In your time as a touring musician, have you ever played a magic shop before?
I've played a lot of weird places, but not a magic shop yet. It's always just whatever the kid who's setting it up can swing, can get access to ... like, "Oh, there's this weird amphitheater in the woods that's all overgrown. We could lead everyone there and do the show." I didn't arrange the [Vegas] show this time. My friend I'm touring with—Adrian Orange—arranged the whole tour, so he's in touch with the people who set it up.
What kinds of things should we expect to hear you play? Do you go back to the Microphones era much?
I don't really play old songs often. Usually I play songs that no one has ever heard. It happens at almost every show that somebody will ask me to play an older song, but the older songs ... I just don't feel that way anymore, so I end up feeling kinda weird and insincere 'cause I'm singing these words that I wrote like six years ago or whatever. I feel dishonest about it. When I'm singing, I'm so obsessed with the communicative aspect of it, so I'm always really mindful of the words that I'm singing, as if I'm actually saying them to the audience. I have friends that play the same songs for 20 years, and they just get better and better. It's just kind of a different way of doing it.
You're very associated with a lo-fi, analog aesthetic. Is that something you're passionate about, or has it just been a matter of convenience and/or cost?
Yeah, I guess both of those things. It's not like I'm a fundamentalist about it. I feel like whatever tools you have and can understand, then use them and do your thing. These are just the tools that I have and can kind of comprehend. Also, just in general in my life, I usually take the old-fashioned option if given one. Like buying a bulk thing of flour instead of a pre-packaged bag of flour. I've been a guest in some fancy studios and done little bits on other people's recordings, and it always feels like there's so much pressure, like, "We have the fanciest microphones and all this stuff. Here's your take—do it good." It's difficult to be expressive in that setting, for me. I guess a lot of amazing records have been made in that way, but I'm more comfortable spending a year in my living room making mistakes.
STRANGE DOWNLOAD OF THE WEEK
Karen O's KO at Home recordings. The back story: Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontman lays down home demos; gifts them to buddy David Sitek of TV on the Radio; Sitek leaves disc in former NYC apartment; next resident uploads tracks for free worldwide consumption; Sitek condemns move with angry web posting, then apologizes and declares he's quitting Internet altogether.
The music: 14 untitled song sketches—27 seconds to 10-plus minutes in length—built on feel and mood, revealing a intimate, somewhat anguished side of Karen, light years from her squealing, glittered YYYs persona. Seek them out if you hold early Silver Jews and Neutral Milk Hotel sound experiments close to your heart.
The Double Down Band Name of the Week is
Starving Millionaires, 12/16
THE WEEKLY PLAYLIST: JINGLE BELL RAP
1. DJ Kool: "Let Me Clear My Throat" (Let Me Clear My Throat, 1996) Show up late and you'll kick yourself for missing this party fave.
2. Ghostface Killah: "Biscuits" (The Pretty Toney Album, 2004) For God's sake, get the man a banana nutriment, whatever the hell that is.
3. Smif-n-Wessun: "Stand Strong" (Dah Shinin', 1995) Apparently, these guys shrugged off legal action by Smith & Wesson—yeah, that Smith & Wesson—to reclaim their name this year.
4. Raekwon: "Incarcerated Scarfaces" (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, 1995) We've got no problem spinning the Chef's oldies until the looong-awaited Cuban Linx II finally drops.
5. Redman: "Rated R'" (Whut? Thee Album, 1992) "That caused me to cut the hands off the man with the chainsaw/Plus I got his brain pickled in a jar." Whut? indeed.
6. Supernatural: "Black Opera" (S.P.I.T., 2005) Records just don't do the freestyle maestro justice, but live, seeing is believing.
7. Pharoahe Monch: "Behind Closed Doors" (Internal Affairs, 1999) Seven years without a follow-up!?! Where you been, man?
8. Dirty Heads: "Neighborhood" (MySpace download, 2006) Fans of Sublime and G. Love might dig the newcomers' acoustic reggae-hop.
9. Ghostface Killah: "Guns N' Razors" (More Fish, 2006) Ghost's flow is so nice he makes our list twice, this time with a sick MF Doom-produced joint from his second 2006 disc.
COMING TO TOWN
STILL SEARCHING (2 1/2 stars)
NOTES FROM THE UNDERWORLD (2 stars)