Friday, September 22, 2006

EXCLUSIVE! Interview with John Roderick of the Long Winters!

We here at Cut the Chord have been obsessed with the new Long Winters album Putting the Days to Bed (released by Barsuk Records) for the last couple months now. So, we figured we would get in contact with Roderick so that he could answer a few burning questions that we had about the band and the new album.

CTC: Putting the Days to Bed struck me as a very confessional album. I think the best albums, where the songwriter really connects with the listener, share something in common, and that's a feeling of embarrassment on the part of the listener. Maybe embarrassment isn't the perfect word. Uncomfortable may be a better word to illustrate that feeling you get when you listen to Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Tori Amos's early albums, everything Elliott Smith recorded. Those artists and albums I just mentioned, and I would include Putting the Days to Bed with them even though its more of an up tempo endeavor, are uncomfortable listens. And that's a good thing, not a bad thing. You almost feel while listening that the artist has exposed themselves perhaps more than they intended to and that really creates an intimacy with the listener. Do you ever feel that way about records, and do you feel like your new one fits this description? What albums in your collection give you that uncomfortable-but-great feeling?

JR: That close familiarity is what I want from any art. The first time I saw Francisco Goya's Maja paintings I was embarrassed for myself, at how engrossed I was and how exposed I felt. Likewise the first time I read Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson, or heard Elliot Smith's Either/Or.
I'm flattered that you feel that way about the Long Winters record. It's not something you can aspire to in your own work, you know? You just have to make the records that you're here to make. But it's great to hear people respond to them the same way I respond to the things I love most.

CTC: I'm struck by the vast difference between "Ultimatum" as it was on the EP, its richly layered acoustic approach, and the intense rock version on the album. Did you plan from the beginning to record and release two version? Was the music on the Ultimatum EP recorded at the same time as the album? Was there a different stylistic approach to each?

JR: There was absolutely no plan to make two versions. It was a very whimsical decision to rerecord it. I was playing a rocked up version one day in my basement, just to amuse myself, and thought "why not?" And why not indeed? It's funny how many people take that decision very seriously, some are almost offended while others are thrilled, choosing sides, pitting the one version against the other in a grudge match to the death. Redoing it as a rock song doesn't take anything away from the EP version, it's not a declaration of war against beauty, it's just a little bit of conversation between myself and myself.

CTC: This is your first album without Sean Nelson as a regular keyboardist (although I notice he still sings back-up on some tracks). I suppose he's focusing more on the much-welcomed revival of Harvey Danger. What kind of influence has he had on the band, and did going from a four member band to a three member band change the dynamic?

JR: Well, Sean was never a "regular" keyboardist, to be sure. He always asserted his influence much more in a live setting than on the records. He didn't appear at all on Ultimatum, and was by no means on every track of either of our first two records. None of that is to diminish his contributions, but only to point out that, in recording terms, he's on the new record pretty much the same amount that he's on Pretend to Fall. Sean was and continues to be a huge personal influence on me, and when he was in the touring band he absolutely transformed the experience for all of us, but he's always had tons of irons in the fire and was always careful to budget his time between many many projects. He doesn't tour with us now because of the reformed Harveys, but in most every other respect his involvement is unchanged.

CTC: It seems like the Long Winters are getting more exposure now than ever with this new album. What are your hopes with the success of this album and your long term goals in terms of your music and your career?

JR: I just want to the band's popularity to grow naturally, without any crazy or false surge of notoriety that brings a lot of doofuses into the tent. I'm afraid my "insult-comedy" style of on-stage banter isn't going to play very well to a bunch of soccer hooligans.

Lastly, we asked John to list a couple of favorites...

Albums: ZZ Top's "Eliminator"
Novels: Stendahl's "The Red and the Black"
Films: "Red Dawn"

If you want to download some Long Winters MP3s, you can visit the Long Winters website.


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