Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Q&A: And The Wiremen
New York-based band And The Wiremen may hail from the Big Apple, but their haunting sound--marked by jazzy horns and bluesy guitars--sounds like the result of many a night spent in New Orleans, barhopping through Canal Street. Indies and the Underground tracked the Wiremen, composed primarily of quintet John, Paul, Tony, Eric and front man/vocalist Lynn Wright, down to talk favorite authors, improvisation and the influence of the Big Easy.
Where did the name And The Wiremen come from?
ATW: And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Our Dead was taken.
What were your early musical influences?
ATW:There is about a 25 year age difference between the oldest and youngest member of the band, so one member’s early influences are in some cases other member’s early bands.
We were all at one point or another influenced by free jazz, blues, R&B, left-of-the-arena rock, dub, and, of course, Miles Davis – anything and everything – though the more recent influences of West African and Colombian music had as much or more of an impact on the album than anything we listened to early on.
Lynn: Paul and I were influenced by church hymns – the rich sound of the chords, the piano, and the almost overdriven organ – before we were even old enough to know what the words were or why people were singing them. I hear this in the vocal arrangements of “Lines” and “Pick Myself up Slowly”, but it wasn’t intentional.
Like a lot of songwriters and producers I know, I would have never written a song or made a record had I not heard Swordfish Trombones by Tom Waits.
Have any other forms of art (books, films, paintings, photography etc.) influenced you?
ATW: We have all been influenced by other art forms, primarily through collaboration with choreographers, dancers, filmmakers, and installation artists. Of course, there is a long list of people whose work has inspired us, and to avoid writing a very boring treatise on the interrelation of art forms in the 21st century, we'll just name a few.
When Lynn was writing the lyrics for the album he was reading a lot of Faulkner and Cortazar, which crept into the lyrics here and there. Surrealism with the exception of Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Robert Gober, Emmet Gowin, Kara Walker, Rothko, Antonioni, Flannery O'Connor, Faulkner, Quim Monzó… Mark Richard... Rachel Cohen, Douglas Henderson, Chris Becker.
Jon: I remember when Lynn and I met at the early Bee and Flower rehearsals (and before I realized that he was a guitarist that I already admired in his former band that I loved "James Hall"), we found that we shared an admiration for William Faulkner and a strong distaste for the music of Styx.
What artists/producers, either alive or dead, would you like or would have liked to collaborate with? Why?
Lynn: Off the top of my head, I would say Ornette Coleman, Juana Molina, Tony's studio partner Joel Hamilton
ATW: Tom Waits, Tom Cora, Don Cherry...
A couple of your songs, like "Sleep" and "Sharpen" have a southern gothic sound similar to that of New Orleans music. Have you ever taken a trip to the Big Easy, and if so, how has the city influenced your sound?
Jon: Although we didn't know each other at the time, (though it's quite possible that we passed each other at some point in a French Quarter saloon), Lynn and I were both residents of New Orleans in the early/mid 90's. I think that the ease with which we've been able to collaborate musically for the past decade has its roots in our mutual love for that city, its history, vibe, music and people.
Lynn: Brass band music had a heavy influence on me as well as the music of the Mardi Gras Indians. Early Jazz... If you are a cornet player as Paul is there are the ghosts of Buddy Bolden, Armstrong, Freddie Keppard, and King Oliver that you must deal with. For the most part the influence came from the people I met there, most of whom I still work with, or it was abstract – images I carry with me like photographs that have become more distorted the longer I've been away. A lot of this album grew out of those distorted images, an idea of South more than actual the South, which is always more interesting to me than a precise retelling of this or that event.
How does the band's creative process usually work?
Lynn: I write and arrange the music. We develop it through improvisation.
Jon and Paul: Lynn writes us into the music. He never writes something for you that would sound better if someone else played it. We take it from there, and it goes where it goes.
Does having a 14-member band make composition and songwriting difficult?
ATW: 14 is the number of people that played or recorded with the band. There is a core of 4 or 5, every one else comes and goes. The rotating line-up keeps it interesting.