Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My favorite band

I was speaking with Bryan Lackner (a.k.a. Mister) and Brent Smith (a.k.a. Blaksmith) when I realized that I might not actually have a favorite band. Did I grow out of something? Or do we just not clutch so closely...at certain ages?

Lackner and Smith, on their collaborative EP, Passalacqua, combine and play-off of each of their distinctive styles (in the realm of hip/hop). The six tracks are energized by their respective influences and personal inspirations, brought to this sonic table, per se, where they align, swap and mash together separate (yet complimenting) journal entries of lyrics that muse upon their own experiences and perspectives.

They have a song called "Tom and Bootsy," where each presents their own set of lyrics that pay homage to two renowned artists/performers, Tom Waits (from Lackner) and Bootsy Collins (from Smith). Are these two referenced artists the particular "favorite" "all-time" artists for each of these two local rappers?

Well, no. Not really.
Each of them talk about their personal backgrounds - specifically, the bands and the artists they listened to growing up; that they listened to recently; that they listen to now... In neither case does what they end up making as their own art (on Passalacqua and elsewhere) necessarily directly/distinctly reflect the other artists that they're "into..."

Tom (Waits) and Bootsy (Collins) are given nods by these guys mostly as a showing of respect for their iconoclastic careers. Lackner and Smith... just like all of you out there are influenced by myriad artists and works. No one just loves the Beatles. Beyond stratospheric icons and bygone legends, Lackner and Smith are also , here-now, on this level, influenced by each other - it's probably the biggest reason they made the EP (as Passalacqua).

Here's the thing I'm musing on: Take Rob Fleming from Nick Hornby's High Fidelity: "It's what you like, not what you're like..."

- Your favorites...your "influences" inevitably define you. But I think, in a very healthy, and no longer so much cliche manner, we are moving beyond "favorites." I am, at least.

Tom Waits is one chip of one iceberg for Lackner (he used to be huge into metal, and now he does hip/hop). Bootsy is just one facet of Smith (who also performs with Cold Men Young).

Constantly refer back to the sanctity of your favorite and it ends up as a sort of religious experience.
Not "religious experience" in the way some people talk about seeing Godspeed You Black Emperor live, or hearing "Space Oddity" for the first time... but religious in sort of a perfunctory/submitting repetition of the Rosary... and that leads to the risk of cribbing, potential mimicry... (You can tell when a band or songwriter is (or was) really into Weezer...etc etc). Why risk that?

Think of what happens to you, or how you react, when you're at the bar, at a coffee shop, or meeting someone new, and they ask you: What kind of music are you into? What are some of your (all-time) favorite bands?


You might know what you want to say.

But, it might also depend on your age (or your upbringing, or current status). Maybe you don't even like music? Maybe you're 17 or 18 and you're highly impressionable and you just discovered The Smiths... the Smiths will likely be your answer. Or, maybe you're 59 or 60 years old and the internet isn't necessarily part of your daily life and you have no idea who Radiohead is... you're answer might go back to the stand-by's of your vinyl-spun youth (Beatles...or something off of 94.7 WCSX).

If you're like many contemporary music listeners...you are in that endemic state of treading wave after wave after shifting wave of musical water cresting (mighty and fickle) across the internet. The internet has assimilated the underground; has decimated the record store; has redefined, and re-redefined the hipster. "Relevancy" and who (which bands) fall under that classification, seems interchangeable with "flavor of the month."

The Gen Y music clan seems to be growing further apart from having a "favorite." You have the ability to listen to a new band every hour for the rest of your life...if you just keep clicking forward through the doors of the internet. If you do find one, find a new potential favorite band - how sure can you be of the strength or legitimacy of your passion and appreciation...when you know another blog will pop up with another artist for you to check out, thus undermining the zeal you held, just the day before, and giving you the itch to then catch up on the "next" relevant band. But that's a bit melodramatic.

Still, it feels quite a bit ludicrous now.

Anyhow. Influence is one thing... "favorite" is another. In the High Fidelity case, "favorite" is used as a means of, essentially, finding a mate. Like you wait for that one fateful day where you're lucky enough to start hitting on the girl who also likes Pavement and Kurt Vonnegutt and Jean Luc Godard as much as you do...

No. We're beyond that now. Lackner and Smith influence each other - but their bond, as it is on Passalacqua, seems to be born from the fact that they are able to show each other different stylistic and perspective landscapes...whilst simultaneously inhabiting ostensibly the same "world." (Hip/hop).

The longer we keep building up our favorites... like, oh, I'll only listen to Techno... we put up barriers. Why should Passalacqua only be for the hip/hop fans? Why should I find the girl who's seen Royal Tenenbaums as much as I have, how much more breadth could she give me?

Now, it's like we're drowning in breadth. And any "music" talk we can have with friends, catching up at the bar, or with strangers out at a shop, could present (or cause the collision of) two different worlds' worth of culture.

Favorites are the realm of the green, still-naive, not-yet-jaded, map-readers ...or... the traveled, significantly well-read and well-listened, whose minds are likely made-up.

In the middle-- in your 20's, your 30's, your 40's --favorites might mean you're 'set in your ways.' Or it might pigeonhole you.

I like Vonnegutt. Oh? You're a humanist? You're an Aetheist? You're quirky?

I like Pavement. Oh? Are you one of those Pitcfork snobs? You like lo-fi, sloppy indie-rock?

No! ...and Yes! But mostly... "Sort of...but not strictly! Not strictly! Not only that."

There's so much music. There's no more underground (per se). Soon enough, taste-making will be obsolete. "Favorite" is one thing... "Inspiration" is another. Genuine inspiration... but where will it come from? Gen Y-ers have grown up having the heroics of trailblazers lke Ian MacKaye and the DIY of hardcore punk shoved at us; or the conception of punk rock via luminaries like Iggy Pop and the New York Dolls - and new wave/experimentalists like The Talking Heads ...and foreward onto The Flaming Lips, Pavement and Radiohead... new icons and massive canons... inimitable music hero types...and on and on. The game changer, or "new thing."

What we recently had, to parallel that, was the "bedroom composer" wave- that gave us Caribou or Wavves or Toro Y Moi so many others... That inspiration of...wow, look what they did. What can I do? What can I do next? Put these inspirations on the pedastol of "favorite" and you risk wanting to copy them. Put it in perspective and you're assured that you can do something also, that's wholly unique. Thus, inspiration.

No band I interview ever willingly offers: "Well...we really love Radiohead, and that usually comes out in the songs..."

You...you should come out in the songs.


What kind of music do you like? Well... I'll tell you what I listened to... today and yesterday... and that will give you a glimpse.

Stick around and I'll show you more.

...What kind of music do you like?

No comments: