(In 2009, with news of a long awaited Circulatory System lp follow-up, I asked Athens, GA’s Lucas Jensen to catch up with and interview Will Cullen Hart. Now, two years later, The Olivia Tremor Control are once again a working unit with a variety of tours, reissue projects and an album on the horizon. Below, Lucas interviews the beloved Athens group. The OTC are set to perform in Los Angeles this Saturday at the FYF Festival. – AD)
I have lived in bucolic Athens, GA since 1998 and have enjoyed all 13 years of its incestuous, experimental, try anything once, form a band every night music scene. The first three or so years of my stay here really were something special, and not just viewed through the gauzy soft-focus of nostalgia. I’m not a spiritual or mystical guy, but there was something in the air here…an energy, if you will, that permeated those early Elephant 6 shows, a sense of coiled chaos. Onstage lineups were amorphous, with band members subbing in and out like hockey players. People bowed banjos and turned baby heads into horns. Parades broke out with surprising regularity. It was a fun time, and none of it felt forced or artsy. It was communal and celebratory. The Olivia Tremor Control, along with fellow travelers Elf Power, The Music Tapes, of Montreal, the Gerbils, and, of course, Neutral Milk Hotel, dominated my show-going docket, and I was rarely, if ever, disappointed. The Olivias always killed it, careening between pop sensibilities and more inscrutable experimental concerns and never less than transfixing. They had great press, toured with some great bands in Europe, and then it was just…over. There were rumors of fallings out and OTC founders Bill Doss and Will Hart, each had their own fantastic new projects, The Sunshine Fix and Circulatory System, respectively, and that was that. Except, thankfully, it wasn’t. In 2005, the band reunited for a series of shows that found them in top form. And they have been going at it, however slowly and behind the scenes, since. Now the band is “out” again, with new tour dates and new material. As wonderful as the different band members’ myriad projects are–it would take us years to list all of them!–it’s great to have an energized and productive Olivia Tremor Control back in our lives.
OTC members John Fernandes, Bill Doss, and newest band member Derek Almstead graciously consented to an extensive interview. Will Hart showed up a few minutes in. Unfortunately, Eric Harris and Pete Erchick could not make it. The interview got off to an…auspicious start, as yours truly accidentally turned on the metronome on his recording device, aka iPhone.
Aquarium Drunkard: Uh-oh, I have the metronome on. How did that happen? Let me turn it off. [laughter]
John Fernandes: [in robot voice] Everybody talk in rhythm.[more laughter and robot voices...finally, I get it shut off]
Bill Doss: I read this interview with Bjork about her new record, and all the weird stuff…she’s doing apps for phones. She said that all of her songs start at 82 bpm because she makes up songs when she’s out walking around, and that’s the speed she walks. [laughs] She didn’t know that until she started realizing that all of her songs were the same tempo, so one day she tested it, and that’s the speed she walks.
Derek Almstead: That’s not a good speed for shopping.
JF: I like to have headphones when I walk, so when a fast song comes on, I’m getting good exercise, but then when some ambient song comes on, I’m just wandering around, smelling the roses.
Aquarium Drunkard: Brian Eno equals aimlessness.
DF: Just circling the block, over and over.
Aquarium Drunkard: This talk of technology and apps brings me to a question that I wanted to ask. You’re looking at a new record in 2012, right?
DA: Well, we’re working on one…
BD: Yeah, working on one, but we don’t want to make projections.
JF: We have close to being ready mixes of six songs maybe…
BD: We’ve got a bunch of material we’re working on, like, what? An hour or an hour and a half? Things in various stages and some things that we’ve just started to develop.
Aquarium Drunkard: The Dusk at Cubist Castle era and Black Foliage recording sessions were a decade ago. Y’all used four tracks and eight tracks and cassettes and bouncing and standing around hitting mute buttons…has that recording process changed fundamentally over this time period?
BD: A little bit, yeah. We’re doing digital recording, and we’re doing some stuff over at Derek’s, routing it through a mixing board, so we can do the mixing, the fun stuff…
JF: But people are still recording parts at home. I just did some four track parts that Derek has been helping me sync up to the mix, and Will has been doing things on four track as well, and those things get mixed in as well. Some things were started on four track as well and bounced.
DA [to John and Bill]: It’s probably a lot easier. I can just e-mail you something to work on at home and then we sort of compile it. I assume that in the past you were working with piles of tape and two track mixes, stuff that got sub-mixed to a DAT and probably tons of combinations of that process and those media…
BD: And the syncing stuff has gotten easier because you can see it all now. In the edit window, you bounce things in and you can actually see them on the screen and line it up, as opposed to having to play the tape and getting ready with the four track and going “Alright, let’s bounce it right HERE” and you’ve got to get it just right….
JF: …and keeping the pitch right is so tough…
BD: Yeah, it all starts to swim.
Aquarium Drunkard: I went back and listened to the old records before this interview and that approach, that “mixed media” approach, is really what made those records for me. There are touchstones in psychedelica and experimental, but it doesn’t sound like rote 60s retro to me. It doesn’t sound exactly like that period, but it doesn’t sound 90s to me, either. You go back to records from the 80s or the 60s or whatever and you can hear the recording and mastering techniques. You don’t hear that in the Olivias records, and I think that comes from the approach. I’m glad to hear you’re keeping it, even with new technology.
BD: We are!
Aquarium Drunkard: Are you keeping that approach by design?
BD: Well, for me, we’re keeping it because it’s fun, because we’ve always been doing it that way, cobbling together all of these different media and trying to make it all work and trying to EQ things so it sounds similar. You’ve got all these things coming from all different angles and then you try to make it sound like it came from the same place. And, like you said, it won’t, and we certainly don’t want it to sound like we went in and bashed out a record in a week…
DA: Yeah, some things we’ve had to work on, they do sound too similar, and that’s why we do things like “Let’s send this to Eric. Eric, you take this and do something with it at your house.” Sometimes it’s down to necessity.
BD: I sent “Halfway Down” to Eric and said, “Add some percussion to this.” I could have had him come over and do it, but I wanted to add the sound of him and his house and whatever he’s got set up there.
Aquarium Drunkard: Is this different then the last time, everyone collaborating from their own houses?
BD: We did that before, but it’s just easier to sync it all together. But, of course, at the same time, we’re working faster than before with the digital, but the digital also gives you a reason to go back and mix it again and again, and re-record it again and again, just because you can. We’ve done that a few times, too. Before we would have made a mix, and that would have been the mix, and we might have done it one more time, if something was really weird, but now it’s like, “Oh, the snare drum doesn’t sound quite right…let’s go back and mix it again.” That kind of thing can happen, too, and that’s not always a good thing!
DA: It’s sort of a combination of external analog mixing and internal automation, so I’ve started taking photographs of all the hardware and the settings of each mix [laughs]…
BD: Yeah, so we can rebuild it, so he can take all of the compressors and preamps and EQs and settings and make it look like they do in the photo.
DA: I can’t wait to see how many pictures we have in the end.
Aquarium Drunkard: There is sort of a narrative for bands reuniting, that they dropped off the face of the planet and are just now getting back together, but the truth is that you’ve all been extraordinarily active and, even as OTC, you’ve been doing stuff for a while, if not publicly. What has been the impetus, the drive to put yourselves out there at this time?
JF: Well, we were getting together and doing recordings, and those were turning out really well, plus we played that Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour and playing some Olivia songs and it was a lot of fun. We wanted to keep that going and focus on that.
BD: I know for me, personally, you know, well, I’ll just get it out there. Will and I had a thing, a falling out, like people do when you’re essentially married for 20 years. And after we did the reunion thing [in 2005] and after he got diagnosed with MS, all of a sudden the stuff that seemed so important at the time seemed like complete bullshit. What the fuck are we doing? Why are we not making music together? Personally, that’s when I started to hang out with Will again, making music with him, after the reunion thing and the MS diagnosis, it just put a whole lot of things in perspective. And then things started spiralling from there.
DA: In a way, it’s been slowly building for a while.
JF: Yeah, like you said, everyone’s involved in projects, but we still always kept getting together and finishing things. Derek has been gone on Elf Power tours, but we worked on stuff between that. I’ve been working with my friend Jacob Morris [of Ham 1, among others] and we recorded some stuff in Nashville. Derek just played with the Glands last night [at the reopening of the Georgia Theater]…
DA: …and you played with Madeline there, too!
JF: Pete [Erchick just put out a record, with his band Pipes You See, Pipes You Don’t, that has gotten a few good reviews, but it really needs to break it out there. He’s such a beautiful songwriter.
BD: I wish I could sit and play the piano like he does. I can sit and bang out something now and again, but he can just sit and improvise and play chords and make things up. I don’t see how people do that.
JF: He’s great.
Aquarium Drunkard: And, Derek, your involvement with this...how has it been coming into this established group, even though you knew everybody so well?
JF: I just know that we’re so appreciative because he’s got such a mind for organizing things and keeping things moving along.
BD: He helps keep things on track, and at the same time is a great engineer, comes up with great parts, is a great player...
JF: ...can play every instrument...
DA: I’ll let them speak for me. [laughter]
Aquarium Drunkard: Hey, I’ve been envying his musical skills since I moved here.
BD: We switch around sometimes, so it definitely helps!
JF: And Will does things where he pulls out these tracks fragments and tracks, and he’ll say “I love the way the drums sound on this!” Derek helps us get to that…”Let’s throw some compression on this and do this other thing…”
BD: It’s really helpful to know which buttons to press and knobs to turn to make the sounds you want.
Aquarium Drunkard: Speaking of Will and his bringing in fragments, one thing I’ve always loved about OTC and Circulatory, too, is that there are they’re fragmented albums, but there are these great pop moments with great hooks and then things veer off into interesting surprises. It never feels forced, so organic…do you think this is informed by the approach?
DA: It’s by design and by accident, I think. The stage is often set for that. Something weird needs to happen here or some crazy moment or some sound needs to pop in. Honestly, from my perspective, that’s what I’ve come to expect from OTC stuff [laughs].
BD: You can feel it. We were working on a new song the other day, and Will had put in these crazy sound effects, like he is wont to do. Now with ProTools and the like, the crazy sound effects don’t have to be so random. You can say “Ooh, there’s a moment here” and pull it over and drop it somewhere else. Well, there was a moment there that I felt where something needed to happen, so I pulled some stuff in because it felt like it needed it, but Will was all “No, it doesn’t need to be there.” So I pulled it out because it was a moment that paused where there was a breath and then something happened. That’s what it needed, that breath. But I had pulled in some sound effect like “Reowr!” and I said to myself, “Will is gonna love that! I know if I put it right there he’s going to love it.” And he said, “I don’t think he needs it.”
DA: Will has the best perspective on that kind of stuff.
BD: He’s got really good instincts. [There is a knock on the door]
BD: Speaking of! It sounds like his knock!
[Will Cullen-Hart enters and sits down...then someone’s iPhone goes off, playing the generic “blues” riff ringtone]
BD: What is that? “Salute to the Blues?”
DA: That’s what we’re going to do in our twilight years…The Elephant Six Salute to the Blues. [laughter]
Aquarium Drunkard: I can see it now, sponsored by Heineken. Or Diet Coke.
Will Hart: Heineken’s better…
DA: They’ll have Houses of Blues in the 2030s, right?
WH: Do they have them now?
BD: I think so… [laughter]
Aquarium Drunkard: So, Will, we were just talking about you and how you have the gift of perspective about a song, I guess, seeing the big picture of a song…
DA: We were just sorta saying that when it comes to the sound effects and the details and crazy moments that you have the best perspective on where those things need to be.
WH: Thanks! Gracias.
BD: Like that thing on “Halfway Down” the other day, and I thought you were going to love it.
WH: Yeah, but it was too much, which is probably surprising to people because I’m kind of the sound effect guy.
BD: Usually we want more, more, more, but that day you were, like, “Nah.”
Aquarium Drunkard: Usually you want “maximalism?”
DA: Is that a thing? Did you coin that?
Aquarium Drunkard: I guess it’s the opposite of minimalism? But I don’t think I made it up.
WH: Black Foliage seems like maximalism at parts. Maximalism. I like that.
DA: We like to maximize our minimalism.
JF: Or minimize our maximalism. [laughter]
Aquarium Drunkard: So some of y’all [Will and Bill with John] started playing together in high school and then college, and yet it seems like, fundamentally, you still do things the same way.
BD: Well, we always try to do things the easiest way…
DA: I externally disagree with this. [laughter]
JF: [laughing] Yeah, yeah, maybe you make it look easy, but going into the studio and letting someone else mix everything…that would have been the easiest way.
BD: Okay, there would have been an easier way.
JF: Learning how to use 8 tracks and learning how to play all these weird instruments, it’s actually probably the hardest way! But we do work pretty naturally, so it can feel “easy.”
WH: Yeah, coming into a studio, and being all “We got it down at once.” That would be the easiest way. It’s true.
Aquarium Drunkard: I moved here from Mississippi in 1998, and one of the big factors for me was the stuff that was going on musically here, and you guys were an important part of that, all of the bands and exciting scene of ‘96, ‘97, ‘98. Here was this Southern town with this huge, interesting scene. As a Southerner, I’m interested in whether the three of you Southerners [John, Will, and Bill] were influenced by anything particularly Southern. It feels American, but it doesn’t feel like music that comes from New York.
WH: That’s cool. That’s cool.
JF: I don’t know if being Southern as much as being from a small town was more of an influence on us, being from a town where you had to rely on what you could do with yourself and your friends, and not having a lot of resources, so you have to create something. There is not already something going, you have to work as hard as you can and bring together as many things and people to try to create something interesting. I think that’s more of an influence, not the fact that we were from the South, but the fact that we were from a small town.
BD: There is something to the music that is breezy and dreamy, which brings to mind hot Southern summers, you know, bugs are buzzing around…
JF: …and the fact that we use a lot of natural sounds in our recordings, as well, is a really psychedelic experience when you listen to them in Athens because you’ll have your windows open and you’ll hear these outside nature sounds phasing off the sounds in your stereo, working in this big symphony.
WH: Yeah, I just listened to it this morning. [laughter] No, I’m kidding. No, really, it’s all I listen to…
DA: Like Prince.
Aquarium Drunkard: Is that true?
DA: I remember reading that once, that he only listens to his own music.
Aquarium Drunkard: But how come he does so many covers?
DA: I think it was probably just something to say. And it’s a funny thing to say. [laughter]
BD: He had to have been sarcastic!
JF: Oh, but getting back to listening to our own stuff…we did have to listen to our old music because Derek helped us remaster Black Foliage and both Dusk and Black Foliage are coming out on vinyl in October. They’ve got three hours of bonus stuff, and you get a download card with all sorts of material: rare stuff, live tracks, tracks that weren’t on the records, and some b-sides.
WH: The English b-sides that weren’t on the original 12 inches.
JF: That’s stuff’s coming out soon…
WH: So, I really did have to listen to it. And, by the way, it was good! We don’t put out shit!
BD: I hadn’t listened to Black Foliage in ten years.
WH: Me, too. Same here.
JF: Vinyl is the way to listen to it.
BD: Yeah, but I mean, after working on something for months or years, the last thing you want to do is listen to it again. You’ve already heard it a thousand times.
WH: It brings back too many memories for me. That’s what it does for me. It’s cool and bad. I mean, not BAD.. [laughter]
DA: When hear stuff like that, do you listen critically, for mistakes, or do you just listen subjectively?
WH: No…usually, I listen and I’m like “What is this? This is great!”
JF: I always wonder if what I’m listening to is something I would buy if I wasn’t a part of it. Definitely, yes, with this.
Aquarium Drunkard: So did these records originally come out on vinyl?
JF: Flydaddy did put them out on vinyl in 1999, but they’ve been out of print for so long on vinyl, but we’re finally putting them out because people were getting them for 60-80 bucks on eBay. We said, “Oh, jeez, we’ve got to get them out there.”
BD: And Black Foliage is finally remastered. I was never happy with the way it sounded. Musically, I was happy with it, but there was a way it sounded, some sort of muddy sound to it that I didn’t realize at the time. Years later, I realized I was unhappy with it.
WH: I was happy with it! Just to be clear. But the remix…? Wait, remastering. The remastering sounds amazing.
BD: It sounds so much better.
Aquarium Drunkard: Could you do a remix?
DA: That’ll set the timeline back a bit [laughs].
WH: It’s not possible. We probably don’t have the tapes.
JF: Yeah, I have one of the reels with one of the songs on it.
BD: Syncing in stuff with everyone standing around pressing the mute buttons…there is just no way we can do that again. It would be a totally different record.
DA: Like those Zappa records with the slap bass!
WH: Ouch. That was a bad idea.
DA: Doesn’t Kate Bush have some sort of new thing where she reproduced all of her hits. Director’s Cut?
Aquarium Drunkard: I saw own what you did.
JF: Yeah, if you want to do something, do something new.
Aquarium Drunkard: This is what I love about y’alls records, those records…it doesn’t sound to me like 1996, like indie rock of the time, Superchunk, Archers of Loaf…
BD: That’s kind of what we were hoping, that if someone found that record one hundred years from now that they wouldn’t here it and go “Oh, that’s from the 90s.” Or the 60s. With any luck, they would say, “When was this record made?” There are elements of all these things.
WH: I can’t tell if it’s rock and roll.
DA: Hopefully they won’t mistake it for chillwave. [laughter]
Aquarium Drunkard: It’s all chillwave from here…just pack it up! Anyway, back to the reissues, Henry Owings [of Chunklet fame] did some design work on these?
JF: Yeah, and he’s putting these out on Chunklet, too.
WH: Same design…same pictures.
Aquarium Drunkard: And then tours…All Tomorrow’s Parties…that has to be exciting, and not just the bands we know, the E6 bands, but the Raincoats…
JF: Yeah, and Mike Watt and George Hurley from the Minutemen are playing….
WH: The Magic Band!
DA: The Boredoms.
WH: The Boredoms! And Robyn Hitchcock doing I Often Dream of Trains.
Aquarium Drunkard: I saw y’all do a Boredoms song at this thing called The Elephant Six Takes No Responsibility For An Imperial Tooth [a huge conglomerate E6 cover show that was one of the first shows at Athens’ Caledonia Lounge about a decade ago].
JF: Oh, yeah!
Aquarium Drunkard: Someone was almost rapping and singing on a Boredoms song…was it you, Will? Y’all were all there doing covers.
WH: Maybe me and Jeff [Mangum].
Aquarium Drunkard: So y’all remember that?
WH: Oh, yeah…we played ELO [“A Living Thing”!]. Great song.
DA: I wish that was recorded in some way. I’m curious as to how that went off [laughs].
Aquarium Drunkard: It was one of those great Athens moments, and I remember it being crowded, but not totally packed, and thinking, “Well, I hope this happens again…surely it will happen again.”
DA: Of course not!
Aquarium Drunkard: I have so many wonderful Athens and E6 moments, of people just jumping and stage and making these crazy shows…what are some of y’all’s favorite memories of that time…or anything, really?
JF: When we played at All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2005, Ted Curson, who played with Mingus and the Sun Ra Arkestra, marched in with us when we played “Grass Canons” and played trumpet. When the Tall Dwarfs toured with us, that was fun, getting to play some songs with them sometimes on their set.
BD: When we did that Stereolab tour, there were a couple of nights where we got to play with them. They said, “Leave your amps out and come out on this one song, the last song, just come out and make feedback. Okay!”
JF: One thing I remembered recently about when we toured with them was that Tim Gane [of Stereolab] did a Flagpole interview and they asked him what he was listening to, and he said some of his favorite records were Black Foliage and The Music Tapes record that was out at that time. And when I went back and listened to Cobra and Phases Group... and they had a lot of sound effects like we had.
DA: Variety. Variety is one specific thing I love about that record. I’m not saying they bit that from Olivia….
JF: But being a big Stereolab fan, that was such a big compliment, that he dug our stuff.
WH: The best band from the 90s. They were the best band from the 90s.
Aquarium Drunkard: They were an awesome band.
JF: And I feel Cobra and Phases Group is one of their best records.
Aquarium Drunkard: I’ve been ripping my CD collection, and every Stereolab album I rip is my favorite. Oh, Peng! is great…oh, Mars Audiac Quintet is great! Transient Random is great!
WH: Transient Random [-Noise Bursts with Announcements, an awesome Stereolab album for the uninitiated] is my favorite.
Aquarium Drunkard: They’re not a band that really put out a stinker. Some were better than others.
WH: They’re a band that got into making records, too.
Aquarium Drunkard: The marching in on stage, those kinds of moments…I see less of those instances in the Athens scene, even though it is still highly collaborative. Do you think it’s because everyone is older or it’s been done before? Or do I just not know the younger bands?
JF: I still think you can see it in Athens. There are definitely bands that do that, like Matt Kurz One when he has the horn section. Or Quiet Hooves kind of does that.
WH: I’m older now. [laughter]
JF: During Popfest or Athfest, Derek would be like “I’m playing with 13 bands”…
DA: We were in a competition!
JF: And I would say, “Well, I’m playing in 14 bands!” [laughter]
DA: Me and John were in a competition once! That was pretty fun.
JF: But lately I have stopped playing so many things because we have been focused on the Olivia stuff. Occasionally, I will play with New Sound of Numbers or Supercluster, but there have been shows where I can’t make it because of commitments and having so much going on.
DA: Were you asking about shows in terms of their being more of a sense of randomness?
Aquarium Drunkard: Yeah, for sure.
DA: See, I think…I think it’s just not random in a new way. You don’t want to keep using the same gimmicks over and over again. You’re aware that you’re doing it, and the people in the audience are also aware that you’re doing it. You know what I mean? It’s like seeing a comedian do the same set over and over again. If you keep doing it, it gets boring.
BD: And not just surprising the audience but surprising yourself. That’s important. It’s no fun to do the same thing again.
Aquarium Drunkard: But then again, I have no problem seeing garage rock bands, power trios, guitar bass drums, if it’s done well…
DA: I guess it’s easy to get caught up in doing something different every time, but maybe for the person who is just looking at it for entertainment value, they don’t mind seeing the same thing if it’s entertaining…
BD: It is a weird thing, wanting to stick to the thing to entertain the audience, but also wanting to entertain yourself. There is kind of a balance between these concerns.
WH: Or ignore the audience. I’m kidding…kind of [laughs].
Aquarium Drunkard: Although there was great showmanship of all the people onstage in the old E6 days, I never got the sense that it was, at its heart, more than just playing with your friends because you liked playing with them, and, oh yeah, it’s a great show, too. It wasn’t done in a super-calculated way.
JF: No, it wasn’t [calculated]. And there was still always a spontaneous element on the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour, where certain times on certain nights, you might say, “I usually play on this, but maybe not tonight!” [laughter] And maybe other nights, you’d play on something you don’t usually play on.
BD: There were definitely nights where I said, “You know, I think I’m just going to watch this tonight!” Like the Sun Ra thing, marching out to that? There was a night–or maybe two–where I said, “I’m just gonna go down and watch this.” I wasn’t the drummer or someone really necessary. I just want to see what it looks like. I just want to be in the audience and be entertained by it.
WH: It’s definitely entertaining!
JF: We’re going to have a tight show for the new Olivia shows we’re doing. There is a guitar player named AJ Griffin who played with a band called Laminated Cat, and he’s going to be playing some extra guitar and various other instruments. He plays everything, and he has a new band called Slaw and Order that’s amazing!
WH: Slaw and Order!
BD: God, they were great, it was him on the keys and a drummer, and he was ripping it up on the keys. I couldn’t believe it!
JF: Yeah, so it’s gonna Derek on the drums because Eric can’t do the tour, but Eric is going to play with us for All Tomorrow’s Parties…
DA: So there is going to be a random element! [laughs]
JF: Oh, yeah, at All Tomorrow’s Parties, there are going to be all sorts of random elements with people playing with us because there are so many good musicians…
BD: The whole Holiday Surprise group…
JF: Yeah, the whole crew is going to be there.
Aquarium Drunkard: Jeff [Mangum] is the curator, right?
JF: He’s the curator, but when you look at the whole lineup, I think they probably made a lot of suggestions. He probably picked half the bands and they were all “But what about them?” and he said “Okay.” They probably gave him a stack of stuff to listen to and said, “Can you pick from these?”
WH: Yeah, they definitely pick some. I doubt he’s heard of the Fleet Foxes ever.
DA: Well, they are there for the kids!
WH: I’m not trying to diss Fleet Foxes; I’ve just never heard them!
[At this point, John Fernandes had to go to a previous appointment]
Aquarium Drunkard: Everybody is still here in Athens…you’ve been here 14 years. I’m still here. What is it about Athens?
WH: Laziness! That’s what it is for me. When summer comes, I always wonder why I’m not in California!
DA: I’m kind of joking…
Aquarium Drunkard: But it is really easy here.
DA: Well, it’s very difficult, simultaneously, to crawl out of this.
BD: You know the Patton Oswalt joke, if you’re over 40 then you can’t leave.
DA: It’s hard to make money here.
Aquarium Drunkard: It’s hard to make money anywhere, but it is cheaper, I think?
BD: You can get by on a part-time job.
DA: The groceries aren’t that much cheaper!
WH: That’s true, and it’s changed since the 90s.
DA: Power bills aren’t that cheap.
Aquarium Drunkard: Cooling in this heat…
WH: Oh, man…
Aquarium Drunkard: You’re not a heat guy?
WH: God, no. God, no.
Aquarium Drunkard: I love those April days with no A/C where you can just sit on the porch and drink beers…
BD: Yeah, I like that week of spring we get! And then nine months of summer!
DA: We always miss that because we’re on tour. The best times to be in Athens is when bands are out on tour, the fall and the spring.
BD: Yeah, the extremes of weather all over the country can throw you. It might be fall and nice in Athens, but you’re in Minneapolis, and then all of a sudden you’re in Dallas.
DA: I mean, it’s a minor quibble! [laughs]
Aquarium Drunkard: I don’t want to use the word “feel” too much, but Athens definitely has a “feel,” that spontaneity of “Hey, let’s start a band!” “Okay!” “We’ve got a show this weekend!” “Okay!” That happens a lot, but you don’t have to be a trust fund kid to do it. How do people do it in Brooklyn?
DA: How do you do it up there? People must work 60 hours a week or something. Clearly people are doing it! But you can’t have enough time to do bands. There are people up there who work in the service industry to make their livings, but I don’t know…
Aquarium Drunkard: There are jobs there, as compared to here. Better paying jobs, too. But the costs here are cheaper than there, at least. Last night at the Georgia Theatre people were bitching about drink prices, and it was five bucks for a Stella Artois tall boy, which doesn’t seem that bad.
DA: People just want something to complain about, I think!
BD: I have friends who want to move to Athens, but they can’t because they can’t find the jobs they need.
Aquarium Drunkard: The reason people want to come here can’t be because of monetary concerns alone, right? It has to be because of the creative class. The townie population here is huge!
DA: It’s hard for me to have perspective…I’m still meeting people in the townie population at my age! And then there is this invisible layer of young kids, and I don’t know any of them!
WH: I am out of it…I am way out of that! I mean, I like to use my cassettes and four tracks. They barely make cassettes anymore. But we got some online! 10 years from now, though, we probably won’t be able to use it anymore.
DA: And in ten years maybe you will have a 3D printer to print out whatever you want!
WH: That’s so cool. I love computers, too, but I love my tapes.
BD: I heard today that Ford was making cars without a CD player, but it just interacts with your iPod or iPhone. It’s just so weird how quickly it all changes.
Aquarium Drunkard: Has the time since the last album changed what you write about? Are you still writing about dreams?
WH: That’s still what I do.
BD: It’s hard to step back from it and see the changes, but you know they’re there. It’s like Lou Reed said: someone asked him, “What’s this song about?” And he said, “I don’t know. I just wrote it.”
WH: If I look back at it, I might say that it’s the same shit I always write about, but, you know, that’s kind of what I do. That’s kind of what I do. I don’t look back very often…I just do it. It’s best just to keep looking forward, and not look back on it. That was a cool moment there!
DA: You should call this interview “Don’t Look Back.” [laughter]
WH: Did you just make that up?
DA: Yeah! Good, right?