An Interview with The New Year. Brought to you by Marcel Thee for DRS Webszine.
Due to the limited distribution of records to Indonesia, only a select few here have had thechance to listen to your records fully, both from Bedhead and especially The New Year. How would you go about introducing or explaining your music to unfamiliar music fans who might have only heard 1 or 2 songs?
I would say the rest of the songs are in the vein of the one or two songs that this hypothetical fan has already heard. Or I would find some other smart-ass way out of your question. Most musicians I know hate describing their own music. I’d rather go streaking at a public sporting event.
What?s the biggest difference in approach, writing for Bedhead and the New Year?
If you had asked that right after the first New Year record was done I would have said that songs for the new band tended to originate on drums, with the guitar parts coming later. It wasjust the opposite for Bedhead. But I think now after just havingrecorded the second New Year record, which has more songs on it that began their lives with guitar, I’d say on balance the song writing method forboth bands is the same. Lyrically the approach has been even more consistently the same.
Why the name the New Year?
Bubba came across it in print and liked the way it looked.
How did you choose the other members of the band?
After Bedhead broke up Bubba and I gave up on the idea of having another band. But we both kept playing music and eventually got to the point where we wanted to record another record. Neither one of us could imagine making a record without playing live, so we thought maybe we should get a live band together, and that thought quickly led to me thinking that, although I play drums, I would rather have someone else play drums on the record we were gearing up to record.
My first thought was to call Chris Brokaw. He had been afriend for years, he lived in Boston, where I lived and still live, and I had a suspicion that he might want to play drums again since for thelast decade–this was around 1999–he had mainly been playing guitar. We naturally realized that we also needed a bass player, and our friend Mike Donofrio came to mind. Mike lives in New York, but New York and Boston are close enough that Mike, Chris, and I were able to get together and practice a few times before recording the record. So really we went from not wanting a band, to wanting a live band, to assembling one that ended up recording the record. Peter Schmidt from Dallas was always our choice for third guitar. He had been the unofficial sixth member of Bedhead–“Substitute Scmidt”–filling in for Tench when Tench was working in Russia. We’ve had a rotating cast of sixth members, I think more sixth members in all than the permanent five. Andy Cohen from Silkworm, another longtime friend, was the sixth on a two week US tour. And more recently Josh McKay from Macha, who we’ve known since we were in junior high school, has been the sixth, playing keyboards, guitar, and random percussion.
Was it due more to their skills or were you friends with most of them?
It was both. We would be friends with every one of these guys if we didn’t play with them. In fact we were friends with all of them before we all started playing music together. But we’re blessed in that Chris, Mike, Peter, Josh,(and Andy) are all stunningly good at what they do. Playing in this band is almost effortless. Bubba and I fret for weeks before we play a set of shows or a tour, worrying about not having practiced and things like that, but the other four guys are always so much more on the ball that Bubba and I are.
The New Year seems a little bit more ?rock? and the melodies simpler and catchier. Was this a conscious decision?
It just happened that way. Maybe the fact that, like I said, most of these songs originated with drums, and drums playing usually heavy beats, had something to do with the record being more rock.
How much do the other members (other than Matt and Bubba) influence the songwriting?
Not really at all, but that’s not what they signed up for. And they all have other bands in which they’re the principle songwriters.
What kind of environment setting would be the best place to listen to the New Year?s ?Newness Ends??
Sitting in a comfortable chair or lying on a couch in a room with incomprehensibly good speakers, like Andy Cohen’s new B&Ws. Andy played part of Newness Ends for me the other day to show me his fancy new speakers and turntable and I have to say that the record sounded as good as it ever did in the studio, which is sort of what you think of at the optimal sound zone for anything you record.
What records have you been listening to lately?
I really like the last two Deerhoof records. And the latest Nina Nastasia record. “Deceit” by This Heat, a record made over twenty years ago, sounds like it was made yesterday, and besides being precocious is incredible for its odd rhythms and sounds.
What kind of things other than other music influences your music and lyric writing?
I think just about everything in the external world is an influence of some kind.
Is there any books or movies you?d liken you?re records to?
What is your favorite line that you?ve sang in a Bedhead or the New Year record?
I don’t really have one.
How was working with Steve Albini like?
He’s one of the great ones and it’s always incredibly fun and edifying to record with him.
What kind of influence did he bring to your sound?
Before we actually started recording with him we were going for what could be characterized, among other things, as the “Albini sound”–ambient drums, guitars that sound like guitars, vocals that sit in instead of on top of the mix, etc.
Why did you decide to go with ?Touch and Go??
Trance Syndicate, Bedhead’s label, the only label Bedhead ever considered, closed shop right after that band broke up. Trance was distributed by Touch and Go, we knew and liked all the people up there, and so when we had a new band Touch and Go was the only label we ever considered. Much like Electrical Audio, Albini’s studio in Chicago, Touch and Go is one of the world’s greatest institutions, businesses, collections of people, I’m not sure exactly what you call it.
You?ve toured Europe and America. Any plans for touring Asia or Indonesia?
We would love to but I’m not sure how realistic it is since we’ve never had our records distributed in either place.
If you had to choose, which is your favorite Bedhead album?
I hate to have to chose but I guess I would say “WhatFunLifeWas.”
What?s next for the New Year?
A new record in February followed by select shows in the US.
Thank you very much for answering these questions!!