Abridged Conversation With Mike from ClapClap.org

  • Michael: so the reactions to our no age posts have been kinda interesting, huh?
  • Matthew: yeah, kinda
  • I wish more people would talk about how they're just kinda so-so
  • Michael: yeah
  • Matthew: I mean
  • this whole scene thing
  • this is what happens with scenes!
  • so-so music gets elevated cos of a scene
  • Michael: or how, you know, the fact that a lot of music critics came out of hardcore, which is an unusual thing for a music fan, is really warping perceptions
  • Matthew: that's half of why I've been hostile to the notion of scenes since I was, like, 13!
  • Michael: yeah
  • Matthew: community is bad for art
  • few people want to admit it
  • Michael: it's true
  • it's romantic and fun
  • and maybe that draws people into art
  • Matthew: the best artists don't give a fuck, they have a vision and they execute it
  • Michael: but it doesn't make for better art except in very rare circumstances
  • and we tend to exaggerate those cases because they're interesting
  • Matthew: community is great for MEDIOCRE artists
  • for mediocre people
  • my big problem
  • is that people are way too eager to accept mediocrity
  • Michael: it's true
  • "but they have a good live show"
  • Matthew: fuck that
  • they'd have a better show if they wrote better songs
  • and that is that
  • Michael: yeah
  • Matthew: Maura showed me some soundscan figures this morning
  • Matthew: Long Blondes sales in the US first week:
  • 654 copies
  • Michael: jesus
  • Matthew: No Age:
  • 3,857
  • Michael: but the long blondes are so much more accessible!
  • Matthew: yeah
  • but no one gives them good reviews.
  • not anymore.
  • Michael: I think the same thing is happening to them as happened to art brut
  • their first album had a long, long time to catch on and everyone really warmed to it over a long period
  • Matthew: but I think Long Blondes improved on their second record!
  • Michael: but now their second one comes out, everyone listens to it once, thinks "meh" and then never listen to it again
  • because now the period to write a review has passed
  • the long blondes really evolved and changed and made more mature music
  • that's what you want in a band, right?
  • Matthew: but I think the Long Blondes are also deeply unfashionable
  • Michael: why?
  • Matthew: basically, if you are stylish, you are paradoxically unfashionable
  • if you have a female singer, your chances are extremely poor
  • Michael: yeah, everyone assumes you have this audience of fashionable people and then harshes on you
  • "oh it's OK, the hipsters will pick up on them"
  • Matthew: these people, these "hipsters," they don't want someone making them feel frumpy
  • and it's also
  • it's a different tribe
  • Fashion People
  • Michael: yeah
  • which is so weird
  • Matthew: The Kills, they are rejected mostly because they are Fashion People
  • Michael: huh
  • Matthew: one of the best guitarists working right now, and it's like
  • "fuck them"
  • not even considered.
  • tossed-off.
  • but you know
  • no one seems to want really good guitar players these days
  • Michael: yeah
  • I just want these bands to keep making music
  • like the furnaces are
  • Matthew: yeah
  • Michael: they'll get picked up on eventually
  • Matthew: The Fiery Furnaces just don't care.
  • Michael: I think this is really the late 80s all over again
  • Matthew: well I think it's like
  • if you have a distinct persona, a distinct style of writing and performing
  • you don't have much of a chance right now
  • unless you've been around a long time
  • because all people want now is community
  • Michael: no age have so little personality!
  • Matthew: and community encourages conformity, and making music that people can agree on
  • nod their head to
  • No Age have the signifiers of a few things that are generally considered cool
  • but they have no real identity of their own
  • they are a mcguffin for this other thing
  • Michael: yes
  • Matthew: not even The Smell
  • but the notion of it
  • Michael: "the 90s"
  • Matthew: yeah
  • Michael: the mythologized version of it
  • Matthew: but not the interesting 90s!
  • the most interesting thing about the 90s
  • is that it's a time when we suddenly had all these super distinct, charismatic musicians who didn't quite conform to previous expectations for rock and pop stars
  • Michael: yeah
  • "let's see what the weirdos are doing!"
  • Matthew: and experimentation and sounding different from other bands was encouraged
  • Michael: yeah
  • Matthew: but the really key thing
  • is that you had all these people
  • with a distinct cult of personality
  • and it was all new
  • Stephen Malkmus, Beck, Liz Phair, Eddie Vedder, Rivers Cuomo, PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, Trent Reznor, Thom Yorke, Ian Svenonius, Fugazi, so on -- they were their own archetypes
  • it wasn't just people slipping into some accepted cultural role
  • and if they were, it was being subverted
  • this is where community is part of the problem
  • Michael: they were bringing in these other things to pop
  • Matthew: where it's a set of shared aesthetics, fashions, attitudes
  • you can't be bold, it's discouraged.
  • Michael: and it's almost never a creative thing
  • Matthew: we need leaders.
  • Michael: it's never a bunch of new aesthetics and fashions and attitudes
  • Matthew: mavericks.
  • Michael: there's very little invention
  • Matthew: it's discouraged.
  • look at what happened to the Furnaces
  • no band like them in the world!
  • Michael: yeah
  • Matthew: fully formed aesthetic from day one
  • Michael: when I talked with Matthew Friedberger one of the things he stressed was that he's constantly focused on getting another album out
  • Matthew: a constant push towards doing new things
  • Michael: whatever it takes, you make another album
  • Matthew: that's a good way of working.
  • Michael: and you don't sense that drive from other people
  • Matthew: that's the James Rabbit thing too
  • Michael: yeah! you don't need approval from a community when you believe in what you're doing
  • Matthew: they don't care about anything but making more art and doing their own thing. they don't even care much about the outside world. you build a community around yourself, that's cool
  • Michael: yeah, I like that Tyler's done that
  • but he's clearly built this very inclusive, supportive community
  • Michael: that's nevertheless very useful for allowing him to make his music
  • Matthew: the thing I hate is that all of this community-centric thing rejects geniuses because it makes other people feel bad
  • Michael: yeah, that's what I've been trying to say in my comments other places
  • the best art comes from people who were able to reject community standards
  • Matthew: we need to move away from everyone having to feel included
  • not everyone is special, not everyone is talented, not everyone is a genius
  • Michael: yeah
  • it's been an unfortunate thing to learn
  • but not everyone gets an equal say in art
  • that's why I hate trying to apply morality to it
  • Matthew: right.
  • Michael: I remember my dad telling me that at one point
  • that you have to choose whether to be a good person or a good artist
  • and it's a shitty thing to think
  • Matthew: the R Kelly rule
  • Michael: but, you know, art is a broad thing
  • it's for lots of people, not just ones who have direct contact with the artist
  • for music fans, there seems to be a reluctance to accept that