ... I think that sounds good. I think a lot bands like us -- and like Enon, at the time -- were all playing with our friends. At the time, if you wanted to play in Brooklyn, you played at your friend's house or your friend's loft space. In that way I feel like we were playing out here at a time when it was refreshing, coming from Providence, which, while it was a smaller space, there was a defective music scene. Coming to New York, it felt so big. You could absorb any amount, and it was immune to any of the provincial stuff that a scene is. And we really liked that.

PM:
Do you guys have anybody that you still consider "contemporaries" here? You mentioned Enon.

Les Savy Fav: Part Two:
Jabour: They're all friend bands. We're always allergic to having this band as a concept. A lot of bands have this, "We're all united under this common interest of rehashing something" attitude. And we've definitely been trying to challenge that and break habits. When we look at contemporaries, it's more like who's your friend who you're gonna hang out with.

PM:
How much planning goes into the stage shows? It seems that you use whatever a space has, and sometimes it seems like there's some planning. At North Six it was the Les Savy Fav Office Christmas Party.

Les Savy Fav: Part Two:
Harrington: We're doing it tonight. This morning I went to the Flower District and bought 1,500 yellow daisies. But, you know, I think I'd like to get 15,000. I think the stage show has always been like it has to be -- half-assed. I feel like what we love musically, and performance-wise, is to improvise, and (what happens in) that moment, not whether it's pulled off perfectly or not.

Jabour: I feel like if we had a huge budget, it would still come off looking like a Flaming Lips show. Not like you guys have all these crazy videos and shit. Instead, it looks like you just yanked some people out of the front row and put them in a costume and unleashed some inflatable thing and then some balloons. And nothing seems like it is conceived of more than twenty-five minutes before. I think that's the best feeling.

PM:
Tell me about recording Go Forth with Phil Ek. That was the first time with him?

Les Savy Fav: Part Two:
Jabour: It was a different person to bounce ideas off of. Or, at times, be put off by the way we were doing things and have to be coaxed into coming half way.

Harrington: I feel like everyone has different flavors, and there's definitely a notable, common daily period where --

Jabour: I think a producer/band relationship is where two people are making insane compromises, and what happens is a result.

Harrington: What was that on the commentary thing, where Phil Manly is like, "Compromises make for less then great art"?

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