In this edition, Beloved Binge brings you an exclusive revealing tell-all interview with Roberto of the New Town Drunks, author, also, of Bellows. To meet him in person and ask him why he'd be a monk and how to write [about] a hit song, join us on Saturday.
Eleni Binge: Tell me about your latest album / freshener in a couple of sentences. In other words, what ingredients formed the album?
This album, Kiss, has the strongest latin flavor from all of them. I love it. I feel its closest to the real musical me. It has a cover of the song Penelope by Catalan songwriter Joan Manual Serrat, the original was in spanish, this is my english translation in the record. There are also nods to Juan Luis Guerra, Violeta Parra, bossa nova and tango. Of course the weird thing is that most of the influences in this record will probably be missed by most american listeners and since its in english, it will also probably be missed by the latin audiences.
A perfect combination for a record that its actually fairly straightforward, yet few will probably really identify with it, unless you are a latino immersed in anglo culture or vice versa. The way I think about it, its that its "Rock en EspaÃ±ol in English". Rock en EspaÃ±ol was a "genre" that was applied to rock music sung in spanish, however as the genre developed, the bands started to add more and more latin influences into the music so taht eventually a truly original genre came about which although rock on the surface, it was fueled by the huge wealth of latin/spanish styles from Argentina to Brazil to Chile, Venezuela, Columbia, Mexico and on to Spain. So our music is heavily influenced by those later artists of the genre, but we sing in english. like usususpect, Fred Fenster, might have said "we flipped it." if you listen to the record, i think you'll know what we mean. it's a total mutt. we were going to call it Latin Makeout Dance Party... not sure why we didnt...
...but Kiss is good, all interbreeding starts with a kiss, I think its a sexy record. good for cocktail parties, laying by the pool, hanging out in hotel bars...
Eleni Binge: Have you ever written a hit song?
funny, this new record is full of hit songs, however, I don't abide by the standard definition of a hit song. the standard definition seems to be all about "making money', 'being popular', 'winning a competition', puts the whole concept of music into a 'hit or miss' mode, which of course it is, but i think in a ,more personal way, you hit or miss against your goal, against your perceived goal of the community to which the we belong [i would say our community is chapel hill/carrboro, north carolina at large, Puerto Rico, Texas, Latin America, the south, underground USA, hippies, punks, rockers, drinkers... and a few more].
A hit is not about hitting or missing against another song, or a certain standard imposed by sales or popularity. i really dislike when music gets put in a competitive environment, from American Idol on down to local battle of the bands to year end top 10 lists in local rags, music is not improved by "trying to win" any contest , mostly i feel, music is damaged by that sort of competitiveness.
music is an exploration of our place in the world and an expression of that place for the community which the musician represents.
so at its most basic its an expression of the place that the band members occupy, but this extends to the community to which the band members belong. which is why music improves from collaboration. but generally speaking, music is improved by the exact opposite of effort, which is its catch 22, you have to make it without trying, effortlessly, should really just sort of happen, and if i've 'done without doing' in just the right way, and what we've 'done without doing' together appears to magically exist as a place we can all inhabit happily, then i think we have a hit song.
However, as we create these songs we also define the parameters of quality for our new place. and unfortunately, these parameters then become a source for trying, a goal to be achieved, which defeats the purpose, like i said a catch 22, so vigilance is paramount to achieve. yet try you must, cause you cant learn and improve without trying.... but you should also tear down, destroy, burn, cause it is from the ashes of our efforts that the beautiful phoenix of our magical place will rise, and its music is a hit song...
btw, did you read the story in the book of fables about the Composing Family and how the head of the composing family had found what the Giant Head of the Composing Family called a True Hit Song, and what a True Hit Song was and what it did to the world?
[ed note: Yes. Truly frightening...]
Eleni Binge: On your bed o' death, what do you hope to have accomplished?
written a book, planted a tree, raised a child.. Got the book, got the tree, working on the kid :)
but honestly on my death bed i hope i can say that i disturbed the natural order of things as little as possible, that i left things pretty much how i found them. i know its hard to say that while being an artist constantly creating crap to unload on the world... but there it is. a living contradiction. not sure how to reconcile those two things... except to try to make art that doesn't disturb the natural order... and i don't mean hippie dippy back to the earth, play only with pieces of wood and bamboo pipes.
the natural order of the world is constantly changing, so how to no disturb something that by definition is constantly in disturbance... well, that's the question i hope i have a clue about on my deathbed and i can look back and say, i did alright by all the forces of the world, the good and the bad.
if i wasnt an artist, id probably be a monk, or a hermit, one of those that sits in one place and lets the plants grow around him and his toenails grow in the dirt like roots.
Like the Metalhead in the woods in the book of fables... except that i like the world, i like being able to watch the great wars between good and evil...