Thursday, May 21, 2009

TV on the Radio

My interview with TV on the Radio was...interesting. Pick up a copy of WE to check it out.

TV on the Radio share a joke, with varying degrees of success.

TV on the Radio share a joke, with varying degrees of success.

Brooklyn-based TV on the Radio already has legions of adoring fans. The quintet’s unique sound — an amalgamation of disparate influences from Britpop to Afrojazz — and electric live shows have spawned a diverse following, from teen Goth-lite types to pot-smoking neo-hippies.

TVOTR’s founders, Tunde Adebimpe (vocals) and David Sitek (keyboards, guitar), were joined by guitarist and vocalist Kyp Malone for the group’s debut EP, Young Liars. Their first full-length album, 2004’s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, featured the band’s complete lineup, rounded out by drummer Jaleel Bunton and bassist Gerard Smith. Always critically lauded, TVOTR’s last two albums, 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain and 2008’s Dear Science, claimed the top spot on best-of-year lists from Rolling Stone to the U.K.’s The Guardian.

So, after eight years in an increasingly intense spotlight, one might think TVOTR would have a better handle on the art of self-promotion, but videotaped interviews with the group often reveal men who seem to be in on a joke that only they get. Though friendly and affable, it’s not unusual to see one of them trail off mid-sentence, and then start laughing — an effect not dissimilar to sitting in a hotboxed basement and watching your friends talk about “deep stuff.”

Entertaining? Sure, at times, but it’s not terribly conducive to crafting a compelling story. WE’s first scheduled interview with Malone, while on the road for TVOTR’s summer tour, came and went, as he was nowhere to be found. Take two with the cordial but curious fellow went off without a hitch. Kind of.

How many of these interviews do you have to do today?

Malone: Just two. It’s one of my favourite things to do, so I really feel it’s a privilege.

Really? What do you like about it?

[Laughs] I don’t like doing anything about it! I was just kidding. But I don’t mind talking to you.

You’ve talked a little bit in the past about your experiences listening to the first incarnation of TVOTR, before you joined.

When I first heard them, I didn’t really get it. [Long pause] But it sounded like people having fun. It was kind of a free-for-all show where anyone was getting on stage with them and performing. [Long pause] Is that not the part that you’re talking about? You’re talking about another thing I’ve said a hundred times before?

I was just wanting you to say it in your own words, so I didn’t have to paraphrase somebody else’s.

[Laughs] Right. Um, I remember being very, very, very impressed listening to the Young Liars EP. It felt like, uh, a real record. Which isn’t to take away from any of the other — I don’t know, I was impressed by the sounds of it. It felt very formidable. I felt very proud of it.

What kind of music did you make before joining TVOTR?

I made the same kind of music I make now, but just a younger version of myself, with not as much experience, and without the influences of this time. I was making rock music and experimental music and a bunch of different stuff.

Do you have any themes you like to go back to when you’re writing songs?

Um, there aren’t themes I like to go back to. There are themes that I do go back to. I’m not trying to. I’d like to be diverse in life and experiences, but themes about family and relationships and religion and politics... But, I don’t know. I’m reading about mythologies a lot lately... I just got a book of Haida stories, which I didn’t bring on tour, and I’m actually kicking myself about it, although there’s not a lot of time.

Are you guys working on your next record?

Nope. We’re working on doing the best job we can as a live band, and really making the show a fantastic, supersonic, and psycho-spiritual thing... I’m just saying words now.

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