Friday, July 31, 2015

INTERVIEW: Chandler Travis

Photo by Susan Leach

You have been collaborating with David Greenberger for almost two decades now, and obviously you’ve developed quite the simpatico working relationship (your new collection IS subtitled “The Comfortable Songs of…”)!  How did you and David get together and when did you realize that the partnership was so fertile?  What does each of you bring to the mix?

We got together in the early 80s (guessing '80 or '81 -David's better at pinpointing this sort of thing), and despite being asked this question a time or two recently, and even having asked David as well, I can only guess that we may have met somehow through NRBQ, who we both loved (and love, and remain close to.) Certainly, the first time I remember hanging out was at his apartment in Brookline, MA (suburb of Boston), and we hit it off in part because the places we lived in were similarly filled with vinyl and whimsical ephemera, and we probably both had/have odd senses of humor (at the time, David frequently rubber-stamped his mail with something that said that whatever he was sending had originated with "David Greenberger, World's 183rd Greatest Artist". I guess we we were both kind of stuck up like that.) 

The new “Bocce and Bourbon” collection covers a lot of ground over its 19 tracks – flirting with everything from XTC-ish pop to zydeco.  Thrillingly, the album still holds together as a singular statement.  How did you determine which songs from your and David’s collaborations to include? 

Wow, zydeco, you think? Cool! I wonder if the cut you're hearing as zydeco is "Graciously", (Ed. note: it is!) which I hear more as soca; I usually much prefer zydeco, and have a couple songs that might fit that bill better coming up. And, like you say, always happy to rip off XTC, who I love (and hate to see MIA lately, but that's life, I guess. Check out "Village of the Damned" and "Weasel, Don't Be Mean" off "Llama Rhymes" for even more bald-faced XTC thievery.)

As to picking cuts for this one (and thanks for the kind words!)), pretty much just picked the ones we liked best, along with 7 new ones and a last -minute re-arrangement on "Air Running Backwards"; of course, the new ones are our favorites, generally -they're always so cute when they're babies!)  

You are incredibly prolific – recording with numerous musical ensembles, constantly uploading new songs and demos to your website; it’s probably a difficult thing to nail down, but what inspires you to create?  Alternately, what are some of your musical touchstones, those things that you heard and loved and go back to?  

I guess I'm prolific, but doubt I'm incredibly so - it really adds up to writing an album a year or so, so that's not that unusual, unless you factor in the general lack of demand, which just makes me look foolish! So, don't. Thanks.

The inspiration, well, I don't know, I've just always been lucky enough to get little melodies floating around in my head, as well as an occasional lyrical idea that's tantalizing, and the idea of trying to realize the result effectively never ceases to fascinate me, for some reason. I always think people who are obsessed are very lucky, and I'm grateful to be on that list.

I'm a huge listener, with music touchstones galore, including the very fine initialed bands already mentioned (NRBQ and XTC), and the Kinks, Beatles, Beach Boys, Who, Monk, Ellington, Randy Newman, Caetano Veloso, Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim, Deerhoof, Of Montreal... never ends. Yay! 

I’ve been told you have some crazy music-related stories from over the years…what’s the weirdest or most memorable one you can share? (spare no detail, no matter how small or salacious!)

I don't know who told you that, nothing could be further from the truth. 

There was that one time I was walking in Venice, Italy, with George Carlin, Brian Wilson, Pablo Picasso, and their identically dressed monkeys, and we decided to get hookers and go to basketball game, but... maybe it wasn't Picasso... it was so long ago... 

I imagine your songs are like children – it’s tough to choose one above the others. But let’s say you are asked to make a “Sophie’s Choice”; is there one that you are particular proud to have written or one that is particularly special to you?

For some reason what popped up in my mind was "Picnic Ape", a song I wrote with longtime drummer / recording colleague Rikki Bates and eventually released as the Incredible Casuals (though it was really just the two of us)... maybe it was the Picasso reference, as it's definitely one of my more abstract songs; originally released on a Sub Pop, cassette, I think, and then as a single on Eat records, with a Duplex Planet version on the B side (the Duplex Planet being David Greenberger's wonderful magazine that features interviews with nursing home residents). It's one of the only things I've ever been involved with that sounds amazing every time (most of them sound cool sometimes and bad others, but fuck modesty, this thing rules!), and the Duplex is an equally revelatory reading experience. 

What’s on tap for you next?

Next up is "Waving Kissyface, Volumes 1 and 2", Volume 1 by the Chandler Travis Philharmonic and Vol. 2 by the Chandler Travis Three-O - a great, fat, dripping wad of fun for me, at least! (As always the rest of yez are essentially on your own, but with my warmest personal regahds.) 

Thanks for playing! 

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