Friday, April 20, 2012

New Interview: We Explore "the Old, Weird America" With The Peculiar Pretzelmen

Readers, if you're like us, you enjoy weird roots bands that use weird instruments to make weird sounds, so we were immediately intrigued by The Peculiar Pretzelmen's "Deeper, Darker, Weirder" tour. The Pretzelmen are wandering around the Midwest but, sadly, not into LFK, so we recommend you catch them at Liquid 9 Studio (515 Southwest Blvd) in Kansas City this Saturday April 21 along with Hillary Watts Riot and Molly Picture Club. Today we're chatting with the Pretzelmen's Kevin about "the old, weird America" (as Greil Marcus would call it), the importance of the late, great Levon Helm (RIP), and the ever-terrifying bird known as the "grackle."

Now let's just hope the Pretzelmen come to LFK soon, because we'd love to spend a weekend downing PBRs with these dudes while listening to Alan Lomax's folk music collection.

Find a wealth of information on the Pretzelmen at Orchid Promotion here

Stream their new EP "Fuliginous Concretions" here

And check out their FB page here

And enjoy the interview!

Richard: We love asking bands to describe their sound using one of those “we sound like _________ meets ___________” comparisons that music critics love so well, but you’ve already racked up some amazing descriptions from the press in that regard, such as “Think early-twentieth-century blues, making hot monkey love with Screaming Jay Hawkins in a packed speakeasy while Tom Waits mixes absinthe cocktails in a rusty metal bathtub; only weirder” (Seattle Examiner) and ““Imagine if you will, Tom Waits meets the ghost of Spike Jonze in some deep-south cemetery" (The Alchemist). Can you top those in describing your own sound?

Kevin: Well, after a recent unfortunate tussle with a venue that shall remain nameless, I kid, its the HOTEL MONTE VISTA IN FLAGSTAFF ARIZONA, we have adopted a new favorite description "TOO NOISY, TOO WEIRD, TWO MAN VOODOO MAYHEM BAND." Which doesn't do much to put a fine point on the description admittedly, but its a good looking hat to wear nonetheless.

Other than that I'm pretty okay with "coked up circus monkeys who have escaped, murdered their owner, and started a terrible jazz band."

Richard: We’re big fans of ultra-strange Americana bands and anything dealing with what Greil Marcus might call the “old, weird America.” Tell us about some of your influences (musical, literary, film) and also about some of the unusual instruments you use?

Kevin: We feel old, and we are American, so i guess we qualify for this. We love the old roots of everything. Roots music, the Lomax recordings, I mean the deeper you get, the closer to the bone... the sweeter the meat. That's a fact. But, yeah, all kinds of story telling have impact on what we do. If we go down that road though, this will turn into a mighty unwieldy list right quick.

Our instrumentation is the product of some madness, some ingenuity, and a serious lack of finance. You hear sounds in your head, and you do your best to chase them down. Some people go to the store and try everything out til they find what they like, we wire and glue bits of trash together and use things that people have given us over the years and when it fails to do what we hoped, we bash the shit out of it and it becomes something we can call our own. Our mutant sound baby.

Richard: We just watched the wonderfully creepy and very cinematic video for “Burn Your House Down.” Tell us how the idea for the video came about and maybe talk a little about the the process of putting it together.

Kevin: We worked with a group of theater folks in Los Angeles in 2010 on a series of projects. They were operating at that time under the name MALACOSOMA, but I think they use GENIUS PILLS now. They were heavily into some very weird and left of center performance so they loved what we were about. And we had a great time with them. They approached us with the idea of a video and they brought Brandon Nicholas (who also made a feature called Desert Son) on to direct. Everybody was excited and then we showed up and shot the thing on THE HOTTEST DAY of the year. It was over 110 degrees all day. It was disgusting. But seriously, Brandon Nicholas and the Genius Pills team, maniacs. Wonderful maniacs. They took the song and ran with it. My original idea for the video was a couple of strippers in a Chuck E Cheese grinding in the ball pit. I was over ruled.

[Watch the video here ]

Chip: The song title “Beware the Grackle” makes us laugh, but the song scares the shit out of us. What’s going on in that song anyway? Are birds about to kill some children?

Kevin: Grackles. They are mean weird little birds. Sound like laser guns. I first encountered them properly on a trip to Texas around 2006. I was haunted. Came back to LA to hear about how a swarm of them had attacked some lawyer. So they're not all bad. But harbingers of bad news. And they follow me around. Black birds in general are always there to remind me things are about to get strange.

Chip: Your new EP is called "Fuliginous Concretions" but we don’t have time to seek out a dictionary right now. Tell us what it means and how did the title come about.

Kevin: Geographic formations of dark sediment. Cryptomusicologists is how we consider our path. Digging in the dirt finding undiscovered noises and stories and trying to make sense of it all. These songs were recorded all live in an afternoon in Marina Del Rey with the illustrious Charming Charles. They felt like a little jewel in the sand, but too dirty and dark to shine. So they got this name.

Richard: What can people expect from the KC gig on Saturday and what’s on tap for the Pretzelmen in 2012 as far as new projects and touring?

Kevin: KC gig on Saturday is in cahoots with our fine friends from MONEY WOLF, a fledgling Kansas City record label. They've invited us out a few times and each party has been a madhouse. This time we're teamed up with Hillary Watts Riot who are a freaky fun sonic meltdown party band with one hand in the Devo pie and two feet in the Sonic Youth bath, and then some fingers in Blondie soup, with the balls right in Isaac Hayes milkshake.

Sunday night we hit Wichita for a short rocker at Kirby's Beer Store, and then its down into Texas and on into Arizona. Then we take a short break to finish up the next installment of our DEEPER DARKER WEIRDER EP releases and off we go again. We'll be bouncing around the US til Halloween so watch the skies and listen for the black birds. They know the secrets. We'll be back in KC before too long.

Richard: Surely we have to address Levon Helm, who passed away yesterday. How big of an influence was Levon for you?

Kevin: I think this quote really sums up how I feel about Levon Helm....
"He has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance!" -- Amy Helm

If that's not where your head is at, then you're doing music for all the wrong reasons.

And to be fair I asked Deacon (the drums in this operation) for a Levon comment, here's what he said..."damn"

Look at the Pretzelmen:

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