After a year of playing Animal Joy, it’s been fun to spend this winter and spring doing something we’ve never really done before: focusing almost exclusively on other people’s songs.
The Fellow Travelers record is well underway, and should be nearly complete by the end of the month. This is an album of songs by artists we’ve toured with over the years, and at this point it includes songs by Jesca Hoop, Clinic, Coldplay, Bill Callahan, Xiu Xiu (possibly NSFW), David Thomas Broughton, Wye Oak, Lou Barlow, Sharon Van Etten, St Vincent, and the Baptist Generals. (I like imagining all of those folks in one room.) The sessions, recorded by Danny Reisch (who also recorded Animal Joy) have been fun and interesting, especially since we’ve approached every song very differently, and they’ve included members of every SW lineup, including (links go to session pics) the “OGs”: me, Thor, and Kim.
I’m not sure yet when Fellow Travelers will be released, but I’ve already seen some incredible cover art by Kahn & Selesnick, who’ve done all of our covers since Rook. There’ll be more info about this release soon(ish) from Sub Pop.
Kahn & Selesnick also provided the artwork for our official Record Store Day release for Sub Pop, a beautiful, limited-edition vinyl 7″ of two songs we did with our friend and tourmate Sharon Van Etten. The A-side is a remix of the live performance of Tom Petty’s “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” we did for the Onion A/V Club’s Undercover series last year. The B-side is a new song, “A Wake for the Minotaur”, which I wrote as a duet for me and Sharon. This release will only be available at your local independent record store, beginning on April 20th. (“Minotaur” will also be on Sub Pop’s RSD CD compilation.)
Speaking of the A/V Club, they filmed me singing Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over” in the desert near El Paso as part of a series about Texas singers and Texas songs they put together around the time of South by Southwest (which we skipped this year). It was cold out there; I had to keep my fingers in my pockets until the moment they started filming.
I also covered David Bowie’s “Absolute Beginners” live on KUTX radio in Austin on Valentine’s Day. Which launched an odd chain of events: it caught the ear of rock writer Michael Azerrad (author of “Our Band Could Be Your Life”), who asked me to review Bowie’s new album The Next Day for his new online magazine, The Talkhouse, an interesting beast that consists entirely of musicians writing about new music. I was a bit gobsmacked when former Rolling Stone capo Kurt Loder then retweeted it as an example of good new music writing. (Mr. Loder, politics aside, has my undying respect for writing one of the few favorable reviews of Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut back in 1983.)
I also recorded a version of Jason Molina’s song “Didn’t It Rain,” as part of Weary Engine Blues, a tribute compilation assembled by our friends at Graveface Records. Jason’s recent passing saddened everyone here. We toured around the country with him and his band in the old days, and they were both the victims and perpetrators of the most sublime, exasperating, over-the-the-top exchange of tour pranks we ever engaged in; ask me about it sometime. “Didn’t It Rain” was the first song I ever heard Jason play, in Bloomington almost 14 years ago, and all proceeds from the compilation go directly to Jason’s family to help pay for a mountain of medical bills and funeral expenses.
II. Upcoming Performances
We have two performances now on the books:
On the 27th April, we’ll be playing at The University of the South in Sewanee, TN at 11pm, at Lake Cheston Amphitheater. This event is free and open to the public.
Two days earlier on the 25th April at 4:30 PM, I’ll be giving a lecture at the University called “The Moth and the Milky Way: in search of the obvious in art and nature.” Also free and open to the public. I haven’t given a lecture in a while, and I’m not always a fan of the format, so I’m trying to figure out ways to make this one special.
We’ll also be appearing in Seattle on July 13th as part of Sub Pop’s 25th Anniversary Jubilee celebration, a free event in the Georgetown neighborhood. You can learn more from this instructional video, which includes a tip on how to pronounce our name.
Thor continues globe-trotting with Swans this year; there’s a great interview with him at The Quietus, in which he explains how he acquired his name, how he feels about being a sex symbol, and why he’s stopped using wooden drumsticks.